29 April 2013

What Indian side does not want to talk about when it comes to China


Unpalatable border home truths and progress that annoy Beijing-baiters

(From left) Li Keqiang, Manmohan Singh and Shivshankar Menon

Washington, April 28: Resolute in a weekend decision to prioritise the totality of Sino-Indian relations instead of overreacting to shifting control of tracts of wasteland in Ladakh, the political leadership in New Delhi has taken charge of resolving the latest land dispute with Beijing.

The Prime Minister’s description of the new Chinese encampments in disputed areas of Daulat Beg Oldi as a “localised problem” was the highlight on the issue on Saturday. More significant, in fact, has been a moderated change in defence minister A.K. Antony’s position since the incursions in Burthe came to light a week ago.

Antony took a hard line on Monday when he told reporters outside Parliament that “we are taking every action to protect our interest… we will take every step to protect our interest”. His firmness was in line with the public mood when full facts about the Ladakh situation were not known.

Two days later, Antony said in Bangalore that the government would take all measures to protect the territorial integrity of the country. The implication was that India would reclaim what it considered to be its territory from Chinese occupation by whatever means necessary.

The defence minister was briefed on Thursday by Gen. Bikram Singh after the army chief visited Jammu and Kashmir and reviewed the situation first hand with Northern Army commander Lt Gen. K.T. Parnaik.

A significant mellowing was evident in Antony’s attitude the following day when he told reporters, again outside Parliament, that “negotiations and consultations are going on at various levels to find out a peaceful solution to the Chinese incursion issue”.

A day earlier, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid had urged that the developments in Ladakh “should not spill over into a larger spectrum”. Most significant of all was Khurshid’s iteration that he would go to Beijing as scheduled on May 9. He said: “We have our normal contacts. Things can be resolved long before I get to China.”

Behind such a reassuring change from Monday, when there was talk of a “1962-like situation” between New Delhi and Beijing, and Saturday, when hopes were raised of status quo ante, is the remarkable story of how a government — even one as besieged as the UPA — managed to salvage what is potentially its biggest diplomatic success this year, perhaps of its entire second five-year tenure.

When China’s new Prime Minister Li Keqiang decided that he would make New Delhi his very first destination for a foreign trip next month, Beijing was sending a clear message to New Delhi. It was not lost on South Block because according to protocol, it is now Manmohan Singh’s turn to visit China.

So India told China that Singh would visit Beijing in June and fulfil the demands of protocol. But Li’s office insisted that, no, the Prime Minister, who has now been in office for only six weeks, wanted to personally underline the importance he was giving to India.

Rebuke for Wilson, rapport with De Gaulle

Inder Malhotra : Mon Apr 29 2013

Indira Gandhi used her trip to Washington to send a message to the British prime minister

Before leaving for the United States, Indira Gandhi's mind was concentrated on her mission there. But she also planned to use her journey to deliver some timely and essential messages to others. In a dramatic reversal of the established practice, she decided to steer clear of London on her way to Washington. Her father had always stayed in the British capital for a day or two before leaving for Washington or New York. Lal Bahadur Shastri had been to London only once, and to no other destination west of it.

Indira Gandhi's itinerary, when announced, created a stir, even though her purpose was crystal clear. She wanted to express her and her country's utter displeasure with the then British prime minister Harold Wilson for his temerity to have blamed India, not Pakistan, for starting the 1965 War between the two neighbours. This had excelled his earlier impertinence in refusing to give India a single conventional submarine on loan, even for training.

Of course, there had been a tsunami of anger against the man usually described as "too clever by half" by his own countrymen for his remark about the 1965 War in South Asia. The whole of India resounded with the cry: "We must quit the Commonwealth at once". In Parliament, Shastri had great difficulty in persuading the sponsors of a resolution to the same effect to withdraw it. Most of them belonged to his party. When he suggested that the feelings of the House having been expressed clearly, the matter should be left to the government to decide, because, after all, international organisations could have "some uses", some MPs shouted: "There is nothing common and no wealth".

Indira Gandhi chose to fly to the US via Paris, where she had a busy stopover. Both her sons were in England at that time; she asked them to join her in the French capital. Her objective of rubbing it in to the perfidious Albion was obvious enough. But it took people quite some time to realise that she was also conveying to all concerned that her ambitions for her country were broadly the same as those of Charles de Gaulle's for his.

The meeting with De Gaulle was a big success. The two leaders were generally on the same wavelength. All through the conversation and the lunch, Indira Gandhi spoke in fluent French. Le grande Charles was charmed. It was then that he confided to his culture minister and one of his few personal friends, Andre Malraux: "Malraux, women usually do not succeed in politics. This one would". It was many years later, however, that Malraux put this prophecy onto the public domain.

Surprisingly, another prognostication about Indira Gandhi's future came, of all people, from one of her arch critics, a socialist turned extreme conservative, Minoo Masani, who told his cohorts: "Madame would be our mon general".

It was only during her journey back home that she did stay in London and had a long talk with Wilson who, instead of acknowledging his mistake, shifted the blame to an advisor who, he claimed, had "briefed me wrongly". All through the atmosphere was correct, but not particularly cordial. There was only one major Indo-British project on the anvil at that time, the production of a British-designed warship at Bombay's Mazagon Docks. So, the agenda before the two leaders wasn't long. It is also well known that for as long as Wilson was British prime minister, Indira Gandhi kept her distance from him. even at the meetings of Commonwealth prime ministers.

From Paris, Indira Gandhi had travelled to the US in an American aircraft. It did not take her directly to Washington's Andrews air base but to an old city (by American standards), Williamsburg. For this place, with its horse-drawn carriages and famous for its old-world restaurants, her arrival became something of a carnival, as a large number of Indian Americans from neighbouring areas had assembled there to cheer for her.

