Dec 31, 2011

Managing India-China Relations

By Bhaskar Roy

Both India and China have struggled to manage their bilateral relations since the 1950s. The two fought a border war in 1962 when China attacked India and still holds Indian territory acquired during the war. Over decades, the Chinese officials and official media launched virulent attacks on Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru even long after his death. The Chinese proclivity to warn India at every conceivable opportunity even without clear reasons, continues.

In spite of two major Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) agreements along the border – one when Prime Minister Narasimha Rao visited China in 1993, and the other when Chinese President Jiang Zemin came to New Delhi in November, 1995 – Chinese soldiers have kept periodically provoking along the border. One major incident that occurred was in July 2003. When Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was still in China, a large group of Chinese soldiers in the eastern sector arrested a small Indian patrol inside India’s perceived territory and warned never to venture there again. This was a deliberate and calculated act, telling India that Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit had not resolved any major issues and the border issue was not going to be reconciled easily.

Specifically on the boundary issue, there is no indication that the Chinese are in any mood for a solution. The closest the two countries came towards a way was when they signed an agreement in 2005 on modalities to resolve the boundary issue. Section 4 of the agreement stated there will be no exchange of settled population. The Chinese quickly realised they had given up their claim on Tawang, and have stalled the spirit of the agreement since.

China has resolved its land border disputes with almost all countries (some small differences still remain with Russia in the eastern sector) except India. The differences with India are not restricted to India-China border alignment/territories. China’s position is that the India-China border is 2000 kms, India’s legal position is that it is 4000 kms. This difference results from Beijing’s strategic policy to counter India. The Chinese position on the border challenges India’s sovereignty over territories from Sikkim to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). This is also a ploy to perpetuate the border issue indefinitely. There would be lasting impediments, however, even if the two governments agree to delineation through some small give and take. India cannot expect to get back Aksai Chin from China, and China cannot expect to get Tawang which it had never held, let alone Arunachal Pradesh. But on other small exchanges each country will have to carry their people with them on territory exchanges, which will not to be an easy task for either side. These can be examined only after China agrees to come down to their point.

The history of Kashmir is well known. POK is Indian territory according to the instruments of accession in 1947, a legal agreement, but occupied by Pakistan. In 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded over 5000 Sq kms of POK to China, and China is currently making good use of it to reach the Arabian sea and Gulf region through Pakistan. Taking the Chinese position on the length of the border, China does not recognize the Indian Jammu and Kashmir (including Ladakh) as Indian territory but a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. On the one hand it opposed an ADB loan for development projects in Arunachal Pradesh claiming it was disputed territory between China and India. On the other, it is investing and constructing infrastructure in POK, another disputed territory. Their two faced approach is dangerous and naturally raises questions in India.

There is a long list of other well known issues with China that have led the Indian people to regard it with suspicion. There are the various aspects of the nuclear issue including the India-US nuclear deal and the most recent Xinhua commentary suggesting the Australian Labour Party’s decision to sell uranium to India will risk spread proliferation. There have been warning against India’s Look East Policy both directly and indirectly and India-Japan defence relationship. Even India’s relationship building in Central Asia has been looked at suspiciously by China.

From 2008, China began demonstrating its military and economic power in prosecuting its foreign policy. This included sharp attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tawang, something which upset the Indian government and New Delhi responded accordingly. Another was the issue of stapled visas to Kashmiris and even Lt. Gen. Jaiswal, the Kashmir based GOC of the Indian army. Following strong Indian protests including suspension of military-to-military relations, Beijing reverted to issuing regular visas to Kashmir residents. There are just a couple of examples. The Chinese have warned India’s ONGC-Videsh to desist from oil and gas exploration with a Vietnamese company in Vietnamese water in the disputed South China Sea. The Chinese official media has also raised the question of India-Vietnam defence and strategic agreement. While India stood its ground in all these issues, the point is that China consistently opposes India even with half-opportunities.

An India-China War?
There are some serious concerns among a section of Indian experts that China may launch a surprise attack on India in 2012. They have reasons. The 1962 attack was a surprise under the ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’ (India-China are brothers) slogan. This is not exactly correct. The leaders and those concerned in the Indian government abysmally failed to read either the Chinese signals or the Chinese military movement along the undemarcated borders. India’s first Prime Minister, Pt. Nehru, who the Chinese love to hate, never thought the Chinese would betray him. He may have made some free-wheeling comments in Parliament, but those were not well thought out policy positions. Nehru had gone all out to support China at every conceivable international fora. He gave up the UN Security Council (P-5) seat in favour of China. He believed in an Asian unity and thought the offer to India to take the P-5 seat was a western conspiracy to break an Asian solidarity and India-China friendship.

The war wary Indians have been closely watching the Chinese militarization of Tibet, and permanent military-cum-civilian infrastructure construction there at a rapid pace. Roads and barracks have been built along the borders; five air ports have been constructed along the borders from the western sector to the eastern sector. There has been planned extension of the Tibet railway to the Indian borders and Nepal. The Golmud-Lhasa railway has been quietly used for transportation of military equipment including ammunition and explosives. High altitude military drills and para-droppings have been conducted by the PLA troops in Tibet. DF-21 missiles (range 1800 Kms plus) in Sichuan province cover north-east India. To top it all are the frequent incursions of the PLA troops inside Indian controlled territory of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
And China has resisted exchange of maps of the respective sides in western and eastern sectors to reconcile the border line, giving rise to the apprehension China is not sincere.

One must take heed of Chinese assertive statements over the last two years at least, and PLA associated statements that China was strong enough to use force to secure territories which they perceive as theirs. Chinese military threats in the South China Sea over the sovereignty of the Spratley Islands and clashes with Japan over the Senkaku Islands are straws in the wind read here.
China’s Concerns

With its huge economic development and currently the No.2 economic power in the world only behind the US, and military modernization taking it to almost the second or third strongest military power racing ahead in sophistication, the Chinese leadership felt it was an appropriate time to demonstrate its national power internationally. In the course of its hubris, it miscalculated international perceptions thinking that with the global economic meltdown in which China stood as a virtual rock of stability, it could have its way especially on its questionable territorial claims in its Asia-Pacific neighbourhood.

While showing its military flag it has pushed most of its South East Asian neighbours into a virtual coalition against China forcing them to look at the US as guarantor for their sovereignty, territorial integrity and most importantly, independence.

US President Barack Obama’s recent Asia-Pacific surge has greatly disturbed China. The foundation was laid during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2010 Asian tour and her tough position in mid-2010 in the ASEAN meeting in Hanoi especially on free navigation in the South China Sea. Beijing thought that with the US mired in Iraq and Afghanistan and internal economic problems, it could do a deal with Washington. But its unofficial private proposal to Clinton that the South China Sea be recognized as China’s “core” interest (that is, it will be controlled by China) was firmly rebutted.

Politically and economically, Obama’s strong support to and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) can make the ASEAN and APEC redundant. China is seriously assessing the impact of the TPP and considering whether it can join it or not. The basic rules of the TPP have already been made and many of them, like human rights and rule of law, counter China’s policy. There is a fear that the US may be trying to replicate the Atlantic model in the Pacific.

