10 May 2013

The Geopolitics of the Yangtze River: Developing the Interior

April 1, 2013

Editor's Note: This is the first piece in a three-part series on the geopolitical implications of China's move to transform the Yangtze River into a major internal economic corridor. Part one provides a broad overview of the geography and history of the Yangtze River region and its role in shaping Chinese politics and statecraft. Part two examines the strategic river city of Wuhan, and part three considers the political economy of Beijing's push to develop the Yangtze River corridor. 

As the competitive advantage of low-cost, export-oriented manufacturing in China's coastal industrial hubs wanes, Beijing will rely more heavily on the cities along the western and central stretches of the Yangtze River to drive the development of a supplemental industrial base throughout the country's interior. Managing the migration of industrial activity from the coast to the interior -- and the social, political and economic strains that migration will create -- is a necessary precondition for the Communist Party's long-term goal of rebalancing toward a more stable and sustainable growth model based on higher domestic consumption. In other words, it is critical to ensuring long-term regime security.

The concept of developing the interior is rooted in the dynastic struggle to establish and maintain China as a unified power against internal forces of regional competition and disintegration. Those forces arise from and reflect a simple fact: China is in many ways as geographically, culturally, ethnically and economically diverse as Europe. That regional diversity, which breeds inequality and in turn competition, makes unified China an inherently fragile entity. It must constantly balance between the interests of the center and those of regions with distinct and often contradictory economic and political interests.

Currently, the Party's stated intent is eventually to achieve greater socio-economic parity between coastal and inland regions, as well as between cities and the rural hinterland. But Beijing also recognizes that underlying broad categories like "inland," "central" and "western" China is a complex patchwork of regional differences and inequality. Mitigating these differences will require more varied and nuanced policies.

Against this backdrop, the central government has targeted the Yangtze River economic corridor -- the urban industrial zones lining the Yangtze River from Chongqing to Shanghai -- as a key area for investment, development and urbanization in the coming years. Ultimately, the Party hopes to transform the Yangtze's main 2,800-kilometer-long (1,700-mile-long) navigable channel into a central superhighway for goods and people, better connecting China's less developed interior provinces to the coast and to each other by way of water -- a significantly cheaper form of transport than road or railway. By positioning this "second coastline" to become one of the nation's new economic cores, Beijing seeks to build what no previous dynasty could: a truly unified Chinese economy.

The Yangtze as a Core

The Yangtze River is the key geographic, ecological, cultural and economic feature of China. Stretching 6,418 kilometers from its source in the Tibetan Plateau to its terminus in the East China Sea, the river both divides and connects the country. To its north lie the wheat fields and coal mines of the North China Plain and Loess Plateau, which unified China's traditional political cores. Along its banks and to the south are the riverine wetlands and terraced mountain faces that historically supplied China with rice, tea, cotton and timber. The river passes through the highlands of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the fertile Sichuan Basin, the lakes and marshes of the Middle Yangtze and on to the trade hubs of the Yangtze River Delta. Its watershed touches 19 provinces and is central to the economic life of more people than the populations of Russia and the United States combined. The river's dozens of tributaries reach from Xian, in the southern Shaanxi province, to northern Guangdong -- a complex of capillaries without which China likely would never have coalesced into a single political entity.

In season of blame, a defence

May 09, 2013

This, I fear, is the season of bashing the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), because it’s a time when our defence services project their wishlists for the latest in weapon systems and arms merchants from all over the globe flock to Delhi peddling their wares. Some of their products may still be on the drawing board and some may have grown old awaiting a buyer, readying for a graceful retirement.

No matter, blame the DRDO for delays, poor performance in trials and lack of manufacturing base and opt for imports.

From 2005 to 2013, the total value of items approved for induction by the Defence Acquisition Council is `1,16,293 crore. These were products, systems and equipment based on technologies developed by the DRDO. Add to this another `40,939 crore — the value of items for which orders have been placed by the services in these eight years — and the total comes to `1,57,232.crore.

In a recent Edit page piece in The Asian Age, Bharat Karnad gave a “zero” to the DRDO (Zero for DRDO, April 26). However, if we go by the statistics, the grand total works out to 10 zeroes preceded by 150! Zero is too basic an Indian construct to be so casually used.

How good are our systems? One has only to talk to our Air Force pilots to assess the performance of Tejas. They are enthusiastic about its handling qualities and the glass cockpit that is yet to appear in any other operational fighter. Many years ago, Mr Karnad wrote a piece along with Stephen Cohen — not a friend of Indian R&D — in the Illustrated Weekly of India, mocking our indigenous aircraft programme, calling it “unsafe at any speed”. 

They should be relieved to know that Tejas has done over 2,000 flights without any incident and flies like a gazelle even at supersonic speed! I can cite similar stories on other systems — Brahmos, radars, and armour — that have all become technical successes. These successes have also led to two challenges. From the West it is difficult to acquire the know-how for strategic and other state-of-the-art systems. Sometimes we get a black box with no options to study their designs, and often not even that. We have to develop these indigenously, and this takes time, often beyond initial projections. This is true not only of DRDO but other scientific organisations in India and abroad. Inspite of these difficulties we have to persevere. India’s security is not only dependent on military but also on our proven capabilities in science and technology. Often our leaders return from foreign trips pleased by the recognition India gets for its scientific progress. The late Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao told me with pride that some foreign leaders were more conscious of our growing prowess in science and technology than the size of our military hardware.

It’s often forgotten that the DRDO is just one component of a large supply chain extending from design to large manufacturing. Reported failure in manufacturing — to meet the numbers and/or quality — can often be attributed to many weak links in the supply chain. For instance, we have not invested in building a large manufacturing base either in the public or the private sector. Our manufacturing base is built for the Seventies when there were a few large R&D projects or indigenous designs to produce, and not for the present decade when there are so many missiles, radar and battle tanks competing for production.

