March 21, 2014
Originally published in The New Indian Express, March 20, 2014, by colleague Jayadeva Ranade.
After a hiatus of many months, there are indications to suggest that Beijing could be contemplating some initiative on the Tibet issue. These could comprise overtures to the Dalai Lama’s establishment in Dharamsala in conjunction with the ongoing efforts to acquire and consolidate influence among Tibetan Buddhists in Nepal and the Indo-Himalayan border belt, and efforts to strengthen the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) grip on the troubled Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan areas in adjoining provinces.
Reports indicate channels have been activated between Beijing and the Tibetan establishment in Dharamsala. At least three were active in the past few months. One was direct, one was via Taiwan and the third, which was finally aborted, was through a South East Asian capital.
The CCP leadership under Xi Jinping also continues to accord priority to the Tibet issue. Interesting was the 7,500-word article written by Xi Jinping’s mother Qi Xin on the occasion of the birth centennial of Xi Jinping’s father and former Chinese Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun. Publicised by Zhongguo Qingnian Bao (China Youth Daily) and the official People’s Daily on November 6, 2013, just prior to the Third Party Plenum, Qi Xin’s article was laced with subtle references suggesting Buddhism’s influence on Xi Jinping’s family. The Third Party Plenum, incidentally, saw the further accretion of authority by Xi Jinping, who will head the newly created apex security organisation—the National Security Committee (NSC). There is speculation in Beijing that the NSC could usurp the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)’s jurisdiction over the Tibet issue.
Internal intellectual debate on the issue is also discernible. Wang Lixiong, the Han Chinese husband of well-known Beijing-based Tibetan blogger Woeser, commented on an article by Liu Junning published in the Chinese edition of the Wall Street Journal on March 4, 2014. In his article entitled Rethinking the Policy of Regional Nationality Autonomy in Light of the Kunming Incident, Liu Junning, a researcher at the Institute of Chinese Culture, a subsidiary of China’s ministry of culture, blamed China’s worsening nationality problem on the disparate treatment of the minorities. He said regional nationality autonomy and demarcations between nationalities had resulted in their estrangement. Earlier, Ma Rong, a Chinese scholar of the department of sociology, Peking University, had urged the elimination of regional nationality autonomy and distinctions between nationalities. Describing these as “root causes” for the “escalation in nationality enmity and conflict”, Wang Lixiong argued that special safeguards for minority nationalities cannot be disregarded. Citing differences in their characters, he said “the character of the Han is to pursue profits first, while Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols are more inclined to pursue religious beliefs and happiness. This doesn’t allow them to mix well in the big market economy pot with over a billion Han; it’s like forcing monks to fight with soldiers”. Recommending immigration controls, safeguarding the environment, continuing cultural traditions and safeguarding religious beliefs, Wang Lixiong asserted that without the protection of regional nationality autonomy “any one of China’s nationalities would be hard pressed to avoid being wiped away without a trace by the Han who outnumber them by a hundred thousand to one”.
He cautioned if regional nationality autonomy is abolished then the “Middle Way Approach” advocated by the Dalai Lama for decades will be meaningless, and a future democratic China will have nothing with which “to dispel the nationality hatreds that have been engendered by autocratic oppression”. Stating that Uyghurs believe the “Dalai Lama has caused Tibetans to waste 30 years without achieving any results”, he said the recent arrest of Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti confirmed to them that the “Middle Way Approach” is just wishful thinking.
There has also been a loosening of restrictions, apparently with Beijing’s tacit approval, on Tibetan Buddhist sects organising functions in Nepal. The Sakya tradition and all its various sub-sects was, after many decades, permitted to organise Monlam celebrations in Lumbini. This is the only Tibetan Buddhist sect to so far have been granted such permission. The gesture would be aimed at accentuating the divisions among the different Tibetan Buddhist religious sects. It implicitly undermines the authority of the Dalai Lama by drawing attention to Kathmandu’s unwillingness to allow him to visit Buddha’s birthplace till he effects a reconciliation with the CCP leadership in Beijing.
China’s abiding interest in Nepal and, particularly the Buddha’s birthplace of Lumbini on the India-Nepal border, is evident in the China Buddhist Association’s decision to redevelop Lumbini. This follows the failure of the Chinese government-sponsored Asia-Pacific Exchange and Co-operation Foundation (APECF) to obtain approval for its US$3 billion project for Lumbini’s re-development. The project envisages monasteries, hotels and an airport.
For detailed information about the APECF proposal, link to my series of Lumbini articles and interviews here: LUMBINI
An important development reinforcing Beijing’s authority in the selection of high ranking lamas and “reincarnates” is Beijing’s recognition of the reincarnation of Penor Rinpoche of the Nyingmapa tradition and approval for his enthronement. The information was first disclosed in a statement issued on December 5, 2013, by the Namdrol Ling Monastery in Bylakkupe. It revealed that the reincarnation of Penor Rinpoche, former head of the Nyingma sect which is the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism, was found in Tibet five years after his passing. The reincarnation was found by a senior lama in Tibet at a sacred location near Lhasa, based on a “prophecy letter” sent by 100-year-old Jadrel Rinpoche. The new reincarnation will be formally enthroned in Tibet’s Palyul Monastery as its 12th throne-holder on July 31. Beijing’s move leaves the Dalai Lama, who has no formal authority to approve the heads of other Tibetan Buddhist traditions, with little choice but to acknowledge the new Beijing-recognised reincarnate Penor Rimpoche. China will undoubtedly cite this as a precedent for any future case relating to the Dalai Lama.
February 19, 2014
Originally published in The New Indian Express, February 18, 2014, by colleague Jayadeva Ranade.
After Beijing adopted a new policy for the conduct of relations towards its neighbours, or what Chinese analysts call “peripheral diplomacy” last October, Nepal’s importance has grown. Beijing has also broadened the scope of its political interactions and it has now seemingly opted to take on the role of mediator in Nepal’s domestic politics. Since the 1980s Beijing had avoided involvement, or interference, in a country’s internal affairs except, till recently, in the cases of Sudan and Myanmar. Beijing’s new “activism” in Nepal’s domestic politics threatens to adversely tip the delicate balance that Nepal’s political leaders have thus far maintained with India.
The unsettled domestic political situation in Nepal offers Beijing fresh opportunities to deepen and consolidate influence in that country. Considerations of security continue to be among the primary drivers, with Beijing extremely wary that Tibetans settled in Nepal could indulge in what it perceives as “anti-China” activities. Beijing remains apprehensive that Nepal, which has a 1,400km border with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), could be used as a springboard by “hostile powers”—short-hand for the US—for fomenting unrest inside Tibet.
A succession of high-level visits from various departments of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and government that Kathmandu witnessed over the past year point to China’s steadily growing interest. On an average, at least two Chinese delegations visited Kathmandu each month. The number has increased since October with four important Chinese delegations visiting Nepal in December alone. In 2011, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had, ignoring Nepal’s defence ministry’s advice to the contrary, established direct links with the Nepalese Army during the visit of PLA chief general Chen Bingde.
Two of the recent visits were more important. One was by a 10-member delegation led by Qiu Guoheng, former Chinese ambassador to Nepal and presently director general of external security in China’s ministry of foreign affairs (MFA), to Kathmandu in early December to ostensibly “understand” the new political developments.
The director general of external security in China’s MFA is especially responsible for monitoring activities relating to Tibetans and Uyghurs. Qiu Guoheng’s delegation included officials from the departments of public security, United Front, Tibetan affairs and the MFA. In a separate interview China’s current ambassador to Nepal, Wu Chuntai—formerly deputy director general of the MFA’s external security division—highlighted Beijing’s concern about the activities of Nepal-based Tibetans. He thanked Nepal for foiling any sort of penetration into Tibet via Nepal.
Quite unusually for a delegation led by an official, Qiu Guoheng met leaders of various political parties. Congratulating CPN-UML leader Jhala Nath Khanal for his party’s good performance in the recent elections, he conveyed that following the conference in Beijing last October on China’s “peripheral diplomacy”, Beijing had decided to revise upward the quantum of foreign assistance it gives to developing countries in its neighbourhood. Nepal and Pakistan, he assured, will particularly benefit. He added China would give added emphasis to economic development of the western region that would benefit Nepal.
This reference would be to the south-westerly branch of the old “Silk Road”, now proposed as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor. It begins in China’s Yunnan province and moves through Myanmar and Bangladesh to India’s northeast and across towards Turkey. China had also agreed to consider Nepal’s request for extending the 1,200km Qinghai-Lhasa-Shigatse railway to Kathmandu. Discussions are underway. Once completed, the railway will alter the geostrategic balance in the region.
The other important delegation was one led by vice-minister Ai Ping of the CCP Central Committee (CC)’s international liaison department. His three-day visit in mid-December is significant because he is reputed to be a close friend of UCPN Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre Prachanda. Prachanda has close links with China and was responsible during his term as prime minister for giving Nepal’s foreign policy its pronounced pro-Beijing tilt. The setback to the UCPN, and Prachanda personally, at the recent elections in Nepal must be a cause for worry to Beijing. Reports state that Ai Ping spent considerable time with senior leaders of the UCPN and CPN-Maoist and urged both parties to work together for drafting the constitution. He told CPN-Maoist founder chairman Mohan Bahidya that relations with China would remain good provided the CPN-Maoist cooperates with the UCPN. He advised Nepali leaders, including Sushil Koirala, that if Nepal has fewer federal provinces it would find it more economical and easier to manage. China is concerned that federalism based on ethnic lines will weaken its influence. It apprehends that this could also create instability in Nepal and spark tension in TAR.
China has advanced its interests on other fronts too and, by the last fiscal 575 Chinese companies had received approval from the department of industry for foreign direct investment (FDI). FDI from India remains highest totalling `37.6 billion compared to `10.6 billion from China. Huawei and ZTE already have a monopoly in the telecom infrastructure sector. China’s focus is on Nepal’s hydropower, tourism and agriculture. Tourism-related sectors are other areas of China’s interest. Negotiations are also underway for direct flights between China and Nepal by a fourth Chinese airline and China has agreed to give Nepal a concessional loan for the purchase of six aircraft. While the increasing number of Chinese tourists to Nepal would be a major economic incentive, it would also give Beijing additional leverage over Nepal.
At the same time Nepal’s tour operators are unhappy that the government continues to deny them permission for trekking and mountaineering activities in areas like Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo, because of objections from Beijing. Chinese travel agencies, however, bring tourists to places like Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang.
Meanwhile, Nepal continues to be important to Beijing’s efforts to undermine the Dalai Lama’s authority among Tibetan Buddhists. A visiting senior Chinese official told a Nepalese journalist “we visit Nepal because you have Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha”. Recent reports signal the China Buddhist Association, of which the Beijing-selected 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu is a vice-president, will take over a project for the development of Lumbini. Originally mooted by a Chinese NGO as a US $3 billion project, it is now less ambitious, but its plans also envisage an airport and allocating land to various Tibetan Buddhist high lamas and sects.
Jayadeva Ranade is a member of the National Security Advisory Board and formeradditional secretary in the cabinet secretariat, Indian government.
January 23, 2014
On January 21, New Indian Express published “Aim of China’s Military Reforms”, by Jayadeva Ranade. It analyses China’s impending military changes – very significant restructuring, actually – and the likely impact on its Asian neighbors.
Modernisation of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has entered the final stage of its current phase. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s Third Plenum, which was held in November 2013 and represents a major advance in China’s reforms, provided a substantive push to the PLA’s modernisation when it approved proposals for major organisational restructuring. The reforms coincide with China’s continuing assertiveness that has unsettled its neighbours.
Appointments to the Central Military Commission (CMC) effected earlier by the CCP’s 18th Congress in Beijing in November 2012 accelerated the drive to strengthen and modernise the 2.3 million-strong PLA. Within days of his appointment as the CMC chairman, Xi Jinping not only endorsed the military modernisation policies of his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, but also began bluntly advocating more rapid modernisation and technological upgrade of the PLA.
The organisational reforms approved by the CCP’s Third Plenum indicate that changes are imminent in the PLA’s command structure comprising the four principal departments and seven military regions. The PLA Navy (PLAN), PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and China’s strategic missile strike force, namely the Second Artillery, have clearly been allotted an enhanced operational role and will receive priority in allocation of budgets and manpower. Personnel of the Second Artillery, PLAAF and PLAN already receive higher salaries than their counterparts in the PLA’s ground forces. Within days of the Third Plenum, CMC vice-chairman and till recently the PLAAF commander, Xu Qiliang, wrote an article in the party mouthpiece People’s Daily confirming the reforms will be implemented. He mentioned that the number of non-combatants would be drastically reduced and that the reforms would enable the PLA to win wars.
Quite separately, reports filtering out of Beijing and disclosed initially in the solitary official English-language China Daily, suggest that plans have been finalised to merge the military regions. These envisage reorganising the seven military regions into five “combat zones” (zhan chu) within the next five years. Over the past few years China’s military literature has hinted at such impending change with occasional references to “Theatre Commands”. The reorganisation is intended to concentrate firepower and troops trained for a specific type of warfare within a single theatre or zone for ease of rapid deployment. Land and sea warfare forces are to be grouped separately. This reorganisation gives the PLA a definite “outward orientation” neatly meshing with its doctrine of “active defence”.
According to these reports, the three mainly coastal military regions of Jinan, Nanjing and Guangzhou are to be converted into three “combat zones”. Adopting a mainly maritime role, their primary objective will be to reinforce China’s efforts to establish dominance over the East China Sea and South China Sea and face up to the US-Japan alliance. By 2020, all three zones will be reinforced by three aircraft carrier combat groups. Reports suggest existing aircraft carrier Liaoning will be deployed in the East China Sea, while the other two aircraft carriers will be in the South China Sea. Interestingly on January 1, Xinhua showed pictures of Liaoning returning to its home base in Qingdao after month-long exercises in the South China Sea, but avoided mention of the run-in with the US-guided missile warship USS Cowpens.
In April 2013, Xinhua reported Rear Admiral Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Navy, saying a second aircraft carrier was under construction. He told foreign military attaches that it would be larger and carry more fighter aircraft. On January 18, 2014, party secretary of Liaoning province Wang Min disclosed China’s second domestically-produced aircraft carrier is being built at Dalian and would be ready in six years.
The four inland military regions of Shenyang, Beijing, Chengdu and Lanzhou are to similarly be merged into two large combat zones. Chengdu and Lanzhou both exercise operational jurisdiction over the India-China border. Each of the two new zones will have units of the PLA Navy, Air Force and Second Artillery integral to them. They will function under a new unified combat command. These reports also disclose that the PLA’s 300,000 non-combatant personnel will be eliminated by 2022. Though China’s ministry of defence denied the reports, it is pertinent that mention was first made in China Daily and that its contents are generally in consonance with Xu Qiliang’s assertion in People’s Daily and the reforms approved at the CCP CC’s Third Plenum.
Rapid advances have also been made in the indigenous development of advanced defence technology and hardware in the past three years. Emphasis was underscored with the appointment of General Zhang Youxia, a known proponent of indigenous development of modern advanced defence technology, as director of the PLA’s General Armaments Department (GAD) in October 2012. The latest development was the announcement on January 9 that China had conducted the first flight test of a new hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed the WU-14 by the Pentagon, thus becoming one of five nations to possess this capability. The hypersonic vehicle, capable of travelling at speeds between Mach 8 and 12, represents a major advance in China’s secretive strategic nuclear and conventional military and missile programmes. China had in May 2012 opened a new JF12 shockwave hypersonic wind tunnel—the largest of its kind—that replicates flying conditions between Mach 5 and 9.
Also this month, pictures of the new two-seater J-16 stealth fighter built by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation were posted online. Slated to first be inducted by PLAN and later the PLAAF, the J-16 is loaded with eight tons of air-to-air and anti-ship missiles and has a combat radius of several hundred miles, enabling it to help Chinese warships battle for control of regional waters claimed by China. Some reports claim two dozen J-16 are ready for induction.
These military reforms will give the PLA an outward focus, implying that “recovery” of territories claimed by Beijing will be a central feature of China’s strategic agenda. They will reinforce diplomacy aimed at realising “China’s Dream”. Xi Jinping, meanwhile, continues to further tighten his and the CCP’s grip on the PLA. An important example is the Third Plenum approving the PLA being brought within the ambit of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Discipline Inspection Commission.
Jayadeva Ranade is a member of the National Security Advisory Board and former additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat, Indian government.
November 27, 2013
Results of Nepal’s elections for the second Constituent Assembly were declared on November 25. The Nepali Congress (NC) emerged as the single largest party, winning 105 of the 240 seats under the first-past-the-post category. By comparison, the NC won only 37 seats in the 2008 elections.
Second place goes to the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), better known as the UML, with 92 seats, a party that won a mere 30 seats in the previous election.
The Maoists received a drubbing. Their party, which prevailed in the 2008 elections with 120 seats, limped in this time with a humiliating 26 seats.
And no one was a bigger loser than Prachanda, leader of the Maoists, who couldn’t even win a seat in the Kathmandu constituency – although he did win a seat, by a narrow margin, from the southeastern distict of Siraha. Meanwhile, three family members – his brother, his daughter and his sister-in-law – were handed defeats as well.
The day after the elections, Prachanda called a press conference and pronounced that rigging had taken place all over the country, that is was an international conspiracy and that he demanded that the vote-counting process be halted immediately, otherwise his party would boycott the second Constituent Assembly.
The international community was unimpressed by Prachanda’s conspiracy theory. India, the United States and the European Union congratulated Nepal for conducting elections in a free and transparent manner – significantly helped by beefed-up security forces – and urged Prachanda to concede defeat and accept the poll results.
Even China made a significant diplomatic gesture, which indicated its approval of what it perceived as transparently held elections: Yesterday, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Wu Chuntai, called on Nepali Congress Vice-President, Ram Chandra Poudal, and conveyed his best wishes for future improvements in peace, stability and development works.
Prachanda faced dissidence within his own party as well. A high-level Maoist meeting was convened on Saturday, during which the party's two deputies - Baburam Bhattarai and Narayankaji Shrestha - did not buy Prachanda's idea to boycott the Constituent Assembly. The party's agenda was still relevant, Bhattarai said in a statement. "I still believe that the agenda put forth by the UCPN-Maoist regarding the progressive transformation of the state and economic prosperity still holds true," he added. Bhattarai said his party "would opt for a legal battle in the cases involving poll irregularities in some constituencies" and launch a struggle through the assembly to implement its agenda.
The other big losers in the elections were the Madhesi parties. MJF (Loktantrik), a regional party from the southern plains, managed to get just four seats and its splinter party MJF (Nepal) won two. Before the split, these two parties had won 52 seats in the Tarai-Madhes region bordering southern neighbor India.
Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held under two categories -- first-past-the-post and proportional representation. A total of 240 seats were allocated in the first category and 365 seats in the proportional representation category. Counting for the second category -- proportional representation – is still underway.
The remaining 26 seats in the 601-member Constituent Assembly will be nominated by the newly created Cabinet at a later date.
May 16, 2013
Recently, the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) published Jayadeva Ranade’s analysis of China’s “Defense White Paper 2013”. Ranade is a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and Distinguished Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
China issued its eighth bi-annual Defense White Paper entitled: ‘The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces’, on April 16, 2013. The last White Paper, pertaining to 2010, was published in 2011. China’s Defense White Paper, 2013, is a 47-page document with five sections and 3 short appendices listing: joint exercises and training with foreign armed forces from 2011-2012; participation of China’s armed forces in international disaster relief and rescue (2011-2012); and China’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations (2011-2012).