Chinese experts however, have begun to question some of the positions that the Chinese Communist Party and the government has taken. For example, China’s claim on the South China Sea has been questioned. China’s support to North Korea in 2010 when Pyongyang sank a South Korean frigate and shelled a South Korean island, were also criticized.

While maintaining its rigid positions in the region it sees the perceived US encirclement policy of China growing stronger. It is worried about the growing US-India relations especially in the area of defence–military acquisitions, joint exercises, and India’s joint naval exercises with some of the South East Asian countries, India-Japan relations among others. They see these developments as supported and aided by the US.

China has also noted with some concern the talks about an India-China war in the near future. At the moment, China is going through a tense internal situation with upcoming change in leadership next year, and such discussions can disturb their internal imperatives. The Chinese official media has said recently that there is no possibility of such a war. Yet, at the same time, the official propaganda or psychological warfare is highlighting India’s military acquisitions and spreading the fear of India bullying its small neighbours. The mischief continues.

China’s oppositions to India’s Look East Policy, questioning US-Japan-India dialogue among others is highly questionable, especially when China continues to actively pursue its strategy of influence including military among India’s immediate neighbours.

Beijing is well on its way to establish a naval base in Seychelles, calling it a support base for the PLA navy’s anti-piracy operations off the Somalian coast. China’s serving military experts have expanded on this move to say that ultimately such facilities may be converted into military bases. President Hu Jintao has recently directed the navy to prepare for warfare, and the PLA has established a Strategic Planning Division (SPD) under the General Staff Department to not only assist in planning, budget and coordination, but also have the responsibility in advising in political, diplomatic, economic, energy and other such areas. These are developments which indicate the PLA’s growing influence on policy something that makes the Asia Pacific region and the Indian Ocean region uncomfortable.

Amidst discussions on China’s military intentions, the official news agency the Xinhua (Dec 19) said that if China was ever to encounter a military conflict the most likely place will be in the waters surrounding China. It is heavily pre-occupied politically, economically, militarily and strategically in its eastern sea board. In spite of its vastly improved relationship with KMT Ma Ying-Jeo government in Taiwan, Taipei still remains uncertain. There is a huge population of original Taiwanese residents who want independence. The majority wants status quo to remain. Those supporting reunification with the mainland is small. While the US supports one-China policy and has helped in easing Taiwan-mainland relations, it still sees Taiwan as very important strategic assets and keeps arming it, albeit in dribbles. In Beijing’s view, this is very serious and it has cogent reasons to believe that if Taiwan becomes independent, China will start disintegrating.

Next to Taiwan are South East Asia and Japan with problems relating to territorial issues. China’s forces are here. It cannot think of launching a war against India under these conditions. Further, India in 2011 is not India in 1962. The global changes in all aspects since 1962 have been immense.

At the same time, China will continue to build around India and the Indian Ocean region, fortify further militarily along the India-China borders, and keep the border issue alive. For India, forewarned is forearmed There is nothing called only soft power. Military power supports economic development and is an unstated strength on meeting tables, and the very essence of security. Their key phrase for India is “verify before trusting”. No overtures can be taken at face value.

Having said that, it would be advisable for both countries to work together for mutual benefit among differences. Much, however, depends on China’s India policy. Recent Chinese statement suggest their mistrust of India is growing. Beijing leaders and experts need to deep introspection on India’s independent foreign policy. While India will never be an ally of any country against a third country, that does not prevent it from seeking and consolidating its own national interests and cooperating with other countries for national development.

Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG)

Dec 26, 2011

Western Christian Imperialism vs. Non-Christian world

By Sandhya Jain

As America leads a resurgence of imperial muscle in Britain and France, India finds herself in a precarious position as battleground of a fresh Evangelical assault on her civilisational ethos and as a launch pad Washington hopes to use in its containment of Russia and China, having effectively crushed much of the Islamic world and confident of being able to trounce the rest. In other words, it is the West against Everyone else, and we can ignore this reality only at our own peril.

Central to the evangelical mission recently led by Vatican’s Cardinal Jean-Pierre Louis Tauran (called inter-faith dialogue) was a tacit isolation of Islam along with a tactical split of the seamless native Indian tradition into Hindu-Jain-Sikh.

There is merit in Vatican keeping Islam out of the purview of its inter-faith dialogues in India. Foremost is the fact that a dialogue between faiths claiming descent from the patriarch Abraham is an intra-Abrahamic dialogue, and would have to be conducted at a different level, which would mostly make it a diplomatic engagement. A realdialogue can only aim to settle which Abrahamic cult (possibly which sub-sect within that cult) is the true revealed faith with the right to conquer the world (sic), while the rest must submit.

As that is unlikely, another objective of dialogue could be to arrive at an understanding regarding the regions of dominance allowed to each cult. That too, is ruled out as the Christian Colonial Western world is deep into a new crusade against Islam, as witnessed in the actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya (beaten to pulp), Sudan (divided on demographic lines), with Iran, Syria and Lebanon in the crosshairs. Even loyal stooges in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen were abandoned to new geopolitical calculations, a reality dawning on old faithful Pakistan.

Anyone doubting this assessment must explain the sudden haste among Western nations to reassert their Christian credentials, from Australia, France, Switzerland, and now the United Kingdom: “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so. The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend” - Prime Minister David Cameron

Behind this affirmation lies the Western Christian assault upon Muslim communities in the west, which are practicing identity politics (beard and burqa) as a way of carving out cultural space to counter their growing marginalization. Suffice it to say that Islam is in a terrible bind; it remains to be seen if it can find the intellectual and moral energy to rescue itself from the current morass.  

The writer avers that as orthodox Islam experiences growing Western Christian pressure and admits its worst enemies are brethren allied with the crusaders, it must logically seek friends outside the Abrahamic fold - among Non-Monotheistic traditions. This explains the response even West-friendly Muslim nations have given to the People’s Republic of China, a country that has abandoned its communist (Abrahamic) ideology and suppressed its Confucian-Taoist-cum-Buddhist identity (the latter being dangerous, in the writer’s view).

Islam’s quest for rapprochement with non-Abrahamic traditions may have broken new ground in India with Darul Uloom Deoband vice chancellor Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani defending Srimad Bhagwad Gita against a “Russian diktat” and urging Hindus and Muslims to unite on the issue. Maulana Nomani denounced the “allegation portraying Gita as extreme literature.” He asked both communities to fight against anti-Islamic bans that Muslims face in the west, as on the issue of hijab. Simultaneously, Maulana Khalid Rashid, head of Lucknow’s Firangi Mahal seminary, denounced “Russian arrogance” and said Muslims must offer unflinching support to Hindus in this direct attack on their private space. He wanted the government to take a firm stance so such blasphemous interference is not repeated.