The Indo-Pacific pivot

The Indian Express : Fri May 10 2013,

Australia's new defence policy recognises India's eastward orientation

Rory Medcalf

The test will be whether Australia and India can turn their converging interests into naval exercises, technology partnerships and shared maritime surveillance.

A new plan for Australian defence policy has big implications for India. For New Delhi, the good news is that Canberra's 2013 Defence White Paper (WP), launched by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last week, sharply redefines Australia's region of strategic interest as being broadly the same as India's: the Indo-Pacific.

The downside is that the Australian policy statement also seems to take a soft line on China at a time when some of Beijing's actions — not least the latest challenge on the disputed border with India — continue to unnerve the region. Both these apparent changes in Australia's defence outlook are worth clarifying, and the Australian government should move quickly to do so.

India should take comfort from the first shift. As the WP says, a new "Indo-Pacific strategic arc" is connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans through Southeast Asia. This new framework is forged by several factors: notably the massive growth in trade, energy and investment flows between East Asia and the Indian Ocean rim, and the rise of India as an important strategic, economic and diplomatic power beyond South Asia.

This declaration makes Australia the first country in the world officially to recognise its region as the Indo-Pacific rather than the Asia-Pacific. It will almost certainly not be the last. Indo-Pacific thinking is also gaining traction in Delhi, Washington, Tokyo and parts of Southeast Asia. The term has been used by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, notably, last December, when he moved to enhance India's relations with ASEAN. And it makes objective sense as a description of the commercial and security linkages that will determine whether the Asian century is marked by prosperity or conflict.

In turning decisively Indo-Pacific in its rhetoric, Australia has identified India's rise and growing eastward orientation as a major and positive development in the changing Asian strategic order. The policy paper states: "The Indo-Pacific... adjusts Australia's priority strategic focus to the arc extending from India through Southeast Asia to Northeast Asia, including the sea lines of communication on which the region depends." Crucially, Australia is neither worried nor even ambivalent about India's growing naval weight. The paper emphasises that Canberra wants to work more closely with Delhi and the Indian navy to keep that order stable and peaceful.

Of course, grand statements like this are often criticised for being more about ideas than action, and the test will be whether Australia and India can turn their converging interests into practical arrangements like naval exercises, technology partnerships and shared maritime surveillance. The onus here will be as much on India as on Australia, and ideas like three-way cooperation and dialogue with Indonesia deserve fresh consideration.

Meanwhile, on the question of a supposed Australian tilt to China, there is less to the new Australian defence document than meets the eye. To be sure, it takes a less confrontational approach towards Beijing than former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's 2009 defence policy, which spoke of the need for Australia to be able to fight a major power in a contested Asia (and we all know he didn't mean America, India or Japan). The new Australian paper baldly states that Australia "does not approach China as an adversary" and is meeker than it could have been when comes to pointing the finger at China for assertive actions at sea or a lack of transparency in its military spending.

But deep down, there is continuity in Australian defence policy on China. Australia remains profoundly connected to the US as an ally, and the softer language on China does not contradict the fact that US-Australia security links are getting closer, with American Marines now in Darwin and US space-tracking assets being moved to Western Australia. The new policy confirms that Australia will also upgrade its airfield on Cocos Islands, some highly strategic territory in the Indian Ocean, for Australia's new fleet of P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft. In time, that runway could also be used by the Americans. And if Australia-India ties grow close enough, conceivably, it might even be visited by India's Poseidons too.

Rockets in Maoist Arsenal


May 10, 2013

Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (Maoist)], or Maoists in short, have been using rockets in their assaults on the security forces since the past, at least, eight years. Confirming this, Minister of State for Home Affairs RSN Singh informed the Lok Sabha, in reply to a question, on May 6, 2013, that the Maoists were “manufacturing improvised hand grenades and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) in units that have come up in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh”.

More than a year earlier, on March 4, 2012, the West Bengal police arrested Sadanala Rama Krishna, the head of the Maoists’ Central Technical Team, in 24 North Parganas district, and seized rocket launcher manufacturing equipment, Rs 36 lakh in cash and documents from his flat. Two days later, on March 6, in a joint-effort between the police forces of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, police in the Chhattisgarh State capital Raipur recovered 80 boxes containing material/equipment for manufacturing rockets and mortars. At that time, Senior Superintendent of Police of Raipur, Mr Dipanshu Kabra, said: “There is no doubt that the seized material was meant for the Maoists. It is surprising that such hardware equipment for rocket launchers and mortars was stored in a busy area of (the State capital).”

The story of rockets being present in the Maoist arsenal is ten year’s old. Speaking to the media on May 26, 2003, the then Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh, Mr P Ramulu, said that for the first time the police recovered the designs of an RPG during a raid on a dump of the then Communist Party of India [Marxist-Leninist (People’s War)], PW in short –– the earlier avatar of the Maoists –– in the Kalimela forests, along the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border.

In fact, a few years later, on January 10, 2007, police in Bhopal busted an arms making-cum-R&D unit of the Maoists, on a tip-off provided by the Andhra Pradesh police. During the raid, Madhya Pradesh Police recovered designs of cross-sections of RPGs and rocket launchers.

