November 29, 2013
November 7, 2013
Global Times |
By Ding Gang
These two accomplishments are enough to make Indians and Chinese feel proud. However, they seem to have caused mutual suspicion instead, and even been misinterpreted by some netizens as measures against each other.
With rapid development in many areas and in particular defense over the last decade and more, China and India have become more suspicious of each other’s intention, which reflects long-term distrust in their bilateral relationship.
Problems in the Sino-Indian relationship are mainly triggered by boundary demarcation. The foremost way to reduce mutual suspicion is to lay down some basic rules in tackling border issues to control frictions and prevent conflicts.
The Border Defense Cooperation Agreement between India and China signed in Beijing last month marked an important step toward this. If New Delhi and Beijing can strictly abide by the pact and conduct frequent dialogues between officials at different levels near the Line of Actual Control, there will be fewer chances of conflicts.
The two nations can then begin considering how to make substantial progress that promotes business and trade in border areas and benefits the general public.
In recent years, Beijing and New Delhi have been engaged in road projects near border regions, and have also made plans to build railways. Mutual suspicion will increase if the highways and railways cannot be connected between the two countries. But if the two can be connected, the entire region can prosper.
Currently, China and India conduct trade mostly by sea. A large bulk of Tibet’s imports from and exports to India has to pass through the port of Tianjin and then be shipped to the harbors of Calcutta.
If the two countries can connect their highways via Nathu La, a mountain pass in the Himalayas, trading cost will drop enormously. Nathu La is located 460 kilometers from Lhasa, and there are several highways from this historical place to northern India, eastern Nepal and northern Bangladesh.
This trade route boasts great potential. The India-China trade volume in 1957 amounted to a peak of 110 million silver dollars at Nathu La Pass, accounting for more than 80 percent of the total bilateral trading volume.
Another route, which extends about 500 kilometers, could connect Tengchong, Yunnan Province, to Ledo in northeastern India via Myitkyina in Myanmar.
Many businessmen from Myanmar have been transporting Chinese goods to India through this passage over recent years, and there are a variety of Chinese-made products in the markets across India-Myanmar border areas.
Interconnections between western China and northeastern India will not only benefit the two countries, but also be conducive to the establishment of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor that is now being discussed. Plus, it can help shape a critical economic circle to provide more vigor and dynamism to Asia and the whole world.
In addition, the political role of the new economic zone can not afford to be neglected. As complicated conflicts often occur among a number of ethnic minorities and tribal groups there, it will be difficult to push forward political reconciliation if economic development remains sluggish.
Economic growth is the foundation of addressing these problems, and providing real benefits for the people will facilitate the process of negotiations over the border. Investment and ideas that advance China-India economic and trade cooperation are far more important than building army posts and deploying artillery and planes.
The author is a senior editor with People’s Daily. He is now stationed in Brazil
November 1, 2013
Nearly 1 billion Yuan project comes to light after seven failed attempts over the past 50 years
China on Thursday opened a new highway that links what the government has described as Tibet’s “last isolated county” – located near the border with Arunachal Pradesh – with the rest of the country and will now provide all-weather access to the strategically-important region.
Chinese state media have hailed the opening of the highway to Medog – which lies close to the disputed eastern section of the border with India – as a technological breakthrough, with the project finally coming to fruition after seven failed attempts over the past fifty years.
China first started attempting to build the highway to Medog – a landlocked county in Tibet’s Nyingchi prefecture – in the 1960s, according to State media reports, in the aftermath of the 1962 war with India.
With Thursday’s opening of the road, every county in Tibet is now linked through the highway network, underlining the widening infrastructure gulf across the disputed border, even as India belatedly pushes forward an upgrading of border roads in more difficult terrain.
The official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday described Medog as “the last roadless county in China”. Before this week, Medog was the only one of China’s 2,100 counties to remain isolated from the highway network, according to State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).
What the project will do
State media reports have focused on the development benefits that the project would bring and have sought to play down the strategic dimensions. Local officials said the road’s opening will bring down commodity prices and widen access to healthcare.
The road will also provide access to the border county for nine months of the year. That the government was willing to spend as much as 950 million Yuan – or $ 155 million – on a 117-km highway, with ostensibly few economic returns expected, has underscored the project’s importance to State planners.
Local officials said prior to the opening of the highway, reaching Medog required traversing the treacherous Galung La and Doxong La mountains at an altitude of 4,000 metres. With frequent landslides, the road was often rendered impassable.
