Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is slated to make a state visit India from 7-10 April. The visit comes after at least two postponements. The difficulty in getting the visit to take off is a far cry from the warmth and cordiality that was on display in words and deeds during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June 2015.
Hasina’s reservations have to do with her fear of coming away from New Delhi without any agreement either on sharing the Teesta river waters or on constructing the Ganges Barrage on the Padma river at Pangsha near Rajbari. The agreement has fallen through multiple times during both the UPA tenure as well as during Modi’s visit and despite Dhaka agreeing to major India’s major demands of allowing transit of goods to Northeast both from Indian mainland overland through Bangladesh territory and by sea through the Bangladeshi ports of Chittagong and Mongla.
The coming state visit will be Hasina’s first in seven years to India and it might be useful to compare and contrast the progress in Dhaka’s ties with China – India’s principal challenger for Bangladesh’s affections – in the meantime.Read More »
Originally published as ‘With China’s Growing Regional Interests, a New Strategy of “Active Defence”’, The Wire, 28 May 2015.
China’s latest defence White Paper (WP) – its ninth – has only confirmed trends that have been evident for some time. Themed “China’s Military Strategy”, it is a sign of China’s greater confidence if not always of transparency delivered in language that is a mix of boilerplate, rhetoric and accusations against unnamed countries. That said, there is clearly a desire to communicate better to the United States and other potential rivals what China’s intentions and red lines are.Read More »
The first annual session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) in China has just ended with the ‘election’ of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang as President and Premier respectively and approval of a new cabinet of ministers. Despite the NPC’s largely rubber-stamp role – candidates approved by Congress were pre-selected by the Chinese Communist Party – the first sitting of the NPC was important because among other things, it also announced the line-up of China’s new foreign policy team.
It is important to note that major foreign and security policy initiatives are the preserve not of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) as part of the Chinese government but of the Communist Party. Read More »
Originally published as जबिन टी. जेकब, “चीन में परिवर्तन की राह में असमंजस,” Business Bhaskar, 7 March 2013, p. 4.
The Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) together form the equivalent of China’s national parliament broadly representing a lower house and upper house respectively. The 12th NPC will ‘elect’ China’s new President and the Premier – Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang respectively – who were in fact decided by the 18th Communist Party (CPC) Congress in November last year. It is also the 18th CPC Central Committee that has approved the candidates for China’s new cabinet of ministers (or the State Council) and the heads of China’s equivalent of the Supreme Court and of its investigative and prosecution agencies.
While the Party continues to be the more powerful than the government in China, the symbols of state such as the NPC are increasingly vocal. This 12th NPC will see discussion over a variety of topics that will keep China’s new leaders engaged over the next decade. Read More »
China recently announced a defence budget of over US$100 billion as part of its continuing military modernization. Many observers outside China, including those from India, have concluded that this massive buildup indicates that China is intent on making war with its neighbours.
China’s intentions, however, are seldom as clear-cut as they are made out be. If anything, there is more debate than certainty in Beijing on how best to maximize Chinese influence and interests abroad.Read More »
Originally published: Jabin T. Jacob, “The man with a dragon tattoo,” DNA, 27 December 2011, p. 12.
Xi Jinping, currently Vice-President of China, is slated to take over as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the 18th Party Congress in October 2012. He will thus be part of the ‘fifth generation’ of Chinese communist leaders to take power since 1949, following in the line of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and current CPC General Secretary and state President Hu Jintao.Read More »
An extract from Jabin T. Jacob, “China’s Defence White Papers: A Political Reading,” in Gurmeet Kanwal and Dhruv C Katoch (eds.) China’s Defence Policy: Indian Perspective (New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 2011), pp. 33-42.
China’s white papers on national defence (WPs) are intended to shed light on the country’s defence capabilities and plans. However, just as importantly, these are documents that reflect the current thinking within the corridors of power in China on important political considerations – domestic and international. While the WPs are ostensibly released by the State Council, that is, the government of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that represents China’s armed forces is not beholden to the state but to the Communist Party of China (CPC).
By virtue of being the Party’s army rather than the state’s, the PLA is a far more important actor in China’s foreign and security policymaking than counterparts in democratic countries such as India. At the same time, given that it seeks popular legitimacy by association with the masses and by implication the CPC, the PLA is also not as overwhelming a presence as armies in straightforward military dictatorships or in military-dominant countries like Myanmar or Pakistan.
Each of these distinctions is important and needs to be kept in mind while reading the WPs or trying to understand civil-military relations in China. This short essay examines a few political aspects of China’s WPs from both the external and internal angles. Read More »