Thursday, 31 July 2014

China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or South-South Collaboration?


Africa's history is suffused with legacies of domination and exploitation, as Western colonial powers carved up the continent to satiate their own needs. Whilst foreign flags no longer fly over African capitals, Africa continues to be viewed within a neo-colonial context, with Western states characterizing their relations on the continent in terms of dependency and victimhood. The rise of China has stoked discussions of neo-colonialism, with many wondering whether Africa is being re-colonialised by powers such as China, under the guise of commerce and globalization. This paper argues that the conceptualization of China-Africa relations as neo-colonial is overly simplistic.

Specifically this paper will highlight common criticisms of Chinese operations in Africa, yet it will also demonstrate China's laudable actions on the continent. Interactions and business dealings between China and Africa vary considerably in scale, scope and impact from nation to nation. Whereas tense labour relations often occur in a globalized world, many of the perceived negative externalities must be contextualized and be viewed objectively, as opposed to simply falling back on colonialist rhetoric. Similarly the ascendancy of China does not spell the inevitable subordination of Africa, rather offers new opportunities and avenues of engagement.


China's Entry into Africa Decried by West


Many in the West, already wary of China's meteoric economic and political rise, have begun to question China's motives. Beijing's detractors portray Chinese activities in Africa as “economically predatory: profiting the Chinese state and its commercial interests, displacing African industries and markets, and embedding the continent in relations of dependency that resemble colonialism” (Rupp 65). Characterizations of China's activities in Africa as neo-colonial find fertile ground amongst Western commentators, (Caniglia 165) who cite rapacious Chinese economic policies and poor labour relations with indigenous workers / communities. In response China often touts its longstanding opposition to imperialism. Chinese government also stresses its non-involvement in the slave trade, as well its lack of colonial or genocidal history in Africa (Campbell 100). This long history of peaceful interchange is a key talking point in Chinese-African relations, and is explicitly mentioned in China's 2006 African Policy White Paper (Zheng 275).

Following the Chinese civil war, Chinese involvement in Africa dramatically increased. Following the pivotal Bandung Conference in 1955, the PRC sought to “cultivate ties and offer economic, technical and military support for African countries and liberation movements, in an effort to unite them against both superpowers” (Adisu 3). During this time, the PRC also wooed newly independent African nations, in its ongoing effort to erode Taiwanese support on the continent (Zheng 271). The PRC's eventual success in usurping Taiwan's security council seat was due in no small part to the support of African countries; a fact acknowledged by Mao Zedong, who stated that “It [was] our African brothers who lifted us into the UN” (Zheng 271).

China also undertook large infrastructure projects, such as the construction of the TAZARA or 'freedom railway' thus bypassing white-controlled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) (Lee 649). The Chinese government also publicly supported Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda's efforts in promoting humanism, as well as Julius Nyerere's (President of Tanzania) Pan-African overtures (Lee, 649). The enthusiasm of many African leaders for China was vocalized in the 1980s by Abdurrahman Mohammed Babu.. In his book, The Future that Works, Babu stated that “the old is dying yet the new is yet to be born;” referencing the rapid dismantling of European colonialism, and the emerging powers hovering nearby (Campbell 91).

Whilst Chinese involvement prior to the end of the Cold War was wide-ranging; ideological rhetoric and symbolic support aside, very little trade and investment occurred. In 1979, total China-Africa trade stood at only $81.7 million (Campbell 99). This figure plummeted to approximately $10 million per annum in the 1980s, as China pursued market reforms, and focused its attention and resources inward (Zheng 272). This trend was soon reversed with bilateral trade rising to $6.84 billion in 1989 (Zheng 272). As the Chinese economy began to rapidly expand, the government imported more natural resources.


China Barred from Traditional Markets, Eyes Opening in Africa


Until 1993, the Chinese economy relied on domestic oil reserves, yet as rapid industrialization took hold, the PRC sought to increase its energy imports (Caniglia 166). Secondly, in the wake of the global condemnation of China's actions during the Tienanmen Square Massacre in 1989, sanctions were introduced by the West and China was forced to seek alternatives (Zheng 272). Foreign distrust, often under the guise of national security concerns effectively barred Chinese bids in many Western countries.

Coincidentally, during this time, public opposition in the West led many Western companies to withdraw from controversial African projects / areas. This in turn offered China access to the historically Western controlled and dominated African resource market (Zheng 273). China's entrance into such controversial theatres resulted in China's critics claiming that “Beijing's resource-based foreign policy has little room for morality” (Adisu 6).

China's acquisition of a foothold in the African resource market at the end of the 20th century helped laid the groundwork for a new China-Africa paradigm for the 21st century. The initiation of the 10th Five Year Plan in 2001 saw the implementation of the policies of 'going out' (foreign trade and investment) and 'bringing in' (importing the necessary materials for Chinese growth) (Caniglia 171, Adisu 4). The turn of the century also saw the emergence of the Beijing Consensus, which defines the Chinese model of investment in terms of multilateralism, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence.

The Beijing Consensus


Specifically the Beijing Consensus advocates a combination of economic growth and a 'no strings attached' foreign policy (Adisu 4). These factors have contributed to mold “China's engagement with Africa in the 21st century [as] mostly based on pragmatic concerns such as political and economic cooperation...[and] diluting the ideological tinge that characterized the relationship during the 20th century” (Zheng 275).

Opponents of Chinese activities in Africa characterize the PRC's policies as fundamentally opportunistic in nature (Alden, 71), with the country placing its own resource needs ahead of those of local populations (Campbell 99). Chinese interaction in Africa has been developing independently, and it is clear that “support for Africa's development is not what drove China to Africa” (Caniglia 170). The perception of China's forays into Africa as self-centred is bolstered by claims that Chinese success on the continent is the result of morally objectionable business practices. Specifically, many in the West have “cried foul with respect to Chinese bidding practices and point out that systematic undervaluation of labour and managerial costs”(Alden 45) are key to Chinese success.

The issue of labour was an important feature of European colonial domination, and remains “the fulcrum of Chinese capitalism in Africa today.” (Lee 648). In particular China commentators note the increasing levels of casualization / informalization which characterize Chinese holdings in Africa (Lee 648). Upon acquiring the Chambishi mine in Zambia, Chinese firms reclassified employees as casual workers (Lee 651). Similarly, under Tanzanian ownership, 98.5 percent of the Urafiki workforce were contracted employees. Under the new Chinese administration, 90 percent of the employees became temporary workers (Lee 652). Such casualization of employment in turn frees Chinese companies from their obligations to provide worker with their legally entitled benefits (Jauch 52).

Moreover the absence of effective collective bargaining agreements and the resulting tense labour relations only further suppress African wages (Jauch 52). Chinese employers are widely recognized as the lowest paying in many African nations (Lee 651 & Jauch 52). In Angola, Chinese firms pay employees a dollar a day, whereas non-Chinese companies are obligated to pay three to four dollars a day (Alden 45). Similarly, Chinese construction companies in Namibia routinely pay workers only a third of the legally mandated minimum wage, with Chinese managers stating that Namibians are not productive enough to deserve minimum wage (Jauch 52).


Is China Destroying African Industry?


Western media has also been very vocal in its opposition to the influx of Chinese imports into Africa, for the deluge of cheap products in turn destroys local production capacity (Caniglia 161). Detractors of Chinese involvement in Africa, see the torrent of Chinese goods as an “economic malignancy spreading through African markets” (Rupp 69). Following the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement in 2005, under whose aegis many African nations were able to establish burgeoning textile industries (Rupp 70), cheap Chinese imports obliterated Africa's market share in the West (Alden 48).

Tens of thousands of jobs were lost in Kenya and Mauritius (Alden 48) and South Africa witnessed the closure of eight hundred businesses and the loss of 60,000 jobs (Alden 80). Similarly Swaziland lost 23,000 jobs, Lesotho 28,0000, and Nigerian 250,000 positions (Alden 80). Whilst this influx of Chinese goods results in the loss of foreign market share for African companies,it also creates a situation in which African companies cannot compete with their Chinese counterparts, even in African markets (Adisu 5).

In several African countries, Chinese vendors have also begun displacing local merchants selling menial items. Chinese businesspeople in Cameroon have displaced street corner Cameroonian sellers of 'beignets' – round fried donuts; instead selling 'beignets Chinoise' (Rupp 73). Nigeria has also witnessed protests by local businessmen following the opening of Chinese wholesale and retail shopping centres (Alden 48). As a result “Chinese migrants are often seen as intruders even by the people who buy at their shops” (Alden 54).

Chinese vendors have also incited the ire of locals in Lusaka, who claim that the Chinese “just come here to make money and take away from us the simplest businesses like selling groceries in markets. Honestly is this is the kind of foreign investment we can be celebrating about?” (Alden 87). Similar sentiments have been espoused by Dipak Patel, the Zambian Minister of commerce, trade and industry, who argues whether “Zambia needs Chinese investors who sell shoes, clothes food, chickens and eggs in our markets when indigenous people can?... (Alden 49) China is displacing local people and causing a lot of friction...I understand that they have 1.2 billion people, but they don't have to send them to Africa” (Rupp 72).

