16 May 2014

Foreign policy shift unlikely under new Government

Uma Purushothaman
13 May 2014

It now seems evident that a new government, probably a coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will take charge of India after May 16. 

The new government comes to power at a time when India faces multiple foreign policy challenges both at the global and regional level. The world looks increasingly polarized with the Ukrainian crisis and the shift of economic and global power toward the East. India's relations with the US have been rocky in the last couple of years, with the Devyani Khobragade incident being the latest example of inability on both sides to prioritize the bilateral relationship. 

In South Asia, India's influence is probably at its lowest ever. The neighborhood is also likely to see some uncertainty after the US drawdown from Afghanistan later this year. 

While trade with China has increased, the huge trade deficit, the issue of stapled visas and the continued inability to come to an agreement on boundary issues remain to cloud the relationship. These are substantial challenges for the new government. 

Will a BJP foreign policy be substantially different from that of the current United Progressive Alliance government? A glance at the BJP's manifesto reveals little.

The BJP's manifesto devotes just one out of 42 pages to foreign policy. The emphasis is on building better relations with neighbors and developing "a web of allies." There is also considerable focus on building India's soft power. 

The BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has so far made only three statements on foreign policy. He has said that China's "expansionist" attitude would not be tolerated. He expressed admiration for the way in which the US hunted down Osama bin Laden. Finally, he has accused the Manmohan Singh government of favoring refugees from Bangladesh while discriminating against refugees from Pakistan. 

The BJP manifesto also mentions that "India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here." 

But how will Modi deal with each one of these issues? It is unclear what steps he will take to deal with China. Does India have the ability to undertake missions like the US raid in Pakistan? The issue of Bangladeshi refugees has long been a problem, with no easy solutions. So, the only issue he can easily deliver on is giving refugee status to Hindus from Pakistan.

There are misgivings that the BJP's foreign policy will be aggressive and expansionist. But these appear to be alarmist views. Though the BJP has traditionally been high on rhetoric about being tough on terrorists and on their sponsors in Pakistan, India-Pakistan ties saw perhaps one of their best phases during the last BJP government.

Modi has already expressed his admiration for former BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foreign policy. In a recent interview, he declared that "We will continue Vajpayee's foreign policy legacy and work in the direction he showed us a decade back when he was prime minister."

It is also clear that economic diplomacy will get priority in the new government. Modi might be a novice in foreign policy, but in Gujarat, he has succeeded in bringing in investment from all over the world. This is a trend which is likely to continue under his leadership at the center. 

Modi has even suggested that Indian states should open desks in Indian missions abroad so as to facilitate more investment. He has also hinted at the possibility of certain states pairing up with countries, with which they have cultural links, to improve their political and economic ties. 

An Agenda for the New Government: Policy Options for India in Afghanistan

Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy

This brief explore the potential future policy options for the Indian government and does not touch upon the initiatives already undertaken by New Delhi in Afghanistan. New Delhi must try to optimise its potential by drawing from its own strengths and experiences of dealing with several issues of a similar nature in India.

India’s ‘no-boots-on-the-ground’ policy and no or negligible interference in the internal issues of the country, and a development-led presence, have been fruitful. However, there is more to be done, and efforts can be classified in four sections: Development Cooperation (Education, Agriculture, Health, Public Transport, Technology, Social); Political Liaising (Inter-Ministerial and Inter-State/Province Dialogue); Trade and Investment; and Security Relationship

Development Cooperation

Indian investment in infrastructure-development in Afghanistan is, as mentioned, vast. What New Delhi must do now, is, expand/intensify its services/efforts in more areas. India is constructing the Afghan parliament building, schools, refurbishing hospitals, and so on, but must now expand/offer to further expand developmental activities. They can be clubbed in the following focus areas:


India would do well to invest more in education in the country. For Afghanistan, especially with a population where the median age is 18 years, there is a pressing need for an educated and skilled workforce – one that is central to drive a hobbling economy to acceptable levels and eventually, towards prosperity.

While New Delhi aided the establishment of the Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University (ANSTU) in Kandahar – symbolic, given its location on Tarnak farms, once the base of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – and provides several scholarships for Afghan students to study in India, there is a need to make this initiative more sustainable and one that benefits as many Afghans as possible.

New Delhi could:

Bring education to Afghanistan, while simultaneously providing scholarships to Afghan students for education in India. Most Afghans do not have access to even elementary education, let alone access to university-level education. The few thousand scholarships and fellowships that India provides, while greatly useful, are insufficient to successfully address the educational needs of the several thousand Afghan youth – who constitute a large chunk of the country’s population.

Establish more primary schools and colleges in the country. Provide incentives for Indian universities to collaborate with Afghan universities, and/or set up centres of higher education in the country. It would be more affordable and thus viable for several more Afghans to attend universities in their own country than to spend huge sums to cover fees and living costs in India – for not all Afghans make the cut for the scholarships.

India's Destiny Dilemma

As India's elections draw to a close, one thing is clear: its potential is undeniable—and so are its problems.

May 15, 2014

On August 15, India will mark the sixty-seventh year of its independence. The results of its national parliamentary elections will be official well before then. This country of kaleidoscopic diversity will have again transferred political power democratically and peacefully.

This may not strike Americans as exceptional, even if they’re reminded that elections have become routine at all levels of India’s polity and that turnout often exceeds what it is in the United States. So it’s worth recalling that in India’s early years there was much skepticism in the West about whether it would hang together, let alone build democracy.

