January 23, 2018

ASEAN-focused China fund raising up to $3 billion for Silk Road projects: sources


Julie Zhu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A quasi-sovereign Chinese fund focused on Southeast Asia is targeting raising up to $3 billion in a new dollar fund, adding to its firepower for planned investments under Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative, people close to the matter said.

A map illustrating China's silk road economic belt and the 21st century maritime silk road, or the so-called "One Belt, One Road" megaproject, is displayed at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, China January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

The China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund (CAF), backed by the Export-Import Bank of China, is currently pitching the fund to prospective investors, they said. Its plan to raise $1 billion mainly from Chinese state-owned enterprises was already known, but the fund has now tripled the amount it is seeking.


The planned capital-raising is the latest in a series by China’s state-backed firms and comes as the country’s landmark Belt and Road scheme has been plowing billions of dollars into global infrastructure projects.

Beijing has called on financial firms to develop overseas lending businesses to help connect China with old and new trading partners such as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). China’s state-controlled banks have already responded by raising billions.

Introduced in 2013, the Belt and Road project is aimed at building a modern-day economic “Silk Road”, connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

This would be the second dollar-denominated fund for CAF, which counts the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp (CIC) as investors in its first fund that has almost fully invested the $1 billion it raised.

A unit of state-owned construction and engineering company China Gezhouba Group said late last year that it would invest $150 million of the $1 billion that CAF was seeking..

CAF aims to secure the $1 billion from state companies in the first half of 2018, and is also looking to attract global institutional investors for the remainder, said the people.

It was not immediately clear what kind of returns the new fund hoped to earn or if existing investors including IFC and CIC would take part in the latest fundraising.

One of the people said state-owned enterprises would not face capital-control obstacles in investing in the fund, given CAF was set up under the direction of China’s State Council, or cabinet, and that it managed to successfully raise and invest its first fund.

CAF declined to comment while the EXIM Bank didn’t respond to requests for comment. All the people declined to be named as the fundraising plans were not public.

Established in 2010, one year after then-premier Wen Jiabao pledged to set up a $10 billion fund to provide financing for major projects in the ASEAN countries, CAF primarily invests in infrastructure, energy and natural resources in the region.

It typically invests $50 million to $150 million in single companies and prefers minority stake investments, according to its website. (www.china-asean-fund.com)

Its portfolio includes stakes in Philippines’ top shipping and logistics firm Aboitiz Transport Systems, Thailand’s largest deep-water port Laem Chabang Port and largest biomass power generator National Power Supply Public

January 22, 2018

India, Japan to introduce artificial intelligence, robotics in defence sector


By Indrani Bagchi,TNN | Jan 22, 2018, 09.37AM IST



While the latest buzzword in international geopolitics, 'Indo-Pacific', might sound American, its actually Japanese in origin, having been articulated by Abe himself as far back as 2007.

NEW DELHI: India and Japan will work together to introduce artificial intelligence and robotics in the defence sector, the next level of strategic cooperation between the two Asian partners.

Kentaro Sonoura, Japan's state minister for foreign affairs and a close adviser to PM Shinzo Abe, told TOI in an exclusive chat, "You should expect to see increased bilateral cooperation between us to develop unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and robotics."

The strategic sphere is where the bulk of India-Japan convergence lies. After the nuclear agreement was ratified by the Japanese parliament late 2017, Sonoura said India and Japan would be setting up a joint task force for commercial agreements by the end of January. With the legislation behind them, the Japanese minister said Tokyo was keen to get this going. "The two PMs agreed to launch a working group, which will work on cooperation between nuclear companies. Japan's intention is to start this quickly, possibly by the end of this month," he said.

With an aggressive and expansionist Chinagrowing as a challenge to both India and Japan, the two countries are increasingly looking at the world from a similar lens. While the latest buzzword in international geopolitics, 'Indo-Pacific', might sound American, its actually Japanese in origin, having been articulated by Abe himself as far back as 2007.

In 2018, Japan's is aiming for a "free and open Indo-Pacific", a theme Sonoura expounded on at the recent Raisina Dialogue. This, he told TOI, was a coming together of Japan's Indo-Pacific policy and India's Act East policy. "We need to share the importance of rule of law and freedom of navigation among related countries. The next step is infrastructure development based on global standards, so that connectivity among countries is increased. The third step would be maritime law enforcement and disaster management that would ensure the stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, we would like to connect and combine our Indo-Pacific strategy and India's Act East policy as a one big picture. That's the synergy we seek," Sonoura said.

This is the kind of grand strategy that incorporates a stronger bilateral relationship as well as a multilateral one, between Japan-India-US, Japan-US-Australia and the Quadrilateral, Japan-US-India-Australia, seeking to tilt the strategic balance away from China.