The Defense White Paper, 2013, makes it apparent that the Asia-Pacific region currently dominates Chinese military thinking. This Defense White Paper is at once an expression of the Chinese leadership’s self-confidence and its confidence in the capabilities of its armed forces. After the ritual assertion that China will “not seek hegemony, behave in a hegemonic manner or engage in military expansion” and brief token acknowledgement of the importance of international cooperation, it states clearly that the military build-up and modernization will continue. There is discernible emphasis on expanding the capabilities and operational reach of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and PLA Air Force (PLAAF) together with increased investment in domestic R&D to upgrade the indigenous defense industry.
China started to fall in line with international practice on matters relating to military transparency since 1998, when it first began to publish Defense White Papers. Issued with the twin objectives of meeting international demands for a degree of transparency with regard to its defense modernization programmed as well as wanting to stay engaged with the international community, China has, of late, also begun using the Defense White Papers to publicise its national objectives and worldview, albeit in a very cautious way. In this, it follows the practice of other nations.
Though they avoid specifics, China’s Defense White Papers nevertheless do offer an insight into the broad thinking of senior echelons of the Chinese political and military leadership associated with matters of national defense. Unlike Western documents that also focus more on detail and specific capabilities, China’s Defense White Papers gloss over specifics and reveal few details of expenditure or weapons acquisitions or manufacture. China’s record of transparency in these matters remains opaque, though there has been slight incremental improvement over the years. As could be expected in a country where the armed forces are subordinate to the ruling political party, namely the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s Defense White Papers blend political thinking with the broad plans for the armed forces. The leadership’s thinking on a range of issues including: the future plans and role of the armed forces; anticipated areas of conflict; levels of suspicion of other countries; areas of China’s interest; and the extent of military cooperation with foreign nations, are discernible in the present Defense White Paper, 2013. China too uses the Defense White Papers as instruments of politics and diplomacy.
China’s worldview outlined in the latest Defense White Paper clearly highlights its preoccupation with the developments in the Asia-Pacific region, especially the role of the US, and identifies potential anticipated threats to China’s ambitions. In the initial two paragraphs of its first Section captioned: ‘New Situation, New Challenges and New Missions’, the Defense White Paper singles out the Asia-Pacific region as having become “an increasingly significant stage for world economic development and strategic interaction between major powers”. Hinting at Beijing’s concern about US interference it says, “The US is adjusting its Asia-Pacific security strategy, and the regional landscape is undergoing profound changes”. A blunt, yet thinly veiled, comment follows in the very next paragraph with the assertion that “Some country has strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanded its military presence in the region, and frequently makes the situation there tenser.” The implied reference to the US is unmistakable.
The next sentence in the same paragraph makes specific mention of Japan as one among “some neighboring countries” that are taking actions to exacerbate the situation and cites its “making trouble over the issue of the Diaoyu islands” as example. Affirming that the threat from the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism is increasing, this White Paper in language almost identical to that used in the Defense White Paper of 2010, describes “Taiwan independence separatist forces” as “still the biggest threat to the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations”. Security risks to China’s overseas interests, it concludes, are on the rise.
Clarifying the role of the armed forces as “to win local wars under the conditions of informationisation”, it listed among the tasks for the armed forces the containing of “separatist forces”, safeguarding border, coastal and territorial air security, and “protecting national maritime rights and interests” and “national security interests in outer space and cyber space”. Significant are the independent references to the armed forces providing “reliable support for China’s interests overseas” and “firmly safeguarding China’s core national interests”. These “core national interests” are neither defined nor elaborated.
Of particular concern to China’s neighbors with unresolved, or overlapping, territorial claims are the portions relating to the PLAN and PLAAF in the section on ‘Building and Development of China’s Armed Forces’. The PLAN, it affirmed, will accelerate its pace of modernization and develop advanced submarines, destroyers and frigates and develop blue-water capabilities of conducting mobile operations. It described the development of an aircraft carrier as having a “profound impact on building a strong PLAN and safeguarding maritime security”. Interestingly, the release of this Defense White Paper coincided with the official disclosure the same day -- incidentally also PLA Navy Day -- that China’s new aircraft carrier ‘Liaoning’ would go on a long voyage on the high seas later this year. Separate reports suggest it could sail from its present berth at Qingdao’s military dock within about 3 months up to Okinawa or Guam.
The PLAAF, it said, is developing advanced weaponry and equipment such as new-generation fighters, new-type ground-to-air missiles and radar systems, improving its early warning command and communications networks and “raising its strategic early warning, strategic deterrence and long distance air strike capabilities”. There is no mention of the 3-phase R&D effort underway to indigenously develop advanced jet engines for the PLAAF, disclosed in mid-March 2013 and for which a huge budgetary allocation has already been made.
A novel feature of China’s Defense White Paper this year is the disclosure of troop strengths of the PLAA, PLAN and PLAAF. It was accompanied by a sketchy outline of the deployment of their formations and, in the case of the PLAA, the identifying numbers of the Combined Armies located in each of the seven Military Regions (MR), which the Defense White Paper called Military Area Commands (MAC). The PLAA’s troop strength was disclosed as 850,000. Listing the MRs in order of seniority, it disclosed the following Combined Army deployments: Shenyang (16th, 39th, and 40th); Beijing (27th, 38th, and 65th); Lanzhou (21stand 47th); Jinan (20th, 26th, and 54th); Nanjing (1st, 12th and 31st); Guangzhou (41st and 42nd); and Chengdu (13th and 14th). The disclosure in the White Paper 2013, confirms the deployments estimated by foreign analysts.
The total strength of the PLAN was stated to be 235,000, while that of the PLAAF was declared to be 398,000 with an Air Command at each of the MRs. This official revelation of troop strengths has helped correct international estimates that were in use till now. These estimates placed the PLAN’s total strength as ranging between 255,000 and 290,000 with that of the PLAAF ranging between 300,000 and 330,000. China’s Defense White Paper 2013, now shows that estimates for the PLAN were low while those for the PLAAF were high. China’s strategic missile force, or the PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF), continues to stay shrouded in secrecy and no details of its strength or deployments have been disclosed.
A close reading of this Defense White Paper reveals certain possible policy level statements. Specifically, these pertain to the use of missiles and nuclear weapons. It described China’s strategic missile force, namely the PLA Second Artillery (PLASAF), as a “core force for China’s strategic deterrence”. It disclosed that the PLASAF will use nuclear missiles to launch a counter-attack either independently or in conjunction with “the nuclear forces of other services”. It added that the PLASAF’s conventional missile force can shift “instantly” from peacetime to wartime readiness “and conduct conventional medium- and long-range precision strikes”. Absent in the White Paper were the routine references to non-first use of nuclear weapons by China, though while referring to the PLASAF’s role the terms “strategic deterrence” and “nuclear counterattacks” were repeatedly used. The assertion that the PLASAF will use its nuclear missiles in conjunction with those of other services makes clear that all the services of the PLA are operationally nuclear capable. That the PLASAF will engage in conventional conflict is made clear in the White Paper, which raises the risk of miscalculation by the adversary.
As in the Defense White Paper, 2011, which used the acronym for the first time, this White Paper also refers to the PLA’s ground forces as the PLAA. There has, however, been scattered mention of the PLAA in China’s official media through 2012.The Defense White Paper 2013, similarly placed the PLAA, or PLA Army, first followed by the PLAN, PLAAF, PLASAF and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF). Details of the role and functions of the PAPF, militia and border militia, and the Hong Kong and Macao garrisons are additions in this year’s White Paper.
Repeated usage of the acronyms PLAA, PLAN, PLAAF and PLASAF indicates that these services are increasingly acquiring independent identities and coming out from under the dominance and control of the PLAA or the PLA’s ground forces. The composition of the new Central Military Commission reinforces this view. The moves would be part of the leaderships’effort to professionalize the armed forces, inculcate ‘service pride’ in each service and encourage each of them to generate their own doctrines, or theories, of war and battle plans.
Nevertheless as the large number of PLAA personnel present among the Delegates and Deputies to the 18th Party Congress and 12th NPC reveals, the status and influence of the PLA ground forces remains unaffected, though they have probably dropped more to the level of ‘primus inter pares’. Furthermore, the Military Region Commanders are all from the ground forces and the PLAAF and PLAN personnel are placed under their command. PLA General Departments too continue to be staffed mainly by personnel from the ground services and they are the ones who plan, formulate and issue central directives.
China’s Defense White Paper 2013, touched on the other roles of the armed forces including Military Operations other than War (MOOTW), joint exercises and training with foreign forces and international disaster relief. It dwelt at some length on the contribution of the Chinese armed forces to international peacekeeping where Africa came into focus.
Finally, this Defense White Paper contained two references to India in one paragraph and in the same context. This was in the context of the observation that “since January 2012, independent deployers such as China, India and Japan have strengthened their convoy coordination”.
May 13, 2013
Two very different news articles circulated in Asia this week. Both focused on the increased difficulty facing foreigners who are in Nepal without proper visas. The forces at work are external and internal and the non-Nepalis in question range from Americans to Tibetans:
Nepal to blacklist foreigners working without permit
Beijing, May 9 (Xinhua-ANI): Nepal's Department of Labor (DoL) is going to strictly regulate the non-diplomatic foreign workers working without employment permit in the country, according to a government official.
The non-compliant workers, if found, would be blacklisted, said Krishna Hari Pushkar, director general of the department.
"Some 50,000 foreign nationals are working here without official work permits, which could pose threats to our national sovereignty, integrity and even job creation for Nepalese youths. Se we have decided to strictly impose the work permit system as per the Labor Act 1992," he told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday.
Only 9,119 foreigners working in various hydropower projects, construction companies, telecommunications, banking and hospitality sectors, among others, have been granted official work permit, according to DoL statistics.
There are mostly Chinese nationals among the foreigners who have obtained the official employment permit to work mainly in infrastructure and communications sectors in Nepal.
A team led by DoL officials, comprising representatives from the Ministry of Labor and Employment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Department of Immigration, will start on-the-spot monitoring of the non-diplomatic foreigners working in different sectors such as social organizations, charities and diplomatic missions from next week, the official said.
The DoL has planned to put the names of non-compliant foreigners who will continue their jobs without official work permits finally in the blacklist and such individual will have to leave the country.
Likewise a separate team will conduct the status assessment study of the informally working foreigners in Nepal that is expected to reveal the facts.
Assessing primarily that Nepal is losing some 46 million U.S. dollars annually due to tax avoidance by foreigners working informally in Nepal, the DoL has begun scrutinizing the applicants ' details before issuance of the work permit.
The DoL has initiated the process of interviewing respective candidate who seeks employment permit to work in Nepal.
During the interview, one must justify his/her compatibility to Nepal's national interest, correlation between the academic certificate and nature of job along with the necessary approval from other concerned authorities according to the job specifications.
Though the DoL received some two dozens of applications for work permit in the last fortnight, it has approved only four of them after successful completion of the interview.
Most of the foreigners working without official permit in Nepal are from Bhutan, South Korea, Europe, the United States and Australia, according to the DoL.
Bhutanese nationals are informally working in the education sector largely whereas the South Koreans and Europeans are illegally working in various charities. The citizens of the U.S. and Australia are found to be working in several nongovernmental organizations, international nongovernmental organizations and even in some diplomatic missions.
"The donor agencies such as UNDP, DFID, ADB and the like are also hiring non-diplomatic staffs for very common job positions like computer operator or vehicle driver which is against the provision in section 4(a) of the Labor a Act 1992 given that foreigners can be hired for high level technical jobs only," Director General Pushkar stated.
Any individual working in Nepal for more than 180 days must pay the income tax as per the Income Tax Act 2002. But most of the illegally working foreigners are supposed to receive their benefits directly at their bank account in their home countries.
"If any foreigner generates income here in Nepal, he/she must obtain a permanent account number and paying the income tax, rental tax and other necessary taxes, which is mandatory by law," said Bishnu Nepal, deputy director general of the Inland Revenue Department, adding, "We will coordinate with the DoL to investigate the issue further." (Xinhua-ANI)
China 'crushing’ Tibetan dissident groups in Nepal
Bharti Jain, TIMES OF INDIA | May 12, 2013
NEW DELHI: Wary of dissident Tibetan groups making Nepal a hub for their anti-China activities, Beijing appears to have taken to squeezing the Himalayan nation on the issue by using its developmental initiatives there as a counter-pressure tactic. China, which already boasts of a wide involvement in Nepal that covers all critical areas including defence, infrastructure development and cultural activities, is now focusing on taking up development initiatives across Nepalese villages adjoining Tibet, besides liaisoning with Nepalese border authorities and security officials to enhance border security and upgrade police stations at points used by Tibetans to cross into Nepal.
Recent intelligence assessments by the Indian security agencies have drawn the government's attention to attempts by China to "crush" Tibetan activities in Nepal. Nepal is a major shelter destination for Tibetans who cross over in large numbers before proceeding to India or elsewhere. Over the years, many Tibetans have settled in Nepal, leaving Beijing worried that the dissident elements among them may be working against China's interests.
In a bid to thwart such designs, China has proposed to develop some village development committees (VDCs) contiguous to Tibet, jointly with the Nepalese ministry of physical planning. As per the proposal sent recently to the Nepalese government, China would support basic infrastructure building in some of these VDCs. The project, Indian intelligence agencies' warn, would enable a sizeable Chinese presence in these border VDCs and also let Beijing to exercise control over the crucial border link used by Tibetans to cross into Nepal.
Under the proposed "nationwide assistance programme" awaiting clearance of Nepalese authorities, the Chinese would also provide basic supplies to VDCs in at least 15 border districts.
Incidentally, the Chinese have gone beyond development initiatives to counter the alleged Tibetan dissident activities in Nepal. Chinese Embassy officials based in Kathmandu have been regularly visiting border areas, including remote north-western districts like Humla and Mustang to check the security situation and use their interaction with the Nepalese border authorities to push for tighter monitoring of the Sino-Nepal border. The Chinese officials seek to know the equipment and support mechanism needed for better border security and convey these requirements to Beijing so that they can be factored in future agreements with Nepal.
Another key initiative aimed at greater control over areas bordering Tibet, is China's offer to upgrade police stations along the Sino-Nepal border. Chinese embassy officials, intelligence reports say, had lately visited police stations along the border and made a proposal to renovate them, which is now under consideration in Kathmandu. If accepted, the Chinese side would get a significant say in policing in sensitive border areas. However, what may be more worrisome for India is if China's focus shifts to modernizing police stations along other borders as well.
New Chinese ambassador Wu Chuntai's security background may only help to step up vigilance and counter-efforts against the Tibetan population in Nepal, feel Indian intelligence experts. Chinese security officials have been apprising the Nepalese authorities to be on the lookout for Tibetan groups from India visiting Nepal to "influence" Tibetans settled there.
April 11, 2013
DUNHAM: The last time we met was in Gorkha, several months after the 2008 elections. That interview covered your life from early childhood to becoming Gorkha’s first female Deputy Police Superintendent. Basically, I’d like to pick up from where that interview left off, because you have done many interesting things since then. [CLICK HERE for First Interview with Gita Upreti.] Where did you go after your transfer from Gorkha?
UPRETI: I came back here, to Kathmandu headquarters in the training department. Specifically, I returned to the Women and Children Service Center.
DUNHAM: Did you believe that improvements had been made for women, since you left Kathmandu?
UPRETI: After the election there was a period of great hope for women. Women were expecting more improvement. They were looking for opportunity. They felt that the door was open. Social awareness of women’s issues, among women, had also improved. They were more aware of their rights. It was really encouraging. 197 women parliamentarians had become members of the CA [Constituent Assembly]. And in the early months after the election, we were all excited. The CA brought forward many issues about women. They talked about social inclusion. They were talking about women representation within the leadership and the decision-making level. The CA even brought a few women into the leadership.
Even within the police, they brought a few women into the decision-making level. Based on positive discrimination, they got promoted.
All of that was good. But you know, the continuation of sustainable development is more important. And the continuation of development wasn’t forthcoming. I mean, OK, just having a few women in positions of importance in the CA really didn’t add up to a significant change. That was my personal feeling.
DUNHAM: A lot of talk but no action?
UPRETI: Yes. It was like the male leaders were saying, “We’ve given you some good positions now don’t interfere – be happy what we have given you.”
DUNHAM: And what about the police department?
UPRETI: Yes, if you are talking about within the police department, the answer is yes: There were significant changes for the better. When I first worked at the Women and Children Center, the men could and would say, “Hey, you and your women’s rights are talking rubbish.” Now, everybody likes to talk about gender issues, gender-based violence. If the high-ranking officer doesn’t know about the issue, they will look ignorant. So now they think, “I need to talk about gender issues to look professional.” That’s how it is now. It is qualified improvement. But we still have a long way to go.
As I said, when I came back from Gorkha, I was involved with developing training programs. I said, “Why don’t we change the curriculum? The times have changed.”
DUNHAM: What specific changes were you advocating?
UPRETI: There are three different levels of training curriculum in our department. One is for police constables, one for assistant sub-inspectors and one is for inspectors. I was stationed at the training directorate so I did have access to decision-making. And I advocated a new comprehensive curriculum that talked about how to deal with the female and child victims of gender-based violence, like domestic violence, sexual abuse, child exploitation and juvenile justice.
Under my direction, a team was formed to review that curriculum. And finally the issue of women and children was included. And I’m happy to say that that’s now in the curriculum. It’s quite extensive.
DUNHAM: What about the number of policewomen? Has it increased in Nepal? Female victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse need to have woman officers to help them. In Gorkha, I remember you talking about how awful it was for victims to have to report their abuse cases to male officers, who did not sympathize, who did not believe and who often made the women feel shame.
UPRETI: Yes, at that time, the Women and Children Service Center was not incorporated into the structure of the police system. But now it is included. Now it is a permanent part of the system. I also trained male officers, which is very important, in order to sensitize them to women’s issues. But to answer your question, out of the entire new recruitment within the police force, 45% of the positions are reserved for various marginalized groups. Within that 45%, 20% are women. That’s the mandate. But when you break it down, still only 9% of the new recruits are women.
It’s a big change, but…..
DUNHAM: Today, how many women inspectors are in the police force?
UPRETI: Not more than twenty. And most of them are in the Kathmandu Valley. We have 75 districts in Nepal. So you can see that women are not properly represented in the higher ranks.
DUNHAM: How long were you here in Kathmandu with the Women and Children Service Center??
UPRETI: One year. After that, I went to Darfur, Sadan. It was 2009-2010.
DUNHAM: You went as a Deputy Superintendent of Police under the umbrella of the United Nations?
DUNHAM: What was it like being a woman officer in Darfur?
UPRETI: (Laughing). It was quite a shock in the beginning. I was assigned as a gender officer. We used to conduct “confidence-building patrols”.
DUNHAM: What did that mean?
UPRETI: Basically, we were there to explain to the locals why we were there as UN police. Later, I got a new job as Reform and Restructuring officer. It was about restructuring or changing what the local police thought about police work.
