Archive for September, 2017

Smile …

Posted on September 30, 2017. Filed under: Light plus Weighty, Searching for Success |

♦ I read that 4,153,237 people got married last year; not to cause any trouble but shouldn’t that be an even number?

♦ When wearing a bikini, women reveal 90% of their body… men are so polite they only look at the covered parts.

♦ A recent study has found that women who carry a little extra weight, live longer than the men who mention it.

♦ Relationships are a lot like algebra Have you ever looked at your X and wondered Y?

♦ America is a country which produces citizens who will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won’t cross the street to vote.

♦ You know that tingly little feeling you get when you like someone? That’s your common sense leaving your body.

♦ Did you know that dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish?

♦ My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We’ll see about that.

♦ I think my neighbor is stalking me as she’s been googling my name on her computer. I saw it through my telescope last night.

♦ Money talks, but all mine ever says is goodbye.

♦ If you think nobody cares whether you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

♦ I always wondered what the job application is like at Hooters. Do they just give you a bra and say, “Here, fill this out?”

♦ Denny’s has a slogan, “If it’s your birthday, the meal is on us.” If you’re in Denny’s and it’s your birthday, your life sucks!

♦ The location of your mailbox shows you how far away from your house you can be in a robe before you start looking like a mental patient.

♦ The reason Mayberry was so peaceful and quiet was because nobody was married. Andy, Aunt Bea, Barney, Floyd, Howard, Goober, Gomer, Sam, Earnest T Bass, Helen, Thelma Lou, Clara and, of course, Opie were all single. The only married person was Otis, and he stayed drunk.

♦ I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom until they are flashing behind you.

♦ I think it’s pretty cool how Chinese people made a language entirely out of tattoos.

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Phrases – Origin …

Posted on September 30, 2017. Filed under: The English |

There is an old Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial, of course) to be hung. The horse-drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like ‘ONE LAST DRINK’.
If he said YES, it was referred to as *ONE FOR THE ROAD.
If he declined, that prisoner was ON THE WAGGON
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They once used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then, once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery.
If you had to do this to survive you were “piss poor”,
but worse than that were the really poor folk, who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot, They *“Didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.
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The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be in England. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in May and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of “carrying a bouquet when getting married”
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Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, and finally the children. Last of all the babies.
By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.
Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”!
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Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
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There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom, where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt.
Hence the saying, *”Dirt poor.”
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The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: *a thresh hold.*
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In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old’.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.
When visitors came over they would hang up their bacon, to show off.
It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “Bring home the bacon.”
They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around talking and *‘chew the fat’.
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Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, *tomatoes were considered poisonous.*
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Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or ‘The Upper Crust”.
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Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.
They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ‘Holding a Wake’.
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England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people, so they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell.
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus someone could be, ‘Saved by the Bell’ or was considered a ‘Dead Ringer’.

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Indian Math and Music …

Posted on September 26, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Prof. K. Ramasubramanian from IIT, Mumbai, delivered a lecture titled “Glimpses of Indian Mathematics: Sutra Style to Paragon of Poetry” at MIT on Sunday, August 13, 2017.

In this talk organized by Samskrita Bharati Boston and MIT Samskritam, Prof. K. Ramasubramanian offered an illuminating view of Indian Mathematics over the ages, its unique approach based on poetry rather than prose, the need for such an approach, and presented many surprising facts about mathematical results ranging from algebra and trigonometry through calculus, that were discovered in India much before the West.

For example, Fibonacci numbers are described in Bharata’s Natya Shastra. Prof. Ramasubramanian mostly used the work of Pingala (prior to 300 BCE), Bhaskara (12th century CE) and Nityananda (17th century CE), mathematicians from three different periods of history to illustrate his ideas.

It was fascinating as well as amusing to learn how complex ideas in Math were taught and transmitted over the millennia via the medium of delightful poetry, in effect giving a musical character to Mathematics! Here are highlights from his talk.
Music in Mathematics

In most of the world, technical literature is written in prose, while poetry is reserved for subjects involving fantasy and feeling. However, a significant corpus of scientific and mathematical literature in the Indian tradition have been composed in Sanskrit verses that can set to melodious music.

This approach was driven by compulsion, because the Indian learning tradition was an oral tradition where ideas are captured and transmitted via sound rather than the written word. There was an element of choice also to this approach because structuring a concept as musical poetry makes it fun and easy to memorize.

For example, this verse (link to recitation) captures the date of its composition in musical form (in a meter known as “shaardUla vikriiDita”). The chanted verse actually describes the following set of simultaneous equations: y=m2, t = y/2, v= t x 3, b = v/2, that when solved will yield the exact date of the verse’s composition (April 25, 1629)!

This musical method of conveying ideas in Math has been used for representing numbers, specifying the value of pi and representing it as an infinite series, specifying expressions for sums of series, and even computing the derivative of a quotient, among other things!

The earliest shaastras were composed in sutra style, for example Panini’s grammar, and Bodhayana’s shulba (measurement) sUtras – see “Pythagorean” theorem above. A sutra is a pithy aphorism and its length is not uniformly regulated, and is not really constrained by any metrical discipline.

