Archive for the 'China' Category

Lesson from an unsettled boundary

Manoj Joshi on the back story to the India-China standoff: In The Hindu:

In 1950, the Survey of India issued a map of India showing the political divisions of the new republic. While the border with Pakistan was defined as it is now, including the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir area, the borders with China were depicted differently. In the east, the McMahon Line was shown as the border, except in its eastern extremity, the Tirap subdivision, where the border was shown as “undefined.” In the Central sector of what is now Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and the eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir, including Aksai Chin, the boundary was depicted merely by a colour wash and denoted as “boundary undefined.”

In March 1954, the Union Cabinet met and decided to unilaterally define the border of India with China. The colour wash was replaced by a hard line, and the Survey of India issued a new map, which depicts the borders as we know them today. All the old maps were withdrawn and the depiction of Indian boundaries in the old way became illegal. Indeed, if you seek out the White Paper on Indian States of 1948 and 1950 in the Parliament library, you will find that the maps have been removed because they too showed the border as being “undefined” in the Central and Western sectors.

What was the government up to? Did it seriously think it could get away with such a sleight of hand? Or was there a design that will become apparent when the papers of the period are declassified? Not surprisingly, the other party, the People’s Republic of China, was not amused and, in any case, there are enough copies of the old documents and maps across the world today to bring out the uncomfortable truth that the boundaries of India in these regions were unilaterally defined by the Government of India, rather than through negotiation and discussions with China. More:

Tibet’s man on fire

More than 80 Tibetans have self-immolated to protest China’s policies in their homeland. This is one man’s story. In National Geographic:

At the time he decided to set fire to himself, Jamphel Yeshi was living in the Tibetan refugee colony of Majnu ka Tilla, on the northern outskirts of Delhi. The colony was first settled in 1963, four years after the Dalai Lama escaped to India from advancing Chinese forces. The early residents built thatched huts and made a living brewing and selling chang, a traditional Tibetan barley-and-wheat alcohol. As refugees from the roof of the world, they were unaccustomed to the heat and humidity of the low-lying plain. They had no idea how long they’d be staying but imagined they’d return home soon.

 Today, about 4,000 people live in the colony, which has been overtaken by the city: A busy thoroughfare runs alongside it, and Indian neighborhoods have grown up nearby. New construction in the colony is illegal, yet ragged workers continue to dig foundations, carrying rubble and dirt in handwoven baskets balanced on their heads and dumping their contents on the nearby banks of the Yamuna River. They navigate a warren of multistory buildings, a shambolic jumble of several hundred homes with colored prayer flags fluttering from the rooftops. The alleyways, many just wide enough for two pedestrians to pass, are populated by crimson-robed monks and nuns, mangy dogs and barefoot kids, activists and drifters, petty merchants, and beggars with missing or mangled limbs who offer a broad smile and warm thanks for receiving the equivalent of 20 cents. A Tibetan far from home can enjoy familiar scents and tastes here: salty butter tea, steamed dumplings, Tibetan bread and biscuits. (Learn about Tibetan traditions under Chinese Rule.) More:

 

Tibetan self-immolations over Chinese policies

Since March 2011, more than 30 Tibetans – monks, nuns and lay people – have set themselves on fire, reportedly in protest against Chinese policies in Tibet. Visit The Guardian interactive and click on the faces to find out more.

Young Chinese don’t see India as a threat, or even a challenge

Sanjaya Baru in The Indian Express:

In Cabaret (1972), Bob Fosse’s film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, a handsome young member of the Hitler Youth stands up at a roadside beer garden and inspires a group of young people to sing with great confidence the chilling number, “Tomorrow belongs to me.” A couple of elderly Germans sink their heads with furrowed brows. That scene crossed my mind when a handsome young Chinese scholar told me last week in Beijing, almost as a matter of fact, as an elder next to him wore an amused look, “Today the United States is Number One economy, China is Number Two; by 2020 China will be Number One.” Tomorrow, he was sure, belongs to him.

It was not his self-confidence that bothered me as much as the question he then posed: “Where will India be?” I mumbled something about the problem with linear projections of national income and added that similar studies place India at Number Three by 2020. “Really?” asked my interlocutor, “Is that possible?”

In 1995, I first visited Pudong, across the river from old Shanghai, when it was still under construction. A guide escorting me around a display of construction plans proudly claimed that the new city was designed to be like New York. My dispatch on the “Manhattan of the East”, as I dubbed it, began with the line, “the only thing Red about China is the liberal dose of lipstick that every young woman on the Shanghai bund displays!” Today Pudong stands tall as a metaphor for New China.