A year earlier, on September 7 and 8, 2006, in raids in Mahabubnagar and Prakasam districts, Andhra Pradesh, the police unearthed and recovered 875 empty rocket shells and 30 rocket launchers. Investigations led the police to the Ambattur industrial estate, a suburb of Chennai, where these were manufactured in seven separate industrial units/workshops. The complex trail of manufacturing and transshipment of the empty shells and rocket launchers involved five States, viz. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

The complete story of the effort to design and manufacture rocket launchers and rockets is quite interesting. The Maoists, in their earlier avatar as the PW, constituted a technical team comprising Sande Rajamouli @ Krishna, a member of the Central Military Commission, who was later killed in an encounter, Akkiraju Hara Gopal @ Rama Krishna, Central Committee member and the then secretary of Andhra Pradesh State Committee, Sakhamuri Appa Rao @ Ravi, who later became the chief of the Maoist’s Military Intelligence Wing and was also killed in an encounter with the police, Matta Ravi Kumar @ Sreedhar, who, too, was killed in an encounter with the police. The technical team nominated Thota Kumara Swamy @ Tech Madhu, a native of Warangal district, Andhra Pradesh, to carry forward the effort to design and manufacture rocket launchers and rockets.

The first such piece was tested in the Malkangiri forests, Odisha, in 2003. After this, Tech Madhu was asked to proceed to Chennai and get the rocket launchers and rocket shells manufactured. The Maoists envisaged executing “Project Rocket Launchers” in two phases –– “Rocket Launchers – I” and “Rocket Launchers – II”.

“Rocket Launchers – I” was a pilot project undertaken ahead of elections to the Andhra Pradesh State Legislative Assembly in 2004. The plan was to manufacture 25 Rockets with launch pad (rocket launcher) at a cost of Rs 950 per rocket. In the process, five rockets each were distributed to Anantapur, Guntur and Nallamala. Five others were tested at Burugundala, Yerragondapalem mandal, Prakasam district, and five more were set aside for further trials in order to develop the next version.

Zero-sum diplomacy

May 10, 2013

The recent Chinese incursion across the Line of Actual Control near Daulat Beg Oldi in Ladakh is nearing a diplomatic resolution. However, it is not entirely clear what concessions, if any, were made to the People’s Republic of China to end this military standoff that the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) actions had precipitated. Despite this apparent settlement of a crisis that was brewing, this latest fracas with the PRC simply underscores how New Delhi is woefully reactive in the conduct of regional diplomacy. The absence of a coherent strategy is not merely disturbing but potentially quite costly for the country.

Ironically, the lack of a well-conceived approach to deal with a host of extant issues in the neighbourhood comes at a moment when India’s stock has risen considerably in global affairs. A brief survey of the country’s bilateral relation with virtually every country in the region shows that its influence is at best limited and, at worst, almost non-existent. In this context, it may be useful to provide what constitutes a working definition of influence. Simply stated, it is the ability to shape the preferences of other states through the use of various diplomatic and other policy instruments.

The country’s limited influence is visible across the region ranging from the easiest to the hardest cases. Given the existence of a mostly friendly regime in Bangladesh, it is simply shocking that South Block has been singularly unable to push through a series of bilateral agreements that could be of much mutual benefit. These range from the settlement of minor land disputes, the vexed question of illegal migration from Bangladesh and the resolution of river water sharing arrangements. Admittedly, on the last issue, the mercurial chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, did much to scuttle the agreement. However, any adroit and politically astute regime in New Delhi should have anticipated a degree of obstreperousness on her part.

State-level politics has also wreaked havoc on India’s Sri Lanka policy. There is little or no question that India’s substantial Tamil population has a compelling interest in the fate of Sri Lanka’s hapless Tamil community, especially at the end of the country’s sanguinary civil war. Yet, the state of Tamil Nadu and its politicians cannot be allowed to exercise a unit veto on India’s foreign policy through a process of political outbidding. Indeed, this is all the more compelling since New Delhi only rather belatedly concluded that the PRC had made significant diplomatic and commercial inroads into the island country. Consequently, its own room for manoeuvre with Colombo had become constrained. Allowing myopic politicians in Tamil Nadu to influence the country’s foreign policy in the quest for electoral gains is simply intolerable.

In a markedly similar vein, New Delhi has failed to retain a degree of influence within Nepal — a country of enormous strategic significance. Indeed, Nepal’s importance to India’s strategic concerns will grow as the PRC assumes an increasingly assertive foreign policy in South Asia and elsewhere. Yet, despite the expenditure of considerable treasure in terms of development assistance, India’s standing within Nepal is negligible. Worse still, a good deal of reflexive anti-India sentiment pervades much of the political discourse in the country. The PRC, on the contrary, through deft engagement, has been able to make considerable headway in that country.

The price of inaction

May 09, 2013

Air power can no more deter Chinese moves across the LAC than the appeasement-laced diplomatic fidgeting that passes for India’s policy on China

The little Chinese misadventure is over but only because India agreed to raze the fortified observation post at Chumar well inside its territory. The restoration of status quo based on such surrender provides China with a ready excuse to march into the Indian territory again, with an undefined Line of Actual Control (LAC) legitimating armed intrusions. Peace bought by concessions cannot last.

Even so, the Indian Army is lucky because, like in 1962, it was being set up as scapegoat. Last week, a former “media adviser to the Prime Minister”, Sanjaya Baru, blamed the Army for “intelligence failure” resulting, he implied, in the Manmohan Singh government being caught unawares by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) advance 19 kms inside India. Every kilometre deep intrusion means potential loss on average of some 75 square kilometre of territory. The former Army Chief, Gen. Ved Malik, also on the same TV programme, was so flabbergasted by Mr Baru’s charge that he couldn’t collect his wits in time to explain that the management of the border with China is policed by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) under the supervision of the benighted home ministry. Later, on another TV show, he described this border management system as “laughable”. While the Army conducts its own field intelligence, it is the ITBP’s responsibility to keep the government apprised of developments on the border as well as the denizens of North Block in charge. How Sardar Patel, the first and last great home minister, who early apprehended the threat posed by the Chinese occupation of Tibet must be, proverbially speaking, turning in his grave!

