18 May 2013

China’s Foreign Policy: Biang Biang Noodles!

Issue Net Edition | Date : 17 May , 2013 

The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at a bilateral meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of China Mr Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Fifth BRICS Summit, at Durban, South Africa 

Tavleen Singh narrates in her book ‘Durbar’ that having personally witnessed grisly scenes of children dying of starvation in presence of their hapless parents themselves surviving on grass for over a month, when she brought it to the notice of the concerned Chief Minister and the political hierarchy at Delhi, the government response was total denial of any starvation deaths whatsoever and a countercharge that this was propaganda by the Opposition parties. 

Are we to blindly follow Nehru’s legacy of “not a blade of grass grows there” with reference to Aksai Chin? 

The situation today has not changed, in that, pragmatic recommendations for dealing firmly with China are being brushed under the carpet as ranting by ‘China bashers’. Same was the case in building public opinion for withdrawing from Siachen on grounds it had no strategic significance – now acknowledged otherwise. Similarly, some military veterans and scholars were roped in to portray India’s shameful response to China’s intrusion in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) into some sort of diplomatic victory, some even saying that the Chinese intrusion was because of ‘forward’ movements of the Indian Army, knowing full well that Indian Army unlike Pakistani Army will not move an inch forward without political approval. 

It is only after public pressure for past few weeks that AK Anthony ventured to give a statement on 12 May 2013 (first statement as Defence Minister 42 days after the Chinese intrusion of 15 April) that India has the right to develop infrastructure on own side. But the question remains as to what is ‘own side’ and have we exchanged the claim lines with China? The answer appears to be no, as per an article by a recently superannuated former Chief of Staff of Eastern Command. What then has been the purpose of the numerous meetings on the border issue over the years? 

The statement by Sushil Shinde that India has no jurisdiction over the area of Chinese intrusion is ominous. Strategic importance apart, we don’t seem to have any inkling about something known as ‘resources’ over which conflicts are likely to rage in future. Are we to blindly follow Nehru’s legacy of “not a blade of grass grows there” with reference to Aksai Chin. Take Siachen; India constitutes 17 percent of world population but has access to only four percent of global fresh water reserves. Musharraf as a Lieutenant General (much before he became Chief) gave a presentation to Pakistani Defence Ministry stating that at the time of Independence, per capita availability of water in Pakistan was 6000 cusecs which had already come down to 1000 cusecs per head. He strongly advocated that Pakistan must capture Kashmir to meet future requirements of water, besides other reasons. China occupied Shaksgam Valley because of its glaciated fresh water reserves. Yet we are talking of vacating one of our largest fresh water reserve in Siachen despite India heading towards being a water starved nation and China already deploying water weapons by damming rivers flowing into India. 

Former ambassador P Stopden (who hails from Ladakh) said on national TV post the Chinese DBO intrusion that over the years India has ceded to China over 400 square kilometres of territory in Ladakh alone. 

Both Aksai Chin and Ladakh are known to have large uranium and mineral reserves though no mining has been undertaken. Yet we are gradually ceding to Chinese intrusions. Former ambassador P Stopden (who hails from Ladakh) said on national TV post the Chinese DBO intrusion that over the years India has ceded to China over 400 square kilometres of territory in Ladakh alone. This is not counting Chinese illegal occupation of Aksai Chin (38,000 square kilometres) and Shaksgam Valley (5,800 square kilometres). He would not make such statement without basis. The implications are therefore clear – there have been many intrusions in the past that have been hushed up, as would have been done in the recent one in DBO (acknowledged officially as 19 kilometre deep but actually 30 kilometres) had not an enterprising journalist spilled the beans. 

If we have actually ceded some 400 square kilometres of territory in Ladakh, it would not be surprising if similar has been the case in the central sector and northeast. The recent Chinese intrusion at DBO would give them another 275 square kilometres and it is not known whether they came down from KK Pass or Aksai Chin. Times of India of 4th May states that surveillance imagery captured by spy drones showed the PLA made three simultaneous intrusions in the adjoining areas of the DBO sector in mid April this year. But there is silence whether the Chinese continue to sit at these three locations or have gone back. A linked serious question is that when the DBO Sector was earlier held by Ladakh Scouts and controlled by the Army, when, why and on whose order was this sector allotted to the ITBP and given command channels through the ITBP chain. Was this deliberate to facilitate Chinese intrusion, firming in, and to eventually turn the flanks of Indian defences at Siachen, concurrently facilitating handshake between Chinese sitting in Gilgit-Baltistan with Aksai Chin. This actually amounts to silent war crime and the government must come out clean. 

Chinese Premier Li keqiang's forthcoming visit to India- Hold your Bets!

Paper No. 5494 Dated 17-May-2013 

From acute rancour for three weeks since a Chinese army battalion pitched tents at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) on April 15, it is now spring in the relations between India and China. Premier Li remembers the warmth of the Indian people when he led a Chinese youth delegation to India in 1986. This came after Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid expressed his desire to live in China, and found his walk around Beijing’s Tien An Men Square so peaceful. Where was Mr. Khurshid on July 04, 1989? 

Premier Li Keqiang will arrive in New Delhi on May 19. Following official talks he will address a group of Indians mainly ex-Indian Foreign Service officers and other selected invitees on May 21, organized by the Indian Council of World Affair (ICWA), a think tank of the Indian Foreign Ministry. This would have given the Premier an opportunity to interact with Indians and give greater clarity of China’s foreign policy and India policy. Alas, that is not to be. Premier Li will not take any questions. 

The April 15 DBO incident could have blown into a bigger problem. The Indian government was not willing to budge with the army fully in the loop. It was not 1962 any longer, and the Chinese side may have understood it finally. Much as the Chinese official media may blame the Indian media and some opposition politicians to blow up the incident, the fact is that the Indian people have taken too much pressure and insults from the Chinese, their patience have been tested to the limits. 

The Indian side is emphatic that the Chinese army tents were located inside the Indian perceived Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western Sector of the India-China undemarcated border, and both sides are fully aware where their respective LAC lies. 

How exactly the situation was diffused is not yet available to the public. In this writer’s understanding interlocutors of both sides agreed to put a thick blanket on the incident for immediate reasons of bilateral and regional exigencies, but the problem is hibernating. 