China has travelled a long way in these 17 years and many books have been written on this unprecedented human endeavour. In his impressive 850-page tome on the architect of this New China, Deng Xiaoping, Ezra Vogel outlines in detail how Deng conceptualised the reconstruction and transformation of China and systematically implemented his vision. More:

Chinese handshake: a shameful kowtowing

What lies behind India’s craven crackdown on peaceful Tibetans in order to please China, asks Mihir Sharma in Business Standard

The awe-inspiring leadership of the People’s Republic of China probably doesn’t concern itself much about public opinion among those people not fortunate enough to be born Chinese. But they certainly scored a pretty impressive own-goal during the BRICS summit in New Delhi last week, efficiently aided by India’s timorous leadership. It isn’t just that the Chinese delegation at the Oberoi ate all the mutton chops at the lunch buffet (true) or that they shut off all traffic around Khan market at lunchtime (also true) — although a power that carelessly antagonises Lutyens’ Delhi lunchers is unwisely overconfident.

It was, of course, what millions of Delhiites saw that will have turned them off China-sympathy: Tibetans being rounded up, made to squat in the sun; the ever-sensitive Delhi Police indulging in the worst sort of racial profiling, demanding that people who look even vaguely Tibetan prove their credentials or be locked up. People of Manipuri descent wondered why they left home without their passports. Those living in dozens of Tibetan-dominated areas were cordoned off from the rest of the city like Palestinians on the West Bank. The Tibetan poet, Tenzin Tsundue, was bundled offstage by the cops after an academic discussion at the India Habitat Centre, and sent to Tihar. more

From India, a view of what China works to block

Sruthi Gottipati and Rick Gladstone from New Delhi in NYT:

Over the past year, nearly 30 Tibetans in remote areas of western China have set fire to themselves to draw attention to what they call Chinese government repression, but the visual images of their protests have seldom been seen by outsiders. Censorship authorities in China, which regards the immolation as a form of terrorism, have made sure of it.

On Monday, however, a 26-year-old Tibetan exile in New Delhi offered the world a visceral view of a self-immolation, setting himself on fire at a demonstration to protest the impending visit to India by China’s president, Hu Jintao. Photographs of the man, a literal human torch in flames who sprinted for 50 yards with contorted screams before he collapsed by a tree, raced around the world by way of India’s unfettered press and the Internet.

“From head to toe, he was full of fire,” said a witness, Tenzin Dorjee, the national director of Students for a Free Tibet. “He was shouting. I was in shock. There were women crying.”More:

Tibetan exiles rally around Delhi self-immolator

Edward Wong from Dharamsala in NYT:

By Tuesday afternoon, posters of the man in flames were plastered along the narrow streets of this town adopted by Tibetan exiles. Monks, merchants and tourists stared. In the early evening, more than 200 people walked through the town center waving Tibetan flags and carrying banners that proclaimed the critically injured man, Jamphel Yeshi, a martyr.

The shocking images of Mr. Yeshi’s self-immolation in New Delhi on Monday have provided the Tibetan exile movement with a rallying point and an iconic expression of the anger and frustration that Tibetans suffer over Chinese rule. At least 29 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibetan areas of China since March 2011, and many have died. But Chinese security forces have clamped down across the plateau, so only a handful of the self-immolations have been recorded and transmitted, and only in grainy cellphone photographs or video. More:

One Tibetan woman’s tragic self-immolation

Tsering Kyi had witnessed the erosion of her family’s way of life and the repression of her fellow students’ protests. This month she doused herself in five litres of petrol and set herself alight. In The Guardian, Jason Burke tells her story.

As a young girl, Tsering Kyi’s favourite days of the year were the eve of her village’s annual move to their summer pastures and the eve of their return. The lives of the 30 nomadic households of Tethok, in China‘s Gansu province, followed the rhythm of the seasons. In the spring they would load their household on to yaks and ride up into the high valleys and hills where their herds would find grass and the children would play with frogs in the lakes and streams. As the winter approached, they would return to lower grazing.

A day before they moved all the heavy items would be packed and sent ahead. The women and children would remain behind, sleeping under the stars, to follow the next day. This was Kyi’s favourite time. more

Five myths about China’s power

Minxin Pei in The Washington Post:

As China gains on the world’s most advanced economies, the country excites fascination as well as fear — particularly in the United States, where many worry that China will supplant America as the 21st century’s superpower. Many ask how China has grown so much so fast, whether the Communist Party can stay in power and what Beijing’s expanding global influence means for the rest of us. But to understand China’s new role on the world stage, it helps to rethink several misconceptions that dominate Western thinking.

1. China’s rise is marginalizing American influence in Asia.

Just the opposite. Certainly, China’s power in Asia is growing; its economy is now the biggest in the region, and China is the largest trading partner for every Asian nation. And its military modernization has made the People’s Liberation Army a more lethal fighting force.