With respect, the writer wishes to gently state that under the East India Company and British Crown, Hindus and Muslims received the colonial stick. But ultimately Hindus suffered as Muslims (as Abrahamic brothers) allowed themselves to be manipulated to demand separatism from a Common India. The journey from the Shimla Delegation and formation of the Muslim League to the Lahore Resolution and Partition gave Muslims a sense of false empowerment, as our brothers in Pakistan are now discovering to their own chagrin.

Indian Muslim leaders must understand that by insisting upon some form of separatism even after independence, they debilitated the Hindu community and the nation, with no commensurate benefit to themselves. Hence, even as we welcome their support, we request them to revisit the history of the past century or more and introspect whether the extreme positions taken by the community on any issue have advanced the community in any way. It is our contention that worldwide, the disempowerment of the Muslim community has proceeded in tandem with its extreme radicalization.

Regarding the proposed ban on the Bhagvad Gita by a court in Tomsk city, Siberia, we must differentiate between Russia’s natural suspicion of the white western monks of the Krishna Consciousness movement (ISKON, who are not much liked in some Indian cities), and the circulation of a commentary of one of the most powerful texts of the Hindu tradition.

After the US-NATO assault upon and dismemberment of Yugoslavia and attempts to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church which is one of the pillars of Russian nationalism and statehood, Moscow has naturally been wary of Christian evangelism from the West and attempts to infiltrate white monks into the country in the name of Krishna Consciousness. New Delhi cannot ignore the role played by the Vatican and America in funding in the Coloured Revolutions in former Soviet Republics, and the continued manoeuvring to contain Russia (more later).

The complaint from an orthodox organisation with poor understanding of Hindu dharma and philosophy to ban the Bhagvad Gita – which caught Moscow by surprise – could well be an inspired mischief to strain relations between New Delhi and Moscow at a time when the Russian nuclear venture at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, stands checkmated at the behest of the Catholic Church and reported heavy external funding (which Delhi is investigating). It is significant that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who has for some years been celebrating Mass at her residence, recently allowed the media to photograph her celebrating Mass with the Archbishop, where she announced free pilgrimages to Jerusalem for Christian converts (at the expense of the taxpayer of a Secular nation!).

The timing suggests the Gita ban move was intended to appear as a Russian tit-for-tat. But after its initial surprise, Moscow quickly got its act together and the Russian envoy to India, Alexander M Kadakin, himself a student of Indian civilisation, expressed unhappiness at a holy scripture being taken to court, and said his country accorded equal respect to scriptures of all faiths, viz., the Bible, the Holy Quran, Torah, Avesta, and the Bhagvad Gita.

Actually, the issue is neither religious nor academic, and will be tackled with political wisdom by the Kremlin. Already it has been clarified that it was not the Bhagvad Gita itself which was under scrutiny in the Tomsk court, but some comments in the 20th century Russian translation of Swami Prabhupada’s translation of the text, which are alleged to be insulting to non-believers. The Gita itself, the sources said, was first published in Russian in 1788 and has since been published in several editions and translations in that country. Russian Indologists favour dismissal of the charges, and that may still happen.

What Indian Hindus must understand is that protests to the Russian Embassy in Delhi were organised by a White sanyasi, so the West is definitely injecting itself into the controversy. As someone who distrusts even native globe-trotting sanyasis and their addiction to modify tradition to cater to the needs of white disciples with agendas at variance with the dharma of this land, the writer fully appreciates Russian discomfort with ISKON. We need not hyperventilate on the matter; Russians have produced some of the world’s best renowned Indologists, and for decades they performed the Ramayana in ballet while we were busy distancing ourselves from Sri Rama.

To put the issue in perspective, note how Vatican operates in tandem with the US-led Western colonial countries. Observe the synchronicity between Cardinal Tauran’s trip to India and the Asia-Pacific paradigm unveiled by President Barack Obama in his recent visit to Australia. Add the global moves of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and you get a complete picture of Empire and Church, marching hand-in-hand. Can you hear the trumpets?

Canberra and the Asia-Pacific
On Nov. 17, 2011, American President Barack Obama addressed the Australian parliament and lamented the loss of Australian lives in the 9/11 Twin Tower tragedy and acts of al Qaeda terror in the years since. He also announced a new American shift towards the Asia Pacific, causing misgivings in several quarters.

Reduced to essentials, this means [vis-à-vis China] –
-       America will strengthen its presence in Japan, the Korean peninsula, and generally in Southeast Asia
-       It will seek allies and partners like Indonesia [selling 24 F-16 fighter jets], Malaysia, Singapore,
Vietnam, Cambodia, and of course India
-       Mr Obama became the first American president to attend the East Asia Summit at Bali, in order to curb the rising trade ties between East Asia and China
-        The main point of confrontation is the South China Sea
-       Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar and just prior to her arrival the Thein Sein regime suspended a China Power Investment-funded dam project. WilkiLeaks exposed that the “Burmese NGO’s which organized and led the campaign against the dam were heavily funded by the US government” (Financial Times, Dec. 2, 2011, p. 2).
-       America has placed a maritime and aerial armada facing the Chinese coast. Under a military agreement with Australia, Washington will send warships, warplanes and 2500 marines to the northern-most city of Darwin, directed at China.
-       Secretary of State Hillary Clinton devoted much of 2011 egging Vietnam, Philippines, and Brunei to escalate their maritime disputes with China.
-       America has strengthened military ties and sales with Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, and increased the presence of battleships, nuclear submarines and over flights of war planes along China’s coastal waters.
-       The White House is promoting a Trans-Pacific Partnership wherein Asian trade agreements will exclude China in favour of US multinational companies.
-       All moves seem designed to increase Chinese vulnerability in the global energy scenario – China’s domestic oil production is around 4 million barrels per day and it imports around 3.8 million barrels/day, which will rise of 11.6 million by 2035. Any instability on the sea lane from the Gulf, Africa and Latin America – where the US Navy patrols – will adversely affect its economy [despite pipelines from Kazakhstan and Russia]. As all oil tankers will have to cross the South China Sea, US activity in these waters can only enhance Chinese paranoia.

Vis-à-vis Russia-
-       US has moved forward missile sites and Air Force bases in Poland, Rumania, Turkey, Spain, Czech Republic and Bulgaria
-       Several missile loaded warships in Spain also encircle Russia
-       New all-out effort to secure and expand US military bases in Central Asia among former Soviet republics.
-       Washington, via NATO, has launched major economic and military operations against Russia’s major trading partners in North Africa and the Gulf. The NATO war against Libya has paralyzed or
nullified multi-billion dollar Russian oil and gas investments and arms sales
-       UN-NATO economic sanctions against Iran undermine Russia’s billion-dollar nuclear trade and joint oil ventures.
-       NATO + Turkey + Gulf monarchical dictatorships’ sanctions and funded terrorist assaults on Syria where Russia maintains its sole naval facility (Tartus) on the Mediterranean Sea

Vatican’s ‘peace’ diplomacy
On 27 October 2011, the Vatican invited over 200 spiritual leaders from all over the world, including Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Confucianists, Baha’i, Jews, Taoists and Zoroastrians to a multi-faith meeting to promote world peace. The Indian guests included Rajmohan Gandhi, which suggests that much of the guest list could have been cherry-picked by the Vatican rather than deputed by the different faith-denominations.

