Sunday, September 30, 2012



Can L’Affaire Bo Xinlai turn into Le Cauchemar ( The Nightmare) Bo Xinlai?

2. That is the question increasingly worrying the outgoing leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) headed by Hu Jintao, which is to hand over to a new party leadership headed by Xi Jinping at the 18th Party Congress starting at  Beijing on November 8 next.

3. The orchestration of the process for transforming Bo Xinlai from a senior party leader on the way up in the party hierarchy into a non-person on the way down to oblivion is continuing without respite.

4. After having removed him from all posts held by him in the party and from primary membership of the party on a plethora of charges, the secretariat of the National People’s Congress (NPC) has now removed him from the NPC membership. This is meant to ensure that when he is tried before a criminal court, he will not be able to claim immunity from a criminal trial.

5. The way is now cleared for his criminal trial. The present party leadership headed by Hu is planning and hoping to have it completed before the new party leadership takes over. Even after the November 8 Party Congress, Hu will continue to hold office as the State President till the NPC Congress next March, which will designate the new President and Prime Minister. He will also continue to be the Chairman of the Central Military Commission till the party decides that Xi should take over this post too.

6. Thus even after November 8, Hu will continue to have the authority of the State and PLA apparatus, but the party apparatus will no longer be under his control.In China, of the three apparatuses---the Party, the State and the PLA--- it is the control of the party apparatus that is the most important.

7. The present leadership of the Party Politburo and its Standing Committee has been totally behind Hu in his attempts to have the trial of Bo completed and the final judgement pronounced before the next party leadership takes over.

8.Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who will control the process for the criminal trial, has also thrown in his support behind Hu in an unusual and intriguing statement made before a mixed audience of Chinese and foreigners without referring to the case of Bo.

9.Addressing  a meeting of  diplomats and officials on September 29,2012,  at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in connection with the 63rd anniversary of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China,  Wen was reported to have said: "Let us rally more closely around the CPC central committee with comrade Hu Jintao as the general secretary. We have followed the overall guideline of making progress while ensuring stability, strengthened and improved macro regulations and given greater priority to stabilising growth. While recognising achievements, we must always keep a cool head. Our country is still at the primary stage of socialism and productivity is not high."

10. Wen’s call for solidarity with the party leadership headed by Hu coincided with the circulation of a statement attributed to Bo Guagua,  son of Bo Xilai,who graduated from Harvard University's Kennedy School earlier this year, in which he said: "Personally, it is hard for me to believe the allegations that were announced against my father, because they contradict everything I have come to know about him throughout my life. Although the policies my father enacted are open to debate, the father I know is upright in his beliefs and devoted to duty. He has always taught me to be my own person and to have concern for causes greater than ourselves. I have tried to follow his advice. At this point, I expect the legal process to follow its normal course, and I will await the result".

11.Bo Guagua initially posted his statement in his blog and subsequently sent an E-Mail authenticating it. It is not known whether he is still in the US or has come back to China.

12.According to some remarks in Chinese microblogging sites, the serious allegations made by the Party against Bo Xinlai on September 28 while sacking him from the party have failed to carry conviction with many of his supporters who seem to believe he has been a victim of an over-demonisation campaign due to an inner party struggle between those, like Bo, advocating a greater role for the State in the economy and those opposing it. Their fascination for Bo Xinlai’s transparent style of leadership as against the secretive style of the present leadership headed by Hu remains intact despite the serious charges against him.

13.According to a report circulated by the Agence France Presse: “ Residual support for the charismatic Bo has worried a Chinese leadership that insists on total allegiance to the course set by the party and the attack on Bo is meant to exterminate it.” It has quoted an observer as saying that some protesters in recent anti-Japan demonstrations over a disputed island chain carried banners that voiced support for Bo, which alarmed many people in the party.

14.The developing political situation in China needs to be closely monitored. Till now, the leadership headed by Hu and Wen seems to have the situation under control, but there are signs of nervousness. ( 30-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Friday, September 28, 2012




Brajesh Mishra, who was National Security Adviser to Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee between November 1998 and May 2004, passed away on the night of September28,2012. He was 84 and belonged to the 1951 batch of the Indian Foreign Service.

2.He became famous in May 1970 when he was heading the Indian Embassy in Beijing as Charge d’Affaires. At the traditional May Day function at Beijing, Mao Dzedong shook hands with Mishra,  conveyed his greetings to our Prime Minister and President in that order and said: “We cannot go on quarrelling like this. We must become friends again. We will become friends again.”

3. Mishra sent a detailed report on it to the Ministry of External Affairs. A few days later, an account of Mao’s friendly references to India, which came almost eight years after the Sino-Indian war of 1962, leaked out to the Indian media which added some masala to it while flashing it, saying that Mao smiled at Mishra when he made his observations. This was followed by feverish speculation regarding the significance of Mao’s smile.

4. The truth was Mao never smiled at Mishra when he made his observations, but “Mao’s famous smile” and its significance became an exciting narrative in the history of India’s relations with China and the role of Mishra in it. An authentic account of what happened that day in Beijing was written on December 2,2009, for the web site of the Chennai Centre For China Studies by Shri G.S.Iyer, who was then the only Chinese-knowing member of the staff of the Indian Embassy in Beijing. He subsequently became India’s Ambassador to Morocco and Mexico before retiring from the Indian Foreign Service. Shri Iyer’s authentic account of the meeting is annexed.

5.Shri Mishra again hit the headlines in the beginning of 1980. But under a different context. He had been posted as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York by the Morarji Desai Government. He was occupying that post when the Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. There were reports that the Charan Singh Government, which was then  in office, had misgivings about the Soviet invasion and was disinclined to support the Soviet action.