But instead of marginalizing or supplanting U.S. influence, China’s expanding power is pushing most Asian countries closer to Washington — and elevating America’s status. Uncle Sam’s presence is still welcome because it prevents a regional power from dominating its neighbors and promotes strategic balance. Today, the more power China gains, the more critical the U.S. commitment to the region becomes, and the greater influence Washington exercises. More:

Why India is riskier than China

Stephen S. Roach at Project Syndicate:

Today, fears are growing that China and India are about to be the next victims of the ongoing global economic carnage. This would have enormous consequences. Asia’s developing and newly industrialized economies grew at an 8.5% average annual rate over 2010-11 – nearly triple the 3% growth elsewhere in the world. If China and India are next to fall, Asia would be at risk, and it would be hard to avoid a global recession.

In one important sense, these concerns are understandable: both economies depend heavily on the broader global climate. China is sensitive to downside risks to external demand – more relevant than ever since crisis-torn Europe and the United States collectively accounted for 38% of total exports in 2010. But India, with its large current-account deficit and external funding needs, is more exposed to tough conditions in global financial markets.

Yet fears of hard landings for both economies are overblown, especially regarding China. Yes, China is paying a price for aggressive economic stimulus undertaken in the depths of the subprime crisis. The banking system funded the bulk of the additional spending, and thus is exposed to any deterioration in credit quality that may have arisen from such efforts. There are also concerns about frothy property markets and mounting inflation. More:

When Wen?

Kunda Dixit in Nepali Times:

Some things become more newsworthy when they don’t happen than when they do. That seems to be true for the postponement of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Nepal, which was scheduled for next week.

Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha tried to fudge it by saying Tuesday that the dates had never been fixed. The Chinese side played down the cancellation, saying Premier Wen had other plans and that a new date would soon be announced.

The visit, and its cancellation at the last moment, has set off intense speculation about Nepal once more being squeezed by a shift in geopolitical tectonics in the region. There has been a more aggressive US posture following the APEC conclave in Honolulu and the ASEAN Summit in Bali in November. US President Barak Obama’s commitment at both meetings that America would “remain engaged” in the Pacific in the 21st century have been seen by many as a response to China’s growing economic and military clout. Obama’s decision to upgrade US troop presence in Australia and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s reassurances of military ties with the Philippines must have set alarm bells ringing in Beijing. More:

Tibet’s next incarnation

Hannah Beech from Dharamsala in Time:

He has never been to Tibet, never breathed the thin air of the high plateau, nor spun a prayer wheel in the shadow of the great Buddhist monasteries. Yet on Aug. 8, 43-year-old Lobsang Sangay was sworn in as the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Born in a refugee camp in India and educated in the U.S., Sangay holds no passport or nationality, only a travel certificate. He expresses homesickness for a place that exists in the foreign mind as an otherworldly haven, and in the Tibetan one as an occupied homeland. “Like all of us in exile, I will never be completely at peace until I go to Tibet,” he says when we meet in Dharamsala, a scruffy settlement in the Himalayan foothills of India where the Tibetan refugee community coalesced five decades ago. “The question is: How do we get there?”

Sangay’s inauguration as Kalon Tripa, or Prime Minister, comes at a critical moment for Tibet — both for the 5.4 million Tibetans living inside China and for the 150,000 or so who have chosen exile. Young refugees whose votes carried Sangay to office are questioning their movement’s longtime commitment to nonviolent resistance, while an ongoing crackdown by Chinese security forces has failed to suppress dissent within Tibet.

Unlike protest campaigns in the 1950s and ’80s, the new wave of demonstrations has flared across the entire Tibetan Plateau, from what China calls the Tibetan Autonomous Region to Tibetan-dominated parts of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces. Beijing routinely blames Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for political instability on the high plateau. But many Tibetans argue that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in fact prevents a violent uprising from erupting in the region. “There is so much anger in Tibet now; it is only because of His Holiness that the people don’t rise up,” says Tsering Migyur, a Mandarin-speaking undersecretary in the Dalai Lama’s office in Dharamsala. Migyur should know. For decades he was a senior officer for the Chinese police and military intelligence in Lhasa, serving as a minority poster boy. In 2000, however, he defected to Dharamsala. “China believes that once the Dalai Lama dies, the movement will lose power,” says Migyur. “But the Dalai Lama is actually China’s best friend because the next generation will not be so accommodating.” More:

India measures itself against a China that doesn’t notice

Vikas Bajaj in the New York Times:

It seems to be a national obsession in India: measuring the country’s economic development against China’s yardstick.

At a recent panel discussion to commemorate the 20th anniversary of India’s dismantling parts of its socialist economy, a government minister told business leaders to keep their eye on the big prize: growing faster than China.

“That’s not impossible,” said the minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, who oversees national security and previously was finance minister. “People are beginning to talk about outpacing China.”

