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a

Chairman

Abdullah S. Kamel

akamel@okaz.com.sa

Director General

Waleed J. Kattan

wjkattan@okaz.com.sa

Deputy Director General

Abdulaziz Alsehli

asehli@okaz.com.sa

Editor-in-Chief

Somayya Jabarti

sjabarti@saudigazette.com.sa

Executive Editor

L. Ramnarayan Iyer

riyer@saudigazette.com.sa

Managing Editor (National)

Mahmoud Ahmad

mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa

Managing Editor (International)

Shams Ahsan

sahsan@saudigazette.com.sa

OPINION

TUESDAY 23 MAY 2017,

SAUDI GAZETTE

11

SanjeevMiglani

Trump’s narrative

With regard to the article “Focus will be on Trump’s narrative not

optics” (May 20), I agree with the author. As a matter of fact even

here in the US there is a lot of consternation over what President

Trump says and does, often opposites. My wife and I often disagree

about such things, especially politics. She views the president as a

woman-hater and once scorned, no matter what he does he will not

be able to anything right in his eyes. I tend to judge a man on his

actions, sometimes Trump’s actions seem to be in opposition with

what he said the day before. I have an open mind and am hoping he

can work things out.

Dave Kaiser, Online response

As the author rightly said, let us hope, pray and be optimistic that

the US under the leadership of Donald Trump can play the role of an

honest broker in resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian con-

flict which will usher in peace, progress and prosperity in the region.

Suhail, Online response

Women taxi drivers

This refers to the article “Let Saudi women work as taxi drivers!”

(May 20) by Abla Morshid in local viewpoint section. I would like to

thank the author for taking a bold and courageous stand. It will defi-

nitely help all those women who are in dire needs of employment

opportunities to support their families. I strongly support the idea

and those who are against have no valid reasons for their opposi-

tion.

Dr. Mohammad Abdur Rahman, Online response

I support the move as long as they render their services to only

female passengers as there are many crooked men among us. More-

over they should be equipped with all kinds of security facilities in

their cabs which should be monitored by the police and traffic de-

partments directly. After all security is the most important factor.

Arif H., Online response

I support it strongly. Taxi drivers should be only Saudi men and

women

Hana, Online response

Trump’s visit

This is in reference to the article “US President Trump’s visit to Saudi

Arabia” (May 22) by Hussein Shobokshi. It’s a very well written

piece. May this relationship between the two countries continue to

grow stronger!

Farooq Ibrahim Chanda, Online response

Political weapon

This is regarding the article “Why do some people use religion for

political reasons?” (May 19) by Agal Al-Agal. Most of the Muslims

are behaving emotionally and are not following the Holy Qur’an and

Sunnah. We must not exceed the limits and should show tolerance

to other religions and not to rebuke them without any valid reasons

as clearly mentioned the holy book. These days some fanatics, like

Daesh (The so-called IS) are doing it and causing the hatred.

A reader, Online response

India’s ‘new Silk Road’ snub highlights

gulf with China

C

HINA invited In-

dian Prime Minis-

ter Narendra Modi

and six Cabinet col-

leagues to its “new

Silk Road” summit this month,

even offering to rename a flag-

ship Pakistani project running

through disputed territory to

persuade them to attend, a top

official in Modi’s ruling group

and diplomats said.

But New Delhi rebuffed

Beijing’s diplomatic push, in-

censed that a key project in

its massive initiative to open

land and sea corridors linking

China with the rest of Asia and

beyond runs through Pakistani

controlled Kashmir.

The failure of China’s ef-

forts to bring India on board,

details of which have not been

previously reported, shows the

depths to which relations be-

tween the two countries have

fallen over territorial disputes

and Beijing’s support of Paki-

stan.

India’s snub to the “Belt and

Road” project was the stron-

gest move yet by Modi to stand

up to China.

But it risks leaving India

isolated at a time when it may

no longer be able to count on

the United States to back it as a

counterweight to China’s grow-

ing influence in Asia, Chinese

commentators and some Indian

experts have said.

Representatives of 60 coun-

tries, including the United

States and Japan, traveled to

Beijing for the May 14-15 sum-

mit on President Xi Jinping’s

signature project.

