BEIJING. China's parliament has advised the government to overhaul the defense and administrative set up in border areas connected to India and other countries in south and central Asia.
The advice comes from Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, one of the two houses of Chinese parliament. It has a major influence in policy making on issues concerning minority Tibetans along the border with India, and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan and Central Asia.
CPPCC has made "suggestions for developing border defense and overhauling the border defense administration system", it chairman Jia Qinglin said on the first day of its annual session at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday.
The statement is a pointer to major changes that might take place in the border regions. There has been wide-spread resentment against some local officials in the border region among the among minority Tibetan and Uighur Muslim communities. A Communist Party makes a statement of this kind only after the party has made up its mind.
Jia said members of CPPCC have come together to "investigate the working and living conditions of poor people in border areas". It has also suggested rapid urbanization to ensure the development of prefectures (or districts), which enjoy autonomy in the legal sense.
The 12th five-year plan beginning this year should provide a major impetus to the task of eliminating poverty and "fully implementing" the process of integration among the ethnic minorities in the border regions, he said.
Jia indicated the Communist Party will stick to decision to give a big push to development of the western region including Tibet and Xinjiang. This region has been left behind during the last three decades of industrialization focusing on eastern and southern China.
China hikes defence spend 13% to $91.5 billion
BEIJING/NEW DELHI. China announced a stunning 12.7% hike in its declared defence budget on Friday, sending shivers down the collective spines of its neighbours, including India, as well as around the globe.
Beijing declared its military allocation for 2011 will be $91.5 billion, which comes just a few days after India pegged its annual defence expenditure at $36 billion.
However, experts hold that China actually spends double the amount it officially declares on its 2.25-million strong People's Liberation Army.
The US, of course, is in a different league altogether. It's annual military budget, which also funds operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, is well beyond $600 billion.
The primary driver behind China's rapid modernisation of its armed forces, which has seen its warships now even being deployed as far as Gulf of Aden and beyond for the first time, is to deter US from interfering in its neighbourhood, especially vis-a-vis Taiwan.
But just like China keeps a hawk-eye on the US, India has to closely monitor China. The Indian defence establishment cannot ignore the fact that China continues to harden its position in the boundary talks, show assertive behaviour all along the 4,057 km Line of Actual Control, expand strategic moves in Indian Ocean Region and help "all-weather friend" Pakistan build its nuclear, missile and conventional military arsenals.
"Pakistan, we can handle...China remains the real long-term threat for us. Beijing, in fact, actively uses Islamabad to bog us down in South Asia," said a top Indian Army officer.
China's 12.7% jump in its defence budget is a return, after a short gap, to its straight yearly double-digit hikes in military spending since the 1990s.
Li Zhaoxing, spokesman of the Chinese parliament, justified the increase by pointing to the levels of military spending by India and US. "It's true that China's defence budget is raised a bit, but the ratio of the defence spending in the country's GDP remains very low, much lower than those of many other countries," he said.
Defence expenditure is 1.4% of GDP in China, added Li, while "that ratio in India is much higher than 2%". This, however, is factually wrong since as per finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's budget last week, India's defence expenditure is 1.83% of the projected GDP for 2011-2012.
Li, on his part, tried to reassure India that the rise in China's military spending has no connection with its approach towards New Delhi. "China attaches great importance to friendly relations with neighbours...Seeking peace, cooperation and development is a shared view of all Asian people, including the people of China and India," he said.
But India has reasons to worry. In fact, during the combined commanders conference in New Delhi a few months ago, the military top brass had urged the political leadership to factor China's ever-expanding transborder, cyber and space-warfare military capabilities into India's national security matrix. Even a normally cautious defence minister AK Antony holds that China is showing "increasing assertiveness" and India cannot afford to relax its guard.