6.Indira Gandhi, who returned to office as Prime Minister in January 1980, had Narasimha Rao sent to New York to support the Soviet action. Mishra read out before the UN General Assembly a prepared text not disapproving of the Soviet invasion. During his retirement days, Mishra was reported to have told his close friends that he read out the statement on orders, but was not in agreement with its text.

7. Shortly thereafter, he took premature retirement from the Indian Foreign Service and joined the staff of the UN Secretary-General. He left the job and returned to India in 1987 and joined the BJP in 1991 to help it establish a Foreign Affairs Cell in its headquarters. In that capacity, he used to advise BJP leaders on foreign policy matters and assist them during their meetings with foreign dignitaries.

8.Mishra and Vajpayee came close to each other during this period and Vajpayee developed immense trust in Mishra’s judgement and advice. When Vajpayee took over as the Prime Minister in March 1998, he appointed Brajesh Mishra as the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. In that capacity, he headed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and co-ordinated its functioning.

9. Mishra played an important role in the deliberations that preceded the decision of Vajpayee to authorise India’s nuclear tests of May 1998. The credit for maintaining the secrecy of the decision and of the preparations for the tests should go to the political leaders of the BJP who were involved in the decision, Mishra who supervised the execution of the decision and Dr.Abdul Kalam and his scientists who carried it out.

10. The USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was totally taken by surprise by the tests, which led to considerable friction in India’s relations inter alia with the US and China. Mishra committed a major faux pas while drafting a letter from Vajpayee to then President Bill Clinton explaining why India carried out the tests. The letter referred to India’s fears of a possible threat from China as a reason for the decision. The State Department mischievously leaked that letter to the US media, thereby adding to the friction between India and China.

11.It spoke well of the diplomatic skills of Mishra and the pragmatism of Beijing that they did not allow this aggravation of friction to permanently damage the bilateral relations.

12.Shortly after the nuclear tests, Vajpayee, on the recommendation of a three-member committee on national security headed by Shri K.C.Pant, decided to revamp the national security infrastructure. As part of this revamp, a post of National Security Adviser (NSA) was created. The National Security Council (NSC) created by V.P.Singh, which had become dormant, was revived and a National Security Council Secretariat and a National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) of non-Governmental advisers were set up.

13. Vajpayee asked Mishra to hold additional charge as the NSA. Thus, he wore two hats----as the Principal Secretary to the PM and as his NSA. K.Subramanyam, the strategic affairs expert, was appointed the first Convenor of the NSAB.

14. Even at that time, questions were raised by some regarding the wisdom of one individual, however capable, wearing both these hats. It was reported that the Pant Committee was in favour of an independent NSA. So was K.Subramanyam, who, on two occasions, had publicly expressed his misgivings about combining the two posts of Principal Secretary to the PM and NSA. He felt that as the Principal Secretary, Mishra would be so preoccupied with running the PMO that he would not be able to devote adequate attention to his job as the NSA.

15. Mishra strongly felt that if the same officer held both the posts, he could prevent conflicting advice on national security matters reaching the PM. During this period, I had written a number of articles stressing the need for the revival of the covert action  capability of the R&AW that had been downgraded by Shri I.JK.Gujral when he was the Prime Minister in 1997.Mishra, who had read these articles, sent word to me through his office that I should call on him during one of my visits to New Delhi.

16. I did so in 1999. He referred to what I had been writing on the need for the revival of the covert action capability and said: “ You don’t have to convince me. I was convinced long before you were, but the Prime Minister is not in favour of it. We have to go by his wishes.”

17. Subsequently, I had occasion to meet him three times. The first occasion was alone in his office. On his own, he referred to criticisms being made about Shri Vajpayee’s decision to ask him to hold additional charge as the NSA and said: “ I do not want any confusion in the advice reaching the PM on national security matters. It is better that all advice on national security goes to the Prime Minister from this office.” He was sitting in his office as the Principal Secretary to the PM.

18. My next meeting with him  was as a member of the Special Task Force for the Revamp of the Intelligence Apparatus headed by Shri G.C.Saxena, former chief of the R&AW and then Governor of J&K.  He was asked by one of the members about his views regarding the performance of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the R&AW.

19.He replied: “ I do not see all the reports of the IB. Hence, I cannot comment on its performance. I see all the reports of the R&AW, which works directly under me. When I was in the IFS, I used to think negatively of the R&AW. Now I think  positively of it. I am regularly seeing its work and capabilities. It has been doing very well.”

20. His remarks were an indirect confirmation of the speculation then circulating in New Delhi that Shri L.K.Advani, the then Home Minister, had kept him out of any active role in supervising the performance of the IB.

21.My fourth meeting with him was just before the elections of 2004. There was some criticism in sections of the media about his role as the NSA. It was alleged that he had not implemented many of the important recommendations made by the various task forces on national security set up by the Vajpayee Government after the Kargil conflict of 1999.

22. He had invited some of us for a briefing on the recommendations that had already been implemented. The briefing was given by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). He wanted us in our individual capacities to explain to the media and others regarding the action already taken by the Government.

23. Some of the recommendations of the G.C.Saxena Task Force had related to the State Police and the coordination between the central intelligence agencies and the State Police. Sections of the media were speculating regarding these recommendations. Some State police officers had contacted me and said that the Government of India had not kept the State Governments in the picture regarding these recommendations. I mentioned this to Mishra at this meeting.

24. Mishra replied: “ Raman, you don’t know what problems I have been having sorting out the quarrels among  the central agencies regarding the implementation. Let me sort them out first. I will then sort out the recommendations relating to the State Police.”