Of course, the anomaly of why a paramilitary force is tasked with protection of a live border with China, when the Border Security Force on the side with Pakistan — an adversary of lesser consequence — is entirely under Army command, has to be explained by the Indian government, especially since there is evidence that this fundamentally flawed arrangement isn’t working. Such a system of border control is apparently in place because it fits in with the thinking of the China Study Group (CSG) and its Mandarin-speaking members, mostly former diplomats, who are convinced that the paramilitary forces headed by police officers, even though sub-professional and boasting of no fighting qualities worth the name, are controllable, take dictation better than the Army, and hence can be relied on in situations on the LAC, where inertness and lack of initiative are prized.

Between the CSG and the ministry for external affairs combine and its inapt tool, the ITBP, the country’s interests are in peril. The fear of escalation has become a psychosis, leading New Delhi to raise non-reaction to Chinese provocation to high principle. Situations are allowed to drift in the hope that by not responding and, therefore, not offering the Chinese “provocation” in return, Beijing will eventually pull out its troops. This is what happened in the Rokah Nullah area this time around — it was a bigger probing action than anything the PLA has mounted recently. More such incidents can be expected, any of which, in the face of predictably meagre response, may lead to permanent realignment of LAC and cutting off of access to the Siachen Glacier.

Five basics to handle our border differences

The Hindu Photo Archives MEETING GROUND: Finding a mutually acceptable agreement requires patience and perseverance. The picture shows the India-China border near Pangong lake, southern Ladakh.


Strengthening good-neighbourly relations and friendly cooperation with India is China’s strategic choice and established policy. This will not change

China and India have recently reached understanding on proper settlement of the incidents in the western section of the China-India boundary through consultation.

Border troops of the two sides have now pulled back from the area of stand-off at the Tiannan River Valley area/Daulat Beg Oldie sector by the Indian side. I believe that our two countries have the ability and wisdom to manage any differences or problems between us as long as we keep the larger interest of bilateral relations in mind, and jointly work on the differences or problems through friendly consultations with a constructive and cooperative approach.

Mature relations

It is my view that China and India have five basics to properly handle the border-related differences.

First, both sides have reached consensus. The two governments have all along held that properly handling border-related issues and maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas serves the fundamental interests of both sides, and plays a vital role in the overall development of bilateral relations. Both sides have realised that the final settlement of border issues requires patience. Pending that, the two sides should steadily push forward the negotiation process through equal and friendly consultation and continue to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas so as not to let the border issues affect the overall development of bilateral relations.

Second, both sides have the willingness. Leaders of both countries have expressed strong political desire for the early settlement of the boundary question by including it as one of “outstanding issues” in the “Ten-pronged Strategy” they committed themselves to in 2006. Since 2003, the Special Representatives of China and India on the boundary question have held 15 rounds of talks, and made positive progress. The two sides have signed the Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of China-India Boundary Question, and reached an 18-point consensus on the resolution framework.

Third, both sides have the experience. China and India are important neighbours sharing a border which has yet been formally demarcated. Even though both sides hold different perceptions of the Line of Actual Control, for a long time, under the effective control of the two governments, peace and tranquillity has been maintained in the border areas with no misfire accident. Thus, both sides have accumulated a wealth of experience to properly handle border-related issues, which also highlights the maturity of China-India relations.

Fourth, both sides have means. As of now, China and India have set up border-related mechanisms including the Special Representatives Talks, working mechanism for consultation and coordination over the border affairs, defence and security consultation, border flag meetings, etc, which prove to be effective platforms established with joint efforts by two countries. Meanwhile, smooth communication has been kept through the diplomatic channels. Giving full play to the role of these platforms and channels not only helps solve the border-related issues, but contributes to maintenance of peace and stability in border areas and promotion of bilateral relations.

Fifth, both sides have confidence. At present, the comprehensive development of China-India relations has created favourable conditions for solving border-related issues. Both countries hope to maintain the hard-won sound momentum of healthy and stable development of China-India relations. China and India kept smooth communication and had a candid and in-depth discussion on the incident this time. The end of the current stand-off further strengthened the confidence of both sides in the early settlement of border-related issues. I believe that as long as the two sides bear in mind the fundamental interests and well-being of our two peoples, and unswervingly adhere to the process of peaceful negotiations, we will be able to find a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question.

Sensitive and complex

The China-India boundary question is a problem left over from history. It is complex and sensitive, with a bearing on the feelings of the two peoples. Both countries have made tremendous efforts for an early solution to this issue. Finding a mutually acceptable agreement requires patience and perseverance, and more importantly needs a friendly and favourable atmosphere. As stressed by the Government of India, a peaceful periphery is essential for India to achieve her multifarious developmental goals. Both China and India cherish the current peaceful, friendly and stable evolvement of the situation, and no one can afford the liability of the reversal of history.

As the saying goes: “Good fences make good neighbours.” To strengthen good-neighbourly and friendly cooperation with India is China’s strategic choice and established policy which will not change. Both sides should proceed from a strategic height and a holistic perspective, hold the spirit of peace and friendship, equal consultation, mutual respect and mutual understanding, stick to the consensus that has been reached, maintain and make good use of existing mechanisms, continue to promote the process of the framework negotiation, and strive for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question at an early date.

(Wei Wei is the Chinese Ambassador to India.)

Wider Aspects of India-China Border Stand-off

Paper No. 5488 Dated 09-May-2013
By Bhaskar Roy

The recent India-China face-off in the biting cold of the 16,000 feet above sea level Depsung Bulge appears to be fitting in with the pattern of growing China’s aggressive and assertive policy witnessed since 2008.

It is well known that there are two perceived Lines of Actual Control (LAC) on the two sides along the unresolved India-China border. Several agreements between the two countries starting 1993 kept the borders generally stable and without serious incidents. When a platoon of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pitched tents in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) at a point, considered 19 kms. inside Indian territory by India, the balance was disturbed. The Indian forces also reciprocated leading to an eye-ball to eye-ball situation, though there was no show of arms by either side.