The rules of prosody (chandas shaastra) were composed later in the 2nd century BCE by Pingala-naga (though Prof. Ramasubramanian believes that Pingala may have predated Panini, based on the coarser style of the sUtras used in chandas shaastra), and consists of two classes of meters, one based on number of syllables (varNa vRRittaH), and another based on the number of beats (maatraa vRRittaH).

The later shaastras were set to these poetic meters, and are more musical to hear than sutras. Use of a meter restricts the choice of words that can be used in a verse, and therefore created challenges in conveying mathematical ideas. This resulted in some innovations such as the “khyughRRi” representation invented by Aryabhata, and the number naming system of “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa”.

The khyughRRi notation for instance used vowels to denote powers of 10 and consonants for other numbers (e.g., ka=1, ki=100, ku=100000), and created new (but difficult to pronounce) words such as “khyughRRi” (=4.32 million) for numbers used in astronomical calculations. The “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa” approach employs representative ideas to stand in for numbers that these ideas are typically associated with.

For example, the word “eye” (netra) represents the number two (we have two eyes), “veda” represents the number four (there are four vedas), and “aakaasha” (space – is empty) the number zero. Further a composer can choose from any of the numerous synonyms of these words which may each have a different number of syllables to meet metrical requirements in a verse. For example, “kham”, “vyoma”, “aakaasha” are all synonyms for “sky” but with different number (1, 2 and 3 respectively) of syllables.

An example of “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa” may be found here, where bhU” (earth) represents the number one, and “baaNa” (arrows of manmatha) represents the number five.

Meters based on syllables and beats lead to innovations that are today known by the names of scientists in the West who also discovered them much later. For example, Pascal’s triangle, which captures binomial coefficients in a triangular array of numbers, is described by the concept of “meru prastaara” (arrangement in the form of a mountain), the construction of which is described by a Sanskrit verse composed by Halaayudha.

Prof. Ramasubramanian presents this verse and its translation here. Each level of the “meru prastaara” captures the number and types of meters that are possible for a given number of syllables. When the number of beats is fixed instead of the number of syllables, and a rhythm is constructed either using a set of ‘laghu’ (1 beat long) or ‘guru’ (2 beats long) units, determining the number of rhythms possible leads to the discovery of what is known as the Fibonacci sequence in the west.

Prof. Manju Bhargava from Princeton University, the young winner of the 2014 Fields Medal (considered by many as the Nobel Prize equivalent in Mathematics), who as a tabla player encountered this problem of number of rhythms given a fixed number of beats, popularized the fact that this problem has been solved before Fibonacci (1202 CE) by an Indian Mathematician known as Hemachandra (1150 CE).

Fibonacci numbers are now also referred to as “Hemachandra numbers” by many. Prof. Ramasubramanian pointed out that there are mathematicians even before Hemachandra, such as Virahanka (600 CE), Pingala (200 CE), and Bharata (100 CE) who described the same idea.

In fact, these numbers are described in Bharata’s “naaTya shaastra”. To add to the fun, the Hemachandra numbers can be derived from the “meru prastaara” by adding along the diagonals.

Prof. Ramasubramanian also presented verses from Bhaskaracharya’s Lilavati, that has problems at the level of high school algebra expressed as poetry. One verse dealt with a problem involving a single variable linear equation.

This verse expresses what would now be called a “word problem”, but with a poetic touch and describes a collection of bees split divided into various fractions groups. Here is a link to the recitation of the verse. Another verse described a “word problem” involving a quadratic equation.

The problem uses a setting in the “Mahabharata” war and deals with the number of arrows that Arjuna needs to discharge to kill Karna on the battlefield (link to recitation).

A more interesting verse (link to recitation) specifies not only the sum (sankalita) of the first ‘n’ natural numbers (1+2+3+…+n = n(n+1)/2), but also the sum (sankalitaikya) of such sums: (1 + (1+2) + (1+2+3) + … (1+2+3+…n) = n(n+1)(n+2)/1.2.3).

Trigonometry was important for astronomical calculations. Prof. Ramasubramanian described the work of Nityananda, who was a brilliant astronomer in the court of Mughal Emperor Shaj Jahan, and the author of the monumental treatise “Sarvasiddhaantaraaja” (1639 CE).

In addition to original contributions, Nityananda also absorbed ideas from various sources including Arabic Astronomy and Mathematics, and incorporated them into his Sanskrit works.

Nityananda devoted 65 verses to trigonometric sine formulae, provided a summary of Arab mathematician Al-Kashi’s method for determining the sine of 1 degree, and an original procedure to solve the cubic equation that arises in Al-Kashi’s method, all in verse form. The sine formulae that he describes includes the well-known expansion for sin(a+b) = sin(a)cos(b) + cos(a)sin(b), but in verse form.

Prof. Ramasubramanian also mentioned the work of other earlier Indian mathematicians who came up with methods of computing sines, such as Aryabhata’s recurrence relation and Bhaskara’s approximation function, He also pointed out how infinite series expansions for trigonometric functions and pi – the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, and the idea of a derivative defined in calculus appear in the work of Indian mathematicians a few centuries before Newton and Leibniz.

Prof. K. Ramasubramanian is at IIT Mumbai in the Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. He holds a doctorate in Theoretical Physics, Bachelors in Engineering, and Masters in Samskritam. His research interests include Indian Science and Technology and other disciplines such as Indian Logic and Philosophy.