Working with India in the quadrilateral, Sonoura said, the aims were slowly crystallising. "Among these four countries, we have the same standards in terms of maritime strategy and basic values. So it's important to realise these values — non-proliferation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Its important to utilise the strengths of these countries and use it. Rather than frameworks, its important what we can do — to create concrete results which should be visible to the world," he said. For India, the key aims of the quadrilateral is to come together on non-proliferation and on freedom of navigation.

To counter China's growing influence in India's neighbourhood, India has encouraged the presence of Japan and the US in South Asian countries, actions that might have elicited mild protests earlier. Consequently, New Delhi was remarkably quiet when Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono recently visited Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, increasing Japanese presence in these countries. Japan has already ramped up its involvement in Bangladesh and Myanmar, both countries on China's radar.

Questioned on this, Sonoura said, "Foreign minister Kono visited Maldives for the first time and Sri Lanka for the first time in 15 years. Last year I visited Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya and Mozambique. If you place this within the rubric of Japan's Indo-Pacific strategy, you will get the larger picture."

In Islamabad, Sonoura said, the Japanese message was clear that Pakistan had to take action on terrorism and terrorists. "With Pakistan, we have an older relationship. But in terms of counter-terrorism, our foreign minister told the Pakistanis they need to do more," he said.

(This article was originally published in The Times of India

January 19, 2018

Fair Play

Fair play was as important in the ancient world as in the modern. That’s one reason why the discovery of a new inscription in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) it is so exciting – and in some ways so unsurprising.
A rock carving found in the summer of 2016 near Beyşehir near Konya in central Anatolia, features a depiction of a horse and a jockey – and outlines the rules of horse racing. The inscription sets out the guidelines to make racing fair and therefore enjoyable. No one wants to watch a race where the outcome has been rigged. One of the most interesting elements is the instruction that once a horse has won one race, it is ineligible to enter another. Likewise, an owner who had one winner, could not enter another race – to give others a chance to have fun too. Nice that more than one person should have something to celebrate.
This wasn’t about pushing mediocrity, but a way of making sure that the rich didn’t monopolise the entertainment, by buying the best horses, hiring the best trainers and paying the best jockeys. The Jockey Club of the time, at least at Beyşehir, saw it had a useful role in civic society.

An informative history of NDA courtesy

Wg Cdr Adarsh Bal.       HISTORY OF NDA


In 1941 the Government of Sudan gifted a sum of £100,000 (then a very large sum of about Rs 14 Lks) to the Viceroy to build a suitable War Memorial as a token of appreciation of the services and sacrifices made by the Indian troops for the defence of Sudan. Due to WW-II, and the character of the private armies from Rajputana, Hyderabad and Punjab who went to fight in Sudan, their peculiar mercenary status with a disconnect from the British officered Indian army, Hindus who were burnt and not buried, nothing was done to build a War Memorial. In 1943, then C-in-C Gen Auckinleck, directed that the unused fund is put to good use to build a new ‘Inter Service Academy (ISA), instead of wasting it on a National War Memorial. During the travel of the files up and down the corridors of power in South block in Delhi, ‘Inter Service Academy (ISA) morphed into a ‘National War Academy’ (NWA).

Based on recommendations of the C-in-C (then 2nd only to the Viceroy in GoI), on 22 Sep 1945 the Viceroy sanctioned construction of a new NWA to offer combined training to potential officers of three Services. The sanction envisaged setting up of an interim  ‘ Junior Experimental Wing’ (JEW) of the Indian Military Academy in Clement town (Dehradun), while the new NWA was to be built at the disused 28.4 Sq Km combined-forces training centre and mock landing ship, HMS Angostura, on the north bank of the Khadakwasla lake which had been used to train British and American troops for amphibious landings during early part of WW-II (Malaya campaign for which an amphibious attack had been planned). When NWA was ready, JEW was to shift to Khadakwasla. Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, popularly known as ‘Le Corbusier’ was appointed as consultant to develop the architecture and design of NWA. After 3 yrs training, final commissioning of the Cdts was to be after specialist service training at existing IMA (Dehra Dun)/ equivalent academies for Navy and AF in UK.