Following indicators may help. On March 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping told an Indian in Beijing that the border issue was an historical issue, and resolving would not be easy. Later, after meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in South Africa, President Xi told the Xinhua (March 27) that he was keen on a faster pace of work between the two sides to resolve the border issue. This quick reversal inside of ten days is not a Chinese characteristic. Of course, when the Chinese are determined to resolve boundary issue, they move quickly. 

Then came another reversal when the Chinese army decided to set up tents at DBO. The Chinese official media maintained silence on the border issue after March 27 to May 10, when the relationship thawed. 

It may also be noted that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson gave cryptic answers to questions on the issue. The main point they made was that the Chinese troops remained inside Chinese territory at DBO. This position did not change even after troops on both sides disengaged. From the Chinese point of view, the particular point at which the Chinese troops pitched their tents is Chinese territory, and they will be cited when the negotiations come down to identifying the LAC. 

The Xinhua which is acknowledged as the Chinese government’s is authentic mouthpiece, came out with an article on diplomacy of the new Chinese leadership. It mentioned President Xi’s first official tour of Russia and three African countries, and Premier Li’s forthcoming maiden foreign trip to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany as demonstration of China’s desire towards shared destiny and common development, and giving priority to close neighbours, enhance relations with underdeveloped and developing countries, and work with the developed countries with a more amiable Europe. 

Anti-India demons haven’t gone away

Saturday, 18 May 2013 

Optimism over Nawaz Sharif’s victory is best kept on hold, particularly since several prickly issues such as Kashmir, Siachen and punishment to 26/11 culprits remain. Also, the Army and the ISI are still influential 

Indian reactions to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)’s comfortable victory in the recent elections in Pakistan have expectedly ranged from the cautious to the optimistic. Those favouring caution rest their case on the long history of hopes of a sea-change in India-Pakistan relations being dashed, and of assurances held out by Islamabad being invariably belied. Optimists, on the other hand, rely on the highly encouraging statements made by Mr Nawaz Sharif, the PML(N) boss set to be Prime Minister, on the importance he attached to improving ties with India, as well as on his reference to the promising beginning made towards opening a new chapter in India-Pakistan relations during his meeting with Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Prime Minister of India, in 1999. 

One needs to consider a few facts before coming to any conclusion. That nearly 60 per cent people voted in Pakistan despite the threats held out by the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, is encouraging. So is the fact that despite voting exceeding more than 100 per cent in 49 polling stations, the election was generally free from malpractices. The harsh fact, however, remains that of the two significant parties professing secular ideologies; Pakistan People’s Party has been severely mauled and the Awami National Party virtually wiped out. While other factors have contributed, the fact that both had to bear the brunt of murderous violence unleashed by the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, and that this was bound to have a significant impact on their electoral performance, cannot be wished away. The message is simple: The balance of political power in Pakistan has shifted to the right and the Taliban and the Al Qaeda will be increasingly in a position to call the shots. 

These forces have already made clear that they would view any effort to improve ties with India with extreme disfavour. To what extent can Mr Nawaz Sharif defy them? The question assumes a heightened significance in the light of reports that Mr Sharif enjoys a cordial relationship with Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, head of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the mastermind of 26/11, while his brother, Mr Shahbaz Sharif, has friendly ties with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, both of which hardly require any introduction as vicious terrorist outfits. Will the brothers be in a position to defy organisations like these, besides the Taliban and the Al Qaeda? 

The most charitable view will be that one needs to see how things actually work out on the ground. Optimism is best kept on hold particularly since several prickly issues like Kashmir, Siachen, and punishment to the culprits behind 26/11 remain besides that of India’s stakes in Afghanistan, which are vitally important to this country. It is important to note the latter as Pakistan holds on to the absurd position that it needs a friendly (read subservient) Government in Afghanistan to give it what it calls strategic depth against India. As a corollary thereof, it is bitterly opposed to India playing any role in Afghanistan after the American withdrawal. Besides pressures and verbal attacks, there have been tell tale signs of his involvement in two severe car bomb attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 and October 2009. 

India has been deeply involved in Afghanistan’s economic development since 2001. Its financial commitment in this regard totals $2 billion. Besides investing in health and education, it is playing a major role in rebuilding air links and power plants, constructing road links and exploiting Afghanistan’s rich mineral deposits. The ties had further deepened during President Hamid Karzai’s visit to India in 2011, when the two countries had signed a strategic partnership pact in which New Delhi made a long-term commitment to development, peace and security in Afghanistan. 

Let’s accept stapled visas: Arunachal leader

Reopen all ancient trade routes, former BJP MP urges Prime Minister

On the eve of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India, a former BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh has said that the Indian government should allow people from the State to visit China on ‘stapled visas’ without compromising its position on sovereignty over the border region. 


In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Kiren Rijiju has argued that allowing the State’s residents to travel to China on stapled visas — something New Delhi has been objecting to — would not only “downgrade the status of Arunachal Pradesh to a less confrontational one” but also help the people of the State participate in important international events in China. 

Mr. Rijiju maintained that by issuing stapled visas to Arunachalis instead of its earlier policy of denying them visas altogether, the Chinese government has “softened” its position and has virtually conceded that Arunachal Pradesh is a “dispute.” 

Mr. Rijiju has also suggested that all traditional and ancient trade routes along the McMahon Line and other points on the India-China border be re-opened as trading points rather than just using these places as only as meeting points for the militaries of the two countries. 

“The political benefits would be that in the long run these de-facto border trading points will be converted into formal, de jure border points which can be permanently acceptable to both sides,” he wrote. 

Hoping that the visit of the Chinese Premier — his first abroad since taking office in March — would be a landmark one, Mr. Rijiju said that if India fails to strike any concrete settlement with China, Arunachal will forever remain a disputed area to Beijing. 

Since at least early 2011, China has been issuing stapled visas for Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh. Before that, officials say, China altogether refused to issue any visas, arguing that the State was part of China according to its territorial claims. 

