India, Myanmar, Thailand trilateral highway may start soon

October 23, 2013

By PTI |

India main exports to these countries include pharma, machinery, vehicles, plastics and cotton while imports are pulses, rubber, wood, mineral oil.

India main exports to these countries include pharma, machinery, vehicles, plastics and cotton while imports are pulses, rubber, wood, mineral oil.
NEW DELHI: The proposed highway covering India, Myanmar and Thailand is expected to be operational soon, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said today.The highway will help in smoother and faster movement of goods between these regions.

“We are presently working with the governments of Myanmar and Thailand to develop the trilateral highway which hopefully will be completed soon,” Sharma said here at a CII function.

The idea of the highway – from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand, via Myanmar – was conceived at the trilateral ministerial meeting on transport linkages in Yangon in April 2002. It represents a significant step in establishing connectivity between India and South East Asian countries.

Myanmar is source of one-third of India’s imports in pulses and one-fifth in timber.

Emphasising on the need to enhance road, air and sea connectivity, Sharma said that India is also working to develop the Kaladan multi-modal transport corridor which comprises waterway and roadway.

Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project will connect the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe port in Myanmar by sea; it will then link Sittwe to Mizoram via river and road transport.

Sharma said the project and the transport corridor will connect these countries (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Mayanmar) with the North-Eastern part of India.

The government is also looking at connecting India and Myanmar through a sea link, he added.

He said: “Connectivity by air, road and sea in important. We have entire north east India which is progressing but still lagging behind the rest of the country because of geography, constraints of infrastructure.”

Sharma was speaking at the CII’s Business Conclave of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Mayanmar.

Further, the minister said that trade between India and the four South East Asian nations is “well below potential”. The two-way commerce between India and these nations stood at USD 8.5 billion in 2012-13.

“We need to do more. We have to look at not only increasing economic relation but deepening and diversifying the priority sectors which hold potential like IT, agri, healthcare, oil and gas and textile,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, representatives of these four countries sought investments from India in sectors like IT, infrastructure, energy, power and agro processing.

“We have opened our doors for India. We welcome you,” Cambodian Secretary of State, Ministry of Planning, Hou Taing Eng said.

India main exports to these countries include pharma, machinery, vehicles, plastics and cotton while imports are pulses, rubber, wood, mineral oil and spices.


India, China to sign road pact during PM’s visit

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.

India and China can bond along the Stilwell Road

October 18, 2013

Subir Bhaumik

(Beijing hopes that India…)


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.





Chinese incursions: Bhutan suffers alongside India

October 16, 2013

By Claude Arpi  


Chinese incursions: Bhutan suffers alongside India


The Indian press recently reported that China was building ‘a massive infrastructure in Bhutan’. A report of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), intelligence agency, apparently warned that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had constructed a new road from Gotsa to Lepola via Pamlung.

While it is difficult to ascertain the details of the RAW report, it is an open secret that China has been very active on Bhutan borders. On August 9, Kuensel, a Bhutanese publication, reported that the National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon arrived in Thimbu to ‘congratulate’ the new Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay after the latter assumed office. Tobgay was indeed happy to host Menon in Bhutan; Delhi had just promised some 5,000 crore Rupees to assist the implementation of Bhutan’s 11th Plan and its Economic Stimulus Plan. However, oh surprise, Shivshankar Menon was accompanied by the new Indian Foreign Secretary, Sujatha Singh. Why this ‘double’ visit? The NSA does not usually travel with the Foreign Secretary. Indeed, there was more than the usual patting. It soon became clear that the NSA’s main purpose was to advise the Bhutanese Government on how to handle border talks with China.

The 21st round of boundary talks between Bhutan’s Foreign Minister, Rinzim Dorje and the Chinese vice minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was to be held a couple of weeks later. This made Delhi nervous. These border talks indeed have serious strategic implications for India’s security and Delhi’s own negotiations with China probably needed to be ‘synchronised’ with Thimpu. The New Indian Express asserted: “NSA spoke to his interlocutors about the current status of the India-China border talks. But, with the political leadership in Bhutan being brand-new, Menon took the opportunity of the Foreign Secretary’s visit to share Indian ‘experience’ and knowledge of Chinese negotiation tactics to advice Thimpu on the way forward.”

Delhi was particularly anxious after Thimbu had decided, during a previous round of talks with China, to have a joint technical field survey in one of the disputed areas in the central sector (eventually, the 21st China-Bhutan border talks held in Thimphu on August 22 agreed to conduct the joint survey of the 495 sqkm in the Pasamlung area, north of Bumthang). Another claim by China, the Doklam Plateau is adjacent to the hyper-strategic Chumbi Valley. That is the real nightmare for India.