Just in case the PLA was still under the 1962 illusion when the it gave a rubbing to a rag-tag Indian army who did not even have winter boots, the Indian army chief Gen. Bikram Singh decided India was determined and capable of defending its territory. Gen. Singh briefed the Indian cabinet on different options his army had to eject the PLA.

The matter was resolved by the two sides diplomatically through established channels. On May 05, the Chinese army moved back as did their Indian counterparts from their new forward positions not a shot was fired. What else happened between the diplomats from the two sides is not known, but status quo ante was restored.

Instead of reducing trust the deficit between the two sides, the incident exacerbated it. The Indians learnt once again reading Chinese lips can be deceptive. Their mind has to be read, and that can be done to an extent if Chinese actions not only towards India but towards other Asian nations and the world at large can be plotted on a graph starting 1949.

The Indian foreign policy establishment was quite upbeat with their perceived India policy of the new Chinese leadership. Ignoring Chinese President Xi Jinping’s March 19 observation that resolving the India-China border issue “won’t be easy”, the Indian side weighed on Xi’s subsequent discussion with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban, and his statement to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua (March 27), urging the two sides to quickly work out parameters to resolve out the boundary issue. The Indians were further encouraged when the Chinese decided that the new Premier Li Keqiang’s first overseas visit would include India.

Li Keqiang’s India visit appears to be back on track. It, however, stood to be derailed if the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) incident had not been resolved. In that case India-China relations would have suffered a huge set back.

The Indian government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had from the time of the first UPA government in 2004, put improvement of relations with China on high priority, second only to improvement of relations with Pakistan. Dr. Singh also declared there was enough space in Asia for India and China to work and develop together. It was a clear message to Beijing that an India-China partnership could be the engine of peace, stability and development for Asia at large, not the general concept of Asia focussed on the Asia-Pacific region only.

Dr. Singh, however, has been dismayed more than once by Chinese action. Finally, when China attacked his visit to Arunachal Pradesh in October 2009, he was forced to take a strong stand. Then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao went forward to retrieve the situation. There is no Wen Jiabao now, who also tried to promote democratic values and freedom of speech in China.

It must be put on record that the international community was closely watching how the DBO interface between India and China would end. It was a test case for China’s aggressive behaviour beyond Japan and the South China Sea. The India-China border negotiations, not having completed the second stage in a three-stage process, was dormant. Why did the Chinese decide to disturb the equilibrium when on the one had there were new signs that under the Xi-Li leadership, Beijing was trying to recalibrate a foreign policy in a more inclusive direction?


May 7, 2013

The recent (April 15th) Chinese incursion inside Indian Kashmir has reminded Indian military leaders that despite over five years of brave talk and bold plans, not much has actually been accomplished to rectify the shortage of access to the Indian side of the border. It was this lack of access that played a key role in the last border war with China (in 1962) which saw better prepared and supplied Chinese forces wearing down their brave but ill-supplied Indian opponents. Indians are waking up to the fact that a repeat of their 1962 defeat is in the making.

Over the last five years India has ordered roads built so that troops can reach the Chinese border in sufficient strength to stop a Chinese invasion. The roads have, for the most part, not been built. The problem is the Indian bureaucracy and its inability to get anything done quickly or even on time. The military procurement bureaucracy is the best, or worst, example of this. The military procurement bureaucracy takes decades to develop and produce locally made gear and often never delivers. Buying foreign equipment is almost as bad, with corruption and indecisiveness delaying and sometimes halting selection and purchase of needed items.

Despite the bureaucracy, some progress has been made. Three years ago India quietly built and put into service an airfield for transports in the north (Uttarakhand), near their border with China. While the airfield can also be used to bring in urgently needed supplies for local civilians during those months when snow blocks the few roads, it is mainly there for military purposes, in case China invades again. Uttarakhand is near Kashmir and a 38,000 square kilometer chunk of land that China seized after a brief war with India in 1962. This airfield and several similar projects along the Chinese border are all about growing fears of continued Chinese claims on Indian territory. India is alarmed at increasing strident Chinese insistence that it owns northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This has led to an increased movement of Indian military forces to that remote area.

India has discovered that a buildup in these remote areas is easier said than done. Without new roads nothing else really makes much difference. Airfields require fuel and other supplies to be more than just another place where an aircraft can land (and not take off if it needs refueling). Moreover, the Indians found that they were far behind Chinese efforts. When they took a closer look three years ago, Indian staff officers discovered that China had improved its road network along most of their 4,000 kilometer common border. Indian military planners calculated that, as a result of this network, Chinese military units could move 400 kilometers a day on hard surfaced roads, while Indian units could only move half as fast, while suffering more vehicle damage because of the many unpaved roads. Moreover, China had more roads right up to the border. Building more roads on the Indian side will take years, once the bureaucratic problems are overcome (which often takes a decade). The roads are essential to support Indian plans to build more airfields near the border and stationing modern fighters there. Military planners found, once the terrain was surveyed and calculations completed, that it would take a lot more time because of the need to build maintenance facilities, roads to move in fuel and supplies, and housing for military families.

All these border disputes have been around for centuries but became more immediate when India and China fought a short war, up in these mountains, in 1962. The Indians lost and are determined not to lose a rematch. But so far, the Indians have been falling farther behind China. This situation developed because India, decades ago, decided that one way to deal with a Chinese invasion was to make it difficult for them to move forward. Thus, for decades, the Indians built few roads on their side of the border. But that also made it more difficult for Indian forces to get into the disputed areas. This strategy suited the Indian inability to actually build roads in these sparsely inhabited areas.

