Chinese investment in India is good, but border dispute needs to be settled soon!

Sydney, Sunday, 14th September, 2014

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, is visiting India this week. He will be in India on 17th -18th September 2014. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and President Jinping have already met at a BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit recently.

(Pictures from Google and PTI)

PM Modi has had a very successful visit to Japan a couple of days ago. He shares great equations with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. Japan has decided to invest $35 billion in India over next few years. They have taken responsiblity for  Mumbai-Ahmedabad fast train too.

China wants to beat the investment from Japan, which is not difficult to understand due to geo-political competition between China and Japan at play presently. India is obviously the beneficiary, but that does not mean India should do away with its trusted friends. It is known that China is uncomfortable and concerned with India’s growing strategic proximity with USA and Japan. This mammoth investment is largely due to this factor.

Reports say that China wants to invest between $100-300 billion in India over next few years. How much is this investment exactly will be clear when it is announced officially.  It is known that China has $3.95 trillion cash reserve, of which it wishes to invest $500 billion in outbound investment. China has invested only $400 million in India so far. Chinese investment in Railways, manufacturing and infrastructure should help speed up the pace of Indian economy and growth.

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Chinese investment in India should be welcome, and it indeed is a welcome news. It addresses to some extent the trade deficit of $35 billion against India out of a total $66.4 billion bilateral trade last year.

India however needs to impress upon Chinese leadership that their investment must be coupled with satisfactory settlement of border dispute at a faster speed and their open and active support for India’s permanent membership in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC). It does not make sense that India is not a permanent member of UNSC today.

China also needs to stop supporting anti-India nations in our neighbourhood to create additional, and necessary, goodwill in India. It makes all the sense if you analyse the spectrum of mutual benefits from an investment of this magnitude. No one can deny that there is some significant trust deficit between India and China, which gets reinforced due to actions of China or actions from its client states. India needs to keep the history in its minds. I am happy to note that the present Indian Govt, keeping history in mind, has decided to develop the frontier area with infrastructure in all forms and manners.

China and India are both great civilisations. They are also great powers in their own rights. They can co-exist, and there is enough space for them both, but they need to be mindful of their respective geo-political and security imperatives, while still operating within the established international norms and principles.

It is safe to say that a lot more will need to be done to tackle the “trust deficit”, and that money alone, although welcome, will not be sufficient to remove the existing “trust deficit” between China and India!

Dr Yadu Singh

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Congratulation, Dr Harry Harinath, New Chair, NSW Community Relations Commission (CRC)!

Sydney, Thursday, 2014

Dr Harry HarinathDr Harry Harinath has been appointment by the NSW Government to be the new Chair of the Community Relations Commission (CRC) yesterday.

Congratulations, Dr Harry Harinath!

Dr Harinath is a prominent Australian of Indian heritage, and is a well-respected medical doctor.

He has been a respected member of Medical profession for 40 years. He was part of NSW Cricket for 30 years. He served NSW Cricket as its director for many years. He has been a commissioner of the CRC for the last 2 years. He is the current Chair of the Board for Parramasala festival – Australian Festival of South Asian arts & culture.

I, as a member of Indian Australian community, as well as a member of medical profession in NSW, welcome Dr Harinath’s appointment.

I have no doubt that he will take CRC to newer heights, with his consultative, non-confrontationist, helpful, encouraging and inclusive style of functioning.

With Harry as the Chair of CRC, multiculturalism in NSW is in safer and capable hands! 

We look forward to working with him for the interests of our community.

Finally, thanks and congrats are also due to NSW Government -Premier, Mike Baird and Minister for communities, Victor Dominello, for making an outstanding choice for the position of new CRC Chair!

Dr Yadu Singh

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Politics, political parties and Indian Australian community!

 

Sydney, 1st Sept, 2014Australian Flag

There are over 150,000 people of Indian heritage in NSW and 500,000 people Australia wide. Ours is an increasingly important community politically. In Western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, there are constituencies, where Indian Australians constitute more than 10% of total votes. Our votes can decide the outcome in many marginal seats.

