In weaving India and Israel together, challenges loom

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In weaving India and Israel together, challenges loom

Officials see plenty of potential for closer ties both in trade and on the strategic front, but getting there may be more complex than Netanyahu’s whirlwind tour of India suggests

Joshua Davidovich

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, uses a spinning wheel as his wife Sara Netanyahu, center, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi look on during a visit to Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on January 17, 2018. AFP/SAM PANTHAKY)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, uses a spinning wheel as his wife Sara Netanyahu, center, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi look on during a visit to Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on January 17, 2018. AFP/SAM PANTHAKY)

MUMBAI, India — Mumbai’s Gateway of India, a hulking structure looking out over the city’s harbor, was built to commemorate the landing of British King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.

The royal couple never actually got to see the structure, which was only finished in 1924, but it remains to this day as a reminder of the city’s colonial past and as a testament to the grandeur with which rulers were once greeted.

Over 100 years later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a quick whirl around the site just before heading to the airport after five days in India during which he was afforded a welcome seen by some as almost as impressive as the building of the massive gate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are greeted by Indian dancers at the airport in Mumbai, India, on January 17, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Unlike the gateway, remnants of Netanyahu’s visit — the Israeli flags the kids waved, and the giant billboards of the Israeli leader gracing every city he visited — will quickly fade. What’s more important, though, is whether the relationship spotlighted by the carefully choreographed displays can withstand the many external pressures bearing on it.

As it stands, the Israel-India trade relationship is estimated to be less than $5 billion and most of the commerce is in diamonds and arms, with official Indian figures putting the number at just under $3 billion, making Israel its 39th-largest trading partner. By contrast, India trades over $7.2 billion annually with Iran. But what officials on both sides see is potential, both for more trade and a closer strategic relationship, and the rub may be getting both to work together.

The stated goal of the trip Netanyahu and over a hundred businesspeople took to India was to diversify and expand business ties and highlight what is seen as an already growing diplomatic relationship. “The sky is the limit,” Netanyahu said on more than one occasion, a sentiment echoed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who accompanied Netanyahu on several legs of the visit, including to his home state of Gujarat.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center and his wife Sara arriving in Ahmadebad, India on January 17, 2018. GPO)

At event after event, officials played up the closeness of the Indian-Israel relationship, the kinship between the countries and the fact that “both of us are surrounded by enemies.” The amalgamation of Israeli tech and Indian creativity was another theme voiced repeatedly during the visit, as Netanyahu met with officials, business leaders, young entrepreneurs and farmers helped by Israeli aid.

But while optimism was omnipresent, there were also signs that the countries did not see eye-to-eye on everything relating to both trade and any strategic/security relationship.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for photographers after the Israeli leader arrived at the Air Force Station in New Delhi January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)

As the country with the second-largest Muslim population in the world, and with a long-trained relationship with Israel and continuing strong trade ties with Iran, India’s supposed love affair with Israel is more complex than the Netanyahu-Modi bromance on display would indicate.

At a joint statement following an official sit-down, neither premier mentioned the Palestinians, with Modi even saying that the land Indian soldiers helped liberate in World War I was “Israel.” (It may have been a slip of the tongue, but Netanyahu followed his lead, saying they had liberated “Israel, the land of Israel.”)

But on Thursday morning, just hours after Modi paid his last farewell to Netanyahu, news leaked out of the Indian leader’s plans to visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a matter of weeks.

Just weeks before Netanyahu’s trip, India backed a UN resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though both countries insisted that the vote would not affect ties.

Modi’s visit to Israel in July, the first ever by an Indian prime minister, did not include a visit to Ramallah. In somewhat similar fashion, Netanyahu’s visit, only the second by an Israeli prime minister after Ariel Sharon’s short and ill-fated jaunt in 2003 — he had to return home to deal with a terrorist attack — didn’t include a meeting with opposition leader Rahul Ghandi of the left-leaning Congress Party.

India’s opposition Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi, center, is presented with a garland, during a meeting in Ahmadabad, India, December 23, 2017. (AP/Ajit Solanki)

While Ghandi’s faction had for years blocked ties with Israel and led the anti-Israel bloc at the United Nations, it did maintain mostly positive ties with Israel in the government led by Manmohan Singh preceding Modi’s rise to power in 2014, making the omission all the stranger.