The source of the current border tension goes back a century and heated up when China resumed its control over Tibet in the 1950s. From the end of the Chinese empire in 1912 up until 1949 Tibet had been independent. But when the communists took over China in 1949, they sought to reassert control over their "lost province" of Tibet. This began slowly, but once all of Tibet was under Chinese control in 1959, China once again had a border with India and there was immediately a disagreement about exactly where the border should be. That’s because, in 1914, the newly independent government of Tibet worked out a border (the McMahon line) with the British (who controlled India). China considers this border agreement illegal and wants 90,000 square kilometers back. India refused, especially since this would mean losing much of the state of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India and some bits elsewhere in the area.

Putting more roads into places like Arunachal Pradesh (83,000 square kilometers and only a million people) and Uttarakhand (53,566 square kilometers and ten million people) will improve the economy, as well as military capabilities. This will be true of most of the border area. For decades local civilians along these borders have been asking for more roads and economic development but were turned down because of the now discredited Indian strategy. 
All the roads won't change the fact that most of the border is mountains, the highest mountains (the Himalayas) in the world. So no matter how much you prepare for war, no one is going very far, very fast, when you have to deal with these mountains. As the Indians discovered, the Chinese persevered anyway and built roads and railroads anyway and now India has to quickly respond in kind or face a repeat of their 1962 defeat.

Despite the lack of roads, India has moved several infantry divisions, several squadrons of Su-30 fighters, and six of the first eight squadrons of its new Akash air defense missile systems as close to the Chinese border as their existing road network will allow. Most of these initially went into Assam, just south of Arunachal Pradesh, until the road network is built up sufficiently to allow bases to be maintained closer to the border. It may be a decade or more before those roads are built, meaning China can seize Arunachal Pradesh anytime it wants and there’s not much India can do to stop it.


by Srinath Raghavan, Permanent Black, Rs 895

Sarvepalli Gopal, the collected essays: IMPERIALISTS, NATIONALISTS, DEMOCRATS Edited 

“Jawaharlal was the hero of my youth... to me his image still glows’’: so Sarvepalli Gopal in his preface to the first volume of his biography of Nehru. I could have written the same words about Gopal. He was my teacher at JNU, a mentor and later a friend. I respected and admired him. The hours I spent with him over two decades were full of fun and banter: they are among my most treasured memories. It is proper that I should declare my relationship with Gopal before I begin to review his essays. It is difficult for me to be objective about Gopal just as it was difficult for him to be objective about Nehru. Gopal tried to be objective about his hero, I won’t even try to be about Gopal.

The first thing that strikes a careful reader of this volume is the amount of archival research and reading that he did. This point is worth making because Gopal conveyed the impression, particularly to those who did not know him well or did not know him at all, of being too laid back. He wore his learning lightly and never spoke about the time he had spent in various archives. It is also worth remembering that much of this work was done before the arrival of the Xerox machine and the computer. (To be honest I cannot conceive of him hammering away at the keyboard of a computer.) Take the example of the two essays he wrote on “All Souls and India’’ — perhaps the last long essays he wrote. These were lectures he had delivered as Chichele lecturer at All Souls in 1991. For these lectures he consulted in some detail the relevant private papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, in the India Office Library, London and in the University of Cambridge.

Gopal had established, through his studies of Ripon and Irwin and of British policy in the post 1857 years, a mastery in the handling of private papers of eminent personalities. This command was evident also in his biographies of Nehru and of Radhakrishnan. In some of the essays this ability to relate his reading of the private papers of individuals to the wider trends of history and politics is noticeable. He revisits the viceroyalty of Irwin in one essay which was written forty years after the book on the viceroyalty. This essay shows that Gopal, more perhaps than any of his critics, was aware of the shortcomings of his book (“a rash undertaking’’) and how quick he was to revise his opinions with the availability of sources that were closed when he wrote the book. This was typical of the man and the scholar: he was quick always to correct and revise his views when required. He was not only open minded but also fearless.

There are some essays here that have never been previously published. The most remarkable of these is the one entitled, “Tradition and Dissent: The Paradoxes of Subhas Bose’’. The essay is not dated but the text suggests that it was written in 1990 though it offers no clues regarding why it was written. Its non-publication will also remain a mystery. Gopal argues that it is unfair that Bose, a man “with so many talents and prodigious effort’’ who was “deserted by conventional fortune’’ should be viewed harshly. In retrospect it seems as if “all the dice [were] clearly loaded against him’’. Bose does not need “emotional sympathy’’ because he has “earned objective scrutiny’’. Gopal then proceeds to unravel the ambiguities and contradictions in Bose’s life and career as well as his strengths. The net result is a superb piece of historical analysis. It is good to have this essay back into the folds of modern Indian historiography.

Has India economy’s magic vanished for good?


Men working on power transmission lines in India. Many infrastructure projects in the country are being held up by bureaucratic obstacles linked to the government. Photo: Bloomberg

At a private meeting in Mumbai’s seafront Taj Mahal hotel last month, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram made corporate India an unusual offer.

Sitting in the hotel’s ballroom were most of the country’s leading industrialists, including billionaires Anil Ambani and Kumar Birla, who were gathered to discuss how to re-energise their nation’s flagging economy. “I’ve come here with one mission: To understand your problems and to fix them,” said Mr Chidambaram, according to one of those present.

The Finance Minister then offered a bouquet of flowers to any participant able to report that none of their big investments was held up by bureaucratic obstacles linked to the government. As the conversation progressed round the table, and one tycoon after another complained of multibillion-dollar projects lying unfinished for the want of some official clearance or other, the flowers went unclaimed.

Indian gross domestic product grew only 5 per cent last year, a respectable performance by the standards of the developed world but still the country’s lowest rate for a decade. Public finances have deteriorated. Inflation and interest rates remain high, while the current account deficit has swollen and industrial output is stagnant.

All of this is a grave disappointment for a country whose economy was expanding at a rate of more than 9 per cent just two years ago. Once-heady talk that the growth rate of Asia’s third-largest economy might soon overtake China’s has disappeared.