It is no wonder that political parties are reaching out to Indian Australian community actively. It started with Parliamentary friends of India during previous NSW Govts led by Nathan Rees/Kristina Keneally, followed by Liberal Friends of India formed about one year ago. Similar groupings are in existence federally and Victoria in one or the other form.

While there is no doubt that we are important electorally, the thrust from political parties has been to deal with us only symbolically, not substantially. Except for the recent pre-selection of an Indian Australian in Seven Hills seat, there is no sign of any efforts from any political party to preselect anyone from our community for any of safe seats. If any of us is ever preselected, it is generally for those seats where there is no chance of us winning. ALP’s Harmohan Walia contesting a safe Liberal seat of Mitchell some years ago and inclusion of Bhupinder Chhibber in the Senate list from ALP last year, albeit at a lower and unwinnable spot, are two classical examples. There was no chance of them winning. Similar examples are there from Liberal side too. These are examples of tokenism.

Over the years, our community dynamics have been changing. Indians have been migrating to Australia in big numbers. India has been the top source of migrants over the last few years. Many of us have been joining political parties too, but still not in sufficient numbers.

Prior to 1990s, Indians were big on supporting ALP. Smart marketing and outreach by ALP created an impression that ALP was more favourable and friendly to ethnic migrants. Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, were liked by Indians and other ethnic communities. Liberal Party leader, John Howard, before he became the Prime Minister, had the baggage of his comment against Asian migration in 1980s, which created some significant concerns regarding his stand towards ethnic migrants. It lingered on even after he admitted that his statement was a mistake. Unfortunately, this impression became further re-enforced in our minds when we saw the excessively harsh commentary, actions and sanctions by Australia against India after 1998 nuclear tests. Indian army officers were expelled from Australia overnight. The tone and the contents of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer’s statements were particularly terse. It created a serious damage to India-Australia relations. Things changed quite favourably for Liberal party though when PM John Howard declared that Australia would sell Uranium to India in 2007, while ALP persisted with its policy of ban to sell Uranium to India, until Martin Ferguson and PM Gillard led campaign to reverse the ban succeeded at the end of 2012.

Today, there are almost equal supporters in our community for ALP and Liberal Party, although ALP supporters may have an edge. This support has been determined by variety of factors, which did include Uranium issue in the past. With changed dynamics of our community now however, economic management, policy on asylum seekers and business-friendly policies are playing a big role in our attitudes towards political parties. Quite a good number of our people are in small businesses. Younger members of our community are driven more by market economy than socialist ideas. After all, India has been an open and market-based economy since 1991, which has exposed our younger people, before they migrated, to market and open economy.

ALP and our community: There is a significant contingent of ALP supporters in our community, based largely in Western suburbs. They take part in ALP-supporting events through the year and during elections. ALP Premiers used to take some community members with them while taking trade delegations to India, thus giving an impression of inclusion. Subcontinent Friends of Labor was an initiative from NSW ALP HQ, which was provided full support by ALP top leaders to make it known and popular in the community. Grants to various temples and community groups was one of the strategy to win support. This has its advantages and disadvantages. This group is not as strong now as it was during ALP Govts in NSW and Canberra for obvious reasons. Its biggest drawback was its attempts to go against some sub-continental candidates like Susai Benjamin, as part of Right faction Vs Left faction battle. This was seen too during Bill Shorten Vs Anthony Albanese ALP leadership contest last year. This was not smart by any means, because it weakened and divided ALP members from Indian sub-continent significantly. On the positive side, ALP at least in NSW has a better strategy to communicate its stands and policies by emails to not only ALP members, but also other community members who are not ALP members. As Indians constitute a very big proportion of Indian sub-continental people in NSW and since interests of India are quite different from interests of other countries in the Indian sub-continent, it is preferable, in my view, to go for Labor Friend of India. Utopian socialist idea of Indian sub-continental unity or brotherhood is a myth, impractical and is never going to work.