25.I consider the brilliant manner in which Mishra handled the diplomatic consequences of the nuclear tests as his greatest achievement as the NSA. The Clinton Administration was very petulant. China was furious. The European Union was not very sympathetic. Only Russia was sympathetic. Many of us feared that India would be confined to the diplomatic dog house.

26. The fact that India was not and that  our relations with these countries again improved spoke very highly of the way Mishra handled the sequel. He also saw to it that a Nuclear Doctrine was drafted, approved and put in place within a year of the tests.

27. He travelled a lot in this connection as a secret emissary of Vajpayee and I was given to understand that the R&AW played an important role in assisting him through its web of liaison relations with the countries which were angry with India over the nuclear tests. I had personally heard Mishra pay high tributes to the assistance from the R&AW in this regard.

28. He handled very creditably the sequel to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan and the sequel to the attack on the Indian Parliament. However, there was some criticism---not invalid in my view--- of what was seen by many as his mishandling of the Kandahar hijacking and the case of Major Rabinder Singh, the CIA’s mole in the R&AW, who managed to escape to the US in 2004.

29. He was allegedly totally unaware of the details of the crisis management drill to deal with hijackings that had been laid down in the 1980s when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were Prime Ministers. It was alleged by people in New Delhi, who were not ill disposed to Mishra, that he was confused and did not know how to handle the situation. As a result, the hijacked plane managed to take off from Amritsar airport, leave the Indian airspace and reach Kandahar. We lost control of the situation and had no other option but to concede the demands of the hijackers.

30. There was an inexcusable delay on the part of the R&AW in alerting Mishra that Rabinder Singh was suspected of working as a CIA mole and was under surveillance. Initially, the R&AW kept not only Mishra, but also the IB in the dark. In fact, the moment they developed suspicion about Rabinder Singh, the R&AW should have alerted the IB and asked it to mount a surveillance on him.

31.When the case was belatedly brought to the notice of Mishra, one would have expected him to lose his temper for not keeping him informed and order that the surveillance be handed over to the IB. He did not do anything of the sort. He seemed to have gone along with the R&AW’s decision to keep the IB in the dark and advised the R&AW to be discreet in its surveillance since he was worried that any embarrassment could damage his efforts to develop a strategic partnership with the US.

32. There is no other way of explaining his silence on the R&AW keeping the IB in the dark except to believe that he did not want Shri Advani to prematurely  know about it lest he complicate matters. Those were the months before the 2004 elections when Mishra’s style of national security management had started coming under criticism from some of his usual detractors as well as others. He apparently did not want any premature publicity to add to his difficulties.

33. To quote Shri Amar Bhushan, the then  head of counter-intelligence and security in the R&AW, who had written an account of the case under the cover of a fiction titled “Escape To Nowhere” : “ Coming from a diplomatic background, he (NSA) is naturally apprehensive of the adverse impact of the investigation on bilateral relations. He may be wondering why we make such a fuss about the restrictive security when senior officers routinely talk and exchange ideas among themselves.”

34. Amar Bhushan also quotes C.D.Sahay, the then head of the R&AW, as telling him after a meeting with Mishra: “ He thinks that the case has been badly handled and its gravity blown out of proportion. He is of the view that we should have dealt with the case administratively as soon as we knew that he (Rabinder) was making conscious efforts to elicit unauthorised information from his colleagues.”

35.Right from the beginning since Mishra took over as the NSA, there was an impression  that he  was feeling out of depth in internal security matters. He hardly had any influence over the State Governments. His word and advice  carried little weight in the State corridors of decision-making.

36.R.N.Kao, who shared this impression, had suggested to Shri Vajpayee the creation of a post of Deputy National Security Adviser under Mishra to be filled up by an IAS or IPS officer well-versed in internal security management. According to Kao, Shri Vajpayee appeared to be amenable to accepting the idea. By the time the post was created, Kao was dead. It was filled by another retired IFS officer.

37. There was another reason why Mishra was weak in internal security management. Shri Advani, who looked upon himself as the internal security Czar, was disinclined to give Mishra any substantive role in it. ( 29-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)







G.S.Iyer, C3S Paper No.413 dated December 2, 2009



The meeting at the Tiananmen rostrum of Mao Dzedong with Mr Brajesh Mishra, the then Indian Charge d’affaires in our Embassy in Peking (as it was called then) on May 1, 1970 is an important historical moment in Indian diplomatic history worthy of correct recollection and recording. The meeting came as the climax of a series of signals from India in the previous years which were being responded to, and was a deliberate and conscious move on the part of the Chinese.


I was working in the Embassy in Peking and was the only Chinese speaking Foreign Service officer of the mission from July 1968, when I succeeded Mr Vinod Khanna, till summer of 1970 when Mr Vijay Nambiar joined the mission — the receiving end of ‘the receiving end’ so to say. I had also accompanied Mr Mishra for some of the meetings with the Chinese Foreign Office in 1970 subsequent to the exchange on the Tiananmen rostrum. With this background, I believe I have some observations to offer on the history of this event.