India, a congeries of cultures, languages, and religions covers 3.2 million square kilometers. Only six countries encompass more terrain. Its population, now 1.2 billion, is poised to overtake China’s. Beijing’s draconian population-control program would be a nonstarter in democratic India.

There were other reasons to doubt that India’s experiment with democracy would succeed. The country was desperately poor, and what passed for a middle class was miniscule. Indians were largely illiterate, and their experience with democracy was brief and uneven. India lacked the characteristics scholars identify as preconditions for consolidating democracy. Its decision to adopt this form of politics, nonetheless, was as audacious as it was admirable.

So India has passed two fundamental tests it wasn’t expected to: it has stayed whole and preserved liberty and stability. Has it done well enough? No. India’s politics are marked—to a growing degree—by corruption; the power of money; political dynasties; and appeals to parochial loyalties, whether of caste, subcaste, religion, or language. Elected bodies contain knaves and criminals or those, whose qualifications are limited to good looks (Bollywood is deep into the political game) or athletic prowess.

Milan Vaishnav has discussed these dismaying realities in a recent op-ed; and you needn’t spend much time in India to see that he’s right. Yet such assessments lack comparative perspective. Indian democracy’s deficiencies may be doubly deplorable because India has many massive problems, particularly large-scale poverty. But the role of money, privilege, corruption, family connections, special interests and divisive appeals to subnational loyalties in politics is scarcely peculiar to India, and it is evident in the United States and other democracies. Americans’ dismay over this is clear from opinion pollsshowing that a majority of our citizens believe that we’re on the wrong track and that the coming generation won’t be as fortunate as we have been. Besides, Western democracies have had far more time to fix these problems. Yet they seem to be getting worse.

India tends to compare unfavorably to China in most assessments, and in economic performance, this verdict is justified. But for all the failings of their democracy, Indians enjoy basic freedoms that Chinese citizens lack, and China’s state-directed campaigns for modernization (the Great Leap Forward) or ideological purity (the Cultural Revolution) that killed tens of millions have no counterpart in India’s history. The Indian state has been brutal in places such as Kashmir, but its transgressions pale in comparison to Beijing’s.

Then there’s the army’s role in Indian politics. What’s extraordinary—certainly compared to other ex-colonial societies—is that it hasn’t had one. India’s soldiers stay in their barracks in peacetime. There hasn’t been an instance of what’s perennial in the politics of many developing countries: a military coup. India’s army has always been under strict civilian control.

Need to review and recast the relevance and role of the NSA

N Sathiya Moorthy
13 May 2014

Without questioning the capabilities, experience and achievements of successive incumbents since the office was created by the then Vajpayee Government, it may be useful if the post-poll political dispensation in New Delhi reviews the relevance of the office of the National Security Advisor (NSA) in contemporary Indian context, and recasts the role, if its continued need was found to be justified. 

The question is whether the existing, time-tested institutional mechanisms were adequate to produce the kind of achievements that the office of the NSA might have made. If they had proved inadequate - whether the MEA, the Cabinet Secretariat, or whoever - as the Indian inability to predict and prepare for the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet ally, what transformation in the national/institutional thought-processes did the NSA's creation brought with it is debatable, at best.

The NSA, as has been projected and practised thus far, is a quasi-political office, involving a combination of bureaucratic/diplomatic acumen with a political touch, but questions remain if such a combination is at all possible, again in the Indian politico-administrative context. It becomes more relevant since we seem to have imported an 'American model', suited to American conditions of Executive Presidency. The limited Indian experience has shown that the NSA, with his vast administrative experience of one kind or the other, has proved to be best suited to be the interface between the political leadership and the existing bureaucratic set-up from which he has been drawn in the first place. 

What was required in context was also the incumbent's inherent ability, if any, to interact with political players forming part of the ruling party and the coalition on the one hand, and the political adversaries nearer home, and help evolve a 'national consensus' that would hold good irrespective of the politico-electoral avalanches of the future. That part of the job came to rest on the shoulders of the political leadership, which alone carried with the credibility and conviction to carry the nation and its divided polity in the first place, given the traditional view of the power of the elected office. 

Where divisions became inevitable, as was visible at the height of the civilian nuclear deal with the US, the NSA proved to be of little help to the political leadership on the domestic front. If the question relates to the adequacy of the existing levers of the Government to handle the external part of the negotiations, the answer would be a firm, 'Yes'. Otherwise, too, under a Third Front dispensation, the 'Gujral doctrine', while acclaimed all over the nation's neighbourhood, did/does not have many supporters among the practitioners in the country. They alone knew/know where the shoe actually pinches, or does not pinch, when intended. 


In the Indian context, the President as the Head of State and also of the Government in certain ways "acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers under the Prime Minister". If in the past the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had functioned as a super-Cabinet Secretariat, over and above the head of the originally mandated bureaucratic hierarchy of the Centre, the office of the NSA seems to have evolved into a 'super-Cabinet', with a life and hierarchy of its own.

If the Cabinet colleagues of neither Prime Minister Vajpayee, nor successor Manmohan Singh protested, it owed to a variety of reasons, most of them political. In the case of many Cabinet Ministers, they would have also been happier for it if sensitive issues and subjects were removed from their own plate, either as those heading individual ministries as the Cabinet as a whole. With the coalition scheme at the Centre throwing up regional parties and their first-time ministerial nominees, who had little understanding of national and international issues, both were happy to hand over whatever decisions that had to be taken to a third party. The NSA fitted the bill in a way, though that should also be an over-simplification.