Liberal Party and our Community: Prior to 2011 NSW State elections, then Leader of Opposition, Barry O’Farrell, was seen literally in every community event, but it changed dramatically once Liberal Party formed the Govt. Premier, Barry O’Farrell chose to rely only on one Indian who, in effect, had hardly any networking within the community, and did not help Liberals get many votes. Until election, he was virtually unknown. Indians were perplexed why he was being promoted on behalf of Liberal Govt in NSW. Premier O’Farrell ignored even Australia India Business Council (AIBC) when visiting India with trade delegations. Our community formed a clear and wide-spread perception that Indian community was actively distanced from NSW Govt either as a default or design. It indeed caused a substantial ill-feeling towards Liberal Party and NSW Govt. This was conveyed to local MPs, but they were either unwilling or, more likely, unable to do anything about it due to the fact that everything was driven from the former Premier’s office. Current Premier, Mike Baird, is much more inclusive, which is a welcome change and is already generating some goodwill. A lot more however needs to be done to overcome the damage. Time only will tell whether there is a real directional change under current Premier. Liberal Friends of India (LFI) is a good initiative but it has lost its charm or the enthusiasm lately. It needs to be reinvigorated. It also needs participation from top ministers and must allow membership of even those community members who are Liberal-minded but are not members of Liberal party. It should not just be a mechanism to raise funds for the party. Its Chairman should be a key Minister with Executive Committee comprising of key Liberal-inclined community members, irrespective of their Liberal Party membership status. A reform of LFI is badly needed. Parramasala, an initiative of Keneally NSW Labor Govt, is indeed a good idea, and I am happy to see that current Liberal NSW Govt has decided to continue funding it. I went to its launch only a few days ago, and noticed things which could have been done better. Ministerial Consultative Committee (MCC) for Indian community has been dissolved, like other MCCs, but there is a need to have some form of Advisory Body from our community for regular consultations, discussions and interactions between our community and the Govt.

NSW Friends of India: Like USA and some European countries, there is a need for such groups in Australia. It should be a bipartisan phenomenon, with key ministers, MPs, journalists, businesses and community members, with year-round activities involving lectures, debates and discussions. A group like this may not get enthusiastic support from the Govt, but we, as the community, should push for it. After all, there are bonafide pro-India people in all political parties, businesses and media.

Our community’s participation: It is also true that many of us do not join political parties in sufficient numbers. This should change. Australia is our country too, and we ought to take part in its processes in all shapes and forms. We get a chance to do so pretty actively if we are part of political parties. Only then, we will be able to go for pre-selections and elections to reach Parliaments. After all, quota system is not a good idea generally, and it is better to compete fairly and frankly. If we are not inclined to join main political parties, we can consider forming or being a part of issues-based groups like “Voice of the West” focusing on Western suburbs to advance our political interests and ideas.

While at it, it will not be out of place to point out that we need to interact, collaborate and network with  members irrespective of their party or political affiliations and inclinations, when it comes to our common interests for the community. Just because someone is a member of ALP or Liberal party does not mean he or she is an enemy for those who are in opposing camps. There is no need or justification to badmouth or run an undermining campaign only because of someone’s political affiliation or inclination.

An edited version of my write-up was published by The Indian Sun newspaper recently. (http://www.theindiansun.com.au/top-story/australian-political-parties-indian-community/)

 

Dr Yadu Singh

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3rd September is Australian flag day!

Sydney, 2nd Sept, 2014

3rd September is Australian Flag day.

australian_flag_download

A brief history is as follows.australian_flag_flying_download

Australian Flag was selected after an international competition in which 32823 people participated. 5 people, 2 of them teenagers, were the co-winners of this competition and shared the prize of £200. It was first flown at the Exhibition Building, the site of Commonwealth Parliament  in Melbourne at that time,  by the first Prime Minister of Australia, The Rt Hon Sir Edmund Barton, on 3rd Sept, 1901. As you know, Australia has been a federation since 1901.