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Viet Nam War – What Americans did Wrong …

Posted on September 22, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers |

George C. Herring, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Kentucky, is the author of “America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975.”

From the early stages of the Vietnam War, American officials insisted that winning the hearts and Minds (WHAM) of the South Vietnamese people was the key to victory.

But the Americans tasked with carrying out that strategy were ill equipped, linguistically and culturally, to make it work. And in the end, that deficit destroyed whatever good will might have existed on either side and doomed America’s foray into Vietnam to failure.

Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s ambassador to Washington from 1965 to 1972, once called the two countries “peoples quite apart.” And indeed, American and Vietnamese culture had little contact before 1950. Americans understanding of the country’s language, history, religious traditions, etiquette or politics was abysmal.

The cultural disjunction was exacerbated by a strategic one: While the two nations agreed on the fundamental goal of preserving an independent, non-Communist South Vietnam, the stakes of the war for each were grossly disproportionate. The United States sought merely to uphold its credibility – South Vietnam fought for its existence.

Theirs was a patron-client relationship. The United States, the world’s strongest country and still riding high off its victory in World War II, was confident in its power — and its virtue. It expected to lead and to be followed. In contrast, the South Vietnamese, citizens of a fragile state newly freed from colonial rule and threatened by internal insurgency and external invasion, recognized their desperate need for American help but they were also acutely sensitive to dominance by an outside power. They struggled to uphold their dignity and autonomy.

Between 1950 and 1965, America’s role in the region, while significant in terms of money and matériel, occupied a limited footprint in the lives of everyday Vietnamese. That changed between 1965 and 1967, when the Americanization of the war brought hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians into the country and put an American face on the increasingly widespread destruction wrought by both sides.

Bui Diem noted the absence of communication between the two peoples during the major escalation in 1965, the “un-self-conscious arrogance” of the Americans and the impotence of the South Vietnamese. “The Americans came in like bulldozers and the South Vietnamese followed their lead without a thought of dissent.”

After 1965, the United States took on the burden of defeating the enemy militarily. It declined to establish a combined command structure with the South Vietnamese – as it had in Korea. It relegated the Army of the Republic of Vietnam to pacification, a task many Vietnamese considered demeaning. Americanization of the war also produced among South Vietnamese a “takeover effect,” by letting the Americans fight the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

Tragically, American actions encouraged dependency in a nation whose independence it sought to sustain.

As the American presence swelled, tensions between the two peoples grew. Vietnamese resented the way their visitors looked down on them and imposed their ways on a presumably inferior people. They were annoyed by American impatience.

Some envied the opulent lifestyle of the Americans, with their enormous bases equipped with all the conveniences of home, including air conditioning, shopping centers and movie houses. Others protested that the troops acted “despicably” toward them, speeding their trucks and cars through traffic at life-threatening speeds.

Some claimed that America dispensed aid as though it were being “given to a beggar.”

Most of all, many South Vietnamese resented their dependence on their ally and its suffocating presence in their lives. Some labeled the “American occupation” a “demoralizing scourge.”

Vietnamese recognized that the Americans were not “colonialists,” the journalist Robert Shaplen observed, but he perceptively added, “there has evolved here a colonial ambience that can sometimes be worse than colonialism itself.”

In the bonanza atmosphere that followed Americanization, South Vietnam’s economy centered upon serving the needs of the new arrivals. Prostitution became a special problem. As the number of Americans in Saigon surged into the tens of thousands, the number of houses of ill repute expanded proportionally, provoking criticism in the United States and South Vietnam.

Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas fumed that Saigon had become an “American brothel.” South Vietnamese Catholics and President Nguyen Van Thieu were especially concerned about prostitution and pleaded with American officials to do something about the suffocating presence of so many troops.

The result was Operation Moose (Move Out of Saigon Expeditiously), implemented mostly during 1967. Thousands of G.I.s moved to base camps outside the city (where the prostitutes soon followed), some joking that they had been “Moosed.” Saigon was also declared off limits for R & R. The pace was sufficiently slow that the operation was unofficially tagged Goose (Get Out of Saigon Eventually).

The exodus left around 7,900 American soldiers in the city. Moose did not satisfy President Thieu and it provided no more than a partial solution to the prostitution problem. It also left Saigon more vulnerable to the urban attacks launched by the Viet Cong during the 1968 Tet offensive.

The American way of war also inflicted a huge toll on village life in South Vietnam. To limit its own casualties and cope with unfamiliar and often inhospitable terrain, the United States unleashed extraordinary firepower on the country it was trying to save. Areas of suspected enemy strength were bombed and shelled and burned with napalm, often with little consideration of its impact on civilians. Defoliants were used to deny the enemy food and cover, with horrific short- and long-term consequences for Vietnamese.

American firepower destroyed homes, villages and crops and alienated those whose hearts and minds were to be won. American commanders declared entire areas free-fire zones.

Troops would round up villagers, burn their hooches and relocate them from their ancestral lands into squalid refugee camps. The area would then be bombed and shelled.