The lack of a Netanyahu-Gandhi meeting and the fact that the prime minister only visited states ruled by Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party, even avoiding business hub Bangalore despite the trade orientation of the trip, raised questions as to whether the positive ties forged between Israel and India under Modi would survive his eventual fall from power.

“Confining Netanyahu’s itinerary only to BJP-ruled states is a short-sighted move,” Jawaharlal Nehru University prof. P. R. Kumaraswamy wrote in The Indian Express daily. “Since relations were established by Congress Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, consensus building has been the hallmark of Indo-Israeli relations.”

Strategic relationships could also be hampered by a reluctance to take a stand against each others’ enemies. Despite Israel’s push to isolate Iran over its nuclear program, Tehran and Delhi maintain a close trading partnership, especially in oil, a relationship Delhi is unlikely to give up without more incentive than a few water purification plants.

A cartoon in the Hindustan Times on January 16, 2018. Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

On the other side, Israeli officials indicated they had no interest in trying to join India in pushing back against Pakistan and China. A cartoon in a popular newspaper during the visit showed Netanyahu and Modi piloting a drone as Pakistan and China cowered in fear, but Israeli officials insisted it was not representative of reality.

“It’s not a zero-sum game,” one Israeli official said, regarding balancing ties with India and ties with China (Israel has no relations with Pakistan).

However, an Indian official noted that the relationship could be affected if Israel’s ties to China moved from the economic to the strategic, with India viewing China — with which it fought and lost a bitter border war in the 1960s — as a major threat.

Arun Singh, a former Indian ambassador to Israel, wrote during Netanyahu’s trip that Jerusalem’s willingness to keep a door open to forging ties with Pakistan and improving ties with China could put a damper on improving the India-Israel relationship.

“There are limits on convergence of interests, as is inevitable between any two countries, especially those with differing histories and dissimilarities in their geopolitical challenges,” he wrote on the Indian website The Print. “We should unhesitatingly consolidate our bilateral relationship with Israel, where it serves our national interest. But we should also remain mindful of limits of the convergences. Israel’s approach to China, Iran and Pakistan are indicative.”

Speaking to reporters during the trip, Netanyahu said he “understood sensitivities” surrounding building of ties with Delhi while both were unaligned on other geopolitical matters.

“Improving ties is not meant to be against any specific country,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara pose for a photograph at the Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra on January 16, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / STR)

But trade and politics are often intertwined, as evidenced by the desire for a direct flight between Delhi and Tel Aviv over Saudi Arabia, which became a major theme of the trip.

Amid reports of talks over brokering such a route for Air India, Netanyahu at a business forum called for a “simple, direct flight.” Later that day, an Indian food exporter confirmed that the lack of such a flight was hurting business ties.

Politics also seeped into Israel’s bid to boost tourism by attracting a Bollywood film, highlighting the potential pitfalls of developing a larger business relationship in any sector. According to reports, a trio of top Muslim Bollywood stars, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, and Shah Rukh Khan, known as “the Khans of Bollywood,” boycotted a gala event held in Mumbai Thursday night to protest Netanyahu. A fourth Bollywood Khan, Ajaz Khan, criticized director Karan Johar on Twitter for attending the event, and posted a tirade against it on YouTube.

Wonderful evening, a honour and a privilege, meeting an occupier of Palestinian land and killer of unarmed protesters including women and children in Occupied Territories.shame on u Karan https://twitter.com/karanjohar/status/954087461700775936 

At the event, keynote guest Amitabh Bachchan spoke of the allure of Bollywood films and their ability to bring people together. And the very next morning, Bollywood news was on the front page, but for the opposite reason. Riots were threatening to break out over the film “Padmaavat” after the Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban the controversial historical drama based on a 16th century poem about a queen.

The case was just another example that sweet words, like those uttered by Modi, Netanyahu and other officials from both sides about the great Indian-Israeli relationship, were sometimes more complicated than they were made out to be from the dais.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (unseen) at an Israeli-Indian Economic Conference in New Delhi, India on January 15, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Indian businesspeople at many of the events hosted by Netanyahu talked up the strength of the economic relationship, though when pressed, they admitted that Israel was only a blip on the map of potential business ties.

After all the talk of Indian-Israeli business ties, the name “Israel” was not mentioned once in the 12-page business section of the Hindustan Times on Friday, the day Netanyahu left.