You have to understand: The people of Darfur have fought their whole lives. Even the local police had no idea what real police work was. What does rule of law mean? They didn’t know. What about human rights? They didn’t know. What is community policing? They don’t know. Even, what is investigation? They didn’t know. The local police were in an extremely preliminary stage of development.
I was in charge of four branches: human rights, the community policing section, the gender section and coordination and cooperation between the local police and the UN force. It allowed us to have meetings, trainings, conferences, and things like that.
DUNHAM: Was it a challenge between the two groups in terms of sharing information with one another?
UPRETI: Oh! In the beginning, the people would not talk to you! You are a police officer! They saw the UN police as the enemy. It was as if they thought we were going in there to destroy their entire culture, the religion and the entire system within which they operated in daily life. Live there is ordered around the teachings of the Koran. That is the real law.
And it was part of our duty to bridge that gap of understanding – to build trust. Obviously, without trust, you can’t do anything. We were strangers trying not to be strangers.
But, again, the most important challenge for us was that Darfur was and is totally under Sharia Law [the moral code and religious law of Islam].
DUNHAM: A foreign female police officer dealing with Muslims: That must have been doubly or triply challenging.
UPRETI: Exactly. Oh my god. I have never had to work so hard to build rapport with other people. I went with my fellow UN police officers to the community so that I could talk to the locals. But the community refused to talk to me because I was a woman. I was embarrassed. At that time, I was the only female officer among the group. And in that group, the men were from many different countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Gambia, and Kenya. And they, my fellow officers, hesitated to talk to me, too, because I was a female.
But I kept going back to the communities and, eventually, I was able to build some rapport. And after one or two months, it was really nice to work with them. They welcomed me at their training academy. And finally I said, “Can we now conduct some training that you like?” And their answer was, “Well, maybe yes, maybe no. We have to talk the training director.”
Another obstacle was that they were very conscious about rank and file. Higher-ranking officers would not talk to lower-ranking officers. It was very rigid. If there was a female officer, they would not speak to you. They were very concerned about protocol. And we had to maintain that protocol.
Later, we conduct a human rights training. Also, we spoke about investigation, community policing and gender policing.
Eventually, though, we were able to coordinate with them. We were able to form a women’s police network. At every one of those training, we brought with us women police officers. In the beginning, at the academy, they said, “Oh, our women officers are not that interested in having a training.” But we told them to bring in the women anyway. As it turned out, the female officers were so smart and they, the Sudanese policewomen connected with the UN policewomen network quite well. We finally could talk to them informally as well as formally. It was really, really nice at the end.
DUNHAM: Did you visit the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps?
UPRETI: Oh yes. The women in the camps used to come up to us and feel our arms to see if we were really women. Oh my god, they couldn’t believe that we were female officers. It really excited them. On the other hand, if there were males around they wouldn’t speak to us. Even if you were a male officer with the UN, the men in the IDPs would not allow the women to speak. At first we didn’t understand. When we came, they would go inside and wouldn’t come out.
So we told them, “We are females, like you. You can tell us the problems you are having here in the camps.” So we women police officers went in a group, without men, to talk to the women in the camps.
And eventually, we made real headway. I was able to train the women in the camps to become community volunteers. They could wear jackets, patrol at night. If something happened they would call us and we would send help to address the problem.
DUNHAM: The women were the ones policing the camps?
UPRETI: Most of the volunteers were men but there were also a few women volunteers. Still, just having a few women involved was really something.
DUNHAM: You were in Sudan for two years?
UPRETI: Fourteen months. I returned to Kathmandu and was posted at headquarters, this time in the legal section, which looks after the code of conduct. Then I got promoted to Superintendent of Police (SP) and became the first woman SP to head a district.
DUNHAM: The Kavre District.
UPRETI: That’s right.
DUNHAM: Just this week in the local papers was a story about several rape cases in Kavre. Is the violence against women in Kavre any greater than cases in other districts, or is it more or less typical of other districts?
UPRETI: Kavre is not typical. It has two highways and a higher rate of criminality than most other districts. Also, because of the highways, the criminals use Kavre as a transit point. They can go to Tibet-China to the north using the Araniko highway. And to the south is the Dhulikhel-Sindhuli highway, which leads into the Terai and the Indian Border
DUNHAM: When you say transit point, are you talking about the movement of drugs, or sex trafficking or other illegal products?
UPRETI: I’m talking about illegal trade in wildlife, red sandalwood, even gold. When I was transferred to Kavre, no one but me believed that gold was being moved through the district. Nobody believed that gold was coming illegally from China. But under my watch, I caught nine kilos of gold, coming from China to Kathmandu. It was an historic seizure that I made.
DUNHAM: Was it gold bullion?
UPRETI: Yes. And I got into a lot of trouble – a lot of pressure – for capturing that gold…as if I had made a mistake. But my procedure was totally correct, thorough and I was very personally involved in making that arrest and confiscation.
DUNHAM: How? How did you go about that?
UPRETI: I personally checked hundreds of vehicles on the highway at night, myself. It was very unusual for a Superintendent of Police to go out into the field and do that kind of work. But I did. I got some information that something was coming from China into Nepal. So I stood in the middle of the road at night with my colleagues. A male SP would have just sent someone else to go and check. But I didn’t trust anyone and I said, “I have to go there myself.” I started checking cars at midnight. At the checkpoint, I stopped and searched every car, until I found the car with gold in. The driver was Nepali
DUNHAM: I hope the driver is now behind bars.
UPRETI: Yes, he must be. But this in Nepal: You never know.
DUNHAM: You don’t know where he is?
UPRETI: You never know.
DUNHAM: Let’s talk about other contraband: the wildlife and the sandalwood. It is going in the opposite direction: from Nepal to China. Right?
UPRETI: Right. After I took over in Kavre I was really surprised. It was not just tigers and sandalwood. Everything was going to China. You can’t imagine. Wildlife, human hair, sunakhari [rare orchids] , many kinds of herbs…I confiscated 25 kilos of rare orchids one time!
DUNHAM: What about sex trafficking?
UPRETI: You would be surprised. You always hear about girls being trafficked to India. But it’s not just India. It’s also in China. Have you heard about it?
DUNHAM: Yeh, I’ve heard about it. There’s a big market for girls in China because of the “one-child” policy, which has been in place in China for many years. Since parents can only have one child, they often abort female fetuses until they get a son. So now, many years later, there are all these young men who don’t have any women to marry. When I was working undercover in Cambodia in 2004, raiding brothels that housed under-aged girls, many of those girls were actually on their way to China to be sold to men there. I know all about it. But I didn’t know they were being move through Nepal to China. [For the story of my undercover work in Cambodia, CLICK HERE.
UPRETI: I see.
DUNHAM: Is Kavre district an origin district or simply a transit district for illegally trafficked girls?
UPRETI: Both. Girls do originate from Kavre and Sindhupalchowk districts. Some of the girls come from the Tamang community…not all, but they are certainly an easy target for traffickers. Girls are a very big market in Khasa [Nepali-Tibetan border town just inside the China border.] Once the girls are transported to China, they are not allowed to return to Nepal.
DUNHAM: As SP, have you caught traffickers in action in Kavre?
DUNHAM: What about domestic violence in Kavre?
UPRETI: It’s very high – much higher than most other districts. Kavre is developed and adjacent to Kathmandu. The people are educated. The land is fertile. 50% of the vegetables coming to Kathmandu come from Kavre.
Still, the domestic violence and suicide rate is very high.
DUNHAM: Are the rates going up because there is an actually increase, or is it more a matter of the incidents being reported at a high rate?
UPRETI: Exactly. The cases were always there but they weren’t reported…until recently. There was no system or access for women. Now there is a Woman and Children Service Center. Now, there is an actual physical location where women can go to report. That makes a big difference.
DUNHAM: Are the women committing suicide in Kavre of reproductive age or does suicide occur in all ages?
UPRETI: All ages, even seventy-five-year old women.
DUNHAM: What’s the most common way for a woman in Nepal to commit suicide?
UPRETI: Poison is the most common and hanging is in second place. Oh my god, when I went to Kavre and saw the data, I was shocked. There were certain villages in which the suicide rate was much higher than in other villages. So I targeted these villages and conducted an awareness campaign. And the communities were so happy when they realized that they had a Women and Children Service Center available to them. They said, “There is someone who will listen to us, now. Instead of people just blaming us for being victims of abuse.”
DUNHAM: It’s nice to have a place to go to where you won’t be judged.
DUNHAM: Are there drop-in centers in Kavre, where women will be safe from their abusers?
UPRETI: Yes, there are safe houses.
DUNHAM: How long are the women allowed to stay there?
UPRETI: Initially they can stay for one month and then they can extend it for another fifteen days. But it’s still not enough. The Domestic Violence Act is not a strong enough law to truly protect the women.
DUNHAM: Especially if the woman has to leave the safe house after only one month – with no place to go but back to the house where her husband, who beat her in the first place, is waiting for her.
UPRETI: Yes, it’s very sad. We all agree that the Domestic Violence Act was a good first step, but it is not enough.
DUNHAM: I’ve heard that one of the problems is the judicial system, once the case has been filed. The women go to court, time and again, only to be told that the hearing has been postponed again and again. And eventually the postponements simply wear the women down and they drop the case. The legal system lets them down.
UPETRI: Yes, and I’ll give you an example. A nine-year-old girl was raped in Kavre. The case was filed. The police took all the proper statements and followed proper proceedure. Then we sent those documents to the court. But, still that case has not gone to trial.
DUNHAM: When was the case filed?
UPETRI: Two or three years! Now, she doesn’t understand what has happened to her. When her case finally goes to trial, she will be thirteen or fourteen, and it will be very painful for her. She will be stigmatized. It’s terrible. If her case could have been heard immediately, when she was still nine, it would have been much easier on her. But, no, she’s had to go back to court, time and time again.
Think about it! Let’s say that it finally comes to trial after four years, what effect will than have on her? She’ll be fourteen. A teenager! And she’ll have to go through the entire rape incident again. To relive her rape victimization! She will be re-victimized! She might decide that “the rape was my mistake.” And think what it will do to her, as a teenager, to have to expose herself in front of the court. Wouldn’t it have been much easier on her if she had had the trial at nine? By now, all of that would be in the past.
DUNHAM: What about incest cases?
UPRETI: There are now many more cases reported. Now, the child abuse cases and the resultant punishment of the perpetrator are very high.
In terms of punishment, if it is a rape case, the man is sentenced for seven years. But if he rapes a child, the prison term is at least ten years. Maybe the increase in punishment is one of the reasons that child abuse cases have risen.
DUNHAM: How long will you remain in Kavre?
UPRETI: I retired last week!
DUNHAM: No one told me. Wow.
UPRETI: I’m now free. After 30 years in the police force, there is compulsory retirement. So now I’m jumping into social work.
DUNHAM: Here in the Valley?
UPRETI: Yes, probably. I’ll be working in the jail system with the prisoners. I have already registered an NGO.
DUNHAM: What made you decide to go into that line of work?
UPRETI: As a police chief, I saw the conditions of the prisoners, how they were treated and when they are released, how low their expectations are. Where will they go? The families might blame them, they might blame themselves. If someone is inside a prison for twenty years, where is there family when they finally get out? Who will accept them? Once again, they must face the stigma society places on them.
There are already services available inside the prisons. But I don’t believe that their services are adequate.
DUNHAM: You will be concentrating on re-habilitation?
UPRETI: Well, some of the existing organizations provide skill training, but it is not comprehensive. You also need counseling on life skills to be able to face the outside world. That’s what I want to concentrate on.
March 29, 2013
By Nitin A. Gokhale, senior Editor Defence & Security NDTV
For the past decade or so, much of Indian strategic thinking and discourse has visibly shifted from its Pakistan-centric focus to study Sino-Indian relations. The rise of China and its implications for India is now a preferred area of serious study.
At the same time Chinese inroads into India's strategic neighbourhood, Beijing's continuing attempts to use Pakistan's as cat's paw against India and New Delhi's balancing act of evolving a strategic partnership with the United States even while keeping a dialogue going with China are some of the highlights of the past decade. Many authors write about India-China relations, the emerging US-India-Japan trilateral compact but there are very few authoritative and knowledgeable Indian writers who have a deep insight into Chinese strategic thinking and the internal dynamics within China.
Jayadeva Ranade, a former Additional Secretary in India's Cabinet Secretariat, an euphemism for the country's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), is one such analyst. A frequent writer in leading newspapers and regular panelist on Indian Television channels, Ranade was also associated with the Centre for Airpower Studies (CAPS) for a couple of years after he retired from active service. As the foremost China hand in RAW, Ranade was engaged in keeping a close watch on day to day developments around China and its implications for India.
After retirement however he was not constrained by the compulsions of government policies and requirement. Freed of encumbrances, Ranade has utilised the luxury of being an independent analyst in his post-retirement writings for CAPS as well as for different newspapers. The sum total of all his writings in the 2010-2012 period has resulted in a book China Unveiled: Insights into Chinese Strategic Thinking.
Released by National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon, himself a China thinker, the book is a valuable asset for every serious student of China. Ranade's vast experience in dealing with China both from the ground (he was in Beijing when the Tiananmen Square incident happened in 1989) and from his perch as the leading analyst in the agency, shines through the book.
Unlike most Indian writers, Ranade has chosen to write on China and Chinese leadership as a standalone subject rather than through the prism of Sino-Indian dynamic. So you have a great insight into Hu Jintao's rise and his real power. By tracing his roots, his rise and his tenure through little known facts, Ranade draws a completely refreshing profile of Hu, who has just handed over the reins of power to Xi Jingping. In the first chapter Hu's in charge? Ranade states "though Hu's tenure has been dogged by comments that he is not powerful as his predecessors, his career path shows otherwise. It is likely that Hu Jintao's influence will, in fact, continue to linger well after he steps down from office (January 2011)."
In less than three months after profiling Hu Jintao, Ranade wrote at length on Xi Jingping in the chapter China's Next Chairman: Xi Jingping. And again broughtout unknown facts and anecdotes. His prognosis of Xi's likely stand (March 2011)--"What can be inferred with reasonable surety is that Xi Jinping’s military affiliations and pronounced linkages with senior PLA officers will influence his policies. The military will receive high budgetary allocations and the focus on the PLA’s modernisation will continue. ‘Integrated joint operations’ and preparations for fighting ‘short duration regional wars under hi-tech informatised conditions’ will remain a feature. He is likely to stay with the current policy, which combines diplomacy with a strong suggestion of military muscle"--is bang on. All developments in recent months after Xi has formally taken over confirms what Ranade predicted two years ago!
The strength of this compilation in fact remains in its accurate prognosis.
For instance in the chapter entitled India and China: The way forward (December 2010) he correctly assesses how the relationship will pan out. "India-China relations specifically need to be viewed in this backdrop. The Chinese leadership’s view of India is significant. While discussing India in interactions with foreign strategists and diplomats, Chinese officials and members of Chinese government-controlled think-tanks list three main items as issues of concern. These are, in the Chinese-listed order of priority: the Dalai Lama and Tibet issue; the border dispute; and India’s geopolitical ambitions. These can be classified as tactical and short-term, medium-to-long term and strategic.
"For example, during the US-China Strategic Dialogue in Washington a few months ago, when the US proposed a US-China-India trilateral, China vehemently rejected the idea and questioned how the US could place India anywhere near on par with China when the two were not at all comparable. Noteworthy also is the omission by China of vital natural resource issues like water and food, which will become serious factors that bedevil the relationship in the next ten to fifteen years."
China's new leader Xi Jingping and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in fact met at Durban during the BRICS summit in South Africa on 27 March 2013. Just days before that meeting the Chinese had suggested a five point formula to take forward the Sino-Indian relationship. Much of the proposal is old but it very much resembles what Ranade said over two years ago!
Although the book deals with a range of subjects, its main focus remains contemporary China. The 32 essays that comprise the book presents a comprehensive 360 degree look at present day China dealing with subjects ranging from rapid modernisation of the PLA, the changing nature of China's Communist Party, environment to China's maritime ambitions and cyber strategy.
If there is one drawback in the book that serious scholars of India-China relationship will complain about is the lack of citations and references. But as the publishers and author himself have clarified, the book is meant as an easy reading and not a heavy tome full of notes and index!
Anyone interested in today's China, must read this book if only to understand the complex challenge that the middle kingdom poses to strategic thinkers.
Title: China Unveiled Insights Into Chinese Strategic Thinking
Author: Jayadeva Ranade
Introduction: Air Commodore Jasjit Singh AVSM,VrC, VM (Retd)
Publisher: KW Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
ISBN 13: 9789381904435
ISBN 10: 938190443X
Printed INR: 860.00
Binding: Hard Cover
March 20, 2013
“Beijing moves to safeguard strategic interests in South Asia”, written by Jayadeva Ranade, was published yesterday by DNA. The last half of the article should be of particular interest to those who monitor the precarious status of Tibetans living in Nepal.
There are discernible moves by China in recent weeks to safeguard its strategic interests, especially in South Asia. These are part of adjustments that the new Chinese leadership, prompted by its assessment that China is facing an adverse international environment, is carrying out. China’s policy towards Asia will become evident as senior foreign ministry appointments approved by the National People’s Congress (NPC) are implemented.
Meanwhile, Beijing posted a new ambassador to India this January, reportedly for the first time with the rank of vice minister. The recent ambassadorial appointments to Myanmar and Nepal, however, attract special attention. These portend that Beijing will pursue its foreign policy objectives in these countries of strategic importance in a more determined fashion.
Fifty seven-year old Yang Houlan, till recently China’s Ambassador to Nepal, had his tenure cut short and was posted to Myanmar earlier this February. Reports assert that the work done by him in Nepal was appreciated in Beijing and he was specially selected for the assignment in Yangon.
China has had decades-long close ties with Myanmar’s military junta and these are now getting loosened. Over the years, China has made sizeable strategic investments in Myanmar, including the almost completed oil pipeline from Kyaukpyu Island in Rakhine to Kunming, capital of China’s Yunan province. It is currently in the process of constructing a gas pipeline along the same alignment. The restoration of normal ties between the US and Myanmar, soon to be followed by the likely ingress of US companies is a serious concern for Beijing.
An additional complication is Tokyo’s interest in Myanmar. China’s influence in Myanmar is now at risk.
Yang Houlan’s main task in Myanmar will be to preserve the close ties between the Myanmar and Chinese authorities and ensure continued Chinese influence. Reflecting Beijing’s concern at the developments in Myanmar, China’s foreign affairs establishment has taken the unusual step of appointing retired 71-year-old vice foreign minister, Wang Yifan, as its special envoy for Myanmar. He will reinforce Yang Houlan’s efforts from Beijing.
The appointment of China’s new ambassador to Nepal, Wu Chuntai, is more interesting. Nepal has been the focus of Beijing’s attention for a few years now because of the activities of the Tibetan refugees. Chinese influence has spread rapidly throughout Nepal coinciding particularly with the political ascendance of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of the UCPN-Maoist, better known by his nom de guerre ‘Prachanda’.