During Operation Cedar Falls in 1967, Americans forcibly relocated some 6,000 civilians from the village of Ben Suc. Caught between the Viet Cong and the Americans, villagers who wanted only to be left alone became sullen or outright hostile. By early 1967, over 1.5 million refugees had drifted into urban slums, where they were susceptible to Viet Cong propaganda.

To be sure, many Americans developed close ties with Vietnamese. Many also committed acts of kindness such as providing medical care and food to people in need. Especially in the early years and in remote areas, American advisers formed attachments with Vietnamese soldiers and villagers. Thousands of troops married Vietnamese women.

Still, most Americans arrived in the country without knowledge of the land and the people. “My time in Vietnam is the memory of ignorance,” one soldier later wrote. Not knowing the language or culture, the Americans did not know what the people felt, or even at times how to tell friend from foe. “What we need is some kind of litmus paper than turns red when it’s near a Communist,” one officer half-jokingly told a journalist.

Relations with South Vietnamese soldiers were likewise strained. Unaware of the difficulties their counterparts labored under, American troops disparaged their fighting qualities. The newcomers expected the people they were defending to offer the sort of gratitude they believed their fathers had gained for liberating France in World War II. When instead they encountered indifference or even hostility, they grew resentful.

For many Americans, the South Vietnamese became an object of contempt, even hatred. “The people were treacherous,” one soldier later recalled. “They say ‘G.I. No. 1’ when we’re in the village, but at night the dirty little rats are V.C.” The ability of the villagers to step around mines and booby traps that killed and maimed Americans provoked suspicion of collusion — and anger.

Americans also brought with them deeply entrenched racist attitudes that prompted the use of slurs such as “gook” and “dink,” which they applied to enemy and friend alike.

Contempt could quickly change to a rage that might be turned on Vietnamese civilians. During the summer and fall of 1967, the notorious Tiger Force, an elite commando unit, was assigned to remove civilians from the Song Ve River Valley, suspected to be a source of rice for Viet Cong units. The very name of the mission, Operation Rawhide, suggested a cattle roundup, which had a dehumanizing effect.

When the civilians resisted, the Tigers vented their rage by burning their villages. Unhappy with the assignment and under constant fire from enemy snipers, the Americans declared the area a free-fire zone and shot anything that moved, resulting in the brutal killing of numerous civilians.

Nevertheless, the Tigers were assigned another, similar mission, to remove civilians from Quang Tin province. Early in the operation, they were caught in a deadly ambush and suffered heavy losses. After that, all restraints came off. Commanders abetted their vengeance by setting a body count goal of 327 kills (to match the number of the 327th Infantry Regiment, of which the Tigers were a part).

The Tigers proceeded to kill hundreds of civilians and compounded their crime by mutilating the bodies of victims, including old women and even babies. The carnage stopped only when the operation ended in November.

The actions of the Tiger Force were replicated with even more savage results at My Lai, in Quang Ngai province, in February 1968, where American soldiers killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians. Such atrocities were not typical of American behavior, and even at My Lai there were soldiers who pushed back against their commanders’ orders to kill.

Nevertheless, the atrocious violence reflected attitudes toward Vietnamese that divided the two peoples and made the Vietnamese subservient to Americans. Given the frustrations and failures and mounting casualties of the American war effort, atrocities were perhaps only a matter of time.

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Battle of Two Museums …

Posted on September 20, 2017. Filed under: Light plus Weighty, Personalities, Uncategorized |

2017 is undoubtedly the year of the feud. As celebrities and corporations alike take to Twitter to hash things out, two of the UK’s most respected scientific institutions, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, have got in on the action.

http://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/social-media/2017/09/two-museums-are-having-fight-twitter-and-its-gloriously

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Greater than Jhansi ki Rani – ABBAKKA CHOTA – …

Posted on September 17, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Viswanath Swanatha Bllavara –

ABBAKKA CHOTA

The year was 1555 and Portuguese colonial power was at its zenith. They had destroyed Zamorins of Calicut, defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. They had taken away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat and Established a colony in Mylapore.

They had Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church..

Their next target was the super profitable port of Mangalore. Their bad luck was just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal – ruled by a feisty 30 year old woman – Abbakka Chowta.

Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her to Goa. Those boats never came back. Enraged, they sent a fleet of ships under command of the much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira. The Admiral returned badly wounded and empty handed.

Another Portuguese fleet was sent but only a few injured made it back.

Now the Portuguese decided on another approach THey went on to captured Mangalore port and fort and planned to tackle Mrs. Chowta from the Mangalore fort.

An army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal. The brief was simple – Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta.and the plan was foolproof and there was no way a 30 year old woman with a few men could withstand the might of an army with modern weapons.

The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it empty and deserted. Abbakka had disappeared and was nowhere in sight. They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars. Just when they were about to call it a day, Mrs Chowta attacked with 200 of her chosen warriors.

In the chaos and confusion, many portuguese lost their lives without a fight and even General João Peixoto lost his life while some 70 portuguese were captured while the rest ran away.

So there is Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large aggressor army, killed their General, captured prisoners and defended her city – but what will an ordinary person do? – Rest? No!

Rani Abbakka Chowta rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night and laid siege to the Mangalore fort.