Economies of Scale Favour China


There does exist some merit in the criticisms levelled against China, yet one must place contentious policies / issues within the greater geo-political context of globalization. The casualization of African labour is a real phenomenon, yet such policies are not unique to Chinese corporations (Lee 649). Moreover casualization is not the result of Chinese efforts to denigrate African labour, for similar policies are common practice in mainland China. China employed casualization tactics in order to reform inefficient industries at home, in part by breaking the hold of 'cradle to grave' employment contracts (Lee 652).

Similarly Chinese corporations employ analogous tactics in their efforts to rehabilitate inefficient African holdings; often the former wards of indebted, arthritic public sector conglomerates (Lee 652). Chinese firms do not “act with imperial impunity” (Campbell 101), and as a result the Chinese “cannot be blamed for pursing their own particular development objectives...needed to sustain China's industrialization process” (Jauch 55).

One must acknowledge that China's economic ascendancy has undermined Africa's own efforts to acquire foreign markets. The drastic reversal suffered by African textile manufactures following the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement in 2005, is often cited by China critics. In response China voluntarily agreed to restrict apparel exports to southern Africa, in order to allow for indigenous industry to reorganize. This willingness to engage in compromise with African nations “indeed [to make] concessions to support African industries that compete directly with Chinese investments marks a significant departure from classic relations of dependency” (Rupp 71).

Despite these actions, the void in the regional market was quickly filled by cheap imports from Vietnam and Bangladesh (Rupp 71). This highlights an important fact: China-Africa relations exist within an environment of highly competitive South-South interactions. Other emerging markets such as Malaysia, Brazil, South Korea and India all have significant presences in Africa, all competing for market share in both the West and in the global South (Frynas & Paulo 231-32). It is within this context that the effects of Chinese economic and trade policy must be viewed, as market forces are never fully, if at all under the control of individual states.


No Zhing-Zhong Wanted


As Chinese firms and businesses encroach into African markets, Chinese run operations also exhibit the tendency of importing and utilizing Chinese nationals as labourers (Alden 45). Although Africans are hired for unskilled work, Chinese staff are preferred for higher positions, with companies citing language, competency and work ethic / culture as the main benefits of utilizing imported employees (Alden 45). This in turn further limits employment opportunities for Africans, and results in discontent, with communities perceiving that Chinese companies are not integrating into and benefiting the local economy (Adisu 5).

African workers are often suspicious of Chinese wealth as well as perceive the Chinese as stingy and aloof (Alden 78). Such perceptions are reinforced by the Chinese enclaves in which workers live work and play, wilfully segregating themselves from local communities (Rupp 77). Chinese managers often “advise them [Chinese workers] not to go downtown or mingle with the locals, for their own safety” (Lee 653). In turn African workers claim the Chinese are stealing their labour power, wealth and profits and sending them to China (Lee 653).

Social interactions and relations between Africans and Chinese individuals are “marked by a tension between mutual admiration and mutual loathing...Chinese and Africans share robustly negative perceptions of one another” (Rupp, 77). In terms of African xenophobia vis-à-vis Chinese nationals there is “something disturbingly akin to racism in the singling out of the Chinese presence for scrutiny when other ethnic groups and nationalities establish themselves without much local commentary” (Alden 50). For instance in Zimbabwean markets Chinese goods are referred to as 'zhing-zhong', a “derogatory racialized epithet that mimics Chinese speech and highlights the deep dissatisfaction with the quality of Chinese goods, and their propensity to undercut African-made products” (Rupp 69).

Conversely Chinese managers and businesspeople often adopt racial stereotypes and paternalistic attitudes when dealing with their African employees. Some Chinese employers hark back to sentiments redolent of Kipling and Rhodes, to explain local behaviour; “[Africans] have lived a much longer time in a primitive state...you see Africans sleeping under trees all the time” (Lee 655). Many Chinese managers also exhibit paternalistic attitudes towards African workers, who in turn bear the brunt of “cadres of managers convinced by reform at home that China and they know the way to break out of poverty and underdevelopment” (Lee 652-53).


Neo-Colonialism or South-South Collaboration?


Critics and 'Sinophobes' repeatedly argue that African workers bear the brunt of exploitative policies, and who in turn, sometimes refer to Chinese businesspeople as the 'new colonizers' (Jauch 55).The West often views China within a neo-colonial context (Caniglai 165), sentiments echoed in the reports of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) which finds the “patterns of trade between China and Africa worrisome, as it merely replicates the continents traditional role in the political-economy of neo-colonialism” (Alden 86-87). Similar sentiments have been expressed by African workers in Urafiki, who describe their Chinese employers as cruel who “don't treat us like people...white colonialists were better, at least they greeted you” (Lee 657).

Similarly following the previously mentioned incident in Chambishi, local opposition candidate Michael Seta, lamented that “Zambia is becoming a province – no a district of China!” (Alden, 74-75). Such views are not isolated, as witnessed by the warnings of South African Prime Minister Thabo Mbeki in 2006, to “guard against sinking into a 'colonial relationship' with China as Beijing expands its push for raw materials across the continent” (Rupp 66).

Despite tense labour relations, jingoistic and racist views as well as the various negative externalities associated with globalization, one must remember that “neither Chinese capital nor Africa is singular” (Lee 648). Any characterization of China-Africa relations as wholly neo-colonial commits a grievous error. The entrance of China into Africa has invariably resulted in some problems, however it can be argued that much of the upset in the West is caused by simplistic conceptualizations of Africa.

Many in the West seem to view international interaction with Africa as a zero-sum game, reverting back to mercantalistic perceptions and alarmist posturing. Critics of China have argued that there is currently a 'New Scramble' for African resources (Frynas & Paulo 230), viewing Chinese inroads as a direct geo-strategic threat to American global hegemony (Campbell 91). Yet worries over an emerging Sino-American rivalry in Africa, come less than a decade after talk of a similar emerging Franco-American rivalry (Frynas & Paulo 230).


The Myths Surrounding China-Africa Interactions


Opponents of China's actions in Africa become agitated by the exponential growth in China-Africa trade and investment which has occurred since the late 1990s. Critics cite said growth as evidence of China's insatiable appetite for resources, and its destabilizing influence in the region. China-Africa trade has indeed increased massively, reaching $40 billion in 2005 (Campbell 99), and as of 2009 stands at $168 billion (Zheng 272). However, Africa remains “by no means a major destination for Chinese investments,” garnering only three percent of China's overall FDI in 2007 (Jauch 50).

Despite this fact, Chinese energy investments has played a key role in propelling African growth figure to an annual rate of over five percent (Alden 14). Much attention has been given to Chinese investments in energy and other natural resources, with the West portraying Chinese activities in Africa as one-dimensional, superficial and exploitative. Whereas 31 percent of China's oil imports come from Africa (Alden 12), China is not the only nation which utilizes African resources for its own uses, with 79.8 percent of all US purchases in Africa pertaining to oil (Frynas & Paulo 231).

Despite perceptions to the contrary, resource related investment projects constitute only 9 percent of China's total investment projects in Africa (Jauch 50). Energy and mineral extraction is overshadowed by Chinese investments in manufacturing and services which total 46 and 40 percent respectively (Jauch 50). China has diversified its investments in Africa with many nations exhibiting “examples of China's emerging presence, from oil fields in the east, to farms in the south and mines in the centre of the continent...and Chinese companies, in addition to launching Nigerian satellites, have a virtual monopoly on the construction business in Botswana” (Campbell 101).

The actions of Chinese economic planners and their contemporaries in other developing economies are predicated upon visions of “an era where African minerals and genetic resources will be more worthwhile than US Treasury Bills” (Campbell 93). Such sentiments have led many nations to approach Africa as supplicants, thus creating an atmosphere in which “it is African governments, not external actors, who dictate terms for foreign investors today” (Frynas & Paulo 236). Consequently, Africa's oil boom contains few hallmarks of neo-colonialism as “Chinese firms compete...to gain endorsement [from] African governments, who remain firmly in charge of decision making” (Frynas & Paulo 236).


China in Africa Rustles Traditional Powers, Creates Opportunites for Africa


The emergence of China has in part imbued African nations with new found mobility, for “Chinese diplomacy [has] provided space for manoeuvre for Africans by laying the basis for an alternative international system in the 21st century” (Campbell 91). Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade publicly expressed his sense of relief that the ascendancy of China has imbued Africans with the power to choose not to accept funding from traditional partners(Rupp 73).

China is seen by many in Africa as the vanguard for the global south, as a rising power which can relate to the problems and concerns of other developing nations. China and the African Union (AU) have formed an effective South-South bloc in the World Trade Organization, thereby giving African nations greater negotiating power and clout (Campbell 100). China is also funding the new African Union headquarters in Ethiopia (Alden 78). China's “fundamental respect for the sovereignty of African states, its active nurturing of relations with African states in international fora...suggest that China and Africa are engaging in post-colonial relations of interdependency” (Rupp 66).

Most importantly China has not been associated with the highly controversial structural adjustment programs, which have seen $675 billion dollars leave Africa since 1980. (Campbell 100). In contrast to these institutions, China has donated $10 billion in aid, instituted exchange programs, and is providing medical assistance to combat infectious diseases in Africa. Perhaps most importantly and progressive is the unconditional cancellation of $10 billion of African debt (Adisu 5).