A close-up shot of the Tammuz missiles mounted on an armed personnel carrier (Photo credit: Courtesy: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Free trade talks remain moribund, by all accounts, and the biggest business news to come out the trip was the reviving of a deal for India to buy Spike anti-tank missiles (known as Tammuz in Israel) from the Israeli firm Rafael. However, it seems it may be for less than the original $500 million price tag, to say nothing of the fact that it does nothing to diversify the business relationship or grow it, since Israel thought the deal was in the bag until recently anyway.

Still, ties between the countries are growing unmistakably closer. It’s impossible to overstate the length the Indians went to in order to welcome Netanyahu, with outlandish routines that sometimes seemed almost embarrassingly obsequious — a sign that to a large degree, Israel has a giant on its side, even if it is one that is still largely focused on raising up hundreds of millions of people out of dire poverty, and it is largely thanks to Netanyahu’s emphasis on expanding diplomatic ties around the world.

At the same time, it seems it’s easy to get sucked into exaggerating the importance of that relationship. While Netanyahu was sweet-talking the Indians, behind the scenes he was distracted with working on repairing another diplomatic relationship: with Jordan, which is one he and the rest of the country likely view as more strategic than ties with Delhi.

Indian children wave to a vehicle carrying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they arrive at Sabarmati Ashram or Gandhi Ashram in Ahmadabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP/Ajit Solanki)

In India, the cheering crowds and adulation were likely a welcome respite from home, where the prime minister is constantly dogged by political intrigue and criminal investigations that are casting a pall over his continued rule. Moments before taking off for Delhi over a week ago, he briefly spoke to reporters, looking dejected as he addressed his son Yair’s strip club tape scandal, which was roiling the country.

Landing back home almost a week later, he sat relaxing in his first class seat as staff, security and journalists disembarked, scrolling through his phone and looking carefree as ever.

Less than an hour before he landed, a major rainstorm had passed over the country, but as his plane touched down, the clouds over the airport cleared and for a brief moment, the sun was shining.

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Netanyahu arrives in India, is greeted by PM Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu arrives in India, is greeted on tarmac by PM Modi

Israeli leader says he greatly appreciates unplanned personal welcome; two men embrace warmly at start of week-long visit

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Israeli leader's wife, Sara, watches on their arrival at the Air Force Station in New Delhi, on January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Israeli leader’s wife, Sara, watches on their arrival at the Air Force Station in New Delhi, on January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for photographers after the Israeli leader arrived at the Air Force Station in New Delhi January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for photographers after the Israeli leader arrived at the Air Force Station in New Delhi January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and his wife Sara Netanyahu on their arrival at the Air Force Station in New Delhi on January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and his wife Sara Netanyahu on their arrival at the Air Force Station in New Delhi on January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
  • The plane carrying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu arrives at the Air Force Station in the Indian capital New Delhi on January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
    The plane carrying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu arrives at the Air Force Station in the Indian capital New Delhi on January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, together with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, and the Israeli leader's wife Sara Netanyahu, left, during the dedication of Haifa Chowk Square, Delhi, India, January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, together with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, and the Israeli leader’s wife Sara Netanyahu, left, during the dedication of Haifa Chowk Square, Delhi, India, January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, together with his wife Sara Netanyahu, seated, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, during the dedication of Haifa Chowk Square, Delhi, India, January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, together with his wife Sara Netanyahu, seated, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, during the dedication of Haifa Chowk Square, Delhi, India, January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, together with his wife Sara Netanyahu, right, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, during the dedication of Haifa Chowk Square, Delhi, India, January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, together with his wife Sara Netanyahu, right, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, during the dedication of Haifa Chowk Square, Delhi, India, January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

NEW DELHI, India — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched down in this smog-filled city Sunday afternoon, warmly embracing his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, in a surprise ceremony at the airport, and celebrating a close personal bond that the two are hoping to parlay into further cooperation between their two countries.

Netanyahu’s five-day trip to India will see him attempt to expand business ties with the subcontinent, though it comes amid a cloud of uncertainty after Delhi canceled a $500 million deal with Israeli arms maker Rafael late last year.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu had been expecting to be met by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and, arriving in Delhi, was apparently surprised to be greeted by Modi. The two leaders exchanged pleasantries and held their hands aloft for the press on the tarmac red carpet.

“I very much appreciate the gesture,” Netanyahu said through his office shortly after the two were whisked away from the brief arrival ceremony.

On his official Twitter account, Modi wrote in Hebrew, “Welcome to India, my friend PM @netanyahu. Your visit is historic and special. This visit will strengthen the close ties between our countries.”