It is a fact that China never liked India’s monopoly over Bhutan’s foreign affairs. Liu Zengyi, a research fellow at Shanghai Institute for International Studies wrote in The Global Times, “New Delhi sees Bhutan as little more than potential protectorate”. Referring to China’s attempts to establish diplomatic relations with Bhutan, the Chinese scholar admitted: “India won’t allow Bhutan to freely engage in diplomacy with China and solve the border issue.”

The Global Times’ article alleged that Indian ambassador to Bhutan VP Haran followed a ‘carrot-and-stick’ policy and ‘played a big role’ in the victory of the Opposition Peace and Democratic Party (PDP) over the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). Beijing acknowledges that for India, China’s advances in the Doklam area is a strategic threat to the Siliguri corridor: “As a country located between China and India, Bhutan serves as a buffer and is of critical strategic importance to the Siliguri corridor, a narrow stretch of land (known as ‘chicken’s neck’) that connects India’s northeastern States to the rest of India. …Delhi worries that China will send troops to the corridor if a Indian-China military clash breaks out.”

It is indeed a serious issue for India. Even if India’s special influence over Bhutan is acknowledged by China, New Delhi needs to keep a tab on the China-Bhutanese negotiations, which could definitively impact the India-China talks. Though China and Bhutan do not have direct diplomatic relations, last year, Jigme Thinley, the then Bhutanese Prime Minister met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of a United Nations summit in Rio, establishing a first formal contact. Historically, during the 1962 India-China border war, Beijing was not too happy when the Bhutanese authorities permitted some Indian troops to retreat through southeastern Bhutan.

Though Bhutan formally has maintained a policy of neutrality, during the following years, Thimphu quietly expanded its economic ties with India. In the 1970s, several incidents of cross-border intrusions by Chinese soldiers as well as Tibetan herders were reported and when Thimphu and New Delhi protested against the incursions into Bhutan, Beijing ignored the Indian protest, responding to the Bhutanese complain only.

In 1996, China offered a package deal to Bhutan: Beijing was ready to renounce its claim over the 495 sq kms of disputed land in the Pasamlung and Jakarlung valleys in exchange for the Doklam Plateau, a smaller track of disputed land measuring a total of 269 sq. kms located in the Northwestern part of Haa District. The Doklam Plateau is extremely close to India’s ‘chicken neck’ area (The Chumbi Valley) and the Siliguri corridor connecting the Northeast to the rest of the country.

Since then, talks are going on.

In 1998, China signed a peace agreement with Bhutan to ‘maintain peace and tranquility’ on the Bhutan-China border. For the Bhutanese, it was a de facto recognition of their territorial integrity and independence. A Bhutanese blogger believes that for Bhutan, “This is clearly a case of being caught between a rock and a hard place.” It is clear that the claim on the Doklam Plateau is a second thought for China. In 1959, there was no discrepancy between the Chinese and Bhutanese maps (except for eastern Bhutan where Beijing did not recognise the McMahon Line). At that time, Beijing commented: “The strength of a horse is known by the distance travelled, and the heart of a man is seen with the passage of time, …China’s peaceful and friendly attitude toward India will stand the test of time.”

The ‘passage of time’ has shown that China was an unreliable horse, not only the PLA has intruded in several areas of India and Bhutan, but it has also built important infrastructure, such as the road from Yatung to Phari in the Chumbi Valley cutting across the Doklam Plateau. The Chinese engineers have also built traversal roads and set up a communication network within the disputed area. How to dislodge the Chinese is not an easy proposition.

By grabbing the Doklam Plateau, Beijing considerably enlarged the Chumbi Valley and its access to Sikkim and Siliguri; let us not forget that the Siliguri corridor is one of India’s most critical areas along the India-China border. Let us hope that Delhi will keep watching and preserve its vital interests.




Postal highway project in limbo

October 9, 2013


JANAKPUR, : Eight access roads that Nepal and India had agreed to complete in the Tarai this year under the postal highway project have completely fallen by the wayside.

According to a bilateral agreement inked around three years back eight access roads were to be constructed in Dhanusa, Mahotari and Sarlahi districts by this November 12. But only Birendrabazar-Mahinathpur road in Dhanusa is under construction.

India had released more than Rs 2.5 billion for the project 29 months ago.

A meeting was held in Janakpur a few days back to discuss the factors leading to the delay.

Indian ambassador Ranjeet Rae, who attended the meeting, held the construction companies and the government of Nepal responsible for the tardy pace of the project.
“Had the government of Nepal handed over the task to the construction companies and the contractors had taken their responsibility seriously, the work would have already completed by now,” said Rae.

International companies such as Vishma, Wivi and SR Joint Venture had bagged the tenders for the project.

Chief at Janakpur Division Office of the postal highway project, Kishore Roy blamed Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and the Department of Forests.

“Even though we allocated the budget to remove electrical poles and trees along the road sections, NEA didn´t take the work seriously,” he said. “Moreover, had the construction companies started the construction immediately after the agreement, the progress would have been satisfactory.”