Western commentators often seem unable to view Africa in any other context than one of dependency and victimhood. Such perceptions only reinforce neo-colonial attitudes towards Africa, as the continent is perceived as helpless, reactionary monolith, and Chinese investment merely another exploitative power. This paper has argued that oversimplified conceptualizations of Chinese action in Africa as purely exploitative or purely altruistic, only contribute to Africa's marginalization from the greater international globalized order.

Far more research has been devoted to the negative externalities generated by China's presence in Africa, however it is imperative that China's economic policies and business actions not be viewed as exceptional and intentionally detrimental. Tense relations with local communities do exist, however many average African workers express gratitude to Chinese firms for providing employment. The enthusiasm of African leaders for the alternative development models and more equitable relations which interaction with China offers, highlights the greater mobility now available for Africa.

Instances which reflect poorly on Chinese investments, garner far more international media coverage and comment than the majority of Chinese projects which are more benign in nature. By construing China-Africa relations as merely exploitative and one-sided, one one perpetuates the various preconceptions of African exceptionalism; that Africa remains outside the global order. Such attitudes only reinforce the tendency of developed nations to adopt distorted views and relations with Africa, opting to impose their own neo-liberal ideals, which merely antagonize local populations.

China's record is far from perfect, and many issues require redress, however Western nations need to realize the hypocrisy inherent in their attempts to claim the moral high ground. Africa needs effective and genuine cooperation, mutual investment and respect, and does not benefit from paternalistic squabbles between the West and China, each claiming they know what is best for Africa.






Works Cited:
Adisu, Kinfu. “The Impact of Chinese Investment in Africa.” International Journal of Business and Management 5.9 (2010): 3-9.

Alden, Chris. China in Africa. London: Zed Books, 2007.

Campbell, Horace. “China in Africa: Challenging US Global Hegemony.” Third World Quarterly 29.1 (2008): 89-105.

Caniglia Laura. “Western Ostracism and China's Presence in Africa.” China Information 25. (2011): 165-184.

Frynas, Jedrzej G. & Paulo Manuel. “A New Scramble for African Oil? Historical, Political and Business Perspectives.” African Affairs 106. (2006): 229-251.

Jauch Herbert. “Chinese Investments in Africa: Twenty-First Century Colonialism?” New Labour Forum 20.2 (2011): 49-55.

Lee, Ching Kwan. “Raw Encounters: Chinese Managers, African Workers and the Politics of Casualization in Africa's Chinese Enclaves.” The China Quarterly (2009) 647-665.

Rupp, Stephanie. “Africa and China: Engaging Postcolonial Interdependencies.” China Into Africa: Trade, Aid, and Influence. Ed. Robert I. Rotberg. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2008. 65-87.

Zheng, Liang. “Neo-colonialism, Ideology or just Business?: China's Perception of Africa.” Global Media and Communication 6. (2010): 271-276.

Reconciliation over Retribution: The East Timor Truth and Reconciliation Commission


The small region now known as East Timor elicited a large international reaction following the outbreak of violence related to the nascent country's independence bid. The United Nations established a transitional government and instituted a truth and reconciliation commission in order to investigate the violence as well as the legacy of several decades of Indonesian occupation. The resulting investigative organ, the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR)1 emerged in 2002. This Commission was faced with a myriad of domestic and international obstacles, yet sought to utilize a range of methods and tools to collect information on the suffering of the East Timorese people.

The efficacy of the Commission is a topic of debate for scholars, as differing conceptions of success are touted by various writers. This paper argues that the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation forwent calls to prosecute perpetrators according to a retributive framework. The Commission focused primarily on reconciliation and while substantial efforts were made to undercover the truth, this remained a secondary consideration and overall was incorporated into reconciliation efforts. Specifically this paper will demonstrate that while these conciliatory overtures did little to facilitate justice (in the retributive sense), the use of pragmatic information collection measures, traditional dispute resolution forums and a forgiving restorative process saw important strides made at the communal level to restore individual dignity and reintegrate perpetrators.


Indonesia Seeks to Replace Portugal as Ruler


The need for a truth commission in Timor-Leste arose due to geopolitical complications stemming from the island's status as a Portuguese colonial possession. The area of Timor-Leste was ruled by Lisbon for several centuries as a far-flung trade colony, with Portugal separating the eastern portion of the island and ceding the western portion to the Dutch colonial administration which ruled the Dutch East Indies (later Indonesia). East Timor declared independence on November 28th 1975 following the April 25th 1975 coup in Portugal. Soon after its declaration of independence, the East-Timor2 was invaded by Indonesia on December 7th 1976.

Indonesia sought to incorporate Timor-Leste as its 27th province, an effort which was tacitly supported by the U.S. as Washington viewed the Suharto regime was an important regional Cold War ally.3 Indonesia claimed that it held a pre-colonial title to the region and given the illegitimate nature of Portugal's control over East Timor, Jakarta argued that it was justified in its actions. Contrary to the position of the United States and Indonesia, the United Nations did not recognize Indonesia's claim to East Timor, citing the fact that the use of force to reclaim pre-colonial titles on the basis of the illegitimacy of the colonial one was not generally accepted at the international level.4

Despite the lack of international support, Indonesia continued to control Timor-Leste for twenty-four years, engaging in widespread repression against the general populace, as well as engaging in an internecine struggle with a guerrilla resistance movement FRETILIN (Frente Revolucionaria do Timar Leste Independente).5 Overall mortality estimates for this period range between 102,800 – 200,000 combat and excess deaths.6 Following the collapse of the Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesian president B.J. Habibie announced in a January 1999 agreement to hold a plebiscite in which East Timorese could vote between greater autonomy within Indonesia or independence.7

Almost ninety-nine percent of eligible voters participated in the September 5th 1999 referendum,8 with 78.5 percent of the electorate supporting independence.9 This result led to post-election violence in which the actions of pro-Indonesian militias as well as Indonesian security forces led to between 1400-2000 deaths and forced 250,000-300,000 individuals to flee to West Timor. Moreover, during the violence over seventy percent of East Timor's infrastructure and buildings were destroyed.10 This violence catalysed the international community, with the UN authorizing the Australian led Intervention Force for East Timor (INTERFET), and establishing the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) via Resolution 1272 of October 1999.11


UN Intervention and Administration


Following the establishment of UN transitional control, the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Commission as well as the UN Commission of Enquiry both recommended the creation of an international tribunal similar to those which had been created in Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia. This recommendation largely fell on deaf ears for several reasons. Firstly, said recommendation elicited significant political and military opposition in Indonesia, with Jakarta refusing to cooperate with any hypothetical tribunal. Even after the end of the CAVR's work, the prospect of justice in East Timor remains a distant one for criticism of Indonesia's intransigence was been muted, as ironically the international community seeks Jakarta's aid in the War on Terror.12

Indonesia's obstructionism, complemented with a general “tribunal fatigue” in the Security Council following the myriad complaints concerning the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals (slow, inefficient, expensive, perceived lack of results) prevented the creation of a East Timor tribunal.13 Consequently, while the need for an investigation was clear, the UN was unwilling to be the primary vehicle for such an enquiry. Hence the UN encouraged the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), as this would allow East Timor to direct the affair at the national level, as well as the important fact that TRCs tend to be substantially cheaper than international criminal tribunals ($5-30 million for the former as opposed to $100 million plus for the latter).14 These factors led to UNTAET instituting Regulation 2001/10 on July 13th 2001, thereby establishing CAVR.15CAVR which ran from 2002 until December 2005, was an highly interesting project as it incorporated various aspects of international law as well as alternative judicial traditions.

Prior to investigating the methods and procedures of CAVR it is important to first delineate the characteristics of truth commissions in general, in order to better highlight the hybrid nature of CAVR (to be discussed later). Truth commissions adopt a historical record approach, motivated by the belief that knowing and recording the events which took place in order to prevent similar events in the future takes precedence over the desire to facilitate reconciliation via the pardoning of perpetrators.16 TRCs are vested with a general mandate to investigate human rights violations in a way that is more comprehensive than traditional justice and international criminal tribunals.17 This emphasis on documenting events and violations stems from efforts to prevent either intentional or accidental suppression/loss of vital elements of the historical narrative.


Retributive, Restorative or Reconciliatory Justice?


By seeking to establish a definitive history, truth commissions desire to prevent the rise of competing narratives which may stoke tensions and precipitate new violence. This prevention of violence is important because, truth commission were initially created in response to such mass violence in countries in which prosecutions were hampered by amnesty law, a lack of political will, entrenched military forces or other barriers.18 Furthermore, these types of commissions act as fora of symbolic satisfaction for victims as well as “for victims (and sometimes perpetrators) to bear witness, investigate the fate of the disappeared, [thereby] creating an environment more ripe for reconciliation and forgiveness than an adversarial trial.”19

The increasing reliance on TRCs is based on the perception that they are mechanisms which serve a myriad of purposes that are usually beyond the purview of national and international law.20 Truth commission were initially conceptualized as means to heal a divided country, yet here CAVR differs from previous truth commissions for it was initiated to mediate between the Indonesian forces and pro-assimilation militias, and the pro-independence segment of the population.21

Moreover while truth commissions are historically implemented when there are entrenched military forces in the country, CAVR focused on human rights violations by occupying power personnel which had already departed. This fact combined with the refusal of the Indonesian government to cooperate with the Commission, saw CAVR enjoy a unique socio-political environment in which it was able to conduct its work utterly unhindered.22 While this allowed CAVR unparalleled latitude, it also diminished the relevance of the Commission as it could not demand that former rulers of East Timor appear before it.23

These unique circumstances, combined with the lack of political will at the UN for a criminal tribunal, and the intransigence of Jakarta, saw East Timorese leaders largely left to their own devices. CAVR was independent of UNTAET government members and cabinet ministers, and was given the power to determine its internal structure, hierarchy and operating procedure.24 As a result CAVR was conceptualized in a manner which opted for reconciliation and restorative justice mechanisms (emphasis on the healing process) over retributive justice. This emphasis on truth and reconciliation over justice can be seen in the name of CAVR itself.