Responding in Hebrew on his own Twitter account, Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for Modi’s personal welcome. “Thank you, my dear friend Modi, on the warm and personal welcome to India,” he wrote.

Accompanied by his wife, Sara, Netanyahu is leading a 130-strong trade delegation — the largest ever for an Israeli prime minister — to India meant to boost bilateral business ties, as well as diplomatic relations.

Over the course of the visit, Israel and India will sign a series of bilateral agreements.

Kicking off the heavily guarded trip, the two stopped at a large traffic circle in Delhi marked by a memorial to Indian soldiers who fought in Palestine in World War I, which they saw renamed from Teen Murti Chowk Square to Haifa Chowk Square in a small ceremony.

Laying a wreath on a statue listing places where the Indian Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore brigades fought — such as Haifa, Gaza, the Jordan Valley and Damascus — Modi, Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu stood at attention for several minutes as trumpets played.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Israeli leader’s wife, Sara, watches on their arrival at the Air Force Station in New Delhi, on January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)

Netanyahu’s visit is the first by an Israeli prime minister since 2003, when Ariel Sharon visited, but abruptly cut his trip short to return to Israel after a terrorist attack.

In contrast with prime ministerial visits to the US or Europe, Netanyahu’s trip, which will take him to three cities in India, will focus very little on Middle Eastern affairs such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. India recently backed a UN General Assembly motion condemning US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, throwing some cold water on hopes for a closer diplomatic relationship.

The confirmation earlier this month that India had canceled the $500 million deal for Spike anti-tank missiles from Israeli firm Rafael also cast a shadow over the trip. While wanting to foster a stronger relationship with Israel, India is also in the midst of trying to develop its own arms manufacturing industry, under the “Make in India” tagline. Last week, however, an Indian news agency reported that Delhi was considering the possibility of reviving the missile sale as a government-to-government deal.

Ahead of the visit, Netanyahu pointed to close personal relationship between himself and Modi cemented during the Indian premier’s trip to Israel last year, his first since taking office.

“This visit is an opportunity to enhance cooperation with a global economic, security, technology and tourism power. Indian Prime Minister Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine and I appreciate the fact that he will accompany me on extensive parts of my visit,” Netanyahu said Saturday night before leaving Israel.

Modi’s visit to Israel was also marked by a sharing of tweets and the two leaders accompanying each other nearly everywhere.

Netanyahu is set to have dinner with Modi Sunday night after meeting Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. On Monday the two will hold a series of meetings focused on expanding trade ties, and on Wednesday, they will travel to Modi’s home state of Gujarat before leaving for Mumbai, where Netanyahu will attend memorials for the 2008 terror attacks that took place there.

While there, he is also slated to meet with several Bollywood figures as part of Israel’s drive to expand tourism by attracting Indian films to shoot in Israel.

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India: PM Modi govt unveils Rs 9-trillion plan to boost economy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Modi govt unveils Rs 9-trillion plan to boost economy

The plan, unveiled by finance minister Arun Jaitley, includes spending Rs 2.11 trillion towards pumping capital into banks and another Rs 7 trillion on a roads and highways project.

BUSINESS Updated: Oct 25, 2017 07:03 IST

Moushumi Dasgupta and Alekh Archana
Moushumi Dasgupta and Alekh Archana
HindustanTimes, New Delhi
Finance minister Arun Jaitley during a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley during a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.(Arvind Yadav / HT )

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced it would invest over Rs 9 trillion to recapitalise state-owned banks and build new roads and highways on Tuesday, its biggest move yet to shore up an economy growing at its slowest in three years.

Plans include spending Rs 2.11 trillion towards infusing capital into banks over the next two years and another Rs 7 trillion over the next five years on the roads project, some of which will run through economic corridors as well as remote border and coastal areas.

The Rs 2.11 trillion is far higher than the Rs20,000 crore the government had previously planned to invest, in 2017-18 and 2018-19, in recapitalising banks.

Separately, the government also announced an increase in the price at which it procures wheat, pulses and oilseeds from farmers and waived the penalty on delayed filing of initial returns on the new Goods and Services Tax for August and September.

The Rs 9 trillion gambit could help improve credit flow to companies from banks weighed down by bad debt, and boost public investment.

The plan to build more than 83,000 km of roads and highways over the next five years will boost connectivity and create jobs.

