Some Of China’s Neighbors Are Saying No Thanks To China’s Money

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘QUARTZ’ AND THE WEBSITE OF ANDY TAI)

((oped) TO SAY YES TO CHINA’S MONEY IS TO GIVE AWAY YOUR COUNTRY’S SOVEREIGNTY AND THE FREEDOM OF ALL OF YOUR PEOPLE!)(trs)

DAMMED IF YOU DO

More neighbors are saying “no thanks” to Chinese money—for now

December 04, 2017

There’s a learning curve to becoming a superpower, as China, having recently suffered setbacks with two of its neighbors, is learning.

Pakistan and Nepal, each involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure push, announced last month they would no longer seek Chinese funding for two large-scale developments. In mid-November, Pakistan said that China’s conditions for financing the long-delayed $14 billion Diamer-Basha dam on the Indus River—part of the roughly $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—”were not doable and against our interest,” including as it did China taking ownership of the entire project. Pakistan decided to go ahead with the dam, but to build it by itself.

Around the same time, Nepal decided to stop the $2.5 billion Budhi Gandaki hydropower plant from going forward in the hands of China Gezhouba Group, citing irregularities and the lack of a competitive bidding process. Last week, Nepal said that it would go ahead and build the dam itself, handing the 1,200-megawatt project over to the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority.

“Very early on the countries along the Belt and Road initiative were at first very excited and happy about Chinese investment,” said Christopher Balding, professor of economics at Peking University HSBC Business School. “But there have been significant changes: Countries now look at how China has behaved with Sri Lanka or with Mexico.”

China, with about 60 other nations, pursue ambitious plans to connect three continents with infrastructure investments.
An ambitious Belt and Road initiative. (Source: The Economist)

In Sri Lanka, the Hambantota port is now on a 99-year lease to China Merchants Port Holdings, which has a 70% stake in the venture. In 2015, Sri Lanka sought a review of how construction of the port had been awarded and halted its development. But in the face of economic and financing difficulties, it backtracked. With some $8 billion owed to China, thanks to loans taken to rebuild after its civil war, Colombo agreed to convert some of this debt into equity in projects.

Further afield, China has asked Mexico for a $600 million refund (link in Spanish) for the scrapping of a railway project.

While most countries along the Belt and Road initiative welcome foreign investment and assistance in building modern infrastructure, the pressure being exercised by Beijing doesn’t always go down well. Countries on the receiving end of Chinese cash are starting to realize that when all is done and dusted, the infrastructure that is built is likely to end up controlled by China.

A common pattern has been for China to sign controversial projects when a pro-China government is in place—as was the case with Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Hambantota port deal—only to see them revisited once less receptive administrations are in power. In Nepal, outgoing prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), signed a preliminary agreement for the dam in June, just days before he relinquished his post to the rival Nepali Congress as part of a pre-existing power-sharing agreement. Current deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa criticized and scrapped the project for not having gone through open bidding as required by law.

That said, China’s rise in Asia and the world is beyond dispute—and its might is likely to grow as it proceeds firmly with its Belt and Road initiative. And in several countries in Asia and elsewhere, particularly those facing global criticism on human rights or other issues, China’s infrastructure spending plans and hands-off stance on such touchy topics are likely to overcome any reservations toward the country.

Take the example of nearby Myanmar, which in 2011 saw the cancellation (paywall) of a major Chinese hydroelectric project in the face of environmental concerns. In the years since then, Myanmar has been on the receiving end of increasing international criticism due to its purges of the Muslim Rohingya minority. Criticism deepened this year after a particularly harsh pogrom in August saw more than half a million flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

In the same month that the nonprofit Fortify Rights and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum released a major report documenting killings and rape of Rohingya, and the US made the determination that the Myanmar military is carrying out “ethnic cleansing,” China proposed a Pakistan-like economic corridor crossing the country. China is already helping to build a $7 billion port in Rakhine, the western Myanmar state that has seen the worst of the violence. Last week, as Myanmar continued to face criticism over what many see as a flawed agreement with Bangladesh to accept the return of the Rohingya—one that China may have played a role in brokering—Aung San Suu Kyi was in Beijing for a conference of international political parties, and for more discussion on investment.

China can also take heart that the vagaries of electoral fortune in democracies can sometimes revive projects China wants to back. The fate of the Nepali dam, for example, could change yet again as the country holds parliamentary polls for the first time since the end of its civil war just over a decade ago. The final stage of voting will take place Dec. 7. The two main blocks contesting the elections represent a conflicting set of alliances, with one of them saying that it will, should it win, hand the project back to China.

How India and China Have Come to the Brink Over a Remote Mountain Pass

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

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On a remote pass through Himalayan peaks, China and India, two nuclear-armed nations, have come near the brink of conflict over an unpaved road. It is one of the worst border disputes between the regional rivals in more than 30 years.

The road stands on territory at the point where ChinaIndia and Bhutanmeet. The standoff began last month when Bhutan, a close ally of India, discovered Chinese workers trying to extend the road. India responded by sending troops and equipment to halt the construction. China, the more powerful of the two, angrily denounced the move and demanded that India pull back.

Now soldiers from the two powers are squaring off, separated by only a few hundred feet.

The conflict shows no sign of abating, and it reflects the swelling ambition — and nationalism — of both countries. Each is governed by a muscular leader eager to bolster his domestic standing while asserting his country’s place on the world stage as the United States recedes from a leading role.

