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Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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Chinese Foreign Ministry expecting fruitful Mongolia trip by Premier Li
BEIJING, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visit to Mongolia will encourage closer alignment of China's Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with Mongolia's Prairie Road program, according to a senior official from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Li's visit to Mongolia from July 13 to 14 will be the first by a Chinese premier in six years, and the first by any Chinese leader since the recent formation of Mongolia's new government.
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou told a press conference on Monday that the trip will strengthen bilateral relations and lead to more cooperation between the two neighbors.
Li will hold talks with Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat and they will jointly meet the press, said Kong.
Li will also meet with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Chairman of the State Great Hural (Mongolia's parliament) Miyegombo Enkhbold.
Li and Erdenebat will exchange views on dovetailing the two countries' economic corridor initiatives, and more cooperation in trade, industrial capacity, energy, finance, agriculture and animal husbandry.
The two sides will also discuss people-to-people exchanges and international and regional issues of common concern, said Kong.
A number of cooperative agreements will be signed during Li's visit, which will inject new impetus into the development of bilateral ties and benefit people of the two nations, he added.
Li will also attend the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Mongolian capital Ulan Bator from July 15 to 16.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of ASEM since it was inaugurated in 1996 in Bangkok, Thailand. ASEM is now an intergovernmental forum with 53 members.
The Chinese premier will deliver keynote speeches during the summit to elaborate China's proposition on ASEM's future development, Asia-Europe cooperation, as well as major international and regional issues, Kong said.
During the summit, Li will also held bilateral meetings with leaders of some ASEM members, he added.
As a founding member of the ASEM, China has put forward 28 proposals on Asia-Europe cooperation in fields including infrastructure connectivity, technology innovation, environmental protection, trade and investment, and urbanization.
The members should foster a sense of community, enhance communication and coordination on policies and actions, so as to build the ASEM into an effective framework for coping with global challenges, including climate change, terrorism, refugee problems and infectious disease, said Kong.
Beijing says should be no South China Sea talk at Asia-Europe summit
July 11 (Reuters) The South China Sea is not on the agenda and should not be discussed at a major summit between Asian and European leaders in Mongolia at the end of the week, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday.
The Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, will be the first important multilateral diplomatic gathering after the July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing a dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea.
Tensions and rhetoric have been rising ahead of the ruling in the Dutch city of The Hague, a case which China has refused to recognize or participate in. Beijing says the court has no jurisdiction and China cannot be forced to accept dispute resolution.
China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou signaled discussion of the South China Sea would not be welcomed at the event, which happens once every two years, as it's designed to discuss issues between Asia and Europe.
"The ASEM leaders summit is not a suitable place to discuss the South China Sea. There are no plans to discuss it there on the agenda for the meeting. And it should not be put on the agenda," Kong told a news briefing.
However, Beijing-based diplomats involved with preparations for ASEM say it is inevitable the South China Sea dispute will be raised at the summit, which is expected to be attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
South China Sea: Beijing opposes raising dispute at Asia-Europe Summit in Mongolia – International Business Times, July 11
EC President and Vice President to Attend ASEM Summit in Mongolia
European Commission - Commissioners' weekly activities
Singapore PM Lee arrives in Mongolia for visit and Asem summit
July 13 (Straits Times) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives in Mongolia today for an official visit and to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Summit.
The four-day trip will start with the official visit, the first by a Singapore prime minister to Mongolia since diplomatic ties were established in 1970, said the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) yesterday.
The visit comes just two weeks after the country's new government was elected in June.
While in the capital city Ulaanbaatar, Mr Lee will be hosted to a welcome lunch by Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat.
He will meet Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Speaker of Parliament Miyeegombo Enkhbold as well.
Mr Lee will also attend a reception at which he will meet Singaporeans based in Mongolia, businessmen of both countries, and Mongolians who have attended Singapore's technical assistance programmes and universities.
Relations between both countries are cordial and Singapore has received several high-level visits from Mongolia over the years. The most recent was by Mr Elbegdorj, who made a state visit in 2013.
To date, the country has sent 1,200 officials to Singapore for training in English, economic development and security, among other things, under the Singapore Cooperation Programme.
Bilateral trade is modest, and stood at $64 million last year.
After the official visit, Mr Lee will attend the 11th Asem Summit in Ulaanbaatar from Friday to Saturday. The biennial summit will mark the 20th anniversary of the informal, inter-governmental dialogue which aims to strengthen links between Asia and Europe.
In all, 34 leaders from 14 Asian and 20 European countries are set to attend the summit. They will discuss various issues of mutual interest, how to strengthen Asia-Europe cooperation and chart Asem's future direction.
Mr Lee will also meet some of the leaders separately, said the PMO statement.
He is accompanied by Mrs Lee, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, and senior officials from the PMO and MFA.
While he is away, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will be Acting Prime Minister on Wednesday and Sunday, and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be Acting Prime Minister from Thursday to Saturday.
PM Lee to make first visit to Mongolia – Channel NewsAsia, July 12
Cheong Wa Dae says Park's Mongolia trip aims to bolster trade, business cooperation
SEOUL, July 12 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye's visit to Mongolia this week is aimed at bolstering bilateral trade, investment and cooperation in health care, culture, infrastructure development, renewable energy and other areas, her office Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday.
Park will embark on a five-day trip to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar on Thursday to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit and hold bilateral talks with her Mongolian counterpart Tsakhia Elbegdorj.
Kang Seog-hoon, the president's senior secretary for economic affairs, said that Mongolia with a population of 3 million is a "promising niche" market that offers new business opportunities for South Korea's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
"As Mongolia is rising as a small yet promising market amid the 'pro-Korea' sentiment there, it gives new opportunities for South Korean SMEs to make advances into it," Kang said during a press briefing.
He pointed out that the president's visit comes amid Mongolia's efforts to reduce its heavy economic reliance on China and Russia, and diversify trade routes towards a third country such as South Korea and Japan.
China is Mongolia's largest trading partner. According to 2015 records complied by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mongolia's exports to China accounted for 85 percent of the country's total outbound shipments. With no oil refineries in the country, Mongolia imported 91 percent of its oil from Russia in 2014.
South Korea is Mongolia's fourth largest trading partner. Last year, their trade volume reached US$292 million.
During her trip, which was arranged on the invitation of the Mongolian leader, Park will be accompanied by a large delegation of business leaders from 109 South Korean firms, mostly SMEs, the presidential secretary explained.
Kang noted that her trip, in particular, will focus on supporting South Korean firms seeking to participate in Mongolia's infrastructure projects including various urban development schemes and those to expand electricity transmission networks.
The two leaders will also discuss ways to deepen cooperation in tackling climate change through the development of renewable energy sources and an anti-desertification program; and cooperation in telemedicine and electronic governance as well as cultural areas.
Park's visit to Mongolia to open new overseas market: officials – The Korea Herald, July 12
VP Ansari to lead India to ASEM Summit, terrorism to be on agenda
July 12 (PTI) The pressing issue of terrorism is expected to be discussed among other important topics at the 11th ASEM Summit this week in Mongolia where Vice President Hamid Ansari will lead the Indian delegation.
Ansari would travel to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar on Thursday for the two-day summit from July 15 and would expound India's stand on various issues at the meeting, said Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs.
The theme for the Summit is "20 Years of ASEM: Partnership for the Future through Connectivity" and India's efforts would be inclined towards more successful outcomes and the building of a resilient and multidimensional web of interconnectivity between the two continents, she said.
Ansari will also hold bilateral meetings with a few other participating leaders on the sidelines of the Summit.
During the visit, Ansari may also have an opportunity to meet the new Mongolian leadership after elections were held in the land-locked country in June this year, she said.
"We hope to have an opportunity to meet with the new leadership of Mongolia after elections there in June," she said.
India's relations with Mongolia was upgraded to strategic partnership during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the country last year.