The project includes the construction of the access roads of Janakpur-Jatahi (12.06 km), Janakpur-Yadukuha (17.05 km), Janakpur-Jaleshwore-Vitamode (19.75 km), and Birendrabazar-Yadukuwa-Mahinathpur (32.35 km) in Dhanusa.

Maisthan-Gausala-Sashi (26.90 Km) and Jaleshowore-Hardikhola (27.20 km) in Mahotari, and Nayaroad-Barhathwa-Madhubani (40.31 Km) and Nawalpur-Mangalwa (26.59 km) road sections in Sarlahi are the remaining access roads to be constructed under the postal highway project.




Diplomats owe £67m in London congestion charge fines

September 10, 2013

A car drives past a congestion charge mark on a London road

London’s foreign diplomats owe more than £67m in congestion charge fines, the foreign secretary has said.

The US Embassy owes most with 63,000 fines totalling 7.2m, William Hague said, but the US insists diplomatic immunity covers the congestion charge.

In written statements to Parliament, Mr Hague also revealed diplomats owe £674,100 in business rates and £344,747 in London parking fines for 2012 alone.

He said 12 serious criminal allegations were made against diplomats in 2012.

The figure for unpaid congestion charges has been rising since the scheme was introduced in 2003.

After the US, Russia owes the most (£4.89 million from 42,310 fines), followed by Japan (£4.85 million from 42,206 fines).

During a visit by US President Barack Obama in 2011, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson asked him for a £5m cheque for unpaid congestion charges, but the US ambassador intervened before Mr Obama could answer, the Daily Telegraph reported.

 Unpaid congestion charges

  • USA: £7,277,400
  • Russia: £4,899,900
  • Japan: £4,856,280
  • Nigeria: £3,816,990
  • Germany: £3,782,170
  • India: £2,777,440

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the department considers the congestion charge a “service rendered” under diplomatic rules, though legal immunity means diplomats cannot be prosecuted for non-payment.

Nigerian diplomats owed the most in 2012 parking fines – £84,000 – while Saudi Arabia was second on the list with £24,005.

Mr Hague said officials had met with foreign missions and asked them to pay outstanding fines or appeal against them, and the new figures excluded £240,035 which had been paid or waived by councils.

Criminal allegations

Mr Hague said the Foreign Office was informed of 12 “serious offences” committed by people with diplomatic immunity in 2012.

These are defined as offences which could carry 12 months or more in prison, as well as drink-driving and driving without insurance.

He said 10 of the alleged offences were driving-related, including six for drink-driving – three by Russians.

The non-driving offences alleged were abuse of a domestic worker and causing actual bodily harm.

In the “most serious” cases the UK asks foreign governments to waive immunity to allow prosecution, or to withdraw an accused diplomat.

About 22,500 people get diplomatic immunity in the UK and Mr Hague said “the majority” abide by UK law.

According to the Foreign Office figures, 14 countries owe business rates to local authorities.

The Ivory Coast tops the list with unpaid business rates of £97,987, followed by China with £94,377.

Mr Hague said the figure of £674,100, the total amount owed on 14 June this year, took into account the fact that diplomatic missions only have to pay 6% of normal rates.

He added: “£45,219 of this outstanding debt is owed by Iran and Syria which are not currently represented in the UK. We are therefore unable to pursue these debts.”





India GRI Report 2012

November 26, 2012

Cricket World Cup 2011 Final Moments

April 15, 2011

Zero Corruption Notes

April 7, 2011

Designed to look like standard Indian currency, zero-rupee notes are larger and printed on thicker paper

Designed to look like standard Indian currency, zero-rupee notes are larger and printed on thicker paper. That discourages folding, which is a common way for bribes to be passedPhoto: Rebecca Hale, NGM Staff

In India, where corruption costs the public and private sectors millions of dollars a year, demands for petty bribes are frequently signaled in code: “Take care of me” or, for a two-note handout, “Make Gandhi smile twice.” Illegal demands by police and bureaucrats are “deeply ingrained in the culture,” says anticorruption crusader Vijay Anand, and are “taken as the norm.”

But 5th Pillar, Anand’s grassroots citizens group, is trying to create a new norm—by printing and passing out notes worth nothing at all (above). Since 2007, 5th Pillar has distributed 1.3 million zero-rupee bills. People give them as a polite protest to officials trying to squeeze extra payment for routine services like issuing driver’s licenses or loans. The effect has been to shame or scare some public servants—who can go to jail if they’re caught—into honest behavior. The zero-rupee note, says anticorruption researcher Fumiko Nagano, emboldens people to assert their rights, because when they’re backed up by 5th Pillar, “they realize they are not alone.”

Nor is India. Zero-currency notes are spreading to help fight corruption in Mexico and Nepal as well—an affirmation of nonviolent resistance that would surely have made Gandhi smile for real. —Hannah Bloch

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