Now the question is whether India’s government can introduce more economic reforms to escape this surprisingly steep slowdown, an issue complicated by political manoeuvring ahead of a closely contested national poll early next year.

If not, the country will be condemned to relatively sluggish growth for many years — an outcome with significant implications for the global economy, which is muddling through its own recovery.

“India is still almost uniquely vulnerable to a change in external economic conditions, much more so than economies like China,” says Mr Eswar Prasad, an economist at the Brookings Institution and an adviser to India’s Finance Ministry.

“The window for serious reforms is going to close soon because of the election, and there is a significant concern the government will just retreat and retrench. So the next few months are going to be crucial.”

India’s economic outlook seemed brighter in the final months of last year, when both Indian and foreign investors were heartened following Mr Chidambaram’s reappointment as Finance Minister in July.

Overcoming resistance from within the left-leaning coalition that his Congress party leads, he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on to push through a series of reforms: Cuts in diesel subsidies, fiscal restraint, part-privatisation of state companies and the opening of more sectors to foreign investment.

Mr Chidambaram championed these measures at home, while also heading off on a series of high-profile trips to financial centres such as London and Hong Kong — all to convince the world that India’s growth story was back on track.

The treacherous road to Pakistan's historic elections

By Shuja Nawaz
May 9, 2013 

Pakistan's upcoming elections on May 11 provoke both fear and hope. The last time Pakistan held a reasonably free and fair election, in 1970, the country ended up splitting into two, as Bangladesh emerged out of the ruins of a horrible civil war that led to Indian military intervention. This time, the election has been marked by a violent campaign by the Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan against selected political parties, even while a raging insurgency in the border region with Afghanistan is keeping some 140,000 troops of the Pakistan army fully occupied in a holding pattern. A nationalist insurgency and sectarian and ethnic battles in Baluchistan have raised fears of another "Bangladesh" in the making, though these may be exaggerated. Absent a robust civilian administration, the prospects of the military's counter insurgency moving beyond the "hold" phase to "build and transfer" are dim. Meanwhile, the United States needs a stable Pakistan, among other things, to allow the Coalition to exit Afghanistan in an orderly manner and to prevent the economic and political implosion of nuclear-armed Pakistan: something that keeps leaders in the region and around the globe on edge. Behind these complex issues, there is much to discover: both positive and negative.

These elections in Pakistan represent the clash of expectations and realities. While many are calling this a watershed moment in the country's benighted history, the elections are not likely to create any immediate seismic shifts in the political landscape. The powers of incumbency weigh heavily in favor of the mainstream parties at the constituency level, where tribal loyalties play a huge role in voting behavior. It is possible some major parties will team up to throw back the challenge of upstarts like the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI ) of Imran Khan. The injury that took him out of active campaigning in the final days of the campaign may garner him some sympathy surge of support, making his challenge to the status quo even more powerful. Overthrowing a well-entrenched system of political spoils that has created a rentier state in Pakistan may be impossible in short order. Politicians, civil administrators, and even the elements in the military have become used to a Culture of Entitlement that provides heavily subsidized state-owned land and other perquisites to the chosen few, creating palpable disaffection among the general public.

Khan's PTI may surprise the political system if enough youth and new voters actually come out to vote. So voter and youth turnout will be important. He has created a couple of changes that will have far-reaching effects on Pakistan's politics. He has awakened the youth vote. Some 34 per cent of the registered voters today are below 30. He also held intra-party elections, a foreign concept for the autocratic "selection" system of appointing party officials among most of the dynastic main stream parties for whom politics is family business. Only the Jamaat-i-Islami routinely holds internal elections. If these moves take root they could change the political landscape over time.

The legacy of the civilian administration of the Pakistan People's Party is a mixed one. By devolving political and economic power from the Center to the provinces, it did the right thing but implemented it in a hasty manner. As a result, confusion reigns on the economic and political front on the funding and implementation of projects in the provinces. But this shift of power to the provinces will give greater heft to the results of the provincial elections, because that is where future economic decisions will be made and development projects implemented. Also, the provincial legislators will be a key part of the Electoral College for the election of the next President of Pakistan later this year.

A guide to the Pakistani Taliban's 'reign of terror' ahead of elections

Posted By J. Dana Stuster 
May 9, 2013 


With Pakistani elections looming on May 11, it seems like every day brings a new report about destabilizing attacks in the country. The unrelenting violence, which Pakistan's Express Tribune has dubbed the "Reign of Terror," includes assassinations that have delayed elections in several districts and left a staggering number of casualties. Bloomberg has compiled the most thorough timeline of the attacks and estimates that, in the past month, "at least 118 people have been killed and 494 injured."

Terrorists -- mostly from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but also Baluchi separatists -- have pursued politicians in particular, and candidates have been gunned down in the streets. On May 3, Saddiq Zaman Khattak, a parliamentary candidate for the secular Awami National Party (ANP), was shot and killed along with his three-year-old son while returning from Friday prayers in Karachi. Gunmen ambushed ANP candidate Muhammad Islam on April 27, killing his brother in the attack. And Fakhrul Islam, a provincial assembly candidate for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party in Hyderabad, was assassinated by the TTP on April 11.

Bombings, some of which have targeted candidates, have also indiscriminately killed their supporters. The deadliest blast killed at least 20 individuals at an ANP rally on April 16. The attacks have targeted election events, but also included car bombings and bomb and grenade attacks on campaign offices and potential polling places. Just today, gunmen abducted Ali Haider Gilani, a provincial assembly candidate for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and son of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, after killing his bodyguards. It is the first time a candidate has been kidnapped in the rash of attacks.

"It is pretty clear that this is the most violent election I have witnessed in 23 years" of election monitoring in Pakistan, Peter Manikas of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs told the Washington Post. "It's a different type of violence in trying to disrupt the election as a whole. It makes everything unsafe."