At least in one particular case, that of S M Krishna as the External Affairs Minister (EAM) under UPA-2 for a time, he sort of defied whatever traditions had been put in place in the past. Not only was he pulled out of political exile in native Karnataka after losing an Assembly election as Chief Minister and completing a term as Maharashtra Governor, Krishna was also possibly the only one to have been catapulted to a senior and sensitive Cabinet position, without any previous ministerial experience whatsoever at the Centre. Most others in his place would have done a stint either as a junior minister, or as Cabinet Minister in a less glamorous and sensitive post before being considered for the EAM's job, not S M Krishna.

Rise of the PLAAF: Implications for India

11 May , 2014

Chinese Su-27

The ‘inscrutable’ sobriquet for the Chinese is not so much because of their unsmiling faces but on account of their unpredictable actions. Military action against India may not come in the form of a full-fledged war. Small pin pricks in ‘disputed territories’ may keep increasing in magnitude and frequency until even the submissive and cautious Indian government is constrained to react. Should that happen and a larger military confrontation become inevitable, the PLAAF would be a major instrument of damage to our forces, assets and national pride. Some writings on the 1962 conflict include views that the IAF could have done considerable damage to the Chinese as the PLAAF had outdated aircraft and equipment then. The same is not true about the PLAAF today. The continuing delays in updating capabilities of the IAF relentlessly bring us closer to the possibility of a humiliating experience at the hands of the PLAAF.

The PLAAF was kick-started with Soviet help and its initial acquisitions were all from the Soviet Union…

India’s tremulous caution in dealing with China, and the latter’s inexorable and escalating use of its military machinery to apparently test India’s resolve, have combined in recent months to form a binary tinderbox. The territorial dispute between Indian and China (recent Chinese actions suggest that ‘territorial’ dispute may be a better description than ‘border’ dispute) continues to simmer since 1962, the Dalai Lama’s presence in India irks China incessantly and the politico-economic rivalry of the two emergent powers, provides a high level of animosity that does not look likely to fade. This is especially so as China does not appear to be in a hurry to resolve issues that afflict the India-China relationship.

Indeed, the strategic design is blatantly one of encircling India through a variety of machinations. India, in response, has not displayed a matching spirit of machismo and has permitted itself to be pushed around. However, if the push became a shove, a retaliatory conflict situation may become inevitable on account of domestic politics. If the tenor and texture of India-China relations continue its present trend of evolution, a military confrontation between the two is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. In that context, China’s armed forces that are composed of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) and the militia, play a significant role in China’s overall strategies of security and development according to ‘The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces’, China’s Defence White Paper 2013. The PLA is the world’s largest military force with a strength of approximately 2,250,000 personnel.

Su-30MKK China
It consists of five main services – the PLA Army, the PLA Navy (PLAN), the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), the Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force) and the PLA Reserve Force. This paper is confined to the rise of the PLAAF and its implications for India.


The PLAAF was officially formed on November 11, 1949, but the first three decades are insignificant to this discourse. When Deng Xiaoping introduced the Four Modernisations strategy in 1978, defence modernisation was – for the first time ever – formally identified as a priority sector in China’s reconstruction albeit listed fourth in precedence amongst the four ‘modernisations’. The associated importance accorded to defence R&D got conjoined with national economic progress in one plane and growth in science and technology in the other.

Pakistan: The Art of Lying

12 May , 2014

John F Kennedy had said, “No matter how big the lie; repeat it often and the masses will regard it as truth”. However, wisdom speaks that quotes more often are like guidelines that cannot be applied across the board in every situation. But then radicals don’t understand logic and so how do you blame Pakistan with all the institutionalized radicalization, successful double-crossing of both the US and China and its so-called democracy held ransom by the military. In context of the latter, Huma Yusuf wrote in The Dawn three years back, “In the absence of the activism of democracy, you are left with the fatalism of patronage.

The fact is that the very preamble in the 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir categorically stated that prior to any such plebiscite, Pakistani security forces must vacate the entire State of Jammu & Kashmir.

A nation that obsesses over external threats is one that values patronage, because patronage means protection from what may come. Valuing patronage is in some ways the antithesis of voting in a democracy: rather than shape your future, you seek protection from it. Ironically, patronage also nullifies the future possibility of democracy because it reiterates the importance of that which is local — kinship, ethnicity, language, sect — over what is national. As long as we seek protection from an external enemy, we will seek patrons, even if they come in uniform —and it is thus that history readies to repeat itself.” Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Nuclear& High Energy Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad was more explicit in saying, “An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to 10 years away”.

But getting back to the lying part, in most international forums you can find Pakistani politicians, bureaucrats and military officials (both serving and retired) breast beating and shouting how India is not permitting plebiscite in J&K in accordance the 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir. The repeated lie has its effect. Of course there are those in the audience who choose to put up with the lie by remaining silent because of geopolitical considerations and national interests of their own country. Take the farce about GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) and front-line ally Pakistan when the “global war” itself is being fought through ‘terrorism’ with prolific use of proxies. But getting back to the question of plebiscite in Kashmir, a larger cross-section is apparently unaware of ground realities.

Afghanistan to Go to Second-Round Vote on June 14

Afghanistan's presidential election will go to a second-round vote on June 14 between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, final results showed today.

"After a thorough review, it is clear that no candidate has been able to win more than 50 per cent and the election goes to a second round," Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), said.