Despite various signals from our side since 1967, as far as I can recall, there was not much of a chance for a dialogue between the Embassy and the Chinese Foreign Ministry in 1969. I can recollect only two calls by the Head of the Mission in 1969, the initial courtesy visit and the second to protest a particularly vicious attack on Mrs Indira Gandhi in the Xinhua bulletin. Further, in late April 1969, Mr Mishra walked out of a reception given by Zhou Enlai in honour of Air Marshal Nur Khan, the No. 2 in the ruling Pakistani military junta to protest the standard Chinese remark about supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their ‘struggle for self-determination’. This was, in a way, a hardening of our line as these remarks were regularly uttered by the Chinese hosts at all receptions and dinners in honour of visiting Pakistani leaders and no Indian Head of Mission had walked out of any Chinese reception between 1962 and 1969 in response to such remarks. Perhaps they should have. The volume and shrillness of propaganda by the Chinese official media against India had only increased in 1969. Indira Gandhi whose name is written with Chinese characters Yingdila Gandi was lampooned in the People’s Daily as Meidila (‘pulled about by American imperialism’)! This was when we were one of the few governments to speak publicly against the Vietnam war even to our detriment. That was the year the centenary of the Mahatma’s birth was celebrated with solemnity and reverence globally. The only country that ignored that event entirely was China. The Chinese also made a wholesale boycott of the Gandhi Centenary function held in the Embassy on October 2, 1969, without even a token representation. (The Pakistani mission, which obviously knew what the Chinese planned to do sent a Third Secretary, their juniormost diplomat to the function, the only mission not represented by the Ambassador—surely a most disgraceful behaviour.) 1969 was also the year of the Naxalbari events which I will come back to later. Thus 1969 was a very bad year for India-China relations despite some serious efforts by us to get some movement.


A few days before the May Day of 1970, the Chinese Foreign Office called the Embassy to go over and collect the invitation cards for the event which was to take place in the evening. I went to pick up the invitations. In those days before China’s recklessly polluting industrialization, May Day could be very cold and the Foreign Office specifically asked us to bring overcoats while watching the function from the steps facing the Tiananmen! Two sets of cards were handed over to me, one for Mr. and Mrs. Mishra to go up the rostrum from where Mao and the other leaders would watch the show, and another for the other diplomats of the embassy to watch from the steps below.


Quite characteristically, the immediate question from Mr. Mishra on my handing over his card was when such an arrangement had occurred earlier. I had the answer ready. I replied promptly that it was on the May Day of 1967 when Mao and several other leaders walked down the ranks of Heads of Missions and shook hands with everybody. Therefore another handshaking was on the cards and both the Mission and Delhi knew what could be expected.


From our perch down below in the steps, we were watching the gradual progress of Mao down the line and noticed his pausing occasionally to talk to somebody or the other but could not make out who they were, even with the help of binoculars. But we knew that our Charge had a chance to meet Mao. Early the next day I knew it was more than that because Mr. Mishra had sent a report of the meeting to the Government on his return from the function. As soon as I reached the Embassy, he called me and gave me the report to read. It was a stunning moment for a young man barely four years into his profession to read the words spoken by one of the giants of that century about relations with his country. Here was Mao saying ‘We cannot go on quarrelling like this. We must become friends again. We will become friends again.’


There was much other matter of interest that day. China had launched a satellite a week earlier; and it was inevitable that every ambassador would say his word of congratulation to Mao. The British Charge stood to the right of Mr. Mishra and he too did his bit. Mao acknowledged the congratulations and responded, “We also wish Great Britain great technological successes”, a response which left Mr. Denson and his younger colleagues steaming and furious for many many days. They read it correctly as a dig at UK not being the only major power with no satellite program. Mao also conveyed his greetings to our ‘Prime Minister and President’ conscious of the relative importance of the two leaders in our system of politics. It also showed that Mao was alert and had his wit and capacity for repartee intact. Mao also talked at some length to the Soviet Charge. He held the hands of the Czechoslovak ambassador for an inordinately long time and shook it without saying anything, almost as if he was commiserating with the plight of that hapless country invaded by their allies only a few months earlier!


Mr. Mishra asked for instructions on follow up conversations, but even before they arrived, the story of the meeting was leaked to the Indian press in a twisted and trivialised way, that Mao smiled at Mishra during the May Day event. There was no need to leak that story at all, and if it was thought important to share it with the people of our country, an exact account was what our people were entitled to hear. Matters got only worse when a question was asked in the Parliament about the ‘smile’ and it was replied to from the government side that we will not be taken in by a mere smile. This distorted version was surely unfair both to the people of our country who our Government is answerable to and to China who valued and respected the fact that something very important was being conveyed at the level of their Chairman. We misled the Indian people and deeply offended and upset the Chinese government in one stroke – another remarkable action of shooting at our own feet in a bit of diplomatic and public relations hamhandedness of which we have more than enough examples in India.


The exchange between Mao and Brajesh Mishra was followed by some exploratory conversations with the Asia Department of the Chinese Foreign Office. The Director who received Mr. Mishra was Yang Kungsu who had then been resurrected from the wherever he was consigned during the Cultural Revolution. Though known as a Tibet expert, he was more than that and was the counterpart of Shri J.S.Mehta in the joint committee of officials which met in 1960 and agreed to disagree of the report to be submitted to the two governments on solving the border question. The point about his reemergence in the wake of the words of Mao was precisely that an expert on the border was brought in for the dialogue. The dialogue did go on through 1970 and, as with various other initiatives earlier and later, fell victim to non-bilateral developments, because the Chinese let it peter out after the arrest of Sheikh Mujib and the beginning of the liberation struggle in Bangladesh where the Chinese notoriously supported Pakistan and opposed self-determination of Bengali people.


What exactly did Mao say? He said, “We cannot go on quarrelling like this. We must become friends again. We will become friends again.” That these are the exact words can be confirmed because these were repeated by Yang Kungsu in Chinese in a meeting with Shri Mishra. I heard Yang Kungsu quote Mao because I was present in the meeting. There is no way anybody could quote Mao other than exactly. In any case, Yang would have been a party to the preparation of words to be spoken by Mao on that occasion. The Chinese words are, ‘Women puhui zheiyang chaoxiaqu. Women yingai yao zuo pengyu. Women yiding zuo pengyu’, confirming that it was an emphatic call to end the mutual distrust.