India’s stand on stapled visas prevented travel 

In the past, foreign policy experts had voiced opinions similar to that of Mr. Rijiju, who has asked that India accept China’s stapled visas to Arunachalese. Analysts — even in Beijing — have seen stapled visas as somewhat of a dilution of China’s stand, as it implied that Beijing recognised that the State was indeed disputed. 

China’s stapled visa policy has, however, prevented Arunachal residents from travelling to China, even as part of official delegations, with India taking the view that the Chinese side could not issue different kinds of visas to Indian citizens based on which State they were from. 

In 2011, two sports officials who were issued stapled visas were stopped at immigration in New Delhi and were unable to attend a weightlifting tournament. Later that year, the issuing of stapled visas to a karate team from the State angered the Arunachal Pradesh government, when the delegation was unable to travel to China. 

Last year, a high-profile visit by a 100-member youth delegation, under an initiative to promote youth exchanges championed by the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, was shrouded in some controversy after a student from Arunachal Pradesh had to drop out at the last minute. The student had been issued a stapled visa by the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. 

This year, however, India decided to not include any representative from the State when a 100-member youth delegation travelled to Beijing earlier this month, officials said. 

The delegation, which is currently on a nine-day tour of China, met with Premier Li in Beijing earlier this week.

How the Afghan Conflict Will Be Decided

Updated: May 17, 2013

A horrific week for U.S. casualties reaffirms President Obama’s rush to rely on the Afghan army. But can they handle it? 

A U.S. Marine flies on a Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan last month. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) 

KABUL, Afghanistan – Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi thumbs excitedly through a brochure prepared for him by Textron, the U.S. defense contractor. “This is what I want!” the Afghan army chief of staff says, pointing to a picture of the latest technology in armored troop carriers. 

Outside Karimi’s window, the giant, $92 million new defense headquarters that Washington is building for him is nearly finished; Karimi moves in in September. “Pentagon No. 1. This no. 2,” Karimi’s adjutant, Col. Mohammed Shah, says proudly in broken English. What Shah means is that the vast domed structure atop a hill—which resembles nothing so much as the Temple Mount—is expected to be the second-largest defense headquarters in the world, a distinct oddity in one of the poorest countries in the world. The Pentagon is also spending about a billion dollars on Karimi’s pride and joy, a new Mobile Strike Force. That includes $58 million on brand-new armored vehicles designed especially for the Afghan army by Textron (and which are deemed so state of the art that Canada just bought some for itself). 

More than anywhere else, the future of Afghanistan will be decided here, in the heart of the new Afghan security structure on which Washington is spending billions of dollars. And it may well be decided in the next six or seven months, when the latest “fighting season” ends and the mettle of Karimi’s new Afghan National Security Forces is truly tested. As of the end of June, the ANSF will move from planning and leading operations for the entire country. Asked in an interview what his plan was for defeating the Taliban, Karimi replied: “We will never allow the Taliban to take over the country. That’s the plan.” 

It doesn’t sound like much of a plan, but Karimi had better be right. This has been a horrific week for U.S. casualties, culminating in a suicide bombing in Kabul on Thursday that killed six Americans and at least nine other people. The casualties, which included the deaths of four U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb near Kandahar on Tuesday, will almost certainly harden President Obama’s commitment to hand this decade-long quagmire over to the ANSF as quickly as possible. 

Like other Afghan and U.S. military officials, Karimi says the 334,000-strong ANSF are far stronger and more organized than they have ever been, reducing the insurgency to nighttime raids and occasional IED and suicide bombings. “We have kept, and protected, all the areas we are responsible for,” Karimi says. U.S. and Afghan officials now describe the Taliban as “confused” about their strategic aims, though the insurgents are not ready to talk peace, by all accounts. 

Fallacy of political tourism in Pak

18 May 2013 | Pioneer

A lot of Indians are justifiably cheered by Nawaz Sharif’s return to power through an election which saw ordinary Pakistanis defy the Mullahs. But helping this new order with compromises on Kashmir and national identity would be a grave mistake 

The problem with Indo-Pakistan relation is the deep rooted malaise in the mindset on both sides of theborder that cannot be ‘cured’ by merely increasing the exchange of heads of government visits or by stepping up the volumes of bilateral trade, or through the facilitation of dance&drama delegations, or of cricket tours. There must be concrete actions based on deep analysis of the malaise which could, sometime in the future, lead to cure. 

Dr BR Ambedkar wrote in his Pakistan, Or Partition of India (New Delhi, 1975): The problem of Pakistan has given a headache to everyone, more so to me than to anybody else. I cannot help recalling with regret how much of my time it has consumed when so much of my other work of greater importance to me than this is held up for want of it. I therefore hope that this second edition will also be the last I trust that before it is exhausted either the question will be settled or withdrawn. 

Fresh paradigm What is required is a mindset change. Pakistan may be technically a democracy, but is on the brink of Talibanisation. According to my information, the two largest parties, freshly re-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML and Imran Khan’s PTI, are both controlled by Jamait E Islami, ISI and Taliban-compliant forces. Both leaders, in their desperation quest of power, sold their souls to them. 

We in India have thus to fight this new Pakistani mindset of capitulation to Islamic fundamentalist forces, which forces have every intention to intrude into India to radicalise Indian Muslims. That means patriotic Indians would also need to simultaneously prepare for war while sweating for peace. 

The first step we need to take is rectify the lack of a clear national identity at our end and build a more cohesive India. Without a conscious common acceptance of a national identity especially by Hindus and Muslims, we cannot effectively deal with this new Pakistan. 

Let us not forget that from day one Pakistan has posed a serious existential problem for India, which is: Are we or are we not,Hindus and Muslims living in India, one nation? Pakistani mind is clear: Muslims constitute a separate nation.For Pakistan, Hindus and Muslims are two nations, and can never be one. 

Because of the legacy of a woozy Nehru we have failed so far to find a basis for defining India’s identity that includes Hindus and other religious communities. 

In the words of Dr Ambedkar: What the Hindus must show is that notwithstanding some differences, there are enough affinities between Hindus and Musalmans to constitute them into one nation, or, to use plain language, which make Muslims and Hindus long to belong together. 

