China cash that BJP cannot see
Time was when accepting donations from Chinese institutions was as proper and acceptable as sharing space on a swing.
Yet, the BJP, in its haste to divert attention from the Galwan blunder, has forgotten the adage that when you point a finger at someone, you are pointing three at yourself. In this case, at least two fingers are pointing at the BJP ecosystem.
The Observer Research Foundation, a foreign policy think tank associated with foreign minister S. Jaishankar’s son, received funding from the Chinese consulate, including that in Calcutta, in 2016. The ORF is supported by Reliance Industries.
Another think tank, the Vivekananda International Foundation, has declared on its website that it has working relationships with nine Chinese institutions on matters of foreign and strategic policy.
National security adviser Ajit Doval is founding director of the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), which shares close ties with BJP leaders and the RSS.
The think thanks themselves put up this information in the public domain long ago.
The identity of the donors would not have drawn attention had not the BJP made a non-issue into a national security issue by accusing the Congress of Chinese links based on money received in 2005-06. It’s common for organisations worldwide to receive foreign funding.
Dhruva Jaishankar, son of the foreign minister, became director of the US Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) last year. The foreign minister, also a former ambassador to China, is a regular visitor to the ORF where he delivers talks on various foreign policy-related topics.
The ORF website carries a list of foreign donors and the amounts received from them.
It shows the think tank received three grants, together worth over Rs 1.25 crore, from the Chinese consulate-general in 2016 and another Rs 50 lakh the following year.
The foundation received Rs 7.7 lakh on April 29, 2016; another Rs 11.55 lakh on November 4 that year --- both from the Chinese consulate-general in Calcutta --- and Rs 1.068 crore from the “Consulate General of People’s Republic of China” on December 31 that year.
A grant of Rs 50 lakh came from the “Consulate General of People Republic of China” on December 1, 2017.
The Vivekananda International Foundation’s website lists its association with the China Institute of International Strategic Studies (Beijing); China Institute of International Studies (Beijing); Centre for South Asian Studies, Peking University (Beijing); Research Institute for Indian Ocean Economies, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics, Kunming; National Institute of International Strategy of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing; Centre for South Asia & West China Cooperation & Development University, Chengdu; Institute of South Asian Studies, Sichuan University, Chengdu; Silk Road Think Tank Network Development Research Council, Beijing; and the Centre for Indian Studies, Shenzhen.
Sources in the security establishment said members of the two think tanks had ample access to North Block and South Block, the seats of governance.
An email sent by this newspaper to the ORF on Saturday night elicited the reply: “Your message has been received and we will get back to you at the earliest.”
This newspaper also sent a message to ORF president Samir Saran on his Twitter account and was awaiting a reply at the time of going to press.
However, this report has not made any suggestion that any of the donations are not legal.