Pope Benedict XVI took his guests on a pilgrimage to Assisi (to the Basilica of St. Francis) on the occasion of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World. Recalling that 25 years ago [27 Oct. 1986], Pope John Paul II had invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace, the Pope observed that at that time, “the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall which traced the border between two worlds right through the heart of the city. In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. Suddenly the vast arsenals that stood behind the wall were no longer significant. They had lost their terror.”

Can anything be more political, specifically, can anything be more ideological, geopolitical, and outright imperialistic and militaristic? Is further proof needed that Vatican moves hand-in-hand with the Western Christian Colonial objectives?

Yet it all seems to have gone above the heads of the Indian members of the audience, for not one of them returned home to sound the alarm in concerned quarters that new methodologies of colonial conquest or subordination are being refined and will soon be unleashed on the non-Christian world.

Warning that the world remained even today full of discord, Pope Benedict said there were basically two new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of motivation. Firstly there is terrorism, which makes targeted attacks at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings.

If there was any doubt that Islam was the target of this homily, the Pope intoned gravely, “We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty that considers itself entitled to discard the rules of morality for the sake of the intended ‘good’. In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence.” He moved smoothly to put all the crimes of Christianity firmly in the past, ignoring the truth that they remain with us to this day – as witnessed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, now Syria, and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo which derive from Inquisition torture techniques + twenty-first century advances.

Cardinal Tauran in India
That India is central to the Western-Vatican new imperial quest is obvious – we are at the centre of the globe; our geo-strategic position is precisely what made us the Jewel in the British Crown.

Hence, close on the heels of the Assisi proclamation, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, landed in India in early November for inter-religious dialogue with various faith denominations. He swept his Indian audience off its feet by quoting the Vedas - ‘reality is one but wise men perceive it differently’. Continuing glibly, he said, “Every religion promotes peace. We know how much India needs peace and harmony and the world needs it too.”

What India does need is respite from the relentless intrusions of evangelists so that Indians may live in peace and harmony, as was their way until it was disrupted by the monotheistic invasions.

But the Hindu, Jain and Sikh dharma-gurus whom the Cardinal met in separate meetings in different parts of the country had no notion of the political or strategic threat posed by the Western Christian colonial edifice, and entertained the Crusader with pious homilies, little realizing that every time they spoke against ‘violence and terrorism in the name of religion’ they were specifically demonizing Islam in a manner conforming to Western wishes!

This is not to exonerate any of the crimes committed in this country in the name of Islam or jihad, or any other combination of anti-Hindu mischief – that is not the subject of this column.

The point being underlined is that none of the native Indian spiritual leaders who met Cardinal Tauran and got carried away by his smooth diplomacy would ever on their own volition make politically charged statements on terrorism, not even after heinous acts of terror such as Mumbai 2008. No Hindu religious leader chastised Congress leader Digvijay Singh when he went to Azamgarh, U.P., and blamed the Delhi Police for the Batla House encounter in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar area.

The broad national consensus in India is that politics and law and order are the realm of the State; religious leaders have generally refrained from taking public positions on such sensitive and explosive issues. Never have they tried to polarize communities, not even when minority clergy often push the envelop.

This is why non-minority dharma-gurus do not do advocacy of any political party during elections, and this is why politicians as a class do not seek their ‘blessings’ during elections (though individual politicians may be devotees).  

The bottomline is that Inter-Faith Dialogue is a deeply political business with a very political agenda. Hindu Civilisation does not have a global political agenda; hence there is no legitimate reason for Hindu/Indian dharma-gurus to engage in an exercise which can only weaken our defences and facilitate the siege of our own citadels.


The author is Editor,

Dec 25, 2011

India’s China Policy: Should It Be ‘Effective’ Or ‘Assertive’?

By Bhartendu Kumar Singh

Recently, the opposition members in the Parliament accused the government of going soft on a hitherto ‘assertive’ China and apprehended a looming attack in the near future. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s refutations notwithstanding, many political parties are out to make a killing by sensationalizing Sino-Indian relations. Only some time back, a Chief Minister spoke of the desirability of an assertive China policy. While it is good that many regional political parties have started speaking on foreign policy issues, it is however questionable whether roughing up China in public would serve India’s foreign policy objectives. Perhaps not!

It is indeed a fact that management of relations with China is one of the priorities for the Manmohan Singh-led Government. Over the period, his government has carefully crafted an engagement policy towards China that has seen opening up of exclusive lateral dialogue processes in economic and defence areas. If there are no immediate dividends, particularly on the border issue, it is not because the government is soft-pedaling the issue; rather, it is because the issues on the table are too sensitive to be resolved and warrant patience. Unfortunately, the Government has received little appreciation for its efforts despite a decent job being done by the Indian diplomats.

While it is true that India has some genuine security concerns vis-à-vis China and the protagonists of an assertive China policy in India are rightly agitated about it; raising a hue and cry and being critical to Government may not serve the purpose, more so, since some of them have either held responsible positions in past with the government or are still holding it. Views expressed by such senior public figures are liable to be taken seriously and reflect an artificial divide in India’s China policy. Not long back, China was dubbed as ‘enemy number One’ by a veteran politician, then in Government. It took extra amount of efforts by the then government to contain the damage.

An assertive China policy, as advocated by some in Parliament and elsewhere, could be damaging to India in many ways. First, it is likely to jeopardize the overall bilateral relations that are still in a transitional phase and are quite sensitive to mutual provocations. Only recently, China cancelled the border talks between the two countries as it was not happy about the invitation to the Dalai Lama to a Buddhist congregation in New Delhi. Second, it will further complicate the ‘security dilemma’ for India since China is way ahead in all indices of military power. The Chinese military consolidation near the LAC and elsewhere is complete whereas India has only recently woken up to the asymmetrical gap.

Third, China could also react by derailing other aspects of bilateral relations. The trade ties, supplemented by incremental development of autonomous societal relationships between the two countries could be endangered. Fourth, it might induce a competitive politics and rivalry between the two countries that are just expanding their feet in the new geopolitical tracts.

The demand for assertion comes at a time when the Prime Minister is leading the national campaign on ‘inclusive growth’ which if successful, can uplift a vast section of population above poverty line. This mission is very much akin to what Deng Xiaoping had aimed for China in late seventies under his ‘four modernizations’ programme. The 12th Five Year Plan, as approved recently by the National Development Council, adopts a ‘developmental approach’ through a liberal commitment of funds to rural and social sectors. India, at this stage, simply doesn’t have the resources to play the assertion game with China.

The ‘assertion’ school must, therefore, reconsider their position and instead help the policy makers in coming out with an ‘effective’ China policy that faces some handicaps. First, the burden of negotiation, even in non-strategic sectors, is only on government. Business and trade communities, as also other groups, have not taken many autonomous initiatives. Second, very little efforts have been made by China specialists and other strategic experts to provide policy feedbacks that could help the Government in exploring a resolution of the disputed border and other issues. Third, political parties that could have played catalysts in engendering public opinion about the contours of a possible border resolution have largely shied away since it could damage their electoral prospects.

