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  • Vishal Kisan Kamble asked: What are China's interests in Syria?

    P.K. Pradhan replies: Syria is an important country for China in the West Asian region. While the region has been dominated by the USA, other powers like China and Russia have been vying for influence among the countries in the region. The recent conflict in Syria and China’s use of veto on the resolutions against the Assad regime has brought to fore the Chinese actions and interests in the country. For China, Syria is a strategic ally in the troubled region and in recent times both the countries have attempted to strengthen their relationship.

    China enjoys good relationship with Iran as well and at times has tried to take advantage of Iran’s close ties with Syria in strengthening its foothold in the region. Thus, strategically, China’s relationship with regimes like Iran and Syria challenges the traditional American dominance in the region. It also makes clear the Chinese intention of playing a role in the troubled region, though the Chinese leaders shy away of making such statements in public. During the vote on the Syrian issue in the UN Security Council, China was opposed to the use of force for regime change and had demanded a peaceful settlement of the conflict through dialogue and consultation, which shows that they have stakes involved with the current regime.

    On the economic front, China is an important trading partner of Syria. The bilateral trade is heavily in favour of China. In 2011, China’s exports to Syria totalled US$ 2.4 billion, while imports from Syria stood at US$ 26 million. China also has stakes in Syria’s oil industry with the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signing huge deals for exploration and developmental activities in the country. Furthermore, China intends to use Syria, given its geographical proximity with the EU, Africa and other West Asian countries, as a trading hub for its products.

    Jaya Pradeep asked: How should India deal between the official “one-China” stance and the unofficial recognition to Tibet? What factors should be considered?

    Jagannath P. Panda replies: India’s “one-China stance” and “unofficial recognition of Tibet” are two different issues. In my opinion, they should not at all be linked together. The “one-China” stance is a political and diplomatic issue, used generally in the context of China’s “Taiwan” problem. But in the context of rising complexity in the Sino-Indian relations over the boundary and the Tibet issue, the “one-China” stance could be an ideal handle for building pressure on China if India decides to take a bold step in order to counter the Chinese stance in the bordering regions over various issues. In fact, India’s official recognition of Tibet as an “integral part of China” should seriously be revisited, considering that China has not taken a clear and public political stance about Jammu and Kashmir being an “integral part of India”.

    In my view, India must bring China around to take a clear and decisive public stance on three issues: Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Though China has taken an open stance once in a while in recognising Sikkim as a part of India, there is no guarantee that China will not revisit its stance on Sikkim in future. Beijing’s recent posture over Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh has also been problematic. If China does not take an open and public stance on these three issues vital for India in consonance with India’s unambiguously stated positions, then India must seriously revise its Tibet policy, and de-recognise Tibet as an “integral” part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This also becomes more relevant when bordering issues like water dispute, Chinese construction work in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and the problem in handling the Tibetan refugees effectively have emerged as new additions to the existing border complexity between the two countries.

    I believe that India should consider two immediate factors. First, building diplomatic pressure on China to take a clear public stance on issues vital to India and its territorial integrity; second, a clear message should be conveyed to China that it needs to appreciate India’s democratic values with regard to the Tibetan refugees and the Dalai Lama. Under no circumstances should India henceforth take a public stance recognising Tibet as an “integral part of China”, unless China clarifies its position publicly and clearly on Arunachal Pradesh at least. This is important when there is a leadership transition taking place in China in 2012-13. Besides, it is high time that India seriously utilised the presence, services and the human resource of the 100,000 odd Tibetan refugees who have been living within its territory for decades.

    Alienated People and an Overcautious state in China’s Xinjiang

    While China’s desire for economic prosperity in Xinjiang may be achievable, it has not seemingly found any solution to the sense of alienation felt by the local Uighurs.

    August 09, 2012

    The Military Media and its Relevance for China

    The role of the media in China has been one where it is expected to be the ‘mouthpiece’ of the party. Media outlets have been used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as propaganda wings and are expected to inform the people about the CCP’s policies and actions. In addition, the introduction of the Internet has transformed the media landscape. There has been a steady increase in the number of Internet users and blogs in China.

    July 2012

    China Consolidates the Rare Earth Industry and Builds Strategic Reserves

    China’s success in the rare earth industry is the result of both careful thought and consideration at the highest policy making levels which have constantly expedited reform in the industry.

    August 07, 2012

    Yongxing Island: China’s Diego Garcia in the South China Sea?

    China’s decision to set up a military garrison on the Yongxing Island and creating a city administration could be seen as a step in firstly expanding its military reach, secondly strengthening its claims in the South China Sea, and thirdly countering the US rebalance towards the region.

    August 07, 2012

    Challenging China’s Rare Earth Monopoly

    Over the last few years, realizing the dangers of Chinese monopoly, countries like India, Japan and Vietnam have started collaborating in Rare Earth Elements, while North America countries are planning to increase investments in this sector.

    July 19, 2012

    The Turnaround in China’s Tibet Policy: Will Tourism Boost Benefit Tibetans?

    The gestation period of 3-5 years to implement this tourism project gives China sufficient time to complete several projects linked to Tibet that improve connectivity, trade and commerce.

    July 17, 2012

    India’s Neighbourhood: Challenges in the Next Two Decades

    India’s Neighbourhood: Challenges in the Next Two Decades
    • Publisher: Pentagon Security International

    The chapters in the book take a prospective look at India's neighbourhood, as it may evolve by 2030. They underline the challenges that confront Indian policymakers, the opportunities that are likely to emerge, and the manner in which they should frame foreign and security policies for India, to maximise the gains and minimise the losses.

    • ISBN 978-81-8274-687-9,
    • Price: ₹. 995/-
    • E-copy available

    Raviteja asked: Why the British handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997? What were the terms and conditions?

    R. N. Das replies: Hong Kong was acquired by Britain in three stages after defeating China in the Opium War. The first was Hong Kong Island, which was ceded to the Great Britain in perpetuity by the Treaty of Nanking on August 29, 1842. The Kowloon Peninsula was leased to Britain by the Convention of Peking in 1860, and the new territories on a 99 year lease under the Second Convention of Peking in 1898. China regarded these treaties as unequal, imposed on China under the duress of ‘gun-boat diplomacy’.

    As the 99-year treaty was to expire on July 1, 1997, both Britain and China started negotiations in early 1980s. The historic joint declaration on the future of Hong Kong was signed on December 19, 1984 between Premier Zhao Ziyang and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Under the joint declaration, an innovative “one country, two systems” was devised, under which Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty while retaining its political and economic system. The tenets of the joint declaration were later elucidated in the Basic Law, under which the present Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is governed.