Jeff M. Smith, a scholar at the American Foreign Policy Council who studies Indian-Chinese relations, said a negotiated settlement was the likeliest outcome. But asked whether he thought the standoff could spiral into war, he said, “Yes I do — and I don’t say that lightly.”

Both sides have taken hard-line positions that make it difficult to back down. “The messaging is eerily similar,” Mr. Smith said, to the countries’ 1962 slide into a war that was also over border disputes.

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Why the Territory Matters

On the surface, the dispute turns on whether the land belongs to China or Bhutan. It is only about 34 square miles, but it is pivotal in the growing competition between China and India over Asia’s future.

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The dispute dates to contradictory phrases in an 1890 border agreementbetween two now-defunct empires, British India and China’s Qing dynasty, that put the border in different places. One gives Bhutan control of the area — the position that India supports — and the other China.

“This comes down to both countries having a reasonable claim,” said Ankit Panda, a senior editor at The Diplomat, an Asian affairs journal.

Bhutan and India say that China, by extending its road, is trying to extend its control over an area known as the Dolam Plateau, part of a larger contested area.

The plateau’s southernmost ridge slopes into a valley that geographers call the Siliguri Corridor but that Indian strategists know as the Chicken Neck.

This narrow strip of Indian territory, at points less than 20 miles wide, connects the country’s central mass to its northeastern states. India has long feared that in a war, China could bisect the corridor, cutting off 45 million Indians and an area the size of the United Kingdom.

India’s Aggressive Response

Few countries have been eager to confront China’s regional ambitions as directly with military forces, which has made India’s response to the construction so striking and, according to analysts from both countries, so fraught with danger.

But in recent months, India’s leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has shown that he is willing to flout China’s wishes — and ignore its threats.

Photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and President Xi Jinping of China in Goa, India, in 2016. The border confrontation has soured relations. Both men attended the recent G-20 meeting in Germany but did not hold a one-on-one meeting that might have defused tensions. CreditManish Swarup/Associated Press

In April, a top Indian official accompanied the Dalai Lama to the border of Tibet, shrugging off China’s public insistence that the journey be halted. In May, India boycotted the inauguration of President Xi Jinping’s signature “One Belt, One Road” project, saying the plan ignored “core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The border skirmish arose even as Mr. Modi visited Washington to court President Trump’s favor as India vies with China for influence in Asia.

“I hope the Indian side knows what it’s doing, because the moment you put your hand in the hornet’s nest, you have to be prepared for whatever consequence there is going to be,” said Shiv Kunal Verma, the author of “1962: The War That Wasn’t,” about the bloody border conflict the two countries fought that year.

Chinese officials say the construction of the road was an internal affair because, they say, it took place within China’s own borders. On Tuesday, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, reiterated the country’s warning to India to withdraw as a precondition for any broader talks. “The solution to this issue is also very simple,” he said during a visit to Thailand, addressing the Indians directly. “That is, behave yourself and humbly retreat.”

Bhutan, Caught in the Middle

Photo

Indian migrant workers at a construction near Paro, Bhutan, last year. India contributes nearly $1 billion in economic and military aid to the country’s budget. At the same time, China has sought to woo it with offers of aid, investments and even land swaps to settle border disputes. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

Bhutan, which joined the United Nations in 1971, does not have diplomatic relations with China. It has always been closer to India, particularly after fears stemming from China’s annexation of Tibet, another Buddhist kingdom, in the middle of the 20th century.

Since then, India has played a central role in the kingdom’s administration, contributing nearly $1 billion in economic and military aid annually in recent years. China has sought to woo Bhutan with its own offers of aid, investments and land swaps to settle border disputes.

Two weeks after the construction began, Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it violated earlier agreements, and called for a return to the status quo.

“Bhutan has felt uncomfortable from the start,” said Ajai Shukla, a former army colonel and consulting editor for strategic affairs at Business Standard, a daily newspaper in India. “It does not want to be caught in the middle when China and India are taking potshots at each other. Bhutan does not want to be the bone in a fight between two dogs.”

Photo

Chinese and Indian soldiers at a border crossing between the two countries in India’s northeastern Sikkim state, in 2008.CreditDiptendu Dutta/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The confrontation, meantime, has soured already tense relations.

Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi both attended the recent Group of 20 meeting in Germany but did not hold a meeting, one on one, that might have defused tensions. India’s national security adviser is expected to attend a meeting in Beijing this week, which analysts say could signal whether any face-saving compromise is possible.

Mr. Xi is preparing for an important Communist Party congress in the fall that will inaugurate his second five-year term as president and consolidate his political pre-eminence. Given the unbending nature of Chinese statements, few analysts believe he would do anything that would seem weak in response to India’s moves.

“It may be harder to make concessions until after that gathering,” Shashank Joshi, an analyst at the Lowy Institute, wrote in an essay posted on Friday, “while it may even suit Beijing to keep the crisis simmering through this period.”

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This Is A Beautiful Article On And About Nepal, Please Give It A Moment Of Your Time

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘NOMADONROAD.COM’)

 

Tour of Nepal – Roof of the World

When You travel Solo , You never come back alone said everyone who travels Solo. Then came a point in my life where I decided to travel alone. My life was juggling so much between work and family and daily chores that I almost forgot the love, I had for traveling. That was the year of  2012, I was back then working with Oman Air – National Carrier of Oman posted in Muscat, Oman, I had to break the Monotony, Called my boss, took a leave for fortnight and packed my bags without the destination being decided… yes , that’s the truth…. It was that trip which was unplanned but guess what? The most amazing trips are the ones which are unplanned.