But Ram Madhav, an influ-

ential leader of Modi’s ruling

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

involved in shaping foreign

policy, said India could not

sign up so long as the China-

Pakistan Economic Corridor

(CPEC) — a large part of the

“Belt and Road” enterprise —

ran through parts of Pakistan-

administered Kashmir that In-

dia considers its own territory.

“China routinely threatens

countries when it finds issues

even remotely connected to its

own sovereignty question be-

ing violated,” Madhav said. “No

country compromises with its

sovereignty for the sake of trade

and commerce interests.”

India, due to the size and

pace of expansion of its econ-

omy, could potentially be the

biggest recipient of Chinese in-

vestment from the plan to spur

trade by building infrastructure

linking Asia with Europe, the

Middle East and Africa, accord-

ing to a Credit Suisse report re-

leased before the summit.

Chinese investments into In-

dia could be anything from $84

billion to $126 billion between

2017 to 2021, far higher than

Russia, Indonesia and Pakistan,

countries that have signed off on

the initiative, it said.

China has not offered any

specific projects to India, but

many existing schemes, such

as a Bangladesh-China-India-

Myanmar Economic Corridor

that has been planned for years,

have now been wrapped into the

Belt and Road enterprise.

China is also conducting fea-

sibility studies for high-speed

rail networks linking Delhi with

Chennai in southern India that

would eventually connect to

the modern day “Silk Road” it is

seeking to create.

But if India continues to

hold back from joining China’s

regional connectivity plans the

commercial viability of those

plans will be called into ques-

tion, analysts say.

China has held talks with

Nepal to build an $8 billion rail-

way line from Tibet to Kath-

mandu, but it ultimately wants

the network to reach the Indian

border to allow goods to reach

the huge Indian market.

India has other worries over

China’s growing presence in the

region, fearing strategic encir-

clement by a “string of pearls”

around the India Ocean and

on land as China builds ports,

railways and power stations in

country such as Nepal, Sri Lan-

ka and Bangladesh.

Ashok Kantha, who was In-

dia’s ambassador to China until

2016, said India had repeatedly

conveyed its concerns to China,

especially about the China-Paki-

stan Economic Corridor and the

need to have open discussions

about it.

“Where is the economic ra-

tional for CPEC?” he said. “There

is no major economic driver, the

drivers are essentially political

and strategic in character.”

Just a week before the sum-

mit, China’s ambassador to India,

Luo Zhaohui, offered to change

the name of CPEC to placate

New Delhi and ensure it didn’t

boycott the Beijing conference.

Luo did no elaborate on the

proposal, made during a speech

at an Indian military think-tank,

according to people who attend-

ed the meeting and local media

reports. A transcript released

later by the Chinese embassy did

not include a reference to chang-

ing the project’s name.

But Chinese officials in the

past have suggested this could

mean adding India to the name

to make it the “China-Pakistan-

India Economic Corridor.”

A Chinese diplomat, speak-

ing on condition of anonymity,

suggested India could build in-

frastructure on its side of Kash-

mir which could eventually be

linked to the roads and power

lines China planned to build in

Pakistani Kashmir.

Indian experts said another

proposal explored in meetings

between former diplomats and

academics from the two sides

was renaming the project the

“Indus Corridor” to overcome

India’s objection that the “China-

Pakistan” name endorses Paki-

stan’s claim to Kashmir. Pakistan

and India have fought two of their

three wars over Kashmir, which

they both claim in full. Chinese

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

Hua Chunying did not comment

directly on any offer to change

the name of CPEC, but drew at-

tention to President Xi’s remarks

during the summit that China

would follow the principle of

peaceful co-existence and that

New Delhi need not worry.

“I think the concerns from

the India side should be able to

be resolved,” she said.

Indian

Foreign

Ministry

spokesman Gopal Baglay said

New Delhi had not received any

suggestions through proper chan-

nels and that India wanted a

meaningful discussion with China

on the whole project.

Reuters

Modern African art is being gentrified

S

OTHEBY’S held its

first auction of mod-

ern and contemporary

African art on Tues-

day, where 83 pieces

by artists from Cameroon to

South Africa sold for a total of

nearly $4 million. The star of the

sale was the Ghanaian artist El

Anatsui’s sculpture made from

discarded aluminum bottle caps

and copper wire that went for

about $950,000.