She not just broke inside the fort but killed Admiral Mascarenhas – the Commander of the Fort and let the remaining Portuguese flee. She didn’t just stop at that but went on to capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 km north of Mangalore.

However the Portuguese eventually managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by the usual method of betrayal and intrigue. They succeeded in bribing her estranged husband who betrayed her for power and money.
She was arrested and put in the prison and killed while attempting an escape.

Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims – a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.

What have we Indians done for her? We just forgot her! We do not name our children after her. We do not teach about her in our History Books. Yes, we did release a Postage Stamp in her name, named a boat after her and erected 2 statues in the whole of India for one who is a true a National Hero!

We Indians remain busy arguing whether it was actually one of her daughters who fought the battles instead of her. Some talk of her being the last Indian to have had the power of the agni-ban.

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China and Doklam …

Posted on September 16, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

Pranab Dhal Samanta in ET

How to deal with China? This is easily the biggest foreign policy question for most governments in today’s global power order.

While China’s larger interest on the success of the Brics Summit in Xiamen did help expedite an end to the two-month DOKLAM stand-off, the fact that India could manage to successfully stave off a strong and shrill Chinese challenge has reverberated across world capitals.

The understanding was arrived at after some 13 rounds of negotiations done through established diplomatic channels. No back channel, no false assurances. This is quite an out-of the-ordinary experience for all countries with a Beijing problem, specifically those that share land and maritime boundaries with China.

So, is there now an India model to emulate while dealing with a confrontational China? While that would receive some detailed attention in the days ahead, what’s clear is that there were certain distinctive contours to the Indian approach. And while these worked for India, it’s also a fact that they proved effective because of a larger context that continues to weigh heavily on China.

The context is now becoming increasingly embarrassing for China. The North Korean tests, including the missile that was fired over Japanese territory on the day Doklam issue was resolved, underline the weight of that embarrassment.

The other country pulling down China in a similar manner is Pakistan, which is under fire for sponsorship of terrorism not just by India alone, but by now a growing spectrum of countries. These start with Afghanistan and go on to include countries in West Asia, Europe, and the US, as exemplified in President Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy address.

In short, North Korea and Pakistan are not the best advertisements of friends for a country aspiring global economic leadership. At a time when the US is looking insular as an economic power, China has thrown in its hat to lead the free trade pitch. The Brics, for instance, is a key forum to strengthen this claim. And just then, to have Pyongyang set off a nuclear device doesn’t help matters.

This kind of ‘Notoriety Club’ had a utility for China, but that time may have passed. This is a conclusion only Beijing can make. But it cannot stop other countries drawing their own meanings in their national interest.

It’s in this context that the shrill rhetoric on Doklam did not help. There were very few takers for China’s case, frankly, even before it was articulated. The reason for that being China’s lack of credibility in sub-continental matters, given its own long-term strategic commitment with Pakistan. Further, the tone and content of the official attack did not help either, sending signals that made others equally insecure.

In contrast, India had a more nuanced approach, which can now be fleshed out along few parameters. To begin with, there was a conscious, clear decision to halt Chinese construction activity and stand by Bhutan regardless of how the situation evolved. This was a departure from the past practice to avoid direct confrontation. But this time, the overall military assessment was that China had come too close for comfort.

The initial action was done swiftly. Thereafter, India decided to keep quiet, not aggravate matters. So, New Delhi had, early in the day, recognised the principle that there could be no gain made by humiliating China.

New Delhi followed this edict to the point that it did not allow itself to be provoked by any Chinese humiliation. The next principle at play was that China has much bigger stakes in the international system and the global commons for it to just abandon all of that in favour of military action against a global systems-compliant country and emerging economy like India. That assumption was correct. Which is why China did not cross the Brics deadline.

And, finally, it was assessed that in the bigger picture, Beijing’s aspirations require cultivating more positive relations with New Delhi. Which is why the condemnation of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in the Brics statement is better understood as a rethink in China than a victory for India.

The Doklam handling tells us that there’s indeed an effective way to talk tough issues with China – and not by giving in or speaking out, but by showing up and conversing relentlessly to find convergences.

China, after all, cannot have an ambition at the cost of everyone else.