Always fascinated by the mountains, the hills and the simplicity of the people I chose Nepal to be my destination..
Yes, Nepal 🇳🇵 it was. I know almost everyone has spoken , written about this Country so yes I was lil reluctant in writing about the same place that must be the reason why I kept this on hold for quite a long – it is close to five years now. However I gave a thought the place may be same , but each and every one has their own share of story to tell us about . 

So here goes mine… I flew from Oman 🇴🇲 to Nepal 🇳🇵…, working with an Airline, it was quite advantageous for me to Travel as and when required – provided, I had a sufficient amount of leaves, the moment I landed in Kathmandu I knew that I wasn’t wrong about my destination – the freshness , beauty , warmth, it had everything.

Although I was alone as a traveler – “Nepal” never made me feel lonely and that was the beauty of that place. I had landed at Tribhuvan International Airport – Kathmandu on 25th November 2012, being Winter – temperature was around 2 degree celsius which is very cold when compared to Muscat, where I was posted, very soon I realized that I wasn’t prepared for this kind of weather.

I took an Airport Taxi from the Airport to Thamel – commercial neighborhood in Kathmandu where I thought of spending my Night for a day and figure out my travel plan – to explore Nepal. Soon after resting for a night at Kathmandu . I had to head towards the destination unknown. I knew I wasn’t there to explore the city because I want to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city where I was living . So yes I decided that my next destination to be Chitwan from Thamel, I radmonly chose the destination based on the distance, it was around 158 Kms from Thamel via E – W Hwy/AH2 and I had clearly decided on how I need to travel – Hire a Motorcycle. I had my Map ready – locations mapped – I also planned to spend some time at some of the pit stops which I had planned on the way to Chitwan – I had one more intention of speaking to the local population wherever I stop, by which I can have a direct connection and cultural experience with the locals.

I hired a motorcycle 🏍 Yamaha FZ Series from BS Motor Bike – Motorcycle rental agency in Kathmandu ( Thamel Rd Bhagawati, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal), they were very helpful and price of rentals were also quite economical, entire process just took less than 15 minutes and hit the road all by myself . Words wouldn’t be enough at all to express how i felt . Well, everything is so vivid even now. Honestly, I felt so liberated  riding a Motorcycle in an awesome weather, scenic hills, curvy roads along with pleasant sound of the motorcycle’s exhaust, light music on the ears – what else anybody can ask for 🙂 – I felt as if I was the most happiest person on the earth at that moment, I don’t know – that is one strange feeling I get whenever I saddle up on the Motorcycle – it is one of the greatest joys in life, I remember someone quoting that we should be okay with the emotional state “Motorcycle” puts you in.

On the way, I stopped by, to capture natures beauty through which I was travelling, this was only possible cause I was on a motorcycle, I could stop by most of the places as and when required.

 

 I reached Chitwan around 6:30 PM and I started searching for the accommodation for the night as I had no pre booking, finally I settled in a place called “Chitwan Jungle Lodge”,  the lodge was quite good and an excellent supportive staff, as soon I checked-in I booked my wildlife tour for the early morning slot. As I had nothing to do – night had settled in – had a big fat Dinner along with a Beer and headed to Bed.

As I mentioned before that I reached the place quite late at night, I had no idea of how the place looked like but When I woke up in the morning, I was taken aback by the beauty it had to offer, Chitwan was amazingly beautiful. I got ready for the Wildlife Safari and headed to see the Wildlife by around 8:00 AM, Interestingly I thought the Safari would be on Jeep or on forest department vehicle but it turned out to be on an Elephant back, actually it was my first ever wildlife tour on an Elephant back and for me it was quite an adventure – I got to see quite a number of animals such as rhinoceros, Deer, Samba, Leopard, Elephants, Crocodile etc. Here are some of the moments I could capture….

Considering Chitwan, place apt for relaxing, thought of staying overnight at Chitwan and plan for the next day travel, there were lot of shacks which served good Beer and food, I dropped by one of the shacks, picked up a beer and food and started planning for the next day, meanwhile the sun had started to set-in which added much more beauty to the place,  captured some beautiful pictures. By this time , my plan for the next day has been done – Plan was to travel to Pokhara…

After a very good sleep, I started my Journey to Pokhara, all saddled up on my motorcycle – left Chitwan at 6:00 am, I was very much excited to visit this new destination – Pokhara. Brief Background about Pokhara – Pokhara is a city on Phewa Lake, in central Nepal. It’s known as a gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular trail in the Himalayas. I reached Pokhara at around 1:30 pm, I stopped at very few places now, as I wanted to reach much before Sunset – as per my plan I just wanted to spend the night at Pokhara and didn’t want to extend my stay – as I had few leaves left – wanted to explore Kathmandu and rest of the place close by with the remaining days left. I wanted to return back to Pokhara in the future for the trekking expedition of the Annapurna circuit. I stayed at “Hotel Grand Holiday Pokhara“, it was quite a good place and was on my budget, had a splendid evening – again with a Beer, Gazing at the Lake – truly enjoying the moment – I find it very difficult in expressing a feeling you get when you watch the nature at its best, I could clearly see perfect view of the snow-capped Mountains, the lake and laid back life which I felt was perfect. 