Prachanda is well known to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD). He is a vice president of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) managed by Xiao Wunan, a Chinese communist cadre reputedly close to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The APECF is actively involved in trying to co-opt Tibetan Buddhists and persons of Tibetan origin in Nepal to prevent ‘anti-China’ activities and undermine the Dalai Lama’s influence. It has plans to broaden its range of activities to include Tibetan Buddhists residing in other areas along India’s vulnerable Himalayan border and is especially targeting the Tibetan Buddhist clergy. The APECF last year proposed a capital-intensive plan to develop Lumbini, which is the Buddha’s birthplace and a town situated on Nepal’s border with India.
[For more information on APECF click on my "Lumbini: Birthplace of Buddha" file.]
China’s new ambassador, Wu Chuntai, brings special skills to his assignment. Immediately prior to being posted to Kathmandu, he was the deputy director general of the department of external security of China’s ministry of foreign affairs. The department is headed by Quo Guohong, a former ambassador to Nepal. This department handles counter-intelligence, protection of Chinese personnel posted in embassies overseas, and security-related work relating to Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. Usually the heads of chancery, or officials in-charge of administration in Chinese diplomatic missions abroad, handle such work and report to this department.
While Wu Chuntai, who joined the foreign service 27 years ago, has never done an assignment as ambassador, he has been posted to Turkey, the UK, Northern Ireland and as first secretary in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience relating to Tibetans-in-exile.
Wu Chuntai received a positive reception on arrival in Kathmandu and, after presenting credentials to Nepal’s President Dr Ram Baran Yadav on March 11, met Prachanda the following day. During the meeting he discussed the political situation in Nepal and matters relating to Tibetan refugees and Tibetans resident in Nepal. He indicated that China would invest in communications infrastructure projects.
With the arrival of Wu Chuntai, the Tibetan community in Nepal can expect to come under increased pressure in the coming months. The Chinese embassy in Kathmandu is also likely to become more pro-active in infiltrating the Tibetan community in India.
Jayadeva Ranade is a member of the National Security Advisory Board and former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India.
March 12, 2013
China's ambassador to Kathmandu was recently pictured in a traditional Nepali cap and silk scarf, digging with a spade to symbolise the laying of the foundations of a new dry port near the Tibet border.
The photo opportunity marked the latest in a series of major projects that underscore China's growing economic influence in Nepal, where it is building roads and investing billions of dollars in hydropower and telecommunications.
Other Chinese projects in its impoverished, electricity-starved Himalayan neighbour include a $1.6 billion hydropower plant which is expected finally to end power outages which extend to 14 hours a day in winter.
Meanwhile China recently completed a 22-kilometre (14-mile) stretch of road in central Nepal connecting the country's southern plains with the Tibetan county of Kyirong, to form the shortest motorable overland route between China and India.
Analysts have questioned whether Beijing's largesse is a gesture to a neighbour in need, or the result of a foreign policy which increasingly sees Nepal's roads and dry ports as a doorway to the huge markets of India.
"I am sure that these infrastructure projects will help win influence in Nepal but they will serve a dual purpose," said Purna Basnet, a Nepalese political commentator who frequently writes on Chinese influence in Nepal.
"It will be easier for China to supply goods to India via Nepal. There is even a talk of connecting Kathmandu with their rail networks in Tibet.
"The Shigatse-Lhasa railway will be completed in a couple of years. From Shigatse, they have plans to connect Kathmandu through railways."
India has traditionally exerted huge political influence and is Kathmandu's biggest trading partner and sole provider of fuel.
Since the end of a bloody decade-long civil war in 2006 and the emergence of the Maoist rebels who fought the state as the largest political party, China has been gradually -- and literally -- making inroads as a counterweight to India.
Chinese ambassador Yang Houlan outlined his country's vision of Kathmandu as a trade gateway to New Delhi in a recent op-ed article in Nepal's English-language Republica newspaper.
"From an economic viewpoint, Nepal links China (with 1.3 billion people) with South Asia (with 1.5 billion). The huge common market provides great opportunities for both China and South Asia," he wrote.
"China is pushing its Develop West' strategy, and South Asia represents one of the main overseas investment opportunities. Nepal could provide China the much-needed overland channel to South Asia."
February 21, 2013
The following analysis, written by Jayadeva Ranade for DNA, was published February 20, 2013.
On January 29, 2013, Lobsang Gyaltsen was appointed the new Governor of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), dampening hope in certain quarters of the Tibetan community in exile that China’s new leadership might opt for a ‘softer’ policy towards Tibetans. The post of governor is typically reserved for Tibetans who are loyal apparatchiks of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and Lobsang Gyaltsen is no exception.
The optimism among Tibetans was sparked by the family background of the new CCP General Secretary, Xi Jinping. His father, Xi Zhongxun, served as interpreter to the Dalai Lama’s special envoy Lodi Gyari. Well into his twilight years, Xi Zhongxun wore a wrist watch that was previously worn by the Dalai Lama and later presented to him. He was a friend of the late 10th Panchen Lama and, as if to underscore this connection, a letter written by Xi Zhongxun to the 10th Panchen Lama was published quite inexplicably in China’s Mainland media in September last year just prior to the 18th Party Congress.
There are also reports that Xi Jinping’s wife, Peng Liyuan, a well known Chinese opera singer who holds the rank of major general in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is a practicing Buddhist. There was an expectation that this background would influence Xi Jinping’s policy towards Tibet and Tibetans.
Xiao Wunan, a Chinese cadre affiliated with the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) and reportedly with connections to Xi Jinping, sought to heighten this anticipation. During his one day visit to Dharamsala in mid-August 2012, he met the Dalai Lama, Karmapa Ugyen Thinley Dorje and the Sikyong, or ‘Senior Leader’, of the Central Tibetan Administration, Lobsang Sangay.
[For more information about Xiao Wunan, see my article on Wunan’s role in exploiting Lumbini, the historical Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal:]
However, this optimism had overlooked the CCP doctrinaire approach and emphasis placed on the loyalty and political reliability of Party cadres at its 18th Congress. It also ignored the absence of representation for China’s minority nationalities in the two recently-constituted top bodies of the CCP, namely the 25-member Politburo (PB) and seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC).
The 55-year old Lobsang Gyaltsen’s rise in the TAR Party hierarchy has been steady since he joined the CCP in 1978. In fact, the former hard line TAR Party secretary Zhang Qingli had made clear in 2010 that Lobsang Gyaltsen, who till last August was seventh in the TAR hierarchy,would be groomed for the number three position -- that of governor -- in TAR.
Born in 1957, Lobsang Gyaltsen started his political career by joining the Communist Youth League in TAR in 1978 and completed his post-graduate degree from the CCP Central Committee’s Central Party School.
A Khampa from Dragyab in Chamdo Prefecture, Lobsang Gyaltsen is described by persons who have met him as a dour, humorless person and an ideologue.
His work experience has been confined to TAR, where he has served at the prefectural level, Lhasa municipal level, the TAR United Front Department, the TAR People’s Political Consultative Conference (PPCC), the TAR Political and Legal Committee -- which oversees public security — and the TAR Government.
Though Lobsang Gyaltsen’s visibility appeared to have decreased under new TAR Party secretary Chen Quanguo, there were indicators that his rise in the hierarchy would be unimpeded.
He was selected a Delegate from TAR to the 18th Party Congress and, later at the Congress, elected an alternate member of the 18th CC. His elevation as governor of the sensitive border Autonomous Region suggests that he could play a more important role in Tibetan affairs in the years to come.
Possibly less known is Lobsang Gyaltsen’s involvement in recent efforts to quell the self-immolations in TAR. After the self-immolation by 43-year old Gudrup in Nagchu Prefecture on October 4, 2012, Lobsang Gyaltsen spent three weeks in Nagchu impressing upon local cadres the paramount importance of maintaining ‘social stability’ and vigilance against the efforts at infiltration by the Dalai Lama’s group.
He visited six of the ten counties in the Prefecture. However, this appeared to have little effect since as soon as he left Driru County, where he had spent four days, instances of double self immolations by monks occurred in the County on October 25 and November 7. Sog County, which also he visited, witnessed a similar scene. Driru County is, incidentally, next-door to Lhari County in Nagchu which is home to both, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized by the Dalai Lama as the XIth Panchen Lama and Gyaincain Norbu, the Panchen Lama appointed by the Chinese authorities.
There is little to suggest any change in China’s policy towards Tibet or Tibetans and this is reinforced by Lobsang Gyaltsen’s appointment. China’s leaders are nevertheless concerned that the continuing self-immolations and restiveness among Tibetans could spread throughout the country. This may prompt them to initiate overtures limited to defusing internal tensions.
February 14, 2012
JIM YARDLEY of the New York Times filed this report:
Feb. 13, 2013 – A Tibetan man walked onto a street Wednesday morning in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, poured gasoline over his body and set himself on fire. Engulfed in flames, and writhing in pain, the monk became the latest Tibetan to self-immolate as part of a protest campaign against Chinese rule in Tibet.
In Nepal, a small Himalayan nation that is home to thousands of Tibetan exiles, authorities said the monk was hospitalized in critical condition. Witnesses told The Associated Press that the man, who was dressed in the robes of a Buddhist monk, shouted slogans against China before falling to the ground, as others quickly put out the flames and called for help.
Photographs showed Nepalese security officers arriving as the protester stood in the middle of the street, his body consumed by flames and black smoke.
This latest self-immolation comes at a wrenching moment for Tibetans inside and outside China. Desperate to focus global attention on political and religious repression inside Tibet, yet barred by Chinese authorities from holding any political protests there, a growing number of young Tibetan men and women have set themselves on fire during the last three years.
The protest campaign is now approaching the grim milestone of 100 self-immolations in Tibetan areas of China: Exiled Tibetan political leaders in India, as well as the advocacy group, Save Tibet, have documented 99 such incidents inside China since February 2009. A handful of Tibetans outside Tibet also have self-immolated, including a man who set himself afire in March 2012 during a pro-Tibet protest in New Delhi. His image, captured by a news photographer, ricocheted around the world.
The protester in Nepal has not yet been identified but he timed his self-immolation to coincide with the important Tibetan festival of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, during which the government in exile has asked Tibetans not to celebrate in solidarity with Tibetans still in Tibet.
The protester set himself on fire near a major Buddhist stupa, or religious structure, that is located in the Boudhanath section of Katmandu, where many Tibetan exiles live.
A waiter at the Golden Eye Café told The Associated Press that the Tibetan man used the bathroom in the restaurant before stepping outside onto the street. Later, the waiter found a bottle of gasoline and clothing in the bathroom.
“He looked like the hundreds of Tibetans who came to Boudhanath today and I did not suspect he was going to set himself on fire,” the waiter, Prasant Tamang, said.
The Chinese government has condemned the self-immolations as criminal acts and has been waging a police crackdown. Last week, Chinese state media reported that at least 70 people had been arrested or detained in a Tibetan region of the province of Qinghai and accused of inciting others to self-immolate. Last Friday, a Chinese court sentenced a Tibetan man to 13 years in prison on similar charges.
Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile, expressed sadness about the self-immolation in Nepal and said his administration has asked Tibetans not to take drastic actions, including self-immolation. But he also placed the blame for such acts on the Chinese government.
"The occupation of Tibet and repression of Tibetans are the primary reason for the self-immolations inside Tibet," Mr. Sangay said by email on Wednesday, while he was visiting the United States. "The solution to the tragedy in Tibet lies with Beijing and my administration is fully committed to dialogue and to address the issue peacefully."
For decades, Chinese leaders have vilified the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, and the country’s state-run media have recently been blaming him for orchestrating the self-immolations. Tibetans have dismissed such claims as blatant propaganda and argued that the self-immolations are the result of repressive Chinese policies that have sharply restructured political and religious rights in Tibetan areas.
“Why do the Tibetans burn themselves?” asked Penpa Tsering, speaker of the exiled Tibetan Parliament, which is based in Dharamsala, India, in a speech earlier this month. “Political freedom in Tibet is nonexistent.”
Nepal is pinched between China and India and for decades as served as way station for Tibetans escaping from Chinese rule. In recent years, Chinese leaders have pressured Nepal’s government to choke off this flow of refugees and to also limit political protests by Tibetans living in Nepal.
February 5, 2013
CHINA’S 18th PARTY CONGRESS:
(Nov 8-14, 2012)
TRENDS AND ANALYSIS
by JAYADEVA RANADE
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s week-long (Nov 8-14) 18th Congress, which concluded on November 14, 2012, marked an important milestone in the evolution of the CCP. It saw the smooth transfer of power to leaders of the next generation despite the severe political disruption caused by the unbridled ambition of Bo Xilai, the now ousted former Politburo (PB) member with unimpeachable ‘Red Revolutionary’ lineage. The disruption impacted, however, on the composition of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) where the preference was for stolid apparatchiks bound by traditional Party ideology and discipline. The Party Centre was also able to ensure that an acceptable political document was approved, namely Hu Jintao’s Work Report, a key Congress document which was drafted from the beginning under Xi Jinping’s leadership. Most importantly, the Congress oversaw the hand over of power to a pair of new leaders who had not been selected by ‘Long March’ veterans, and a set of PBSC and PB members who have entirely different academic and social backgrounds than their predecessors and all of whom grew and joined the CCP during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution years.
Indirectly acknowledging the growing popular discontent caused by a variety of factors including corruption, rising income inequality, pollution and food adulteration, the 18th Party Congress opened in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 8, 2012, amidst unprecedented high security. 1,704 journalists covered the event attended by 2,280 Delegates and 20 special invitees like Song Ping, Qiao Shi, Li Peng and Jiang Zemin, who also cast votes. Heating was turned up in Beijing since the end of October for comfort of the 2,270 Delegates and 1.4 million ‘volunteers’ were mobilized for security work in Beijing. Irate ‘netizens’ complained that over 660 persons had been assigned to protect each Delegate. China sealed its borders with Myanmar, India and Nepal and put security forces on higher vigil in the Tibet and Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Regions. The opening and closing ceremonies were marred, however, by news of the self-immolation of five Tibetans across China’s Tibetan populated areas on November 7 and some more on the closing days of the Congress.
Reflecting the CCP’s increased strength of 82.6 million, 2,270 Delegates, each representing 38,000 Party members, were selected for the 18th Party Congress. 50 additional Delegates represented ‘businessmen’. The CCP’s changing complexion was evident in the inclusion among the Delegates of 160 of China’s 1,024 wealthiest men. The number of Delegates representing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) registered a slight increase at 251 against 249 for the 17th Congress. Hinting at the deleterious impact of the Bo Xilai incident on the PLA, China’s official news-agency ‘Xinhua’, while reporting that the PLA’s list of Delegates had been finalised, specifically observed that all 251 had been hand-picked for their blemish-free political reliability and record.
The strength of the Party’s 18th Central Committee (CC) registered a marginal increase from 371 to 376. The average age of the new 18th CC, however, dropped to 56.1 with 166 of the 205 full members born in the 1950s. The number of women reduced to 33. There are 39 ethnic minorities represented in the CC, though the number of Tibetans in the CC has dropped from 2 to 1. Interestingly, the number of Tibetans among the alternate members of the CC, at the same time, rose to an all time high of 4.
Notable is the reduced size of the PBSC, from 9 to 7. Reliable reports circulating in Beijing claimed that the size of the PBSC was conclusively decided only on November 14 evening. The reduced size meant that unlike in the earlier PBSC no leaders from the successor ‘sixth generation’ were inducted, though at least 9 potential candidates for the top jobs are present in the PB. Ethnic minorities are not represented in the PBSC or PB, perhaps suggestive of an increased emphasis on political reliability and loyalty to the Party.
The 7-member Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) led by 62-year old Xi Jinping with Li Keqiang comprises dependable apparatchiks who adhere to the Party line and discipline and will neither brook any violation. Four of them are ‘princelings’.
[Note by Dunham: The Politburo Standing Committee membership is as follows:
Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party
Li Keqiang, Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
Zhang Dejiang, Communist Party Committee Secretary, Chongqing
Yu Zhengshen, Communist Party Committee Secretary, Shanghai
Liu Yunshan, Director, Propaganda Department
Wang Qishan, Secretary, Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection
Zhang Gaoli, Communist Party Committee Secretary, Tianjin]
Liu Yunshan is a conservative and has been uncompromising in controlling and implementing the Party’s approved narrative even when it meant excising portions of speeches made by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. He effectively managed the propaganda apparatus during the riots in Tibet in 2008 and drove a wedge between the Han majority and Tibetans. As PBSC member he continues to oversee Propaganda, Culture and Education, implying that strict policing of the media and cyberspace will continue combined with strenuous propagation of Party ideology. He is also President of the Central Party School and Executive Secretary of the influential 18th CCP CC Secretariat, indicating he could be appointed Vice President by the National People’s Congress (NPC) this March, when Xi Jinping is confirmed as President.
1947-born PBSC member Zhang Dejiang, a ‘princeling’ and son of former PLA Major General Zhang Zhiyi, is a disciplinarian and was educated in economics in North Korea. He will be appointed NPC Chairman this March and is likely to be the link between the Chinese and North Korean leadership. Yu Zhengsheng, is another ‘princeling’ and as CPPCC Chairman will guide matters relating to China’s ethnic minority nationalities and non-communist parties with a firm, conservative hand. His record is that of an orthodox Party administrator.
The appointment of Wang Qishan, a ‘princeling’ and son-in-law of former PBSC member Yao Yilin, as Chief of the Party’s anti-corruption watchdog body, the Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC), has prompted persistent speculation in Beijing that a crackdown on corruption will get underway early in 2013. Hong Kong‘s ‘South China Morning Post’ on November 26, observed that Wang Qishan’s skills would be put to the test as “the state will collapse if the Party does not tackle corruption, but the Party will collapse if the anti-corruption push is too hard”. Wang Qishan is respected internationally as a tough economic administrator. The appointment of Wang Qishan as CDIC Chief removes a potential rival in economic administration to Li Keqiang, and will dilute efforts to reduce the economic empires of the SoEs.
The new Executive Vice Premier in charge of Economic issues, Zhang Gaoli, is fond of large government guided projects and has a reputation of working with powerful business interests rather than challenging them. He is unlikely to downsize SoEs. At the same time, he has the reputation of being a stern taskmaster and is credited with promoting the retail sector as a way of creating jobs other than in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
All of them except Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will step down in 2017, reinforcing the assessment that they have been inducted into the PBSC to strengthen Party ideology, and provide stability and continuity to the Party at a time when it has been severely bruised by the Bo Xilai incident.
The other important facet of power for the CCP is the PLA and here too the power transition was smooth. In a major departure from past practice, except for the top post of Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s top military leadership line-up was formally announced before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s 18th Party Congress opened. The unusually early announcement of key appointments, including those of the Beijing Military Region Commander and Commander of the 38th Group Army based at Baoding both of whom have traditionally been individuals in whom the Party Chief reposes confidence, indicates that Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping are firmly in charge of the PLA and that Hu Jintao’s influence will continue. It confirms earlier indications that Hu Jintao and his designated successor had a close, collaborative working relationship, undoubtedly facilitated by Hu Jintao’s friendly ties with Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun. In apparent confirmation of reports emanating from Beijing since July 2012, that Hu Jintao was reluctant to retain office, Hu Jintao handed over charge of the powerful post of Chairman of the CMC to Xi Jinping on November 11. The authoritative ‘Global Times’, a subsidiary of the official Party mouthpiece ‘People’s Daily’, on November 18, 2012, heaped fulsome praise on Hu Jintao for setting a “healthy” precedent. Xi Jinping, declared that “Chairman Hu’s important decision fully embodies his profound thinking of the overall development of the Party, country and military. The decision also embodies his exemplary conduct and nobility of character. “
The theme for the Congress had been set a day earlier with Party spokesman Cai Mingzhao asserting that “inner-Party democracy” would be promoted but that “the leading position of the CCP in China is a decision made by history and the people”. A banner wrapped around the inner walls of the room in the Great Hall of the People reading: “Hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, use Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development as our guidelines!”, echoed the sentiment.