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China’s way of Expansion…

Posted on September 13, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

A New City Out In The Desert Of Oman – Forbes Now: Wade Shepard –
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Oman intends to change things by building an entirely new, $10.7 billion transit-oriented industrial city on the desertified coast of the Arabian Sea, 550 kilometers south of Muscat. More accurately, China is going to do it!
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A year ago, Oman signed a deal and opened the doors for a Chinese consortium to move in and do what they seemingly like to do best: build a new boomtown. After constructing dozens of full-scale new cities and completely re-developing dozens more in their own country, Chinese firms are now moving out along the tendrils of the Belt and Road to construct new cities across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Duqm is among the most ambitious of such projects.
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China’s new city in the Oman desert has been pragmatically dubbed the Sino-Oman Industrial City, and the ambition is to turn a remote and underutilized Middle East seaport into a vital nerve center of global trade and manufacturing.
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The 11-square-kilometer endeavor, which sits within the giant Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZAD), is expected to have not only a vibrant port but an array of other “mega-ventures,” which include an oil refinery, a multi-billion dollar methanol plant, a giant solar energy equipment manufacturing operation, an automobile assembly factory, an oil and gas equipment production site, and a $100+ million building material distribution enterprise.
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In addition to being a cluster of industrial operations, the Sino-Oman Industrial City will also have a more human element as well, providing homes for 25,000 people, complete with schools, medical facilities, office complexes, and entertainment centers — which includes a $200 million 5-star tourism zone.
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The Chinese consortium has promised to develop 30% of the project area in just five years, with financing and construction firms coming straight from the mainland.
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Oman Wanfang, the Chinese consortium that is putting up the money, know-how, and boots on the ground to carry out this massive endeavor, is made up of six companies, most of which are from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region — which is largely populated by Chinese Muslims, demonstrating a cultural link with Oman that may help facilitate such deals.
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But unlike many other Chinese investor consortiums that are active along the Belt and Road, all of these firms are private, as opposed to being commercial extensions of the Chinese state, and claim that they are not being provided with direct funding from their government to carry out their individual projects in Duqm. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have the full backing of Beijing, who is reputedly supporting the venture via its National Development and Reform Commission, who has oddly already enthroned the project as a “Top Overseas Industrial Park.”
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Laying right on the Arabian Sea between the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden, the location of the port/SEZ combo at Duqm fits snuggly into the bosom of China’s Maritime Silk Road — Beijing’s vision of three supercharged sea routes between China and Europe and Africa that are serving as a framework for the development of a plethora of Chinese-owned ports and other mega-projects. From an established base camp at Duqm, China will be able to better access and secure their energy and trade supply lines throughout the Middle East and East Africa.
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It is also probably no coincidence that 77.1% (2015) of Oman’s crude oil and condensates exports go to China.
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The Sino-Oman Industrial City is just one of a network of new cities that Chinese firms are currently busy at work constructing along the land and sea routes of the Belt and Road — another entry into a portfolio that now includes Colombo Financial City and Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Forest City and Robotic Future City in Malaysia, a massive port and SEZ project in Abu Dhabi, the $10 billion Kyauk Pyu Special Economic Zone in Myanmar, along with large-scale new developments in western Chinese cities like Horgos, Urumqi, Lanzhou, and Xi’an.
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Via its Belt and Road Initiative, China has become a prime partner of countries that are going through three kinds of economic transitions:
Emerging markets trying to build up their economies and develop a framework of modern transport infrastructure, energy, and technology.
Stagnant or retracting developed economies, like Greece, Spain, and the Brexit-riddled U.K, who are in dire need of additional sources of economic sustenance.
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Energy resource dependent nations who are trying to diversify their economies to bolster long-term sustainability. Oman joins countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan right in the midst of the third type of transition.
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Currently, Oman’s economy is firmly entrenched in a cycle of hydro-carbon dependency. In Oman, oil and gas accounts for nearly 50% of GDP, 70% of exports, and 71% of total government revenue.
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This reliance on oil and gas has been posited as Oman’s biggest risk, and the country has been on an all out mission to develop other sectors of its economy, aiming to cut its share of hydro-carbon derived GDP in half by 2020. To these ends, the country has earmarked roughly $106 billion to invest in industries like transportation, tourism, and real estate, with projects to create a new railway network, new airports, enhanced seaports, new cities — a la Duqm — currently underway.

The research firm BMI forecasted that the Sino-Oman Industrial City will be a major factor in the rise of Oman’s construction sector, which is predicted to double its growth rate by 2019.

For the record, Oman didn’t go running straight to China with their economic woes, begging the emerging superpower to the east to step in and fund their diversification program. No, as was the case with Sri Lanka, Oman initially tried to secure additional funding for its big development projects from other countries, like Iran, but it was to no avail.

China was the only taker, and probably the only country in the world with the capital, political will, and motive for carrying out such long-term, costly developmental endeavors.
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Under the framework of the Belt and Road, China is going around salving the world’s economic deficiencies with bags of money and bulldozers in exchange for long-term engagements:
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These new port holdings also further enmeshes China into the political and economic fabric of the world. While seemingly irrational, inflated amounts of money are being passed over the table today, what China is receiving are strong footholds in the international arena that they will be able to stand upon for decades, creating a new geo-economic paradigm in the process.
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While national leaders put on smiley faces and talk about “win-win” partnerships, international infrastructure projects like China’s maritime developments are drawing up the new front lines of the 21st century, where economic leverage is the weapon of choice.

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Jojo – A Life as Great as Any …

Posted on September 13, 2017. Filed under: Personalities |

An edited Version of Raj Mehta’s Tribute. –

What can you say about a brave, outstanding Cavalry officer who was blinded at 22?

That he was blinded by by an Anti Tk shell hitting the turret of his tank as he stood in the open turret in the 1965 War. That he was a topper in all he did? That he was handsome, personable, perceptive and lovable. That the only battle he ever lost, was surrendering with a half smile to the insidious lung cancer.

His name – Jayanta Kumar Sengupta. Born on 17 October 1942, Chotu was the second son of Amar Prashad, a corporate executive, and Namita Sengupta. He left Huddard High School after making it to the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehra Dun. He was adjudged ‘Best Cadet’ – stood 1st in the All-India UPSC order of merit for NDA and won the Gold Medal for the 22nd course at NDA and again the Gold Medal at IMA, passing out tops with the 31st course.