It was only the next morning that Indira Gandhi, her delegation and press party were flown in helicopters for a formal reception by then president Lyndon Johnson.

For the prime minister and her tired entourage, a restful night was most welcome. For them and for us, the new day dawned amidst great hilarity. B.K. Nehru, India's ambassador to the US and Indira Gandhi's uncle, was a habitual late riser. He was infuriated, therefore, when his phone rang loudly at an "unearthly hour" in the morning. McGeorge Bundy, Johnson's chief advisor, was on the line.

"Biju", he said to the ambassador, still half asleep, "the president wants to know how he should address your prime minister. Should he use her first name, or call her Mrs Gandhi or Madam Prime Minister, or what?" Nehru replied that he would seek the prime minister's instructions and get back to him.

She laughed heartily and said: "Tell him he can address me whichever way he likes". When B.K. was leaving her suite, he felt that she still had something more to say. Indeed, she had. "Please also tell him that several of my cabinet ministers call me 'Sir'. He can do so, too, if he wants."

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator

India, Russia agree on Afghan peace, but differ on drawdown

Vladimir Radyuhin

The Istanbul Process conference on Afghanistan held in Kazakhstan’s Almaty on Friday confirmed a close affinity of views between India and Russia, even as they differ in their assessments of the planned withdrawal of the U.S.-led NATO mission.

“India and Russia have a strong convergence of perceptions of how to move forward [on Afghanistan],” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said after arriving here from Almaty.

“India and Russia agree that the process of peace and reconciliation must be Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven. You can’t give readymade solutions to Afghanistan and tell it to apply them. Solutions have to come from within Afghanistan,” Mr. Khurshid toldThe Hindu.

Russia takes a similar stand

“We support the process of reconciliation. But it must be led by Afghans and conducted by Afghans,” Russia’s top diplomat for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said ahead of the Almaty conference. “It is not right when the Taliban speak to Americans, British or somebody else, who then communicate with the [Hamid] Karzai government.”

India, of course, is more concerned with Pakistan’s role in the Afghan reconciliation efforts. But the biggest difference between New Delhi and Moscow is over the modalities of the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Almaty conference, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov lashed out at U.S. plan to retain military presence in Afghanistan without the United Nations’ mandate. “We do not support plans to reformat the ISAF into a long-term foreign military presence in Afghanistan without a United Nations mandate and under a different guise,” he said.

Moscow is demanding that the NATO countries report to the U.N. Security Council on the implementation of its mandate for intervention in Afghanistan and seek a renewed mandate if they want to stay.

However, India does not support the Russian demand.

“The U.S. did take the Security Council sanction, but it’s not been a U.N. peace-keeping operation,” Mr. Khurshid said. “There is nothing more than the Security Council can do, except to support a peace process where redlines are clearly drawn — that talks are held only with those who abjure violence, give up contacts with terrorists and respect the Constitution of Afghanistan.”

The “redlines” agreed upon at the 2010 London conference were again reiterated in Almaty.

Russia is concerned that permanent military bases the Pentagon plans to set up in Afghanistan may be used to strike at Iran and project American power across Central Asia. India, however, is willing to accept continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan without a U.N. mandate, though New Delhi agrees with Moscow that the ISAF is winding down too abruptly.

“We think the pullout is being done in a hurry; we do not want it to be done in a hurry. But it’s up to Afghanistan to discuss this with the U.S. We’ll go by what Afghanistan decides,” Mr. Khurshid said.

These differences apart, India supports Russia’s higher profile in Central Asia and is ready to interact closer with Moscow in the region. “If Central Asia moves in the right direction and continues its strong association with Russia, it will become a very solid link between India and Russia,” Mr. Khurshid said. “We need to ensure that Central Asia becomes a very strong bridge between ourselves and Russia.”

Mr. Khurshid is in Moscow for an inter-session meeting of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission scheduled for Monday, which he co-chairs with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

India's Feeble Foreign Policy

A Would-Be Great Power Resists Its Own Rise
Manjari Chatterjee Miller, Foreign Affairs Magazine, Apr-May 2013

The world may expect great things from India, but as extensive reporting reveals, Indians themselves turn out to be deeply skeptical about their country’s potential. That attitude, plus New Delhi’s dysfunctional foreign-policy bureaucracy, prevent long-term planning of the sort China has mastered - and are holding India back.

For the last decade, few trends have captured the world’s attention as much as the so-calledrise of the rest, the spectacular economic and political emergence of powers such as China and India. Particularly in the United States, India watchers point to the country’s large and rapidly expanding economy, its huge population, and its nuclear weapons as signs of its imminent greatness. Other observers fret about the pace of India’s rise, asking whether New Delhi is living up to its potential, whether the country’s shoddy infrastructure will hold it back, and whether it is strong enough to counter an increasingly ambitious China. All of this frenzied discussion, however, overlooks a simple fact: within India itself, the foreign policy elite shies away from any talk of the country’s rising status. As a senior official who has worked on India’s relations with Western countries recently told me, “There is a hysterical sense, encouraged by the West, about India’s rise.” A top-level official in India’s foreign ministry echoed the sentiment: “When do we Indians talk about it? We don’t.”

What explains this discrepancy? As I found through a series of interviews with senior officials in the Indian government, many of whom requested anonymity, it is a result of three important facts that have gone largely unnoticed in the West.

First, New Delhi’s foreign policy decisions are often highly individualistic - the province of senior officials responsible for particular policy areas, not strategic planners at the top. As a result, India rarely engages in long-term thinking about its foreign policy goals, which prevents it from spelling out the role it aims to play in global affairs.