On the ASEM Summit, Saran said since the theme of the meeting was connectivity, the Vice President will focus on it.
"We look at not just the vast geographical space between India and Europe and Asia. The Vice President will focus on all the broad aspects encompassing the theme of connectivity. Of course, the current theme that is of huge concern to us as a country and that of the global community is terrorism. So I imagine that would definitely come up for discussion," she said.
India joined ASEM in January 2007 and has taken part in four earlier summits. This year is unique for ASEM as it celebrates 20 years of its establishment in 1996.
ASEM comprises of 53 entities - 51 countries from Asia and Europe and two regional bodies - the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat. It represents around 62.3 per cent of the world's population, 57.2 per cent of the global GDP and almost 60 per cent of the world's trade.
"It is a unique platform that serves to bridge the two continents of Asia and Europe for constructive partnership and exchange, under the three key pillars of political dialogue, economic collaboration and socio-cultural exchanges," she said on ASEM.
Since this Summit is the first ever international event of such stature that Mongolia is hosting, the participation of Vice President signifies the importance that India attaches to its Strategic Partnership with Mongolia, she added.
PM Hasina to speak of Bangladesh's anti-terror commitment at Asia-Europe meet
Leaves for Mongolia tomorrow
July 13 (The Daily Star) Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to highlight Bangladesh's "strong commitment" to fighting its battle against terrorism during the July 15-16 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Mongolia.
Hasina is scheduled to leave for Mongolia tomorrow to attend the 11th ASEM Summit, which would issue a clear message to the international community that terrorism could never be tolerated.
On the sidelines of the meeting, the premier is scheduled to meet about a dozen global leaders including Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy Matteo Renzi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Myanmar President Htin Kyaw.
During her bilateral meetings with the Asian and European leaders, Hasina would raise the July 1 and 7 terror attacks in Bangladesh and brief her counterparts and global leaders about Bangladesh's security situation both in local and global contexts, diplomatic sources said.
She would also inform them how her government has successfully quelled the attacks and her government's initiatives to prevent any such attacks in future as well as initiatives to battle terrorism and violent extremism.
The PM would try to address the concerns of her Japanese and Italian counterparts as citizens of the two countries fell victim to the July 1 attack. Coincidentally, a Japanese and an Italian citizens were also killed in Dhaka and Rangpur last year.
Dhaka has repeatedly said citizens of the two countries are not target in Bangladesh, but they fell victims to terror attacks in Bangladesh.
Hasina in her meetings with the global leaders would apprise them of Dhaka's comprehensive security measures taken for the safety and security of foreign diplomats, foreigners living in Bangladesh and diplomatic facilities.
Following the July 1 attack in Dhaka in which nine Italian and seven Japanese nationals were killed, summit leaders of Japan and Italy confirmed that counterterrorism measures would be taken up as an important topic at the ASEM meet and that the ASEM would issue a clear message of the international community that terrorism could never be tolerated.
Shinzo Abe and Matteo Renzi also shared the view that Japan and Italy would closely work together to lead international counterterrorism efforts as this year's and next year's G7 chairs on the basis of the outcomes of the G7 Ise-Shima Summit.
As per the programme schedule, Hasina would leave Dhaka for Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, at 11:00am tomorrow and return home on the evening of July 16.
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal process of dialogue and cooperation bringing together 53 members, including the 28 European Union member states, two other European countries, and the European Union with 21 Asian countries and the Asean Secretariat.
The ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening relations between the two regions in a spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.
Finnish Prime Minister Sipilä to Attend ASEM Summit in Mongolia
July 11 (Finnish Government) Prime Minister Juha Sipilä will participate in the ASEM Summit in Ulanbaatar, Mongolia, on 15 and 16 July. The Summit will mark the 20th anniversary of the Asia-Europe Meeting and focus on ways to strengthen partnerships and connections between Asia and Europe.
Vietnam PM to visit Mongolia for ASEM Summit and bilateral talks
July 11 (Talk Vietnam) Vietnam and Mongolia established diplomatic ties on November 17, 1954. Since then, their traditional friendship and multi-faceted cooperation have been maintained and developed in numerous fields.
Vietnam Prime Minister to push implementation of ASEM initiatives – Viet Nam Net, July 11
Cyprus President to participate in the Asian-Europe Meeting in Mongolia
July 11 (Cyprus News Agency) The President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades will travel to Mongolia on Wednesday to participate in the Asian-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides announced on Monday.
McCully to attend Asia-Europe Meeting
July 12 (New Zealand Government) Foreign Minister Murray McCully will travel to Mongolia this week to attend the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit.
"The ASEM Summit brings together representatives from 53 European and Asian nations to foster closer relations between the two regions," Mr McCully says.
"The membership includes some of New Zealand most important trading partners and represents nearly 60 per cent of the world's GDP and population.
"Discussions at this year's meeting will focus on connectivity, economic cooperation, and counter-terrorism," Mr McCully says.
Foreign Ministry Confirms Cambodian Premier's Participation in 11th ASEM Summit
Phnom Penh, July 11, 2016 (AKP) – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia has issued this evening a press release confirming Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen's participation in the 11th ASEM Summit to be held on July 15-16, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, at the invitation of H.E. Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia.
Myanmar president to visit Mongolia, attend ASEM
YANGON, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw will pay a visit to Mongolia and attend the 11th Summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Ulan Bator, according to an official announcement on Sunday.
It will be U Htin Kyaw's reciprocal visit to that of his Mongolian counterpart Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to Myanmar last month and the ASEM will take place on July 15-16.
President Htin Kyaw to visit Mongolia for Asia-Europe meeting – Eleven Myanmar, July 12
Interview: ASEM becoming platform of Eurasian cooperation to jointly address global challenges
SINGAPORE, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The Asia- Europe Meeting (ASEM), which was firstly held in 1996, has become an important platform for interaction between Asia and Europe at a range of different levels of engagement, said Alvin Lim, a research fellow with International Public Policy Pte. Ltd.(IPP) in Singapore.
Mongolia will host the 11th ASEM summit from July 15 to 16 in the capital Ulan Bator, during which representatives of ASEM member countries will also celebrate ASEM's 20th anniversary.
"The informality of ASEM meetings allows the member-states to have greater freedom to discuss issues of common concern. ASEM meetings are also flexible enough to provide a platform for its diverse member-states to meet under the condition of equality," Lim said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
He added that such characteristics allow ASEM to achieve rapid and open communications.
Interview: ASEM performs well in bringing together Asia, Europe: European Expert – Xinhua, July 10 (Download the expert's ASEM report: ASEM in the age of connectivity)
Spotlight: China seeks to enhance Asia-Europe connectivity – Xinhua, July 11
Mongolia Celebrates Naadam, Prepares to Host ASEM Summit
Amid summer sports festival, the country readies for the largest event in modern Mongolian history.
July 12 (The Diplomat) As Mongolia celebrates Naadam, its annual summer holiday, it is also readying itself for the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting. According to organizers, presidents, and prime ministers from 34 countries plan to attend the event in Ulaanbaatar, which will take place this week on July 15 and 16.
This year's ASEM Summit marks the 20th anniversary of Asia-Europe Meeting, and its theme is "Partnership for the Future through Connectivity." Over 3,000 international visitors are projected to travel to Mongolia for the Summit, with some estimates as high as 5,000. Mongolia is hosting nine side events leading up to the main show including the 8th Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Editors Roundtable, the ASEM Consultative Meeting on Food Security, and the 15th Asia-Europe Business Forum.
President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, Premier Li Keqiang of China, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are just a few of the high-profile Asian leaders expected to attend. President of the European Council Donald Tusk and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will also make appearances this weekend in Mongolia's capital.
With the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague's decision on Tuesday that China's claims over much of the disputed South China Sea are groundless, and China's consequent declaration of the court's ruling as invalid, this week's ASEM Summit is timely. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou has said publicly that discussion of the issue will not be welcome at the Summit.