Rajnish Kumar, the chairman of the country’s largest lender, the state-owned State Bank of India said the recapitalisation of banks would help channel more investments to sectors such as infrastructure. “The thrust to infrastructure will generate direct and indirect positive cascading effects for lot of related sectors and will create feel good factor for all stakeholders,” he added.

The spending push, anticipated by many after growth slowed to 5.7% in the June quarter, will also likely help the government blunt political criticism ahead of state polls over the next few months.

DK Srivastava, chief policy advisor at EY India said the measures announced will stimulate the economy. “The critical factor will be how much of the expenditure is front-loaded to be spent this year.”

Unveiling the plan at an unusually high-octane press conference complete with a power point presentation, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the economy was on a strong wicket and that temporary hiccups were not unusual when structural reforms were undertaken.

“When results of the GDP of the first quarter came out then I had said that we will be ready for the response,” said Jaitley, flanked by half a dozen senior officials of his ministry who gave presentations on the health of the economy.“We will report on the situation as they develop.”

But ramping up government spending, at a time when subdued tax collections and sluggish economic growth have strained federal revenues, could widen the fiscal deficit beyond the targeted 3.2% of GDP.

There were already signs that the government had little option but to spend its way out of trouble that was exacerbated, in part, by last year’s shock withdrawal of high-value banknotes as well as disruptions on account of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.

Rejecting any pessimism over the economy, Jaitley said the government had held several internal meetings on the situation and that discussions were also held with Prime Minister Modi.

“India has been fastest growing major economy for the last three years,” he said.

“(Our) Attempt is to maintain high growth rate.”

(With input from Alekh Archana in Mumbai for Livemint)

Face It, China Totally Owns The BRICS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES FOREIGN AFFAIRS)

 

Investing #ForeignAffairs

Face It, China Totally Owns The BRICS

I cover business and investing in emerging markets.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks with Brazilian President Michel Temer in Beijing on Friday, just two days before the opening of the annual BRICS Summit on Sept. 3. China is far and away the most powerful of the five BRICS. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Is it at all humiliating to the Russians, at least a little bit, that the Chinese are far and away the biggest, baddest BRICS nation? Russia used to be a world superpower. It’s a world oil power. A world nuclear power. But beyond that, China is more relevant to the world economy than the Russians.

Brazil. What about them? For years, the commodity bubble made it seem Brazil was on its way to becoming the runaway leader of Latin America, surpassing Mexico, which is basically a U.S. import market. Brazil was, and is, a more diverse economy than Mexico. They weren’t dependent on any one nation, really. Then the commodity bubble burst and Brazil’s purchasing power has dropped, putting it on par with China’s. GDP per capita is also similar. China’s Happy Meal toy making economy has grown up and is home to more new billionaires than anywhere else. And as leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa meet in Xiamen on Sept. 3, it is clear to everyone watching that China is the leader.

Russia needs China because it is in a never-ending feud with the West. They have two things in common, generally: commodities supply and demand, and a desire for a multi-polar world, though this is probably more Vladimir Putin’s thing than Xi Jinping’s. China is at least as dependent on the U.S. as Russia is dependent on Europe.

Brazil needs China because that’s where all of its soybeans and iron ore goes. Brazil’s agribusiness is vital to the economic recovery now just two quarters young. In May, China and Brazil launched a joint investment fund to increase productive capacity. The fund has an initial sum of $20 billion and will reportedly go to finance investment projects in Brazil (not in China) that are of interest to both countries. Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, is already in China. He wants to convince them to buy airports and participate in other privatization bids as Brazil tries to trim more fat from its federal government.

Following the recent border skirmish, India can probably do without China. India’s main trading partners are the U.S. and United Arab Emirates. But if you include Hong Kong with China, then China is No. 2. More importantly, India’s imports are heavily dependent on the Chinese. Some $59 billion worth of Chinese imports moved into India in 2015, more than the No. 2 Sweden and No. 3 U.S. combined. Bilateral trade volume between China and India also rose by 21.5% year-on-year to $47.52 billion between January and July 2017, Indian customs data show.

South Africa needs China investment and Chinese buyers for its raw materials. China is its biggest export market, accounting for around $12 billion. That beats South Africa’s No. 2 partner, the U.S., with around $7 billion in exports, both based on 2015 figures.

China is a total beast. South Africa, Russia and Brazil are particularly at its mercy.