Some Chinese scholars have claimed recently that Mao also said “Indian nation is a great nation. Indian people are a great people” to Shri Mishra. I do not think so. Let me explain. These sentences came to our attention as a quote from Mao in 1969 in an article in the People’s Daily titled ‘Spring Thunder over India’ which was a review of the Naxalite movement, claiming how that movement was overwhelming the ‘reactionary Indian authorities under the inspiration of Chairman Mao’s teachings’. It was obligatory for all articles in newspapers to have a quote from Mao. This article concluded with the quote above and an exhortation to the ‘Indian people’ to seize power Maoist style. I made a diligent but unsuccessful search for the quote in the Collected Works of Chairman Mao. Several weeks later, while rummaging through old bound magazines in the embassy basement I discovered a report in an English publication on the celebration of our Republic Day by the embassy in 1951. Mao, who was the President of the country, broke protocol and attended the reception given by Ambassador Raghavan and personally replied to the toast with the words, ‘Indian nation is a great nation and Indian people are a great people’ and proceeded to drink to the health of President Rajendra Prasad and prosperity of India. Isn’t it remarkable that this lone reference to India to fall from the lips of Mao was preserved and quoted by the People’s Daily 18 years later to urge the overthrow of the constitutional government of the very republic Mao was originally toasting! It is even more remarkable that the words used in the context of a report on Naxalite violence are now quoted as a gesture from Mao!


It also shows beyond doubt that Mao did not use these words in his exchange with Brajesh Mishra. Mao really did not need to quote himself; a scholar, writer and poet of his calibre was not that wanting in words as to repeat himself. That is why I believe he did not say them to Shri Mishra in 1970. The Chinese scholars rewriting the quote should also make up their mind which context of the quote they wish to remember today and in the future.


Why the initiative from China at the level of Mao at that moment of time? By 1969, China was amply encircled and had the desperate need to break out of the situation in which they could only count on the ilks of Albania and Pakistan as friends. There was a skirmish along the Sino-Soviet border and there were ominous noises coming from Moscow about an attack on Chinese nuclear facilities, what the American media described then in the gruesome phrase, nuclear castration. We forget now that China was the archetypical destabilizing power then, verbally and materially supporting the overthrow of every established government in South East Asia and had grievously wounded by the failure of the attempted coup in Indonesia and the attack on the Chinese community in the aftermath. The Vietnam war was not ending, which meant they had to find a new way of coping with the USA, other than an open ended confrontation. In late 1969, the contacts between China and the USA resumed in Warsaw. The American table tennis team came to China in 1970, roughly at the same time Mao spoke to us. It was all parts of a plan to break the encirclement.


The arrest of Sheikh Mujib and the Chinese decision to go over to the side of Pakistan in violation of all their professed ideological principles ended forward movement in the initiative with India. On the other hand, the very same event helped US-China relations move forward. Could China have taken a different position on Bangladesh? That they did not do so despite the high level investment in improvement in relations with India an year earlier could be proof of both the weight of Pakistan in China’s subcontinent diplomacy and the limits of unorthodox initiatives when faced with entrenched habits of thought and behavior.


(The writer, Mr G.S.Iyer, Indian Foreign Service -Retired, was formerly India’s Ambassador to Morocco and Mexico. He also held senior positions in Indian missions in Beijing and









Hu Jintao is keen to have the proceedings against Bo Xilai, , the party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, completed before handing over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to his expected successor Xi Jinping.

2.The transition to Xi is to take place at the 18th Congress of the CPC. Originally, the expectations were that the 18th Congress would be held on October 18 , 2012, at which Hu will hand over to Xi the leadership of the Party and a new Politburo and its Standing Committee would take over.

3. But till September 27, there was no announcement of the exact date of the Congress. This gave rise to speculation that the delay was due to divergence of opinion among senior leaders of the party as to whether the disciplinary and criminal proceedings against Bo should be supervised by the present Politburo and its Standing Committee headed by Hu or by the new Politburo and its Standing Committee that will be headed by Xi with Hu having no more control over the proceedings.

4. This speculation was  ended on September 28,2012, with a twin announcement regarding the completion of the Party disciplinary proceedings against Bo under Hu’s supervision and the proposed convening of the 18th Party Congress on November 8 instead of on October 18 as originally expected.

5. It was announced by the official Xinhua news agency that Bo, who had been a member of the powerful Politburo, was stripped of his party membership and other positions held by him. It said:

"Bo Xilai's behaviour created serious negative consequences, seriously damaged the party and the country's reputation in China and abroad, created an extremely negative result, and created huge losses for the party and the Chinese people. Bo made serious errors and he bears the major responsibility for the scandal that saw Gu Kailai (his wife) convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood after a multi-million-dollar deal went sour. Bo seriously violated party discipline and abused his power with regard to the Gu Kailai and Wang Lijun (his police chief) cases, made serious errors, for which he bears the major responsibility, abused his public position to aid others and, directly and through family members, received huge bribes from others. Gu Kailai used Bo Xilai's public position to win favours for others, including family members. Bo's family members received huge financial benefits from others, and Bo had inappropriate sexual relationships with several women."

6. The completion of the disciplinary proceedings against him in the party and his removal from all the positions held by him in the party set the stage for his criminal trial. The decision to hold the 18th Party Congress from November 8 to formalise the transition of the party leadership from Hu to Xi would enable the existing party leadership headed by Hu to have the criminal trial completed and judgement pronounced before Hu hands over to Xi.