Abdullah secured 45 per cent of the vote on April 5, with his main rival Ghani on 31.6 per cent, according to the final results, which came after weeks of deliberation over fraud allegations.

The results were closely in line with the figures released late last month when counting was completed.

The run-off was originally scheduled for May 28.

"Some sensitive materials that were stocked at IEC headquarters for the second round were destroyed by the Taliban attack on March 29 -- providing those materials again needs time," Nuristani said, explaining the delay.

Pakistan Journalists Under Threat

Reporters in Pakistan must deal with threats from both state and non-state actors.

By Idrees Ali
May 14, 2014

Approaching the third anniversary of the murder of Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist killed as he investigated the murky relationship between the ISI and Al-Qaeda, little progress has been made with the investigation.

In many ways, Shahzad’s case signifies the challenge in Pakistan: brave journalists who face threats from non-state and state actors, and a system that is unable to provide them with the protection urgently required.

“Pakistani journalists are facing a conglomeration of threats and threats from so many different sides,” said Bob Dietz, coordinator of the Asia Program at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists throughout the world.

At least 34 Pakistani journalists have been killed as a direct result of their work since 2008, when democracy was restored in the country, according to a recent report by Amnesty International titled “A Bullet Has Been Chosen for You.”

While journalists around the world usually face threats from a specific source, such increasingly authoritarian governments in Turkey and Egypt, journalists in Pakistan must overcome threats from both state and non-state actors.

One non-state threat facing Pakistani journalists throughout the country is militant organizations, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban.

“The Taliban have made their intention very clear, they want to dictate terms to the media at the point of a gun,” said Khurram Husain, a business and economy journalist in Pakistan who writes a column in Dawn, one of Pakistan’s leading English language newspapers.

Threats by militant organizations became an unfortunate reality for Raza Rumi, a columnist and TV anchor for Express News, when gunmen sprayed his car with bullets as he left work on the night of March 28 in Lahore.

While Rumi survived and has since fled to the United States for his own safety, he said his coverage of Shia and Ahmadis might have led to the attack, following the arrest of six people who are believed to be associated with the sectarian militant organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

The threat from militant groups has become so serious that it was brought up with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a recent trip by CPJ to the country, according to Kati Marton, the organization’s board member and former chair.

She said the committee had reminded the prime minister that if peace talks with the Taliban continued, the issue of protection of journalists must be brought up.

“The issue will be taken up with the Taliban,” the prime minister told the CPJ delegation.

Rebalancing: China’s Concerns and Responses

14 May 2014
Gaurav Kumar Jha

The US, which is currently winding up its operations from Afghanistan, calls the restructuring and reallocation of its resources towards the Asia Pacific as the ‘Strategy of Rebalancing’, earlier known as the ‘Pivot to East Asia’. China has continuously criticised Washington's deployment of additional ships and personnel to Asia, and the latter’s increasing cooperation both with treaty partners, including Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, as well as with non-traditional allies such as Vietnam.

China’s uneasiness stems from the fact that the Pivot, as stated by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in June 2012, will see 60 per cent of the US Navy's fleet to be deployed to the Pacific by 2020. Singapore will be home to the US’ four new Littoral Combat Ships designed to fight close to shorelines, while Indonesia is looking to buy a broad range of US hardware and partake in joint manoeuvres. The Philippines is seeking to host more US troops on a rotating basis and Australia has agreed to allow up to 2,500 marines to be deployed to the northern city of Darwin.

Beijing’s Response

Washington’s build-up has invited Beijing’s criticism and strong reactions. The Ministry of National Defense, China, has cited the Pivot as an excuse for its own continued build-up, which has seen a 500 per cent rise since 2000. At $131 billion in 2013, China’s defence spending is second only to the US.

Secondly, China has also cited the US’ example for other actions, especially on its eastern front. Beijing’s moves include its assertion on the East China Sea against Japan and South Korea – both partners of the US – with the implementation of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in order to “guard against potential air threats and early warning,” according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. The ADIZ encompasses the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and the broader region. This has led to escalation of tensions. In response, the US, Japan and South Korea declared the area international waters and airspace.

The regional countries feel that a small and tactical dispute over the one set of islands has the potential to escalate into full-scale war between China and Japan. The US is treaty bound to rescue Japan, in case of Chinese misadventure. Therefore, when the US Pacific Commander Samuel Locklear requested for additional amphibious lift capability from the Pentagon, security dilemma and arms race followed.

China’s Take on Narendra Modi

By Bhaskar Roy

China’s stated position remains that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of another country. Therefore, no comments have come from the Chinese government on the Indian general elections. To project their preference of a new government in India, the Chinese authorities are using the state controlled media.

The official English language daily Global Times (May 05) suggested that BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s victory could cause disquiet in the west. It reminded readers that western countries like the US had imposed sanctions against Mr. Modi for his alleged role in the communal riots of Gujarat in 2002, and the US still refuses to issue a visa to Modi.

The article went on to say that in its manifesto the BJP promises a multilateral diplomacy and the establishment of a “web of allies” to further India’s best national interest, which steers away from a tilt towards the US held by India in diplomacy in the past decades. This, according to the article, had caused worries in the west.

In the article’s opinion western countries like the US hope to use India to counterbalance China, but they do not support India on issues of the country’s “core interests”. In this context the article blamed US monetary policy for the devaluation of the Indian rupee and flight of capital from India. It also cited non-inclusion of India in the US sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The article proceeds to throw more doubt on the intentions of the US and the west, and projects an India-China-Russia cooperative mechanism to counter western pressure.