India, undergoing a power transition process, needs an ‘effective’ China policy that could help it concentrate on larger issues affecting the comprehensive national power. Sustained engagement of China, therefore, needs to be the hallmark of Indian foreign policy. While this may not bring immediate resolution to many contentious issues, this is the only way of handling relations with China. India has an example how its diplomats negotiated with China that changed its stand on ‘Sikkim’ and started showing it as part of India in Chinese maps.

Restraint in verbal outburst, therefore, is the sin qua non of an effective policy towards China. Public figures have greater responsibility not to say things that could be misunderstood. We should let the diplomats do their work.

Bhartendu Kumar Singh
Indian Defence Accounts Service

The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India.

India, Japan to firm up strategic ties

By Sandeep Dikshit

Manmohan and Noda will review first-ever India-Japan-U.S. trilateral

India and Japan will firm up strategic ties during their summit meeting next week with a $4.5-billion grant for an ambitious infrastructure project, announcing Tokyo's participation in next year's India-U.S. naval exercises and holding talks on moving ahead with India-Japan-U.S. trilateral cooperation.

Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yushihiko Noda will review the first-ever India-Japan-U.S. trilateral which drew up an agenda “aimed at adding value to the existing bilateral relationships” for the next meeting in Tokyo next year, said government sources.

This strategic proximity will be reflected in Japan's participation in the next India-U.S. Malabar series of joint naval exercises off the Indian coast in April next year. Japan had participated in the 2007 and 2009 editions of Malabar exercises but could not do so this year because of the tsunami.

Talks will also be held on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation accord. Although Japan will shortly sign similar pacts with Russia, Jordan, Vietnam and South Korea, prospects of an accord with India, a non Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, sailing through the Japanese Diet are dim.

South Block feels there would be no problem in Japanese companies supplying components to French and U.S. civil nuclear companies despite the absence of an India-Japan civil nuclear agreement. “Our understanding is that an agreement is required for a comprehensive partnership. But individual items can be sold by Japanese companies [which have a near monopoly on reactor vessels and its parts] to companies such as Areva under a licence from the government,” said sources.

Discussion on rare earths will be held for the second summit meeting in a row. The decks have been cleared with the removal of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) from the Japanese End Users List in August this year. The Prime Ministers are likely to discuss this sensitive subject that entails a joint venture between IREL and Toyota Tsusho for a plant in Orissa. India stopped exporting rare earths seven years ago to stop depletion of mineral resources at a time when international prices were weak.

The summit meeting will give an impetus to the infrastructure sector with Mr. Noda likely to announce long-term Japanese financing for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Delhi has already set aside Rs. 17,500 crore for the project in addition to Rs. 5,500 crore for land acquisition.

India and Japan have already decided to complete the Delhi Freight Corridor (West), the main transportation artery along the DMIC, by the end of 2016.

At a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, the country's top industrialists had highlighted this problem of infrastructure bottlenecks which Japan has agreed to address. The Japanese financing commitment will come on top of the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), which at one stage was to be slashed due to Japan's focus on reconstruction after the tsunami and the nuclear reactor meltdown. While Japan reduced the ODA for several other countries, it took a strategic decision of pegging India's ODA at previous year's level, said officials.

The number of Japanese companies operating in India has risen from 725 last year to 850, a fraction of 10,000 Japanese companies operating in China.

But South Block is satisfied with this steady progress and hopes governmental support from both sides would encourage more Japanese companies to look at India for long-term investment.

The India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement went into effect from August 1 this year and officials say it is too early to analyse the trends.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Dec 24, 2011

Pakistan Afghanistan incidents pose threat of all-out war

By Ramtanu Maitra

Two major incidents in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the last two weeks have withered all hopes that the growing instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan can be contained. While the attack on two Pakistani military posts by NATO helicopters close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers, the killings of 60 Shi’a mourners on the holy day of Ashura (Dec. 5) in two Afghan mosques has raised the specter of a full-fledged and bloody sectarian and ethnic civil war in Afghanistan.

There is no question but that the British-Saudi nexus, aided by a warmongering Obama administration in the United States, through these two incidents have furthered efforts to spread the flames of violence in these two Muslim nations. What is most disturbing is the fact that Pakistan, a nation of 170 million, is fast becoming ungovernable, as its military, considered the only institution that could hold the country together, has weakened significantly, and is under serious attack from both Washington and Brussels (NATO).

The broader context of this attack, however, is not to be found within these countries, but in the crazed British-Obama drive for confrontation with Asia, the neighborhood in which Pakistan and Afghanistan live. Blowing up nations on the border of China is part and parcel of the provocations leading toward World War III.

The All-Out War Danger
The Afghanistan-Pakistan situation can no longer be identified as separate from what has happened in the recent days throughout Arabia and the Maghreb nations in northern Africa. These are all Muslim nations, and virtually all of them have been rendered unstable by a Saudi-Britain-France-United States-led policy of regime change through violent acts. The devastation within Iraq caused by the US invasion in 2003, backed by Britain and Saudi Arabia, has enraged a large section of the Muslim community, the vast majority of which is Shi’a.

The subsequent killing of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, and the spread of violent uprisings in Syria, backed again by the same forces, has deepened the chasm between the Sunnis and Shi’as. Now, Iran is in the crosshairs of the US-Britain-Saudi-Israel axis, and there are indications that a covert war to dislodge the Iranian regime is in progress. Under the circumstances, it would have been a Herculean task for the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan to restrain the reactionary forces within their countries from striking back at those who were aiding and abetting destabilization in the Muslim countries.

What has happened in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the last two weeks was a further deterioration of an already unstable situation; and there are reasons to believe that the US-Britain-Saudi-Israel axis is moving to spread the conflict throughout the vast area stretching from northern Africa to the borders of Russia, China, and India.

A day after the attack, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke to Russian and Chinese counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Yang Jiechi, to brief them on the “unprovoked” NATO/ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) attack on Pakistani territory. Khar underscored that in addition to being a gross violation of established international norms, such attacks pose a threat to regional peace and stability as well.

The Nov. 28 Lahore Daily Mail quoted the Russian foreign minister asserting that a nation’s sovereignty should always be upheld, even when hunting “terrorists.” “Leaders of NATO in Afghanistan should carry out a meticulous investigation into this incident,” Lavrov told Khar. A statement issued by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said, “The Russian foreign minister emphasized the unacceptability of violating the sovereignty of states, including during the planning and carrying out of counter-terrorist operations.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang expressed deep shock and concern over the incident, and extended condolences to the aggrieved families. He said Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity must be respected, and called for a thorough and serious investigation into the matter.