In keeping with his ‘Paanch Sheel’ foreign policy, Nehru did not approve of the name NWA due to its aggressive overtones and hence the name was changed to National Defence Academy (NDA) while laying the foundation stone on 6 Oct 1949.India's share of £70,000 Sudanese gift (remaining £30,000 was given to Pak) was used to construct the administrative block of ‘NDA’ (Sudan Block). Twelve Indian states were asked to donate Rs 5 lks each for the construction of 12 Sqn residential blocks & the Cdt’s Mess. The donor states for the Sqn residential buildings were - 'A Sqn'  Madras & Andhra; 'B Sqn' - Madhya Pradesh; 'C Sqn' - Maharashtra; 'D Sqn' - Bihar; 'E Sqn' - Uttar Pradesh; 'F Sqn' - Orissa; 'G Sqn' - Gujarat; 'H Sqn' - Karnataka; 'I Sqn' - Punjab; 'J Sqn' - West Bengal; 'K Sqn' – Assam and 'L Sqn' - Bombay.  The first four residential blocks to be constructed along with Cdts mess was the one between Cdt’s mess and Gole market, slated for occupation by No 1 Bn, with Able, Baker, Charlie, and Dog Sqns, then at ISW in Dehradun. 


While construction of NWA was being planned and executed, the interim plan for  ‘ Junior Experimental Wing’ (JEW)  was put into action, but under a new name ‘Inter Services Wing’ (ISW) to appease Baldev Singh who was then Def Minister. ISW started functioning on 17 Feb 1948, from the abandoned Italian Prisoner of War Camp barracks in Clement Town in Dehradun.  190 cadets (141 for the Army, 25 Navy and 24 for the Air Force) reported at Clement Town between 6- 9 Jan 1949, to form ‘Able’ and ‘Baker’ Sqns, with 4 Divisions subdivided into 8 ‘Sections’.  Though DK Ghosh, a naval cadet had the privilege of being Able -1, the first Cdt to report to ISW was A-188, DS Sabhiki (later Air Marshal) who reported at 0630 hrs on 6 Jan 1949.  The first batch had about 40 cadets from RIMC and KGRIM. Their training started from 11 Jan 1949.  In July 1949 when the second batch  joined, 'C' (Charlie) and 'D' (Dog) Sqns came in to being. It is not known when ISW changed to Joint Services Wing (JSW) or whether there was an official JSW. ISW (or later JSW) continued in Clement town and moved to Khadakwasla in small batches starting 7 Dec 1954.

ISW was officially notified as of 15 Dec 1948, when Col Kamta Prasad, Dy Cmdt designate and his team arrived in Clement Town, placed under command of Cmdt IMA  Brig Thakur Mahadeo Singh.  On 31 Dec 1948, Brig Singh issued routine orders splitting IMA into  Armed Forces Academy (AFA) wef 1 January 1949 with two Wings,  Military Wing  and an Inter-Services Wing (ISW). AFA was notified as the interim National War Academy, foibles of the political-military relations which existed right from day one after independence.

8 more residential blocks were commissioned in 1955, and NDA became a full-fledged establishment with around 1500 Cdts, under an independent  Maj Gen, distributed amongst 12 Sqns, ‘A to L’. During the naming of Sqns, phonetic names were adopted  and Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog became Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Fox. The reason why Dog was not made Delta and why they were named Fox is also not known. Fox was shifted to 2nd Bn along with newly raised E, G & H Sqns (with Fox occupying the block facing the Cdt’s mess, southern group  of blocks) .  No 1 Bn (A/B/C/D) moved to the new set of Northern blocks with C facing the Dhobi Ghat (infamous well into which stolen cycles were dumped). The older blocks vacated by 1 Bn was allotted to 3rd Bn (how Kilo came to occupy the block, facing Gol Market vacated by Dog Sqn). 3rd  Bn was now on the western side, in line with the Cdt’s mess. The MH was to come up later. Rest of NDA was constructed using internal resources of the army, army engineers and pioneers, and extraordinary resourcefulness of the Commandants, with no help from GoI or Ministry of Defence, both of which deemed Army superfluous till 1959 Chinese incursions at Longju (NEFA) and Kongka La (Ladakh). Afterwards, India headed for a war (1962) necessitating officer cadre, products of NDA !! Brig Hoshiar Singh was  Dy Cmdt at NDA and was moved into NEFA during 62 war, go and offer his head on arrival.  

For a while, starting 1978, while augmenting the strength of cadets to 1800, there was a separate NDA wing at Ghorpuri (in Poona) with 1st term Cdts, all clubbed together with a sobriquet ‘Ghorpuri lot’. Ghorpuri was later vacated and all Cdts transferred to NDA.  It is understood that during Adm Pareira’s time, around 71/72, there was a clockwise rotation of Sqns in each Bn block. The reason for this is not known. Now NDA has grown to 5 Bns, with 18 Sqns , Alpha to Romeo under a Lt Gen (or equivalent). It is understood that  there is likely to be further increase in the size of NDA, perhaps in porta cabins.

Cheers to NDA,