The article saw Narendra Modi as a strong leader of India who can build the country into a challenger to the west economically and politically. But it added some caution, saying it has been a policy of India to offset the negative effects of China’s rise by enhancing strategic cooperation with countries around China. The article did not see much change in this policy but also did not view Narendra Modi aggressively pursuing this line as prime minister.

The author of this article, Liu Zongyi is a research fellow at the premier Shanghai Institute for International Studies. This gives more weight to the article which appears to be a probe. Chinese President Xi Jinping is tentatively scheduled to visit India in September/October this year. Indians can be assured that Xi will visit at least two other countries of the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan may be one of them, though Premier Li Keqiang went to Pakistan last year after visiting India.

Chinese top leaders especially the president and the premier never make an “India only” visit to the subcontinent, and India may not figure on their itinerary during their other visits to the region. The visits are constructed to assure other countries of the subcontinent that in China’s foreign policy India does not figure as more important than them. Pakistan, of course, is a special case of “all weather friendship” which China will not jeopardize in any way.

Although the Chinese are acquainted with Narendra Modi (Modi visited China a few times), they have not got a measure of his ideology, politics and latent foreign policy. One thing that everyone agrees upon is that he is a very determined person and is not afraid to call a spade a spade.

The Chinese have dealt with the UPA government led by Dr. Manmohan Singh for a decade. In his second term as Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh seemed weak and indecisive especially when dealing with China and Pakistan. Characteristically, Narendra Modi is very different from Dr. Singh. The Chinese wonder whether Mr. Modi’s approach in domestic politics will be reflected in his foreign policy. During a visit to North-East India in the course of his poll campaign Mr. Modi declared that the Chinese should not think in terms of expansionism- a remark not missed by the Chinese. The reference to China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh and the western sector of the India-China border was clear.

China in Africa: A Close Friend or a Neo Colonialist?

Guest column by Prof. B. R. Deepak

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya between 4th and 11th May 2014. It was Li’s first visit to Africa, and coincides with the 50th anniversary of Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai’s first visit to Africa in 1964. Li’s visit has been considered as another milestone in China-Africa relations.

If Zhou Enlai advocated ‘eight principles for Chinese assistance to foreign countries and five principles for China’s ties with Africa’ back then, Li proposed ‘461 China-Africa Cooperation Framework’ during his speech at the Chinese built swanky African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The digit 4 in the framework stands for adherence to the principles of equal treatment, solidarity and mutual trust, tolerance and development, innovation and cooperation; digit 6 stands for cooperation in the fields of industry, finance, poverty reduction, environmental protection, cultural exchanges, and peace and security; and the digit 1 for perfecting Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that was started in the year 2000. So far five such forums have been held alternatively in China and Africa. 

China is nurturing its relationship with Africa from a futuristic perspective. It is evident from Premier Li’s speech when he underlined that Africa ‘plays an important role in safeguarding world peace and stability’ , ‘is an important force in the democratization of international relations’ , is an important pole of the world politics’ and more importantly ‘Africa is world's fastest growing economic region’ and ‘a new pole of global economic growth.’ Therefore, we see China-Africa relationship changing from a mere political and economic significance towards a deeper comprehensive strategic partnership aimed at future

A resource rich Africa is already having 210 billion dollar trade with China which the Chinese premier said would be doubled by the year 2020. China has heavily invested in Africa’s energy resources, infrastructure development, telecommunications and mining sectors. From the AU headquarters Li also announced that China will build a high-speed rail development center in Africa. During his visit to four African nations China concluded over 60 agreements worth billions of dollars.

‘Rail-Road Diplomacy’

During his first leg of visit in Ethiopia, Li signed 16 deals including loans and cooperation agreements for the construction of roads and industrial zones. China’s direct foreign investment in Ethiopia last year reached $720 million and investment from Chinese enterprises recently is reported by a Chinese television channel have exceeded $ 1 billion. China is engaged in the development of basic infrastructure that includes building of roads, railways, water and power supply systems, telecommunication etc. projects. Chinese Premier also inaugurated 84.7 kilometer long expressway built by 5000 Chinese workers, the fist in Ethiopia connecting Addis Ababa to the city of Adama in Oromia region. 57% of the project funding came from the EXIM Bank of China as loans. China is also building a light railway project in Addis Ababa, the first in Ethiopia; Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE are building high-speed 4G broadband in the capital city and 3G services throughout Ethiopia.

During his second leg in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy (510 billion GDP) that in recent times is in news for the abduction of 200 schoolgirls by Nigerian armed group Boko Haram, Li continued the ‘Rail-Road diplomacy.’ China Civil Engineering Group, a subsidiary of China Railway Construction announced that it has signed with Nigeria a railway project worth $ 13.122 billion. Nigeria has emerged China’s third largest trading partner in Africa with a bilateral trade of $30.65 billion. Nigeria is also China's largest engineering contracting market in Africa; these are in the fields of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, communications, textile, construction materials, and mining industries.

China eyes Thai arms deal

Beijing is frantically searching for partnerships with Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, etc.

China's position and success as a key weapons exporter remains formidable in the global arms market. Taking the case of Southeast Asia per se, the emergence and more importantly, availability, of China as a major arms producer and supplier draws a direct link to the overall arms acquisition decision-making within the region and casts a lasting impact upon the overall regional military balance as a consequence.