Important political documents relating to the Party Congress are: Hu Jintao’s 30,000-character, 12-part, Work Report to the 18th Party Congress and Xi Jinping’s speeches of November 16 and 17, 2012.
Hu Jintao’s Work Report had a strong undercurrent of Marxist and Maoist ideology. It included references to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, twice mentioned the ‘Four Cardinal Principles’-- a phrase coined by Deng Xiaoping but usurped by the ’Leftists’-- and spoke of strengthening “core socialist values”. He used the phrase associated with Mao Zedong of “let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred thoughts contend” and spoke of continuing to adapt Marxism to China’s conditions. The Report mentioned reform 86 times and called for doubling GDP by 2021 from 2010 levels. The Report said “economic entities under all forms of ownership have equal access to factors of production in accordance with law”…”and are protected as equals”, but the emphasis was noticeably on “common prosperity” and economic policies that benefit peasants and rural folk. Emphasising gradual reform it cautioned that “in economic structural reform how to strike a balance between the role of the government and that of the market…” must be examined. Taking note of popular discontent, an entire portion of the 12-part report discussed ‘social management’, the euphemism for domestic security. It also simultaneously addressed popular concerns. For the first time ever a Work Report contained a section on ‘Ecology’ and referred to the need for “resource conserving” and need for an “environmentally friendly society”. It was acknowledgement of popular concern and the efforts of the 3000 environmentalist groups in China. As anticipated an entire section dealt with ‘Defence’ and emphasized that the “most important” task for the armed forces “is to win a local war in the information age”. It said “China should strengthen the armed forces, protect its maritime interests and be prepared for ‘local war’ in the information age”. “We should enhance our capacity for exploiting maritime resources, resolutely safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests and build China into a maritime power”. Other areas of equal importance were identified as cyber and space.
Hu Jintao’s Work Report made some important observations on corruption and political reform. Referring to corruption, he was explicit in his warning that “if we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the Party and even cause the collapse of the Party and fall of the state”. On political reforms, which were advocated by ‘liberal’ Chinese intellectuals in a series of articles and speeches in the months before the 18th Congress, Hu Jintao was categoric in imposing limits. He said “reform of the political structure is an important part of China’s overall reforms. We must continue to make both active and prudent efforts to carry out the reform of the political structure and make people’s democracy more extensive, fuller in scope and sounder in practice”. Setting out the Party line, he declared that “we will take neither the old road of closed door and ossified politics, nor the wrong path of changing our banners”. As usual there was minimal reference to foreign policy issues in the Work Report, where only Hong Kong and Taiwan were mentioned by name.
Xi Jinping’s first speech as Party General Secretary to a ‘collective study session’ of the Politburo was also high in ideological content. Xi Jinping, incidentally, has a doctorate in Marxist Philosophy. It emphasized the need to “uphold and develop socialism”, “uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics as the focus, priority…” and “make sure the 18th CCP National Congress guidelines become a powerful ideological weapon”. He asserted that “the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the latest achievement in applying Marxism in China. In contemporary China, to uphold the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is to truly uphold Marxism”. Xi Jinping clarified that the CCP will be the sole ruling party in China for a long time. Stating that the CCP’s task is to “make the Chinese people rich, build a strong and prosperous country and rejuvenate the great Chinese nation”, Xi Jinping declared “our Party will always be a strong leadership core in the historical course of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics”. He listed “combating corruption” and “preventing degeneration” as priority tasks. He has followed this up over the past couple of weeks, including over the New Year, by often citing quotes and excerpts from Mao’s poems.
Speaking at an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Commission (CMC) on November 16, Xi Jinping stressed the need to “take ideological and political building as the top priority in army building” and ensure the Party’s “firm grip over the troops ideologically, politically and organizationally”. He reiterated the importance of “the Party’s absolute leadership over the armed forces”. Xi Jinping announced the criteria for promotions in the PLA: "The military must promote and appoint cadres based on their political performance and guarantee that 'guns' are always controlled by reliable people with loyalty to the Party." He ordered the military to ‘always put the country's sovereignty and security first, comprehensively improve the military's deterrent power and capability of real combat to protect China's sovereignty, security and development interests at an information-based age’. He pledged to enhance the anti-corruption effort and called on senior military officers to take the lead in obeying rules and regulations for self-discipline. A circular issued on December 4, detailed stringent guidelines restricting the hospitality and entertainment offered to senior PLA officers visiting subordinate formations.
The 18th Party Congress has sent out three clear messages. These are of: continuity, re-assertion of the Party’s traditional orthodox values and discipline, and retention of focus on domestic issues including gradual economic reforms leading to “common prosperity”. Domestic security will receive greater attention of the Party General Secretary. The issue of the restive ethnic minorities, and particularly Tibetans, will be a high priority. This portends an increase in China’s activities in Nepal and among Tibetan Buddhists.
On issues concerning sovereignty or maritime and land territorial claims, the new leadership, many of whom have been moulded by adversity during the Cultural Revolution and are mentally tough, will be less flexible and less willing to compromise. China will not resile from its stance on claims in the South China Sea and push the limits to attain its objective, but stop short of triggering conflict. It will exert military pressure including using economic levers. For Beijing, the issue is not merely one of territory, but of regaining its status as the pre-eminent power of the region. To reinforce this the New Year celebrations organized by the CCP in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Jan 1, 2013, staged “The First Annual ‘Ocean China’ New Year’s Concert”, when the audience was assured that the ocean was “China’s blue-colored territory”. Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream” outlines his ambitions. #The new 7-member PBSC exudes these themes. China’s neighbours, including India and Japan, should be prepared for increased pressure.
Jayadeva Ranade, author of the report, is a former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.
For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.
Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.
December 7, 2012
Since Mao assumed power mid-20th century, manipulating history as a means of expanding territorial rights has been a consistent theme in Chinese politics. It happened in 1950, when China invaded Tibet. It happened in Yunnan Province in 1954. It happened along India’s border in 1962. Currently, it is happening all over the South China Sea. The communist propaganda that accompanies these disputes is impressive in its intellectual contortions, its unrelenting iron-fist insistence, its weaving into the mix blatant ethnic misrepresentations and “scientific” legitimizations – and the final result is China’s extremely successful concretization of their own version of historic and ancestral rights, with few left who have the nerve or fortitude to question the veracity of Beijing’s totalitarian stance.
The methodology of their propaganda continues to fascinate.
The latest ploy is the new Chinese passport.
Jayadeva Ranade’s “China Reasserts its Self-Perceived Territorial Limits” in yesterday’s DNA sheds new light on China’s continuing flair for elbowing its way onto foreign soil, while distorting history and subduing external objections:
Beijing’s decision to issue new bio-metric passports since May this year, representing what it considers to be the genuine territorial boundaries of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is not a mere administrative measure. It is an important overt and escalatory step towards the fulfillment of intent.
China followed this up by adding muscle to intent. On October 10, this year the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece, ‘People’s Daily’, publicised Beijing’s plans to use unmanned aerial vehicles to “increase surveillance over its coastal waters, expand its marine surveillance scope, and enhance overall management and control over its territorial waters. A new muscular law, which becomes effective from the beginning of the New Year, now comes in its wake and designates large areas in the South China Sea as part of China’s southern Hainan County and authorises it to take punitive measures to safeguard the country’s sovereignty.
Significantly, Beijing has unveiled its ambitions at a time when its economic and military might is rapidly increasing and it is straining to become the pre-eminent power in the Asia-Pacific.
Neither is this latest move restricted to reassertion of rights over disputed maritime territories such as in the South China Sea or Sea of Japan and depiction of the South China Sea as the PRC’s “national” territory. Reports state that each page in the new passport has a different background, with pictures provided by the Chinese media showing one of the pages containing a map depicting Taiwan and another showing China’s claims along the land borders with India like in Arunachal Pradesh and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin area of Jammu and Kashmir are shown as within China’s boundaries.
Predictably, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and India have protested China’s action but none has yet barred entry for holders of these passports. India began reacting from this September by affixing special visas, which show the country’s official territorial boundaries. By this action it has forced holders of PRC passports visiting India to implicitly accept India’s version of its borders!
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying confirmed at the regular press briefing in Beijing that these maps, or background motifs as they are called by the Chinese authorities, were carefully chosen by the Chinese government. Hinting that Beijing will not recant from its position and, in a thinly concealed attempt to shift blame for any turbulence in bilateral relations caused by China’s provocative action, he added “we hope that the relevant countries take a rational and sensible attitude ... to avoid causing interference with normal Sino-foreign personnel exchanges”.
The passport is actually a restatement of China’s perceived territorial limits and appears to mirror the extent of the Chinese nation as envisioned in the maps published by Beijing in 1954, and which continue to be taught in China till today. The map, which was part of a textbook titled “A Brief History of Modern China”,claimed to show nineteen of “the Chinese territories taken by the Imperialists in the old Democratic Revolutionary Era (1840-1919)”. These included Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, India’s north-east comprising the former states of Assam, NEFA and Nagaland, the Andaman Islands and Burma.
In this context the remark in New Delhi on November 28, 2012, by Li Junru, former vice president of the Central Party School and presently a member of the Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is revealing. He said: “For us Chinese, starting from primary school students, we all know that from history, from a long time that these are ours, these are our territory and other people say no, it is ours. So what can we do? We are trying to have negotiations and dialogue with relevant parties concerned, and we wish to have dialogues and negotiations in a one-on-one manner. And we don’t want to use force or to intimidate others by our economic or military pressure.”
He added “We want to resolve the issue in a better way … but that does not mean that if somebody flexes muscles, we will just idle and do nothing. China will not act recklessly, but that does not mean that we will give in”.
China has been reviewing its “neighbourhood” policy since last year, with Chinese military strategists and political analysts asserting that the policy of “appeasing” neighbours and “setting aside disputes” is not working. They recommended it be replaced by one which combines cooperation with credible commitments to use of force. The principle of sovereignty and long-term national interests, they affirm, is China’s top priority. China’s new military leadership has already indicated it favours such a policy.
Jayadeva Ranada is a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
November 26, 2012
Below, Jayadeva Ranade’s “Bright Red Future” was first published in DNA on Nov. 23, 2012:
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s week-long (November 8-14) 18th Congress concluded on schedule after tough, protracted negotiations on personnel appointments stretching up to November 14th. It elected a seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) led by 62-year-old Xi Jinping. Setting speculation to rest, Xi Jinping succeeded Hu Jintao to all his posts including, significantly, to that of Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC).
Notable is the reduced size of the Party’s highest body, namely the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) from nine to seven. The number of Politburo (PB) members is constant at 25, but the strength of the Party’s Central Committee (CC) increased from 371 to 376. The PBSC’s reduced size meant that unlike in the past no leaders from the successor ‘sixth generation’ were inducted. Unlike the previous PBSC or PB, neither of them include a representative of China’s ethnic minorities, though there are 39 ethnic minorities represented in the CC. The number of Tibetans in the CC dropped from two to one, however, there are four Tibetans among the alternate members of the CC. The number of women has reduced to 33. The new CC is younger with 80%, or 166 of the 205 full members, born in the 1950s. There are nine who were born in the 1960s and it is from among these nine ‘sixth generation’ leaders that successors to Chinese president Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang will emerge by 2022.
Three clear messages have been sent out by the 18th Congress. These are: continuity, re-assertion of the Party’s traditional values and discipline, and a focus on domestic issues including graduated economic reforms leading to “common prosperity”. The new seven-member PBSC exudes these themes.
Continuity implies little change from the policies followed by Hu Jintao during his tenure. That the Party’s traditional values will be emphasized was evident in the speeches of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, both of whom stressed the validity of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and referred to the ‘Four Cardinal Principles’—a phrase coined by Deng Xiaoping but later usurped by the Leftists. Xi Jinping’s speech at the Politburo’s first collective study session on Nov 17, in fact, contained numerous phrases and references from Marxist ideology and emphasized the importance of communist ideology.
Serious domestic issues confront the new Chinese leadership. There is widespread popular discontent generated by a variety of issues like widening income inequality, rampant corruption, pollution and food adulteration, non-payment of salaries and arrears, lay-offs etc. Popular tension is exacerbated by China’s ‘netizens’. The level of discontent is evident from the rising incidence of protests, which in 2010, were estimated at 1,80,000 and anticipated to increase by 8-12% each year, prompting an increase in the country’s security budget -- to higher than the national defence budget -- for the past two consecutive years.
The issues were reflected in Hu Jintao’s Work Report to the 18th Congress on November 14, his last to a Party Congress. The Work Report candidly highlighted that the Party’s very survival was in danger if corruption remained unchecked. The theme was reiterated by Xi Jinping in his very first speech. For the first time ever a Work Report to the Party Congress also referred to environment and ecology. The issues have sparked numerous protests across China over the past three years and a lot of unrestrained discussion on China’s cyberspace. They are kept alive by the 3000 Chinese environmentalist groups.
All members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) are stolid, dependable apparatchiks who adhere to the Party line and discipline and will neither brook any violation. Their selection is evidence of the Bo Xilai incident’s impact on the Party. It is reinforced by the elevation to the PBSC of Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, who has been uncompromising in controlling and implementing the Party’s approved narrative even when it meant excising portions of speeches made by president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao. Liu Yunshan will continue to oversee Propaganda and Education, which suggests that media and cyberspace will be strictly policed and Party ideology more strenuously propagated.
All members of the PBSC, which includes four ‘princelings’, joined the CCP during the Cultural Revolution despite many having personally suffered. They have a mental toughness moulded by adversity. The ‘princelings’ especially feel that China must regain its rightful place in the world. They will not compromise on matters of sovereignty or territorial integrity. The issue of ethnic minorities, and particularly Tibetans, will be a high priority. This could portend an increase in China’s activities in Nepal and among Tibetan Buddhists. On the South China Sea they will steadily push the limits, but stopping short of conflict. These policies will result in increased pressure on India and Japan.
The author is a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
November 19, 2012
As Jayadeva Ranade pointed out in “'Espionage Galore in China”, “All countries regardless of the extent of warmth in their relationships unfailingly engage in espionage, but communist regimes are especially sensitive…”
Ranade was referring to China’s obsession with potential foreign spy infiltration into their domestic intelligence and security apparatus. CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE. But it can be argued that China’s paranoia stems largely from its own espionage machinations in foreign countries -- intrigue as full-throttled and far-flung as any spy network in the world.
Take, for example China’s interest in Nepal, its impoverished and increasingly beholden-to-Beijing southern neighbor.
As revealed in an internal Indian government note issued October 19:
Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Ltd (ZTE) plans to build four high-technology data centres for Ncell Pvt Ltd, a telecom company in Nepal. These earthquake-resistant data centres, to be built at a cost of about $43.75 million, will be located at Biratnagar, Kathmandu, Hetauda and Pokhara.
ZTE is one of China’s largest wireless equipment manufacturers and network solutions providers and maintains close ties with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). It is increasing footprint, along with other Chinese companies such as Huawei, and raises the possibility of installing bugged equipment in Nepal’s telecommunication network. This in turn could allow China to monitor data and voice traffic between India and Nepal.
According to Thomas K. Thomas for The Hindu, “New Delhi is planning to work through the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the concerns with the Nepal Government. According to Government sources, the Nepal Public Accounts Committee had opposed this project. …In addition, the Indian side could also make its own investments in similar projects in Nepal to ensure that communication networks between the two countries are secure.
Indian security agencies are not the only foreign entities that deeply distrust ZTE.
On October 8, 2012, the Unites States House of Representatives Intelligence Committee labeled ZTE a national security threat.
The blistering bipartisan report accused ZTE (and Huawei, another Chinese mega-telecommunications firm) of being arms of the Chinese government, which had stolen intellectual property from American companies and could potentially spy on Americans.
The committee went on to say that allowing ZTE to do business in the U.S. would give the Chinese government the ability to easily intercept communications and could allow it to start online attacks on critical infrastructure, like dams and power grids.
The report was released at a news conference held by Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative C. A. Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee.
The report included the fascinating detail that the committee had obtained internal documents from former employees of Huawei that showed it supplied services to a “cyberwarfare” unit in the People’s Liberation Army. It also noted advised, in the strongest terms, that the United States government should be barred from doing business with ZTE and Huawei and that American companies should avoid buying their equipment.
In testimony before the House committee in September, officials from both ZTE and Huawei said that supposed “back doors” in its software that provided unauthorized access to American companies’ computers were flaws, not intentional vulnerabilities.
The committee didn’t buy the explanation and called the supposed “back door flaws” for what they really were: illegal hacking.
ZTE is also on the European Union’s radar.
In May, the EU launched a major trade case against ZTE and Huawei, arguing that they had benefited from illegal government subsidies.
ZTE declined comment.
Does Nepal really want China controlling its telecommunications network?
November 9, 2012
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, former military commander of rebel Maoist forces in Nepal, now chairman of the Unified Communist Party and chairman of the Lumbini Development National Directive Committee of Nepal (LDNDC), inked a deal with the China-backed Asia Pacific Exchange Cooperation Foundation (APECF) that will bring in a reported $3 billion to develop Buddha's birthplace at Lumbini.
Prachanda signed this Memorandum of Understanding with Xiao Wunan, executive vice chairman of APECF Foundation. Presumably, Prachanda took it upon himself to make the deal in his capacity as chairman of Nepal's steering committee. But leaders of other political parties, including Dr. Minendra Rijal, member of LDNDC and ex-Minister of Culture, challenged Prachanda’s right to sign the deal unilaterally.
“The issue was not discussed in the committee, and it has not authorized Prachanda to sign it in the manner he did,” Indian Express quoted Rizal.
Apparently, no one in Nepal’s government was privy to Prachanda’s deal with the Chinese. The signing of the MoU was behind closed doors. The media was not invited. No details of cost, development projects or time needed to complete the projects were provided.
The Prachanda-APECF connection has been controversial from the beginning—not only for its questionable motives, but for its furtiveness (if not its out-and-out dishonesty) as well. (CLICK HERE for details.)
Yesterday, GlobalPost’s Jason Overdorf pointed out:
… some see China's enthusiasm for Lumbini as part of a larger "battle for Buddha," pitting Beijing versus New Delhi in the quest to expand "soft power," or cultural influence, within the region.
In this struggle, India seeks to use its common cultural heritage to overcome China's ethnic ties to the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, and China seeks to limit the damage from its repression of religious freedom in Tibet and its incessant sparring with the Dalai Lama.
“This is part of China's effort to use Buddhism to gain an entry into Nepal, [and] to show to their Buddhists that they're showing equal attention to Buddhism outside the country,” Jayaveda Ranade, formerly additional secretary for East Asia with the Indian government, told GlobalPost of the Chinese proposal for the development of Lumbini.
… Prachanda was among the nine vice-chairs of the APECF foundation last year when it announced that the project was a done deal. But he had to backtrack following a protest from the Nepalese authorities, due to perceived irregularities in the way the agreement was forged.