The inclusion of the term “reception” was seen as a reference to the Commission's task of welcoming back pro-Indonesian individuals who had fled East Timor.25 This conciliatory focus was seen in the goals of Regulation 2001/10 which outlined three main tasks for the wider project it was authorizing: investigate facts concerning human rights violations between 1974-1999, help reintegrate less serious perpetrators into communities, and recommend measures to prevent future abuses.26 The emphasis on reconciliation and truth over the concerns of justice is further demonstrated by the mandate of CAVR which included of the following tasks: reporting past violations and identifying factors that led to the events, promoting reconciliation, assisting in restoring the human dignity of victims and supporting the reception and reintegration of individuals who caused their communities harm through minor criminal offences and other acts.27

Note the lack of any duty to ensure that justice is accomplished. This absence is even more explicit in the Commissioner's Oath, the pledge which national and regional CAVR commissioners took upon assuming their duties; “I renounce the unlawful use of violence; and in the performance of my functions will seek to promote reconciliation, national unity and peace.”28


CAVR in Detail


The regulations of CAVR also demonstrated an emphasis on reconciliation over justice by the fact that Section 17.2 of Regulation 2001/10 states that “no witness may be compelled to incriminate the witness' spouse or partner, parents, children or relatives within the second degree.”29 This is very generous provision which while encouraging individuals to come forward and participate does allow for the possibility of violations to go unreported if only family members witnessed the act especially in small communities which are primarily comprised of a few large extended families.

Section 24.2 also demonstrates the prioritization of reconciliation over justice as it states that “where a statement discloses the commission of more than one act the...Committee shall consider the appropriateness [for less serious crime designation] of each act separately.”30 This provision would potentially allow serial offenders and/or offenders whose net violations might constitute a serious crime to benefit from the mercy of the communal reconciliation mechanism which imposes non-criminal 'sentences'.

This focus on national unity, reconciliation and peace is important, because while the East Timorese did believe that perpetrators of serious violations should face punishment; the state of ruin in the country and its precarious relationship with Indonesia heavily promoted conciliatory overtones. Amnesty International recommended that the United Nations Security Council establish an international criminal tribunal for the violations of 1976-1999, yet this suggestion was not acted upon.31

The apathy towards tribunals at the international levels was mirrored by East-Timor president Xanana Gusmao, who objected to the CAVR Chega! Report, criticizing the report for its “grandiose idealism and the insistence on prosecution, retribution, and reparations.”32 Specifically, the Chega! (Portuguese for 'no more', 'enough,' 'stop')33 Report's call for an international war-crimes tribunal elicited criticism from Guasmo who feared that it would re-open societal wounds and threaten the tenuous peace deal with Indonesia.34 Indeed when the report was released in October 2005, it was distributed to the East Timorese parliament, but was not (initially) made public due to Indonesian pressure to the contrary.35

One might view Gusmao's criticism as an unfavourable response to the findings of the Chega! Report. The Commission was explicitly authorized by Section 13.1.(a) of Regulation 2001/10 to investigate actions which were “the result of deliberate planing, policy or authorization on the part of a state, or any of its organs, or of any political organization, militia group, liberation movement, or other group or individual.”36 The Report's findings implicated all sides in the commission of violations,37 yet Gusmao was not unhappy with the methods and findings of the report; he merely felt that reconciliation and forgiveness were paramount.

Citing his experience as a resistance leader and the pain he felt when he lost soldiers, he recalls the words of his deputy who told him to stop crying because “they already dead. Now your duty is not cry for everyone who dies. Take care of us that are still alive.”38 For Gusmao the healing of the present trumps the prosecution of the past. Contrary to Gusmao's perception of the report, David Webster argues that reconciliation and truth are to a degree at odds, for the historical narrative emphasizing national unity in the Chega! Report often, according to Webster “elides the costs of the compromise struck to achieve unity.”39


CAVR as Part of a Hybrid System


The unique situation which existed in East Timor led to the creation of a hybrid system consisting of CAVR alongside the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) and other organs. Hybrid tribunals are in theory established by treaty between the UN and the host nation or by UN administrations exercising “sovereignty in trust over in an immediate post-conflict situation,” and have the benefit of being more consensual than the original ad hoc tribunals.40 In this regard East Timor was again unique, because unlike previous TRCs it was the first to be initiated in territory under UN transitional authority.41 In East Timor crimes were divided into serious (crimes against humanity, torture, murder or sexual offences)42 and less serious crimes under the purview of CAVR (theft, minor assault, arson, killing livestock and destruction of crops).43

The problems and short-comings facing CAVR necessitated the adoption of pragmatic and cost-effective means to record and document offences as well as reintegrate offenders. While the serious/less serious dichotomy is clear in theory, there are certain instances in which this distinction becomes problematic. For instance some cases may be better adjudicated by the reconciliation process even though the violation technically falls within the serious category (only a minor role played in a larger group of actions). Secondly, crimes against property (which constitute the majority of potentially via the reconciliation process pardonable offences) could easily turn into war crimes if it is established that they occurred during the course of an armed conflict (pillaging, attacking designated civilian targets).

Both of these potential situations demonstrate the importance of context rather than the abstract nature of the crime.44 Lastly the limited scope of the reconciliation procedure and the violations it covered arguably failed to offer special incentives for the return from West Timor of serious crime perpetrators.45 Despite these hypothetical complications, the distinction between classes of crimes and the accompanying division of responsibility between CAVR and the SCU is important because while UNTAET encouraged the use of local institutions, it did not adopt the Rwandan gacaca model;

abstaining from relying on community based mechanisms for criminal proceedings [utilizing] locally established institutions exclusively as instrument[s] of reconciliation and consensual justice [...] The combination of criminal prosecution, on the one hand and community-based reconciliation procedures, on the other, reflects a sophisticated approach to addressing past human rights tragedies while meeting the practical realities of a transitional process.46

CAVR Faces Significant Shortcomings


By allocating less serious crime adjudication to CAVR, UNTAET was able to relieve the East Timorese judiciary to focus on more pressing cases. By delegating less serious crimes to CAVR, UNTAET allowed the vast majority of violations to be dealt with at the local and regional level in a system which ran parallel yet was still integrated into the criminal justice system.47 This was vital because Timor-Leste's judiciary was virtually non-existent. During its rule, Indonesia had prevented the emergence of any East Timorese judges,48 and any judicial infrastructure, archives and records were destroyed by Jakarta's scorched-earth policy.49

Indeed the dearth of legal expertise was such that UNTAET resorted to using aircraft to drop leaflets over the country seeking people with legal qualifications to join the East-Timor judiciary. While a small pool of accredited lawyers returned from overseas, none of them had experience working as judges or prosecutors.50 This lack of legal expertise saw most local Commission staff operate without any legal training, let alone familiarity with international law.51 Conditions were so bad that CAVR even had difficulty locating copies of basic human rights instruments in accessible languages such as Indonesian.

This lack of international law experience and human rights material was evident by the difficulty faced by some CAVR staff members in accepting that under international law, disappeared persons are not equivalent to dead persons.52 The heated debate which arose whether the forced cutting of captured guerrilla fighter's hair (grown long as a sign of resistance and camaraderie) by Indonesian troops constituted cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment under international law again demonstrates the difficulties facing the largely judicially illiterate CAVR personnel.53

This lack of expertise was also apparent in other aspects of CAVR in which the Commission facilitated three-day healing workshops held for the most affected victims,54 in which 712 victims with urgent needs were identified with each provided a small symbolic reparation of $200.55 While the organization of these workshops were laudable, including drama, music, painting, group prayer and traditional rituals they may have been somewhat ham-fisted given the fact that none of the facilitators were mental health professionals.56
 

Pragmatic or Haphazard? Review of CAVR's Methodology


Aside from the lack of legal experience among its employees, CAVR had to implement a range of pragmatic and at times unorthodox methods for collecting information. While most TRCs base their empirical findings on databases of testimonies, no such existing database was present in Timor-Leste. Consequently CAVR created the Human Rights Violations Database (HRVD). The HRVD was bolstered by various methods of data collection. One such method was the cataloguing of 319,000 unique graves in public cemeteries, of which roughly half had complete names and dates. While historical demographers have used cemetery records to reconstruct mortality rates, no TRC had ever done so as part of the reconstruction of the historical record.57

While a lot of individuals were identified this way, an obvious drawback is that such a collection method fails to incorporate the many individuals who were not buried in graveyards or in unmarked graves.58 Additionally, CAVR conducted fifty-two public hearings in dedication to the victims,59 as well as 294 half to full-day long forums to document communal violence (attended by an average of sixteen people) in which survivors sketched maps and time-lines for local events. It is important to note these forums were less focused on research as they were organized by the victim support division of CAVR.60

The two largest components of CAVR's activities were the thousands of witness testimonies which collected across the country, and the Community Reconciliation Procedures (CRP). CAVR personnel collected personal depositions and oral records via open-ended interviews in which respondents were allowed to narrate their stories in whichever manner they chose. The only regulation imposed by the Commission was that statement collectors ensure that “there is enough information for the CAVR to understand who did what to whom, when and where and the the causes and consequences of these events.”61

While this simple system allowed CAVR personnel to be easily trained and sent out among the populace, the vague nature of what “enough” information consisted of caused irregularities. Different statement collectors interpreted this condition differently, and as a result interviews ranged from less than an hour to several hours. Another problem was the fact that the Commission rarely assigned personnel to follow up and obtain confirmations and/or clarifications of the information; no formal cross-checking procedure was instituted.62

Limitations Acknowledged


This lack of follow-up can be in part attributed to the limited resources of the Commission, but also to the way CAVR viewed these statements. CAVR collected 7669 personal accounts63 and asked survivors what assistance they needed during the societal transformation.64 While previous TRCs collected statements mainly for the purposes of justice rather than truth (to build prosecutorial briefs), the stories collected by CAVR had no legal implications. Moreover, the number of accounts recorded represented a convenient sample of individuals who had the opportunity to interact with CAVR personnel.