Second, Indian foreign-policy makers are insulated from outside influences, such as think tanks, which in other countries reinforce a government’s sense of its place in the world.

Third, the Indian elite fears that the notion of the country’s rise is a Western construct, which has unrealistically raised expectations for both Indian economic growth and the country’s international commitments. As one senior official with experience in the prime minister’s office said, the West’s labeling of India as a rising power is “a rope to hang ourselves.” By contrast, Chinese political leaders and intellectuals pay a great deal of attention to the international hype surrounding their country’s emergence, and Chinese think tanks and media outlets regularly try to shape and respond to this discourse.

India’s discomfort with being labeled a rising power should lower Washington’s ambitions for its partnership with New Delhi. India can be convinced to play an international role in areas where its narrow interests are at stake, but it will not respond positively to abstract calls for it to assume more global responsibility.


By and large, three bodies in the Indian government work together to make foreign policy: thePMO; the National Security Council (NSC) led by a powerful NSA; and the foreign ministry. The PMO is seen as the ultimate seat of authority, and other foreign-policy makers jockey to move closer to it. One factor, however, cuts across all three bodies. All three offices and their top positions are filled by IFS officers. Understanding the structure of the foreign service and the role of its officers is essential to explaining why the rise of India garners more attention in New York than it does in New Delhi.

The Indian civil service was created by the British govt in the 19th century to help administer its vast colonial empire. Known as “the steel frame” of British rule on the subcontinent, the civil service was retained by India after it won its independence in 1947. The service remains highly prestigious today: new officers are selected through a competitive civil-service exam and sorted into the various branches based on their rank. The foreign service stands out as one of India’s most elite institutions, reportedly accepting recruits at a rate of only 0.01%. Unlike the diplomatic corps in China, for example, in which officers are recruited according to need, a fixed number of Indians are admitted into the foreign service each year. And unlike in the US, in India, the most significant ambassadorial and foreign policy jobs are usually filled by career civil servants rather than political appointees.

Once they survive the cut-throat admissions process, the foreign service officers go on to serve as key advisers in the PMO, on the NSC, and at the foreign ministry. They also tend to hold the most powerful positions within these bodies: the foreign secretary, the administrative head of the foreign ministry, is always a foreign service officer. And three of the four people who have held the position of NSA since the post was created in 1998, including the current one, Shivshankar Menon, have been foreign service officers.

The powerful role of the IFS produces a decision-making process that is highly individualistic. Since foreign service officers are considered the crème de la crème of India and undergo extensive training, they are each seen as capable of assuming vast authority. What is more, the service’s exclusive admissions policies mean that a tiny cadre of officers must take on large portfolios of responsibility. In addition to their advisory role, they have significant leeway in crafting policy. This autonomy, in turn, means that New Delhi does very little collective thinking about its long-term foreign policy goals, since most of the strategic planning that takes place within the government happens on an individual level.

Ladakh: The Perspective that is Missing

April 28, 2013 by Team SAISA
Filed under Analysis, foreign policy

Waiting for the long haul may irreversibly compromise Indian Security Interests

It is amazing that while a potentially strategic vulnerability is being created with each passing day on the DBO front in Ladakh and possibly elsewhere as well the Foreign Minister of India in his wisdom chooses to call it a minor blip, an acne that will soon disappear.

Disappear it will not and by the time the Foreign Minister returns from Beijing an element of irreversibility and potential future untenability of positions in Siachen could conceivably have been created. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that every hour that a well-thought out military response by top commanders on the ground is delayed the situation becomes more and more difficult.

In the process the government through its vacillation is leaving everybody confused. Leaving senior military commanders tasked with the defence of Ladakh or for that matter any other sector bereft of initiative is an invitation to disaster; minute-to-minute micro-management from the top not being the answer. That the present incursion does not fall into the category of routine Chinese incursions is clear to all military commanders and defence analysts. It is a given that Chinese incursions have been increasing, sometime on a daily basis, in direct proportion to the government’s response of playing them down or denying that they have taken place.

Lack of condemnation and allowing even minimal freedom of action to military commanders only emboldens the other side who have taken the full measure of the government and its functioning. It is nobody’s contention that an asymetrically enfeebled army should not exercise extreme caution; the army commanders being more than aware of their vulnerability due to gaps in infrastructure and the delay in critical military acquisitions that should have been in place by now or even the lack of a riposte capability that should have been in place ages ago.

More importantly, what the government and its strategic planners do not appreciate is the impression that is being made on the rest of the world by its flip-flop policies in the face of continued Chinese aggravations. They have seen that India has already ceded control on its periphery on the subcontinent in several countries of SAARC. A few years earlier under pressure from the US and the West it had jeopardised its most advantageous relationship with Iran by unnecessarily and unprovokedly voting against it in Vienna. Other decisions that indicated to the world that the government may not be in control of its foreign policy followed.

Having ceded strategic space to China on its West, what exactly is the government’s response to the latest provocation by China indicating to its strategic partners in East Asia; with whom strategic defence agreements should have been taken to much greater heights by now. A policy of keeping all options open simply means that when the crunch comes no option is available to be exercised. Specifically, Japan, Vietnam and several other potential strategic partners to India’s east are watching and waiting; wondering whether it has the resolve to protect its own interest in the first instance, before calculating its ability to come to their assistance should the need arise.

From day one instead of dithering and hamstringing military commanders on the ground the incursion in DBO to a depth of 19 kms demanded an immediate and robust response. It is akin to fire fighting. A blaze can be put out by the effort of a single man or few people in the first few minutes; after more than 10 to 15 minutes it would require far greater fire fighting resources to get it under control; and after about thirty minutes or so it can often become completely uncontrollable.

Is Pakistan a Failing State?