Before the eagerly-anticipated convention on Friday, Mongolia will finish celebrating this year's Naadam festival, held from July 10 to 13. The festivities consist of a number of national ceremonies, concerts, and, most notably, sporting competitions—including those for the "three manly sports" of wrestling, horseracing, and archery. Many other side events such as shegai, a game involving flicking sheep anklebones, and a variety of carnival games are also popular on the holiday.
During the annual festivities Mongolians traditionally consume khuushuur, fried meat pockets, and airag, fermented mare's milk, in addition to a wide variety of dairy products. The Naadam games have been celebrated for centuries by the nation's nomads and represent Mongolia's living cultural legacy of nomadic pastoralism. Today, the festival is a major tourism draw which attracts thousands of foreigners each year to witness the spectacle.
The Mongolian government's decision to hold two major international events in the same week is ambitious. In anticipation, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj declared an unusually long public holiday, from the beginning of Naadam until after the ASEM Summit concludes, in order to encourage residents of the capital to travel to the countryside as the city welcomes delegations from dozens of nations.
The former Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg, who recently lost his premiership and parliamentary seat in a landslide victory for the Mongolian People's Party, publicly urged residents to leave the city while it hosts the scores of international visitors.
While the government has recently changed following the Democratic Party's rout in the national parliamentary elections at the end of June, the same leadership at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains in control of coordinating the events, which have been under preparation for many months.
A wide variety of road and airport infrastructure projects have been underway since it was announced in October of 2014 that Mongolia would host the bi-annual event, and a number of ASEF member nations have contributed to the preparations financially and through in-kind donations.
Most delegates will stay in the newly-constructed ASEM Village south of the capital with the official proceedings taking place at the Shangri-La Hotel in Ulaanbaatar. Multiple major road closings in the capital have been announced over the days of the ASEM Summit to make way for international delegates.
Some critics are skeptical that Mongolia will pull off the event without a hitch, especially as the nation already faces infrastructure challenges, and construction appeared incomplete on several urban projects in the days leading up the event.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lundeg Purevsuren, called ASEM a "big opportunity for Mongolia" to show that it can act as a hub between Asia and Europe and serve as a venue for future international events. "It will be a success," said Purevesuren in his interview with The Diplomat.
The potential for ASEM to boost Mongolia's international reputation is great but so is the possibility of logistical difficulties hampering that image, said foreign officials who preferred to be unnamed.
"ASEM represents for Mongolia an opportunity to broaden its inter-personal networks to an unusually wide range of 'third neighbors', many of whom share its democratic character," said Dr. Kent Calder, director of the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies.
At ASEM11, the world will decide whether Mongolia makes the most of its chance.
Winsway Proposes to Be Renamed into 'E-Commodities Holdings'
July 12 (AAStocks) WINSWAY (01733.HK) proposed to change the name of the company from "Winsway Enterprises Holdings Limited" to "E-Commodities Holdings Limited".
Following the completion of the rights issue and the effectiveness of the restructuring, the group has came out of the financial difficulties, and has started to upgrade its business from traditional bulk commodities trading, such as the trading of seaborne coal, Mongolian coal, and petrochemical products, to an integrated supply chain services platform. Therefore, the board has proposed the change of company name and believes that a new company name will better reflect the changed company strategy.
Historic low ₮2,050.85/USD set March 28, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time
BoM MNT Rates: Friday, July 8 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
Ch.Saikhanbileg hands over seal to his successor
Ulaanbaatar, July 8 (MONTSAME) Former Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg granted Friday the seal to his successor J.Erdenebat, in the State House.
Ch.Saikhanbileg congratulated J.Erdenebat on being appointed as the Prime Minister of Mongolia, and then briefed about works initiated by the previous cabinet. He also informed about a present economic situation, and emphasized there some issues should be done well in connection with the upcoming ASEM Summit, athletes' preparations for the 2016 Olympics and winter preparations.
The same day, the President Ts.Elbegdorj received the newly-elected Prime Minister. He handed over to him a silk scarf and silver cup with dairy product, and wished him success in his duty.
Governors of aimags appointed
Ulaanbaatar, July 9 (MONTSAME) Prime Minister J.Erdenebat issued Friday an ordinance to appoint G.Batsuuri as the governor of Gobisumber aimag, and T.Enkhtuvshin as the governor of Dornogobi aimag.
Earlier, first meetings of the Citizens Representative Khurals (Council) of these aimags submitted to the Premier names of the new governors.
New Head of Independent Authority against Corruption appointed
July 8 (news.mn) The justice standing committee held a session today (8th July) during which they approved the appointment of the new head of the Independent Authority against Corruption (IAAC). A total of 88.2% of members voted in favour of Kh.Enkhjargal as head of the IAAC. All MPs has attended the justice standing committee session today. It is now for the State Great Khural to ratify the decision.
Kh.Enkhjargal was born in Ulaanbaatar in 1964. He graduated from the Defense University of Mongolia in 1987 and the Institute for State Administration and Development in 1996, respectively.
Kh.Enkhjargal has previously worked in the Police Department of Nalaikh District, Police Department of Erdenet city, Police Department of Tuv Aimag, Police Department of Bayanzurkh District and Traffic Police Department, respectively. He is currently working as Head of the Information Technology Division at the General Department of Police.
CCA head appointed – Montsame, July 9
Mogi: brilliant piece of investigative journalism. Bravo, Lkhagva!
The Mysterious Sale of Mongolia's Erdenet Mine
The sale of Russia's stake in one of the world's largest copper mines raised unanswered questions.
By Lkhagva Erdene and Sergey Radchenko
July 9 (The Diplomat) "I will talk about the good news today. It's been nothing but good news as of late." Fiddling with a set of paper pads, Mongolian Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg half-read, half-spoke to a small crowd of journalists. Behind him, Chinggis Khan looked on from the wall, unperturbed. The good news, Saikhanbileg said, was that at last Mongolia would gain full ownership of a sprawling copper mining complex, Erdenet, which it had until then shared with the Russians. Another colonial legacy buried at last. A day to be proud of, June 28, 2016 – a day to remember forever, or at least until the next morning.
In the morning of June 29, Mongolia went to the polls. The electoral contest that pitched the ruling Democratic Party against its main challenger, the Mongolian People's Party, was resolved by midnight. The democrats faced an astounding rout: 65 of the 76 seats in the Parliament went to the MPP, leaving the demoralized, fractious, tired Democratic Party with only nine. If Saikhanbileg expected to arouse patriotic sentiment, he badly miscalculated. The promise of Erdenet did not help his party. Saikhanbileg, too, was trampled over in the political melee, losing his parliamentary seat and his premiership.
But even as Saikhanbileg stepped aside, questions remained: what exactly was on that piece of paper that he waved in front of the journalists on the day before the elections? Who bought Erdenet, how and why? And who will benefit as one of Mongolia's largest mining ventures changes hands? There are also lingering geopolitical questions: why did Vladimir Putin agree to relinquish such a significant asset in a neighboring country where, by all accounts, Russia is striving to preserve and increase its leverage?
Erdenet is Mongolian for "treasure." Legend has it that in the old times Chinese prospectors mined the site but they were killed by a bolt of lightning. The Russians fared better. In 1973 the Soviet and Mongolian governments established a joint venture to develop a copper and molybdenum mine at what still is one of the largest deposits of copper ores in the world. Production began in 1978. Erdenet was not just a factory; it became Mongolia's third largest city – an agglomeration of ugly apartment blocks clustered to the side of a gargantuan Martian-red pit.
Copper was shipped to the USSR at below-market prices, fueling Mongolian frustration with the semi-colonial economic relationship. The collapse of the Soviet bloc changed that. In 1991 the original joint venture agreement was updated, leaving Mongolia with 51 percent of the enterprise to Russia's 49 percent. This was not a relationship made in heaven. The Russians had little control over the venture. Until 2011, when Mongolia repealed its windfall profits tax, 90 percent of the profits were siphoned off as taxes, leaving little to Russia.