This was no ordinary event.

African art accounts for a very

tiny portion of the international

art market, and African artists

have long been seen as outsid-

ers. But the demand for their

work has greatly increased over

the past decade.

The sale at Sotheby’s, the

granddaddy of auctioneers,

most likely signals the begin-

ning of a more serious interest

from Western museums, which

may finally start to consider

such work worthy of inclusion

in their permanent collections.

In this inexorable march to

the mainstream, I am tempted to

think of contemporary African

art as akin to an urban neighbor-

hood undergoing gentrification.

Now that it is seen as high cul-

ture, the art and artists are gain-

Chika

Okeke-Agulu

ing value, investors are jostling

to get a piece of the action, and

private collections are growing

in Africa and around the world.

This is very good news for

the African modernists who will

benefit from the increased vis-

ibility. They were, some say, the

postcolonial avant-garde, who

set out to create new art for inde-

pendent Africa during the mid-

20th century. African contempo-

rary artists have also moved be-

yond nationalism and are more

likely to sound off about global-

ization and complex identities.

But the continent’s masses

will be the biggest losers. They

will be denied access to artworks

that define the age of indepen-

dence and symbolize the slow

process of postcolonial recovery.

That’s because whole coun-

tries in Africa cannot boast of

a single art museum of any re-

nown. On other continents, you

might expect to see at least one

public art museum in any city

big enough to have a sports

team. But good luck trying to

find a museum in Lagos, one of

the world’s largest cities, that

displays the work of a big-name

Nigerian artist. A child there is

even less likely to learn of the art

in the classroom.

This no small problem,

given that art is an important

resource with which societies

imagine their world. It is also

doubly significant for Africans

who have long encountered the

best examples of their art in

public spaces, as well as during

ritual or festive events.

During the colonial era, bands

of looters — missionaries, schol-

ars, security forces and fortune

hunters — fanned out across the

continent and, by force or guile,

carted away vast quantities of Af-

rica’s artistic heritage. Many of

these masterpieces of ancient and

traditional African sculpture now

reside in major private and public

collections in the West, with little

chance of ever returning to Africa.

Similarly, Kongo minkisi,

nail-studded sculptures used to

seal covenants, hunt evildoers

and heal the sick, were origi-

nally involved in the ritual lives

of the powerful and of ordi-

nary people. But now they are

housed in places like the Met-

ropolitan Museum of Art.

Such work is counted among

the world’s great art. But most

Africans have virtually no chance

to appreciate or reconnect with

these important expressions of

their cultural histories.

Recently, my 72-year-old

mother was looking at a glossy

catalog of Igbo sculptures from

major European collections,

most of which were acquired

during the Nigerian-Biafran War

of the late 1960s. She told me

that the disappearance of similar

sculptures from our hometown

in southeastern Nigeria, and the

end of the associated festivals,

was one of her most painful

memories of that war.

We cannot let this history

repeat itself. But what is to be

done?

African

collectors

and

those based in Africa must par-

ticipate in this market, for it is

more likely that their collec-

tions will stay on the continent.

Fortunately, this has already

started. As Africa overcomes

years of dictatorships and civil

wars, its fledgling democracies

have seen the rise of a wealthy,

cosmopolitan class interested

in supporting art and culture. A

few collectors and art patrons

have emerged as major players

in these new auctions and fairs.

The spread of private collec-

tions is, however, not the long-

term goal. Rather, it is a step to-

ward a future in which well-run

public collections are supported

by governmental and nongov-

ernmental institutions. We may

now have billionaires with pent-

houses full of art, but it makes no

difference to ordinary Africans if

the continent’s best art is locked

up in bank vaults overseas or in

private homes in Africa.

Instead, these collections

must eventually become public

and thus serve the greater cul-

tural good. This too is already be-

ginning to happen. The Sotheby’s

sale and others like it might see

new auction records for African

artists. My hope is that their work

eventually finds its way to the

public museums that must arise

in Africa’s fast-developing cities.

The New York Times

Chika Okeke-Agulu is an

associate professor of art history

at Princeton.