It is my view (supported by modern scientific study of genetics of Indians based on DNA research) Hindus and Muslims can develop heartfelt affinity only if Muslims accept publicly and with pride the truth and the scientific fact: that the ancestors of Muslims are Hindus. This is what genetic research reveals. 

Afghanistan: The Real World Choices in Staying or Leaving

May 16, 2013 

The United States cannot afford to blunder its way into staying in Afghanistan, or to blunder its way out by making the wrong decisions about whether and how to stay. However, blundering seems to be the present option, complicated by long delays in time-sensitive decisions, debates over whether resources should go to other strategic priorities or domestic programs, and sub-debates over the priority for counterinsurgency versus counterterrorism. 

At a time when the Obama administration is being attacked in a pointless witch hunt over Libya, no one seems to really care about—or be in charge of—the war we are actually fighting. Congress seems to have abdicated its responsibility to demand real-world plans and justifications for funding the war, and most of the U.S. public and media are treating the issue with indifference. The end result is that the United States is moving forward toward a self-imposed deadline at the end of 2014 without any effective plan for shaping what comes next. 

The U.S. military is trying to sell the mission by exaggerating success. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) wants pretend the war and Afghanistan’s financial crisis don’t matter, and it instead focuses on development as if the fighting and need for stability don’t matter. And the State Department is again talking about creating a “normal” embassy after 2014, when the war is certain to continue and Afghan politics and economics are certain to be anything but “normal.” 

Part of the reason may be the fact that the situation is so uncertain that there is no clear case for either staying or leaving. The strategic value of the U.S. commitment is marginal, and the choice of staying in Afghanistan is optional. 

Leaving Has Its Costs 

Leaving has its costs. One can argue that the size of past, or “sunk,” costs are no reason to stay, but the United States has sacrificed well over 2,000 dead and 18,000 wounded and our allies have lost nearly 1,100 dead. The cost of the war to the United States is well over $600 billion in existing expenditures and will ultimately exceed $1 trillion even if the United States totally leaves the country at the end of 2014 because of the legacy costs of pensions, medical treatment, death benefits, the need to replace equipment and supplies, and the transportation costs of leaving. 

This is an immense sacrifice to walk away from if there is a chance of creating a stable Afghanistan at a reasonable cost. It also seems likely that annual costs are likely to drop from a peak annual direct cost for Overseas Contingency Outlays (OCO) of $186.9 billion in FY2008 for both the Iraq and Afghan wars to $87.2 billion for the Afghan war alone in FY2013 and to levels that are likely to be under $20 billion from FY2016 onward. 

Depending on the aid and troop contributions from our allies, the actual costs could be much smaller than $20 billion a year, although the United States should not plan on sustained allied funding at the Chicago or Tokyo levels. It should allow for the possible need to make up any allied shortfalls at levels up to contingency military ($5.1 billion) and civil ($5 billion) aid costs of up to a year for at least the initial period from FY2015 to FY2018 and the cost of both maintaining a significant U.S. military and civil presence and contingency costs for emergency U.S. reinforcements. Costs could go well below $10 billion a year under best-case conditions, but no one should ever plan for the best case. 

Afghanistan, and especially its leaders, may not be the perfect ally. At same time, the future human cost of leaving affects the lives of at least 26 million Afghans and probably well over 30 million. Of all the arguments for staying, the welfare of the Afghan people has the most moral and ethnical meaning. Nations may not have permanent interests, but they do have responsibilities that go beyond their permanent interests. It also, however, is only an argument if the United States can actually benefit the Afghan people by staying. Half measures that prolong the agony is not a rationale. A meaningful commitment of time, personnel, and money may be. 

A quicker and near total end to the Afghan War will also affect the global reputation of the United States, although such costs should not be exaggerated. Most countries—including the populations of most of our European allies—do not support the war, do not believe it is winnable, and have already discounted the impact of U.S. withdrawal because they felt that the U.S. decision to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014 was a de facto decision to cut U.S. losses and leave. 

Leaving Has Its Benefits 

Leaving also has mixed benefits. The most obvious benefit is that leaving frees U.S. political, financial, and military resources at a time when the United States has many other higher priorities in the world. 

As soon as the United States leaves, the pressures that more than a decade of war have imposed on the U.S. military will be reduced. There will be somewhat fewer casualties—although the number of U.S. and allied casualties is already minimal. With luck, the U.S. military will have time to recover from a decade of overdeployment and concentrate on actually implementing the new strategy announced in early 2012. 

The actual savings in dollars and blood will be limited in terms of their impact on total U.S. national security spending and total federal spending. As a rough guess, they will be well under $200 billion for the period between 2014 and 2018 and could easily be under $125 billion. There is no way to be sure because the Obama administration and its critics in Congress have done nothing to create credible plans for the future with credible costs and credible analyses of the risks and benefits. 

Road not taken

M K Bhadrakumar, May 18, 2013 : 

Change of guard in Pakistan 

Nawaz Sharif’s invitation to prime minister Manmohan Singh to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new Pakistani government was an extempore remark and it was understood that way in New Delhi, but it called attention to the tantalizing prospect that something may have fundamentally changed in Pakistan and a refocusing of sights may be necessary.

Sharif made some very hopeful remarks in the recent weeks. Being a shrewd politician, when he spoke in the middle of his election campaign, he knew he wasn’t saying things that would mar his party’s electoral prospects. That made his interview with Karan Thapar riveting. Those remarks went beyond the audacity of hope that politicians are wont to make.

Sharif told Thapar he is willing to resolve all outstanding issues with India peacefully. Arguably, this has been said before also. But then, he went into specifics. Sharif signaled that he would deny anti-India militant groups safe haven; would forbid any sort of anti-India speeches, including by Lashkar-e-Taiba spokesman Hafez Saeed; and, he would investigate the Kargil War and the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. 

Sharif suo moto made these benchmarks for the normalization of relations with India. The big question on everyone’s mind today is whether the Pakistani generals would allow all this to happen. There is near-consensus among our experts and analysts in the media and think tanks that the Pakistani military is rooted in the past and has no intentions of vacating the heights it occupies in the country’s foreign and security policies, especially policies towards India.

