World
Chinese shadow looms large over Indo-Bangladesh bonhomie
On June 6 the Dhaka Tribune, a respected and reliable Bangladeshi newspaper, carried a report which merits attention. According to it, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang would visit Bangladesh in September to commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
 
This was announced by A.K.M. Shameem Chowdury, the press secretary to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed. The timing was significant. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting Bangladesh as the euphoria over the signing of the Land Boundary Agreement was sweeping the country. A special envoy of China's foreign ministry was in Dhaka on the eve of Narendra Modi's visit. Was Dhaka trying to send a message to New Delhi? Perhaps one cannot be faulted for trying to detect a pattern in it.
 
Obviously, Bangladesh is trying to reposition itself in South Asia's strategic map. For Dhaka it is perfectly all right. Every nation must have the rights to chart out its own foreign policy and the Awami League-led government certainly cannot deny the socio-political ground reality in Bangladesh which has a tinge of religious fundamentalism and wishes to move away from anything which is India-centric. Dhaka knows it very well that it enjoys a highly geo-strategic position and has perhaps decided to use it to the hilt.
 
Let us wait for Li's visit. Meanwhile some light may be thrown on Dhaka's growing relations with Beijing. In June 2014, Sheikh Hasina had visited China. There, she not only enterd into some agreements which were militarily uncomfortable for India but after coming back to Dhaka she expressed her readiness to condone China for its hostile attitude during the Bangladesh Liberation War. What was most important was Hasina admitted that her country's relationship with China had assumed a strategic nature.
 
Not that India does not understand the import of Bangladesh slowly drifting towards China's sphere of influence. The initiative taken by Narendra Modi in ratifying the Land Boundary Agreement by the Indian parliament and ultimately the signing of it in Dhaka are an outcome of this realization. Apart from it, many agreements on trade, commerce, economic cooperation and rail-road-water connectivity have been signed. There will be a fresh Indian credit of $2 billion amd a power transmission for 35 years. The Indian private sector too would make heavy investments in Bangladesh. But not a word on military cooperation was heard.
 
Bangladesh is on a weapon buying spree for the last couple of years. Bangladesh is scheduled to get two Chinese submarines this year for $203 million. Last year, at the time of announcing the deal, the Chinese ambassador in Dhaka had said that these two boats would help Bangladesh in bringing stability in the region. Surely the ambassador had very clearly delineated his country's actual goal.
 
Bangladesh's silent acquisition of arms should surprise Indian policymakers. Apart from the two submarines, it commissioned two new Chinese frigates in 2014.
 
Chinese anti-ship missiles, tanks and fighter aircraft were added to its armoury between 2008 and 2012 . Moreover Bangladesh has purchased helicopters from France, aircraft from Germany, light helicopters from Italy and armoured personnel carriers from Russia. The Bangladesh Navy has also testfired automated missiles. Chinese arms now constitute 82 percent of the total arms purchases of Bangladesh while the corresponding figure for Pakistan is only 54 percent.
 
Bangladesh's unique geo-strategic location gives it the advantage of overlooking the highly strategic sea lanes of the Indian Ocean which connect China to the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, thereby securing its energy supplies.
 
In this context Bangladesh's decision to hand over the task of modernization and development of the Chittagong port has given rise to intense controversy. It is axiomatic that China will retain the right of using this port according to its needs.
 
Secondly, Bangladesh has plans to build up another deep sea port. Earlier the site chosen was the Sonadia island off Cox Bazar. But Dhaka faced intense international pressure over the issue, particularly from the US and India as work for this project too was slated to be handed over to China. The fate of the Sonadia port is now uncertain. It is conjectured that the Bangladesh government has instead chosen Pyara in the Patuakhali district as the alternative site. However, here also, Chinese firms are said to have been selected for carrying out the job.
 
There are enough reasons for India to remain skeptical about Bangladesh's role. Diplomatic circles talk about the Chinese String of Pearls theory which, in effect, means acquiring important bases to encircle India. Gwadar port in Pakistan and Chittagong in Bangladesh give China two excellent bases for keeping an eye on the Indian Ocean. Chittagong will also make China's sea connectivity much easier. From Kunming, the capital of China's Yunnan province, the distance to Chittagong is only 1,000 kilometres, but the distance from the former to its nearest Chinese sea port Guangzhou is 1,700 kilometres.
 