Still, from Moscow's perspective, Erdenet was an important strategic asset. Having lost ground in the 1990s (mostly to China, now by far Mongolia's largest trading partner), the Russians took comfort in the clout afforded by their joint ventures in Mongolia: the trans-Mongolian railroad, the company Mongolrostsvetmet (which mines fluorite, gold, and iron ore), and, of course, Erdenet – the three pillars holding up the imposing dome of Russia's fading economic influence.
Economically, though, these assets are something of a drag. The aging railroad requires investment of capital for repairs and upgrades, something Russian Railways – a 50 percent owner of the railroad – has had to commit to in the (still unrealized) hope of leveraging its presence in Mongolia to gain access to important copper and coal deposits in the Gobi desert. Meanwhile, Erdenet and Mongolrostsvetmet, though not losing money as had happened in the past, yield very insignificant profits. In 2015 consolidated profits of both assets are said to have been a paltry $4.6 million.
The tumbling of copper prices since 2011 have hit Erdenet hard, eating into profits. In Moscow, there was mounting frustration with the bureaucratic obstacles of managing the joint venture, and with the unwillingness of the Mongolian-run management to consult with the Russians on key operational questions. The Russian shareholders – at least those with a modicum of economic sense – could not be blamed for wondering: what's in it for us? So when the Russians were offered a hefty $390 million for their stake in Erdenet and another $10 million for Mongolrostsvetmet, it is perhaps not so surprising that they decided to cash in.
But then, again, the value of these assets for Russia was not in the profits that they consistently failed to deliver. The value was in the leverage they afforded, and in their genealogy, which goes back to the heyday of the unbreakable Russian-Mongolian friendship. The Russian shareholder – the state-owned company Rostec – would have needed the government's approval to pull out of such an important geopolitical investment. This means, in practice, agreement from Putin. And Putin does not always follow the money.
The final decision to sell Erdenet was evidently taken in Tashkent in late June, during the recent session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It remains unclear what promises, if any, Putin received for his agreement to the deal. It is hard to imagine that he simply signed away two of the three pillars of Russian influence in Mongolia without getting something in return. After all, $400 million dollars is really not that much for Russia, even in times of sanctions and austerity.
But if the Russian side of the story remains murky at best, the Mongolian side is mired in an outright scandal. When Saikhanbileg advertised the agreement on June 28, he made a lot of the fact that Erdenet would now be a 100 percent Mongolian company. But it was not as good as it sounded. It was not the State that was buying the 49 percent Russian stake. It was, rather, a private entity, the Mongolian Copper Corporation, fronting for one of the country's large private banks, the Trade and Development Bank.
This is where the message backfired. Instead of inspiring voters with the announcement of the imminent return of important economic assets to Mongolia, Saikhanbileg put them off: Putin was simply being replaced by anonymous oligarchs. A key strategic asset was being sold down the river to a private bank, and the Mongolian government, not getting a tugrug-worth from the deal, did not seem to mind. Ney, the prime minister cheered at the transaction!
The opposition parties screamed bloody murder. Surely, there had to be consultations. The terms of the Erdenet agreement required that the Russians first offer their stake to the Mongolian government and only if the government turned it down could a third party be brought into the deal.
According to our sources, there in fact was consultation between the two governments – but it was all done in secret. On June 13 the Mongolian Foreign Ministry sent a note to Russia approving the transaction. The sale was sealed within days, and the money was promptly wired. The Mongolian Copper Corporation – an entity registered at a private apartment in one of Ulaanbaatar's rundown middle class neighborhoods – borrowed $200 million from the Trade and Development Bank, and came up with another $200 million from its own, undisclosed, sources. The head of the Corporation, the 28-year old Tsooj Purevtuvshin – known to his friends as "Tush" – was not available for comment.
The only thing known about Purevtuvshin is that he is a young man of modest means and that he studied International Law at Mongolian National University before working, briefly, as a legal adviser to the Trade and Development Bank.
Our effort to locate the phantom corporation (based on the contact address found on its hastily-assembled website) led, strangely enough, to the office of Bloomberg TV – Mongolia.
The deal was in the making for two years. "The negotiations were carried out in utmost secrecy," the CEO of the Trade and Development Bank Onon Orkhon told us. "There were external and internal forces that could hinder the deal. These were not just market forces. There were many interested buyers in Russia, Kazakhstan, and China." Russian sources have confirmed the picture. The head of Rostec Sergey Chemezov – keen to sell the assets – reportedly spoke to Putin twice before winning him over. At least some officials at the Russian Foreign Ministry, including Deputy Minister Igor Morgulov, are said to have strenuously opposed the sale.
The agreement was signed on June 24, four days before the prime minister announced it to the startled Mongolian public. Within days the old Russian-Mongolian management board was dissolved. On June 27, "Tush," as the head of the Mongolian Copper Corporation, and the Mongolian Ministry of Finance issued a joint decree, mandating the current Erdenet management to refrain from taking any actions or disposing of any property. The decree also appointed an overseer, Dugree Tserenbadam, who turned up at the factory in the company of four bodyguards. The company's current 6,000 staff, surprised by these dramatic developments, are pondering their fate.
The Mongolian mining sector is well known for its corruption. The signing and ripping of contracts, the constant political infighting, and the swelling tide of resource nationalism, have marred many a mining deal. Foreign investors, like Rio Tinto, have felt the heat. Many others were spooked by Mongolia's uncertain political and legal environment, which contributed to the country's rapid slide from the world's fastest-growing economy in 2011 to its present miserable and worsening state.
The problem – and here the foreign investors are very much in the same boat or, shall we say, riding the same camel as the Mongolian public – is that the lack of transparency in mining deals hurts everyone: the voters who have the right to know how their country's key assets are being dealt with; companies denied the right to compete in an open and fair manner; and of course the State itself, misused for private gain, and so ultimately delegitimized.
Saikhanbileg's announcement on the day before the elections was hardly "good news." It was, rather, mostly bad news: a surprise that set off a maelstrom of recriminations not just from the clueless public and the civil society but also from the ascendant political forces. The Democratic Party did not expect to be so badly beaten at the polls. Now that it has been, its 11th-hour business deals will be closely scrutinized and possibly challenged by the new power brokers, leading to the sort of prolonged malaise that the country's mining industry and the struggling Mongolian economy are unfortunately all too familiar with.
Lkhagva Erdene is an investigative journalist with MongolTV in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Sergey Radchenko is Professor of International Relations at Cardiff University, U.K. and Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC.
DeFact: Repeated Tsunamis
By Jargal "DeFact" Dambadarjaa
July 10 (UB Post) One day after the elections, E.Bat-Uul, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar and Leader of Ulaanbaatar's Democratic Party, said that the 2016 parliamentary elections and Ulaanbaatar City Council elections turned out to be a "tsunami" for Democratic Party (DP) as a whole, and especially for Ulaanbaatar's Democratic Party. A tsunami is a phenomenon where a large volume of water is displaced due to an earthquakes, resulting in high ocean waves that do unpredictable damage to coastal areas.
A total of 498 candidates – including 68 independents – ran for 76 parliament seats in this election. Besides the independents, there were 12 political parties and three political alliances represented. The Mongolian People's Party (MPP) had a landslide victory, winning 65 seats. The DP, which was in power, won only nine seats compared to the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party's (MPRP) one seat and one independent candidate being elected. No one had foreseen these results.
This outcome was greatly influenced by a press conference held by Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg on the day before the elections. He announced that Russia's Rostec Corporation, which owned 49 percent of the Mongolian-Russian joint venture Erdenet Mining Corporation, completed the sale of their full stake to Mongol Zes (Mongolian Copper). He noted that the sale gave Mongolia full ownership of the Erdenet mine.