The Chega! report acknowledged that the information which had been collected from these statements did not represent the total magnitude and overall pattern of violations.65 These accounts had a greater symbolic value as a means for personal narratives to be heard and acknowledged. Given the limitations of CARV resources and the emphasis on reconciliation the social science methodology employed by CAVR “did not yield the kind of comprehensive, indisputable results that the Commission had sought.66 [Moreover it was not] possible to produce from [the] available evidence a quantitatively accurate, generally agreed figure on the death toll in Timor-Leste.”67


Biti Boot: The Success of Community Reconciliation Procedures


While reconciliation efforts did not have much success in the field of justice, CAVR led to real progress in reconciliation at the village level.68 The most successful and popular tool in CAVR's repertoire were the Community Reconciliation Procedures (CRP) which sought to reintegrate offenders of less-serious crimes into their communities by incorporating traditional dispute resolution mechanisms, community input and a focus on forgiveness. Specifically, CRPs were used to “achieve an agreement by perpetrators to undertake community service or other acts of reconciliation after a community-based hearing, which airs the views of all parties and requires an admission and apology from the perpetrator.”69

Regulation 2001/10 Section 27.3 allows CRP deponents to be questioned about involvement of others who were part of the act, and 27.7 defines reconciliation as either reparations, community service, a public apology and/or another act of contrition.70 It is important to note that Section 28.2 notes that “unless the relevant district court considers that the act of reconciliation specified [...] exceeds what is reasonably proportionate to the acts disclosed [...] the District Court shall register the [decision] as an Order of the Court.”71 This is a vital point because it demonstrates the protection of perpetrators from excessive punishment, thereby undermining efforts at revenge or retributive justice, emphasizing reconciliation above all else. Similarly, Section 30.2 outlines the penalties for non-completion of acts of contrition as a prison term not exceeding one year and/or a fine not exceeding $3000.72 These terms again demonstrate the conciliatory nature of the process as even non-compliance is not subject to draconian measures.

Together with their measured nature, CRPs were much cheaper and simpler than a police investigation, merits which are highlighted by the fact that CAVR initiated more than 1500 (surpassing the original goal of 1000) CRPs which drew unexpectedly high levels of community participation with a total attendance of between 30,000-40,000 people.73 CRP popularity was in large part due to the fact that the proceedings allowed communities to take control of their own histories, restore communal dignity and to collectively agree upon punishments. For instance in the village of Matata, twelve men participated in burning houses and intimidating the civilian population.

Using the CRP mechanism, the village collectively decided that for their reconciliation act the perpetrators would help the villages build and raise a new wooden flagpole, raise the new national flag and to then have a big party.74 CRPs were voluntary and heavily based on the East Timorese concept of the biti boot; which refers to the large woven mats used by local chiefs as common ground for community members involved in disputes. Disputes are resolved together on the mat overseen by community leaders; and the incorporation of this tradition into the CRP process led one village elder to state that “today is the end of twenty-four years of suffering, violence and division for our community. In 1999 we saw the Indonesian soldiers and militia leave. On May 20th 2002, we celebrated our independence as a nation. But it is only today that as a community we can be released from our suffering from this terrible past. Let us roll up the mat, and this will symbolize the end of all of these issues for us. From today we will only look forward.”75

Following decades of violence, East Timor finally emerged from Indonesian occupation, an escape precipitated by an outburst of violence in 1999 and the swift intervention of the international community. Under the aegis of the UNTAET, Regulation 2001/10 was passed establishing East Timor's truth and reconciliation commission: CAVR. Faced with massive obstacles – domestically due to the lack of sufficient human capital and infrastructural devastation, and internationally in the form of Indonesian obstinacy – CAVR used a mixture of methods to begin the process of reclaiming the country's history.

While the efficacy of some of these measures can be called into question, the emphasis on reconciliation over retributive justice ameliorated some of these concerns as information was collected to repair society not prosecute rights violators. The collection of stories from individuals and communities allowed CAVR to build a database, which while not exhaustive, allowed for collective healing and the legitimization of past suffering. Through the incorporation of traditional dispute resolution tools, best demonstrated in the use of CRPs, CAVR was able to facilitate marked improvements in communal cohesion, health and memory.





Bibliography:

Beigbeder,Yves. International Criminal Tribunals: Justice and Politics. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011.

Kingston, Jeffrey. “Balancing Justice and Reconciliation in East Timor.” Critical Asian Studies 38, no. 3 (2006): 271-302.

McRae, Rowan. “Truth-Seeking for Justice in East Timor.” Alternative Law Journal 31, no.6 (2006): 169-171.

Roosa, John. “How Does a Truth Commission Find Out what the Truth Is? The Case of East-Timor's CAVR.” Pacific Affairs 80, no. 4 (Winter 2007/2008): 569-580.

----------- “East Timor's Truth Commission: Introduction to Pacific Affairs Special Forum,” Pacific Affairs 80, no. 4 (Winter 2007/2008): 563-567.

Roper, Steven D. & Lilian A. Barria. Designing Criminal Tribunals: Sovereignty and International Concerns in the Protection of Human Rights. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2006.

Stahn, Carsten. “Accommodating Individual Criminal Responsibility and National Recognition: The United Nations Truth Commission for East Timor.” American Society of International Law 95, no. 4 (2001): 952-966.

Silove, D, A.B. Zwi & D. le Touze. “Do Truth Commissions Heal? The East Timor Experience.” The Lancet 367, no. 9518 (April 2006): 1222-1224.

Van der Wolf, W. & C. Tofan eds. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in East Timor. Nijmegen: International Courts Association, 2011.

Van Schaack, Beth & Ronald C. Slye eds. International Criminal Law and its Enforcement: Cases and Materials. 2nd ed. New York: Foundation Press, 2010.





Notes:


1CAVR refers to the Portuguese acronym for the Commission, it is the most commonly used term in the literature and will be used by this paper instead of the anglicized acronym CTRC

2This paper uses “Timor-Leste” and “East Timor” interchangeably, in part due to the variation inherent in the literature, as well as stylistic considerations

3Yves Beigbeder, International Criminal Tribunals: Justice and Politics (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), 110.

4Beth van Schaack & Ronald C. Slye eds., International Criminal Law and its Enforcement: Cases and Materials, 2nd ed. (New York: Foundation Press, 2010), 185.

5Carsten Stahn, “Accommodating Individual Criminal Responsibility and National Recognition: The United Nations Truth Commission for East Timor,” American Society of International Law 95, no. 4 (2001): 953.

6Jeffrey Kingston, “Balancing Justice and Reconciliation in East Timor,” Critical Asian Studies 38, no. 3 (2006): 279.

7Beigbeder, 110.

8W. van der Wolf & C. Tofan eds., The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in East Timor, (Nijmegen: International Courts Association, 2011), xvii.

9Beigbeder, 110.

10Steven D. Roper & Lilian A. Barria, Designing Criminal Tribunals: Sovereignty and International Concerns in the Protection of Human Rights, (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2006), 50.

11Beigbeder, 111.

12Kingston, 275.

13Beigbeder, 113.

14Schaack & Slye, 185.

15Beigbeder, 119.

16Schaack & Slye, 5.

17Stahn, 954.

18Schack & Slye, 11.

19Schaack &Slye, 11.

20Stahn, 954.

21John Roosa, “East Timor's Truth Commission: Introduction to Pacific Affairs Special Forum,” Pacific Affairs 80, no. 4 (Winter 2007/2008): 564.

22Roosa, 564-565.

23Roosa, 565.

24Wolf & Tofan, 113.

25Roosa, 565.

26Beigbeder, 119.

27Wolf & Tofan, xiii.

28Ibid, 116.

29Ibid, 128.

30Ibid, 133.

31Ibid, xvii.

32Kingston, 278.

33Beigbeber, 119.

34D. Silove, A.B. Zwi & D. le Touze, “Do Truth Commissions Heal? The East Timor Experience,” The Lancet 367, no. 9518 (April 2006): 1222.

