China in the Afghan Imagination

Rustam Ali Seerat, Research Scholar (International Relations), South Asian University, New Delhi

China though geographically close to Afghanistan, has been a distant land, politically and socially . The Afghan people have little knowledge about China. The socio-political distance extends to the era prior to the decline of China in the 18th century. Though the Silk Road had connected Central and West Asia to Chinese lands and commodities were flowing along the Silk Road, from China to Europe, passing through the Muslim world of present-day Afghanistan. However, economic exchanges brought less of China’s political influence in the region. Even with the re-emergence of China in the latter half of the twentieth century and the flow of its products into the Afghan market, the socio-political influence of China on Afghanistan remains limited. Socially, culturally and politically, China is still a far and mysterious place for Afghans. Continue reading “China in the Afghan Imagination”

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A China Gazer’s Random Musings – No. 1

Amb. Kishan S. Rana (retd), Emeritus Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi

There is such a cascade of writing on China that as an oldie, I am attracted by the notion of penning personal reactions, reflections, and observations. Few of us can claim special insights into a country marked by both opacity and paradox. The longer one studies China, deeper is a typical realization that what one understands is a fraction of the things that remain unknown, even unfathomable. I plan to write this column perhaps once a month.

The 19th Party Congress Looms

For an authoritarian regime, China has a remarkable leadership transition system, which has worked smoothly for the past 30 years. Party congresses of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are held every five years. The even numbered Party Congress is when a new General Secretary and his leadership team take over; the country’s key decision-making team is the Standing Committee of the Politburo (it used to number 9, reduced to 7 in 2012). The General Secretary holds office for 10 years. The odd-numbered Congress is the one where appointments are made to the central committee and the full politburo, in preparation for the leadership change five years down the line.

Thus, the 19th CPC which meets in October 2017 is the in-between session when central committee and politburo members are appointed. It is crucial because that team plays the key role in the appointment of the next leader at the 20th Congress.

Recent months have seen sizeable re-shuffle in the top positions in the 31 provinces, Continue reading “A China Gazer’s Random Musings – No. 1”

India’s Concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Ashok K. Kantha, Director ICS and former Indian ambassador to China

It is one of the most imaginative and ambitious programmes ever to be rolled out by a government. It represents a broad strategy for China’s economic cooperation and expanded presence in Asia, Africa and Europe, and has been presented as a win-win initiative for all participating nations. But for India, the connotations of China’s Belt and Road Initiative” are somewhat different. A flagship programme and the most advanced component of the initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a region that belongs to India and is under the control of Pakistan. As a country acutely conscious of its own sovereignty-related claims, China should have no difficulty in appreciating India’s sensitivities in this regard. Continue reading “India’s Concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative”

Economic Ties with China: India Needs to Look Beyond Politics

Alka Acharya, ICS Honorary Fellow and Professor, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

There appears to be a world of difference between the images presented by India-China economic and commercial ties on the one hand and the politico-strategic on the other. Interactions and exchanges with representatives from both these domains are markedly different in tone and tenor—the former focus on the opportunities, openings, benefits and profits while the latter dwell more on the dangers, threats, challenges and disputes.

Prima facie, they appear to be working at different levels, according to their own—somewhat different—logic and rationale, and it does not look like they will converge any time soon in a more composite picture of this most critical of relationships in the world today. The political understanding at the highest level, which is committed to building a strategic and cooperative—and now more promisingly ‘developmental’—partnership, struggles with deep suspicion that runs through practically our entire strategic discourse. On the other hand, economic engagements have become the most dynamic and transformative aspects of the India-China relationship today. But this has to contend with the structural mismatch between the manufacturing strengths and industrial capacity of the two economies—and therefore, unsurprisingly, perceived by and large as a situation that works only to China’s advantage. The controversial and contentious political issues and the angry exchanges understandably garner greater attention.

Bigger Picture

And yet we must ask ourselves as to whether that is all there is to the overall picture. Continue reading “Economic Ties with China: India Needs to Look Beyond Politics”

Political Embers Flare as Tawang Contends for the Dalai Lama’s Reincarnation

Tshering Chonzom Bhutia, PhD, Associate Fellow, ICS

The Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh from April 7 to 11 garnered plenty of media attention. One of the most prominently discussed questions centered around the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.

The Chinese side was unequivocal in not only objecting to the visit but also commenting on the reincarnation issue. The Chinese position, as encapsulated in remarks by scholars from important Chinese think tanks, is that the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation has to be approved by the Chinese government and selection has to be based on a combination of not just “historical rules” but also current “Chinese laws.” The reference to Chinese laws is with respect to the 2007 State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) regulation delineating procedures for the selection of reincarnated monks, including eligibility conditions, application procedures and the government and religious institutions to be approached for approval. The regulation basically excludes “any foreign organization or individual” from the reincarnation selection process, obviously in an attempt to legitimize China’s authority and exclude the Tibetan Diaspora (and others) in the selection of the next Dalai Lama.

The Chinese have consistently maintained that any reincarnation must be determined on the basis of the late 18th century procedure instituted by the Manchu Qing rulers of China. Under this “golden urn system” of selecting reincarnations, the names of prospective candidates would be placed in an urn, from which lots would be drawn to pick the real incarnation. Therefore, any other method being suggested by the Dalai Lama is seen as contrary to established rules and illegitimate, for it denies the Chinese government’s authority in the process.

Much of the recent interest in the issue was sparked by comments made by local officials in Tawang Continue reading “Political Embers Flare as Tawang Contends for the Dalai Lama’s Reincarnation”

Dalai Lama at the Namami Brahmaputra River Festival in Assam: Mixed Signals for India-China Relations

Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Assam

His Holiness the Dalai Lama graced the Namami Brahmaputra River Festival[1] in Guwahati as chief guest, on 2 April 2017, as part of a 14-day visit to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Assam Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and several state cabinet ministers received him at the banks of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati. The Assam Government and the New Delhi-based research think-tank India Foundation, jointly organized this particular event hosting the Dalai Lama.[2] This visit combined with the Dalai Lama’s subsequent itinerary covering Tawang and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh lends itself to some questions about India’s China policy and in particular, the link between the boundary dispute and aspects of river-management and -sharing between India and China. Continue reading “Dalai Lama at the Namami Brahmaputra River Festival in Assam: Mixed Signals for India-China Relations”

2017 NPC: Centralizing While Attempting to Reform

Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Honorary Fellow, ICS & Vice-President, Council for Social Development, New Delhi

The ten-day session of China’s parliament – the National People’s Congress (NPC) – that concluded on 15 March was not an ordinary annual event that puts its stamp of approval on the already worked out policies by the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). This was the last session of the nearly 3,000-member 12th NPC that was formed along with the assumption of the office of the president by party general secretary Xi Jinping. In many ways it gave a preview of the things to come at the 19th Congress of the CPC later this year in October-November.

Two areas threw up some conspicuous trends. First, Xi’s political leadership and his perspective on domestic and international issues were affirmed. Second, the need for strict measures to maintain stability in the country as a whole – and in Xinjiang and other ethnic minority areas, in particular – was reasserted. Whether these measures will prove adequate in coping with emerging challenges is an open question. Continue reading “2017 NPC: Centralizing While Attempting to Reform”