Commissioned into India’s oldest Cavalry Regiment, the 16th Light Cavalry in December 1962, Chotu was awarded the Silver Centurion trophy for best Young Officer at Ahmadnagar. When the 1965 Indo-Pak War started, he was attending a Gunnery course at ‘Nagar.

Currently US based veteran, Lt Col Kartar Singh Sidhu Brar, Chotu’s CO, recalls that Chotu rejoined the Regiment on 17 September and that Chotu “had a very special place in our hearts”. On arrival on 17 September, Chotu was appointed troop leader in B Squadron under Maj ‘Morris’ Ravindran.

On 21 September morning, Chotu was standing up out of the cupola with his binocs when his tank got a direct hit on the turret. The blinding flash, splinters and glass lacerated his face. ‘Wendy’ Dewan who was close recalls Chotu’s calmness – “I can’t see but I’m fine. How are the boys?” Chotu was placed on blankets on a tank deck and brought to RHQ where Gen Rajinder Singh had landed and him evacuated.

After Army Hospital Delhi, Chotu was moved to INS Aswini. His optic nerve was severed and that meant “profound, 100 percent blindness”. At St Dunstan’s he learnt Brail, powered by his wit, humour, zest for life. In 1967, he was boarded out from the Army with 100 percent disability.

In a rare interview, he smilingly recalled that ‘there was no emotional setback following the mishap. Indeed, my family and the Army were strong sources of support.” He added that his St Dunstan’s stay where soldiers blinded in war are trained was a godsend – it was a new beginning. ‘I met a lot of Britishers with a similar disability. Seeing them go about their work inspired me.”

Focusing on winning the ‘Battle of Life’, this unassuming, genuine real-life hero attracted people like a magnet. He took up a dealership with Tata Oil Mills and in 1972, he was allotted a LPG dealership in Siliguri by the Army and he relocated there from Calcutta with infectious positivity.

In 1977, Chotu got married to Ms Rita Biswas – a teacher driven by passion. The duo were like minded, compassionate and compelling. Jojo is on record paying his wife a handsome tribute for bringing greater focus, happiness and harmony in his life. Blessed with twin daughters, Sreemoyee and Sreerupa and a younger son Bibek, he and his wife were well settled when his number of days on Earth were completed. He on August 31, 2013 but his family is living out his dreams with character courage.

Jojo had kept the Honour Board ticking. He did his BA from North Bengal University obtaining the expected ‘First-class-First’. He routinely won the ‘Best Dealer’ Award from Tata Oil for several years. As an LPG dealer at Siliguri, his consumers remember with awe how he had memorized some 8000 subscriber names, consumer numbers and addresses, compelling them to call up ‘Joy Da’ – to verify their details instantaneously when seeking gas refills, terminations or transfers of LPG connections.

Chotu went through a transformation in 1990 by taking up social work on a large scale. By 1998 he, Rita and friends had founded the Prerana Educational Centre. Flourishing, it has 145 physically challenged students on its rolls. Earlier in 1990, Jojo had also founded the North Bengal Council for the Disabled (NBCD) to run the centre.

Apart from Prerana, he also reached towards the rural handicapped under the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program. Since 1998, about 700 villages around Siliguri have been covered to help the rural disabled to cope. Jojo ensured that the CBR became a WHO certified initiative which today benefits some 3000 people.

In 2003, Capt Sengupta’s daughter, Sreerupa married Maj Gopal Mitra, SM (Retd). Alas Maj Mitra was totally blinded in a terrorist encounter in Kupwara, Kashmir. Commissioned into 15 Mahar, this St Xavier’s Calcutta Honours graduate suffered total visual impairment.

He underwent extensive reconstructive surgery but his military career was over. The young gallantry award winner underwent several reorientation courses, ending up with his being the first blind student to top a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai post graduate course.

Mitra then did M.Sc. in Development Management at the London School of Economics (LSE) with outstanding grades. After several career advancements, he is now with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund as Programme Specialist for Disability. Sreerupa completed her Masters from LSE, London and now works at the United Nations along with husband Gopal.

Her twin, Sreemoyee completed her Masters in Early Years Education from the famous Institute of Education, London and now teaches at Neev School, Bangalore.

Jojo’s son, Bibek, is a top-notch financial expert and Chotu’s sister-in-law, Nalini Sengupta, runs the famous Vidya Valley School at Pune, where Chotu was on the Founding Governing Board. Ms Rita carries on her legacy with Jojo and has ensured that the Institutions they started are vibrant and flourishing.

Suffering for almost a year from lung cancer, Capt Sengupta passed away at Command Hospital Pune at 0945 hours on 31 August 2013. Chotu had realised a week or so before his death that he would lose this battle.
Brave and courageous as always, he requested to ba shifted to the Officers Ward from the ICU where he could be visited by only a few and very briefly.

He faced death with the same calmness that was his trademark during all the turbulence in his life.

Arriving 15 minutes after he had gone with his trademark of a lingering, wry smile while nurses, doctors, officers were in tears and his family stood bowed in respectful silent grief.