7. While this would be procedurally correct, the completion of all the proceedings under Hu’s leadership would also ensure that the new party leadership that would take over on November 8 would not show any leniency to Bo. ( 28-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)










Wednesday, September 26, 2012






The Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh was 80 yesterday. He is the second oldest Prime Minister the country has had. Morarji Desai was the oldest. He became Prime Minister in 1977 at 81 and left office at 83 two years later.

2. Dr. Manmohan Singh took over as the PM when he was 72.He would be 82 if he continues in office till 2014.Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee took over as the Prime Minister when he was 74 and left office at 80 after the defeat of his party in the elections of 2004. If the BJP had been returned to power in the 2004 elections, he might have continued as the PM till the age of 85.

3.Rajiv Gandhi was the youngest Prime Minister in the history of independent India. He became Prime Minister when he was 40 and left office at 45 after his Congress Party lost the elections of 1989. His mother Indira Gandhi was the second youngest Prime Minister in the history of independent India. She became the PM at the age of 49 and was assassinated when she was 67 in 1984. For three years between 1977 and 1980, she was in political wilderness. The remaining years between 1966 and 1984, she was in office as the Prime Minister. The other Prime Ministers of India were in office between 50 and 70 years of age.

4. Till 1991, when Narasimha Rao, on being sworn in as the Prime Minister, inducted Dr.Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister, he had served as a bureaucrat and not as a politician. He joined the Congress after taking over as the Finance Minister in 1991. He enjoyed the total trust of Rao and was totally loyal to Rao.

5.Rao gave him a free hand to re-shape the economy and he performed the task creditably. His success as the Finance Minister between 1991 and 1996 was due to the fact that he and Rao were on the same wave-length on the need for liberalising and modernising the economy. He did not have to hold any important post in the party in order to be successful as the Finance Minister.

6. When he took over as the Prime Minister in 2004 at the request of Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, Dr.Manmohan Singh faced many handicaps due to the fact that he had never held any post in the party and people like Shri Pranab Mukherjee under whom he had worked as a bureaucrat were now required to work under him as the Prime Minister. Initially, this created uneasy personal equations but he managed to get over them. Another major difficulty faced by him arose from the fact that the primary loyalty of the Ministers from the Congress in his Council of Ministers was to Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and not to him. There was and there still is no Minister whose primary loyalty is to Dr.Manmohan Singh.

7. During his first tenure as the Prime Minister, the country faced some major internal security problems. The Maoist insurgents spread their area of operations over large tracts of Central India. There was a major act of mass casualty terrorism carried out by Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorists in the suburban trains of Mumbai in July 2006. There were many acts of jihadi terrorism by the Indian Mujahideen in different cities of India in 2007 and 2008. There was a three-day commando-style attack on different targets in Mumbai between November 26 and 29,2008, by sea-borne terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).

8. Despite the deterioration in the internal security situation during his first tenure in the rest of India, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir registered a qualitative improvement with new ideas for finding a solution to the Kashmir problem with Pakistan being discussed with positive results through back channels with the regime of Gen.Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. If the terrorism situation in Punjab improved and normalcy was restored when Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister, the situation in J&K improved under Dr.Manmohan Singh for which credit has to be given to him.

9. Under the management of Shri P.Chidambaram as the Finance Minister, the economy registered considerable improvement and India was taken as seriously as China in the economic decision-making circles of the world. Dr. Manmohan Singh along with President Hu Jintao of China was invited to the head table in all economic summits. Chindia became a much used expression in characterising the economic race between India and China.

10. Foreign policy was another major area of success between 2004 and 2009, with India and the US coming closer together and with India’s relations with China showing improvement despite the suspicions caused in Bejing by the Indo-US strategic partnership and the initiatives taken by the Manmohan Singh Government for  improving relations with Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

11. During this period, Dr.Manmohan Singh was only Prime Minister by half with much of political authority and prominence remaining in the hands of Mrs.Sonia Gandhi. Despite this, his visible and palpable record was positive.

12. At the same time, a huge iceberg of corruption, nepotism, crony governance and favouritism was gathering shape and strength under his administration. His reluctance and inability to control the Ministers from the coalition partners under the pretext of coalition dharma or coalition compulsions contributed to the formation of this iceberg. The tip of this iceberg was seen in 2010 in the so-called Radia tapes which brought out the enormous political influence that an apparently mediocre person had been able to acquire over the decision and opinion-making process by taking advantage of the permissive atmosphere that prevailed. The iceberg hit the Government in 2011---with one scam after another, with one irregularity after another and with one wrong-doing after another denting the credibility of the Prime Minister.

13.But even before the iceberg hit the Indian ship, one could see the gathering storm and darkening clouds from different directions. The shifting of Shri Chidambaram from the Finance Ministry to the Home Ministry after the 26/11 terrorist strikes improved our internal security management, but considerably weakened our economic management. This weakening of the economic management took place at a time of the global economic melt-down. India came to be seen less and less as a success story and more and more as a stalling economy. References to Chindia disappeared from debates in international financial circles.

14. The crisis and the drift called for strong leadership that came to be missing. The duality of control between Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister added to the gravity of the drift. Instead of admitting the gravity of the iceberg that had hit the State and his Government and trying to bring the ship back under control, Dr.Manmohan Singh and his Ministers tried to deny the presence of the iceberg.

15. Only now, there has been a belated realisation that India is adrift and needs a strong and decisive leadership to bring it back on the route of progress and development. One has to welcome the hard economic decisions already taken by the Government and the support that the Prime Minister has received from his party for those decisions. As I had pointed out in an earlier article, this is only the beginning. More hard decisions are required not only in the field of economy, but also in respect of administrative reforms to deal with corruption and to improve further the national security  machinery.