The announcement raised alarms for people because Mongolia's biggest public asset had been secretly sold by the government to an unknown company without any notification to its owners (the people). It is still unclear how the company found such a huge amount of capital to make the purchase. This information started a political tsunami and made undecided voters turn against the DP and vote for the MPP.
This tsunami revealed the facade of Mongolia's political structure and the reality of our public governance, letting the public see who is who. From another perspective, this election brought about the opportunity to strengthen our political institutions, and challenged the country's politicians to get out of the economic crisis and revive the economy.
In a democratic country, a "soft coup" is only possible with a fair election. The 2016 parliamentary elections completely changes the landscape of Mongolia's politics, as the ruling power fully transfers from the DP to the MPP. The election system was changed just before election day from the mixed system of 2012 to a majoritarian system. This change had an impact on the election's outcome as well.
The majoritarian voting system increases the likelihood of a two-party system and gives more opportunity for either dominant party to win the majority of seats and form a cabinet on their own, while creating room for opposition. As the constituencies are clearly designated, this system also provides a strong platform for members of parliament to work closely with their voters, which tends to remove the distinctions between the individual and political party factors. However, the majoritarian system leads to increased factions, making members of parliament work outside of their electoral districts and give promises of a populist nature.
For these exact reasons, the voting system was changed to a mixed system in the 2012 elections. Nevertheless, it allowed people who were not so popular among the public to get a seat in Parliament due to their political affiliations. It was one of the reasons why the system was changed back to a majoritarian one.
With their policy to develop the economy, the DP acquired internal and external loans and implemented unsustainable projects, such as providing housing mortgages with an interest rate three times lower than the market rate and a price stabilization program carried out by the government. The voters were unhappy that the DP never mentioned anything about repaying the national debt, which has grown to be as large as 220% of our GDP.
The Prime Minister's statement on the Russians selling their stake in Erdenet Mining Corporation to a private company unsettled voters and shook their trust. It clearly showed how the authorities treat the public's interests.
The DP now has an opportunity to reflect on the path they have been on, to make changes, and to make party reforms. I believe that the DP will grow into a major political force that will develop and strengthen Mongolia's political and economic institutions, deliver equal services to every citizen, and establish the rule of law in 2020.
In order to achieve this, the DP needs to develop into an exemplary political institution based on strong principles, where political party financing is transparent. On the other hand, people expect the MPP to not repeat mistakes made in the past, abstain from stealing public property and land, and implement everything included in their 2016 election platform.
If our two major political parties accomplish these tasks, a great opportunity will open up for Mongolia to bring our democracy to the next stage.
MAJOR ECONOMIC CHALLENGE
The MPP has been handed a nation strangled by debt and an economy where major commodity prices are falling and the budget deficit has reached 20 percent of GDP. It is the public's expectation that the MPP forms a professional government consisting of cabinet members who are highly capable, who put the public's interests above theirs, and take an ethical approach to their job. There should not be many members of parliament who will wear a "double deel" (holding a ministerial office while serving as a member of parliament).
There is a need to attest whether the Erdenet deal was done within legal boundaries, if it change the company into a shareholding company, if the company will offer shares on an international stock exchange, and if the public will be allowed to own shares. In the first phase, the focus needs to be on supporting import substitution and creating highly profitable export products.
Also, a fund for repaying the Chinggis Bond's principal payment of 500 million USD at the end of next year needs to be established now. In order to attract foreign investment, public governance has to be transparent with its long term outlook clear and predictable. Large infrastructure projects must go forward.
Tax pressures should be relieved, and VAT needs to be reduced and imposed on all companies. Furthermore, fair and free economic competition should be encouraged while state-owned companies need to be changed to shareholding companies. Shares should be sold on the domestic stock exchange so that oversight from shareholders can be achieved.
It is time for the capital city to have a zoning plan; a register of properties under the public domain with disclosed details such as area, owner, coordinates, and valuation; and introduce a smarter approach to using real estate properties.
The location of future highways to the new airport needs to be determined first. The auction for land use licenses should only take place afterwards. When implementing programs to provide apartments to ger district residents, a regulation should be made so that the land owners benefit from the properties that have been built on their land.
We – the citizens – are waiting for the new government to get the country out of its economic crisis and to establish the rule of law in society.
Chinese firms in Mongolia take measures to seek common development while investing
July 11 (China Radio) The impending trip to Mongolia later this week by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has rekindled discussion here in China about access to the Mongolian market by Chinese companies.
CRI's Xie Cheng with more on what Chinese companies can be doing to make it easier for them to become involved in Mongolia.
Secretary-General of the Chinese Business Association in Mongolia, Shagnalt, says Mongolia itself operates under a simple economic system.
"The economic structure in Mongolia is quite singular. There is hardly any manufacturing in the country, and almost all of its foreign currency comes from exporting mineral products. Foreign currency is then used for purchasing daily necessities or manufactured goods. From this perspective, Mongolia's economic structure is complementary to the huge Chinese market."
There are around 71-hundred Chinese companies registered in Mongolia.
However, only around 2-thousand of them are still operational.
The reasons why so many companies remain mothballed are varied.
Observers suggest one of the underlying issues is a wide-scale reluctance among people in Mongolia to allow foreign companies to operate on their territory.
Dalan Guerban, a representative of a Chinese Mining firm operating in Mongolia, says one of the best ways to overcome this is for foreign companies to make themselves into 'local' companies.
"The top priority is to observe the laws and local rules in Mongolia. The operational activities of a company need to be localized, since they're registered in Mongolia, so they need to act in accordance with the local laws and other regulations. They should also hire as many local staff as they can."
Guerban says it's important to maintain a solid working relationship with the local staff, given that the country is home to less than 3-million people.
He says his company, during down times, will cut operational expenses, rather than laying off local staff.
Shagnalt with the China Business Association in Mongolia is suggesting looking beyond natural resources, saying there are growing opportunities in other areas in Mongolia, particularly in infrastructure development.
He says Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming trip to Mongolia is likely going to focus on that.
"One of the keys in Mongolia's diplomatic policies is to attract foreign assistance, investment and aid for its infrastructure construction, as well as trade and economic cooperation. We hope to implement those bilateral projects which have not been put into effect yet as soon as possible, so as to bring more benefit to Mongolia's economic development."
Mongolia is playing host to a meeting of European and Asian leaders starting on Friday.
Link to article (and audio)
"We believe we're at the bottom there. We're keen on consumer goods and industrial companies."
Political Shift Set to Fuel the Next Bull Market
Mining is Good… But This Area is Better
· Around 20% of the 200-plus companies listed on its stock exchange are involved in mining.
· Mongolia's top 10 mines alone are sitting on $2.75 trillion of coal, copper, gold, uranium and rare earths.
· Mongolia's Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mine, located on the Mongolia-China border, is back on track. The deposits there reportedly contain 79 billion pounds of copper and 45 million ounces of gold. Australia's Rio Tinto has already spent $7 billion to prepare the mine for operations.
Look Beyond This Simple ETF
Entrepreneur Khongorzul Bat-Ireedui discusses GES and future goals
By Lila Seidman
July 10 (UB Post) Prior to heading to the seventh annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), Khongorzul Bat-Ireedui watched all three seasons of HBO's "Silicon Valley", which is set in the technological hotbed where the summit was held from June 22-24.
B.Khongorzul said the show helped her grasp what navigating the tech-dominated startup world is like. On the third and final day of the summit, the entire cast made a surprise appearance. U.S. President Barak Obama gave a speech the same day.
"To me, here, sitting in UB, it was like a world far, far away, and then suddenly you're in the same room with the whole cast. It was, like, this is better than President Obama in a way!" B.Khongorzul says, underscoring how surreal the experience was.