The evolving setting in Southeast Asia based on this factor could be termed as being capricious, since it is capable of setting off a regional arms race. China finds in Thailand a lush opportunity for expanding its arms exports and state-owned Poly Technologies and China Precision Machinery Import & Export Corporation (CPMIEC) are currently engaged in discussions with Thai defence authorities over potential collaboration on several land- and sea-based military systems.

A probable advanced weapons export deal is being actively negotiated with Beijing briskly pushing for the reported sale of China's medium- to long-range two-stage missile with a range of about 130 miles — HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system (known as the FD-2000 in its export configuration) manufactured by state-owned CPMIEC to the Thai military. In addition, systems including the FL-3000N ship-based surface-to-air missile system and the FK-1000 mobile air defence system, both marketed by CPMIEC are also being discussed.

Besides, Thai military authorities have apparently shown a keen interest in the possibility of procuring Chinese Poly Technologies' Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, CS-VP3, which entered production in 2012. It is being reported that in case the CS-VP3 deal is clinched, China might just end up offering co-production of the CS-VP3 to their Thai counterparts. In fact, the prospect of China transferring full technologies to Thailand to help with local production cannot be annulled entirely.

The likely sealing of the latest arms deal between Beijing and Bangkok is happening at an interesting time with China appearing fraught in search of strategic partners in Southeast Asia given that its equation with both Vietnam and the Philippines seem to be taking a turn for the worse. The Chinese leadership is frantically searching for partnerships with Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and Cambodia in Southeast Asia, which could cement Chinese assertion in regional affairs. While Thailand continues to nurture long-standing military ties with the United States, it appears that the Thai government wants to strike a balance by encouraging its association with China as well since Thailand's dependence on China economically is too strong to be overlooked.

Surely, the theme of Commander of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), Ma Xiaotian's meeting with his visiting Thai counterpart, Prajin Jantong focused on strengthening the bilateral comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries involving pragmatic exchanges. In addition, It needs to be underscored that Thailand, in fact, has been a very prominent recipient of Chinese weapon systems all through the decade of the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1980s, China supplied Thailand with the Hong Ying-5/5A portable surface-to-air missile (SAM), HQ-2B SAM, T-59 main battle tank, T-59-1 130mm towed gun,T-81 122mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL), T-85 130mm MRL, Type 81 122mm MRL and Type 83 130mm MRL.

Subsequently, in the 1990s, major Chinese weapon exports to Thailand included the C-801 ship-to-ship missile, Jianghu-class frigate, Naresuan-class frigate, Similan-class support ship, T-311 and T-341 fire control radars and the T-69 main battle tank.

Sino-Thai ties received a much needed boost with the October 2013 visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Thailand following the visit of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to China in 2012. It was during the latter trip that the two sides agreed upgrading bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and also placed added focus on the economic and trade aspects with bilateral trade touching $70 billion — and setting up a target of $100 billion by 2015. China is Thailand's largest trading partner as well as the second largest source of foreign direct investment following Japan.

Five American Weapons of War China Should Fear

While Beijing's military power is growing, Washington still retains advantages that make it worthy of the title "superpower."

May 15, 2014

Last week, I discussed on these pages the five Chinese weapons Washington fears most. Some of the weapons, such as the Type 071 amphibious ship and Chinese cyber weapons were unfamiliar to many readers. This week we’re turning the list around and discussing the five American weapons that China likely fears most.

As a superpower, the United States has maintained a formidable, technologically advanced military for decades. While the Chinese weapons highlighted last week were often designed with the United States in mind, none of the weapons this week were explicitly designed to fight China. In fact, many of the weapons featured here were first designed during the Cold War and predate China’s military rise.

Again, it’s important to point out that the chances of war between the United States and China are remote. There is too much advantage for both countries in maintaining the status quo of a strong economic relationship (roughly $500 billion in bilateral trade) and cordial—if stiff—diplomatic ties. A war would be a political, economic, and military disaster for both sides.

Ford-class Aircraft Carriers

Since the end of the Second World War, the aircraft carrier has been the symbol of American power projection. American carriers typically displace up to 100,000 tons fully loaded. The embarked carrier air wing typically includes four squadrons of F/A-18C Hornet or F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet strike fighters (up to fifty-two aircraft total), four or five EA-6B Prowler or EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, approximately a dozen MH-60 Seahawks, and a pair of C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery aircraft.

The Ford-class, America’s latest class of aircraft carriers (the first of which is set to the join the U.S. Navy in 2016), is the weapons system China fears most. The mix of aircraft onboard a carrier makes it capable of a wide variety of missions, including air superiority, land attack, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. Modern aircraft carriers represent a threat not only to Chinese naval and air forces away from China, but could strike China itself. 

Aircraft carriers such as the USS Ford are also visible reminders of Chinese technological inferiority. From the nuclear reactors to electromagnetic catapults systems designed to hurl aircraft into the air to the integrated anti-air warfare system, American carriers represent a showcase of technologies that China hasn’t mastered. Last summer, while China was proudly certifying its first pilots and deck crew to operate from the carrier Liaoning, the historic event was undercut by news of an American X-47B unmanned drone landing for the first time on the carrier USS George Bush.

American aircraft carriers are symbols to China of American intrusion into its sphere of influence. In 1996, in response to Chinese missile launches near Taiwan, the USS Nimitz and USS Independence carrier battle groups were sent into the Taiwan Strait. There was nothing the Chinese military could have done to prevent the carriers from entering the strait. This humiliation deeply affected Chinese thinking, and was almost certainly the impetus for the development of weapons such as the DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile or ASBM.