16. It is time for the Prime Minister to convince the people that those decisions will be forthcoming and will be implemented even if they lead to early elections and the possibility of a defeat for his party. Dr.Manmohan Singh has less than two years left in office. He can still salvage his reputation and that of his Government and party by doing all that needs to be done to restore the confidence of the people.

17. The need of the hour is not only for better leadership and governance, but also for a greater role for GenNext in policy and decision making and implementation. It is a time of transition from the old to the young. The transition should be expedited and not delayed. ( 27-9-12)


(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)


Tuesday, September 25, 2012






Al Qaeda in North Waziristan, Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), the NeoTaliban of Afghanistan and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been closely following the presidential election campaign in the US. While they have kept up their rhetoric against President Barack Obama, they are not yet clear in their mind whether it would be in their interest  to work for the defeat of Mr.Obama by stepping up acts of terrorism in the Af-Pak region and in the Iraq-Syria-Libya region.

2. There is a high level of anger against Mr.Obama in all these organisations. This is due to his intensification of the Drone strikes against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Waziristan area after coming into office, the killing of Osama bin Laden in a special operation at Abbottabad on May 1 / 2,2011, the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi, the religious mentor of Al Qaeda, who was a Libyan religious cleric, in a Drone strike in Waziristan on June 4 last, the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Amir of AQAP, who was a US citizen of Yemeni origin, in a Drone strike in Yemen in September last year, and the US refusal to take action against the producer of the anti-Islam film that has triggered a wave of demonstrations, some of them violent, by Muslims in different countries.

3. The strong dislike of Al Qaeda for Mr.Obama was evident from two recent messages of Al Qaeda. A video message of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Amir of Al Qaeda, released on September 10,2012, described Mr.Obama as a liar  who was elected to "trick" Muslims around the world, but who nevertheless is "being defeated in Afghanistan".

4. A statement circulated by the AQAP after the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi in Libya on September 11,2012, that led to the death of the US Ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals said: “The killing of Sheikh Abu Yahya only increased the enthusiasm and determination of the sons of (Libyan independence hero) Omar al-Mukhtar to take revenge upon those who attack our Prophet. The uprising of our people in Libya, Egypt and Yemen against America and its embassies is a sign to notify the United States that its war is not directed against groups and organisations... but against the Islamic nation that has rebelled against injustice." It called for more violent demonstrations against US embassies in the Middle East and Africa, and urged Muslims in the West to attack American interests in their countries of residence. "May the expulsion of embassies and consulates lead to the liberation of Arab lands from the American hegemony and the arrogance,"  the statement said. The AQAP is led by Nasser al-Wahishi. 

5. There has been an increase in anti-Obama and anti-US rhetoric from the Neo-Taliban of Afghanistan and the TTP too. They have called for protests against the US film and have stepped up anti-US demonstrations and acts of violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the same time, they are confused whether it would be in their interest for Mr.Obama to be defeated in his bid for re-election. Though they may intensely dislike him, they  are not sure of what would be the policy of Mr. Mitt Romney in matters like intensified Drone strikes, thinning out of the US military presence in Afghanistan and not opposing a role for the moderate elements of the Neo-Taliban in any future political dispensation in Kabul.

6. For them, Mr.Romney is an unknown and unpredictable element in their objective of securing the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan. The US has already completed the withdrawal of the additional troops inducted into Afghanistan under the surge ordered by Mr.Obama after he came to office. They have reasons to hope that if Mr.Obama is re-elected he may continue the further thinning out of the US troops which could prove to be advantageous to the Talibans and Al Qaeda.

7. In the case of the AQAP too, which controls Al Qaeda operations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria, Mr.Obama’s policy of regime change with US-sponsored external interventions has proved beneficial and helped them to strengthen their foothold in these areas. Their only worry is whether Mr.Obama, if re-elected, would step up attacks on AQAP as he had stepped up attacks against AQ in the Af-Pak region after coming to office in 2009.

8.While calling for an intensification of anti-US activities, these organisations have been avoiding any disproportionate acts of reprisal against US nationals and interests that might turn US public opinion against Mr.Obama. It is likely as of now that while maintaining the anti-Obama rhetoric and the present levels of demonstrations and violence, they would avoid actions that could aggravate anti-Obama voter anger in the US. ( 26-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)



Monday, September 24, 2012





The internal security services of China and Afghanistan signed a formal agreement at Kabul on September 22, 2012, to have a liaison relationship between them. The agreement, inter alia, provides for exchange of security-related intelligence, counter-terrorism co-operation and training of Afghan police officers by China.

2. The agreement  was signed by officials of the two countries during an unannounced four-hour hush-hush visit to Kabul by Mr.Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) , who is also the Minister for Public Security. The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for internal intelligence and security. In addition, it also supervises the work of the police and the criminal justice system all over China. Counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and counter-intelligence are among its responsibilities. The external intelligence service of China is called the Ministry of State Security.

3. Officials in charge of internal security and counter-terrorism in the two countries have been in informal touch with each other in the framework of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), of which Afghanistan is an observer. An agreement to formalise and upgrade this relationship was taken  during a visit of President Hamid Karzai to Beijing in June  to attend an SCO summit.

4. The formal establishment of a liaison relationship would enable the two services to exchange intelligence regarding the activities of the extremist organisations of the Xinjiang province of China and the Central Asian Republics.

5. There has been close co-operation  among the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group (also from Uzbekistan),the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan ( of Xinjiang) and Al Qaeda. All these organisations have their command and control centres in North Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan and their terrorists often transit through Afghan territory on their way to Xinjiang in China and the Central Asian Republics.