The Incident, according to Pakistani authorities
In the early morning hours of Nov. 26, two Pakistani military outposts, Vulcan and Boulder, in Mohmand Agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) came under attack from two or three NATO helicopters, resulting in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers, including two officers, while 15 others sustained injuries. Following the incident, Washington and Brussels claimed that the NATO helicopters encountered some fire, and that there was a breakdown of communication which led to the tragedy. However, no helicopter was downed, nor any NATO casualty reported.

Since the incident, Islamabad has maintained that the attack was a wanton act. Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem, briefing Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee on Defense Dec. 8, said the Nov. 26 attack on those outposts was a deliberate act and part of a “plot,” Dawn News reported. Briefing the group which met in Islamabad under the chairmanship of Javed Ashraf Qazi, Nadeem said the attack was conducted by US Special Forces, as NATO has no control over them in Afghanistan.

He said NATO officials deceived the Pakistani officer on duty at the coordination center by giving him wrong information about the location of the operation. The DGMO further said the attack was pre-planned, and was aimed to strengthen the Taliban, because the two military checkpoints attacked were built to curb militants’ infiltration, and had been serving the  purpose effectively. He also warned of more attacks, comments likely to fuel tension with the United States.

It is evident that neither Washington nor Brussels agree with Nadeem’s statement, but that is irrelevant at this point in time. The mood of the Pakistani citizens, except for perhaps a handful, has become virulently anti-US and anti-West. Following the incident, Pakistan took several retaliatory measures: The supply line through Pakistan that brings more than half of all lethal and non-lethal supplies to the 150,000-plus foreign troops fighting the insurgents in Afghanistan was cut off, and has remained closed at the time of writing. ISAF chief Gen. John Allen has claimed that the stoppage of supplies is not hurting the troops, and Islamabad has shown no intention to reopen the supply routes, posing worries in Washington.

Pakistan’s Retaliatory Measures
Following the attack on the military outposts, Pakistan gave a 15-day deadline for the United States to vacate the Shamsi air base, also known as the Bhandari Airstrip, a Pakistan Air Force-controlled airfield, located about 200 miles southwest of Quetta, and about 248 miles northwest of Gwadar in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Reports indicate that US forces have already moved out of the base, removing a drone in the last phase, and have informed Pakistani Air Traffic Control and Defense Ministry of their withdrawal. The United Arab Emirates government would take over the control of the airbase, news reports said.

In addition, the Pakistani Army is reportedly bolstering air defenses along its Afghan border, including deploying shoulder-to-air missiles, officials said this week - a move that could potentially threaten NATO jets in the border region. “Primarily, it will be early warning systems, but there will be certain weapons deployed in certain areas,” Pakistani military spokesman Brig. Gen. Azmat Ali said on Dec. 9, stressing that the move was defensive rather than offensive in nature.

“It became very embarrassing for our troops. They were killed like sitting ducks,” he said, adding that the decision had been taken in response to pressure from the troops themselves. “If there is another attack, they should have something to defend themselves.” Moreover, Pakistan boycotted the Dec. 5-6 conference at Bonn, Germany, called Bonn II, attended by over 1,000 delegates from some 110 nations and international organizations. The objective of the conference was to ensure international support for Afghanistan in the coming years to establish stability and an economic beginning. Not even the belated offer of condolences over the killing of Pakistani soldiers from US President Barack Obama to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari over that weekend sufficed to change Islamabad’s mind. As a result, two empty chairs represented Pakistan and the Taliban, perhaps the two most important elements in the so-called Afghan resolution, and those empty chairs announced loudly the non-event that Bonn II turned out to be.

Beyond the measures and counter-measures that followed the Nov. 26 incident, what the incident has further ensured is the weakening of Pakistan’s military. It is evident that the incident has made President Zardari a lame duck, and weakened the country’s feeble democratic institutions even further. But, its democratic institutions never played any role in stabilizing the nation whenever the country faced danger. It was always the Pakistani military which had moved in under crises to stop the rot, at least temporarily.

On earlier occasions, Washington had backed those military takeovers despite the fact that they had undermined democratic institutions—a bugaboo of the democracy-preaching Washington. The present situation, however, is entirely different. It is the United States working with NATO that has deliberately weakened the Pakistani military and through various actions made the country’s top military leaders look inept and inadequate. The mood inside Pakistan is dangerous, and many anti-West demonstrations are taking place, providing succor to the militants and the anti-West jihadis, controlled internationally, primarily from Britain and Saudi Arabia.

Cry ‘Havoc,’ and Let Slip the Dogs of War
On Dec. 5, the holiest day of the year for the Shi’as—the festival of Ashura in the sacred first month of Muharram in the Islamic calendar—a suicide bomber, who detonated explosives at the gate of the Abu-Ul Fazil shrine in the capital Kabul, killed at least 56 people; many of them were children.

In a separate attack, a bicycle bomb near a mosque in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif killed four worshippers, a district police chief said. The Taliban condemned the bomb attacks in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif as the brutal work of “enemies,” a spokesperson for the armed group said. “Very sadly we heard that there were explosions in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, where people were killed by the enemy’s un-Islamic and inhuman activity,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said, in a statement published on their website.

If the Taliban did not do it, who did this killing? Within the next 48 hours, a spin-off group of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Pakistani-based Sunni terrorist group, with close links to al-Qaeda, a Sunni-Deobandi terrorist outfit, almost indistinguishable from the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul. LeJ has been responsible for a series of sectarian attacks over the years in Pakistan that have taken lives of hundreds of Shi’ite Muslims. But the Pakistani government never took any serious action against it. Perhaps this monster, in its various forms, has become stronger than what the weakened Pakistan’s law-and-order forces can handle.

LeJ was formed in 1996 by a breakaway group of radical sectarian extremists of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a Sunni extremist group, which accused the parent organization of deviating from the ideals of its slain co-founder, Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. It is from Maulana Jhangvi that the LeJ derives its name. It was formed under the leadership of Akram Lahori and Riaz Basra. The LeJ is one of the two sectarian terrorist outfits proscribed on Aug. 14, 2001, by President Pervez Musharraf. LeJ, like the SSP, LeT, and scores of Sunni militant groups that thrive in Pakistan, are funded by Saudi Arabia, and controlled by their old master, British intelligence.

Following the Shi’a killings, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was in Europe at the time, hurried back to Kabul and pointed the finger at Pakistan. “Without any doubt, the enemies of Afghanistan are trying to separate the Afghan people,” Karzai said in a statement. He told the news media: “We will pursue this issue with Pakistan and its government very seriously. . . Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is based in Pakistan, therefore the government of Afghanistan, with all its strength and international support, will pursue this issue. Afghanistan cannot ignore the blood of its children.”

Four days later, on Dec. 9, another suicide bomber killed a district police chief from the restive eastern Kunar province, and at least five other people, in an attack at the gate of a mosque after Friday prayers, the provincial police commander reported. “The Ghaziabad police chief, a member of the national directorate of security, two policemen, and two civilians were killed. Nine have been wounded,” said Kunar provincial police chief Hewaz Mohammad Nazari. In a text message, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and claimed they killed the Ghaziabad police chief and six of his bodyguards. It was a claim that surprised many, since the Wahhabi version of Islam is at the core of the Taliban’s ideology, and they have in the past denied any role in attacks on religious sites in Afghanistan.