Indians, in fact, seem to talk endlessly about all things China, a neighbor with whom they have long had a prickly relationship, but which is also one of the few other economies that has had 8 percent or more annual growth in recent years.

Indian newspapers are filled with articles comparing the two countries. Indian executives refer to China as a template for development. Government officials cite Beijing, variously as a threat, partner or role model.

But if keeping up with the Wangs is India’s economic motive force, the rivalry seems to be largely one-sided. More:

Slain Pakistan governor Salmaan Taseer’s son kidnapped from Lahore

From Dawn, Karachi:

The son of a Pakistani governor who was killed by his bodyguard for his opposition to a harsh blasphemy law this year was kidnapped in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday, police and the family said.

Four men on motorbikes intercepted Shahbaz Taseer in his car in the upscale Gulberg area and took him to a nearby street before kidnapping him, police said, quoting witnesses.

“Shahbaz was out with a friend when four unidentified people kidnapped him,” his brother Shehryar Taseer told Reuters.

Shahbaz Taseer is a director in several companies his father founded, including Pace Pakistan Ltd., First Capital Equities Ltd., Media Times Ltd. and First Capital Securities Corp. Ltd.

“Our family has been receiving threats from the Taliban and extremist groups,” Shehryar said, adding they could be behind the abduction.

No one has yet claimed responsibility.

More here, here

China speeds past India’s slow train to the Himalayas

At Reuters, Sanjeev Miglani compares India’s attempts to build a railway line to Kashmir with the speed with which China’sb Qinghai-Tibet line has been progressing. 

India’s struggle to build a railway to troubled Kashmir has become a symbol of the infrastructure gap with neighbouring China, whose speed in building road and rail links is giving it a strategic edge on the mountainous frontier.

Nearly quarter of a century after work began on the project aimed at integrating the revolt-torn territory and bolstering the supply route for troops deployed there, barely a quarter of the 345-km (215-mile) Kashmir track has been laid.

Tunnels collapsed, funds dried up and, faced with the challenge of laying tracks over the 11,000 foot (3,352 metre) Pir Panjal range, railway officials and geologists bickered over the route, with some saying it was just too risky.

The proposed train, which will run not far from the heavily militarised border with Pakistan, has also faced threats from militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed region, with engineers kidnapped in the early days of the project. more

New humility for the hegemon

India’s poor relations with its neighbours is hurting its global ambitions, says The Economist

NO ONE loves a huge neighbour. For all that, India’s relations with the countries that ring it are abysmal. Of the eight with which it shares a land or maritime boundary, only two can be said to be happy with India: tiny Maldives, where India has the only foreign embassy and dispenses much largesse, and Bhutan, which has a policy of being happy about everything. Among its other South Asian neighbours, the world’s biggest democracy is incredible mainly because of its amazing ability to generate wariness and resentment.

Until recently it operated a shoot-to-kill policy towards migrant workers and cattle rustlers along its long border with Bangladesh. Over the years it has meddled madly in Nepal’s internal affairs. In Myanmar India snuggles up to the country’s thuggish dictators, leaving the beleaguered opposition to wonder what happened to India’s championing of democracy. Relations with Sri Lanka are conflicted. It treats China with more respect, but feuds with it about its border. more

Slums into malls

Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times:

Kolkata: I first visited Kolkata, better known as Calcutta, in 1982 as a backpacking law student. I stayed at a hostel in the Howrah slums and regretted that my camera could record only images, not the equally memorable stench.

In my visits over the next 25 years, Kolkata — and much of India — seemed little changed. China, where the national bird was jokingly said to be the crane, would be transformed every year or two, while Kolkata was always the same: a decrepit city where barefoot men pulled rickshaws beside fetid canals.

That’s why India has been a bit of an embarrassment for those of us who believe in democracy, especially when compared with China. The Communist Party in China did a much better job fighting poverty than democratically elected Indian governments. India tolerated dissent, but it also tolerated inefficiency, disease and illiteracy.

But after my trips to India and China this year, I think all that may be changing. Despite the global economic slowdown, India’s economy is now hurtling along at more than 8 percent per year. Yep, India is now a “tiger economy.” More:

Pakistan and China: Two friends hit a bump

New York Times from Beijing:

This is officially the Year of Pakistan-China Friendship, and in a four-day visit to Beijing last week — the third in just 17 months — Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, proclaimed that the two best friends “are like one nation and two countries.” Chinese officials were reported to have presented Mr. Gilani with 50 fighter jets as a welcome gift.

So it raised eyebrows when this week the two nations politely disagreed over whether Mr. Gilani had given the Chinese a gift that would be hard to mislay: an entire naval base, right at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Pakistan’s defense minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, who accompanied Mr. Gilani on the state visit, announced the deal after Mr. Gilani returned home on Saturday.

