Referred as ‘Big Boost for India-China Relations”, media reports that India and China are to sign an ‘Internal Security Cooperation Agreement’ this month during the visit of China’s Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi. According to a MHA official, the Chinese minister will hold discussions with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, following which the pact will be signed covering intelligence sharing, exchange programs, sharing of best practices, cooperation in disaster mitigation besides others (left unspecified). The MHA official also stated that a Chinese delegation had met an Indian team on August 28 to hold discussions on the impending visit of the Chinese Minister of Public Security and the proposed agreement. This is supposed to be a follow up to the informal summit in Wuhan, China between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April this year, which helped restore bilateral relations.
Media, quoting the MHA official, says that the much-anticipated meeting may lead to a future India-China agreement on the exchange of convicted prisoners, and that India does not have an extradition treaty with China, neither an agreement on swapping of prisoners. One wonders if enough thought has been given to the issue and the mismatch between what is planned to be discussed and what needs to be discussed, in backdrop of what China says, does not say, and how she plays her cards. Significantly, there is no record of India having ever signed an ‘Internal Security’ Cooperation Agreement with any country, albeit India has signed Social Security Agreement (SSA) with 18 countries: with Belgium and Germany in 2009; with Switzerland, Denmark, Luxemburg, France, South Korea, and Netherlands in 2011; with Hungary in 2013, with Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic in 2014, with Norway, Austria, and Canada in 2015, with Australia in 2016, and; with Brazil in 2017.
SSA is different from the proposed Internal Securty Cooperation Agreement, in that, SSA deals with issues like: schemes for public sector enterprises and autonomous bodies; pension schemes for government bodies and rural sector; healthcare and provident fund / pension for labour force; social seurity schemes for specific sets of industries; privately managed schemed supplements by government schemes; increasing coverage of informal unorganised sectors, and new schemes in the offing. The last India-Brazil SSA signed in March 2017 (effective January 1, 2018) mutually agreed to: exempt detached workers from making social security contributions in either countries so long as they are making such contributions in respective countries; establishes rights and obligations of nationals of both countries and provides for equal treatment of the nationals of both countries and unrestricted payment of pensions even in the case of residence in the other contracting state, and; requirements to be entitled to a pension can be met by aggregating periods of insurance completed in India and Brazil, whereby each country pays only the pension for the insurance periods covered by its laws.
The title ‘India-China Internal Security Cooperation Agreement’ itself needs review. Internal security is intimately linked to external security and cannot be compartmentalized; it is no more exclusive affair even though the present government has put external security on the backburner. Intelligence sharing is no doubt essential with foreign countries, while sharing what does not impinge on our national interests. Whether MHA is the right entity to sign an agreement with a foreign country for intelligence sharing can be best decided by the government. However, it may be noted that the SSA, including the last one signed with Brazil, were signed by the MEA on behalf of the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Sharing best practices and cooperation in disaster mitigation is good but certainly such an agreement should not be titled ‘Internal Security Cooperation Agreement’; such issues can be under separate MoUs.
Though not strictly in MHA’s sphere, It would also be beneficial to have cooperation with China in other areas like agricultural growth, management of agriculture produce, waste disposal, rain management including rain making. It is pathetic to see visuals on TV of farmers feeding tomatoes to animals and throwing them on the roads in frustration because they cannot get the right prices. Same goes for onions and milk. Media reports of October 2017 in multiple national dailies gave country-wide wastage figures of vegetables and fruit from 50% to papers to 72%, milk included in some reports. What an irony this is with all the talk of farmer welfare and public announcements of farmer schemes, which itself are diluted due corruption; India stands at 81st position in the latest Transparency International Corruption Index. But the pathetic part is to read the Hunger Facts, that say: Over 20 crore Indians will sleep hungry tonight; 10 million people die every year of chronic hunger and hunger-related diseases, and; only 8% are the victims of hunger caused by high-profile earthquakes, floods, droughts and wars. Have we as a country ever focused on this crucial grass-root welfare of the farmers, the hunger afflicted, and public at large rather than focusing on caste, creed, quota, reservations and politicking for votes?
Though not part of the proposed pact, the MHA official has pointed out that both countries don’t have agreement for exchange of convicted prisoners; no extradition treaty with China, neither an agreement on swapping of prisoners. Such agreements are good on paper but the behavioral pattern of the Chinese of outright denial or cooking up stories about prisoners must be taken into account. As of now, why is the MHA not discussing Chinese activities that directly affects our internal security: China supporting and arming the Maoists, and insurgencies in our northeast, like PLA of Manipur; past incident of Chinese nationals caught with fake Indian documents on mission to meet Naga rebels; Chinese intelligence establishing the United Liberation Front of West, East and Southeast Asia (UNLFWSEA) bringing nine militant groups of northeast under one umbrella including the NSCN (K) and ULFA; China sheltering militant ULFA leader Paresh Barua and his followers at Ruli in China, for which enough inputs are available with our intelligence issues. There is enough to nail China-Pakistan nexus in this regard as well. It will be a folly to acknowledge Hijbul Mujahideen (HM) in northeast only handiwork of Pakistan alone; China would be as complicit.