What that implies is that the sectarian killings, instigated and launched in Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria, by the British-Saudi forces in recent months, will now have a new theater—Afghanistan. It appears that the enemies of the Kabul government may be seeking to fracture the country along the sectarian fault line that exists between the Sunnis and Shi’as. A civilian advisor to former Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Andrew Exum, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, told the Associated Press: “One big worry over the past year has been that factions within Afghanistan have—independent of anything NATO has been doing—begun to prepare for another civil war in the aftermath of a NATO withdrawal.” “I see the attack simply hastening that process,” said Exum.

Analysts believe the regional players of old still have a stake in Afghanistan’s instability. Unity between Shi’as and Sunnis, and unity among ethnic groups and political factions, leaves no room for Iran or the British-Saudi forces to wield influence. And they are not the only ones who are getting ready. The future of Afghanistan is probably evolving up north now, as the Indians, Russians and Iranians are engaged with the Northern Alliance, which will wage a bloody battle if any effort is made in the future to seat any Sunni-religious group, the kind the Taliban were, in Kabul.

The Northern Alliance, with whom the US allied in 2001, is secretly arming once again, according to former anti-Taliban fighters interviewed in northern Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley. Their information was confirmed privately by a top US official, and reported in the media.

Ramtanu Maitra is South Asian Analyst at Executive Intelligence Review

Unrest In Buddha’s Homeland: The Curious Case Of Lumbini

By Pradeepa Viswanathan

Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha has of late received the attention it deserves but sadly for the wrong reasons. The spiritual significance of the site appears to be in conflict with the ‘Greater Lumbini Project’ which proposes to commercialize the place. Recent unrests have been witnessed by factions opposing such development. This article attempts to engage with the following questions: what factors have led to the unrest in Lumbini? What does Nepal plan to achieve by marketing Lumbini? Will this become a source of anxiety between Nepal’s two largest neighbours – India and China?

Lumbini is one of the four major Buddhist pilgrimages renowned in the Indian sub-continent (others include Sarnath (teaching), Bodh Gaya (enlightenment) and Kushinagar (death), all in India). In comparison to the other three sites, Lumbini has for long been in a desolate condition. Given the significance of the site, any effort to develop it should have been welcomed. However, recent plans of developing the site have been met with severe opposition from the Buddhist community in Nepal which resorted to staging of a peace rally and promulgation of the five-point demands.

Internal as well as external factors account for this. Internally speaking, the crucial factor behind the protests has been the involvement of former Prime Minister of Nepal – Pushpa Kamal Dahal – Prachanda as the coordinator of the Lumbini Development National Steering Committee. Given Prachanda’s credentials (he is believed to have indulged in a violent killing spree during the civil war period) and his being of Hindu faith, his association with the committee, has irked Buddhists in Nepal. Surprisingly, he is also the co-chairman of the Hong Kong based Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), the primary funding agency in Lumbini. Closely associated with this is the priority given by Prachanda during his premiership and after, to Lumbini’s development over Nepal’s peace process.

Second, is the demand of Buddhists against ‘the exploitation of religion for economic progress’ and in favour of the appointment of ‘stake holders’ and not ‘non-believers’ to manage development at Lumbini. This is given the religious sentiments attached, which has not permitted any commercialization within three sq kms area around the site till date. However, if the current plan comes into play, Lumbini shall house an international airport, tourist facilities, convention centre and a Buddhist university among others.

The external reasons building into the chaos are, first, the surfacing of APECF, a non-governmental organization as the major funder, which has pledged to pool in US$3 billion, into development activities. Doubts have been cast over APECF’s funding sources and its (un)apparent links to the communist party in Beijing. Second, is the declaration of an agreement signed between the APECF, UNIDO (United National Industrial Development Organization), Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and the Chinese Government, which if UNIDO and Nepal government sources are to be believed was never signed. Third, the involvement of Beijing, an ‘officially atheist state’ has also added to the chaos in Lumbini as well. It deserves mention here that the peace rally was taken out by the ‘indigenous Buddhists’ of Nepal and the unease with Beijing’s involvement does not have a political connotation to it.

Lumbini happens to be a major tourist destination in Nepal with a record 98,431 visitors (excluding Indians) as of October 2011. The declaration of 2012 as Visit Lumbini Year (VLY), the selection of peace ambassadors and the planning of international conferences in Buddha’s nativity reflects the enthusiasm with which Nepal is trying to market Lumbini. By projecting Lumbini as a ‘peace city’, Nepal can enhance its national pride, garner international support and at the same time boost government revenues, create jobs and improve infrastructure. No doubt, the kicking off the current plan has the potential to lift Nepal’s staggering economy.

In this author’s opinion then, it all comes down to selling it to the right investors as the required marketing has already been done – Lumbini features in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and continues to be addressed as the ‘Mecca of Buddhists’.

Both India and China, Nepal’s largest neighbours, have stakes in Lumbini. Chinese stakes revolve around the percentage of people of Buddhist faith in the country as well as the increase of these Buddhist tourists to Lumbini. For this reason, China has become more tolerant of Buddhism portraying itself as the supreme protector of the religion. Additionally, Chinese involvement in APECF’s affairs, the close relationship between Prachanda and Chinese Communist Party and the proposed railway line connecting Kerung Rasuwa with Lumbini, also signals a Chinese interest. Indian stakes in Lumbini are equally appealing. Lumbini is situated at merely eight kilometers from the Indo-Nepal border. There already exists an India-led Buddhist circuit to Lumbini, also covering Sarnath, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar. The fact of India being the ‘karmabhoomi’ of Buddha as against the ‘janmabhoomi’ has also added to India’s advantage. As such any intrusion into the area has the potential to generate anxiety in both countries.

In sum, Lumbini represents a complex interplay of religious sentiments and vested interests. However, plans to make Lumbini the ‘Mecca of the Buddhist world’ are far from actual realization given the politicization of the issue. Lumbini’s development can certainly be in the long term interest of the country provided there is more transparency and public participation in the project. To quote the Economist’, “if the would-be investors handle it better next time, such a huge project may seem irresistible.”

Courtesy: IPCS (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies)

Dec 23, 2011

If Kashmiri separatists hold anti-Indian demonstrations in Nepal?

5 Questions, Telegraph Nepal

The asked some Nepali brains on the possible reason for the cancellation of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to Nepal. Most of the experts took the matter as a calculated move of the Nepal Government to abort the visit. Below the response:

A failure of Nepali diplomacy
Professor Anand Srestha, (T. U Retd)

TGQ1: How do you look Professor at the last minute cancellation of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao Nepal visit? What may have been the reasons?
Anand Shrestha: As I see to it, the latest news about the postponement of the Chinese PM to Nepal could be for several reasons.

It could be for reasons of security, it could be a failure of Nepali diplomacy or it could be the disclosure of the Premier’s visit and the agenda associated with it being prematurely disclosed by the Nepalese government.