Now, the road will be accessible for “8 to 9 months per year, barring major natural disasters”, Ge Yutao, Communist Party head of the transportation department for the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), told Xinhua.
Work on the 117-km road began in 2009, a year after the project was given the green light by the State Council, or Cabinet.
Renewed attention on infrastructure projects
The opening of the road comes at a time when there has been renewed attention on infrastructure projects in border areas in India and China.
Last week, both countries signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing, aimed at expanding confidence-building measures. The agreement calls for setting up channels of communication between military commands, increasing the number of border personnel meetings, and formalising rules such as no tailing of patrols, to built trust and avoid incidents.
The agreement does not specify or limit either country’s plans to boost infrastructure – an issue that, analysts say, has in the past triggered tensions along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), most notably in April when a Chinese incursion sparked a three-week-long stand-off in Depsang, Ladakh.
Han Hua, a South Asia scholar at Peking University, suggested in a recent interview that the “basic reason” for the incident was “too much construction” along the border. The Chinese side, she acknowledged, did not have to build closer to the disputed LAC because their infrastructure, as well as more favourable terrain enabled quicker mobilisation.
“If we don’t have the overall collaboration of the military, policy-makers and decision-makers on both sides,” she said, “it will be difficult to avoid such incidents”.
‘India’s plans will not be limited’
The BDCA, Indian officials said, will not limit India’s plans to upgrade infrastructure. It recognises the principle of equal and mutual security, which allows either side to pursue its security in its own way. At the same time, officials say the BDCA will still help “regulate activity” along the border by opening up new channels of communication, even as the border continues to remain a matter of dispute.
On Thursday, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun told a regular press conference that military personnel would hold “regular meetings” and “make joint efforts” to maintain peace in border areas, following the signing of the BDCA. The agreement, he said according to a Xinhua report, “summarised good practices and experiences on the management of differences in China-India border areas”.
October 24, 2013
By ET Bureau |
China is already working on ambitious highway-building projects linking coastal Myanmar to Yunnan and it makes great sense to link the highway from India with this. That way, trade would open up between eastern India all the way to landlocked southern China, Myanmar and Thailand. India should also negotiate with Bangladesh for this highway to pass through its territory.
That way, instead of terminating traffic and commerce in the northeast, the highway could run all the way to Kolkata. Once there, it would be easy to link the East-West Corridor with the India-Myanmar-China-Thailand highway.
Immense trade potential could open up if, say, Pune is connected to Kunming via one long, continuous highway. Along the way, goods can also be dropped off in markets in Bangladesh, the north-east, Myanmar and on to Thailand.
Southern Asia is among the world’s least-integrated regions. It was not always thus. Before Partition, south and south-east Asia was a closely networked hub of commerce and services. In the 1930s, the British built a road between Burma and southern China.
During WWII, American general Joe Stilwell built another one from Ledo in Assam to Kunming, to supply Chinese fighting the Japanese. The Stilwell road, too, should be revived, repaired and used extensively to boost trade and commerce between India, China and south-east Asia.
October 24, 2013
Bejing: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China, herein after referred to as the ‘Participants’,
October 23, 2013
Ancient trade route between India and China seen offering huge economic potential but New Delhi worries over security implications
An ancient trade route where old suspicions intersect opportunities for trade and exchange between Asia’s two giants will be in focus during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Beijing trip, with China wanting India to fast-track an ambitious regional project.
Beijing is keen to develop a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor along the “southern silk route” that extends from Yunnan to India. The route, dating back to second century BC, would shorten travel time, cut transport costs, provide landlocked Yunnan province with access to the Bay of Bengal, open up markets and create production bases along the way.
The plan for the BCIM corridor is also at the centre of Premier Li Keqiang’s offer of a “handshake across the Himalayas”. It was during Li’s visit to India this year that the corridor first found mention in official statements, even though it was mooted more than a decade ago.
India, on the other hand, is fearful of the security implications of allowing China direct access to its border states and being overrun by China’s more developed economy. But several Indian experts see in the BCIM plan the promise of economic salvation for the country’s impoverished northeastern states and are urging the government to seize the opportunity.
“As Yunnan is the most advanced in the cluster, India fears that it will become BCIM’s economic centre, with the rest of the region reduced to its periphery,” says Binoda Kumar Mishra, the director of India’s Centre for Studies in International Relations and Development.