Bizarrely, for instance, China's state-run People's Daily first reported that APECF had inked a deal with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to create a “special cultural zone” in Lumbini, only to be forced to retract the story when first UNIDO, then Nepal, denied any knowledge of the pact. Even weirder, it surfaced that not only Prachanda but also the controversial Paras Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Nepal's former crown prince, held positions on APECF's board of directors.
As GlobalPost wrote then: at nearly one-tenth of Nepal's entire gross domestic product, $3 billion was a stupendous sum — and, some suspect, a wholly fictional one: a carnival barker's cry, crude propaganda, or a “trial balloon” to gauge how Nepal might react.
Even the LDNDC came under fire from the Buddhist community. When LDNDC was created one year ago, Buddhist leaders pointed out that they had not been consulted, adding that, according to Outlook, the plan was “an attempt to commercialize the sacred place without their consent.”
One thing is obvious after Wednesday’s signing: Neither APECF nor Prachanda’s penchant for underhanded dealing is going to fade away. Quite the opposite: APECF and Prachanda keep raising the stakes, hell-bent on turning Lumbini, birthplace of Buddha, into a horrid theme park of gargantuan proportions.
October 29, 2012
The following is an Oct. 26 DNA article written by Jayadeva Ranade, originally titled “A concerned dragon: China’s fresh overture to Tibetans”
As China prepares to usher in a new leadership at the 18th Party Congress scheduled to open in Beijing on November 8, there is mounting concern in senior echelons of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the rising resentment in the ethnic Tibetan minority.
Particularly worrying would have been the self-immolation on October 15, by the grandfather of the 10-year old Beijing-recognised VIIth Gungthang Rinpoche, which highlights the strained relationship between Tibetans and Communist authorities. A new feature is that recently thousands of Tibetans, disregarding heavy armed police presence, assemble at sites of the self-immolations to pray for the deceased and mark the spot.
[Note: Voice of America’s Tibetan service is reporting that Tamdrin Dorjee killed himself near the Tsoe monastery in northwest China’s Gansu province. Witnesses say after setting himself on fire, he shouted “long live Dalai Lama,” “free Tibet” and “let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet.” This latest protest raises the number of self-immolations in Tibetan regions of China to 55 since February 2009. The Tibetan government-in-exile says 45 of those cases have resulted in deaths.
China accuses Tibetan exiles of self-immolating as part of a separatist struggle. But representatives of the Dalai Lama say protesters are driven to self-immolate largely because they cannot tolerate China’s policies in Tibet.]
In a recent apparent bid to ease these tensions, Chinese authorities quietly sent an emissary and contacted Tibetan leaders in Dharamsala. Thinly cloaked as a venture of ‘Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation’ (APECF), a Chinese government-sponsored NGO manned by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadres, the initiative seeks to revive plans to consolidate and expand China’s presence in Nepal and ingress India and its border regions, ostensibly by encouraging Buddhist tourism in Lumbini in Nepal. At least one executive director of APECF has links to China’s military establishment.
Xiao Wunan, a senior CCP cadre and executive vicepresident of APECF visited India and was received in Dharamsala on August 16 by the Dalai Lama, Lobsang Sangay, then ‘Kalon Tripa’ (prime minister) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and Ugyen Thinley Dorjee, who is formally approved by the Dalai Lama and Beijing as the XVIIth Gyalwa Karmapa, or head of the Karma Kargyu sect. Xiao Wunan was accompanied byGong Tingyu, a Deputy Secretary General of APECF and Simon Kei Shek Ming, reportedly a journalist of the Hong Kong magazine Yazhou Zhoukan.
During his meeting with the Dalai Lama, Xiao Wunan probably carried a personal message from a senior Chinese leader, possibly Xi Jinping. He could have informed the Dalai Lama that he was welcome to spend his last days in Beijing provided he gave up ‘anti-China’ activities and expressed support for the Communist regime.
Xiao Wunan’s meeting with Lobsang Sangay, elected head of the CTA, is significant. It suggests Beijing may be willing to talk to its representatives. Lobsang Sangay is also ‘known’ to the UFWD for facilitating contacts between Chinese academics and the Dalai Lama. Coincidentally, within a month of the meeting the designation of the Head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was changed from ‘Kalon Tripa’ (or prime minister) to the less controversial — from Beijing’s perspective —’Sikyong’ (or political leader).
Xiao Wunan’s meeting with Ugyen Thinley Dorjee reportedly ended abruptly when the monk took offence at the tenor of his questions. Xiao Wunan’s photograph with Ugyen Thinley Dorjee is, however, posted on APECF’s website.
Xiao Wunan also visited Nalanda when he met officials of the proposed university and assured financial assistance. In Delhi he met officials in the Ministries of Culture and Tourism. Returning to Kathmandu, Xiao Wunan disingenuously announced that APECF now has the support of the Government of India and would be organising three and four-day package tours for Buddhist pilgrims travelling from Lumbini to India.
Interestingly, Xiao Wunan separated from an official Chinese delegation visiting Kathmandu to visit India. The Chinese delegation included Zou Lanming, vice general manager of the Lanzhou-based China Railway 21st Bureau. Xiao Wunan’s presence could suggest China plans to extend the railway from Xigaze to possibly Lumbini, on the border with India. A month later Xiao Wunan announced that APECF had signed an MoU with UK’s Vertical Theme Park (VTP) Group for a Lumbini Cloud Tower project, with the Nepal Government’s approval.
Nepal’s My Republica on October 11, reported the Nepal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation’s denial that it was aware of any deal to develop Lumbini as an ‘international peace city’. Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party-Marxist Leninist (UCP-ML), however, continues to be a vice president of APECF.
Meanwhile the CCP’s policy governing Tibetans, of combining economic incentives with intense political persuasion, remains unchanged. In an unusually candid interview to the Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on September 21, 2012, Chen Quanguo, party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), enumerated the economic benefits extended to the people of Tibet. Disclosing measures to ensure ‘social stability’, he listed that 21,804 cadres had been sent to work in 5,451 administrative villages, that the Party had compiled complete sets of files and that 698 police stations had been established. All monasteries and temples now have photographs of the ‘four leaders’ (Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao), the national flag and a copy each of the People’s Daily and Tibet Daily. A project has also been started to ‘cultivate’ 100 senior monks and ‘guide’ Tibetan Buddhism to ‘adapt itself to socialist society’.
Jayadeva Ranade is a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
October 13, 2012
According to yesterday’s report by Purna Basnet for Republica, the controversial Chinese government-connected Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) and Britain-based Vertical Theme Park (VTP) Group have inked a deal on developing Nepal´s Lumbini as an “international peace city”.
This blows previous Lumbini development projects out of the water, in terms of aesthetics, investment and the viability of preserving the cultural heritage of Lumbini, birthplace of the historical Buddha.
APECF had last year made public a three billion dollar project on developing the birthplace of Buddha. For complete details on APECF’s foiled proposal in spite of its Maoist-Beijing connection, click here: LUMBINI IN PERIL
RELIGION AS LUCRATIVE ENTERTAINMENT: WHAT IS THE BRITISH-OWNED VTP GROUP’S EXPERTISE IN DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL CENTERS?
According to VTP’s mission statement, found in its website:
VTP Global are tower specialists and experts in major city centre entertainment and tourism projects.
Our team have a wealth of experience in the design, delivery, and long-term safe operation of entertainment towers, major urban attractions, theme parks, extreme activities and real estate.
VTP Global have assembled a world class delivery and operations team with significant experience in real estate development, leisure and theme park operations, ride design, health and safety and destination marketing. The business is majority owned by the Pettifer family (85%), with the remainder held by senior management and Intamin.
VTP Global deliver VTPs as turnkey projects and will advise as to the most suitable design, height and ride mix for a particular city, at all times working to an agreed project budget. Our team can conduct a desktop analysis on any new VTP opportunity within four weeks including site analysis, validation, visitor flows, real estate and financial structuring.
The operating team is headed up by Richard Pawley who is
one of the most recognised figures in the leisure industry. Richard's
achievements include being the first in the world to develop and operate
innovative rides such as the "stand-up freefall", the UK's first
"reversible log flume" and "stand-up spiral corkscrew roller
Republica reports that VTP Group’s realtors are “close to the United Kingdom´s royal family members.”
Again, from Republica:
"VTP Global Special Project Team has signed an agreement on developing Lumbini as an international religious destination," the VTP Group has stated on its website on September 13. As per the deal, VTP would work as the main development manager of the project.
Also, Xiao Wunan, executive vice-chairman of APECF, upon his arrival in Hong Kong told Republica that they have reached the deal after a series of discussions with officials from VTP group.
"VTP group was keenly observing the Lumbini project for the last one year. The group wants to apply the western concept and role in the project," said Wunan.
VTP group is a renowned international company, which has built towers, city centers and tourism destinations. The group is already working on a design of Lumbini Cloud Tower to be built as an "International Symbol of Buddhist Philosophy" in the northern side of the Lumbini Village.
"In London, the APECF delegation had an in-depth exchange with VTP Group regarding the Lumbini project and signed MoU with the company.
Subsequently the APECF delegation held a discussion with Eric Kuhne, the designer of Lumbini Cloud Tower, and both sides reached consensus," the APECF stated on its website.
Last year, the APECF had announced to have reached an agreement with the UN´s Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on developing Lumbini as an international peace city.
But later, the deal was dragged into controversy as the government of Nepal said it had received no notification in this connection.
APECF´s involvement in the proposed Lumbini project drew political attention as well because UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is co-chairman of the foundation and is actively involved in the Lumbini development project.
September 15, 2012
Tibetans living in the Himalayan country go undocumented due to pressure from China.
The United States made a fresh plea to Nepal this week to provide identification papers to Tibetan refugees living in the country, but its request was flatly rejected by the government, which cited “geopolitical sensitivities” in an apparent reference to pressure from China.
Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake urged Nepal’s government to regularize the status of the country's Tibetan community during talks with Nepalese deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha on Tuesday.
Nepal should “provide them documentation that would allow them to get jobs, to travel, and so forth,” Blake said in Kathmandu after the talks.
“We believe strongly that Tibetan refugees, like all people, deserve to lead lives of dignity and purpose,” he said, according to a text of his remarks provided by the State Department.
About 20,000 Tibetan refugees have fled Chinese rule to live in Nepal, but many now lack the official refugee identity cards that would allow them to pursue opportunities for work, travel, or education.
And Nepal’s powerful northern neighbor China has in recent years become more aggressive in urging Kathmandu to restrict the refugees' activities and help control the movement of Tibetans in both directions across the countries’ shared border.
In his talks this week, Blake urged Nepal to grant “refugee identity” to Tibetans living in the country, according to Nepalese press report accounts of his meeting with Shrestha.
But Shrestha rejected the request, declaring that Nepal is not bound by international conventions on refugees and has “its own values” in dealing with them, the reports said.
“We will extend the refugee status or take other necessary actions based on our own laws. We have our own values regarding the policy on refugees,” Shrestha said.
“It is necessary for our foreign friends to appreciate that our policies are guided by geopolitical sensitivities,” said Shrestha, apparently referring to Nepal’s reluctance to offend China.
Speaking to RFA, Mikel Dunham, a writer and expert on Nepalese politics, called Shrestha’s statement a “shorthand” description of a Nepalese policy of abject surrender to Beijing.
“[This] means that Tibetans in Nepal must remain silent, passive wards of a hostile China-controlled policy of repression,” Dunham said.
“Without identity cards, Tibetans living in Nepal are deprived of education, health care, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and other basic services and human rights.”
Calling the United States’ commitment to protect Tibetans stranded in Nepal “commendable,” Dunham said, “The bottom line is that no progress has been made.”
Though Nepal refuses refugee status to Tibetans fleeing China’s rule, it does permit them in a so-called “gentleman’s agreement” to travel through Nepal on their way to India, with the help of the Kathmandu-based Tibetan Refugee Reception Center and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Speaking to the press in Kathmandui on Tuesday, Blake hailed Nepal’s “good record” in observing the arrangement.
Reported by Richard Finney.
Copyright © 1998-2011 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.
September 1, 2012
Filed by Radio Free Asia Aug. 30. 2012
In what appears to be a growing trend, Chinese border police have deported to Nepal two groups of Tibetans who had sought to re-enter Tibet, some in hopes of reuniting with family members, according to Tibetan and Nepalese sources.
One group of 11 men was forced over the border to Nepal on Aug. 29, while a second group of four men and one woman was sent back on Aug. 23. All had been held by Chinese police at a detention center in Shigatse, Tibet, after being detained at border crossings with Nepal at Dram, Nangpa La, and Nyalam.
Six of the men in the first group are married and have children living in Tibet, sources said.
On their return to Nepal, both groups were taken to the Tibetan Refugee Reception Center in Kathmandu with the assistance of United Nations refugee workers.
After a short stay at the refugee center, the group of five who were sent back to Nepal on Aug. 23 paid fines and were released, and have now traveled into India, sources said.
One, a businessman, had left Tibet earlier in the year to attend religious teachings given in India by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The others—three men and a woman—had lived and studied in India for several years, and had attempted to rejoin their parents and families inside Tibet.
The group of 11 who were sent back on Wednesday, though natives of Dingri county in Tibet, are now stateless, having had their residency papers for Tibet confiscated by Chinese police at the border with Nepal.
Move kept secret
Speaking to RFA from the refugee center in Nepal, one of the men said that their forced return to Nepal came as a surprise.
“Initially, they kept our deportation very secret. [The Chinese] didn’t say anything to us in Dingri or Shigatse,” he said.
“Then, at Nyalam, the Chinese police informed us that they were carrying out official orders from the Tibet Autonomous Region to return us to Nepal.”
“They didn’t give any reason for confiscating our Chinese personal identity papers,” another returnee said. “They just said that those were not going to be of any use to us.”
The men are now worried about trying to cross again into Tibet without papers, and feel they have been left in a limbo, several said.
In June, Chinese border police forced back into Nepal a group of Tibetan pilgrims seeking to re-enter Tibet after confiscating their Tibetan residency permits and detaining them for a week, also in Shigatse.
About 20,000 Tibetan refugees live in Nepal, and Beijing is becoming more aggressive in urging Kathmandu to restrict their activities and to help control the movement of Tibetans in both directions across the countries’ shared border.
Reported by Thupten Sangyal and Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.
August 17, 2012
Analysis by Jayadeva Ranade, originally published in New Indian Express on August 13, 2012
China’s highest level leadership has chosen to openly air serious suspicions about the United States just as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prepares for the transfer of power at top echelons this October. The US is viewed as persisting with its ‘Cold War mentality’, trying to ‘contain China’s rise’ and ‘meddling’ in the South China Sea. This heightens tension in the bilateral relationship.
The positive collaborative aspects of Sino-US relations have simultaneously been sought to be highlighted. China’s official news-agency Xinhua, for example, while reporting the meeting in Beijing between Chinese President Hu Jintao and visiting US national security advisor Tom Donilon on July 24, observed that both had described Sino-US relations as “the most important relationship in the world”.
At least three authoritative articles by ministerial-level officials published in the official Chinese media in the span of a week reflect the leadership’s concerns. These bluntly articulate the suspicion that the US is attempting to clandestinely bring about the collapse of China from within. They also lay bare Beijing’s frustration at apparent US unwillingness to dispel the ambiguity surrounding its policy of re-entering the Asia-Pacific.
A lengthy article by Cui Tiankai, China’s vice foreign minister and expert on American affairs, was published coinciding with Donilon’s visit (July 24-25) to Beijing. This while Donilon was accorded a red carpet reception by Beijing, no doubt because he is mentioned as a possible successor to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Cui Tiankai’s article revived memories of the period immediately after the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1989, when suspicion about the US was at its height within the CCP’s top echelons. He used the term ‘peaceful evolution’ twice in his article. ‘Peaceful evolution’ is a descriptive short-hand the Chinese used to refer to USA’s perceived clandestine actions intended to: dismantle the CCP; introduce multi-party democracy; and replace the socialist economy with free-wheeling capitalism. Cui Tiankai used it in the context of US interference on the issues of Tibet, Xinjiang, democracy and human rights. Acknowledging that in a multi-ethnic country with a huge population it is not difficult to find dissatisfaction, he cautioned that if those ‘obsessed’ with ‘peaceful evolution’ perceived this as an opportunity to engage in ‘colour revolution’, then they are committing a major strategic error. There is speculation, incidentally, that Cui Tiankai is possibly China’s next ambassador to the US.
Describing China and US as ‘self-confident’, Cui Tiankai emphasised that ‘the road of peaceful development is a strategic choice made by the Chinese collective leadership, the ruling party and the overwhelming majority of the masses’. The two have ‘no territorial claims against each other, therefore there is no important source of antagonistic conflict between the traditional powers’.
He emphasised their mutual economic inter-dependence and benefits accruing to the US. Bilateral trade volume was $446.6 billion in 2011 and, together with rising Chinese imports, directly supported between 4 and 8 million jobs in each country. Imports of low cost Chinese goods over a 10 year period had saved US consumers $600 billion. He reminded that ‘China is a huge market with over 1.3 billion consumers and the next five years will create $10 trillion worth of demand for imports’.
Assuring that China has ‘no intention of challenging the status of the United States and no intention of competing with US hegemony’, the Chinese vice foreign minister warned that ‘the strategic long-term cost of any mis-judgment of each other’s strategic intentions may be bigger than a war’. He regretted that in ‘recent years the United States had chosen not to solve certain problems with a pragmatic attitude, but instead exaggerate them and, worse still, speculate about China’s intent’. Questioning the ‘true intentions’ behind the US policy of ‘return’ to Asia-Pacific and ‘intervening in differences between China and its neighbors’, he insisted the US clarify its position as China and other countries in the region were uneasy. He asked US to ensure that the ‘core interests’ of both countries are safeguarded, pointing out that China ‘has always respected the reasonable interests and concerns of the United States’ in the Asia-Pacific. In the South China Sea dispute, China was ‘not the initiator, but the victim’.
Yuan Peng, director of the Institute for American Studies at the China Institute for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), which is directly subordinate to the powerful ministry of state security, wrote the second article, which was published in the party mouthpiece People’s Daily on July 31. He assessed that China’s real strategic contest with the US and West will start only after 5-10 years and will be non-military. The article indicated that China intended to settle all issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity by military force.
Yuan Peng said the US strategic community is already debating three fundamental questions regarding China: how to respond to the resource, energy and economic demands of a great power with 1.3-1.5 billion people; how to respond to the successful alternate political system, developmental model and cultural values of a socialist great power; and, ‘how to respond to the military challenge posed by a socialist great power that has not yet settled all its issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity’.
Once the US and Europe tide over current difficulties they will close China’s window of strategic opportunity and the US will endeavour to ‘disrupt China’s rise’ and contain it. It will strive to penetrate China’s economy ‘to control the lifeblood of China’s development’ and introduce ‘liberal democracy’. Human rights lawyers, ‘underground’ religion, dissidents, ‘internet heroes’ etc, will be used to push for a ‘bottom-up’ approach to change governance in China. The US will attempt to weaken and split China’s ties with North Korea, Pakistan and Myanmar and re-build US-Russia relations to isolate China and constrict its diplomatic space. Subjects like ‘global commons’ of sea, air, space and cyber would be used to diminish China’s ability to strategically challenge the US.