Tibet: Human Rights Violations

Dr. Parasaran Rangarajan

Examining Tibet today, the first topic of concern to the international community is spread through the voice of H.H. Dalai Lama and Tibetan government-in-exile; human rights. One cannot overlook the frequency of self-immolations being committed by peaceful Tibetan Buddhist monks who seek to bring attention to the situation in Tibet.

Latest figures indicate that over 131 monks have so far immolated themselves in the last two years[1]. These are only reported cases and more would have died in vain. Two points to make on this issue are:

1. The Tibetans are able to immolate themselves for the cause despite very restrictive and strict security measures as well as arrest and imprisonment of the relatives of the victims inside Tibet.

2. The immolations are also taking place outside Tibet proper.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report on April 30th, 2014 identifying China as a country of concern noting the self-immolations and detention of monks, forced renunciations of faith including the Uighur Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic communities, and discrediting of religious leaders which “merits a seat at the table with economic, security, and other key concerns of U.S. foreign policy.”[2]

The Tibetan government-in-exile has found a home in India residing peacefully for the past few decades but the government of India has done little beyond extending basic citizenship in terms of assistance to the Tibetan people to defend their human rights in China. The question is could India do more? How can a resolution in the United Nations, at an agency such as the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) be introduced to bring it to the world, the desperate situation of the people in Tibet?

The current Tibetan Administration has made great strides in establishing diplomatic relations with the rest of the world[3] who are sympathetic to the situation although certain countries such as the U.K. or Czech Republic have formally stated that they will not deviate from the “One China Policy”[4]. Norway has also refused to meet with H.H. Dalai Lama in fear of angering Chinese relations and bi-lateral trade[5].

There are some contradictions within the Tibetan Administration since H.H. Dalai Lama calls for the 17 point agreement and Middle Way[6], the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) claims this agreement ceding Tibet to China was done under duress and is not valid[7]. This is one of the reasons negotiations with the CTA have been rejected by China in full as it fears that it will lead to an independent Tibet as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be subjected to conditions imposed by the administration in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR)[8]. This is because the 17 point agreement calls upon China to enter Tibet in agreement with the local administration. However, it is not justified in a moral sense to deny negotiations with H.H. Dalai Lama who has accepted the fact of ceding Tibet to China who is a spiritual leader.

Although it is not in immediate danger of genocide or war crimes such as the Central African Republic (CAR) at the moment, the TAR may very well be heading towards this direction if any agitation from the Tibetan people arises and genocide may have been committed in the past which legal scholars have made the case for. The U.N. has been rejected entry into the TAR as well which brings about more concern as to what is occurring amidst reports of human rights violations including why genocide is termed from a legal viewpoint expressed by scholars published via the Unrepresented People’s Organisation (UNPO)[9]. Any agitation in the TAR calling for upholding the rule of law or human rights will be quickly suppressed by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and put to end without witness which draws fears of a genocide without eyes.

Maldives and its Judiciary:

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

On 8th of April, the Maldives Bar Association renewed its call for the suspension of Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed pending investigations into allegations of the judge’s appearance in a series of sex tapes. The Bar contended that Hameed’s presence in the Supreme Court Bench contravenes the Islamic Shariah and the norms of justice. The result is that the Bar Council is itself being de recognised!

The Judicial Service Commission of Maldives had set in motion cases against Judge Hameed in May and again in December 2013. The recommendation of December 2013 is still pending. This delay of over 4 months is reported to have undermined the public trust in the judiciary. The sex tapes are not the only ones under investigation.

Maldives media has reported various other cases of corruption of the Judge which were also to be investigated. These include

a. Illegal transfer of credit from the state funded mobile account to his personal account in 2010.

b. Tapes showing Judge Hameed discussing with a local businessman of the political influence on the judiciary and there is a hint that the present power holders can manipulate the judiciary.

c. A 2010 audit reported an expenditure of MVR 13,200 to repair a state-owned car when there was evidence to show that there was no damage to the car. On the other hand some repairs were done in 2011.

d. A Sum of MV 50,000 from the state funds was spent for personal purposes during the judge’s visit to China.

e. Since 2012, the judge has been illegally occupying the State owned apartments in Male.

To cap this all, now comes the news, that the documents relating to the corruption cases against Judge Hameed were destroyed due to a "Coffee spill" at the Supreme Court Premises. The destruction of the documents could not have been accidental and could not have been done without the connivance of people now in power. It is no surprise that the opposition MDP has expressed its surprise and concern over the developments.

In one of the blogs I came across some details of the state of judiciary in Maldives. It says that Maldives has no criminal procedure act, witness protection act or Evidence Act. According to the Global Corruption barometer, 69 percent of the judiciary is "extremely" corrupt. 50 percent of the judges are said to have only 7th grade education and the only qualification they have is a 6 months or a two-year course certificate!

The Odd Couple: Japan & Taiwan’s Unlikely Friendship

Starting with people-to-people ties, Taiwan is far and away the most Japan-friendly state in Northeast Asia.