On May 11 Pakistanis are expected to go to the polls and celebrate transition in what's been a rare five-year civilian rule. The election may or may not usher in another period of civilian rule. Fundamental reform is required of the political system that functions under the shadow of military power and religious extremism. Otherwise, Pakistan is destined to drift as a failing state.

I first entered Pakistan in September 1958, two weeks before the civilian government of Iskander Mirza gave way to Muhammad Ayub Khan who turned out to be a benevolent dictator - until he went astray by encouraging war with India in 1965. Indeed, Pakistan has had 40 years of military rule out of 65 years since independence.

The coming election will put to test the Pakistan People's Party leadership of Asif Ali Zardari, who succeeded his murdered wife, Benazir Bhutto. Polls indicate that Nawaz Sharif of Punjab's Muslim League is likely to take over, though the uncertainty over the return of previous dictator Pervez Musharraf and the efforts of Imran Khan, the cricket legend, cast doubt on the outcome. The reception for Musharraf on his return from self-imposed exile abroad was underwhelming, and he was has been arrested on a court order on a charge of violating the constitution. But his ego remains intact. Khan had a tumultuous rally in Lahore recently, but even though the military may be supporting him, questions about the sustainability of his appeal are being raised.

Regardless of who takes over, Pakistan continues to teeter on non-governability. Its own version of the Taliban with ties to the Afghan Taliban, are complicated by the strong mysterious influence of the ISI, the country's intelligence service. Any prognosis of the political economy future of the system is hazardous. Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, seems to be virtually in the hands of the local Taliban, and northern Waziristan, at the border with Afghanistan, is but one target under frequent attacks by militants. The Pakistan military continues to carry a big stick, but seems not particularly anxious to intervene in the election, partly out of concern about losing US aid, which could be automatically cut off in the case of a military coup. The strength of the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly and successfully challenged the executive branch, leading to dismissal of a prime minister, contributes to the signs of a failing state.

It should be noted that in the late 1950s and 1960s Pakistan was generally admired as a development paradigm and attracted the attention of development economists, in contrast to India which then lagged behind. But after 1990 when India's reforms began to take hold, the situation completely reversed, with India en route to middle-income status and Pakistan, in the absence of reform, exhibiting an economy which continues to be creaky and in the doldrums.

Brussels tensions

Sunday, April 28, 2013 

The trilateral talks in Brussels between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan – convened by Secretary of State John Kerry – do not appear to have advanced the cause of peace and harmony. They were led by COAS General Parvez Kayani rather than the federal secretary under whom the COAS is supposed to work. There was no bilateral meeting between General Kayani and President Karzai, and the body language at a press conference in which Kerry tried to get both men to shake hands was electric with anger. This was not how a Pakistan government spokesman perceived things. Perhaps he was at a different meeting. We are told that there was ‘a positive and constructive atmosphere in which it was agreed to pursue political, security and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan’ – which tells us precisely nothing. Beyond the empty platitudes indicative of a moot that was unproductive and therefore to be reduced to a vanilla nothingness, there was John Kerry pleading that the fractious neighbours ‘under-promise’ in terms of what they say they will do rather than ‘over-promise’ and then underachieve, failing to deliver.

The inability to clear the road of rocks is bad news for both countries. Kabul is reportedly awash with rumours that the Karzai government is going to postpone elections for three years. It is known that Karzai is desperate to hold on to power, in large part because he runs the country (or the 30 percent or so that is nominally under his writ) as an extension of the family business. The Taliban run parallel administrations in much of the south and east of the country. The Afghan army is taking casualties at the rate of 1,000 a year; recruits are 70 percent illiterate and desertions run at about 30 percent annually. Hardly a stable fighting force. Half of the Afghan police force is said to be corrupt. Afghanistan is the world’s leading supplier of heroin. And the Taliban have not in any sense been militarily defeated. There is an artificial economy based around foreign aid. Next door is Pakistan, which is nowhere near as close to being a failed state as is Afghanistan but is not in the best of health. To call this a volatile mix understates the case considerably. The US is desperate to broker a rapprochement before 2014, but on the evidence of this most recent meeting both sides are cosmic distances apart. Other players, notably India, China and Iran are busy with their own agendas, which for India constitutes the consolidation of a flanking move on Pakistan that left us wrong-footed and floundering. Now is the time for wisdom and statesmanship rather than displays of anger or petulance. The two countries need to urgently work at both because the price of failure is going to be the future fate of many millions of people.

What China and Russia Don't Get About Soft Power*


Beijing and Moscow are trying their hands at attraction, and failing -- miserably.

When Foreign Policy first published my essay "Soft Power" in 1990, who would have expected that someday the term would be used by the likes of Hu Jintao or Vladimir Putin? Yet Hu told the Chinese Communist Party in 2007 that China needed to increase its soft power, and Putin recently urged Russian diplomats to apply soft power more extensively. Neither leader, however, seems to have understood how to accomplish his goals.

Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants, and that can be accomplished in three main ways -- by coercion, payment, or attraction. If you can add the soft power of attraction to your toolkit, you can economize on carrots and sticks. For a rising power like China whose growing economic and military might frightens its neighbors into counter-balancing coalitions, a smart strategy includes soft power to make China look less frightening and the balancing coalitions less effective. For a declining power like Russia (or Britain before it), a residual soft power helps to cushion the fall.

The soft power of a country rests primarily on three resources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority). But combining these resources is not always easy.

Establishing, say, a Confucius Institute in Manila to teach Chinese culture might help produce soft power, but it is less likely to do so in a context where China has just bullied the Philippines over possession of Scarborough Reef. Similarly, Putin has told his diplomats that "the priority has been shifting to the literate use of soft power, strengthening positions of the Russian language," but as Russian scholar Sergei Karaganov noted in the aftermath of the dispute with Georgia, Russia has to use "hard power, including military force, because it lives in a much more dangerous world ... and because it has little soft power -- that is, social, cultural, political and economic attractiveness."