6. While the level of extremist activity by the Uighurs in the Xinjiang province of China from their sanctuaries in North Waziristan has remained high, there has been a decrease in the activities of the Uzbek groups and Al Qaeda in the CARs. Despite this, Chinese concerns over the remnants of the Uzbek groups and Al Qaeda operating from Pakistani territory remain high due to the threats that they could pose to energy supplies from the CARs through pipelines to China.

7.While Chinese officials outwardly speak highly of the co-operation from the Pakistani intelligence for dealing with threats from these groups, they have not been quite satisfied in reality. All terrorist incidents in Xinjiang have had a Pakistani link either in the form of training, or sanctuaries or recruitment.

8.Recently, the Pakistan Government has terminated the contract given by it to a Singapore company for the running of the Gwadar port on the Mekran coast in Balochistan constructed with Chinese assistance. This port, which was meant to meet the external trade requirements of Western China, Afghanistan and the CARs, in addition to that of Pakistan, has not got going due to various teething troubles. There have been reports in sections of the Pakistani media that Islamabad has been pressing a Chinese company to take over the responsibility for the running of the Gwadar port.

9. While the port is very well equipped from the point of view of modern installations, its security cover is weak due to the disturbed situation in Balochistan and the activities of anti-Beijing Uighur and Uzbek elements in that area. If the Chinese take over the responsibility for the maintenance of the port, its security will be a matter of major concern to them. Since the co-operation of the Pakistani intelligence agencies may not be satisfactory in this regard, they may have to depend on the Afghan intelligence services for the necessary flow of intelligence.

10. It is interesting and significant that Mr.Zhou flew secretly to Kabul after a two-day visit to Singapore where considerable information will be available with the local port management experts regarding the kind of difficulties the Singapore company faced in Gwadar before it decided to pull out. Mr.Zhou seems to have gone directly to Kabul from Singapore and not through Pakistan. It is not known whether he stopped over in Pakistan on his way back.

11. According to media reports, during the talks in Kabul Mr.Zhou signed agreements on increased security and economic cooperation, including a deal to help “train, fund and equip the Afghan police”. The Xinhua news agency of China quoted him as saying as follows: “It is in line with the fundamental interests of the two nations for China and Afghanistan to strengthen a strategic and cooperative partnership which is also conducive to regional peace, stability and development. “

12. No details regarding the economic co-operation agreement signed during the visit are available. The Chinese state-owned  company called the China Metallurgical Group (MCC) operates a $3 billion  copper mine in the eastern Logar province. The project was expected to go into production in 2013, but there has reportedly been a delay due to security reasons.

13. This is the first time since 1966 that a senior Chinese Party and Government leader has visited Kabul. In 1966, then President Liu Shaoqi visited Kabul. ( 24-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)



Sunday, September 23, 2012




During the eight years that the Congress-led coalition has been in office, the country has moved forward in many directions. It enjoys a greater stature in the international community than ever before. For the first time, India came to be looked upon as a budding equal of China. Many started talking of the phenomenon of Chindia--- China and India rising together to occupy their due place in the international community.

2.The positive “We Can” feeling generated by the achievements of the Manmohan Singh Government in its first term in office has since given way to a negative atmosphere. This has been due to leadership inadequacies, the weakening of the image and authority of the Prime Minister, moral and administrative permissiveness in the name of coalition compulsions giving rise to widespread perceptions of corruption galore and stalling in the introduction of  the much-needed economic reforms.

3. The Prime Minister’s televised address to the nation on September 21,2012, clearly indicated that he has realised the need for changing this negative atmosphere and projecting an “ I Can and I will” image of himself to the people of the country. A brief address like this could not have been comprehensive. He focussed himself largely on the economic issues and did not touch upon other burning issues of the day like action to deal with corruption and improve governance through administrative reforms. Such reforms would have to be in the functioning of our anti-corruption and national security apparatus.

4. It is important for him to interact with the people again on the issues of action against corruption and administrative reforms. He could do so either through another address to the nation devoted only to these two subjects or through a televised live chat with distinguished journalists.------ either individually or with all  of them in a group. The journalists should be given the freedom to decide the format of the chat and the issues that will be discussed. The Prime Minister’s Office should resist the temptation to steer the chat in a direction favourable to the Government.

5. I would not say that the Prime Minister’s address to the nation has made public perceptions more favourable to him, but it has at least placed before the people his view of the state of the nation and what he intends doing about it. Till now, the public was exposed only to the constant negative campaign of the opposition, particularly the BJP.

6. The failure of the Prime Minister and  his party to realise the importance of an appropriate media strategy that could take advantage of the new technologies and new techniques of perception management has been exploited by the BJP and its NRI followers to assume their dominance over the new media in the virtual world and add to the negative image of the Prime Minister and his Government.

7. It is important for the Congress to break this dominance and establish a level playing field. The image of a Government which is all the time reticent, over-cautious and over-defensive has to be changed quickly. We need the image of a Government that is self-confident, self-assertive and forward-moving.

8. Policies and actions are important for achieving an image transformation, but a style of more accessible, more articulate, more responsive, more spontaneous and more forthcoming approach to interactions with the public and the media is equally important. We live in a world where style is as important as substance, but the Prime Minister and his Government have for too long neglected paying attention to the style of leadership.

9. There is a need for an urgent mid-course correction in the way the Prime Minister projects himself to public opinion and makes himself available for explaining the thinking and policies of his Government. He should not think that with his televised address to the nation he has done his job. He has only begun his new task. He has to press forward and transform the negative atmosphere into a positive one. (24-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)