“We have asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar,” a deepwater port on Pakistan’s southwest coast, he told journalists.

Moreover, he said, Pakistan had invited China to assume management of the port’s commercial operations, now run by a Singapore firm under a multidecade contract.

On Tuesday, however, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, disagreed, saying the port had neither been offered nor accepted. More:

The discovery of Asia

Sunil Khilnani in Mint Lounge:

In trying to work out for ourselves how we might like the world to look, we need to allow ourselves—at least as a thought experiment—to get beyond both the inherited and often nostalgic frames that have guided our foreign policy, as well as the vocabulary of alliances and strategic partnerships that dominate today’s global power play.

Certainly in our past history we’ve had individuals who have proposed strong alternative imaginings of the world map—resisting the grip of the dominant conceptions of the day, based as they usually are on nation states and the supposedly inevitable structures associated with them. Mahatma Gandhi, for instance, moved from an early belief in the British empire as a genuine Commonwealth in which all its members would have equal rights (during World War I he urged Indians to declare loyalty to King and Emperor, as he did himself) to, briefly, an endorsement of the idea of a restituted Caliphate which he imagined would form a unity with India against British domination—before coming still later to a view of India as a large civilizational space, not confined by the boundary police that states rely upon (after India’s Partition, Gandhi believed he’d be able to travel to Pakistan without anything like a passport). Jawaharlal Nehru, for his part, envisaged a world in which Asia, led by China and India, would be the prime mover; and in the context of the Cold War, where newer and weaker states like India and China had little chance to assert themselves, he tried to create an alternative space through the concept of non-alignment.

In this May month of his 150th birth anniversary, it would be equally interesting to re-examine some of Rabindranath Tagore’s conceptions of the world and India’s place in it: not least because of his interest in Asia, particularly in Japan and in China—a region and, in China’s case, a country, that will play large determining roles in our future. More:

 

Quality of life: India vs. China

Amartya Sen in The New York Review of Books:

The steadily rising rate of economic growth in India has recently been around 8 percent per year (it is expected to be 9 percent this year), and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China’s over 10 percent growth rate. Despite the evident excitement that this subject seems to cause in India and abroad, it is surely rather silly to be obsessed about India’s overtaking China in the rate of growth of GNP, while not comparing India with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Economic growth can, of course, be enormously helpful in advancing living standards and in battling poverty. But there is little cause for taking the growth of GNP to be an end in itself, rather than seeing it as an important means for achieving things we value.

It could, however, be asked why this distinction should make much difference, since economic growth does enhance our ability to improve living standards. The central point to appreciate here is that while economic growth is important for enhancing living conditions, its reach and impact depend greatly on what we do with the increased income. The relation between economic growth and the advancement of living standards depends on many factors, including economic and social inequality and, no less importantly, on what the government does with the public revenue that is generated by economic growth.

Some statistics about China and India, drawn mainly from the World Bank and the United Nations, are relevant here. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is 64.4 years. The infant mortality rate is fifty per thousand in India, compared with just seventeen in China; the mortality rate for children under five is sixty-six per thousand for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese; and the maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100,000 live births in India and thirty-eight in China. The mean years of schooling in India were estimated to be 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. China’s adult literacy rate is 94 percent, compared with India’s 74 percent according to the preliminary tables of the 2011 census. More:

Dollars, BRICS and the China trap

Sudipto Mundle in The Times of India:

Earlier this month the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) agreed at their summit meeting in Sanya, China, to establish mutual lines of credit in local currencies. On the face of it, this is an innocuous effort by the world’s fastest growing countries to strengthen their mutual relationship. However, in the context of the emerging global power relations, this is yet another important step in the Chinese initiative to end the reign of the dollar as the world’s single reserve currency.

Two years ago i wrote in these columns about the Chinese campaign to dethrone the dollar. Shortly before the G20 London summit, China’s central bank governor announced that the dollar should be replaced by SDRs. This was a shrewd approach. About half of China’s foreign exchange reserves of $2 trillion are reportedly held as dollar denominated assets, as indeed are large chunks of the reserves of many central banks. This large exposure implies that any major depreciation of the dollar would severely erode the value of these assets. At the same time, large diversification of these reserves away from the dollar is not an option. Such a move itself would trigger a sharp depreciation of the dollar. But the exchange rate of SDR is a weighted average of a basket of convertible currencies, and a swap of dollars for SDRs at a pre-determined exchange rate would allow China, and other countries, to significantly reduce their dollar exposure without any erosion of the value of their reserves. Of course, it would also end the reign of the dollar.