See: China-Like Wages Now Part Of U.S. Jobs Boom — Forbes

Rio de Janeiro Is A Complete Mess — Forbes

Trump Already Beat India On H1-B Visa Issue — Forbes

Guess Who Is Growing Sick Of Anti-Russia Sanctions? — Forbes

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit in Goa, India last year. India and China have agreed to pull back their troops from a face-off in the high Himalayas where China, India and Bhutan meet, signaling a thaw in the months long standoff. It’s a relationship where China has more Aces up its sleeve than India. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

Although all five of these countries stand to gain from closer commercial ties, China is the one that will gain the most. China has just about enough money sitting in international reserves to equal the economic output of Brazil ($1.7 trillion)Russia ($1.3 trillion) and South Africa ($295 billion). It’s state owned enterprises have the funding to buy strategic assets abroad, like water and oil and gas infrastructure. And its new billionaires like Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, has his eyes set on being the Jeff Bezos of emerging markets. He basically already is.

The upcoming BRICS Summit will end on Sept. 5 with the usual rhetorical messaging and memorandums of understanding about how they will all accelerate trade, investment and technological know-how. China’s Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Friday that China wants to deepen international cooperation in improving industrial capacity. In convincing their emerging market partners that they need to get more productive, China can sell them their new robotic technologies. All those Chinese workers replaced by automation, can work building the screws and attaching the wires and packaging up new robots to ship to Brazil instead.

A few BRIC country companies have big business in China, too. It is not entirely a one way street. Brazil’s Embraer jet manufacturer has a facility in southern China, and builds planes with their Chinese joint venture partner.

Russian investment bank, VTB Capital, set up shop in Shanghai in 2015.

India’s Tata Group family of companies is in China. IT firm Tata Consultancy Services is there, with the usual tie-up with a Chinese firm.  Tata Steel has two steel mills in China. Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit has a JV with Chery Automobile to build the luxury cars in Changshu.

South Africa’s Old Mutual financial services firm used to have a foothold there but are now looking to dump their insurance unit, at least.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick snapshot of what China has accomplished, as outlined on Friday by China Daily:

  • Gezhouba Group announced March 30 that it will spend up to $200 million to acquire 100%  stake of Sistema Produtor Sao Lourenco, a water supply company in Brazil, China Daily first reported.
  • China Investment Corp partnered with Brookfield Asset Management in April to take a 90% percent stake in Nova Transportadora do Sudeste, a natural gas pipeline company owned by Petrobras.
  • Xiaomi enters the Russian smart phone market.
  • Shanghai-listed China Railway Group is building a $2.5 billion high-speed railway in Russia. The deal was announced in June.
  • Alibaba’s Ant Financial Unit opens up Alipay in cahoots with Russia’s VTB Group last month.
  • China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corp. inked a deal with Russia’s Gazprom in April to build an estimated $15 billion natural gas pipeline into China.
  • Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba, plans to build a data center in Mumbai by the end of next March, the company said on June 9.
  • Oil refiner Sinopec signed an agreement to buy 75% of Chevron South Africa’s assets for $900 million in March.

It is clear who is the big buyer and who is staking claim to turf long term. Brazil is selling; China is buying. South Africa is a seller, too. So when Putin and other leaders meet in China on Sunday, they will all know on many levels, that in terms of global finance and trade, they are no longer equals.

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China Playing Indian Separation Card Is A Poor Choice

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TIMES OF CHINA)

 

Playing Indian separation card a poor choice

By Ding Gang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/23 19:28:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

After the border standoff between China and India erupted, some Chinese scholars asked: Since India supports “Tibet independence” forces, why doesn’t China play the card of Indian separation?

This question is premised on a long-standing view that India is a multi-ethnic country, its states retain traditional autonomy, and the forces that led to the partition of India in 1947 could easily rise again. From this point of view, China should seek to use the lever of supporting separatists to influence India.

This viewpoint is too superficial, and lacks understanding of how the internal unity of modern Indian society was formed. Understanding India should start from understanding Hinduism, and understanding today’s Hinduism needs understanding of the influence of the British colonialists on the revival of Hinduism in modern times.

Indian scholar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar wrote in his book A survey of Indian history that “Indian history is of necessity, predominantly the history of the Hindu people, for though other and potent elements have become permanent factors in India, the Hindus still constitute over eighty percent of her population. Besides, what is distinctly Indian has so far been Hindu.”