35Beigbeber, 119.

36Stahn, 962.

37Wolf & Tofan, 486.

38Kingston, 282.

39John Roosa, “How Does a Truth Commission Find Out what the Truth Is? The Case of East-Timor's CAVR,” Pacific Affairs 80, no. 4 (Winter 2007/2008): 566.

40Schaack & Slye, 191.

41Stahn, 956.

42Schaack & Slye, 186.

43Ibid,

44Stahn, 961.

45Stahn, 966.

46Stahn, 964-965.

47Stahn,

48Rowan McRae, “Truth-Seeking for Justice in East Timor,” Alternative Law Journal 31, no.6 (2006): 170.

49Kingston, 275-276.

50Kingston, 276.

51McRae, 170.

52Ibid,

53Ibid,

54Wolf & Tofan, xvi.

55Wolf & Tofan, 487.

56D. Silove, A.B. Zwi & D. le Touze, 1222.

57Wolf & Tofan, 356.

58Roosa, “How Does a Truth Commission Find Out what the Truth Is? The Case of East-Timor's CAVR,” 576.

59Wolf & Tofan, xvi.

60Roosa, “How Does a Truth Commission....,” 578.

61Roosa, “How Does a Truth Commission... ,” 578.

62Ibid, 572-573.

63Ibid,

64Wolf & Tofan, 486.

65Roosa, “How Does a Truth Commission... ,” 572-573. - “[The CAVR Commission was] created in a strikingly different environment to a number of other truth and reconciliation commissions whose mandates recognized the importance of preparing as fully as possible, individual cases in order to facilitate prosecutions.”

66Roosa, “How Does a Truth Commission... ,” 566.

67Wolf & Tofan, 358.

68Wolf & Tofan, xv.

69Ibid, xiv.

70Ibid, 135-137.

71Ibid, 137.

72Ibid, 138.

73Ibid, xv.

74McRae, 170.

75Wolf & Tofan, xv.

Himalayan Hurdles: The 1962 War and a Legacy of Indo-Chinese Territorial Disputes




The emergence of the Indian Republic in 1947 and the People's Republic of China in 1949 drastically altered the political landscape of Asia. These two ancient civilizations, now encapsulated in nascent states in the mid 20th century soon found themselves hamstrung by history. The legacy of British colonial rule, the fall of the Qing dynasty and the emergence of a de facto independent Tibet eventually led to an ever-intensifying border dispute. Conflicting views and claims dating from the colonial past eventually erupted into war in 1962, leading to defeat for India and establishing a long-running distrust between New Delhi and Beijing. This paper argues that India, particularly its top leadership was not cognisant of the severity of the border issue, a deficit which led to war India's humiliation in 1962. Moreover this paper shall demonstrate how the actions of 1962 have led to the border dispute becoming a key aspect in Indo-Chinese relations, one which acts as a geopolitical barometer, reflecting levels of hostility, and highlighting national priorities.

To a large extent the current tensions which exists between Indian and China are the result of India's legacy as the (primary) successor state to the British Raj. During the colonial period Britain focused on maintaining the Empire's most lucrative and populous colony, and as such sought to ensure secure borders as well as the establishment of zones of influence which would provide British India with a buffer zone from any potential aggressors. In 1890 Britain and the Qing dynasty signed the Anglo-Chinese Convention which demarcated the borders of Sikkim, part of Britain's sphere of influence, and Tibet.1

Colonial Legacy:


A similar agreement occurred during the Simla Conference proceedings of 1913-1914 in which Britain negotiated directly with the semi-autonomous regime in Tibet, although Chinese representatives were also present. The fall of the Qing regime in 1912 left the status on Tibet in question, and as such Britain sought commercial and political inroads into the region in order to project imperial power, but also to establish a buffer zone for British India. The Chinese delegation refused to accept the terms of the Convention and left the proceedings, after which Britain voided their initial participation and signed the accord with the Tibetans the same day.

The Simla Conference concluded with Britain and Tibet delineating their borders along the McMahon Line, with 5180 square kilometres2 of Tibetan territory falling under British control. Henry McMahon, the Foreign Secretary of British India oversaw the implementation of the eponymous line as the definitive border between Tibet and India in the eastern sector of the Himalayas, resulting in the creation of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA).3

Following the withdrawal of Britain from the Indian subcontinent and the establishment of an independent India in 1947, the new republic sought to style itself as the successor to British India. Consequently Indian leaders sought to maintain the treaties which had been signed by Britain on behalf of the Raj, for in New Delhi's opinion the Simla Accord transferred not only the territorial sovereignty over NEFA but also Britain’s various privileges in Tibet.4 Ideally India sought the incorporation of Tibetan territories near it into the Republic,5 yet such aspirations were abandoned after 1949 in favour of establishing friendly relations with the nascent People's Republic of China (PRC).6


Communist Consolidation


The emergence of the PRC saw Beijing seek to reassert itself following a century of decline, and this strong impulse for rectification of past humiliations led the PRC to seek Tibet's reincorporation into the central government. Seeking to reverse Tibet's de facto independence which had prevailed during the preceding decades, China began to reassert itself in the region in 1949 and 1950. This situation caused alarm in India during 1950 with the Hitavada paper warning in January 12th 1950 that if Tibet falls then it remains only a matter of time before Kashmir, Nepal and Bengal become prey to Communism.7 In contrast to such concerns, Nehru sought to befriend rather than ostracize the PRC, seeking to incorporate the Chinese into world affairs and reduce tensions by ending their international isolation.8 Nehru sought to refrain from instigating an international incident over Tibet,9 a position clarified by his note from November 18th 1950 in which he stated that;

[China] is going to be our close neighbour for a long time to come. We are going to have a tremendously long common frontier...China will take possession of the whole of Tibet. There is no likelihood of Tibet being able to resist this or stop it. It is equally unlikely that any foreign power can prevent it. We cannot do so.10

This position makes sense when one examines Nehru's position regarding the status of India's northern borders, as extrapolated in an address to Parliament two days later. Nehru argued that “the frontier from Bhutan eastward has been clearly defined by the McMahon Line which was fixed by the Simla Convention of 1914...our maps show that the McMahon Line is our boundary and that is our boundary – map or no map.”11 India undertook a similar stance in on the north-western border in 1953. New Delhi resurrected the Ardagh-Johnson line which included the strategic area of Aksai Chin and was thought to conform to the perceived borders of the pre-colonial Dogra kingdom in Kashmir.

Unfortunately for India, China viewed Aksai Chin as vitally important as it was key to controlling not just western but the entirety of Tibet.12 Nehru was not overly concerned with Chinese actions in Tibet because he did not foresee any problems arising from competing territorial claims. Nehru accepted the fact that China would take all of Tibet, because unlike the Chinese he did not view any Indian territory as comprising a part of Tibet. Moreover given the bitter personal disappointment that was the Partition and the loss of significant portions of the subcontinent, Nehru's steadfast position on India's borders is not surprising.


The Tibet Factor


China's “liberation” of Tibet in 1951 saw the PRC take over total control over the region with Radio Beijing stating on November 3rd 1951 that Tibet had agreed to China stationing troops on the frontiers of India, Pakistan and Burma.13 China viewed Tibet as a fundamental part of its territory and its “liberation” was a response to Tibet's splitting off from the central government by the actions and influence peddling of Western powers. In accordance with China's effort to rectify past wrongs, the Chinese government declared that it did not recognize the terms of unjust treaties which were imposed on the imperial regime.

This claim also encapsulated the various agreements and treaties in the India-Tibet region. Given Beijing's anti-imperialism combined with the fact that Chinese delegates had walked out of the Simla Convention, the PRC refused to acknowledge the tenets of said accord. Beijing also called into question the 1890 Anglo-Chinese Convention on the Sikkim border as well as the validity of the 1842 border treaty between Kashmir and Tibet.14 This turn of events greatly exasperated the border issue, as now China was calling into question Indian territorial claims along the entire shared border.

Chinese denial of previous treaty terms was in part influenced by the perception that India was not overly interested in the region. For instance until early 1951 Nehru was still denying the presence of Chinese troops in Tibet,15 ignoring Vallabhbhai Patel's warnings about Chinese ambitions on India's northern and north-eastern frontiers. Nehru concurred with K.P.S. Menon and K.M. Panikkar that the friendship between the two countries would diffuse any tensions.16 This perception of a lack of tensions led to a lack of urgency, as seen in the case of Tawang in the NEFA.