As beautiful as the place is I must admit people here are equally beautiful . Always ready to help you , guide you and always wears that smile which comforted me as a traveler. After spending a wonderful night at Pokhara, I started my Journey back to Kathmandu – thought of staying in Kathmandu for a day, do some local shopping at Thamel – then very next day I had planned to head back to “Muscat, Oman” – My work place. I started early in the Morning – my usual time of 6:30 am from Pokhara, I was thinking I was headed in the right direction towards Kathmandu but I missed my route and went around 40Kms in the wrong route, that is when I met a group of young guys while asking for the right route, fortunately they told me that I was headed in the opposite direction and they too headed towards Kathmandu and they would accompany me until Kathmandu – this is what is the beauty of Traveling, you meet so many people you never end up being alone, two of these young guys became my close friends even till today while write this blog, they were Arjun Joshi & Santhosh Sen – both were studying their Engineering at Kathmandu. I followed them from this intersection until Kathmandu and by the time I reached Kathmandu we exchanged conversations about Nepal, People’s life style, Politics etc and we built that connect and became friends. we stopped midway a certain places to take some pictures – because pictures are very important at least for me  whenever you look at them it will take you back to the place & People – down the memory lane.

This Scenic beauty below is my – all time Favourite. This is between Pokhara and Kathmandu – Trishuli River, The Trishuli River- is a trans-boundary river and is one of the major tributaries of the Narayani River basin in central Nepal, It originates in Tibet Autonomous Region of China where it is called Kirong Tsangpo. The Trishuli is named after the trishula or trident of Shiva, a powerful god in the Hindu pantheon,There is a legend that says high in the Himalayas at Gosaikunda, Shiva drove his trident into the ground to create three springs – the source of the river and hence its name Trisuli. More than 60 per cent of the total drainage basin of the Trishuli lies in Tibet with about 9 per cent being covered by snow and glaciers

We reached “Thamel” around 4:30 PM, My New Friends Arjun and Santhosh dropped me until my Hotel at Thamel, but they decided stay back with me at the Hotel and they took me around Thamel – Places I never visited on my first day,  since I was taken around by the localities I got to taste the delicacies of the Country and I can vouch the food is one of the kind which one shouldn’t miss. I still don’t know what was in me these guys din want me to leave the next day , They promise to show me around the unexplored places and am a big fan of such unexplored places – so I agreed, I called up my office and extended my leaves for another 2 days and rescheduled my flight. we already made plans for the next day

  • visit Pashupathinath – one of the famous temple to the east of Kathmandu dedicated to the deity Pashupathi.
  • visit Bhaktapur Durbar Square – is the plaza in front of the royal palace of the old Bhaktapur Kingdom, again towards east of Kathmandu
  • visit Swayambhu –  is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu City

So the plan was made, so we decided that we visit Swayambu first since it was towards the west and other two places were towards the east. so early morning around 8:00 am we headed to swayambu – I had no idea as how Swayambu would be, it was so elegant – with structures of Amitabha Buddha, Padmasambhava & Avalokiteshvara – I have never seen such huge structures of Buddha – Must place to visit while in Kathmandu, here are some of the captures from this place.

After our Visit to Swayambu – we headed towards PashupathiNath, as mentioned before, it is one of the scaredHindu Shrine dedicated to Lord shiva, we got to see the temple complex and also in the vicinity of the temple we could see cremation going on, we could also see some of the sadhu‘s around considered to be the holy men – they live in isolation in the temples, you identify them with bright saffron-colored clothes as the one I could capture below 🙂

Since we were running out of time and we had to cover Bhaktapur, we set our next destination to Bhaktapur, by the time we reached Bhaktapur it was around 2:00 pm, Since i was taken around by locals I got to taste the delicacies of the country for Lunch and I can vouch the food is one of the kind which one shouldn’t miss. finally we entered Bhaktapur Durbar Complex – I was simply amazed by the Architecture and the size of the complex is quite huge, In General Bhaktapur is really Beautiful Old city and anyone would be definitely marveled by the architecture – if you are in kathmandu you should never miss to Visit Bhaktapur and one should definitely visit Shiva’s Cafe Corner you get to taste more authentic Nepalese dishes. Here are some of the sneak peek into the architectural landscape of Bhaktapur…

Finally we all three returned to Thamel and by the time we reached Thamel Sun has set it, we decided we hop in to some of the pubs and have some good time concluding the day, I got to taste Nepal’s Local Alchohol made of wheat and rice – one should try it while you are here, we did a certain bit of Pub hopping and I have to say that Thamel has of the best pubs, good taste of music, good crowd, well each place has its own charm.

Well, as they “All good things must come to an end “so did my one week of stay in Nepal came to an end. Next day i’d be on my flight back to Oman , I packed my bags and was ready to bid Goodbye to one the most amazing place I got to visit but what took me by surprise was these boys who compelled to come drop me to the airport.

I am not good at “Goodbyes” so I was so overwhelmed by their gesture so I could not deny the offer.
Like I mentioned in the beginning ” whoever travels alone never comes back alone” yes neither did I . Now I carried along some very good moments , some very good friends who I still keep in touch.

So , here it is my trip that liberated me , my soul…….