Much of America's soft power is produced by civil society -- everything from universities and foundations to Hollywood and pop culture -- not from the government. Sometimes the United States is able to preserve a degree of soft power because of its critical and uncensored civil society even when government actions -- like the invasion of Iraq -- are otherwise undermining it. But in a smart power strategy, hard and soft reinforce each other.

Pass to better relations with China

Virendra Sahai Verma

Reviving trade and ties through the Karakoram route will have a positive impact on Sino-Indian ties

The Karakoram Pass played a significant role in the flourishing trade on the Silk Route between India-China and Central Asia. The pass was shut down and trade stopped in 1949 when Xinjiang became a part of People’s Republic of China. Leh was a busy cosmopolitan commercial town, with traders from Central Asia, Kashgarh, Yarkand, Kabul, Tibet, Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh who stayed on for one or two months after their exhausting journey. The trade, through the Karakoram, influenced the dress, food and dance forms of Ladakh. On the other side of the Pass, “Chini Bagh” at Kashgarh (the residence of the British Joint Commissioner of Trade), “Gurdial Sarai” and “Kashmiri Kucha” (street) at Yarkand, where Indian traders used to stay, still remind us of the magnitude of commerce that took place. The Bactrian camel (double hump) of Nubra valley is a relic from Xinjiang. A generation of people in Nubra still speaks the Uyghur dialect. Food served in some of old streets of Leh has a distinctly Central Asian flavour.

Central and popular

At 18,250 feet, Karakoram was one of the highest trade routes. Now, a motorable road exists through Khardungla (18,680 feet) and Turumputila up to the base of Saser Kangri. Thereafter, a track moves over to camp sites of Murgo (in Yarkandi, also known as the gateway of death), Burtsa, Kazilangar, Deptsang la, Daulat Beg Oldi (the Indo-Tibetan Border Police post named after a Xinjiang caravan leader who was buried here) and finally to the Karakoram Pass. Notably, the India-China boundary at the pass is not disputed; it is indicated by two heaps of stones at a distance of 50 feet, one Indian, and the other Chinese. It is an eight day-trek from the picturesque Nubra Valley to the Karakoram Pass. It is not possible to get lost there — the trail of bones and skeletons of men and animals constantly remind the weary traveller of the ruggedness of terrain and weather. But in spite of those drawbacks, the Karakoram Pass remained popular due to its centrality and affinity with Ladakhis.

The Silk Route, through which passed Chinese merchandise, notably silk to Rome, is a primary axis of transportation through the heart of Asia. A number of auxiliary axes feed into the Silk Route. An important feeder route from the lower Himalayas was from Hunza via Sarikol into Xinjiang via the Mintaka Pass. This route is now a part of the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Another more important route was via Karakoram from the Leh-Nubra valley or Leh-Changla pass-Shyok Valley.

Modern link

Pakistan has always enhanced its strategic power much more than its economic and scientific potential by making full use of its geostrategic location. It was at the 1955 Bandung Non-Aligned nations conference that President Ayub Khan and Premier Chou en Lai met for the first time and later concluded, in 1963, the historic Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement. Earlier, Pakistan Army engineers had built a Indus Valley road to Gilgit. Later, Pakistan concluded an agreement with China to transform this road into an all-weather dual carriageway all the way up to the Mintaka Pass. Completed in 1969, the Karakoram Highway pushes north through Islamabad, Gilgit and crosses the Karakoram range through the 16,000ft Khunjerab Pass. The highway abandoned the Mintaka Pass because of its proximity to Russia and the road is now closer to and strengthens the Xinjiang-Aksai Chin Western Tibet road. Approximately 10,000 Chinese and 15,000 Pakistani engineers and army troops were employed in building the road with 80 bridges. The road was hailed by the London-based Financial Times as “China’s new trade outlet to Africa and Middle East” in the Pakistan Himalayas via a “modernized ancient silk route” (quoted by Dawn, Karachi, April 30, 1971).

Talks should continue

Rajaram Panda, April 29, 2013

Both countries are enjoying growing economic ties which cannot be taken hostage to bickering over the border issue. 

China’s territorial dispute seems destined to remain unresolved for quite some time. The latest manifestation of China’s brazen show of aggressive intent came demonstrably clear with the incursion of Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Depsang area, which infuriated the armed forces. 

The Army that faces the brunt on the ground is angry, and understandably so, and want the government to jettison its ultra-defensive mindset towards China. If this requires “a show of force”, there should be no hesitation to opt for this option. Though one can understand the genuine anger, upping the ante by such retaliatory measures could not be the option and the doors for negotiation ought to be kept open.

This development is the first major test for India-China ties after the new leadership of Xi Jinping has assumed power. India is not the only country with which China has territorial disputes; it has disputes with a host of other countries in the region.

But unlike its ongoing standoff with Japan and Taiwan over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands show, the situation in the Indian border is more serious as Chinese troops have already set up camp 18 km inside Indian territory. This shows that Xi Jinping’s foreign policy would not be much different from that of his predecessors.

The standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have happened in the past. More recently, there were signs of rapprochement following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with Xi Jinping.

On April 24, a PLA helicopter conducted reconnaissance between the old and new patrol bases in the Chumar sector as well as the track junction area between Chushul and Demchok. It is at Demchok that the Chinese have built a huge observation post to monitor the activities of the Indian Army.

The PLA also raked up the issue of Indian Army bunkers at Fukche, beyond Chushul, only to be told that the work had already been halted. This has worsened the border impasse.