Traveling in India, one can easily spot scenery that is deeply influenced by Hinduism. Sometimes one would doubt if India is a secular country, as it claims to be. Even behind the border friction between China and India, there is an influence of Hinduism.

The national structure of India is unique. Some states have maintained their inherited autonomous style of governance and some are ruled by minority parties or non-mainstream ethnic groups. These states have a tendency toward separation.

But in essence, all the states belong to the big cultural circle of Hinduism. The system established by British colonists has offered opportunities for minority parties and ethnicities to develop under the framework of a united country.

The revival of the Hinduism can be attributed to the support of British colonists. Under British role, Islam was suppressed and the Hinduism began an unprecedented revival movement. But nationalism went along with this process, which eventually became the pillar of thought of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the independence movement against British colonial rule.

When the British withdrew, they divided India and Pakistan due to the regions’ different religious beliefs. This brutal division caused the deaths of at least 1 million, and led to destitution for several million people.

While it reinforced religious confrontation, it consolidated the foundation of nationalism with religion at the core.

India inherited the system established by British colonists, under which all parties can compete for power through the platform of elections. Local parties can develop into national ones, weakening their tendency for separation. Religion and the political system are the reasons why India for decades has remained chaotic but united.

Currently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expanding its influence nationwide. It controls 17 states out of 29, either independently or in the form of a coalition government. In the election in March this year, the BJP won a sweeping victory in the most populous state Uttar Pradesh. The basis of the rise of the BJP is Hindu nationalism.

However, nationalism is a double-edged sword. In addition to the conservative nature of Hinduism and the stability of the system, nationalism has become an obstacle for India to get rid of the constraints of religion and tradition and realize modernity.

Today, the Indian-style stability that is trapped in the contradiction between tradition and modernity and between secularism and religion has become an important starting point for the outside world to understand Modi’s reforms. This Indian-style stability is also embedded in India’s China policy and the Indians’ understanding of China’s rise.

Therefore, dividing India may not be an appropriate strategic option. This may only consolidate the foundation of national awareness that India is built on – religious nationalism.

The author is a senior editor with People’s Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. [email protected]

Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

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.”

Narendra Modi to become first Indian PM to visit Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Narendra Modi to become first Indian PM to visit Israel

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 30 May 2017 in Berlin, Germany.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr Modi has said India and Israel share a “deep and centuries-old” connection

Narendra Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, when he arrives on Tuesday.

Mr Modi, who recently said India and the Jewish state share a “deep and centuries-old” connection, is expected to agree military and cyber security deals.

Observers note he will not travel to Ramallah or meet Palestinian leaders, as visiting dignitaries often do.

The visit is seen by some as a turning point in India’s position on Israel.

India and Israel have had diplomatic relations for 25 years, but it has always been a balancing act given India’s sizeable Muslim population.

The two countries have been working closely together for years on counter-terrorism, defence, agriculture and the water and energy sectors.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed the meeting as a “a very significant step” in strengthening relations, which he said were “on a constant upswing”, reported the Times of Israel.

The Indian leader will also be meeting an Israeli boy, Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were killed when gunmen stormed a Jewish centre in Mumbai during a 2008 terror attack.

India: PM Modi, Sir India Is Not A Democracy If You Do Not Have Religious Freedom

To India’s Prime Minister Modi:

This article is in regard to a story I read earlier today from the Christian Post. In several regards this article if it is true shows that India is not yet a true democracy. For any country to actually be a democracy there are many issues that must be addressed, in this article I am only going to try to address a few of these ideals. In a true democracy there has to be equality in areas of their caste system where anyone can move up, or down in the financial arenas depending on their own abilities. All adults must be allowed to vote for whomever they chose at least as long as they are not convicted felons who are in jail at the time of the elections. This last issue I have with your government is in regard to India not having true honest religious freedom.

 

I do believe that India is a great country right now yet it could be so much more if the political will is there. The article today in the Christian Post said that six Christian adults were arrested last month for taking 72 Christian children of Christian parents to a ‘vacation Bible school’. A State can not prosper for all of its citizens if they cannot worship their God as they see fit. The only exception to this rule should be if the religion is telling people to go into the population and attack and or kill people who don’t agree with them and their ‘God’s’ teachings. If a person actually knows anything about the New Testament Scriptures of the Bible then they know that the Scriptures do not teach violence toward anyone. As you well know Mr. Modi there are some ‘Religions’ that do teach such violence and not even as arbitrarily, but as a requirement. Mr. Modi, is the Hindu Religion really one of these Demonic Cults? I believe that the Nation of India can be the greatest Democracy size wise on this planet in about 20 or 30 years and you may think it is now but with these glaring flaws that is not so, not yet. If the politicians in your country do not fix these serious issues I believe your future will look like a mixture of Iran and China except not Islamic or Atheist but a horrible debased Hindu State that will end up having no semblance of Democracy or freedom.