Early in April, the TTP singled out three political parties -- ANP, MQM, and PPP -- as the targets of their attacks, but in the past week, not even the fundamentalist Jamiat-e-Ulema (JeU) party has been spared. On May 6, a JeU rally was bombed in Kurram, killing 25, though a TTP spokesman was quick to assert that the Taliban didn't oppose the party so much as the candidate, "who they said had betrayed Arab fighters to U.S. agents," according to Reuters. The next day, a suicide bombing in Hangu targeting another JeU rally killed 10. In a new statement quoted by Reuters, TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud expressed opposition to the political process as a whole, writing, "We don't accept the system of infidels which is called democracy."

The worst violence may in fact be yet to come, as Pakistanis head to the polls this weekend. TTP pamphlets posted in Karachi are warning potential voters to stay home, the Telegraph reports. "If you stay away you will protect yourself," one reads. "If not you are responsible for your fate.... If you go there you will be responsible for the loss of your life and your loved ones." In anticipation of attacks, more than 600,000 security personnel will be on duty for the elections, with five to ten guards at each polling place, according to the Associated Press.

It's a far cry from the atmosphere you'd hope for to mark the first time in Pakistani history that a democratically elected civilian government has finished its term. 

It's Morning in Islamabad


Yes, it’s broke, violent, and tumultuous. But here are five reasons Pakistan is better off than you think.

As Pakistan prepares to return to the polls on May 11, dark clouds loom. What should be a time of celebration for a country experiencing its first democratic transition in 63 years has turned into a somber and strange moment of quasi-reflection.

Politicians and their families face the ongoing wrath of the Pakistani Taliban, as terrorists keep their promises of spilling the blood of openly anti-Taliban parties. Electricity in many parts of the country is in short supply, the treasury is near empty, and the government -- unlike the Taliban -- is unable to keep its promise of preventing terrorist attacks and ensuring security. 

Meanwhile, tensions are surging on Pakistan's border. To the west, Afghan and Pakistani forces exchanged fire in early May, prompting Afghan President Hamid Karzai to question the very nature of the border between the two countries, known as the Durand Line. On April 26, an Indian terrorist serving a life sentence in a Pakistani jail was beaten to death by inmates. Indian prisoners responded with a pick-axe attackon a Pakistani prisoner in an Indian jail.

Domestic tensions, and those with Afghanistan and India, probably won't spin out of control, but still, life isn't easy for Pakistani optimists.

Despite it all -- and this is Pakistan, so all is quite a lot -- there are significant reasons to be hopeful. Here are the five biggest.

1. Feisty democracy

This first-ever transition from one elected government to the next is a big deal, partially because Pakistanis are depressingly familiar with military interventions preceding power transfers. But it's also important because Pakistan's recent experience with democracy has been so unpleasant.

The word "democracy" has become a tragic punchline in Pakistan, ever since President Asif Ali Zardari appealed to rioters reacting to his wife Benazir Bhutto's December 2007 assassination by stating that "democracy is the best revenge." Elected to succeed his wife, Zardari now oversees a notoriously inept government: his nominees for prime minister have all been investigated, indicted, or convicted for corruption.

Zardari's government has also had to endure, in 2008 alone, the blowback from the Mumbai terror attacks, near bankruptcy, and a return to the International Monetary Fund for another $7.6 billion after the global financial crisis. Three years later, 2011 saw the Raymond Davis incident, the humiliating U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden, and the U.S.-NATO attack on the Pakistani border post of Salala that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. These stresses claimed many scalps, including former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former National Security Advisor Mahmud Durrani. That's not to mention several high-profile political assassinations -- and many thousands dead from fighting. To top it all off, in 2010, Pakistan experienced one of the most devastating floods of the 20th century, affecting more than 20 million people and marginalizing the agrarian economies of the Pakistani heartland for almost a year.

And yet, after enduring these calamities Pakistanis are not only engaged in a major political debate about the future, but also likely to break records for voter turnout on May 11.

The Island of China

April 23, 2013


Stratfor regularly mentions in its China coverage that China is "an island." This is not literally true, of course, but it's a useful way to think about the country and its geographic situation.

China shares land borders with 14 other nations, and yet it is among the most geographically insulated countries in the world. That is because the vast majority of those borders cut across mountains, jungles and deserts -- areas that are difficult to traverse. These geographic features form an outer frontier that both protects and contains China. The county is riven with internal divisions, the most important of which separates the nation into two parts: the Chinese heartland and the buffer regions surrounding it. More than a billion people -- the vast majority of the population -- live in the heartland in China's central, eastern and southern regions, an area less than half the size of the continental United States.

For most of China's history it has been largely insulated and inward-looking, but for the past 150 years (and especially since its economic opening to the West in 1979), China has struggled with tensions between the coast and the interior. Access to ports and international trade allowed the coasts to become richer as the mainly agricultural and far more populous interior remained poor.

Throughout China's history, this urban-rural disparity -- which more recently has taken the form of a coastal-inland disparity -- has periodically grown so great that entire regions have broken away from central control, leading to civil war, the collapse of the ruling regime and its eventual replacement by a new one. This cycle was most recently seen following Mao Zedong's rise to power after the Communist victory in 1949. Despite technological advancement and unprecedented economic growth, Beijing has not yet escaped this historical pattern of central control devolving into chaos.

Mainstream media reports might lead one to believe that China is an unstoppable economic juggernaut destined to overtake the United States. But in fact, China's situation is far more precarious and unstable than typically portrayed, which Stratfor highlights in its frequent analyses on the country's economic transformation, unrest, labor issues, regionalism and migration patterns in the country.

By viewing China as an island consumed with its own internal divisions, its actions begin to make more sense.