B.Khongorzul graduated from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University on a Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship in 2014, and currently works in Ulaanbaatar as a public outreach and stakeholder engagement specialist at the National Secretariat for Development of the Second Compact of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). She is also a self-proclaimed feminist and advocate for women and children's rights, "fighting for gender equality and all things equal and just," and maintains a popular blog at khongi.com.
Despite her prodigious accomplishments, B.Khongorzul was surprised to be chosen to attend the event, where so many tech, business, and political luminaries shared their insights. Besides President Obama, speakers included Facebook CEO and co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, LinkedIn co-Founder and Executive Chairman Reid Hoffman, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, and Stanford University President John L. Hennessy.
The application process was "very rigorous," explains B.Khongorzul, who had to submit a detailed entrepreneurial project pitch.
Out of 5,000 applicants, 686 entrepreneurs from 170 different countries were selected to attend, along with around 300 investors. B.Khongorzul was the sole attendee from Mongolia.
According to the GES website, the event "aims to showcase inspiring entrepreneurs and investors from around the world, creating new opportunities for investment, partnership and collaboration; connect American entrepreneurs and investors with international counterparts to form lasting relationships; and highlight entrepreneurship as a means to address some of the most intractable global challenges."
The U.S., Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Morocco, and Kenya previously hosted the series. Next year's summit will be held in India.
The UB Post sat down with B.Khongorzul to discuss her experience at GES and what she's working on in UB.
What was the highlight of your experience at GES?
Belt & Road Initiative expected to boost Mongolia's development
ULAN BATOR, July 11 (Xinhua) -- More and more Mongolians think the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative provides a good chance to boost the landlocked country's economy.
In a recent interview with China Radio International, Mongolian Ambassador to China Tsedenjav Sukhbaatar said China is Mongolia's largest foreign investor and trading partner, adding that the plan to build a China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor is a milestone in history and that Mongolia is planning to develop special foreign investment zones to attract investment.
"Mongolia will contribute to the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative" and "will also greatly benefit from the increased trade turnover and good shipment," he said.
Mongolian Minister of Road and Transportation Zorigt Munkhchuluun highlighted in local media the country's geographic location, saying that most of the planned infrastructure projects in Mongolia under the economic corridor plan and Mongolia's Steppe Road infrastructure construction program are related to the transportation sector.
The Steppe Road program is designed to boost the Mongolian economy through trans-border transportation.
Mongolian economists and public figures believe the Belt and Road Initiative will offer more export opportunities for Mongolia to boost its logistics and transportation between China and other countries through its territory.
They say Mongolia has abundant raw materials and mineral resources such as coal, copper and iron ores needed by China, which serves as the basis of the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
Mongolia's agriculture is also expected to benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative.
Mongolia boasts 73 million heads of livestock farmed by about 200,000 herder households in the vast countryside. Currently, the country's agricultural products lack market access and the government wants to sell them to big consumer markets including China, according to Mongolian media.
However, the country's poor infrastructure and ineffective veterinarian and vaccination services have proved to be a big hindrance.
"I heard that mutton is expensive in China. I want to sell meat to Chinese consumers. The meat I have is organic without any chemical substance," said Batbold Erdene, a herder with 1,000 heads of goats and sheep.
With the Belt and Road Initiative, these herders face a better prospect of shipping their meat and dairy products to China in a better and fresh condition, media reports said.
Chinese premier sends congratulatory message to Mongolia's new PM
BEIJING, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has sent a message to Jargaltulga Erdenebat to congratulate him on his appointment as Mongolia's prime minister.
In the message, Li said China and Mongolia, as close friendly neighbors, are currently witnessing the sustainable development of their comprehensive strategic partnership, with continuously deepening practical cooperation in various fields.
China attaches great importance to its relations with Mongolia and is willing to make concerted efforts to promote bilateral ties, so as to bring more benefits to the two countries and peoples, he said.
India President greets Mongolia on its National Day – PTI, July 10
Iran's President Felicitates Mongolia on National Day – Tasnim, July 11
Belarus interested in stronger bilateral ties with Mongolia – BelTA, July 11
Taiwan Joins Hands with Mongolia on Democracy
Two weeks after major elections in Mongolia, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy holds a forum in the region to promote democratic awareness.
July 11 (The News Lens International) On July 9 Hsu Szuchien (徐斯儉), president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), led 11 Taiwanese, including activists and experts in politics, to attend the East Asia Democracy Forum held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), one of the young charismatic leaders of the Sunflower Movement, which occupied the legislature in Taipei in March and April 2014, also participated the summit. Hsu pointed to Lin as a symbol of the great impact of youth participation in Taiwan's political environment. He also said he hoped the experience of Taiwan could provide a model for other countries.
EU launches brochure setting out overall development cooperation with Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar, July 8 (MONTSAME) The European Union, together with its Member States, has published a brochure giving a comprehensive overview of the increasingly close relationship with Mongolia that goes beyond traditional cooperation, the europa.eu website has published.
The publication, available in English and Mongolian, highlights projects that have successfully transferred knowledge and skills in areas such as education, healthcare and governance; opened up new opportunities for rural products; supported business growth; and helped Mongolia to protect its unique cultural and environmental heritage. A selection of EU, Member State and multilaterally-funded initiatives are featured.
It also looks at how EU-Mongolian relations have evolved. EU Member States and European businesses and NGOs play an increasingly important role in bringing in investment and expertise, and in promoting cultural exchange. Through working in close partnership with Mongolia, the EU and its Member States are helping the country to achieve its ambitions of sustainable and inclusive development, as this brochure demonstrates.
This brochure is a real opportunity to learn how diverse and profound the cooperation between Mongolia and European Union is, and also shows the potential expertise that the EU and its Member States can share with Mongolia.
Genghis Khan and India-Mongolia Relations
By Amb. P. Stobdan
July 11 (Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses) How relevant is Genghis Khan – Asia's biggest hero of the last millennium, who rose from the wind-swept Inner Asian steppes to create the world's largest ever empire in history. Mesmerising accounts of Genghis Khan abound in scores of books available now – highlighting how ruthlessly he had seized swathes of land (12 million square miles) from Korea to Poland by routing empire after empire. It is said that Genghis Khan's army reduced China's population by half. His army swept through Eurasia, erased the Khwarazm Empire, and annihilated over 40 million people on the way. They also wiped out three-fourths of modern-day Iran's population. Their conquest of Baghdad, Syria and Egypt was considered the most catastrophic event in Islamic history. Genghis Khan did not even spare the Slavic and European world. His army hit hard on the ancient centres of Russian civilization; went further to subjugate today's Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Poland. By the time Genghis Khan died in 1227, the Mongol Empire was twice the size of the Roman Empire and Muslim Caliphate and four times the size of Alexander the Great's.
A curious Mongol link with Inethik (India)
One rather intriguing feature is that Mongol emperors and tribes, from Genghis Khan to the last Mongol rulers of Oriyat, Torgud or Kalmyk variants, invariably tended to see their own image through the Indian mirror. Historians trace Mongol interface with India to the second century in the Common Era, during the reign of Kanishka when the Sogdanian (Uzbek) traders were the first to narrate Indian wisdom to the Mongol nomadic tribes wandering in Central Asia.
This leads to yet another perplexing question that is often raised but remains unanswered – why Genghis Khan, who left no territory unconquered, did not invade India? The Mongol leader did not spare the Chinese, Koreans, Persians, Afghans, Arabs, Slavs, Europeans whether Christians, Jews or Muslims, causing so much damage to them even to the verge of their extinction. But there is no rational explanation, specific facts and references as to why the Mongol army kept off India even though they had every opportunity to do so by exploiting the already disunited Sultanates then.
Genghis Khan had reached even neighbouring Afghanistan under the control of Shah Muhammad's son Jalal-ud-din, but he decided to turn back from there. So what deterred him from invading India?