By Michal Thim & Misato Matsuoka
May 15, 2014

Japan does not have it easy among its neighbors. Koreans (from both Koreas) and Chinese won’t miss a chance to slam Japan for lack of repentance for Japan’s war-time crimes (needless to say, public figures in Japan give them a good reason every now and then), and relations with Russia, while not being as bad, still face the unresolved dispute over Kuril Islands. However, one relationships stands out in the otherwise awkward position of Japan in the region. Its relationship with Taiwan, while unofficial due to the peculiar status of Taiwan, is unlike any other Japanese bilateral relationship in Northeast Asia. Indeed, it would not be far-fetched to call Taiwan the most Japan-friendly state in Asia.

Naturally, there is no single explanation for why Taiwan does not join its neighbors in their collective dislike of Tokyo. There is certainly a mutual understanding that Taiwan needs Japan’s support should relations between Taiwan and China deteriorate. Likewise – and in the face of Beijing’s pressure on Tokyo regarding Diaoyutai/Senkaku despite – Japanese policymakers understand that Japan’s security would be seriously challenged should Taiwan fall under Beijing’s control. With the return of Shinzo Abe to premiership, there has been remarkable acknowledgment of the importance of Taiwan for Japan’s security. In a January 2013 White Paper, Japan’s defense ministry included a PRC attack on Taiwan as one of the scenarios that could prompt a Japanese conflict with China. Yet, the same could be said about South Korea. That is, it would be hard to imagine another Korean War that would see Japan cooperating with Seoul in one way or another. But relations between South Korea and Japan are a far cry from Tokyo’s relationship with Taiwan.

Another argument can be made that ties to Washington help to facilitate relations between Tokyo and Taipei. The U.S. would certainly not be pleased if Taiwan’s President ran on an anti-Japanese agenda. Taiwan needs the U.S. for its defense, hence, it is sound to assume that whoever is in charge in Taipei will moderate their policy toward Japan. Yet again, however, the same could be said about South Korea, which maintains a formal defense alliance with Washington and hosts a sizable contingency of U.S. troops. Yet, these factors have not resulted in cordial relations between Korea and Japan. Washington is certainly trying to decrease the level of antipathy between its two treaty allies, but it can’t claim much success on that front.

Democracy may also play a role in smoothing relations between Taiwan and Japan. But this too fails to account for why Japan and South Korea don’t have as positive of a relationship as Tokyo and Taipei. Indeed, as the case of Korea and Japan shows, democracy might actually help sow discord between two states as politicians feel the need to cater to public opinion.

Middle East: Battleground Syria


As the Syrian strife rages into its fourth year, on 01 May 2014, barrel bombs delivered on an outdoor market in Aleppo by Syrian military aircraft killed 33 people. Just a day earlier, on 30 April 2014, a barrel bomb dropped by Syrian Air Force on an elementary school in Aleppo killed 20, including 17 children. A barrel bomb is a type of improvised explosive device (used by the Syrian Air Force during the ongoing civil war) made from a barrel filled with high explosives and other shrapnel (like nails) and/or oil, dropped from a helicopter, detonated, and capable of causing devastating destruction and carnage.


The civil war in Syria, fanned by the Arab Spring, had its roots in the 15 March 2011 protests in the southern Syrian city of Daraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. Security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing some civilians, that prompted unrest nationwide demanding President Assad's resignation. Further use of force by the Assad Government only stoked the protestor’s determination and by July 2011, there were thousands protesting in towns and cities across Syria. Out of these protests, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) formed with the aim of bringing down the Assad Regime, the confrontation spawning many battlefields between various rebel and government forces. Damascus, Aleppo and Homs were the cities where maximum fighting took place. The nature of the violence has been dotted with killings and massacres by one side and reprisal attacks by the other side, against each other’s community or location inhabited by the community they represent. The al-Assad government is charged with using chemical weapons in an attack on Syrian civilians that killed hundreds in Aug 2013.

Ethno-Religious Dimensions

The ethno-religious composition of Syria is Arab-Sunni (60 percent), Arab-Alawite (Shia Muslims) (12 percent), Kurd-Sunni (9 percent), Greek Orthodox Christian (9 percent), Assyrian Syriac Christian (4 percent), Arab-Druze (3 percent), Arab-Ismaeli (2 percent), Turkmen-Sunni, Circassian-Sunni, Armenian-Christian and others (1percent). Bashar al-Assad belongs to the Shiite Alawite Sect. Seen very simply, it is a case of the minority ruling a country with majority Sunni population. The Christian denomination and most other Shiite sects of the population are aligned with al Assad, and fear the takeover by any Islamist denomination. Unlike most regimes in Middle East, the Assad disposition is not religiously extreme. The Alawites practice a unique little known form of Islam dating back to the 9th/ 10th century and have been historically isolated from mainstream society and persecuted by the Sunni majority. Their beliefs include permissibility of alcohol, celebration of Christmas and Zoroastrian New Year, thus making them highly suspect in the eyes of Sunnis and more orthodox Shias. The protest against Assad, therefore, does not emanate from protest against religious extremism; it has been against inability of his government to implement reforms, control corruption, dictatorial governance and gag on freedom of expression. The fight between the Government and rebels is, however, not so simplistic. The armed conflict has grown both in complexity and numbers since it started. There are estimated to be 1,000 groups or so with some 100,000 fighters - the spectrum ranging from secular moderates to Islamists/jihadists linked to al-Qaeda. The ideology and tactics of each of these groups have ensured that there is no common umbrella. For instance, the violent and brutal tactics of the Islamists and Jihadists are against the operating principles of the large secular groups. As the rebels remain deeply divided, apart from common standpoint of needing to end Bashar al-Assad’s rule, Assad continues to retain an upper hand.