Mishra is also the secretary-general of the Kolkata to Kunming (K2K) Forum, one of the organisations behind the first K2K car rally, which crossed the route that makes up the heart of the proposed BCIM corridor.
Land connections – through the central Asian silk route and the Yunnan-India southern silk route – were what drove trade between ancient India and China. In second century BC, Zhang Qian, a Han-dynasty envoy to central Asia, reported that goods from Sichuan and other southwestern regions of the empire were reaching Bactria (present-day Afghanistan) through India. By the seventh century, the route had become a bustling channel for trade and migration.
According to Tansen Sen, the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, there was robust activity along the route during the first half of the 20th century. “Chinese merchants dealing in tea and horses connected southwestern China, Tibet, east and northeast India,” Sen says.
During the second world war, the land route was re-established from Kunming to Ledo in India’s Assam state through the Stilwell Road to support Chinese and allied soldiers fighting the Japanese. It is the shortest land route between northeast India and southwest China.
China was keen to reopen that road, but as the Indian Army was wary it might give China a tactical advantage in case of conflict, China has turned its attention to an alternative – a longer route that runs from Kunming to Imphal in northeast India through Ruili in Yunnan and Mandalay in Myanmar. But even that has failed to allay the fears of Indian strategic analysts, who point to China’s involvement with rebel groups in India’s northeast in the past.
“A BCIM road would give China an opportunity to influence insurgencies in the region. China did this until 1986,” says R. Hariharan, a retired colonel at the Chennai Centre for China Studies, even as he acknowledges the corridor’s economic potential.
The idea of BCIM is to first put in place a highway system along the land route and then turn it into an economic corridor with trading entrepots, tourism infrastructure and manufacturing hubs, possibly hosting production lines displaced from China and creating jobs along the corridor. But the sheer logistics of the 1.65 million square kilometre corridor, encompassing an estimated 440 million people, worry Ravi Bhoothalingam, who is on the Indian government’s panel on BCIM.
“The area is huge, ecologically complex, ethnically diverse and needs the co-operation of multiple administrations,” he says. “All these issues need to be studied.”
To some, like Subir Bhaumik, the author of Troubled Periphery: Crisis of India’s Northeast, that sounds like foot-dragging and “classic Indian insecurity”. Bhaumik, who says a strong defence and commerce ministry lobby in India is blocking BCIM, turns the logic of security concerns on its head.
“The corridor would give China a stake in the Indian economy and hence give it more incentive to maintain peace on the border,” he argues.
India must move on and open up these trade routes, says Sen, who sees in BCIM a chance to revive the commercial bustle of yore.
October 19, 2013
Moushumi Das Gupta , Hindustan Times
Impressed with China’s highways infrastructure and superior standards for construction and maintenance, a bilateral pact on cooperation in the road transportation sector is set to be signed between the two countries during PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to China next week.
At 65,000 km China has world’s second largest network of expressways. So far, however, China has a limited presence in India’s highway sector. Only six Chinese companies, under joint ventures with Indian firms, are involved in building highways. All six companies have participated and won the bids for the projects.
The broad area where India wants to seek cooperation includes management of road infrastructure technology, standards for highway construction and maintenance, road safety intervention strategies aimed at reducing death and injuries resulting from road accidents, etc. India also wants to know more on how China has dealt with contractual issues and financing of highways build in public private partnership mode.
October 18, 2013
During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s India visit in May, India agreed to “explore the possibilities of the proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor” with China. But New Delhi is going slow on this. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits China this month, the Chinese will push for the BCIM plan. China has already been in discussion with Myanmar and Bangladesh to take this forward. During Singh’s Beijing visit, China will also offer to declare Kunming and Kolkata as sister cities to carry forward the process.
It is New Delhi and not states in the east or north-east that fear Chinese trade and investments along the corridor. This trade can only boost their economies. The opening of the Stilwell Road, built during World War II, is a case in point. Assam’s industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi and Arunachal Pradesh’s former governor J J Singh have been enthusiastic about opening the road to China-India trade. Unlike the Nathu La pass in Sikkim, the Stilwell Road is capable of handling 20-25 per cent of Sino-Indian bilateral trade. But a powerful defence-commerce ministry lobby has blocked it all these years.