Above are the real issues related to internal security which MHA / government needs to forcefully put across to the Chinese rather than goody-goody Ni Hao Ma and Namastey meetings. Of course China will fake innocence but if we remain squeamish, China will expand her activities to destabilize us from within. Chinese intelligence operations are well established pan-India. Last December, Qin Min Xiv Xiang, 55 year old Chinese national from Fujian province of China was apprehended by the Army for spying activiities. Recently, Delhi Police arrested Chinese national Charlie Peng from Majnu ka Tila of North Delhi. Peng aged 39 is running an espionage ring in the country. Police recovered an Indian passport from him (issued from Manipur), an Aadhaar Card with address of a residential colony in Dwarka, South Delhi, a Fortuner SUV, USD 2,000, 22,000 Baht (Thai currency), Rs 3.5 lakh in Indian currency, while documents showed he was living in DLF, Gurgaon and running a company from a plush office in same area. Belonging to Nanjing area of China, Peng is reportedly well trained agent. He crossed over to India around five years ago, married an Indian girl and is running a currency exchange firm, suspected as front for hawala transactions. His movements were traced to northeast and to Himachal Pradesh.
If the above is considered an alarmist view, witness Chinese national Ji Chaoqun arrested in the US on September 25, 2018; he came to the US on student visa in 2013, later enlisted in the army reserves, and was helping Beijing recruit American scientists and engineers – providing Chinese intelligence with biographical information about eight American citizens, some of whom were US defense contractors. According to a court affidavit, Ji was working at the direction of a “high-level intelligence officer” in China’s Ministry of State Security, which “handles civilian intelligence collection and is responsible for counter-intelligence and foreign intelligence, as well as political security.” Chinese intelligence obviously has an elaborate intelligence collection plan worldwide, which is part of its plan of becoming a ‘Great Power’. In case of India, it can be expected to go beyond intelligence collection; to include creating instability. The officials manning the Chinese Embassy at New Delhi and the Consulates in Kolkata and Mumbai are PLA officers, veteran PLA or specific appointees of China’s Communist Party. They need to be monitored – same as Pakistanis.
In recent months, Indian media had reported that scores of Chinese are learning Tamil and Malyalam to monitor the internet. On September 19, our media reported that 10 Chinese students (one boy and nine girls) are out to master Tamil at the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU). It would be naïve to think this is some spontaneous love for Tamilians. Rest assured they would have been detailed by Chinese intelligence keeping in mind future tasks. It is a well planned intelligence mosaic, even as these operatives portray the innocence of baby chickens (Choochas). In May 2017, 10 high-end Chinese DJI Phantom-4 PRO drones were recovered from a passenger at Bengaluru international airport. Capable of flying at 6,000 metres with half-kg payload, they can live-stream hi-definition images and videos from two kms away, can be geo-located anywhere, and have ‘Tap-by-Use’ feature allowing users to tap on an individual in a crowd on his screen, who the drone will then lock on and track. These drones were recovered but others may have slipped into the country. Treating these as isolated incidents, not connecting the dots and building on them would be naïve. We should be clear that both China and Pakistan are eyeing South India. In 2005, own intelligence traced footprints of ISI and Al Qaeda in Kerala led to birth of Popular Front of India.
Even with a country like Nepal, China does NOT have an ‘Internal Security Cooperation Agreement’; 10 agreement between them are:
- Nepal to use China’s sea port facility;
- Transit Transport Agreement to be reviewed every 10 years;
- China to build a regional international airport in Pokhara;
- China, Nepal exploring the possibilities of signing a bilateral free trade agreement;
- China to explore the possibility of finding oil and gas reserves in Nepal;
- China to provide economic and technical support to Nepal to implement the project on Pokhara airport;
- China to distribute solar panels in Nepal’s rural areas by tapping its Climate Fund;
- China to build, manage and maintain Xiarwa Boundary River Bridge at Hilsa, Humla;
- Nepal, China to strengthen intellectual property system in both the countries;
- Nepal, China to extend cooperation and exchange information on banking regulations, and;
- China to build the $2.5 billion Budhi Gandaki hydroelectric project in Nepal.
On balance, let us not rush headlong into something called ‘Internal Security Cooperation Agreement’ with China just to boost image of the Home Minister and the MHA, and then keep tom-tomming it like major achievement for years to come.