Among some logical explanations cited include the Indian tropical climate – considered unsuitable for Mongol troops and horses (cavalry). But the Indian climatic condition has never been known to have deterred other foreign invaders including Greeks, Turks and Moguls from militarily venturing into India. Genghis Khan's own descendants, Tamerlane and Babur, were later able to create havoc in India massacring thousands in Delhi alone.
The logistical problem of crossing the perilous and impassable Himalayas for his return may have been another reason. Some give credit to Shams-ud-din Iltutmish for his diplomatic skill in dealing wisely with Genghis Khan's messengers and thus escaping the Mongol rage.
Yet, one most astonishing and popular myth goes that the Mongols including Genghis Khan innately regarded India as sacrosanct and inviolable. Many strongly believe that Genghis Khan's ritual of Tengir worship resembled the ancient Indiantantric rituals.
But the most common legend is the one mentioned in the Secret History of the Mongols: that Genghis Khan was stopped by a "Unicorn" who spoke with the voice of his dead father and conveyed to him that invading India would not be blissful and it would go against his fortune. Genghis Khan took it as a blessing and immediately turned back from Afghanistan along with his troops.
The stories also go that his advisors advised him against touching Buddhist monasteries in Turfan and Khotan – considered then as symbols of Indian wisdom. Some Mongol Buddhists also consider Genghis Khan to be a reincarnation of Bodhisattva Vajrapani.
While these could be termed as myths, historical records do prove that those Mongol descendants avowed to the Islamic faith such as Babur did not spare India while those who embraced Buddhism such as Kublai Khan revered India and proclaimed themselves as Chakravartin Khans.
In fact, the Mongols were so inherently rooted in Indic religion that even after their disintegration by the 13th-14th century, they took to Buddhism albeit through the Manchus and Tibetans. By the 16th century, the vernacular Mongolian Buddhism, which had direct roots in Sanskrit, was overshadowed by the Tibetan Lama orthodoxy under the patronage of the Manchu Chin'g Dynasty and lasts until now. In fact, the last theocratic ruler of Mongolia Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, who was dethroned in 1920 in a Communists Revolution, was considered the reincarnation of a Bengali scholar Acharya Taranatha.
It is interesting to see how, in the 21st century, the Mongols are speedily returning to the global stage with their lost Mongol-Buddhist identity. Today, Genghis Khan stirs Mongol nationalism. He enjoys a divine status on both sides of the Mongolia-China border. His birth anniversary is celebrated with fervour both in Inner and Outer Mongolia.
The Chinese are fearful not just of Genghis Khan's legacy but also of Buddha and the India factor. To mollify Mongols, the Chinese treat Genghis Khan as their hero, but the fear of a new generation of Mongols imbuing ancient links disturbs Chinese minds. In July 2015, Chinese authorities arrested an Indian national in Inner Mongolia for watching a documentary on Genghis Khan – an indication of the Chinese paranoia built around these realities.
The Mongol-Buddhist connect with India also worries Beijing. To rival India, the Chinese are seeking direct contact with Mongol Buddhists. They have already reached out with cash for helping Mongols reconstruct major monasteries lying in ruins since their destruction during the Stalin era. Apart from cultivating members of the Mongol clergy, the Chinese are trying to gain control over the Soviet-era Buddhist outfit, the Asian Buddhist Conference of Peace (ABCP) based in Ulaanbaatar. The moribund ABCP enjoys the UN tag. A plan is also afoot now to take the Chinese-chosen Panchen Lama to Ulaanbaatar this summer. All these are part of China's calculus to influence the politics of Lamaistic Buddhism in the post 14th Dalai Lama era. Clearly, Beijing sees yet another geopolitical benefit of edging in on India's cultural influence.
These moves are providentially being noted in India. Prime Minister Modi's visit to Mongolia last year and the grant of USD 1 billion credit line was meant to reaffirm India's strong commitment to protect and boost Mongol identity. Further steps are needed to help Mongolia financially and with archaeological skills for restoring numerous headless and bullet holes-marred Buddhist statues as also to preserve ancient monasteries that contain priceless hand-printed Sanskrit texts.
What also binds India with Mongolia alongside Buddhism is democracy – born in the early 1990s with Indian incentives. Buddhism, democracy, freedom and nationalism are seemingly intersecting powerfully in the current political and economic context of Mongolia.
India should help Mongolia bust the stereotypical myths and cardboard image of the great Mongol heroes. Instead of demonising Genghis Khan as a barbaric plunderer, his legacy should be preserved as a proud Asian heritage. Opportunity exists to build a fresh Mongol narrative based on previously untapped resources. Such a requirement demands urgency in the context of China's historical reassertion both in the maritime and Inner Asian domain.
Like other countries, Mongolia is also concerned by China's rise. Though the Chinese bring lots of money to Mongolia in return for accessing its mineral resources in the Gobi desert, the threat that Mongolia too would eventually be swallowed by China, like what happened to Inner Mongolia, does exist. Therefore, only a powerful resurrection of Genghis Khan could expose many of the historical truths especially to debunk Chinese historical claims in Asia.
More directly for India, Mongolia serves well for maintaining the Asian balance of power. Clearly, India's cultural presence in the midst of China and Russia is good for the Asian order. Mongolia is also nicely positioned in close proximity to Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, resource-rich Siberia, Russia's Far East and North Korea. Thus, a benign Indian presence in Mongolia is geopolitically vital.
It would be befitting to dedicate the 60th Anniversary of Indo-Mongolian Diplomatic Relations this year to the great Asian hero Genghis Khan.
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.
Meet the stars of Naadam, Mongolia's answer to the Olympics
July 11 (The Telegraph) The traditional festival of Naadam, meaning "games", kicks off in Mongolia today. Expect acrobatics on horseback, dazzling costumes, and lots of exposed flesh.
Mongolia Games Kick Off in Ulan Bator
ULAN BATOR, July 12 (EFE) – Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator, has been "invaded" by warriors – horseracers, archers and heavyweight wrestlers – who are moving around the city sporting their colorful outfits as they prepare to engage in the so-called "three manly sports" for the national holiday of Naadam.
This is the time of year in this vast landlocked country when the Naadam festival is held, including competitions dating back to the time of Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire around the year 1200 and events to commemorate Mongolia's independence anniversary.
Mongolian citizens woke up on Monday ready to welcome the horse-mounted soldiers with their colorful costumes and flags who entered the capital's central square to officially inaugurate the festivities.
Foreign tourists mixed with the locals wearing traditional dress in the soldiers' procession from central Genghis Khan Square to the city's stadium, where the festival and most of the sports events will take place.
The "three manly sports" in the past had been limited to male competitors but now women may also take part in all sports except wrestling, and this year there are more athletes involved in Ulan Bator than in past years because festivals that had been held in other cities have been consolidated into one big event in the capital.
Scheduled for the outskirts of the capital, surrounded by mountains, were the first horseraces of up to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) in which some riders about 10 years old are participating, but the Mongolians say that it's the quality of the animals that matters, not the age of the people riding them.
Nevertheless, the keynote events of the festival are the heavyweight wrestling competitions, where two competitors in scanty clothing and fight without time limits or weight divisions until one or the other touches the ground with some part of his body that's not a foot or a hand.
"Mongolian wrestlers (are) ... very respected, a symbol of strength," one of the fighters, Sambuu Batjargal, told EFE during a rest period prior to the battle, and while some of the winners can manage to go on to become stars in this country others have entered into politics, such as the three famous wrestlers who won seats in the 76-member parliament during the June 29 elections.
In addition to the sports events, the festival also includes a fair, open-air concerts and many gift booths and kiosks in the vicinity, along with actors dressed up – for instance – as Mickey Mouse for the children.
Camels and colour kick-off Mongolia's Naadam festival – Reuters, July 12
Traditional Naadam sports festival kicks off in Mongolia – China Radio, July 12
Mongolia's Nadaam Is a Festival of Nomad Warrior Sports
July 11 (Nature World News) Horse jockeys, skilled archers, and fierce wrestlers take the spotlight this week as Mongolia celebrates its national festival of Naadam. From July 11 to 15, the country revels in the "three manly games" of wrestling, archery and horse racing, the sports that once helped Genghis Khan test and train his greatest warriors.