At the time, most analysts dismissed the Chinese initiative as impractical and unworkable. However, China has taken several strategic steps to carry forward its agenda through alternative routes. More:

Tibet’s quiet revolution

Pico Iyer in the New York Review of Books:

It’s been startling to witness mass demonstrations in countries across the Middle East for freedom from autocracy, while, in the Tibetan community, a die-hard champion of “people power” tries to dethrone himself and his people keep asking him to stay on. Again and again the Dalai Lama (who tends to be more radical and less romantic than most of his followers) has sought to find ways to give up power, and his community has sought to find ways to ensure he can’t. It could be said that almost the only time Tibetans don’t listen to the Dalai Lama is when he tells them they shouldn’t listen to him. Now, on the eve of an important election for Tibet’s government-in-exile, he has announced he is relinquishing formal political authority entirely—and the Tibetan government has accepted his decision, even as the move has alarmed many around the world and struck some as the end of an era.

In truth, the Dalai Lama’s statement was merely a continuation—and a stronger expression—of what he has been saying for years: that political leadership for the Tibetan people (in exile at least) belongs with the democratically elected government-in-exile he has so painstakingly set up over decades in Dharamsala, in India (elections for a new prime minister are to be held March 20); that he will function only as a “senior advisor,” helping to oversee the transition to a post-Dalai Lama era; and, most important, that the spiritual and temporal sides of Tibetan rule will at last be separate. As he noted in the speech that mentioned his “retirement”—his annual state-of-the-nation address, in effect, delivered on March 10, the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the People’s Republic of China and a frequent day of protest—he has believed, since childhood, that church and state should not be one and that the fate of Tibet should be in the hands of all Tibetans. More:

Can India leapfrog China?

On 26 January, the New York Times website ran this article in its DealBook section:

Davos, Switzerland: India is trying hard not to be forgotten at the World Economic Forum amid the China-focus. The country has brought the single biggest delegation to Davos and ads for its “Inclusive Growth” slogan could be seen not just in the conference center but on public buses in Davos.

Indian executives here prided themselves on the things that set their country apart from its biggest rival among emerging markets, China: democracy, a reliable legal framework for investors, a widespread command of English, a young population due to overtake China’s by 2030, and of course its famed information technology sector.

But there was also an acute sense of envy of China’s superior infrastructure, Beijing’s capacity to map out long-term economic development unbound by election deadlines and the country’s comparatively high literacy rates, particularly among women. More:

Click here to read readers’ comments. Below, a sample:

“India ought to stop thinking of itself as being on the same level as China. China is so far ahead in every measure. Today we talk of China being part of the rescue package for Europe. Does anyone think India is in anyway to fulfill taht kind of role today?”

Dalai Lama’s 1959 flight from Tibet

Mark O’Neill in Asia Sentinel:

At 1 pm Beijing time on the afternoon of March 17, 1959, two meetings took place in Lhasa and Beijing that would change the history of China.

In the Norbulingka palace, the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, the 23-year-old leader and his advisors were debating whether to leave Lhasa, minutes after two artillery shells had landed 200 meters away, causing a huge explosion. A monk entered into a trance, his body swelled and he screamed in a loud voice: “leave quickly, leave quickly, leave tonight.”

At the same moment, in Zhongnanhai, Premier Liu Xiaoqi was chairing a meeting of the Politburo to discuss the same issue.

“The best outcome would be for the Dalai Lama to stay,” they concluded. “But, if he goes, it would be no big deal. The focus of our work does not depend on the feelings of Tibet government leaders but is our determination to put down the rebellion and reform everything.”

So reads a dramatic new account of the most important event in Tibet of the last century — the decision by the Dalai Lama to leave his homeland. It appears in ’1959 Lhasa’, published in Chinese language in Hong Kong and Taiwan and written by Li Jianglin, a Chinese historian. The daughter of a Communist Party official, she is a graduate of Fudan and Shandong Universities who went on to study at Brandies University and lives in New York. The book has the great merit of using material from both sides. Li interviewed more than 200 Tibetans in 14 places of exile and also quotes widely from material from the Chinese side.

The book’s conclusion challenges Beijing’s version of history – that the Tibetan nobility and clergy led their people in an armed rebellion against the Chinese state and that the Dalai Lama had planned the rebellion from early 1957, with support from the CIA, which trained 170 guerillas and supplied them with weapons from the air, including anti-aircraft machine guns and 10,000 rifles. According to this version, the Dalai Lama was forced to leave Tibet against his will. More:

The indispensable incarnation

Talk of the Dalai Lama’s “retirement” shows how much Tibet still needs him. Yet so does China. In The Economist:

Enthroned in a maroon and saffron pavilion, the 14th Dalai Lama chuckled often as he preached to the football stadium, though his text was not taken from the jolly slogan behind him: “Play soccer for world peace”. Ringed by snowcapped Himalayan peaks in Gangtok, capital of the Indian state of Sikkim, which borders Tibet, tens of thousands basked in midwinter sunshine—local Sikkimese of Nepali and ethnic-Tibetan descent, visitors and, of course, Tibetan exiles. The Dalai Lama may exaggerate a bit when he says that 99% of Tibetans trust him. But not by much. So his recent talk of “retirement” has unnerved many.