Still, India has decided to send External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to Beijing in the second week of May ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to India on May 20. This diplomatic initiative is an attempt to defuse potentially the worst standoff between the two countries since 1986.

Is India then a soft state? The answer cannot be in the affirmative because there is no better option than keeping the channel of dialogue open. If Li Keqiang’s first overseas trip to India after taking office is derailed, it will leave a huge impact on the future of India-China bilateral ties. After all, besides the political differences, both the countries are enjoying growing economic ties which cannot be taken a hostage to bickering over border issue.

Great powers

The truism, however, is that relations between great powers cannot be sustained by inertia, commerce or mere sentiments; there are deep strategic fissures that cannot be ignored. This does not mean to suggest that an early resolution or even de-escalation be expected. 

China has refused to withdraw troops that have pitched tents inside Indian territory. Unlike a number of past incursion, this time around the Chinese troops have stayed put since April 15. The Indian Army sees the Chinese incursion as a reflection of Beijing’s aggressive intent and, therefore, calls for “a show of force”.

China's Xi Jinping is spoiling for a fight, but with whom?

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Fleet-footed: All eyes are on the fighting capabilities of China's growing naval power.

Every morning at 6am, more than two dozen of the world's leading submarine watchers, aviation experts, government specialists, imagery analysts, cryptanalysts, and linguists gather at the headquarters of the US Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Their job is to probe the overnight intelligence reports to guide the activities and strategies of the six aircraft carrier groups, 180 ships, and 1500 aircraft that patrol the Pacific and Indian oceans.

The morning meetings are convened by the fleet's top intelligence officer, Captain James Fanell, and are supposed to cover activities emanating ''from Hollywood to Bollywood'', as the head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, likes to put it. But the group never takes long before zeroing in on the country driving the military and diplomatic ''pivot'' to Asia which was announced by President Barack Obama in Canberra in November 2011 and which now has support from almost every maritime nation in east and south-east Asia.

They are nowhere near as effective as they think they are. 

''Every day it's about China; it's about a China who's at the centre of virtually every activity and dispute in the maritime domain in the east Asian region,'' said Fanell, reading from prepared remarks at a US Naval Institute conference in San Diego on January 31.

Sea worthy: The chief of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear. Photo: Reuters

Fanell spelled out in rare detail the reasons the United States is shifting 60 per cent of its naval assets to the Pacific, including a rotation of 2500 marines near Darwin.

He was blunt: The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy is focused on war, and it is expanding into the ''blue waters'' explicitly to counter the US Pacific Fleet. ''My assessment is the PLA Navy has become a very capable fighting force.'' Some were shocked to hear Fanell detail the extent and intensity of China's carefully orchestrated maritime provocations, especially coming from an officer whose job may make him more of an expert on Beijing's naval manoeuvrings than anyone outside China. Others wondered whether the Pacific fleet was perhaps lobbying for a greater share of the US military budget or wider authority to act by magnifying the threat.

But the question on many minds in Washington , Beijing and Canberra, is: can China actually fight? And the person most anxious to learn the answer is China's new leader, Xi Jinping.

The 59-year-old President has stated clearly that the military is central to his vision for China. ''We must ensure there is unison between a prosperous country and strong military,'' he said in a pep talk to sailors on board a guided missile destroyer in December. But his ambition to have a strong, professional fighting force is greatly complicated by an even bigger question that has occupied every Communist Party leader since Mao uttered his famous dictum that ''political power grows out of the barrel of a gun''. Can Xi be sure that the PLA will always be loyal to the party, and specifically to him?

Xi may be able to build a military that is either modern and capable or loyal and political. But many in China believe he can't have both.

Xi has taken charge at a moment when China has been surprising the US and shocking neighbours with the speedy development of new hardware and the aggressive manner in which it has deployed them to support its expanding ambitions.

Top US intelligence analysts and generals have admitted being caught out by the 2011 flight-testing of China's new J-20 stealth fighter. They were dumbfounded by China's subsequent deployment of the East Wind 21D, the world's first anti-ship ballistic missile, dubbed the ''assassin's mace'' in China and ''the carrier killer'' in the West. China is on track to triple its fleet of maritime strike aircraft by 2020, according to the US Congressional Research Service.

China is simultaneously developing and producing seven types of submarine and surface warships. That's after a decade in which it quadrupled its number of modern submarines, including nuclear submarines designed to carry nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. It has massively expanded production of corvettes, frigates, amphibious ships, and destroyers. In September, it launched its first aircraft carrier.

The backstop for all these new platforms and capabilities is the PLA's strategic missile force, which possesses conventional ballistic missiles that can destroy satellites in space, as well as several hundred nuclear weapons.

The dizzying display of hard power is sending fear and awe throughout the Asia-Pacific region. But Xi, it seems, is unconvinced that all this hardware can be effectively deployed by an organisation designed for civil war and adapted as an internal security force.

High-ranking insiders say the Chinese military is rotten to the core; formal hierarchies are trumped by personal patronage, co-ordination is minimal, and corruption so pervasive that senior positions are sold to the highest bidders while weapons funding is siphoned into private pockets.

How to move China

Mon Apr 29 2013, 
Christopher R. Hill

Insanity," Albert Einstein is reported to have said, is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". For those who have long scoffed at the possibility that China might be willing to deal decisively with its pesky North Korean neighbour, the results of US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent visit to Beijing will be all too predictable.

But, for those who watch China's ever-changing internal political landscape carefully, there is much happening that more than justifies Kerry's trip. Indeed, if US President Barack Obama's administration is to be criticised for its handling of the latest North Korean "crisis", the main problem has not been too much reliance on China, but too little.