But looking at the recent political developments in the country, there could be another angle to the Chinese PM’s visit. The recent infighting within the Maoists party and with Gajurel’s latest statement that the Maoists party is on the verge of splitting and that only a formal announcement has to be made on the issue had sent shock waves among those that thought that the Maoists party wouldn’t split at any cost.

That the Baidya faction had taken up a strong stance against Prachanda and Baburam grouping had been aired over the media on several occasions. But the latest Baidya statement that he was not aware about Gajurel’s statement and that he did not know when and where he spoke on the matter as also made political thinkers and analysts wonder why such diverse statements have come from the Maoists hardliners.

In this case, Baidya statement that did a complete about turn from his previous statement comes as quite a shock. He suddenly talks of reconciliation and unity among the Maoist party. Does this statement of Baidya coming immediately as it does after the postponement of the Chinese PM’s visit have anything to do with the infighting within the Maoists party?

Has Baidya been indicated by the Chinese side that they are not happy with the disunity in the Maoists party?
Is this why the visit of the Premier has been postponed?

Is this why suddenly Baidya changed his previous hardline stance? 


Chinese PM pulled his visit because of wobbling Nepal Government

Narayan Manandhar, Governance expert

TGQ2: Why Chinese PM postponed his Nepal visit at the last minute?
N. Manandhar: To recall, about a week back, a seminar was held at Hotel Yak & Yeti wherein some Indian scholars, including S. D. Muni, had participated which was reported by the Telegraph Nepal.

Many observers in Kathmandu believe that the Indian scholars and some diplomats had come to Kathmandu in order to damage the very prospects of Chinese Prime Minister Nepal visit.

I personally believe that due to the weak position of Dr. Bhattarai’s wobbling government, the Chinese Prime Minister must have pulled his visit.

In addition to that, some diplomatic lapses, for example, the declaration of the dates of the visit and the agenda to be discussed during the negotiation issues at time of the visit, BIPPA and so many other aspects of the high level visit were disclosed in advance without having proper consultations with the Chinese authorities.

I don’t believe that the visit was simply cancelled on security grounds as is being given to understand.

May be the government in Nepal is counting its last breath.


Nepal’s lack of diplomatic sensitivity may have postponed Wen’s visit

Professor P. Kharel, Senior Journalist, President-Nepal Press Institute

TGQ3: Why the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao postponed his Nepal visit?
Prof. Kharel: Lack of diplomatic sensitivity on the part of the government of Nepal is the primary reason for the unusual last minute postponement of the Chinese Prime Minister.

The schedule of the visit, agendas and the likes are made public only in coordination and proper consultation of both the countries. Otherwise, background information is made available to the media only after a visit, especially when key issues are concerned so as not to rob a visit off any surprise or pleasant element.

In the case of Chinese Premiers’ visit, the Nepal government briefed the media prematurely. Secondly, Beijing is calculating the best time for such a high level visit at a time when the Nepali media and public speculation mill are speaking of a sweeping change in the government. This is a factor Beijing is weighing closely.


Nepal PM Bhattarai’s undiplomatic acts favored Indian regime

Professor Surendra K. C, History Department, T.U

TGQ4: Why Chinese Prime Minister preferred not to visit Nepal?
Prof. K. C: Firstly, the activities of Nepal Prime Minister Bhattarai were becoming loaded with suspense. What became abundantly clear is that Nepal PM Bhattarai prefers to misuse his diplomatic authority in favor of India’s political and economic adavantages. This became evidently clear.

Secondly, Prime Minister Bhattarai summarily ignored the diplomatic conduct and unilaterally disclosed the dates of the Chinese Prime Minister. Instantly after this disclosure, the Tibetan activities in Nepal attained a new height. Talks of self immolation too surfaced. Around the same time, the United States of America began pressurizing Nepal to provide Nepali Passports to the Nepal based Tibetan refugees or else, the US told that Nepal will have to face grave consequences. They even threatened that any rough attitude towards the Tibetan refugees taken by Nepal may force the US to withdraw its dollar support to Nepal. The Nepal government acquired a silent posture even when it was being threatened in such an insulting manner. The government exhibited its insensitivities even on such serious matters coming as it did from the US official quarters. Under the prevailing circumstances, the possibility of the visit of the Prime Minister of a nation- which is now a rising power was simply unimaginable. Thus what I presume is that it could have been these prime reasons which may have forced the Chinese Prime Minister to postpone his visit to Nepal. I mean it.

If I am allowed to talk on a personal level, then I had just said last week in a TV Channel interview that China PM’s Nepal visit was an impossible affair or at best Nepal PM Bhattarai will do all he can in order to downplay or even damage this high level visit from China. This was my comment made while being interviewed.

I feel comfortable now as what I had predicted in advance has come to true yet I feel somewhat disturbed because such a sad event has occurred which has undermined and even aborted the visit of a highly honorable friend from China. It pains me that PM Wen’s Nepal visit was dragged into an unwanted controversy.  This may have also to a greater extent dampened our ancient ties with the Northern neighbor China. We the unquestionable friends of China in Nepal remain in a mentally shocked state.


What if Kashmiri dissidents come Nepal and initiate anti-Indian demonstrations?

Deepak Gajurel, Political Scientist, TU

TGQ5: Why Chinese Premier's visit was cancelled? What say you Mr. Gajurel?
Deepak Gajurel: The visit was cancelled because of the following reasons:

One, undiplomatic behavior exhibited by Nepali Prime Minister and other ministers. While the schedule of the visit was not announced bilaterally in consultations, as per diplomatic norms and customs, the Nepali PM unilaterally declared the visit of Wen Jiabao. This must have been taken by Beijing as dishonor.

Second, Chinese were given to understand that the government in Nepal is not a stable one, and is about to collapse anytime soon. The coalition partners' untimely waywardness on issues of 'Sahamati' could not be taken by anyone as normal, especially when a high-profile friend is visiting your home country.

The third cause obviously is related with the Tibetan issue. There was a suspicion, rather somewhat confirmed signals that Tibetans residing in Nepal could hold anti-China demonstration during Jiabao visit in Kathmandu. In addition, the so called major parties could covertly encourage, the likelihood remained, and promote such anti-Chinese activities. We should not forget the activities of our 'leaders' in the past. Whom do you trust, when Nepali CA members from 'major parties' visit Dalai Lama for his 'blessings?'

Let me put a pinch of salt in this context. Just imagine, if Kashmiri dissidents come to Nepal as refugees and initiate anti-Indian demonstrations? What would be the Indian reactions, and what would be the reaction of the Western countries in that eventuality?

 It is strange that the Tibetans are not following the dharma of the guests by making host Nepal to be in a difficult and inconvenient position.

Fourth, but not the least, the feeling of inconvenience and discomfort from the South too could have played a role. The hasty actions for fulfilling their 'demands' from one quarter and abnormally widespread media coverage, both in Nepal and in India, of the volume and nature of possible 'aid' from China to Nepal, as propagated by our rulers could not be a mere coincidence.