In November he said he was seriously thinking of retiring. An election in 2001 for his government-in-exile had already ended the 400-year tradition of Dalai Lamas as both spiritual and political leaders. After an election in March this year, he would discuss with the new parliament when to give up his remaining “temporal” role. He expected to retire in the “next few months”.

The Dalai Lama has long stressed his work not as a political leader but as a scholar and guardian of the Buddhist tradition he embodies. In Gangtok he attended a seminar on spirituality and science. His lecture on the soccer pitch was on a rather abstruse commentary by a second- or third-century Indian philosopher, Nagarjuna (“The form particle does not produce sense-consciousness because it transcends the senses.”). The Dalai Lama turned it into an accessible sermon on how to live your life.

Politics, however, will not let Tibet’s spiritual leader go. His presence in Sikkim was in itself a measured gesture of Indian defiance towards China. India annexed the former kingdom in 1975. China long refused to recognise Sikkim’s incorporation into India, though since 2004 Chinese maps have shown it as an Indian state, and in 2006 a modest border trade began. The Dalai Lama’s eight-day tour of Sikkim was pointedly timed to come just after Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had been in Delhi, discussing how to improve ties. Tibet remains one of the strains. The Dalai Lama, with some 100,000 followers, has made his home in India since fleeing Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, in 1959. More:

Dalai Lama to shed Tibet leader’s role

Associated Press

New Delhi: The Dalai Lama wants to give up his lesser-known role as the ceremonial leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile, an aide said Tuesday, in what appeared to be another step in the aging leader’s efforts to prepare his people for life after he dies.

However, he will remain the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the focal point of Tibetan national aspirations, said spokesman Tenzin Taklha.

As head of the dominate Gelug branch of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the top religious leader for Tibet. Many of his predecessors also served as Tibet’s political ruler, and the Dalai Lama served as head of government there after Chinese troops marched into his Himalayan homeland in 1950.

Beijing claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries. Amid increasing tensions with the Chinese, he fled to India in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile. More:

Also here

Tibetan Spirit Is Very Strong:

On being asked if he is serious about his retirement plans, His Holiness said: “Oh yes, of course. Since 2001 we have put in place a political leadership in exile. So theoretically the more than 400-year-old tradition of the Dalai Lama institution as head of both the temporal and spirituality has ended. Since then my position is something like a semi-retired position. The major decisions are taken by the elected political leadership. So in order to utilise fully democracy, I felt better not to involve myself in any sort of these works. Of course, I can devote my efforts in other fields like in the promotion of human values and religious harmony. So I am thinking about retirement.” Read here

A last-ditch strategy to save the tiger

Caroline Fraser at Yale Environment 360:

The tiger’s situation has grown desperate in a mere century. A hundred years ago, there were over 100,000 in the wild, with more than 40,000 in India alone. Currently, the total number of tigers worldwide is calculated at fewer than 3,500. Three subspecies — Javan, Bali, and Caspian tigers — vanished during the 20th century. A fourth, the South China tiger, has not been seen in the wild for more than 25 years and is assumed to have gone extinct during the 1990s.

Remaining populations — including 1,850 Bengal tigers and a few hundred each of the Siberian, Indochinese, Malayan, and Sumatran subspecies — are pressed into tiny, isolated protected areas comprising less than 7 percent of their former range. Found in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, the Bengal tiger possesses the highest genetic variation, and is considered the key to the species’ survival.

Blocking tiger recovery efforts in India and elsewhere is the black market in the animal’s body parts. Although the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies cooperated with conservation efforts by removing tiger bone from their pharmacopeia in 1993, skins still sell for up to $35,000, and organs and body parts — bones, whiskers, eyeballs, penises, paws, claws — are snapped up as souvenirs or ingredients of traditional Asian medicine. Tiger is occasionally served at restaurants in Hanoi and Beijing, where rare dishes denote high status. In Russia, the uber-wealthy have acquired a taste for tiger pelts as home décor; in Sumatra, magic spells require tiger parts. More:

A new Cold War in Asia?

Pankaj Mishra at NYR Blog:

Is Asia about to enter a new cold war? Accusing the United States of undervaluing the dollar, China has, after its mainly “peaceful” rise, recently assumed an aggressive posture toward its neighbors. In recent visits both to longstanding American allies (Korea, Japan) and to erstwhile enemies (Vietnam, Cambodia), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has proposed the US as a counterpoint to China. Seeking to match the Bush administration’s landmark nuclear agreement with India in 2005, Barack Obama is also supporting India’s case for permanent membership on the UN Security Council.