An entrenched mindset in India senses the existence of an entrenched mindset in Pakistan and insists there are no real prospects of a significant rapprochement with Pakistan. It implies that the ebb and flow of life in the upcoming Sharif era will remain as it used to be.

It may well be so, but the stakes are so high it is worthwhile to verify. No harm done, after all, to the country’s vital interests. The point is, we are in a grey zone today and to keep a closed mind means not taking note of what has been happening around us. Through the past few years of the India-Pakistan dialogue process several new templates did appear and many of them are of a benign nature.

Sharif and the military have shared concerns as regards the extremist threat to the country’s internal security and stability. True, clarity is lacking about the Pakistani military’s willingness to abandon the enemy image of India and the terrorist infrastructure apparently exists still, but then, it could only have been with the military’s approval that the previous government’s moves toward rapprochement with India were possible, too. This is one thing.

Working relationship

There is no question about the military’s extreme concern over the crisis of internal security and the free fall of the economy. Does this translate as awareness on the part of the military regarding the desirability of tapping into a working relationship with India? This is the second thing. Again, from Sharif’s side, too, it must be said that he is a chastened man today and there could be little inclination to repeat the politics of confrontation – with the presidency, army, judiciary and media – that was characteristic of his previous government. What lends an intriguing touch is also that the military leadership is in transition and it will be an year from now that a new leadership, hopefully of Sharif’s choice, settles down in the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Thus, time works in Sharif’s favour to consolidate his hold on power through a one-year period ahead. This is the third thing.

WestMinister’s Take on Future of Afghanistan


Introduction 

In its recent report-“Securing the Future of Afghanistan,” the UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee calls for measures to help establish a “peaceful and functioning” Afghanistan. The report, which pays tribute to the service and sacrifices of British troops, focuses on an issue that is engaging most NATO/ ISAF countries at this moment - the planned withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014. This is to be achieved supported by the perception that the troops have achieved their security objective, Afghanistan is not being abandoned and if the Afghans get their act together, then promised assistance and aid will continue to flow. To that end the report emphasizes that UK must show the Afghan people that it will abide by its commitment to support them after the drawdown in 2014. 

Future of Afghanistan 

The report dwells on the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces(ANSF) and raises concerns regarding the lack of 'enablers' like helicopter support and medical care to support the ANSF. It also examines the progress towards a secure and stable Afghanistan from a regional perspective and seeks to engage with external partners to improve Afghanistan’s future prospects. 

There are currently 9,000 British service personnel in Afghanistan, which will fall to 5,200 by the end of 2013. It was observed by the committee that at the end of operations in Afghanistan in 2014 “the best (least) UK should do is to withdraw in good order”. It also calls for the start of an Afghan-led peace process including the Taliban, before the UK and other forces end operations. 

In the process of establishing a peaceful and functioning Afghanistan the Committee, besides the start of an Afghan-led peace talks supported by Pakistan, calls for certain positive indicators; one, open and free elections; two, an appropriately trained and equipped ANSF with continuing financial support; three, a strong judicial system which protects the human rights of all Afghans; four, continued economic and development aid in support of the well being and safety of all sections of society; finally, effective measures to tackle corruption, drug production and its trade be put in place. 

The Committee added that it had received few inputs from either the British Ministry of Defence or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding their planning for Afghanistan after 2014. Regarding future scenarios following the withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan, these varied from those which are overly optimistic to those which see only doom and gloom.”1 The Committee chairman James Arbuthnot said some of the witnesses who gave evidence "thought there was a 50-50 chance of Afghanistan descending into civil war". 

UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond responding to the report said that UK had intervened in Afghanistan primarily to "address the terrorists who were using the chaos in Afghanistan as a base to attack Western interests". The international community sought to remedy the situation to a point where it would be able to withdraw and allow the Afghans to maintain their own security so our security was protected." 2 

The Defence Secretary felt that the British achievements in Afghanistan had been underplayed. ISAF/NATO has created the 350,000-strong Afghan ANSF from scratch which is increasingly capable and confident. Eighty per cent of operations at present are led, planned and executed by the Afghans. Increasingly the ISAF forces are in the barracks as a back-up reserve, with the Afghans undertaking combat operations. This is very significant progress. 

The ever-evolving al-Qaeda threat

By Mitchell D. Silber
May 16, 2013 

Since the brutal attack in Boston a few weeks ago, the word terrorism, without being preceded by the word "cyber," unfortunately returned to our lexicon. For those who have spent the better part of the past decade obsessed by the al Qaeda terrorism threat, there was much in Boston that looked very familiar. 

Two men who have spent an even longer time watching the evolution of the al Qaeda threat, Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of the London-based newspaper, Al-Quds al-Arabi, and Phil Mudd, a former CIA analyst, Deputy Director of the agency's Counterterrorist Center, and Deputy Director of the National Security Branch at the FBI, have both written important and well-argued books that have a direct relevance to the al Qaeda inspired attack in Boston, the ongoing evolution of the al Qaeda threat and the U.S. intelligence community's current and future capacity to understand the ever-changing nature of that threat. 

Abdel Bari Atwan's book, After Bin Laden - Al Qaeda the Next Generation, as its title connotes, seeks to explain the characteristics of "Al Qaeda and Associated Movements," or AQAM as he likes to call them, in the wake of bin Laden's death. 

Not surprisingly, Mr. Atwan makes a compelling case that while the death of Osama bin Laden and the decimation of al Qaeda Core's top leadership has hurt the central organization that was based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the movement and ideology, with its worldwide presence via regional associated movements, is as much of a menace to the West as ever and undiminished in its goal of a global caliphate. 

Mr. Atwan spends considerable time discussing the poorly named "Arab Spring," the successive revolutions which occurred across the Arab world and the relationship that these events have with indigenous al Qaeda-associated movements that have their own deep roots in some of the very states that saw their governments topple, sectarian conflicts break into the open, and civil wars erupt. 

While many of us in the West hoped that the revolutions in the Arab states would herald better governance and the opportunity for homegrown secularists with their own domestic legitimacy to rise, Mr. Atwan saw a different future - one where Islamist parties would dominate the ballot box and armed Islamists or AQAM would have a role to play as well. 