Slow to act, India only formally annexed the strategically important town and monastery of Tawang in NEFA in February 1951, despite “controlling” it since the Simla Accord.17 This lethargy is doubly surprising given the fact that Tawang is situated on a vital corridor from Tibet into NEFA. Moreover Tawang was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama, and therefore China considered an integral part of Tibet.18 Consequently should the “reincarnation of the Dalai Lama be discovered in Bhutan, or somewhere in India, especially Sikkim, Tawang or Arunachal Pradesh, India [would] come under intense pressure from China.”19 More strikingly, when in 1953 Indian troops found a Chinese encampment at Barahoti in Uttar Pradesh, the Foreign Office only issued a bland statement that glossed over the issue.20

Initially, this relaxed stance appeared to be the correct course for 1954 saw the signing of the Panchsheel Treaty (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence) which recognized Chinese rule over Tibet, although what constituted Tibet differed for both governments. These differing conceptualizations of Tibet were not openly aired and as the treaty stipulated mutual respect for territorial sovereignty, non-aggression, and non-interference in the domestic affairs of the other, Nehru et al. continued to downplay the severity of the border issue.21 Importantly Nehru was unable to secure a Chinese endorsement of India's border claims over Himalayan territory inherited from the British.22

This is odd given the fact that Nehru was beginning to become suspicious of China. His suspicions were aroused by the fact that China rejected India's offer to honour the treaty for twenty-five years, instead insisting on the treaty expiring after eight years. Nehru noted this and informed the defence, home, and external affairs ministries that the northern frontier “should be considered a firm and definite one, which is not open to discussion with anybody.”23 If Nehru suspected any nefarious Chinese plans he did not act upon such suspicions, as India's defence spending declined during the 1954-1962.24


Nehru Taken By Surprise


An unwillingness to acknowledge or counter Chinese designs for the Sino-Indian frontier region appears to have gripped the senior Indian leadership, a lack of action which emboldened the Chinese to solidify their position. In 1956 China took control of the Tunjun La and Shipki La passes,25 and in 1957, assuming it was in its own territory and meeting no Indian resistance, China occupied a 59,000 square kilometre section of the eastern bulge of the Ladakh section of Kashmir (Aksai Chin).26

The border issue continued to remain a minor concern for India until 1958. During this year India experienced two shocks. The first centred around the remarks of Zhou Enlai to Nehru stating that no border treaty had ever been signed and that disputes existed.27 This led Nehru begin to “constantly...inform the Indian Parliament about the state of Sino-Indian relations, [especially since] Zhou openly claimed that the entire...border was unmarked and also laid claim to [over 100,000 square kilometres] of territory under Indian control.” The second revelation was the discovery in 1958 that China had built a road from Xinjiang to Tibet across the Aksai Chin region.28 The road was built during 1956-1957 and was 12,000 kilometres long. Nehru had initially dismissed claims of the road's existence as fantastical,29 yet once;

Indian border troops discovered [the] Chinese road on top of the disputed Aksai Chin plateau, the parliament cried foul and demanded that the road be bombed out of existence. Nehru was obliged to veer and respond to these calls with nationalist rhetoric. Whereas hitherto the boarder had not been a matter of national interest, the Himalayas now became the crown of India, and part of her culture, blood, and veins.30

After claiming that “not a blade of grass” grew on land in Ladkh claimed by India but used by China's road,31 and amid heightened tensions following the 1959 Tibetan revolt, the flight of the Dalai Lama to India and the resulting Chinese troops presence at the border,32 Nehru appeared to recognize the emotive overtones (albeit understating the scale) of the dispute, stating in an address to the Lok Sabha in September 1959 that in;

petty disputes it seems to me absurd for two great countries to rush at each other's throat and decide whether two miles of territory are on this side or on that side. But where national prestige is involved, it is not the two miles of territory that matter, but the nation's dignity and self-respect.33

The same month as Nehru's above statement, China published official maps which incorporated NEFA into China.34 These maps were released two weeks after Indian troops were forced to abandon their positions in Longju, and a mere month from the Kongka Pass Incident. On October 21st 1959 Chinese and Indian troops exchanged fire resulting in the deaths of one Chinese soldier, seven Indians and the capture of a further seven Indian soldiers.35

The deaths which resulted from the Kongka Pass clash saw a dramatic shift in Nehru's rhetoric in Parliament. It is most interesting to compare his statements above from September with the following from November 1959, in which he wishes that

the Chinese government and indeed other nations would try to understand [that] the Himalayas are something much more to us and more intimately tied up with India's history, tradition, faith, religion, beliefs, literature, and culture...they are part of ourselves...[the border] question affects our innermost being.36 [More pragmatically K.M. Panikkar stated that] the essential point about the Himalayas is not their width of 150 miles, but the [Tibetan] plateau behind it [...] in fact the vast barrier upland behind the Himalayas provides the most significant defence in depth imaginable [...] the creation of a broader no man's land on both sides of the Himalayas will give the Indian peninsula sufficient area for the development of her defence potential.37


In the spirit of K.M. Panikkar's statement, Nehru renegotiated treaties with Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim to bring them within India's northern security perimeter.38 Moreover he promised to Parliament that India would take “effective action” to recover its territory, initiating India's “forward policy” which sought to reassert control over disputed regions by sending Indian troops to occupy contested areas, forcing the Chinese to leave.


India Ossifies Stance, Rejects Conciliation


 During the early 1960s, India persisted with this policy, refusing any conciliatory overtures from China. In early 1960 Zhou Enlai travelled to India with a flexible proposal which would see China recognize the line of control in both the eastern and western sectors, in return for India's recognition of China's position in Aksai Chin.39 This proposal would not see China contest the McMahon line in the east, thereby allowing New Delhi to retain the southern Himalayan slopes key to the defence of north-eastern India.40 New Delhi promptly refused.

Nehru's refusal to engage China diplomatically can be criticized as a lack of vision by India, a critique compounded by the fact that prior to arriving in New Delhi, Zhou Enlai had signed a border demarcation treaty with Burma in Rangoon,41 and following his stay in India he proceeded to Nepal where he also signed a border delineation agreement with Katmandu.42 Tensions continued to worsen with India entrenching its “no negotiations” stance, recalling its ambassador from Beijing in 196143 and by September 1962 reclaiming some 6500 square kilometres of the 36,000 under dispute in Ladakh and completely easing Chinese forces out of Beijing's claims in NEFA.44 In response by September 1962 there were eight Chinese divisions on the Sino-Indian border.45

Tensions finally reached an insurmountable level, when on October 20th 1962, some 30,000 Chinese troops crossed the border in various locations along the shared frontier.46 The Chinese response to increasing Indian advances in the disputed territory can be summed up by Mao's statement that “Are we going to invade others? No, we will invade no one anywhere. But if others invade us, we will fight back.”47 Ironically both sides considered the other the aggressor and, for China viewed India as encroaching on territory it considered its own, with its retaliation a defensive action, and India saw the Chinese invasion as an offensive act.

India Outclassed


Unlike India, the Chinese military did not underestimate the Indian army, and combined with surprise (especially since Nehru had acknowledged the potential for war with China but had considered India sufficiently prepared to repel an attack) and greater numbers, quickly secured large advances into India proper.48 In comparison the state of Indian forces in the disputed areas was woefully inadequate, with troops sporting outdated weapons, a lack of proper clothing, supplies, and logistical support.49

On October 24th China suggested a ceasefire, disengagement and negotiations and similarly on November 8th China suggested that both parties retreat twenty kilometres behind their respective sides of the McMahon Line. India refused both offers stating that it would only treat with China after it had removed all troops from Indian soil.50 Consequently fighting continued until November 20th when Beijing declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew to its former positions,51 imposing conditions it had sought all along.52

Indian morale was destroyed and the country and leadership saw their defeat as a national humiliation. As a result of the war, China remained in sole possession of the Aksai Chin region. Furthermore, during the war China had initiated talks with Pakistan regarding their common border. These talks, which concluded on March 2nd 1963, saw Pakistan transfer approximately 7000 square kilometres of Kashmir to China. This action greatly angered India, as Pakistan had effectively gifted land to China that was under dispute between Islamabad and New Delhi.53


Wartime Legacy Propagates Decades of Tensions


As a consequence of these actions, Indian foreign policy was greatly affected vis-à-vis China and the border regions, remaining tense until the present day. In reaction to the misinformed and distracted behaviour prior to the war, India overreacted, hardening its no-negotiation stance, contending that its was the lack of a strong presence in the border areas and firm hand when dealing with China that doomed the country in the 1962 war. This shift in policy can be seen by the fact that Nehru doubled the Indian defence budget in 1963.54

It did not take long for the border issue to reemerge, thereby continuing the tension and mistrust between India and China. During the 1965 India-Pakistan War, China demanded the demolition of fifty-seven Indian military posts which it claimed were illegally on Tibetan territory. India was given seventy-two hours to comply, yet Indian refusal combined with international support for India led the ultimatum to die a quiet death.55 Tensions flared up again in 1967 as both sides exchanged artillery fire in the NEFA.56 The 1970s began in a promising manner, for in 1970 Mao sought to repair relations with India, again proposing the plan Zhou had presented in 1960.

