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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Express Investigation Part-2: Under China’s watch — J&K to North-East, Rijiju to Mufti, many CMs in between

Significantly, the database includes as many as 30 prominent leaders and bureaucrats from the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, the arena of the current India-China standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: September 15, 2020 7:49:31 am
Under China's watch — J&K to North-East, Rijiju to Mufti, many CMs in betweenThis assumes significance given that Zhenhua Data claims to be working with the intelligence, government, military and security agencies.

The geography of those being monitored in India by the Chinese firm Zhenhua Data is telling.

The Indian Express investigation of Zhenhua’s (OKIDB) Overseas Key Information DataBase reveals that at least 180 politicians and bureaucrats on the target list are from states in the North-East including Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland; Sikkim; and the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir; and Ladakh.

This assumes significance given that Zhenhua Data claims to be working with the intelligence, government, military and security agencies.

Significantly, the database includes as many as 30 prominent leaders and bureaucrats from the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, the arena of the current India-China standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

China was in a face-off with India at Doklam in Sikkim in 2017; Beijing had knocked at the UN Security Council seeking a meeting to discuss India’s abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir last August, and earlier in March had stalled a UNSC proposal to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

READ | Express Investigation Part-2: New economy under Chinese watch — Tech start-ups, range of apps from payment to healthcare

Beijing’s watch on the North-East has many reasons. For over a decade, China’s dam-building spree and water diversion plans along the Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsangpo) on its side also remain a source of tension between the two neighbours.

Those in the Zhenhua list include at least 12 current or former Chief Ministers and their relatives; 10 serving ministers holding infrastructure portfolios such as Power, Water resources, Irrigation, River Development and Public works, and several key bureaucrats from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and West Bengal.

From Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs and Sports to Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of J&K when it was a state – she is currently in detention — those being monitored include Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his deputy Yanthungo Patton.

READ | Express Investigation Part-2: End user key, govt looks at ‘depth’ of data mined by China

Not only do these states and UTs share international borders with five countries including China, they are key to the Centre’s Act East Policy being a critical physical bridge between India and South-East Asia.

Politically, the ruling BJP has expanded its footprint in the region with its own Chief Ministers in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura, since it assumed power at the Centre in 2014.

Among those being monitored are former members of Parliament from Ladakh, leaders of PDP and National Conference in the Valley; state Congress President Ghulam Ahmad Mir; former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz; Karan Singh, son of Hari Singh, the last king of the princely state of J&K.

EDITORIAL | Strategic targeting by Chinese firm raises questions that need to be understood — before being addressed

In OKIDB, former Chief Ministers from the North-East include two from Assam, three from Arunachal Pradesh, two from Meghalaya, one each from Manipur, Sikkim and Mizoram.

The list mentions bureaucrats including Umang Narula, now advisor to Lieutenant Governor in Ladakh, and Japu Deru, former MLA from Bomdila and former advisor to Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu.

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