The third article was by Ye Xiaowen, a ministerial-level cadre and vice president of the Central Institute of Socialism. Published by People’s Daily on July 24, this cautioned the US against making strategic mis-judgements, prompted by strategic anxiety, in attempts to ‘contain China’.
The appearance of these articles signed by high-ranking cadres is unusual. They unmistakably convey the views of China’s top leadership, signalling their serious suspicion that the US is trying to engineer the collapse of the CCP and ‘contain China’. They additionally reveal that the Chinese leadership is feeling vulnerable. The views would appear to be shared by the incoming top leadership as well.
Jayadeva Ranade is a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
July 17, 2012
From yesterday’s DNA, written by Jayadeva Ranade:
This is a crucial year for China, when large-scale changes at the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party as well as the People’s Liberation Army will be approved at the 18th Party Congress scheduled to be held in Beijing in October 2012. The changes coincide with rising domestic discontent and increased turbulence in China’s neighborhood.
They also overlap with widening resentment against corruption and spread of pro-Mao nostalgia in the country. At least two PLA generals of impeccable ‘revolutionary’ lineage, Mao Zedong’s grandson Mao Xinyu and General Liu Yuan, former Chinese president Liu Shaoqi’s son, have spoken out strongly against corruption. Like the CCP, the PLA has been buffeted by the recent factional infighting centering on Bo Xilai. This has given prominence to the issue of the PLA’s ‘absolute loyalty’ to the Party and could blight the promotion prospects of some senior officers.
The implications of the forthcoming changes are far-reaching. They will usher in a virtually new Central Military Commission, with seven of the current 10 uniformed members reaching the retirement age of 70 years. This includes both the uniformed CMC Vice Chairmen.
China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, ranked first among the three CMC Vice Chairmen, would, in the normal course, be expected to take over as CMC Chairman from Hu Jintao. In view of the unsettled political situation and repeated exhortations by senior officers and official media urging the PLA to be ‘absolutely loyal’ to the Party and rally ‘more closely’ around ‘Chairman Hu,’ it appears probable that Hu Jintao will retain the position of CMC Chairman for at least another year. The two CMC Vice Chairmen who retire will be replaced by two of the three remaining CMC members. The third CMC member will be appointed Minister of Defense.
Reports suggest that the number of Vice Chairmen will be increased and Air Force General Ma Xiaotian, a ‘princeling’ close to Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping and a frontrunner for the position of PLA Air Force Commander, will instead be appointed Minister of Defense with the rank of CMC Vice Chairman.
There is also a proposal to symbolically assert generational change and appoint only those born after 1949, or after ‘liberation’ of the People’s Republic of China. If accepted, the changes will encompass Military Region Commanders and other senior officers.
There will be new Commanders for the PLAAF, People’s Liberation Army Navy and Second Artillery. The head of the PLA’s General Staff Department, who is equated with the Army Chief, will be new, as will be those of the General Political Department, General Armaments Department and General Logistics Department. All are members of the powerful CMC.
General Liu Yuan, presently Political Commissar of the GLD and friend of China’s putative President Xi Jinping, is tipped to be CMC Vice Chairman overseeing the PLA’s political work. This, however, entails a double promotion and he might just be appointed Director of the GPD, which still makes him a CMC member.
The newly constituted CMC will have some new features. Prominent will be that it will overwhelmingly comprise ‘operational’ officers and, for the first time, have increased representation from the PLAAF, and perhaps PLAN. This will give renewed emphasis to Hu Jintao’s concept of ‘Joint Integrated Operations’, focused upon since 2004 when Hu Jintao first introduced changes in the GSD’s structure to include PLAAF and PLAN officers at senior levels.
The presence of two PLAAF officers in the CMC guarantees the Air Force will pursue its modernization program and that at least 10% of the defense budget will continue to be spent on aircraft procurement and R&D. The Navy’s modernization program will similarly proceed apace. PLAN and PLAAF are both anticipated to adopt more operationally assertive postures. The new head of the PLA GSD will certainly have an operational background, which means increased attention to the Sino-Indian border and China’s other troubled frontiers.
Finally, of the 16 identified ‘princelings’ in the PLA’s senior echelons, for the first time there will be three or even four in the CMC. Like in the CCP, they will influence national strategic policy giving it a harder inflexible edge and, additionally, be Xi Jinping’s core supporters.
The changes, however, do not reduce the primacy of PLA ground forces, or PLAA, as they are being designated. Of 57 senior General Officers in the PLA, for example, 37 are from the PLAA. All seven Military Region Commanders are from the PLAA. The PLAA, with considerably larger manpower, receives a larger proportion of the budget.
The PLA’s overall political clout is likely to remain unaffected with representation in the Politburo probably remaining at two and it probably continuing to retain 24 seats in the Party Central Committee.
July 3, 2012
Ai Ping – Vice Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Beijing’s point man on South Asian affairs -- paid a weekend visit to Kathmandu. He conveyed China’s growing concern over Nepal’s governmental quagmire, the country’s economic instability and the dubious political promotion of ethnic federalism.
Obviously, it’s to China’s advantage to have a politically, economically and socially stable southern neighbor. But China’s core issue with Nepal remains unchanged: Tibet.
According to Beijing-based analyst Hu Shisheng, Deputy Director of the Institute of South And South Asian Studies in the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, China fears that Nepal’s current impasse sets the stage for new free-Tibet activities.
June 15, 2012
The following analysis by Jayadeva Ranada was first published by DNA on Wednesday, June 13, 2012.
Events of the past four months, especially those leading to the ouster of ‘princeling’ Politburo (PB) member and Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, stunned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership. The widely publicised attempt by the Chongqing Public Security Bureau chief to seek asylum in the US Consulate in Chengdu, followed within weeks by the dramatic escape of a blind dissident activist from under house arrest to the US Embassy in Beijing, deeply embarrassed the Party. With inner-Party factional in-fighting unabated and popular resentment growing, the months before the 18th Party Congress convenes in Beijing late this October could prove to be rather rocky. The CCP is now badly bruised and weakened.
June 14, 2012
In a Xinhau editorial published on June 11, “Who Smothers Nepali Dreams?” author Zhou Shengping lampoons Prachanda’s vision of turning Nepal in to the “Switzerland of Asia” and Prime Minister Bhattarai’s, “oft-told dream, a real dilly, that Nepal can be ‘a vibrant bridging state’ not only between India and China, but also of South Asia and East Asia.
“Time tests all,” the article continues. “Prachanda's dream turned into a very short- lived passion that decayed upon growing inter-and intra-party rifts, resulting in a jest of media critics thanks to deadlocked politics and stagnant economy. With lots of bureaucratic hurdles and without a stable investment environment, Nepal, one of the poorest countries in Asia stands foreign investment off.”
JUNE 9, 2012
Chinese border police detain pilgrims and refuse them entry into Tibet.
In a rare move, Chinese border police have forcibly sent back a group of Tibetan pilgrims seeking to re-enter Tibet from Nepal after confiscating their residency permits and detaining them for a week, according to Tibetan and Nepalese sources.
One analyst called the move “puzzling” and “a new development” in China’s handling of Tibetans wanting to return from Nepal to their homes.
May 21, 2012
A three-day nationwide shutdown (bandh) is the latest in a string of protests mounted by Nepali groups opposing recent plans made by main political parties to create 11 federal states. This occurs in the same week that the World Bank issued its 2012 Logistic Performance Index (LPI), reporting that Nepal’s competence in trade has taken a plunge – now ranking 151st place among 155 countries.
May 13, 2012
China’s attempts to play Buddhist politics and further its strategic agenda, by concurrently organizing two international conferences last month in Lumbini in Nepal and Hong Kong both failed. They also revealed a schism within the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).
Important factors contributing to this setback are the CCP’s apparent unwillingness to address the growing incidence of self-immolations among Tibetan Buddhists; inability to calm restiveness in Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas in China; and the policy of consistently excluding the Dalai Lama. Reports filtering out of Beijing cite factional in-fighting within the UFWD, which handles all matters relating to China’s non-communist entities and ethnic minorities, including Tibet and the Dalai Lama, as a concern.
Panchen Lamas: A Reporter Looks Back – OpEd
China has introduced its hand-picked Panchen Lama for the first time outside mainland China.
Media attention naturally focused on an April 26 speech given in Hong Kong by 22-year-old Gyaincain Norbu, whom Beijing named to be the Panchen Lama 17 years ago.
But the move underscores a larger issue: Beijing’s attempts to gain control or at least more influence over Buddhism not only inside Tibet but also throughout the Himalayan region.
It seems not to matter to Beijing that many Tibetans were distressed when China installed the then six-year-old Gyaincain Norbu as the Panchen Lama in 1995 while ignoring another boy chosen by the exiled Dalai Lama.
That boy quickly disappeared from sight and is believed to be under a kind of house arrest somewhere inside China.
April 28, 2012
From Radio Free Asia: The Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama makes his first appearance outside mainland China.
The Chinese government paraded its handpicked Panchen Lama in Hong Kong on Thursday, on his first trip outside mainland China, as Beijing grooms him to succeed Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama when he dies.
The controversial Gyaincain Norbu delivered a keynote speech in Mandarin at the Third World Buddhist Forum, a showcase for China's cultural diplomacy, attended by more than 1,000 monks and scholars from 50 countries.
April 11, 2012
In its latest April issue, the monthly magazine “Defense and Security Alert” focuses on Tibet. Below, is Jayadeva Ranade’s contribution to the issue, an extremely interesting essay on China’s Tibet strategy called “Undermining the Dalai Lama”.
UNDERMINING THE DALAI LAMA
by Jayadeva Ranade
China perceives the present time as opportune to undermine the position and influence of the Dalai Lama and compel the 14th Dalai Lama’s successors to find new methods at accommodation. It has accordingly stepped up efforts to sow division in the Tibetan religious ecclesiastical hierarchy and divide the exiled Tibetan community. Invitations to the World Buddhist Forums, TAR anniversaries etc. are all calibrated to weaken the unity of Tibetan Buddhist monks. China’s moves are of considerable significance for India. They represent a currently incipient, but potentially serious source of concern since India’s Himalayan belt is inhabited mainly by Buddhists.
April 9, 2012
On April 4, 2012, Defense News published the following article:
China, Qatar Fill U.S. Gap in U.N. Agency Funding
By Pierre Tran
PARIS — Soon after the U.S. announced cancellation of its contribution to UNESCO on Oct. 31, China stepped up with a first-time $8 million funding for the U.N. agency’s education program, while Qatar chipped in $20 million, a UNESCO diplomat said.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is seen by the Obama administration as a piece of strategic real estate to further U.S. national and security interests in the world, based on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s smart power approach.
The Chinese and Qatari contributions were seen in some circles as seizing an opportunity to increase influence after the U.S. cancellation slashed the U.N. agency’s annual budget by 22 percent.
March 30, 2012
OFFICIAL PRINCE CLAUS FUNDS STATEMENT
The Prince Claus Funds regrets that Tsering Woeser is denied the opportunity to receive the 2011 Prince Claus Award from the hands of the Dutch Ambassador in China today. Tsering Woeser is a courageous Tibetan writer whose work offers unique perspectives on the complexity of present-day Tibet. According to Christa Meindersma, director of the Prince Claus Fund: “the fact that Tsering Woeser is not free to leave her home and freely express herself, demonstrates once again the importance of her voice.”
Tsering Woeser, a 2011 Prince Claus Laureate, made public via Twitter that she cannot leave her home in Beijing to receive the Prince Claus Award. Her husband and friends were also warned not to attend the ceremony. According to her tweets, Tsering Woeser has been placed under house arrest for one month and police are stationed downstairs in her apartment building. Tsering Woeser would have been presented the Prince Claus Award tonight by the Ambassador Bekink during a private ceremony at his residence.
Tsering Woeser is presented the 2011 Prince Claus Award ‘for her courage in speaking for those who are silenced and oppressed, for her compelling combination of literary quality and political reportage, for recording, articulating and supporting Tibetan culture, and for her active commitment to self-determination, freedom and development in Tibet’. In response to the granting of the Prince Claus Award Woeser said in interviews that the award offers protection.
Through the Prince Claus Awards, the Fund annually honors eleven cultural pioneers: courageous and engaged people who stand up for their ideas and who are an inspiration for others. At this moment, the safety of Tsering Woeser and her family are the Prince Claus Fund’s first priority.
LETTER OF PROTEST SIGNED BY PRINCE CLAUS LAUREATES
Allow Woeser the freedom to express and to travel
March 29, 2012
China’s Buddhist politics now includes Nepal
by Jayadeva Ranade
There is renewed activism in recent months in Buddhist politics or, more aptly ‘kasayapolitiks’. Two large-scale events, both inextricably linked with Buddhism, are being sponsored by China’s communist regime next month. One of them, which demonstrates Beijing’s continuing interest and expanding influence in Nepal and its exiled Tibetan Buddhist community, will, quite oddly, be attended by UN Secretary General, Ban ki Moon.
China’s new initiative comes in the midst of growing discontent among Tibetans inside China and imposition of stringent security measures in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan areas inside China. CCTV cameras and armed police have been deployed outside sensitive monasteries like Drepung, Sera and Kirti since February this year. The security budget of Sichuan province’s Aba Prefecture, which has a sizeable Tibetan community, was doubled last year. Especially since last September, at least thirty Tibetans, almost all former monks and nuns below 30 years of age, have committed self-immolation. A sign of their desperation was shockingly manifest for the first time in Delhi on March 26, on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s arrival for the BRICS summit, when a 26-year-old Tibetan refugee immolated himself.
March 27, 2012
The huge Chinese offer to develop Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha, has been shelved. The Hong Kong organization behind the $3 billion offer, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), has regrouped in the wake of outcry over the paucity of its credentials, evidence that China’s government was behind the scheme and the questionable suitability of Prachanda being named co-chairman in the first place.
This week, APECF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nepali government to spend US$ 100,000 a year for the next five years -- a far cry from the original $3 billion but still a significant sum.
And still, the tainted scent of the APECF model lingers. APECF has not gone away. APECF hasn't changed. The forces behind APECF haven't changed. Only the amount it intends to spend in Lumbini has changed.
What is really behind Beijing’s interest in Buddhism and Lumbini? What would Lumbini look and feel like if China were given free reign?
I asked Jayadeva Ranade, one of India’s leading strategic analysts to discuss these questions in a recent interview.
March 17, 2012
DUNHAM: How old are you?
DRIVER: 20 years old.
DUNHAM: How long have you been pulling a rickshaw in Lumbini?
DRIVER: For 4 years
DUNHAM: Where do you live?
DRIVER: In a place near here. The village is called Parsa.
DUNHAM: Have you heard about the 3 billion dollar project in Lumbini?
March 16, 2012
On February 28, I posted a lengthy interview with KUL CHANDRA GAUTAM, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. This was two weeks before it was announced that Ban Ki-moon, current Secretary General of the United Nations, would attend a meeting in Lumbini on April 28, 2012 at the invitation of Prachanda.
What is one to make of it?
What kind of message is being sent when two such disparate personalities meet and oblige the media with the prerequisite handshaking and beaming smiles – the birthplace of the Lord Buddha rising in the background?
On the one hand, it is a major publicity boon for Prachanda, who led a violent ten-year armed insurgency in Nepal and who is now intent on presenting a kinder, gentler persona – at least to the international community. That’s the easy part to analyze.
But what does it say about Ban Ki-moon, the leader of the peacekeeping United Nations?
In an editorial written two days ago, Kul Chandra Gautam attempts to answer this question. Below is his article, released on March 9, 2012:
March 15, 2012
For almost a month now, I’ve posted exhaustive interviews with experts and stakeholders in the development of Lumbini, a topic that has gained increasing international attention since a Chinese-funded development offer came to light in July 2011. The Hong Kong-based organization in question calls itself the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF). It’s pedigree is nebulous; even its address and telephone number listed on its website have proven to be phony. Ex-Prime Minister and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” was named Co-Chairman of APECF, a detail that immediately raised eyebrows in regard to the appropriateness of a leader of a ten-year armed struggle taking the reins of a site that universally symbolizes non-violence. In the event, the gist of the controversial offer (now on hold, if not permanently debunked) was to pour an unprecedented three billion dollars into and around the Sacred Garden, where the historical Lord Buddha was born.
Regardless of APECF’s legitimacy, coming to terms with the finalization of a master plan before additional development resumes in Lumbini seems to have been ratcheted up in recent months. Only last week, it was announced that the UN’s General Secretary Ban Ki-moon would visit Lumbini on April 29, at the bequest of Prachanda and his recently-created “Greater Lumbini Development National Steering Committee.” And the three billion dollars, which probably never existed except in the fantasy world of Chinese businessmen – a staggeringly tantalizing sum for a nation in which three billion dollars equals 10% of Nepal’s annual GDP – has opened Nepal’s eyes concerning the very real value, (at least monetarily), of Lumbini as a tourism bonanza.
Experts and stakeholders recently interviewed by me include publisher-author KANAK MANI DIXIT, seasoned diplomat and civic leader KUL CHANDRA GAUTAM, internationally renown tourism consultant LISA CHOEGYAL, Greater Lumbini Development National Steering Committee member MINENDRA RIJAL, UNESCO Representative to Nepal AXEL PLATHE, Vice-Chairman of Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) ACHARYA KARMA SANGBO SHERPA, and long-time Lumbini archeologist KOSH PRASAD ACHARYA.
March 9, 2012
Acharya Karma Sangbo Sherpa is a fully ordained monk of Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery. Currently, he is Vice-Chairman of Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) appointed by the government of Nepal. Mr. Sherpa is also an advisor to Nepal Sherpa Association, Pasuvali Nisedha Chetana Abhiyan and several other related organizations. He is also a selection committee member of the International Gautam Buddha International Peace Award.
Minutes before I interviewed Mr. Sherpa, he announced to the press that Ban Ki-moon would be visiting Lumbini April 28-30, 2012.
DUNHAM: Just as I was coming into your office this morning, the local news media was swarming the entrance of your office. Prachanda, Minister of Culture Gopal Kirati, former Minister Minendra Rijal and the other members of the Greater Lumbini Development National Steering Committee were just leaving the building. Was this your fourth meeting since the committee was formed?
Posted by Mikel Dunham in Dunham in the media, Dunham's interviews, Lumbini - Birthplace of Buddhism, Nepal and China, Nepal and the United Nations, Nepal's Economic situation, Nepal's Health Issues, Nepal's Madhesi issues, Nepal's Tourist Industry, Nepal's Wildlife & Environmental issues | Permalink
March 8, 2012
Axel Plathe is the Head of Office and UNESCO Representative to Nepal. I spoke to him in his office in Kathmandu, March 6, 2012.
DUNHAM: Perhaps the best way to begin is for you to describe UNESCO’s interest and involvement with Lumbini.
PLATHE: As you know, the site was inscribed in 1997 in the World Heritage list. Since then UNESCO has been engaged in Lumbini more or less strongly. We have particularly been helping, throughout the years, since the inscription, in managing the site. We have helped the government in establishing an approach on how to manage this World Heritage site.
March 7, 2012
Dr. Rijal is a member of Nepal’s recently created Greater Lumbini Development National Steering Committee, chaired by ex-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”. Dr. Rijal, a member of the Nepali Congress political party, is also a current member of the Constituent Assembly, ex-Minister of Culture and Chairman of Apex College.