This offer was important because it marked the last time that China would offer such a flexible and pragmatic solution to the border dispute. Whether India was willing to negotiate is not known, for if any efforts at rapprochement existed they were quickly eclipsed by the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.57 With the exception of the 1975 border clash between India and China, the 1970s were a relatively quiet period. The aforementioned 1975 clash coincided with India's absorption of Sikkim into the Republic following a plebiscite in the region. China protested this move as it considered Sikkim as part of the area under dispute.58

During the 1980s and 1990s relations between New Delhi and Beijing remained tense, yet there developed a common wisdom that “since neither China nor India would ever give up the areas they occupied, the most feasible settlement would be acceptance by both sides of the existing line of actual control (LAC), with some minor adjustments.”59 In conjunction with such thinking, during December 1981 and September 1984 India and China engaged in five rounds of discussions, with China in 1982 suggesting that both countries recognize the status quo (China in Aksai Chin and India in NEFA). Again India refused to entertain this option.60

During the mid-1980s talks had slowed to a stalemate as several incidents raised tensions to new heights. In 1984 India seized positions on the Siachen glacier from Pakistan in a move that worried Beijing. 1986 saw a border clash between China and India erupt in the Sumdorong Chu valley following Indian claims that China had built a helipad on its territory. Over the next year tensions rose with widespread fear that a second war was a distinct possibility. Tensions were not helped by India's Operation Chequerboard which in 1986-87 simulated a border war along the McMahon line, with India amassing 400,000 troops in NEFA to conduct training.61

Moreover during this same time period India undertook the reorganization of the NEFA into the state of Arunachal Pradesh, incorporating it into the Indian Union.62 Despite these increased tensions, in November 1987 a new round of talks were initiated in which “the old Indian stand that no negotiations were necessary because the boundary was well known, or that there could be no talks without prior vacation of Chinese troops from Ladakh, was buried quietly.”63


Tensions Thaw, Talks Commence


The late 1980s and 1990s saw a thawing of Indo-Chinese relations as demonstrated by the fourteen rounds of negotiations held between 1988 and 2002. This thaw was also notably signalled by Rajiv Gandhi's 1988 visit to China, the first such visit in twenty-five years, which resulted in the creation of a joint working group to resolve the border issue.64 This visit was reciprocated by Li Peng's visits to India in 1991 and 1993, with the signing on September 7th 1993 of “peace and tranquillity” agreement between Li Peng and Narasimha Rao respecting the LAC.65

A similar agreement was signed in 1996 during Jiang Zemin's India trip which saw both sides renounce the use of military force, limit deployment and work together on issues of mutual security. 66 Whereas these meetings helped break down the lack of communication between India and China, it is important to note that during the 1999 Kargil War, China increased the intensity and frequency of its intrusions in the Ladakh region.67 Therefore “despite the landmark agreements of 1993 and 1996, and a number of visits by leaders of the highest level, the two countries took five years to exchange maps. Consequently there persist, a sort of stagnation in efforts toward LAC delineation and balanced troop reduction.”68

This lethargy at the negotiation table has prolonged efforts to reach a settlement, and this severely undermined efforts at resolution as India's patience to negotiate is dwindling and since 2005 China has taken on an increasingly hardline stance on the border issue in part due to its rising international political and military clout. Zhou Enlai's offer is now firmly off the table,69 with China stating that “unless India is ready to make territorial concessions, the border issue cannot be resolved for the next thousand years.”70 China alleges that India controls 90,000 square kilometres of territory it deems to be Chinese, citing the ominous statistic that this area corresponds to two-and-a-half Taiwans.71 Moreover Chinese military commanders in Chengdu and Lanzhou acknowledge that a potential war with India remains central their military scenarios and planning.72


Talks Stall, Geo-politics Take Over


In addition to this contingency planing by China, in 2007 India increased the manpower of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police by twenty battalions, battalions which will join the Indian 2nd Mountain Division whose motto perhaps unsurprisingly given the historical tensions, remains “They Shall Not Pass.”73 Therefore despite another fourteen rounds of negotiations between 2003 and 2011, little has been accomplished as relations and tensions have again worsened. Since 2005 China has referred to Arunachal Pradesh as Zangnan, or southern Tibet in Chinese.74 This term has only been in existence since 2005, does not represent a historical name for the region and is merely a tool to bolster Chinese claims to the area.75

2006 saw Beijing further increase its demands for populated areas, notably Tawang, despite a 2005 guideline76 between China and India and signed by Wen Jiabao stating that there would be no transfer of populated areas in a border settlement.77 India characterized the terms of such demands by China as “humiliating and non-negotiable,”78 yet in May 2007 Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi informed his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee that the “mere presence of populated area in Arunachal Pradesh would not affect Chinese claims on the boundary.”79 The same month an Indian official from Arunachal Pradesh was denied a visa to China and in 2007 there were 170 border incursions by Chinese troops.

In 2008 there were 210 incursions and 2300 instance of aggressive border patrolling, with a similar number in 2009.80 These incursions coincide with Chinese criticism of PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh in January 2008 to unveil major infrastructure projects. Moreover during the 2008 Tibetan riots, China increased border incursions in large part to dissuade India of any notions of weakness or lack of control.81 PM Singh was similarly rebuked by China for a campaign visit for the Arunachal Pradesh legislative elections in October 2009. Amusingly a month later India approved a visit by the Dalai Lama to Tawang, followed by China blocking a $2.9 billion dollar Indian loan request from the Asian Development Bank because $60 million was earmarked for watershed development in Arunachal Pradesh.82

Whereas the issue of the border demarcation of India's northern frontier initially emerged as a concern of the British colonial authority, following independence in 1947 India slowly became aware of the importance of the Himalayan region to its national defence interests. Moreover India came into conflict with Asia's other great and ancient civilization; China. The escalation of the border issue from minor peripheral annoyance to the grounds for war caught India off guard and precipitated a short but humiliating war in which India found itself humbled.

Following the 1962 war, India sought to compensate for its past failings by hardening its stance and refusing compromise. Eventually, following several tense decades interspersed with violent clashes, New Delhi yielded to the idea of negotiation. Unfortunately progress was slow, eventually stagnating, taxing Indian patience to negotiate as well as eroding China's inclination toward conciliation and mediation. By the new millenia India faced an ever more assertive China, with both sides using the border issue to vent mutual frustrations and engage in sabre rattling on the roof of the world.





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Notes:

1Bruce A. Elleman, Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989, Warfare and History, (London: Routledge, 2001), 260.

2For the sake of consistency, all land claims are given in square kilometres. As a result some quotations have been altered

3Jayanta Kumar Ray, India's Foreign Relations 1947-2007, South Asian History and Culture, (London: Routledge, 2011), 197.

4Manjeet S. Pardesi, “Instability in Tibet and the Sino-Indian Strategic Rivalry: Do Domestic Politics Matter?” in Asian Rivalries: Conflict, Escalation, and Limitations on Two Level Games, eds. Ganguly Sumit & William R. Thompson, Stanford Security Series. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 95.

5Ray, 216.

6Ray, 226.

7Shalini Saksena, “Indian Perceptions of the Emergence of the People's Republic of China,” in Indian and China in the Colonial World, ed. Thampi, Madhavi, (New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2005), 219.

8Saksena, 215.

9Saksena, 221. “Nehru views the establishment of the Peking regime as the culminating act of a century-old political renaissance...to be welcomed as part of the decline of Western colonial influence all over Asia. A sense of Asian solidarity takes precedence over divergent ideologies and social, economic and political systems.”

10Surjit Mansingh, “Perceptions and India-China Relations at the End of the Colonial Era,” in Indian and China in the Colonial World, ed. Thampi, Madhavi, (New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2005), 238.

11Ray, 240.

12Pardesi, 100-101.

13Ray, 242.

14Elleman, 258-260.

15Ray, 242.

16Sakensa, 215-216.

17Pardesi, 101.

18Pardesi, 101.

19Mohan Malik, China and India: Great Power Rivals. (Boulder: First Forum Press, 2011), 143.

20Sumit Ganguly, “India and China: Border Issues, Domestic Integration, and International Security,” in The India-China Relationship: What the United States Needs to Know, eds. Frankel, Francine R. & Harry Harding, (New York: Colombia University Press, 2004), 112.

21Peter Worthing, A Military History of Modern China: From the Manchu Conquest to Tian'anmen Square, (Westport Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 2007), 164.

22Ganguly, 109.

23Ray, 245.

24Ray 255.

25Elleman, 259-260.

26David Van Praagh, The Greater Game: India's Race with Destiny and China, (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2003), 270.

27Elleman, 260.

28Worthing, 165.

29Ray, 249.

30Jonathan Holslag, China and India: Prospects for Peace, Contemporary Asia in the World, (New York: Colombia University Press, 2010), 39.

31Van Praagh, 270.

32Pardesi, 103.

33Priya Chacko, Indian Foreign Policy: The Politics of Postcolonial Identity from 1947 to 2004, Interventions, (London: Routledge, 2012), 94.

34Ray, 250.

35Ray, 251.

36Chacko, 97.

37Pardesi, 95.

38Mansingh, 238.

39Van Praagh, 273.

40Worthing, 166.

41Ray, 253.

42Van Praagh, 273.

43Ray, 305.

44Van Praagh, 272.

45Ray, 263.

46Elleman, 260.

47Holslag, 34.

48Ray, 282.

49Pradesi, 106. Ray, 260.

50Ray, 287-290.

51Ray, 295.

52Van Praagh, 285.

53Pradesi, 107-108. Ray, 302.

54Holslag, 39-40.

55Ray, 303.

56Ganguly, 119.

57Ganguly, 121.

58Holslag, 43.

59Malik, 39.

60Ray, 307.

61Pradesi, 109.

62Ray, 308.

63Ray, 308.

64Ray, 309.

65Ganguly, 123. Ray, 310. – Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas

66Ray, 312. – Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas

67Malik, 42.

68Ray, 317.

69Malik, 98.

70Malik, 153.

71Malik, 152.

72Holslag, 126.

73Holslag, 127.

74Malik, 44.

75Malik, 151.

76Malik 147, - Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles – Article VII

77Ray, 322.

78Ray, 145-146.

79Malik, 147.

80Malik, 43, 147.

81Malik, 148.

82Ray, 323.