Australian flag has the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star (just below the Union jack, representing Federation of 6 States and territories)  and the Southern Cross (representing our geography). Constellation of 5 stars (Southern Cross) can only be seen from Southern Hemisphere.

A few points to be noted.

1. The Flag should be raised after Sunrise and lowered before Sunset. The Flag can be flown in the night if there is sufficient illumination, like it is in Federal Parliament in Canberra.

2. When the Flag is raised or lowered, everyone should face the Flag, be silent and people in Uniform should salute the Flag.

3. The flag should always be flown freely and as close as possible to the top of the flagpole with the rope tightly secured.

4. Unless all national  flags are raised and lowered simultaneously, the Australian National Flag should be raised first and lowered last

5. When the Australian National Flag is flown with flags of other nations, all flags should be the same size and flown on flagpoles of the same height

6. When flying with only one other national flag, the Australian National Flag should fly on the left of a person facing the flags.

7. The flag should not be flown upside down.

8.The Australian National Flag should not normally be flown in aposition inferior to any other flag or ensign and should not be smaller than any other flag or ensign.

9. The flag should be used in a dignified manner and reproduced completely and accurately.

10. It should not be defaced by overprinting with words or illustrations.

11. Other objects in displays should not cover the flag.

12. All symbolic parts of the flag should be identifiable.

I am celebrating Australian Flag Day on 3rd September, 2014 by making Australian Flag as my profile pic in my social media for the day. I encourage everyone to do the likewise.

Dr Yadu Singh

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India House in Sydney: an update!

Sydney, 31st Aug, 2014

I wrote a post on India House last year. Link is here.

http://yadusingh.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/india-house-in-sydney-what-is-this-about-why-do-we-need-it/

We had several meetings with well-meaning people. We were on to it.

After this, literally every Indian community association in Sydney started to announce that they too want to build an “India House”, but without any attempt to network with others. This “Me too” disease is very prevalent with associations and “Community Leaders”.

One of such associations is the one which collected money for “India House” during one of its major events a few years ago. There is unfortunately no record or details of this money anymore.  They have mismanaged their funds, thus having a massive hit in their reputation in our community. Community knows about it and has nothing but disdain for them.

Another one is the one which gave “Role model of the community” medals to those who deserved shunning, not medals. People wonder about ethos and principles guiding this association. Everything seems to be Naqli (Fake) there.

There are others too, who claim to be an Umbrella body but without any group with them, justifying their claim of being an “Umbrella” association.

Any smart person should always analyse and review the current circumstances, while keeping the past examples and factors in mind.

It is clear to me that the best option for us is to take a back seat and let others, who have put their claims to build “India House” out in public, take the responsibility and leadership for this matter. There is an undeniable fact that there can’t, and will not, be multiple India Houses in Sydney.

As far as I am concerned, I am getting out from my plans for “India House” in Sydney. I hope others will do what needs to be done and what they have claimed. I will support them with whatever I can do, when they indeed do something in this regard. I know for sure that our community will need to take a structured, co-ordinated and unified approach to deliver this project. We can not have multiple groups trying (or at least claiming) to work on this project.

I understand that “India House” will be one of the topics which will be discussed in a meeting of some “select” Indian community members, organised at the Indian Consulate General in Sydney next week. I am one of the invitees to this meeting. I will post an update on this and any other relevant topic.

Dr Yadu Singh

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Indian Australians as part of “Team Australia”!

Sydney, Thursday, 2014

Australian ParliamentPrime Minister, Tony Abbott, has rightly said recently that there is no point to migrate if people are not willing to put Australia, its interests, its values and its people first! Indian Parliament

He further said ‘You don’t migrate to this country unless you want to join our team, calling it “Team Australia”. He praised migrants for choosing to migrate to Australia, and exhorted them (migrants) to be proud of their heritage and culture.