Some tips I would wish to provide if you plan to Visit Nepal:

  • Before traveling to any place, try to know about place, people and culture – this helps ( Google :))
  • Pack Lightly – carry what is required
  • Try and get bottled water wherever you go
  • While travelling on Motorcycle or in Buses and if the journey is quite a distance, try to drink less water or try to clear bowel before the journey, when I traveled there were quite less Pubic toilets (Most of them were squat Toilets), hence would request to keep this in mind.
  • Make sure to have enough Nepalese currency and make sure that they are exchanged before leaving Nepal, there are certain legalities related to carrying Nepal currency outside the country
  • Nepal uses 220 Volts, hence please make sure you carry the required adapter
  • Please limit the use of Plastic items.
  • Night life in most of the places close by 10 PM with certain exception in Thamel
  • You can plan most of Kathmandu and close-by places towards end of the Journey
  • If you are visiting Heritage places, please make sure that you budget for the Entry fee into the Heritage sites.
  • Should be aware of strike and Protests in Nepal which might cause local disruption to transport – hence you might need to account this.
  • I would not be able to provide any tips related to Trekking etc in the region since I have not done trekking as part of my journey in Nepal, I would again travel to Nepal in Jan 2018 to cover the trekking circuits – more info would follow then.

 

China’s tough stance on India dispute raising concern across Southeast Asia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST UNDER DIPLOMACY AND DEFENSE)

 

China’s tough stance on India dispute raising concern across Southeast Asia, analysts say

Beijing’s handling of protracted conflict in Himalayas has had a spillover effect in the region and fueled suspicion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 11:15pm
Catherine Wong

 

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The protracted border dispute between China and India in the Himalayas has created a “spillover effect” as China’s neighbours become unsettled by its tough handling of the escalating conflict between the two Asian giants, foreign policy experts have said.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart Smt. Sushma Swaraj are scheduled to attend the Asian foreign ministers’ meeting in Manila later this week. And while the North Korean nuclear crisis and South China Sea disputes are expected to dominate the meeting, analysts will also be keeping a close eye on how members of the 10-nation group interact with China and India.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations generally regards a robust Indian presence in the region as a useful deterrent against China, which has been increasingly assertive in its approach to handling territorial issues, as has been the case in the Himalayas.

China and India last week held their first substantial talks since the dispute broke out more than a month ago in the Dolklam region, where the pair shares a border with Bhutan. Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi met Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in Beijing, though neither showed any signs of backing down and tensions remain high.

Also last week, China’s defense ministry issued its strongest warning yet to India, with a spokesman saying Beijing had stepped up its deployment along the unmarked border and would protect its sovereignty “at all costs”.

Richard Javad Heydarian, a political scientist at the Manila-based De La Salle University, said the stand-off in Doklam had a “spillover effect” by fueling suspicion among countries that are caught in separate territorial disputes with China.

“People are asking, if China is really peaceful, why are there so many countries having disputes with China?” he said.

Such sentiment may create fertile ground for Southeast Asian countries to leverage China’s influence with engagement with India.

Vietnam’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Pham Binh Minh, has called on India to play a greater role in the region and to partner with Southeast Asian countries on strategic security and promoting freedom of navigation in South China Sea.

A few days after Minh spoke, Vietnam granted Indian Oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension on its plan to explore a Vietnamese oil block in an area of the South China Sea contested by China and Vietnam.

Analysts said recent developments have wide strategic implications – pointing to how Asia is increasingly defined by the China-India rivalry and the renewed tensions between the two Asian giants.

Nisha Desai Biswal, former US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, was quoted by Indian media PTI as saying that China needs to acknowledge that “there is growing strategic and security capability across Asia” and that “India is a force to be reckoned with”.

Wang Yi on Tuesday backed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s idea of forming joint energy ventures in the disputed South China Sea, warning that unilateral action could cause problems and damage both sides.

Duterte on Monday said a partner had been found to develop oil fields and exploration, and exploitation would restart this year.

However, analysts warn that India’s strong position in the standoff has strengthened the hawkish voices in the Philippines who seize opportunities to criticise Duterte’s détente policy towards China and “push forward the narrative that the Philippines needs to be careful on how to approach China and its territorial expansion”, Heydarian said.

Under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Act East” policy, India in recent years has formed strategic partnerships with Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and Northeast Asian countries including Japan and South Korea.

During the “India-Asian Delhi Dialogue IX” early this month, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi remained committed to enhancing maritime cooperation with Asian as well as upholding freedom of navigation and respect for international law in the region.

Heydarian suggests that India’s upgrading of its strategic partnership with Asian and increasing its strategic presence in the South China Sea could be a way of pushing back against China.

Even a non-claimant Southeast Asian state such as Thailand “would see the benefit of China being challenged in the South Asia theatre”, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an international relations scholar at Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University.

“India’s standing up to China can only be a boon for Southeast Asian countries even when they don’t say so openly,” he said, “Any major power keeping China in check can only yield geopolitical benefits to Southeast Asia as the region is wary of China’s growing assertiveness.”

But Pongsudhirak also said that India, a “latecomer to Southeast Asia’s geopolitics”, still lacks strategic depth in terms of military reach and economic wherewithal. “But in combination with other middle powers like Japan, India can have a significant impact in Southeast Asia’s power dynamics,” he said.

Despite Southeast Asian countries’ welcoming attitude, India has remained cautious towards more strongly engaging with the region, observers said.

“Southeast Asia is a natural extension of India’s security horizons in light of its growth as a regional power,” said Rajesh Manohar Basrur, a South Asia specialist with Nanyang Technological University.

Basrur said that while competition with China is a major driver of India’s engagement with Southeast Asia, India’s commitment to the region remains limited with measures amounting to no more than “symbolic acts such as military exercises, [to] generate a strategic environment aimed at building up political-psychological pressure on [China].”

Sourabh Gupta, a senior specialist at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington, said that as India tries to limit fallout from its Doklam intervention, it will not want to expand the theatre of conflict or widen the geography of competition in the short-term.