‘Trump-Modi nexus’ could spell disaster for regional peace: AJK president

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER DAWN)

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan in a statement on Tuesday warned that a “Trump-Modi nexus” could spell disaster to regional peace.

The statement follows a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to which the US State Department had designated Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and slapped sanctions on him ─ a move slammed by the Foreign Office today as ‘completely unjustified’.

Read more: Unjust to designate supporters of Kashmiri struggle as terrorists: FO

The White House had called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, a statement from the White House said.

Sardar Khan, who retired from the foreign service of Pakistan as a career diplomat, claimed that the US had always deceived Pakistan and its latest decision was yet another example of it.

“The US has never acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices despite the latter’s being a frontline state in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Khan questioned the justification of the US decision, claiming that the Hizbul Mujahideen had been struggling solely for freedom of India-held Kashmir (IHK), and was neither linked to any terrorist group nor had resorted to any action outside IHK.

“In fact, it’s the Indian army committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir. Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US,” he claimed.

Kashmiris protest US move

Hundreds of people from different walks of life staged a rally in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to condemn the US administration’s decision of designating Salahuddin a terrorist.

Demonstrators started the rally from Muzaffarabad’s famous Burhan Wani Chowk, named after a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian forces in IHK last year.

Just in front of them, a large Indian tricolour flag was also placed on the ground with two young children standing on it.

Amid loud anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, it was later torched by the demonstrators.

Representatives of separatist groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they termed a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.

Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a former AJK minister, claimed it was the weak foreign policy of the PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged the Trump administration to take this step during Modi’s visit.

“If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in [the] Foreign Office to lodge [a] protest over this unfair decision,” he said, addressing the federal government.

Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.

“All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one,” he said.

PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.

Pakistan hopes India will support Saarc Summit, says Pak diplomat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Pakistan hopes India will support Saarc Summit, says Pak diplomat

Pakistan is hopeful that India will attend the Saarc Summit to be held in Islamabad later this year as the two sides need to move beyond their differences.

WORLD Updated: Jun 12, 2017 23:40 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
India-Pakistan relations
Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (left) looks on as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (centre) walks past Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Saarc Summit in Kathmandu in 2014. (Reuters)

Pakistan hopes India will attend the Saarc Summit expected to be held in Islamabad later this year, a top Pakistani diplomat said on Monday, adding the two countries need to move beyond differences.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Shangani Cooperation Organisation (SCO) event in Beijing, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the deputy head of the Pakistani mission, said it is important for both countries to strengthen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

“We really hope that Saarc, which is our regional organisation to move beyond the differences…that India would be able to come to Pakistan for the summit because in the end we are neighbours,” Baloch said.

India pulled out of last year’s Saarch Summit in Pakistan after a string of terror attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants, leading to a pullout by Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The summit was subsequently cancelled.

It’s still not clear whether the summit will be held at the end of this year either, given India’s position on Pakistan’s involvement in cross-border terror.

Baloch, however, indicated that Islamabad is working to holding the summit.

She played down speculation that the inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO would lead to disruptions in the Beijing-led security bloc’s agenda.

“It is an important organisation for Pakistan and it is an important organisation for India. This is not an organisation to settle disputes. This is an organisation to work for the region and for common challenges and work for common development,” she said.

Pakistan, she said, hoped the inclusion of the two countries will contribute to our “region’s development and more understanding between all parties in the SCO”.

Talking about possible cooperation within the SCO framework, Baloch said: “Of course, when you work together (in the same organisation), you are in the same organisation, you have opportunities to resolve many of the issues.

“With the increase of the membership with the inclusion of Pakistan and India, we have made this organisation more inclusive and we will be able to work together to fight common challenges.”

Speaking earlier, secretary general Rashid Alimov said the SCO’s convention on “countering extremism has become the collective response of the SCO member-states to the growing threat of this dangerous phenomenon for humanity”.

He added, “The convention is aimed at improving the mechanism for countering extremism in the SCO area (and) developing the provisions of the SCO Development Strategy until 2025.”