I agree with him. I do not believe there would be many sensible people who will disagree with him.

Australia is a successful multicultural nation, just like The United States of America. Australia is our home, and we are very proud of Australia.

There is one little difference between Australia and USA, which has become quite important lately.

During 2009, when Indian students issues in Australia had saturation coverage in India, and India-Australia relations suffered, the then Federal Govt in Canberra did not deal with the issues in the most efficient way. Indian media calling Australia a racist country was not tackled properly and promptly. Australia depended solely on its diplomats to tackle it, instead of also utilising the Indian Australian community to help the Govt in dealing with it. It was well known that most of Indian Australian community did not share the views of Indian media. My friends and I made it very clear to Indian Govt and Indian media that we did not agree with their description of Australia as a racist nation. I took part in a debate “Ïs Australia a racist country?” with Daily Telegraph journalist, David Penberthy, televised in Sunrise programme of Channel 7, and wrote a Blog post “who is racist-Australia or Indian media?” http://yadusingh.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/who-is-racist-australia-or-indian-media/  Both were quite popular.

Many believe that The Rudd Govt officials should have utilized Indian Australian community prominently in dealing with exaggerated and imbalanced reporting against Australia in Indian media. They believe that things would have been easier to deal with if Indian Australians were also part of Australian Govt’s strategy to deal with it. After all, it would have been much more easier and effective if Indian media had dealt with Indian Australians here in Australia as well as in India, and heard that their description of Australia was not entirely correct.

Thankfully, things have moved on and relations between Australia and India are on the upswing. Australia and India have just concluded Uranium trade deal negotiations, and an agreement in this regard is likely to be signed when Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits New Delhi early next month.

Australia does have some people from Indian heritage in its diplomatic staff, but they are very small in numbers. Australia has not utilized the Indian Australian community in its outreach to India generally, even when this community is getting bigger by the day. Approx 500,000 people in Australia have Indian heritage. Former NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, used to rely on just one person of Indian heritage, who is his personal friend, but unfortunately did not have much to do with either India or Indian Australian community. Mr O’Farrell could have done better and taken a leaf from his counterparts from Victoria, who did, and do, include members of Victorian Indian Australian community whenever they go to India with Trade delegations. New NSW Premier, Mike Baird, has not been to India yet. Let us see, and in fact hope, whether he will be different from his predecessor in this regard.

If you compare all this with what USA is doing with similar visits to India currently, you will see that Indian Americans form prominent parts of such delegations.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/For-India-outreach-US-brings-into-play-Indian-Americans/articleshow/39785133.cms

Nisha Desai Biswal, Arun Kumar and Puneet Talwar, who are all Assistant Secretaries and are of Indian heritage, accompanied US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker and Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel respectively during their recent visits to India. Their presence certainly created quite a good amount of goodwill  and conducive atmosphere.

United States’ Presidential delegations to India have always included prominent Indian American businessmen and community leaders. This has not been the case with Australian delegations of similar nature.

It’s about time that Australian Govt leaders follow the examples set by their American counterparts, because not only it is a smart policy, but  it is lalso likely to accelerate the growth of Australia-India relations.

In addition, and as a bonus, it is also going to create a feeling that Indian Australian community is a vital part of “Team Australia”, with many potential electoral benefits to the ruling party in the area like Western suburbs of Sydney and elsewhere! 

Dr Yadu Singh

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13th amendment of Sri Lankan Constitution is the framework which can help heal the divide in Sri Lanka!

Sydney, 26th Aug, 2014

Sri Lanka FlagSri Lanka is a friendly country to India. India has many commonalities with Sri Lanka MapSri Lanka. Both major ethnic groups-Singhalese and Tamil- have their origins in India. Sri Lanka has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India.