“But I can foresee India making a qualitatively greater effort, albeit quietly, to build up Vietnam’s naval and law enforcement capacity to confront and deter Chinese assertiveness,” he said.

Gupta also warned that the situation in the South China Sea could lapse into even further conflict.

“India and China have a fairly rich menu of boundary management protocols which effectively translate into engagements between very lightly armed personnel from either side when a standoff breaks out,” he said.

“That is different from the situation in the South and East China Sea where engagement protocols are still very rudimentary and could see sharp Escalator spirals.”

China Has No Legal Right To Its Land Grabs In Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim-Bhutan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

China can’t find a single post-1962 document to support its Bhutan border claim

24 mins ago Quartz India

Back in the 1950s, Chinese troops marched in and took control of Tibet in what the then newly founded Communist government called a “peaceful liberation.” After an uprising against the Communist rule was thwarted, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader, fled into exile in India, where he lives to the present day.

Tensions between India and China rose after the Tibet episode, culminating in a war over the border in 1962, which ended in India’s defeat. Days of clashes also took place in 1967. Since then, although border incursions still occur from time to time, the two Asian giants have mostly showed military restraint and engaged in diplomatic solutions to settle border disputes.

Suddenly now, India and China seem to be on the brink of a war.

For over a month, the two nations have been involved in a stand-off in the Doklam plateau, which is currently disputed between China and Bhutan, a close Indian ally. The plateau, also known as Donglang in Chinese, lies at the junction of India, Bhutan, and China, near the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim. Doklam is strategically importantdue to its adjacency to the Siliguri Corridor, the so-called “chicken’s neck” connecting India’s seven northeastern states to its mainland.

Doklam map - quartz via Google Maps
(via Google Maps)

The stand-off began in June when India opposed China’s attempt to build a road over the Doklam plains. Delhi says it intervened on behalf of Bhutan, while Beijing accuses India of trespassing in its territory. Bhutan, for its part, says China’s road-building is a violation of a 1998 agreement that calls on both sides to maintain the status quo in the contested area.

From Beijing’s perspective, its claim to the Doklam region is well supported by a series of documents, which the Chinese foreign ministry has been citing in press conferences in the past few days. All of the documents, though, date back to the years before the 1962 India-China War—and at least some of Beijing’s interpretations of them could be misleading.

The Sino-British convention in 1890

In a regular briefing on June 29, the Chinese foreign ministry pointed to an 1890 border agreement between Britain and China for the first time to support its Doklam claim. Article I of the Sikkim-Tibet Convention, signed on March 17, 1890, by Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, then British Viceroy of India, and Sheng Tai, the Qing dynasty’s “Imperial Associate Resident” in Tibet, states:

The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. The line commences at Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nipal territory.

Citing this text, Doklam falls to the Chinese side of the water-parting, said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, who then displayed a photo allegedly showing that a group of Indian soldiers and vehicles had overstepped the crest into Chinese territory on June 18.

The next day, Lu added some human context to the territorial claim. He said: “Before the 1960s, if border inhabitants of Bhutan wanted to herd in Doklam, they needed the consent of the Chinese side and had to pay the grass tax to China. Nowadays the Tibet Archives still retain some receipts of the grass tax.”

Nehru’s letters in 1959

Beijing went on to state that leaders of independent India endorsed the British-era territorial understanding. On July 3, spokesman Geng Shuang pointed to two 1959 letters from then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai regarding Sikkim’s border with China. “There is no dispute over the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet, China,” Geng quoted Nehru as saying in one letter written on Sept. 26, 1959.

But Nehru’s letter seems not to refer to the Sikkim-Bhutan stretch that is in dispute today. According to the Hindustan Times, which has viewed the Sept. 26 letter, Nehru wrote:

This Convention of 1890 also defined the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet; and the boundary was later, in 1895, demarcated. There is thus no dispute regarding the boundary of Sikkim with the Tibet region. This clearly refers to northern Sikkim and not to the tri-junction which needed to be discussed with Bhutan and Sikkim and which is today the contentious area. And once more, let us not forget that the 1890 Treaty was an unequal treaty as Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan were not involved.

The term “unequal treaty” is often used by China to refer to treaties in its own history with Western powers.

The Hindustan Times also reported that, in the same letter, Nehru said that “Chinese maps show sizeable areas of Bhutan as part of Tibet,” and that “the rectification of errors in Chinese maps regarding the boundary of Bhutan with Tibet is therefore a matter which has to be discussed along with the boundary of India with the Tibet region of China in the same sector.” One journalist referred these lines to Geng on July 5, and the spokesman said he would need to verify them.

A 1960 note from India’s embassy in China

The same day, Geng offered additional material to support Beijing’s assertion that India recognizes the 1890 treaty:

In the note it sent to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 12, 1960, the Indian Embassy in China said, “the Government of India welcomes the explanation given in the Chinese note relating to the boundary with Sikkim and Bhutan on the one side and Tibet on the other. The note states that the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet of China has long been formally delimited, and that there is neither any discrepancy on the maps nor dispute in practice. The Government of India would like to add that this boundary has also been demarcated on the ground.” These contents in that note were all written down in black and white.

Geng did not clarify whether that was the full text of the note.

Over China’s many briefings on this issue, the note above has been the most recent document it cited in support of the idea that India has acknowledged China’s Doklam/Donglang jurisdiction. That might be because relations were frosty for decades after the 1962 war.