DUNHAM: You’ve recently been appointed as a Member of the Greater Lumbini Development National Steering Committee. Now that the committee has been created, what progress can be reported?
February 28, 2012
Kul Chandra Gautam is one of Nepal’s most distinguished international civil servants. He served as Assistant Secretary General of the UN and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. He was Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal on International Affairs and the Peace Process. He is a seasoned diplomat and civic leader and serves on the Boards of a number of international and national foundations and charitable organizations.
Why would Gautam be fingered as an enemy of the Maoists? Mr. Gautam has consistently argued that Prachanda’s involvement in Lumbini – specifically, Prachanda’s appointment as director of the controversial $3 billion Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) project – be more transparent. Toward the end of 2011, Gautam published an article in Republica called “Ten Question on APECF’s Plans”, cautioning the country to take a much closer look at both China’s and Prachanda’s roles in the Lumbini proposal.
Yesterday, I spoke with Mr. Gautam in Kathmandu. The “Ten Questions” article is included at the end of his interview.
DUNHAM: When I say “Lumbini Project” what comes to your mind?
GAUTUM: There is no one Lumbini Project, there are many Lumbini projects.
Actually, the whole effort to develop Lumbini started when U-Thant visited Nepal three decades ago and set up a Lumbini Development Committee at the United Nations, comprised of many countries. And the Lumbini Development Trust [LDT] was started here [in Nepal]. A few development activities started. You had Kenzo Tange, who prepared a master plan. That was supposed to be the plan we were going to follow for the development of Lumbini. So that was the origin.
The LDT, in a way, continues. It has gone through ups and downs. There have times of, “Wow! This is a great thing for us to do! Lots of excitement with King Mahendra, King Birendra, all the leaders of Nepal!” There were very exciting times when U-Thant was personally lending his authority. And there were many, many Buddhist countries – Japan, Thailand, Korea, and Sri Lanka – showing interest, trying to help develop Lumbini. As you know, there are many temples, monasteries in Lumbini built by various countries.
But the master plan was never fully implemented.
Meanwhile, I see that even in the last few years there are multiple development ideas that many people have offered. There is the official LDT. That is a government entity, but it seems not very active these days. It is there. It has some ex officio members: The Minister of Culture is the Chairman; the Vice-Chairman is now Acharya Karma Sangbo Sherpa. The chair in the old days used to be the King. The Vice-Chairmen were there for a long time. But they did not really seem to achieve much.
The International Committee for Development of Lumbini, at the U.N. used to meet, from time to time. It’s chair was, at one point, I remember, maybe it was twenty years ago, the former King Gyanendra, when he was a prince: He was the Chair. But that committee has become defunct. It kind of just died after U-Thant died and the other Secretary Generals did not take as strong an interest. And Nepal, itself, was not pushing for it. So that was kind of disbanded.
But meanwhile, many entrepreneurs have presented many ideas – Nepalis as well as international entrepreneurs. There is a Korean group very interested in development. There is a Malaysian group very interested in developing an airport and bringing in Air Asia. All kinds of ideas! There is a Chinese group trying to build the tallest Buddha in the world in Lumbini. And I would say the most recent group, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Forum [APECF] is the latest entrant into the panorama of so many groups being interested.
But meanwhile, Nepalis have also, from time to time, taken an active role. They go hot and cold, as you know, but a few months ago, the Nepal government decided to form a committee or board for the development of Lumbini under the chairmanship of the Maoist Chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
This committee went to New York to visit the Secretary General. The Secretary General had shown interest. And UNESCO, which should be involved, had also shown its interest, from time to time. It was UNESCO that declared Lumbini a world heritage site.
DUNHAM: And the APECF?
GAUTAM: This APECF organization kind of came out of the blue. Nobody had heard of it. But, as you rightly say, they came dangling three billion dollars of “Monopoly” money or whatever fictitious money it is, and they were kind of dazzling everybody with an international group of advisors, investors, venture capitalists – whoever they are – prominent people from USA, from Thailand, from Malaysia, etc., and with Prachanda and Prince Paras (at one point) as co-chairs.
So, that is what I understand is the latest lay of the land, as it were.
There are the private entrepreneurs wanting to contribute to the development of Lumbini. And there is the official part, which are the LDT, the UN and the government. So a lot of talk. But actually in terms of the real development of Lumbini, that is another story. This is not Rome, this not Mecca, this not like any of the important world religious headquarters. In fact, I have the feeling that some of the other Buddhist sites in India are being developed better and getting more attention.
Last year, I was in Bhod Gaya. I think there is a lot more happening there. There is a very nice new airport. The Bodh Gaya temple complex looks nice and clean and tidy. It’s much more impressive than Lumbini. And of course, in India, there is an effort to develop the old Buddhist university: Nalanda, the world’s oldest university. There is also some effort going on to develop the whole Buddhist circuit, with Sarnath, Bodh Gaya etc.
Compared to the efforts going on in India, I think there is nothing comparable happening in Nepal at the moment. But I think we all dream about Lumbini being the major world pilgrimage site for Buddhists all over the world. Those who may not necessarily be Buddhists, but who are inspired by the teachings of Buddha on peace and non-violence – it is there place as well.
DUNHAM: Which would include Hindus.
GAUTAM: Yes, yes.
DUNHAM: What are the ramifications of a Chinese backed three billion dollar project, dropped into a site four kilometers from the Indian border?
GAUTAM: I’m not sure how seriously we should take the APECF project in the first instance. The possibility of this happening is a big question mark. This might all fizzle out into nothing. Or it might develop into something. Still, I think we should be watching, observing and being alert. The most important thing that is needed is transparency.
Let us be clear as to what this is all about. There were ten questions that I asked [see article below] that APECF needed to clarify. “Who are they? What are they? What are their objectives? What else do they do? Is their motive profit making or non-profit? Is there motive spiritual or commercial?”
This is all very murky. The documents that we have seen were prepared hurriedly. The documents don’t read like a three billion dollar project. These are documents that you or I could write at Shangri-la Hotel in a few hours! So this could be all fly-by-night, dazzling stuff.
But on the other hand, some of the people that they say are part of their board or their group are very prominent people: a former deputy prime minister of Thailand, a big business tycoon in Malaysia, a Rockefeller from America, etc. You cannot easily dismiss that either.
In terms of ramifications, I would not want to go overboard in either scaring people or underestimating it. It is right now a bit fictitious. I’m not sure how much importance we should give it.
If it were to happen, as APECF says it would happen in their original document, then obviously there would be ramifications. The question is would it happen transparently or in an opaque way. If it would happen transparently – everything on the table – it could be a wonderful thing.
But it should be subject to debate and discussion and input...
DUNHAM: And scrutiny…
GAUTAM: And scrutiny. I have the feeling that this group wanted to pull a fast one. We can’t accept that. Many Nepalis and the international community have spoken about this.
One day, suddenly, some high profile name, an Australian “somebody” ends up in Lumbini. No prior notice, no agreement, no announcement and then suddenly they say they have a press conference. You do not do a three billion dollar project like that. It has to be much more mature, thoughtful and transparent.
I hesitate to speculate on a project that seems so flimsy.
If it were to happen, I think that we would want to ensure a couple of things.
1) Lumbini, first and foremost, is a religious and spiritual site. That must be respected and must be put center stage. We have Kenzo Tange’s master plan. That cannot be thrown out the window. It was a seriously prepared plan. It was very thoughtfully done. We can do more than that plan but it must remain at the core. So first and foremost: the spiritual dimension; and there you will need the input –not from businessmen and tycoons but – people who are scholars and with religious personalities with in-depth knowledge of these issues.
2) My understanding is that they want to build a much bigger infrastrucure, not necessarily at the sacred places of Lumbini but in the surrounding area. Building an airport, helping the community develop, etc. To me, some of that, if done thoughtfully, would be a good thing. The only thing I would want to avoid is: don’t turn this sacred area into a Disneyland or a Los Vegas. It has to be done tastefully and befitting a spiritually site.
But let’s remember that there are ordinary people living in the surrounding communities. If we can do anything to uplift their living standards, that’s a wonderful thing to do. We must do that. I would be quite positive about developing the hinterland. I would be very pleased if we could the development extend beyond Lumbini – going to the neighboring districts and other archeological sites. That would be a wonderful thing to do. Nothing like that has been done. And that is the kind of thing that would require two, three, four billion dollars!
You were also asking about India, China and the international dimensions. Frankly, my feeling is that, if such a project is done transparently, with involvement of Nepalis who are experts in the various areas, who are responsible, who are accountable – I do not think that there aught to be too many sensitivities.
Nepal’s foreign policy is such that we want to be friends with both India and China. We do not want to do anything against the interests of India or China. It is a sound policy. And there need not be international problems.
If we do something of that [$3 billion] scale, I would hope that we would link up with India and their plans to develop the Buddhist circuit from Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, to Kushinagar to Sarnath – and let it all fit into an even larger master plan.
OK, so there could be Chinese groups along with the others developing – let’s do it in a coordinated manner so that it all becomes a wonderfully huge Buddhist circuit. It can be done and in a non-threatening way…to anybody.
What we need to avoid is hush-hush, hanky-panky goings-on. If we are transparent, let’s take India into our confidence. The more openly we do it, the better it is.
China and India – the way I look at it – they want to develop good relations. I think in this country, we are too full of conspiracy theories. People think, “Oh! India is against China! We play this card and that card!” All of this is nonsense, to me. China and India are two huge world powers and, as world powers, they have their strategic interests, but they are not petty – trying to take advantage, a little here, a little there. That’s what many Nepalis imagine. I think Nepal and Lumbini are only small pieces in terms of China-India relations. They are talking about 100 billion dollars in trade. They look at it from that kind of perspective. Let’s not be overly suspicious and speculating about their interests. I don’t like to do that. Let’s bring everybody into confidence. Let’s do it aboveboard.
TEN QUESTIONS ON APECF’S PLANS By Kul Chandra Gautam (first published in Republica)
There has been great excitement, debate and controversy about the plans of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) to mobilize investment of US$3 billion plus for the development of Lumbini as a Special Development Zone (SDZ).
After four decades of failed attempts to develop Lumbini into a global pilgrimage site worthy of one of the world’s oldest and greatest religions with nearly a billion followers, any serious and ambitious plan for its development should be warmly welcomed. So far, Nepal has never had any development project worth US$3 billion in foreign direct investment. So naturally the proposed project by APECF arouses a mixture of awe, enthusiasm, curiosity and questions.
The mystery surrounding APECF, its history, origins, the secretive manner in which it seems to operate, its highly unorthodox approach – e.g. sudden unannounced Board meetings, sudden unplanned “guerilla ambush” type of visits to project sites, the lack of any published records of its constitution, criteria for selection of board members, no information on its bank accounts, financial procedures, etc. raise serious questions about the credibility of the organization.
One gets the impression that this is the initiative of some well-connected entrepreneurs who want to bamboozle a poor, chaotic country in transition, with promises of huge investment invoking the names of some big business tycoons and political personalities of various countries. The intention seems to be to dazzle the investment-hungry Nepalis by dangling big names and huge sums of money to secure a profitable investment opportunity bypassing normal due diligence review of projects of such magnitude and importance.
Before this project goes any further, its sponsors need to answer the following 10 questions:
(1) What is the real purpose of APECF? Besides development of Lumbini, what other projects has it implemented so far? Where can we find the records of its past activities and achievements?
(2) Is APECF a private foundation? A charity? An investment company? What does it offer to potential investors? Are the members of the Foundation included as investors, lobbyists, or as voluntary, philanthropic individuals?
(3) What exactly are its links with the Government of China? Perhaps the high-level Chinese delegation arriving in Nepal today can explain this, and clarify how mindful it is of the geo-political sensitivities concerning a project of this nature and magnitude being negotiated with a transitional government in the current unstable circumstances of Nepal.
(4) A MOU signed between APECF and UNIDO in Beijing on June 15, 2011 says that the mission of APECF is to “provide full range of support for the project entitled ‘promotion of South East Asian IPA Network’. What is this project, and the IPA network? How does Lumbini fit into this network? How does Nepal, a country in South Asia, fit into a ‘South East Asian’ network?
(5) Is there a constitution of the Foundation? Does it specify how its Board members are selected? How were Prince Paras and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (identified as Mr Prachandpath in the plaque provided to the chairman of the UCPN (Maoist) by the organization) selected to be co-chairpersons of the Foundation? Who proposed their names?
(6) A Mr Xiao Wunan is apparently the executive vice-chairman. So who is the chairman? Why is the chairman’s name kept a secret? Who are the other office-holders? How many full-time staff does APECF employ? Are there minutes of the APECF meetings, including the ones said to have been attended by the Nepali co-chairmen? Are these minutes available for the public to review?
(7) Where does APECF keep its bank account(s)? What are its sources of income and the breakdown of its expenditures? Who audits its financial reports? Is an audited report of its financial accounts available?
(8) Did Pushpa Kamal Dahal consult his party or the Government of Nepal before joining the Foundation as its co-chairperson? As a former prime minister, influential political leader, and potential future Head of State or Government of Nepal, will Mr Dahal refrain from participating or voting or influencing any decision-making on the possible Lumbini project to avoid any conflict of interest?
(9) Are the co-chairpersons of the Foundation paid honoraria? Do they get any shares or dividends in this Foundation’s investment or profits? Does APECF pay for the travel and other costs of persons accompanying co-chairpersons Paras and Prachanda when they attend its Board meetings?
(10) Is it within the jurisdiction of the UNIDO office in China to sign a project agreement with a private foundation based in Hong Kong for the development of a project in a third sovereign Member State of the United Nations, without official consultation with or concurrence of the government of such country, and without any coordination with the UN country team in that country?
Unless these very basic questions are answered satisfactorily, the Government of Nepal would be ill-advised to proceed any further with this project. The government should treat APECF as any other private investor or consortium of investors looking for an investment opportunity in Nepal. Government ministers and officials are expected to keep a certain distance from private investors seeking government contracts and business opportunities, so as not to compromise their objectivity vis-a-vis other competing potential investors, and to avoid any conflict of interest in their official duties.
APECF is not a multilateral or bilateral donor agency, nor an inter-governmental organization like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, or a UN agency. So it is highly inappropriate for any senior government official or autonomous government body like the Lumbini Development Trust to roll-out the red carpet to receive a business delegation that parachutes into Kathmandu or Lumbini without prior notice, invitation or mutually agreed plan.
Nepal risks turning into a “Banana Republic” if any visitor dangling the promise of a big bundle of cash is welcomed as a state guest, and organizations with dubious credentials, no prior track record of any achievement, and with secretive working methods, are treated as serious investors without any due diligence vetting.
We must warmly welcome potential partners and investors who come with good intentions and serious plans for the development of Lumbini, keeping in mind its historical, religious and cultural importance of the national as well as global pilgrimage site. We must protect the sanctity of the World Heritage Site even as we seek to develop Lumbini and its surrounding region for the sake of the people of Nepal. Lumbini’s development must respect the letter and intent of the carefully prepared master-plan of architect Kenzo Tange. It must involve credible and concerned international organizations like UNESCO and the United Nations itself.
The views and advice of Buddhist scholars and archeologists should be sought in developing Lumbini so that we do not inadvertently turn a sacred spiritual site into a money-making Disneyland or Las Vegas. Lumbini is too sacred to be turned into an experimental ground for unscrupulous venture capitalists, but true investors and partners conducting their operations with professionalism, dignity and transparency should be welcomed with open arms, and the customary hospitality of the Nepali society.
February 27, 2012
Yesterday, in Kathmandu, I interviewed Kanak Mani Dixit. I asked him to address the controversial issue of the recent $3 billion proposal, apparently spearheaded by a Hong Kong organization, to develop Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. The project would transform a backwater holy pilgrimage into an international tourist Mecca. For an impoverished country such as Nepal, whose GDP was $35 billion last year, the Lumbini project would be worth almost 10% of Nepal’s annual GDP.
Where will this money come from? Beijing denies that the Chinese government is financing the project. But evidence suggests that the organizers have close contacts with the Chinese government. The organization is called the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a quasi-governmental, non-governmental organization whose executive vice present, Xiao Wunan, is a member of the Communist Party and holds a position at the National Development and Reform Commission, a state agency. It may also be relevant to point out that the first place China’s new ambassador to Nepal chose to visit, following his appointment several months ago, was Lumbini. One additional twist in this story: The Nepali director of the APECF project is Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known to the Western world by his nom de guerre “Prachanda.”
February 21, 2012
The Nepalese government is yet to respond to a December 2011 letter written by three members of the U.S. House of Representatives pushing for the implementation of a stalled Tibetan refugee resettlement program to the US.
The letters dated December 9, 2011 were addressed to the President and Prime Minister of Nepal, and were written by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA), a member of its Executive Committee.
The letters posted on the Commission’s website last week had prominently asked for the rights of Tibetan refugees in Nepal to be protected, and urged the Nepalese government that it assent to resettling Tibetan refugees in the United States.
February 19, 2012
Human Rights Watch issued the following report this week:
(New York) – The Chinese government should immediately release Tibetans who have been detained by local police and are being forced to undergo political re-education after travelling to India to listen to religious teachings there, Human Rights Watch said today.
Many have been detained since February 6, 2012, in ad hoc detention centers in Lhasa and other areas. Multiple sources told Human Rights Watch that several hundred Tibetans may have been detained in the current sweep, but the exact number is not known. The same sources described the political re-education the detainees are subjected to. No information is available about how long the detainees will be held, but people with knowledge of the detentions in Lhasa say the detentions are expected to last from 20 days to three months.
January 16, 2012
The following is a four-part journal written for Radio Free Asia (RFA) by freelance correspondent Maura Moynihan and documented by one of the most gifted photojournalists in South Asia, Thomas L. Kelly. Thanks to RFA and special thanks to Thomas for granting me permission to use unpublished photographs.
PART ONE: Pilgrims Converge on Bodhgaya
Tens of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from around the world traveled this week to Bodhgaya, a town in northern India, to hear exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama give the "Kalachakra" religious teachings.
At least 9,000 Tibetans traveling on Chinese passports, along with an estimated 1,200 Chinese Buddhists from the mainland, are among those who have registered with the event authorities.
January 6, 2012
Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.
As baseball's New York Mets struggled toward their historic 120-loss season in 1962, their manager, Casey Stengel, famously lamented of his feckless team: "Can't anybody here play this game?"
The same might be asked of the various players in Nepal's carnival of political and diplomatic dysfunction: the dominant United Communist Party Nepal (Maoist), the pro-Indian Nepali Congress, the Madhesi parties representing the interests of the ethnically Indian lowlanders of the Tarai, and even the ostensible grownups in the geopolitical game, the diplomats of India and the People's Republic of China (PRC).
Nepalese politicians dramatically describe their nation as "a yam between two rocks" to illustrate the vulnerable circumstances of a small nation trying to maintain its equilibrium and independence between two overbearing regional superpowers.
It would seem that Nepal could plausibly regard itself as the mountain maiden wooed by two determined and deep-pocketed suitors, instead of an imperiled potato.
However, halting efforts to exploit Sino-Indian rivalry to Nepal's benefit have been consistently frustrated by Nepalese weakness, exacerbated by the factionalism, opportunism and corruption endemic in local politics.