Archives  >  2019  >  October  >  11th

The Modi-Jinping Meet

1. What’s the story?

By the time you’re reading this, Chinese premier Xi Jinping will be preparing to land in Chennai ahead of his historic informal summit at Mamallapuram – a nearby town in Tamil Nadu. The meeting, that is being held shortly after China criticized India’s handling of Kashmir, is expected to dominate headlines for the next few days. (Quick recap: An ‘informal summit’ means that protocols of a state visit remain without the pressure to successfully negotiate a slew of agreements at the end of it all.)

Tell me more.

Here’s how the chain of events went. 

On Wednesday, Jinping met Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing. There, he is supposed to have claimed that the “rights and wrongs of the situation in Kashmir are clear” and that “China supports Pakistan in safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests…”

This then spurred India to reiterate its position of claiming Kashmir to be an “internal matter.”

“India’s position has been consistent and clear that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India,” the Ministry of External Affairs stated. “China is well aware of our position. It is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India.”

All of this has not dampened Chennai’s spirit in welcoming the foreign leader though

“Walls have been cleaned of graffiti, electric poles were given neat covers and workers clambered atop ancient monuments to clean them before the meet.”
A day ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit to India, a school in Chennai organised a special welcome for the Chinese President. Around 2,000 students at the school wore masks of the Chinese leader and created formation of his name in Mandarin, while waving the national flags of India and China.”

About 500 police personnel have also been deployed in Mamallapuram in preparation for the summit. 

It is also interesting to note that Mamallapuram is a “…historical venue, which had proven links with China going back to as many as 1,300 years. There are indications that the Chinese monk Hiuen Tsang, who visited the Pallavan capital of Kanchipuram, may have also visited Mamallapuram. The last well-known Chinese leader to visit the town was Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in 1956.
China president Xi Jinping was also a governor of Fujian, where newly-discovered Tamil inscriptions and sculptures show the presence of thriving and prosperous Indian trading community from the 10th to 13th centuries.”

So, what now? 

Jinping’s proposed itinerary includes guided tours of the Mamallapuram heritage site, cultural programmes, and official dinners and lunches. On 12th October, Jinping is also expected to participate in delegation-level talks with the Prime Minister. “Government sources had indicated on Wednesday that the Indian side would be raising the issue of trade imbalance, discuss possible new border confidence building measures, increase people-to-people contacts and raise the need to combat terrorism jointly.” It all depends, however, on whether each side is able to get over the Kashmir issue.

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Hong Kong, that’s where. Protests have been raging there throughout this summer, with China doing its best to thwart the protestors. (6 Things had earlier covered this protest multiple times, including here.) Now, it has successfully negotiated with Apple to remove a specific “police-tracking app” that was being heavily used by protestors and also invoked an archaic colonial era law. 

Apple Inc on Thursday removed an app that helped pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong track police movements, saying it was used to ambush law enforcement, AFP reported. The move came a day after the United States technology giant was severely criticised by Chinese state media for allowing the software. Apple had initially rejected the crowdsourcing app,, earlier this month but then changed its decision and approved it in its app store last week, according to The New York Times.

Last week, Hong Kong invoked colonial-era emergency laws and announced that face masks would be banned at demonstrations. The move came after months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests, and days after a pro-democracy protestor was injured after being shot by a police officer with a live bullet. This was the first time a protestor was shot during the unrest that has rocked Hong Kong for several months. Till then, the police forces had used rubber bullets and tear gas.”

3. What more?

Aarey colony, a unique patch of forest in the heart of Mumbai, is in mourning. Despite heavy protests, almost 2000 of its trees were cut down last week to make way for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited’s (MMRCL’s) Metro 3-car shed.
“Aarey Colony, or simply Aarey, is located adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), the only national park in the world within the city limits of a metropolis. In 1963, a research study conducted by a student of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, under the guidance of Father Santapau (the first Director of the Botanical Survey of India) indicated that 530 species of flowering plants can be found in Aarey. Not only is this forest rich in biodiversity, it is also home to the Warli Adivasi community who have been living here for generations. This community has borne the brunt of development projects which ended up displacing them and packing them into matchbox-sized, inconvenient Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) buildings. First came the Aarey Dairy, established in the 1950s — it eventually ran into losses. Subsequently, parts of the land were given to the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), Force One (Mumbai Police) and Film City, among others, leading to the division of forest land into smaller fragments. The latest in this series of onslaughts is the Metro car-shed project.

It is not just the case of Aarey — natural forests across India have been subjected to large-scale species conversion over past several decades. Vast stretches in the Himalayan foothills have been converted to conifer monoculture, with species such as pines and cedars proliferating, during the colonial rule. These species are exotic, provide fewer non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and, in essence, are a burden on indigenous communities which have known and utilised the Minor Forest Produce (MFP) for their survival and livelihood needs. Worse, these plantations have also been found to be ineffective in soil and moisture conservation.”

4. Anything else?

In a historic first, the ultra-conservative nation of Saudi Arabia has ruled that its women can join the armed forces. 

Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday it will allow women in the ultra-conservative kingdom to serve in the armed forces as it embarks on a broad programme of economic and social reforms.

The move is the latest in a series of measures aimed at increasing the rights of women in the kingdom, even as rights groups accuse Riyadh of cracking down on women activists.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, has approved a handful of reforms aimed at widening women’s rights, including allowing them to drive and to travel abroad without consent from a male “guardian”.
But he has at the same time overseen the arrest of several prominent women’s rights campaigners, including activist Loujain al-Hathloul.”

5. Is that all?

“Politicians want to rein in the retail giant” Amazon. But Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men on this earth, is ready to fight back — armed with his intimate knowledge of cutthroat capitalism. 

“Amazon is now America’s second-largest private employer. (Walmart is the largest.) It traffics more than a third of all retail products bought or sold online in the U.S.; it owns Whole Foods and helps arrange the shipment of items purchased across the Web, including on eBay and Etsy. Amazon’s Web-services division powers vast portions of the Internet, from Netflix to the C.I.A. You probably contribute to Amazon’s profits whether you intend to or not. Critics say that Amazon, much like Google and Facebook, has grown too large and powerful to be trusted. Everyone from Senator Elizabeth Warren to President Donald Trump has depicted Amazon as dangerously unconstrained. This past summer, at a debate among the Democratic Presidential candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders said, “Five hundred thousand Americans are sleeping out on the street, and yet companies like Amazon, that made billions in profits, did not pay one nickel in federal income tax.” And Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, declared that Amazon has “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.” The Federal Trade Commission and the European Union, meanwhile, are independently pursuing investigations of Amazon for potential antitrust violations. In recent months, inquiries by news organizations have documented Amazon’s sale of illegal or deadly products, and have exposed how the company’s fast-delivery policies have resulted in drivers speeding down streets and through intersections, killing people. Company insiders were accustomed to complaints from rivals at book publishers or executives at big-box stores. Those attacks rarely felt personal. Now, a recently retired Amazon executive told me, “people are worried—we’re suddenly on the firing line.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at how democracy may be in mortal danger in Poland.
“Over the past four years, Kaczyński has used his power to stage a massive attack on Poland’s democratic institutions. In an astoundingly short span of time, he has turned state television networks into reliable purveyors of government propaganda; gained effective control of the country’s court system; weakened the independence of the electoral commission; restricted free speech; and initiated a number of high-profile trials against political opponents, including the director of the European Solidarity Center. As Wałęsa put it in a public letter co-signed by 14 other senior statesmen from across the political spectrum, the government has repeatedly attacked the country’s “division of power” in ways that seriously imperil “the foundations of the democratic state.”

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