It was only after then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi paid a visit to China in 1988 that the two nations started their formal boundary talks in recent history, and then signed a series of border agreements. Some of the most contentious issues between them are still pending resolution.

“Do you have any post-1962 document which proves that India recognizes Doklam as part of China’s territory?” one journalist asked Geng during the July 5 briefing. The spokesman dodged the question.

China Is The First Country To Offer Assistance To Nepal With Election Equipment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

As Nepal steps up efforts to hold polls to local government bodies on May 14 in the face of opposition from the Madhesi Morcha, China has become the first country to offer assistance for the elections.India, which has been pushing for all stakeholders to join the electoral process, is still silent on offering any kind of assistance despite several requests from the Nepalese side.

Besides monetary support of nine million Yuan announced during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s recent visit to China, a tranche of election-related materials arrived in Kathmandu from Beijing on Monday.

Chinese ambassador Yu Hong handed over election-related materials, including pens, stamp pads, rubber stamps, calculators, scales, punching machines and table watches, during a function in Kathmandu.

Nepal has also purchased 30,000 ballot boxes from China that are set to arrive in Kathmandu in a day or two, the Election Commission of Nepal said.

Read more

The Election Commission said it requires 67 types of election-related materials to conduct the polls. It identified India, China and the UNDP as major sources for these items.

“Nepal had requested for around 1,000 vehicles of various types from India but we are not sure whether we are getting them or not,” said a senior Nepal government official who did not want to be named.

According to officials, the election commission had requested India to provide vehicles and the special ink used to mark the fingers of voters after they cast their ballots. It had sought 11 cars, 35 double cabin pick-up vans, a mini bus, a micro bus, 30 motorcycles and seven scooters.

Officials of the election commission and the home ministry said there had been no confirmation from India on whether it would provide the assistance sought by Nepal.

During the second Constituent Assembly elections in 2013, India had provided 750 vehicles and other election-related materials.

Nepal Government Trying To Curb Alcohol Abuse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

The Nepal government has approved a stringent policy to regulate the sale of alcohol, including mandatory pictorial health warnings and an age bar for buying liquor, sparking a debate in the country.The National Policy on Regulation and Control of Alcohol 2017, cleared by the cabinet on February 20, will now be sent to Parliament for its endorsement. Under it, Nepal will adopt a zero-tolerance policy against drinking alcohol in public functions, weddings and other social and cultural events.

The policy requires producers to mandatory display a pictorial warning depicting liver cirrhosis and effects on other organs that will have to cover 75% of the packaging of alcoholic beverages.

Nepal will be first country to introduce such a warning for alcohol.

People below the age of 21 and pregnant women will be restricted from purchasing and consuming alcohol. Alcohol will no longer be served at government-sponsored events and it will not be sold at public places such as heritage sites and sports complexes. There will also be a total ban on alcohol advertisements.

The policy will also decrease the availability of alcohol by restricting sales to specially licensed shops for certain hours. Sales will be prohibited from 5 am to 7 pm, and every person will be able to buy only one litre a day.

The health ministry said it was forced to impose such restrictions because of health problems caused by excessive drinking, but there have been calls that the social and religious aspects of consuming alcohol should not be overlooked.

Selling alcohol is not perceived as a mere business in Nepal, as liquor forms an intrinsic part of religious functions for many ethnic communities.

Though the policy has been cautiously welcomed by various stakeholders, some have questioned how it will be implemented, given the country’s weak administrative structure, and how the market will respond. Others have noted the policy is silent on controlling moonshine, the sale of which is rampant in the countryside.

The health ministry has proposed a new mechanism to monitor the policy’s implementation and to take legal action against violators.

The multi-billion rupee liquor industry is in a dilemma as it cannot be seen as opposing a “noble cause” taken up by the government, a senior industrialist told Hindustan Times. The industry will wait till the policy is fully implemented before coming up a reaction, he said.

The tourism industry will back the move, said Biplav Poudel, who runs luxury hotels in Pokhara and Chitwan. He told Hindustan Times that the measures would not affect tourism as almost all tourists drink inside their hotels and not in public places.

The policy also includes income generation programmes and alternative employment opportunities to discourage the production and sale of domestic liquor.

But Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, a prominent rights activist, gave the example of Andhra Pradesh in India, which lifted a ban on alcohol in 1997 after enforcing prohibition for two years. “Such measures are not successful due to leakages within the state and from across borders and this is a lesson for Nepal,” he said.

Unlike in India, selling and consuming alcohol is not restricted in Nepal and experts say this has contributed to health problems. A WHO report of 2014 said around 50 people die of alcohol abuse in Nepal, while the health ministry has estimated 17.8% of the population of nearly 27 million drink every day.

Nepal banned drink-driving in 2012 to reduce road accidents and the move was widely successful.

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After 1962 war, CIA feared China could attack India through Nepal, Myanmar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

After 1962 war, CIA feared China could attack India through Nepal, Myanmar

INDIA Updated: Jan 26, 2017 23:01 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Highlight Story

File photo of Indian and Chinese soldiers during the 1962 War.(Archives)

Months after the brief but bloody India-China border war of 1962, American intelligence were worried about the possibility of further strikes by Chinese troops through Tibet, Myanmar and even Nepal and Bhutan.After a string of skirmishes along the disputed frontier led to a spike in tensions, Chinese troops mounted an offensive in October 1962 and advanced into Ladakh and the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA, now the state of Arunachal Pradesh). A month later, China announced a unilateral truce and withdrew its troops.