Mr. Atwan takes the reader on an impressive tour of the Islamic world, with chapters and sections on almost every country and region from Arabia to Uzbekistan. While some of the background history that he provides on each country or region is old news to regular readers of the New York Times international section, they do provide the context in each locale for Mr. Atwan to make his most provocative argument - al Qaeda-associated movements are poised for a comeback when either the Islamists or secularists fail in their efforts of good governance, regardless of whether it is in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Nigeria, North Africa, Sinai, or Central Asia. While the situation in each country is distinct, in general, regional al Qaeda-type violence certainly seems unabated and potentially is on the upswing in countries like Iraq, Nigeria, Mali and Syria. 

Mr. Atwan is at his best when explaining the tribal dynamics in such places as Yemen, where different alliances among the tribes and their long standing dissatisfaction with any central government make them a natural ally of al Qaeda-associated movements, who also seek to challenge the central government, are armed, and espouse an austere form of Islam that is not foreign to the locals. Mr. Atwan draws similar astute insights about local dynamics when considering the prospects for growth for al Qaeda in the states of North Africa or the Islamic Maghreb. 

Sino-Pak Alliance: Naval and Nuclear Cooperation

New Delhi
May 17 2013

The unrealistic expectations in India from Li Keqiang's visit to Delhi and Mumbai next week are likely to be tempered when weighed against the Chinese premier's agenda in Pakistan. Li flies from India to Pakistan and from there to Switzerland and Germany. 

Sections of India's foreign policy establishment have long cultivated the illusion that improved relations with China might result in a more balanced approach in Beijing towards Delhi and Islamabad. 

News reports from Pakistan say Li is likely to sign an accord on further development of the Gwadar port on the Balochistan coast. Li's talks are also likely to focus on civilian nuclear cooperation, the reports say. 

Official media reports from Beijing do not mention either agreement, but simply reaffirm China's commitment to deepen the strategic partnership with Pakistan. Naval and nuclear cooperation between the two countries has a long history and Delhi must expect them to advance in the coming years. 

Together the two areas underline the enduring tension that China's alliance with Pakistan generates for Sino-Indian relations. This can't be papered over by the usual rhetoric in Delhi and Beijing about their shared global interests. 

Pakistan has recently transferred the operational control over the Gwadar port, which was constructed with Beijing's assistance, from Singaporean firm to a Chinese one. While the Gwadar port can't serve as a naval base at this moment, Delhi's military planners must necessarily assume such an option exists for Beijing in the future. 

That premise is realistic, since China's stakes in the Indian Ocean are growing rapidly. Meanwhile Chinese naval arms transfers to Pakistan have acquired a new intensity and are creating a basis for interoperability between the two navies. 

More immediately, India is faced with a nuclear problem that it cannot really ignore. It is about Beijing's opposition to India's integration with the global nuclear order and China's determination to ensure Pakistan's nuclear parity with India. 

History reminds us that without China's support, Pakistan could not have easily become a nuclear weapon power. Even as Delhi reconciled to that fact, it had to confront Chinese resistance to the historic U.S. initiative to end India's nuclear isolation during 2005-08. 

Since then, Beijing, in violation of international rules, has agreed to supply civilian nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Islamabad is now pressing Beijing to convert the one time sale into a formal agreement for civil nuclear cooperation. 

If this is not bad enough, Beijing has been opposing the U.S. effort to promote India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an international forum that sets the rules for global nuclear commerce. 

In his public remarks during his recent visit to China, the external affairs minister Salman Khurshid ducked the questions on Beijing's nuclear tilt against India. In his talks with Li on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh needs to make it clear that China's current nuclear policy towards India is hostile and unacceptable. 

(C. Raja Mohan is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a contributing editor of The Indian Express)

Why Japan Should Ignore China’s Okinawa Provocation

May 17, 2013 
By Taylor Washburn 

Nationalists are seeking leverage for the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. Japan shouldn’t play into their hands. 

By now the narrative is familiar: China, brandishing a sheaf of faded maps and records, questions the basis of Japan’s authority over islands in the East China Sea. The dispute summons bitter memories of the Middle Kingdom’s humiliation at the hands of its neighbor starting in the late 19th century, but also heightens fears that Beijing is abandoning its decade-old mantra of “peaceful rise” to become the revisionist power its neighbors and Washington fear. 

For the last year, this has been the tale of the Senkaku Islands, a remote cluster of rocks whose only mammalian inhabitants are goats and an endangered race of moles. China’s claim to the islets, which it calls Diaoyu, dates back at least four decades, but tensions have heightened since the Japanese government announced last year that it would purchase them from a private owner. 

Just last week, however, Beijing opened up a new front in the dispute. On Wednesday, China’s leading state-run newspaper, the People’s Daily, ran a piece questioning the status of Okinawa, home to 1.4 million Japanese citizens as well as 25,000 U.S. troops. Its authors, two scholars at a government-backed think tank, surveyed the history of the Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is easily the most important, and concluded that the legitimacy of Japan’s rule over the chain is “unresolved.” When pressed for comment, China’s Foreign Ministry refused to affirm that the Ryukyus are part of Japan, instead reiterating that “the Diaoyu Islands,” which sit to Okinawa’s west, “are China’s inherent territory,” and not part of the Ryukyus. This is hardly the first time that nationalists have attempted to sow doubt about Okinawa, but never before have questions about Japanese sovereignty been entertained at such a high level. 

The Ryukyus arc from Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, towards Taiwan. Most of their residents are indigenous Ryukyuans, a group of peoples who have traditionally spoken their own Japonic languages and maintained political and trade ties with both China and Japan. Even before the unification of Okinawa and surrounding islands under a single king in the 15th century, the Ryukyuans were tributaries of the Ming Dynasty. But after their king refused to help the Japanese daimyo Hideyoshi invade Korea in the 1590s, the islands were subjugated by a feudal lord from Kyushu. For almost three centuries, the islands’ kings paid tribute to two masters, the shogun of Japan and the emperor of China. 

The arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and his “black ships” in the 1850s rocked Japan, but the new state that emerged from this political turmoil was unified and assertive. In 1879, the young Emperor Meiji, a modernizing reformer, formally absorbed the Ryukyus, which became Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture. China’s Qing Dynasty ratified this action in 1895, but only under duress; the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the First Sino-Japanese War, not only provided that China would abandon any claims to the Ryukyus, but signed away Taiwan and severed China’s longstanding tributary relationship with Korea. (The treaty also helped set the stage for the Senkaku dispute, which turns in part on whether those islets were part of Taiwan, and thus reverted to China after 1945, or the Ryukyus.) 

ORIGIN MYTHS OF NATIONS

- Narratives secretly countered 
Politics and play - Ramachandra Guha 

The southern coastal city of Xiamen is a showpiece for the new China. A hub of investment and industry, it faces Taiwan. The Taiwanese have invested massively in Xiamen, as have the overseas Chinese. The streets are wide and the pavements properly paved; the buildings very large and built to last. This is the kind of place calculated to make an Indian feel inferior about his country and angry with his country’s politicians. 

We crossed into Xiamen on what was described as the “second longest hanging bridge in the world”. Later, we passed the “second largest convention centre in Asia”. The scale of the public architecture was impressive; what struck me more forcibly, however, was the character of the public art. In the square outside our hotel were a series of sculpted soldiers in uniform. Some were carrying cocked rifles. At least two had grenades in their hands. The soldiers were made of black stone, and lined up in a row, leading up to a small hill on which two helmeted men were planting the flag of the People’s Republic. 

My hosts told me that such exhibits are common in China. In towns small and large, public squares are filled in with sculpted soldiers in uniform. This is natural, for the country won its independence and national unity through long, bloody wars against Japanese and Western colonists. The People’s Liberation Army remains the largest standing force in the world. Still, to this visiting Indian, the row of muscular young soldiers in Xiamen was, in every way, absolutely the ‘other’ of a public sculpture he knew very well — Gyara Murti, the row of eleven men, a Mahatma and his disciples, on their way to break the salt laws at the sea in Dandi, created by Debiprasad Roychowdhury and displayed at the junction of Sardar Patel Marg and Mother Teresa Crescent in New Delhi. The leader there is old, and carrying a staff; and his followers are not, in a physical sense at least, fine specimens of Indian manhood. 

In India, the story of a freedom won by non-violence is answered by a counter-narrative: that privileging the machismo, the militant tradition of armed resistance to British colonialism, as embodied most commonly in the helmet of Bhagat Singh and the khaki uniform of Subhas Chandra Bose. These secular leftists are sometimes joined, in the consciousness of the anti-Gandhian, by radical Hindus such as Swami Vivekananda and V. D. Savarkar. In shops across India, calendars and posters of Bose, Vivekananda and even Bhagat Singh must outsell those of Gandhi by a factor of two to one. In China, however, there is no public counter-narrative to the nation’s origin myth — perhaps because it is not a democracy (and thus the official narrative cannot be openly challenged by citizens), or perhaps because of the still massive presence of the PLA, or perhaps the country still perceives itself as under threat from malevolent foreigners. 

Driving through Xiamen, I came across another example of public art, equally heroic, this time capturing China’s arrival on the world stage rather than the birth of China as a nation. The city is home to what our guide described as “the most scenic marathon in the world”. This cannot be true — for Google informs me there is a Cape Town marathon — but the route of this race is scenic enough. It follows a fine promenade, running for miles along the sea. On one side are palm trees, swaying gently in the breeze; on the other (sea-facing) side, large villas and luxury hotels. This could be Long Beach, except for the statuary on display, which tells us that we are not in California (nor in Cape Town either). Thus, along the grassy patch that divides the two sides of the road, there are a series of figures sculpted in dark stone. A runner striding forward, his body leaning low, seeking to keep up with the leaders. Another runner, pausing briefly in mid-stride, pouring water over his head from a bottle. A third athlete in an upturned baseball cap (meant, I guess, to be an American), and a fourth with crinkled hair, representing the African or perhaps more particularly the Ethiopian dimension of this international race. The row of runners is preceded by two men in casual clothing, squinting intensely into cameras — press photographers capturing the event for posterity. 

Unlike the large, lovely bridge, or the solid and smart office blocks, or the clean streets completely free of garbage, this display left me less than impressed. For it spoke of a deep cultural insecurity. Would the New York or Paris or London Marathon display themselves in this way? Of course not. Those cities do not need to advertise their global significance. To them, the fact that athletes come from across the world does not need to be publicly bragged about. (For so do musicians, artists, scientists, writers, and restaurateur.) There, the annual marathon blends into the deep civilizational history of the city and into its contemporary chaos as well. 

No Strings Attached? Evaluating China’s Trade Relations Abroad

By Sarah E. Kreps and Gustavo A. Flores-Macías 
May 17, 2013 

“The champion of the developing world” has become a common reference to describe China over the last decade. China is both a developing country itself but also one of the largest world economies, putting it in a unique position to represent the interests of its developing world brethren. As the Asian country grows in economic strength, its ability to give voice to developing world issues grows commensurately, especially in international forums. At least this is the common refrain among Chinese leaders. 

In practice, this narrative mischaracterizes the relationship between China’s economic rise and international voice opportunities for developing countries. A closer examination of trade relationships and foreign policy consequences shows, not that Beijing has come to endorse the interests of its partners, but that its trade partners converge with Beijing. 

In particular, we find that the more countries in Africa and Latin America trade with China, the more likely they are to align with the Asian country on one of its main foreign policy issues: non-intervention with respect to human rights. Every year, the United Nations General Assembly holds country-specific resolutions on human rights, and invariably Beijing votes against condemning violations, invoking the principle of self determination. 

Increasingly, African and Latin American countries that have growing trade ties with China have begun to abstain or vote against resolutions they would have typically supported. This change in behavior can be quite remarkable for countries with a long-standing tradition of promoting human rights, such as Costa Rica. 

That developing countries would be inclined to side with China rather than the other way around is surprising in some ways. China has famously touted its “no strings attached” approach on commercial relations. This way of doing business comes in stark contrast to the conditions imposed by Western countries, the International Monetary Fund, or the World Bank. When dealing with them, developing countries have to worry about a number of conditions, including democracy, human rights, and labor provisions in trade agreements, governance oversight in foreign aid, and economic stringency in loans. 