Theories about China's attitude toward North Korea often begin and end with the view that what the country fears, above all, is an inflow of refugees in the event of a North Korean collapse — a spillover that could rend the delicate ethnic quilt of China's northeast provinces. The problem is that, while some Chinese do worry about refugees, "China" cannot be regarded as a collective noun with a singular view about anything; like any complex modern state, China contains many different views about many different issues.

Of course, there are those in Beijing who worry day and night about North Korean refugees; but there are also many in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere who worry about the chronic crisis that North Korea's periodic outbursts cause in an otherwise stable region of the world. As President Xi Jinping eloquently put it at the annual Boao business forum on Hainan Island earlier this month: "No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain."

Xi is no dictator who can impose his will on China. Indeed, for all the characterisation of China as a despotic state that one hears from the political right in the US, its president enjoys fewer powers than his American counterpart. Gaining consensus in China is a glacial process that will not be accomplished in a single speech.

Xi's comments obviously extend beyond a concern about refugees. North Korea is, strangely, a domestic issue for China. For starters, it is a historic ally for which many Chinese fought and died, their memory enshrined not only on monuments throughout China (though precious few in North Korea), but also in families.

Second, despite a supposed lack of ideology in contemporary China, there is, in fact, a raging debate — often taking place below the radar — about the future of China's political system and its relationship to the economy. And, while North Korea's communist system and that of China have become profoundly dissimilar, some Chinese worry that a collapse of North Korea's order could shift the battle lines of that debate.

Finally, there are those who would view a North Korean collapse as a boon to US strategic interests and a setback for Chinese interests. Such hardline, zero-sum thinking is not the exclusive preserve of American think tanks.

Some Chinese ask what the rules of the game would be in the event that the Korean peninsula is united under South Korea. Could they expect to see US troops and bases along the Chinese border on the Yalu River, or perhaps a string of listening posts to gather intelligence? Though such deployments would be inconceivable to most thinking Americans (indeed, the real task would be to maintain budget support in Congress and elsewhere for any deployments in a united Korea), Chinese security experts worry about it.

Though the US and China do not lack issues to discuss, the bilateral dialogue in the security field lacks depth and follow-up. The Chinese have never been eager to discuss with their US counterparts what the two countries should do in the event of a North Korean implosion. But, if such talks were held more frequently, and the issue were addressed seriously (and repeatedly), surely progress could be made in overcoming suspicion on this question.

Indeed, Kerry's main task is to begin an effort to reduce the strategic distrust between the two countries, which is a significant factor underlying China's reluctance to do more on North Korea. This will require that both sides focus on the issue at hand — a challenge especially for the Americans, whose official discussions with the Chinese inevitably become an effort to plow through a laundry list of issues often advanced by single-issue constituencies. Focus and establishment of priorities should be the watchwords for the US side.

Kerry's first trip to China was a start in this direction, but it must be followed by a regular pattern of telephone calls and additional visits, with a view to ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons. Paradoxically, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, a leader apparently undistinguished by any accomplishment or sign of wisdom, could catalyse a new start in US-Chinese relations.

The writer, former US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, is dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Copyright: Project Syndicate

Chung-Kwang Tien: India and Taiwan could have the perfect marriage

Apr 29, 2013

As India faces a challenge from China, Chung-Kwang Tien, Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in Delhi, spoke with Rudroneel Ghosh, discussing Taiwan's view of China's approach, how Taiwan is managing its own territorial dispute - and the excellent match that's possible between India and Taiwan.

How do you view the new leadership in mainland China? 

These are still early days. Their President Xi Jinping formally took office only last month. But i don't expect dramatic changes inmainland China - even the new leadership was brought up under a certain ideology. So they won't just abandon their predecessor's policies. 

In light of China's many territorial disputes, don't you see Beijing changing its approach? 

Again, it's difficult to tell. Internationally, we should keep a close watch on China and work together to set a good example for Beijing that an amicable environment is necessary for dealing with neighbouring countries. 

What exactly is the East China Sea Peace Initiative that Taiwan has proposed? 

The East China Sea Peace Initiative has been advocated by our President Ma Ying-jeou. The basic dispute in that region is over the Diaoyutai islands - according to our history and the International Law of the Sea, those islands belong to Taiwan. But in 1972, the US gave the administrative rights over the islands to Japan - but not the sovereignty rights. So, these islands have been disputed between Taiwan, mainland China and Japan. 

But things became more complicated last year when the governor of Tokyo tried to buy the islands, forcing the Japanese government to buy them first. It's in this context that President Ma advocated the peace initiative which basically calls for shelving the dispute over sovereignty rights and working together to explore and develop the resources in the Diaoyutai area for mutual benefits. 

The proposal could provide a template for resolving other territorial disputes in the region. 

Meanwhile, South-East and East Asia are being touted as future engines of global growth - what's Taiwan's economic strategy? 

The world economy today has resolved into various trading blocs and different countries are engaging in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to lower tariff barriers and boost investment. Taiwan too is eagerly trying to make strong connections with countries such as India through FTAs. 

Incidentally, Taiwan's business character is complimentary to that of India — we have technology know-how and capital while you have abundant resources and quality manpower. I think India and Taiwan could have the perfect marriage. 

Are there issues investors from Taiwan face in India? 

As compared to the Asean countries, Taiwanese investors have little awareness about India. So there's a cultural gap. But this is the best time for Taiwanese businesses to invest in and relocate to India - especially in the context of rising wages in China where we invest a lot. India is a huge market and everyone wants to be here. 

What can be done to enhance such economic possibilities? 

We should have more visits and exchanges. We should host more business delegations from both countries. We could also leverage the film industry - movies such as Life of Pi directed by Ang Lee and 3 Idiots have been well received in both countries. Education too could be a bridge. We are trying to promote Mandarin language education in India by tying up with local universities.