By January 1963, wary US intelligence officials began studying the possibility of China “giving the Indians another black eye”, according to declassified documents recently posted on the Central Intelligence Agency’s website.

The CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and United States Intelligence Board conducted several assessments over a period of months, including possible attacks through neighbouring countries. They estimated the Chinese could mobilise a little more than 120,000 troops for such attacks and also assessed the air threat to India.

A DIA document, titled “The Chinese Communist ground threat to India”, drawn up less than six months after the 1962 war, concluded China had the capability to carry out attacks in Ladakh, through border passes between Ladakh and Nepal, across eastern Bhutan and NEFA into Assam.

“It is estimated that the Chinese could support indefinitely operations in Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan and eastern NEFA,” the document stated.

Among the military objectives of such attacks would be extending Chinese control to the town of Leh, seizing the territorial claim north of Joshimath, the “eventual occupation” of Nepal to forestall Indian intervention and the “effective occupation” of NEFA and the part of Assam north of the Brahmaputra river. The occupation of Assam, the DIA estimated, would require a “strong and permanent lodgement” in the Guwahati area.

Both the CIA and DIA concluded that Chinese advances would be impeded by Beijing’s lack of logistics capabilities and the weather.

A May 1963 top secret memorandum from the CIA and USIB concluded the “government of Burma (now Myanmar) would not resist the movement of Chinese troops” for a possible attack on India and would even “acquiesce” in the use of Burmese transportation facilities and airfields.

Both the CIA and DIA believed a possible Chinese attack through Burma would be mounted through two routes – the Kunming-Dibrugarh road via Ledo and the Kunming-Tezpur road via Mandalay and Imphal.

However, the CIA concluded that China posed only a “limited air threat” to India because of the weakness in “equipment and combat proficiency” of the air force and the lack of adequate bases in the Himalayan region.

Almost a year after the 1962 war, CIA deputy director Ray Cline informed McGeorge Bundy, special assistant to President John F Kennedy, that there were “several reasons to be concerned about the possibility of a Chinese Communist attack on the Sino-Indian border”.

China had about 120,000 troops in Tibet “capable of launching an attack on the scale of last fall with little or no warning” and Beijing “may have a political or psychological urge to demonstrate…their lack of fear of their enemies by giving the Indians another black eye right in front of both the Russians and Americans”, Bundy wrote.

To read more stories on the CIA files, click here

U.S. Court Proves If U.S. Company Is Many Worth Billions: Human Trafficking Is Okay?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

KBR defeats appeal in U.S. over Nepal, Iraq trafficking claims

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday refused to hold KBR Inc (KBR.N) liable for alleged human trafficking, in connection with the 2004 kidnapping and murder by insurgents of 12 Nepali men being transported in Iraq to work for a subcontractor at a U.S. military base.

By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a lower court judge’s 2014 dismissal of civil claims against KBR, an engineering firm and military contractor sometimes known as Kellogg Brown & Root, by surviving family members and a Nepali worker who was not captured.

Circuit Judge Edward Prado said dismissal was proper because KBR’s alleged misconduct lacked a sufficient connection with the United States to justify letting the lawsuit proceed there.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In their 2008 lawsuit, the plaintiffs accused Houston-based KBR and its Jordanian subcontractor Daoud & Partners of recruiting victims in Nepal by promising them jobs at a luxury hotel in Amman, only to send them to Iraq instead.

The surviving worker said he was forced to work at the Al Asad base north of Ramadi, Iraq for 15 months before getting his passport back.

Daoud eventually settled.

Prado rejected claims that KBR’s alleged misconduct could be deemed “domestic” under the federal Alien Tort Statute, which is often invoked in human rights cases, because Al Asad fell under U.S. control, KBR conducted financial transactions through U.S. banks, and U.S.-based workers may have known of alleged abuses.

“All the conduct comprising the alleged international law violations occurred in a foreign country,” wrote Prado, who also rejected claims under a federal anti-trafficking law.

Circuit Judge James Graves dissented. He found “much to support” the conclusion that claims over whether KBR engaged in human trafficking to fulfill its U.S. government contract to provide labor at Al Asad “touch and concern” the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the reach of the Alien Tort Statute in 2013.

Geoffrey Harrison, a partner at Susman Godfrey representing KBR, said he was pleased with Tuesday’s decision, and that “the court of appeals got it right.”

The case is Adhikari et al v. Kellogg Brown & Root Inc et al, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-20225.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

5.5 EARTHQUAKE SHAKES NEPAL

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS PAPER)

The epicentre was located at Solukhumbu district near the Mount Everest region, around 150 km east of Kathmandu. (USGS)

A moderate intensity earthquake of 5.5 magnitude shook Nepal early on Monday morning.

According to the National Centre for Seismology under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the quake occurred at 5.05 am at a depth of 10 km.

Earthquake of Magnitude:5.5, Occurred on:28-11-2016, 05:05:21 IST, Lat:27.7 N & Long: 86.4 E, Depth: 10 Km, Region: Nepal

The epicentre was located at Solukhumbu district near the Mount Everest region, around 150 km east of Kathmandu, Nepal’s National Seismological Center said. It recorded the intensity of the quake at 5.6.

This was the 475th aftershock, of magnitude 4 and above, of the devastating April 2015 temblor in the quake-prone Himalayan country.

There was no immediate report of any damage or casualty.

The earthquake was also felt in Kathmandu and other parts of central and Eastern Nepal.