China has modernised its part of the road and its companies are doing that in Myanmar now. Only 66 km of the road falls in India — so, if the Chinese army uses it to amass troops on the Indian border for a surprise offensive or dump their products in a trade war, they can do it even if India does not formally open the road. Also, trade with India via Arunachal Pradesh will immediately stop all claims of that region as “southern Tibet”.
Note how quickly China shed its reservations on Sikkim, after trade resumed through the Nathu La pass. JJ Singh, a former army chief, advocated an Indian presence on the road for pragmatic reasons, but that did not help with the mandarins in Delhi. So, an alternate route was chosen for the BCIM car rally in February-March: it started at Kolkata, passed through Bangladesh and India’s north-eastern states of Assam and Manipur, and ended in Kunming, Yunnan via west and north Myanmar.
Now, China wants the car rally route to be converted into the BCIM Friendship highway and turned into an economic corridor with industries, trading entrepots and tourism infrastructure developed around it. This is an excellent idea. Large parts of China, contiguous with south Asia, are landlocked. The Strait of Malacca is a choke point that China wants to bypass through overland trade through Myanmar, Bangladesh and the north-east. Beijing wants to transform BCIM into a live regional grouping to integrate the two most populous nations of the world and use the Bangladesh-Myanmar corridor to help Chindia draw south-east Asia into the world’s strongest future economic bloc. Beijing hopes that India sheds its fear of encirclement by China and creates a win-win situation for both countries in Asia, from south-east to west.
India, especially its eastern and north-eastern states, would stand to gain much more economically by higher trade and connectivity with China and the rest of Asia. On the other hand, there is no material gain if India acts as a pivot for American interests in south Asia.
A formal push for the BCIM during Manmohan Singh’s China visit may boost investments and help chief ministers or industry ministers in the east and north-east to showcase their states to Chinese investors. If the home ministry can waive its objections and agree to allow Chinese telecom majors like Huawei to invest in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor or the Indian embassy in Beijing can rope in huge Chinese investments for Andhra Pradesh, the east and north-east should not be deprived because the region has a long border with China.
September 12, 2013
Dipak Kumar Dash, TNN |
Sources said the identified areas of cooperation include sharing best practices in road and bridge building technologies, policies, intelligent traffic system besides road-related issues. China has taken huge strides in building world class highways, and has built over 60,000 km of expressways. Plans are afoot to build around 18,000 km of expressways in India.
Around half-a-dozen road projects are being built with participation of Chinese companies. Sources said all these projects were bagged by private entities in which Chinese firms had a share.
Sources said no project has been identified that can be taken up under this cooperation. “This is just a beginning. As we progress, projects will be identified,” the official said.
The other major area of cooperation will in the electronic mode of collecting toll (ETC). China is way ahead of India in this sector. India also plans to bring all toll plazas on national highways under ETC so that people can pass through all plazas using a single smart card.
India and China will also cooperate in the field of intelligent traffic system, vehicle specifications and their certification. While India is likely to benefit from Chinese sharing of information and knowledge, China will learn from India’s success in implementing public-private-partnership projects.
Last year, former highways minister C P Joshi had reached out to Chinese infrastructure companies to invest in the road sector. He had said around 40 road construction projects were being undertaken by companies from China, Russia, the UK, Dubai, Singapore, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia, Spain and Thailand.
September 10, 2013
Following the footsteps of bigger metropolitan cities like London, Milan and Tokyo, Beijing is set to implement the car congestion fee in order to cut down on air pollution by 2017.
Car emissions are believed to be the root cause for one-third of air pollutants in the city and also lead to a lot of congestion in certain areas and with this move, the Chinese capital hopes to limit car use in the center of the city.
According to China Daily, the congestion charge would be levied mainly on vehicles in the downtown area and will be set out in the near future by the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau and Beijing Commission of Transport.
Spokesman for the bureau, Fang Li said that whoever pollutes the air is responsible to clean it up and next year the capital will also see ban on private cars at certain times and areas.
Air pollution incharge at the bureau Yu Jianhua said that the government will hold public hearings before the implementation of the congestion fee and regional vehicle restriction, and will widely gauge public opinion.
Residents are reluctant for such a fee as they believe that the restriction on private vehicles would be inconvenient and suggest government cars take the lead and compensation be given to car users.
Under the new restriction, to be carried out in 2014, vehicles from outside Beijing will be forbidden from entering the Sixth Ring Road unless with permission, the report added.