Beneath the euphoria India is wary about Bangladeshi moves. Some time back, New Delhi had expressed doubts about the necessity of Bangladesh signing so many pacts with China. Moreover, possibly in response to Sonadia or Pyara ports, India too has finalized plans to build a deep sea port at the Sagar Island on the mouth of the Bay of Bengal and set up a missile base there.
 
Two more things should not be overlooked. First Beijing is now Dhaka's largest trade partner. Secondly Beijing-Dhaka camaraderie had started long before the Teesta water controversy erupted. In 2005 Bangladesh had joined the China-led Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization along with Pakistan, Iran, Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey, among others, and when the bickering over Teesta was nowhere near solution, China had extended financial help to Bangladesh for its first space satellite programme and other infrastructure development projects that would integrate Bangladesh with Chinese systems.

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COMMENTS

SuchindranathAiyerS

1 year ago

Unravelling 65 years of Indian malgovernance and misrule outside India will be no more possible of accomplishment than it is inside inside India.It will take more than a century AFTER (1) Inequality under law and exceptions to the rule of law are expurgated from the Constitution and laws of India. (2) Bribe Taking is defined as criminal extortion or treason and made a capital offense with special rules of evidence and special courts with summary powers (akin to a Military Court Martial). (3) All court proceedings are video graphed and archived for public viewing and can be used as evidence to prosecute Judges and Magistrates at all levels under special laws and special courts with summary powers akin to a military Court Martial, for insouciance, negligence, tardiness, disregard for law and propriety, behaviour unbecoming of a Judge such as lack of etiquette and manners, (4) every job on the "Public" i.e. Government Pay Roll has specific and unique Key Responsibility Areas, Key Performance Parameters and Objectives for which they are held accountable on pain of summary dismissal for non-performance or life imprisonment for treason for sabotage under special laws and special courts with summary powers akin to a military Court Martial and (5) India creates an Ombudsman Service of reemployed and retrained military officers (Colonel and Below, JCOs and NCOs) who retire before 50 to serve as presiding officers, investigating/prosecuting and enforcement officers at the afore mentioned "Special Courts", one for every taluk with powers to arrest, incarcerate, try and punish any and all from the President of India to a peon in accordance with the Special Laws framed therefor.

Ex servicemen from UP to join protest over 'one-rank, one-pension'
Thousands of retired army men from Uttar Pradesh will participate in a protest demonstration to press for 'one-rank, one-pension' at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar on June 14, an office-bearer of the Bhootporva Sainik Sangh said on Wednesday.
 
The retired armymen directorate data shows that more than 3.76 lakh retired military personnel live in Uttar Pradesh, with 23,438 living in the state capital alone, who are looking for an amicable solution to the long standing issue of one-rank, one pension. 
 
Office-bearers of the retired army body said they were very hopeful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would look into their demands but not much progress has taken place in the last one year.
 
"We are still hopeful about a resolution to the whole impasse but in case our demands are not met with now, we will return all our medals to the government during the protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi," a retired army colonel, now working with a private firm, told IANS. 
 
The Bhootporva Sainik Sangh has also written a letter to Prime Minister Modi to come out with a solution.
 
Referring to a recent radio programme, wherein Modi reiterated his government's commitment on the one-rank one pension issue, a retired officer said that ex-servicemen were "still hopeful" but were going ahead with the protest in the national capital.
 
Uttar Pradesh has 3,26,191 retired army personnel, 43,700 retired from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and 17,628 from the Indian Navy.

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Service tax applies only in AC restaurants: Finance ministry
Restaurants without air conditioning facility will not charge any service tax from their customers while those with ACs will charge only on the 40 percent of the total bill amount, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.
 
"Restaurants, eating joints or messes which do not have the facility of air-conditioning or central air-heating in any part of the establishment are exempt from service tax," the ministry said in a clarification.
 
"In other words, only air-conditioned or air-heated restaurants are required to pay service tax," the statement said.
 
For such restaurants, 60 percent of the value is to be deducted from the total amount charged while applying the rate of service tax, and tax is to be calculated on the balance 40 percent, it added.
 
With the increase in the rate of service tax to 14 percent from June 1, the tax rate is effectively 5.6 percent of the total amount charged.
 
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget proposed to raise service tax from 12.36 percent (including education cess) to 14 percent. The tax is levied on all services, except a small negative list.

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