The columnist Thomas Friedman interprets such moves as “containment-lite,” invoking George Kennan’s proposal in 1947 that Soviet expansionism “be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” Apparently, such counter-force against China is already being applied. An Indonesian political scientist told the New York Times last week that his government feels the US is putting “too much pressure” on Indonesia and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “to choose sides.”

Battered by the midterm elections, and aware of America’s diminished economic clout, Obama himself has been more circumspect in his pronouncements. The US, he said in Indonesia last week, is “not interested in containing China.” But many politicians, journalists, and strategists seem excited by the prospect of a dramatic new standoff, especially as the “war on terror” and the “struggle against Islamofascism”—campaigns deeply shaped by nostalgia for the cold war’s ideological certainties—enter an uncertain phase. More:

Nehru to JFK: Eyes only

Inder Malhotra in The Indian Express on Pandit Nehru’s letters to John F. Kennedy asking him for military aid during India’s war with China:

Forty-eight years have elapsed since the Black November of 1962, when took place the brief but brutal border war with China in the high Himalayas. As is clear, in retrospect, it was a relatively limited clash of arms — that unfortunately turned into a traumatic military debacle and political disaster for us. So, why recall those days and scratch the wounds that have nearly healed?

The reason is the sudden and unexpected availability of two “Eyes Only” letters Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to President John F. Kennedy of the United States informing him that the war situation was “desperate” and asking for “more comprehensive” US military aid, especially in the form of air power “if the Chinese are to be prevented from taking over the whole of Eastern India.”

To the best of my knowledge, the first public mention of these two letters was made in the Rajya Sabha by a member of that House, Sudhir Ghosh, in 1965. The then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, had flatly denied the existence of such letters, stating that he had conducted a thorough search of the prime minister’s secretariat, as it was then called, and the ministry of external affairs. For its part, the United States, after a lapse of some years, accepted that these letters were received but absolutely refused to reveal them. More:

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Obama, India and China

Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times:

Don’t believe everything you read in the paper. Take this headline that appeared a couple weeks ago, when I was in New Delhi, in The Hindustan Times: “U.S. Not Seeking to Contain China: Clinton.” It was referring to a statement made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while on a swing through Asia. No, Washington is not trying to contain China the way we once did the Soviet Union, but President Obama didn’t just spend three days in India to improve his yoga.

His visit was intended to let China know that America knows that India knows that Beijing’s recent “aggressiveness,” as one Indian minister put it to me, has China’s neighbors a bit on edge. None of China’s neighbors dare mention the C-word — containment — in public. Indeed, none of them want to go there at all or intend to promote such a policy. But there’s a new whiff of anxiety in the Asian air.

All of China’s neighbors want China to know, as the sign says: “Don’t even think about parking here.” Don’t even think about using your growing economic and military clout to just impose your claims in border disputes and over oil-rich islands in the South China Sea. Because, if you do, all of China’s neighbors will be doomed to become America’s new best friends — including India.

That’s why each one of China’s neighbors is eager to have a picture of their president standing with Secretary Clinton or President Obama — with the unspoken caption that reads: “Honestly, China, we don’t want to throttle you. We don’t want an Asian cold war. We just want to trade and be on good terms. But, please, stay between the white lines. Don’t even think about parking in my space because, if you do, I have this friend from Washington, and he’s really big. … And he’s got his own tow truck.” More:

India Rising

In Foreign Policy, six top experts on South Asia look at an emerging superpower:

Whispers Behind the Welcome – by Sadanand Dhume

On the face of it, Barack Obama has much to look forward to when he visits India this weekend. His poll numbers at home may be at a low ebb, and his party may have been shellacked in Tuesday’s midterm elections. But the U.S. president remains popular in the world’s largest democracy, if not his own. According to the Pew Research Center, three out of four Indians say they have confidence in Obama (only two out of five Americans said the same in a July Washington Post-ABC News poll). The president will likely receive rapturous applause when he addresses India’s Parliament, an honor denied to President George W. Bush on his visit in 2006. One of New Delhi’s best known restaurants promises to unveil its much-anticipated “Obama platter,” and the president’s hotel in Mumbai is keeping a $11,250 bottle of Scotch handy, just in case. More:

New Delhi’s Grand Strategy — by C. Raja Mohan

The problem for India’s top strategists is not that they don’t seek a grand bargain with the United States. It is about negotiating equitable terms. It is also about bringing along a political elite and bureaucracy that are adapting too slowly to the new imperatives of a stronger partnership with Washington. But make no mistake: Engagement with the United States has been the Indian establishment’s highest foreign-policy priority over the last decade and a half. More:

India’s Unfinished Business — by Arvind Pangariya

We Need an Indian Civilian Surge — by Richard Fontaine

New Delhi Surprise — by Sumit Ganguly

Weak Ties — by Anja Manuel