We'd also like Indian students to come to Taiwan for education, particularly in fields like medicine and engineering. We hope such exchanges will further strengthen bilateral ties.

Doubts over China government claims on Xinjiang attack

It is not clear how the incident in Selibuya turned so violent

To our left, the desert stretched as far as the eye could see. To our right dry, rocky mountains soared upwards, the landscape harsh and barren, but striking too.

We were heading east from the ancient trading city of Kashgar towards the little town of Selibuya, the scene this week of the worst violence to erupt in Xinjiang since major riots in 2009.

The name, Xinjiang, means "new frontier" in Chinese. It is a vast desert region at the very western edge of China. Geographically and culturally you feel far closer to Central Asia and Afghanistan than Beijing.

Xinjiang is rich in oil and gas. Needing energy to power its hungry economy China is developing this remote province fast. Construction teams are busy building new motorways through the desert. Lines of lorries churn up huge clouds of dust.

But China's rule, and the influx of Chinese workers and money, are causing tensions with Xinjiang's Muslim Uighur population. In this latest eruption, 21 people died.'Terrorists'

At the edge of Selibuya we slipped past a checkpoint manned by armed police. The government does not want journalists here, so we took care to keep a low profile.

Selibuya is little more than a one-street town. Uighur men wearing their traditional skull-caps guided donkey-carts through the traffic. Women in headscarves sold piles of oranges. The market was busy. On the surface there was not much tension.

But police cars, their lights flashing, were making circuits through town every few minutes in a show of force. Officers on foot were patrolling the streets and, behind the market, more armed police had cordoned off the scene of this week's violence - a two-storey building, part of it burned by fire.

The government's version is that a group of what it calls "terrorists" were in the building, watching jihadi videos and plotting attacks. Three local government workers, sent to investigate a report about suspicious people stumbled on them, were taken hostage and knifed to death, it says.

A dozen police sent to the scene were then forced into a room and burned to death, the government adds. Finally, armed officers allegedly shot dead six of the "gangsters" and captured eight more.

There have been no independent accounts of what happened, until now. The government's story is the only one that has been put forward.Beards

Growing tensions in the East China Sea

A Chinese marine surveillance vessel accompanied by Japanese coast guard vessels in the waters surrounding the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, 23 April 2013.

Continuing tensions between China and Japan over the sovereignty of an island grouping in the East China Sea that they respectively call Diaoyu and Senkaku have fuelled international speculation that the two countries could be drawn into a military confrontation. Incidents such as an alleged 'lock-on' of a Chinese radar on a Japanese ship have underlined increasing maritime friction between the two countries. A Chinese Defence White Paper released on 16 April specifically singles out Japan as 'making trouble over the Diaoyu islands issue'.

The long-running dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu – five small islands and three rocks situated about 200km northeast of Taiwan, which also claims them – is set against the background of China's growing maritime power and rivalry with the United States. Washington fears that in a climate of heightened tension it too could be drawn into the dispute.

Latest tension

At the time of writing, a flotilla of vessels carrying over 80 Japanese nationalists had arrived in waters off the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, closely tracked by the Japanese coast guard and eight Chinese marine surveillance vessels. Meanwhile, a visit on 21 April by members of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet to the Yasukuni Shrine – where Japan's war dead including a number of war criminals are enshrined – followed by nearly 170 lawmakers on 23 April, had sparked a political furore between China, South Korea and Japan.

On 17 April, the day after the release of China's Defence White Paper, the PLA Type-052C missile destroyer Lanzhou and Type-054A missile frigate Hengshui, both from the South Sea Fleet, entered waters near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands via the Miyako Strait to conduct exercises. Chinese marine surveillance vessels continued to challenge the presence of the Japanese coast guard in the area.

Previously, hostility occurred on 30 January when, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, a Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy vessel activated its missile-guidance system and 'painted' a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) vessel with its fire-control radar (FCR) system. According to the ministry, the Japanese vessel had been conducting surveillance operations 100–150km north of the disputed islands. This followed a similar incident on 19 January when a Chinese frigate briefly painted a Japanese helicopter with its FCR.

In response, the PLA said an investigation had concluded that no such incident had taken place; its vessels had merely been using surveillance radars at the time of the alleged 'painting' occurrence. But Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the radar lock-on amounted to a threat of force and violated the United Nations Charter: he was referring to the fourth clause of article two, which stipulates that all UN members should refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

Though under pressure to do so, Japan has not released the technical specifications of the radar signature nor provided a precise chronology of the incidents. It is unlikely to release technical details, as this would reveal the level of sophistication of its electronic intelligence gathering.

Japanese officials insisted that the radar signature incontrovertibly bore the hallmark of the intensely focused and high-frequency targeting beam used by FCR systems. Experts acknowledge, however, that this type of radar can be employed for positioning and scanning the immediate vicinity for other vessels, without necessarily indicating an intention to open fire.

Japanese commentators asserted that the incident marked a watershed in the island dispute. Until this point, vessels involved had been limited to those of the Japanese coast guard and various Chinese maritime enforcement agencies, but this incident drew in both countries' navies. The US State Department warned, meanwhile, that such incidents escalated tension and increased the risk of miscalculation. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the US had expressed its strong concern to both China and Japan. Washington and Tokyo held high-level discussions to agree a common approach and to devise potential joint responses to similar incidents in the future.

Pattern of events

Current tensions can be traced back to April 2010 when a flotilla of ten PLA Navy vessels transited the Miyako Strait and conducted anti-submarine warfare exercises in the western Pacific. Chinese helicopters made passes unnervingly close to JMSDF vessels dispatched to monitor the exercises.