"Oral traditions, performing arts, national cuisine, craftsmanship, and cultural forms such as long song, Khöömei overtone singing, Bie biyelgee dance and Morin khuur fiddle also feature prominently during Naadam," notes UNESCO. The festival harkens back to the culture of the nomadic tribes that have dwelled amid the steppes of Central Asia for hundreds of years.
Naadam itself is believed to be at least 800 years old, tour manager Michel Behar reveals in an interview. "You'll see archers with the same type of bow that Genghis Khan's armies used, made of birch, fish glue, and deer sinew," he says.
Genghis Khan himself is credited for instituting the "three games of men" that are the focus of Naadam (which means "games"). Mongolian wrestling, archery and horseback riding developed the skills he sought for the men in his armies. Recently, however, women have begun to participate in the Naadam archery games, and girls in the horse racing, reports BBC's Human Planet Explorer.
The Naadam horse races are limited to child jockeys, boys and girl aged 6 to 12 years old. They train in the months leading up to the race, but the Mongolians view the competition as primarily a test of the skills of the horses, not the riders. The race takes place cross-country, running for 15 to 30 km. The top three finishers among the horses win titles and medals, while the winning jockey earns the title of tumny ekh - "leader of ten thousand."
The archery competition is a colorful event with the players dressed up in deel, a traditional Mongolian outfit. Archers must stand, draw and shoot at a target set up 75 km away (65 km for women).
The most popular event in Naadam is wrestling, where two men face off and the first one who touches the ground (except with the feet or hands) loses the match. The wrestlers perform the bevekh, or eagle dance, before the match.
Many games take place throughout Mongolia during the midsummer holidays. But the biggest games are held in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolia celebrates centuries-old Naadam festival
July 10 (Al Jazeera) Monday marks the start of the ancient Mongolian sport festival of Naadam, which features wrestling, archery and horse-racing.
The country is facing a number of challenges as a new democracy and an export-dependent economy.
But as Scott Heidler reports, these contemporary issues have had little impact on the all-important Naadam.
The cruelty of winter: Devastating images reveal aftermath of a season where temperatures in Mongolia fell to -50°C killing more than 850,000 livestock
· Japanese photographer Madoka Ikegami travelled to the Zavkhan province, Nalaikh and Ulaanbaatar this year
· She captured the devastation left after temperatures fell to minus 50 degrees Celsius between 2015 and 2016
· Livestock were the most heavily affected and carcasses of the animals could be seen lying in the snow all over
July 12 (Daily Mail) These images from Mongolia reveal the cruelty of the winters experienced by its people.
The country's extreme winter disaster saw temperatures drop to minus 50 degrees Celsius between 2015 and 2016, killing more than 850,000 livestock.
Japanese photographer Madoka Ikegami travelled to the Zavkhan province, Nalaikh and Ulaanbaatar in April this year to document the effects of the unique disaster on the animal herders.
Known as the Dzud disaster in native language, the freezing conditions resulted in the mass death of camels, cows, horses, sheep and goats.
Ikegami said: 'According to the UN data of April 25, more than 850,000 animals perished in the 2015-2016 disaster.
'I documented the lives of displaced former herders who lost all their livestock in previous Dzud and had to give up on herding and move to a city for a new job.'
Ikegami originally visited Mongolia last year where she experienced the welcoming nature of local reindeer herders.
And as soon as she heard about the latest disaster, she wanted to make sure the herders were safe and find out what it was really like for them to fight off such terrible conditions.
The 33-year-old said: 'The sisters I spoke to lost over 200 livestock, the corpses of which lay around just a few minutes away from their ger (traditional yurt).
'There was no sign of human life at ground level, or upon the endless snow terraces.
'The sisters tried to save their starving, dying animals just by themselves in such a lonely place where the older sister hadn't seen anyone apart from her younger sister for five months.'
Displaced former herders and seasonal workers often resort to conducting dangerous and illegal mining jobs to prevent the fall into extreme poverty.
Ikegami realised the full extent of the catastrophe caused by the Dzud when she saw a dog feeding off the flesh and bones of other animal corpses.
She said: 'Suddenly being exposed to the sight of piles of animal corpses, I was simply frightened and learned what the Dzud disaster really means to the people.
'In our day to day lives we're not exposed to such a tragedy.'
Davis Cup: Bahrain to take on Mongolia
July 12 (Al Bawaba) Bahrain, ranked 117th in the world, are set to open its Davis Cup campaign today at 9.30am against Mongolia in Asia/Oceania Group IV on the clay courts at Al-Hussein Sport City in Jordanian capital Amman.
The Bahrain delegation is headed by Bahrain Tennis Federation board member director Mohammed Ali Salman, national coach, team captain and 64-match Davis Cup veteran Essam Abdul A'al and featuring players - Hassan Abdulnabi, Abdulkarim Abdulnabi, Yousif Qaed and Elyas Abdulnabi.
Bahrain, which first entered the Davis Cup in 1989 and have four times been in Group II of the regional zones, are complimented by its most experienced player of the squad in 27-year-old Hassan Abdulnabi with 24 ties played over seven seasons.
He is followed by Yousif Qaed with 20 ties over five seasons and Abdulkarim Abdulnabi with 19 ties over five seasons, while 18-year-old Elyas Abdulnabi is awaiting his debut.
On arrival in Jordan, coach Abdul A'al said, "The players have been in an intensive training programme for three months and have played in a number of tournaments in Bahrain before and during Ramadan to raise technical and fitness levels and hope to progress and improve on last season's performance."
How a woman named 'Unbreakable Flower' discovered wrestling and became an unlikely hero
Her name means "Unbreakable Flower," and she's here to do one thing: wrestle.
July 13 (Upworthy) And the 26-year-old is good. Scratch that — really, really good at what she does.
That's why Soronzonbold Battsetseg is already a national hero at home in Mongolia.
She is the first Mongolian woman to earn gold at the World Wrestling Championships, which she won in 2010 at just 20 years old.
In 2012, she took home the bronze medal in women's freestyle wrestling at the London Olympics. She was the country's first wrestling medalist since 1980 and was Mongolia's only female medalist that year.
It's an impressive résumé for a young woman who found the sport while watching TV after tonsil surgery.
"When I was watching TV, I saw these nice women wrestling, then I said to my teacher this is really nice," Battsetseg told Reuters. "Because of that I decided to begin wrestling."
It may go down as one of the best decisions ever made while on pain medicine.
Battsetseg's popularity has taken off because wrestling, along with archery and horse racing, is a popular national pastime in Mongolia.
All three are celebrated during Naadam, an athletic festival that takes place across the country, the origins of which predate Genghis Khan.
Though the event is often called the "Three Manly Games," women have a history of excelling in the popular sports. Mongolian woman are revered as strong and quick. There's even a folktale about a woman who disguised herself as a man to enter and win a wrestling match. Now, traditional Mongolian wrestlers compete with frontless shirts, so as not to get fooled again.
Mongolia's long wrestling tradition and the country's reverence for women's athleticism may be why women's wrestling doesn't carry a stigma as it might in other parts of the world.
These days, Soronzonbold Battsetseg is less concerned with the past and is looking ahead to Rio.
She practices twice a day, against men and women, to prepare for the Olympics.
Like most athletes of her caliber, she lives her sport, sleeping in a dormitory just steps from the Mongolia Women's National Wrestling Team training center, where she works out.
It's not an easy life, but the road to Olympic gold rarely is.
The thrill of representing her nation and bringing home the hardware drive her forward. This unbreakable flower knows no other way.
Suite 303, Level 3, Elite Complex
14 Chinggis Avenue, Sukhbaatar District 1
Ulaanbaatar 14251, Mongolia
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