Until 2009, it had a ferocious and violent civil war, killing thousands from both sides. After a series of battles, Sri Lankan Army was able to defeat LTTE in 2009. There are allegations that upto 40,000 civilians were killed in the final weeks of this war. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE both have been blamed for killing innocent civilians. UNO has an ongoing enquiry on Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka.

LTTE was a ruthless secessionist group, which invented “Suicide bombings”. Former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated by its cadre in Tamil Nadu in 1991. LTTE had had many chances to achieve reasonable autonomy for Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka, but it mismanaged the campaign, focusing on a maximalist position of Tamil Eelam.

The situation is totally different today. While Sri Lankan Army has defeated LTTE and removed LTTE from the scene, reasonable aspirations of Tamil Sri Lankans can not, and should not, be ignored. Their desire and aspiration to have a right for equality, dignity, justice and self respect can not be ignored or suppressed.

It is in the interest of Sri Lanka too that it deals with these aspirations from one segment of its own people pragmatically and fully. It is indeed in the long term interest of Sri Lanka to do things which will reassure its Tamil people.

Mahinda RajapaksaIt is in this context that 13th Amendment to Sri Lankan Constitution is worth revisiting. This amendment was enacted in 1987, following India-Sri Lanka Accord (Rajiv Gandhi- JR Jayewardene Accord). It created 9 Provincial Councils. Even though the amendmentRajiv Gandhi JR Jayewardene did not provide sufficient powers to elected legislators, ministers and Chief Ministers, it did give some powers to them. It was by no means a great amendment at all because it gave far too much powers to State Governors, appointed by the President. There is some demand from some ruling parties, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Defence Secretary) to repeal 13th Amendment . I believe this is a wrong step. If anything, the provisions of this Amendment for devolution of powers to Provincial Councils need to be strengthened, not diluted or repealed, which is what Sri Lanka seems to be heading to.

Because of what the Chief Minister of Northern & Eastern Provincial Council, Annamalai Varadraja Perumal did in March 1990 (he declared Independence of Tamil Eelam), Sri Lankan Govt will be concerned about any extra power to Provincial Councils. I do not believe this concern has any basis, after LTTE has been defeated and removed from the equation. Times and equations have completely changed. There is no chance of anything like what Mr Perumal did in 1990 happening in Sri Lanka anymore.

Sri Lankan Tamils constitute close to 11.2 % of Sri Lankan population. Indian Tamils, who were taken to Sri Lanka by The British Govt in 19th century constitute another 4.2%.  Their grievances need to be looked at rationally and pragmatically.

I believe that not only 13th Amendment should be used to implement devolution of powers to Provincial Councils, the amendment itself should be further modified and strengthened  to give more powers, including Land and Police powers to Provincial Councils.

There is nothing wrong with a federal structure of governance with defined powers to Central Govt and State Govts. Education, Health, Police and Land powers should be with States and obviously, the Defence, Foreign affairs, Communication and others should be in the domain of Federal Govt.

India is a classical example of a federal Governance, where States and Union Govt have delineation of powers and responsibilities in the State, Union and combined lists, set out in the Constitution.

USA is another example of Federal Governance with well defined powers and responsibilities between Union (Federal Govt) Govt and State Govts.

India, as a friendly nation to Sri Lanka, is encouraging Sri Lanka to do everything to devolve powers to State Councils. This was, after all, what is part of India-Sri Lanka Accord 1987.

This was, again, reiterated by Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj and Indian Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi a few days ago, when visiting Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation, led by TNA MP, R. Sampanthan met them in New Delhi.

I do believe, as do many others, that there is no case for the repeal of 13th Amendment, which, if executed, will cause nothing but further alienation of minorities, which will not help long term interests of Sri Lanka. In contrast, there are many advantages if Sri Lanka implements genuine devolution of powers & responsibilities to elected Provincial Councils on the lines of federal governance in India and USA.

Dr Yadu Singh

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