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India need not worry about Nepal-China transit agreement

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image Source-www.infonepal.net

Kathmandu, Nepal: With the signing of the Transit and Transportation Agreement between Nepal and China in Beijing, there is a sense of anxiety, worry and concern in Indian strategic circles about Nepal tilting towards China. Many have commented that this has ended India’s long monopoly in Nepal in doing third country business through Indian ports and, overnight, Nepal will do business, import fuel from China and so on.

As a landlocked country, seeking transit rights is Nepal’s fundamental right and, as of now, India and Bangladesh have provided such facilities to Nepal.

Realizing that Nepal will turn to China for transit and trade rights, India, during the visit of Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli last month, had agreed to provide Visakhapatnam port for Nepal’s use. As of now, Nepal is using only Haldia in Kolkata for third-country trade but it is smaller than Visakhapatnam. During the visit, India also allowed Nepal land transit via Bangladesh, implicit being that India was already aware that Nepal would turn to China.

It is being said that had India allowed Nepal this when it was proposed over a decade ago, Nepal would not have gone with China. Second, if India had not imposed an unofficial blockade, privileging one community and group’s demand, Nepal would not have tilted towards China.

After signing the Transit Agreement with China, it is widely anticipated that Nepal will do business through Chinese ports and end its dependency on India. Such interpretations, particularly in Indian strategic circles, are beyond the ground realities and one should understand that a transit treaty does not necessarily measure up to implementation.

The poor infrastructure on the Nepali side, the difficult geographical terrain on both sides and without a rail link up to the Nepali border in Kerung (Gyirong in Chinese side), Nepal cannot immediately begin third country business through Chinese ports. Physical infrastructure on either side of the border is important for the full use of transit rights and, on the Nepali side, it will take years to upgrade Kerung, the only transit, transportation and trade route between Nepal and China.

Second, the nearest Chinese port is Tainjin which is 3,000 km from the Nepali border and the nearest Indian port is Haldia which is just 1,000 km away. This per se makes a huge difference in doing business in terms of costs, said Nepal’s former commerce secretary Purusottam Oja.

If Nepal needs to do business through Tianjin port to Kerung, it is almost impossible to import goods via trucks or containers. The only option is to rail and Chinese officials say this will happen only by 2020.

“Of course, a further extension from Gyirong is an even longer-term plan. It’s up to geographic and technical conditions and financing ability. We believe that far in the future the two countries will be connected by rail,” Hou Yanqi, deputy head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Asia division, said in Beijing after the meeting between Oli and Premier Li Keqiang.

“Strategically it is going to be a good deal but due to distance per se, it is going to be a very costly affair for us until there is rail service from Tianjin to the Nepal border,” said Oja. “It also depends on the status of infrastructure on both sides…and paperwork. Hassle free paperwork for customs and other purposes are key in transit rights,” said Oja.

Another Nepal-China trading point, Tatopani, is shut down since April 25, 2015, earthquake and there is no official confirmation whether the Chinese side will open it up or not. In case China opens it, Nepali traders have to use trucks, containers and other light vehicles to import and export goods from Tianjin, again very costly for traders.

“I am not going to use and do business through Tianjin that is going to be three-fold expensive for us,” said Indian trader Ravi Singh, who is engaged in third-country business.

“Without stressing on connectivity, the transit agreement will not be productive,” said noted economist Bishamber Pyakurel.

“Neither it is a historic pact nor is it a non-workable one. Though it is a welcome move, its success lies in implementation,” he said in an interaction with journalists.

It should also be remembered that Nepal is doing business with India through 24 small and big trading points whereas Nepal is doing business with China only through one trading point.

Then, India has also proposed to build five rail corridors with Nepal and one is proposed to connect Uttar Pradesh and Kathmandu.

The ground realities more than make clear that the ‘China card’ remains more of an illusion but Kathmandu has finally made the strategic move that New Delhi is bound to have taken note of. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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China pays Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, Celebrates Gandhi Jayanti in Beijing

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Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Beijing, Oct 02: China on Monday celebrated the 148th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, with the India Embassy in Beijing releasing commemorative postage stamps on the Ramayana.

Many Chinese nationals offered flowers to a statue of Gandhi at Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, while school children recited his famous quotes in Mandarin on a nippy overcast day.

“Gandhiji looked forward to a day when a free India and a free China could cooperate in friendship and brotherhood for their own good and for the benefit of Asia and the World,” Wilson Babu, Charge D’Affaires at the Indian embassy, said.

“Leaders of our two countries have been striving to build strong India-China relations based on Gandhiji’s ideals of world peace and respect for all human beings.”

In Shanghai, the Indian Consulate organised a series of events including a memorial lecture, screening of a documentary film and a painting completion for children of the Indian community.

Mahatma Gandhi has become increasingly popular in China, with many Chinese researchers studying his ideology of non-violence.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar in Gujarat to Putlibai and Karamchand Gandhi. (IANS)