The obvious benefit would be that China’s engagement is not only risk free, but also devoid of any colonial impetus. Mutual economic benefit would be the main driver of the relationship. 

To be sure, China may not have a purposeful plan to bring their trade partners into alignment on foreign policy questions. Even if unintentional, however, this “gravitational effect” has a sound economic basis. Developing countries in Africa and Latin America are comparatively much more dependent on China than China is on these countries. In a ten year period, for example, Sudan’s trade with China rose from 1 to 10% of its Gross Domestic Product. That pattern is even starker in a country like Angola, for which trade with China represented 25% of its GDP in 2006. While China certainly needs access to the resources in these countries, the individual countries are far less important to China than China is to these countries. The asymmetry in needs gives China a bargaining advantage that translates into foreign policy outcomes even if not by explicit design. 

China’s long sleep and dream

Li’s visit may be a memorable one
by T.V. Rajeswar 

THE Chinese nation had slept for well over a century. This was the period when the Anglo-Saxons unleashed the disgraceful opium war (1839 – 1862) in the name of free trade, killing thousands of unarmed Chinese people. The Chinese nation was sleeping during this period. Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, “Let it sleep; when it wakes up it will shake the world”. With the arrival of Mao Zedong, followed by Deng Xiaping, China has truly shaken off its slumber and it’s now well and truly awake and alert.

Now the Chinese have started dreaming and dreaming big. The Chinese Communist Party recently elected a new General Secretary and other members of the Politburo. The new General Secretary, who is also the military commander-in-chief, Xi Jinping, announced that China has the greatest dream which was the revival of the Chinese nation. His announcement reverberated throughout the nation. Schools have been organising “Chinese-dream” speaking competitions. Party officials have selected model dreamers to tour workplaces and inspire others with their achievements. An analyst writes that the adoption of a personal slogan that conveys a sense beyond normal wisdom and vision in a short memorable phrase has been a rite of passage since the time of Chinese resurgence. 

The latest slogan is ringing throughout the Chinese nation. In his acceptance speech, Xi Jinping stated at the National People’s Congress, China’s Parliament, that the Chinese dream would be fulfilled by the middle of the century. It was ordered soon after that the concept of the Chinese dream be written into school textbooks to make sure that the message got across. 

After his recent visit to Beijing, the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that the America, China and other countries should all work towards a pacific dream of cooperation on issues ranging from job growth and climate change control of pandemic disease and proliferation. This suggestion did little to abate mutual suspicion between the two countries. The idea of a pacific dream, said a Chinese commentator, was an American attempt to spread the American dream to every corner of Asia in order to ensure America’s dominance of this region. 

Xi Jinping has also said that the Chinese dream is the people’s dream. He said at the National People’s Congress that while China has no doubt well and truly risen from its long slumber, it should not alarm the neighbouring nations and their people. But the actual situation is somewhat different. China is going all out to strengthen itself militarily and economically. China has made territorial claims on South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and India. India does not accept the assertion of China on the South China Sea. Japan also has reacted strongly to Chinese military actions near the disputed Islands. With the US backing as its secondary strength, Japan has warned that it would not accept China’s claims on the disputed islands and would challenge them. 

IN THE HISTORY BOOKS AGAIN

With the global economy’s eastward thrust, the Bay of Bengal is rapidly moving centre-stage in world news, writes Arabinda Ray 

There was a time — say, three hundred years ago — when our sleepy bay awoke to feel the weight of ocean-going vessels sailing up and down in ever increasing numbers. From Singapore upto Calcutta and down to Chennai this load kept growing with polluting steamships taken in its stride. Business began moving westwards, but the bay was kept reasonably busy. Now, it seems, the bay’s busy days will soon be back. 

With the global economy’s eastward thrust and the display by China of its growing naval strength, the Bay of Bengal is rapidly moving centre-stage in world news. It is bordered with ports that will soon be unable to handle the growth of traffic right down from Penang to Puducherry. The Chinese have still finally to pick their spots in the bay for their “string of pearls”, but are busy weighing alternatives connected, in some cases, with their pipeline projects across Myanmar. 

The Indian press has been silent about a crucial joint project with Myanmar, which involved an alternative supply-route for India’s north-eastern corner. This is to develop and use the port of Sittwe (previously known as Akyab) for cargo, which will travel on steamers up the Kaladan river and then be put on lorries to enter India somewhere in Mizoram. Bangladesh is also going to be a beneficiary relieving the load on Chittagong. I was apprehending that the project had gone to sleep, perhaps frightened by the reports of the apparent ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas by the Myanmar government. It was, therefore, heartening to see a report in a recent issue of The Economist that a joint project of $100 million between Myanmar and India is very much on. Akyab was once a very busy port and has many happy memories for Indian settlers who bought expensive properties, but left with the Japanese invasion never to return. Portuguese trading vessels and man-of-wars regularly plied on the Kaladan some three centuries ago. 

The Chinese are also at it. They are developing a new port called Kyaukphu, near Sittwe, which will be the terminal for their oil and gas pipeline through Mandalay on to Kunming. They can then bypass Singapore to bring in supplies more economically from their African investments. 

The recently sanctioned port on the Sagar Islands at the mouth of the Hooghly will, one hopes, materialize and play its due part in relieving Calcutta and Haldia of the problems of increasing demand and inadequate draught without the volume of traffic being unaffected in the long run. 

If Myanmar’s open reentry to the comity of nations is steady, Yangon port — apart from Sittwe — the country’s only commercial port will not be able to meet the demand on it. 

The Japanese are not being left behind. They are looking at a riverine port, Thilawa, to the south of Yangon. 

In a global sense more exciting projects are happening farther down the Tenasserim coast. The age-old bottleneck of shipping around Singapore will grow to a choking situation and alternative passages have to be found. More than a century ago, Ferdinand de Lesseps had conceived a plan to build a canal through the Isthmus of Kra to facilitate the passage of ships from the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca and on to the Bay of Bengal. Had malaria not forced him to move away from Panama bearing the ignominy of a failure, he would have come next to Kra in the days when territorial rights were hardly any problem.