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For those wanting to know about the Division and what it did ..
https://improveacrati.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/indo-pak-war-sep-1965-part-1/

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China – Malaysia Stands Up …

Posted on September 12, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

When Indonesia recently — and quite publicly — renamed the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea despite China’s claims to the area, Beijing quickly dismissed the move as “meaningless.” It is proving to be anything but.

Indonesia’s increasingly aggressive posture in the region — including a military buildup in its nearby Natuna Islands and the planned deployment of naval warships — comes as other nations are being more accommodating to China’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The two countries had three maritime skirmishes in 2016 involving warning shots, including one in which Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

Indonesia is challenging China, one of its biggest investors and trading partners, as it seeks to assert control over a waterway that has abundant resources, particularly oil and natural gas reserves and fish stocks.

The pushback from Indonesia takes direct aim at Beijing’s claims within the so-called “nine-dash line,” which on Chinese maps delineates the vast area that China claims in the South China Sea. It also adds a new player to the volatile situation, in which the United States Navy has been challenging China’s claims with naval maneuvers through waters claimed by Beijing.

Indonesia “is already a party to the disputes — and the sooner it acknowledges this reality the better,” said Ian J. Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, where he researches South China Sea issues.

The dispute largely centers on the Natuna Sea, a resource-rich waterway north of Indonesia that also lies close to Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Before naming part of the contested waterway the North Natuna Sea “to make it sound more Indonesian,” Mr. Storey said, Indonesia last year began beefing up its military presence in the Natunas. That included expanding its naval port on the main island to handle bigger ships and lengthening the runway at its air force base there to accommodate larger aircraft.

For decades, Indonesia’s official policy has been that it is not a party to any territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, unlike its regional neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Last year, however, Indonesia and China had the three maritime skirmishes within Indonesia’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone off its Natuna Islands, which lie northwest of Borneo.

After the third skirmish, in June 2016, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which it claimed for the first time that its controversial nine-dash line included “traditional fishing grounds” within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The administration of the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, whose top administrative priorities since taking office in October 2014 include transforming his country into a maritime power, has ordered the authorities to blow up hundreds of foreign fishing vessels seized while illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.

Mr. Joko, during a visit to Japan in 2015, said in a newspaper interview that China’s nine-dash line had no basis in international law. He also chaired a cabinet meeting on a warship off the Natunas just days after last year’s third naval skirmish — a move analysts viewed as a show of resolve to Beijing.

On July 14, Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries held a conspicuously high-profile news conference to release its first national territorial map since 2005, including the unveiling of the newly named North Natuna Sea. The new map also included new maritime boundaries with Singapore and the Philippines, with which Indonesia had concluded agreements in 2015.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, a deputy minister at Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told journalists that the new Indonesian map offered “clarity on natural resources exploration areas.”

That same day, Indonesia’s Armed Forces and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources signed a memorandum for warships to provide security for the highly profitable fishing grounds and offshore oil and gas production and exploration activities within the country’s exclusive economic zone near the Natunas.

Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, the commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, said at the time that offshore energy exploration and production activities “have often been disturbed by foreign-flagged vessels” — which some analysts took as a reference to China.

Although several countries take issue with China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, few do so publicly, and the Trump administration has recently sent mixed signals about how willing it is to challenge China on its claims. That has made the Indonesian pushback more intriguing.

Frega Ferdinand Wenas Inkiriwang, a lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University, said Indonesia’s public naming of the North Natuna Sea “means that Indonesia indirectly becomes a claimant state in the area, perhaps due to territorial integrity issues.”

“It’s in the vicinity of the Natunas,” he said, “and the Natunas contain natural resources which are inherited and will be beneficial for Indonesia’s development.”

Analysts say that the Indonesian Navy would be no match for the Chinese Navy in a fight, although the first of last year’s clashes involved only a Chinese Coast Guard ship and an Indonesian maritime ministry patrol boat. It is unlikely that the two countries’ navies would clash within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, according to analysts.

Members of the 10-state Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, have repeatedly expressed concern about China’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea, including its naval standoffs and land reclamation projects in disputed areas, and the stationing of military personnel and surface-to-air missiles in the Paracel Islands — which are controlled by China but are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

Indonesia, the grouping’s largest member and de facto leader, had in the past remained on the sidelines of the various South China Sea disputes and offered to help mediate between Asean claimant states and Beijing.

Given that China is among Indonesia’s biggest investors and trade partners, some analysts say Jakarta will go only so far in challenging China’s territorial claims, at least publicly. But its more aggressive military posture and other moves regarding the Natunas are nonetheless sending signals to China.

“It doesn’t make Indonesia a claimant state,” said Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia, who follows the South China Sea disputes. “They’ve never accepted the legitimacy of the nine-dash line, which is why they say there’s no overlap” with its exclusive economic zone.

“China says it has ‘traditional fishing rights,’ but Indonesia is doing things in a legalistic way right now,” Mr. Connelly said. “This is a more effective way of challenging it.”

Evan A. Laksmana, a senior researcher on security affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, agreed that the naming of the North Natuna Sea was not specifically done to trigger a dispute with China.

“But the international legal basis underpinning Indonesia’s new map is clear,” he said.

“We do not recognize China’s claims in the Natuna waters — we don’t feel like we should negotiate our map with Beijing or ask their

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