Towards a better understanding

Timo Kivimäki, Senior Researcher, NIAS and Gerald Jackson, Editor in Chief, NIAS Press

In the West, Islam is often presented in a very simplified manner (much as the West is interpreted in simplified terms in many parts of the Islamic world). This is no surprise but in fact is typical in situations where there is tension between two parties.However, in this case, for the sake of truth and the need for a de-escalation of these tensions, it is crucial that both sides perceive each other with greater subtlety and insight. Not least, it demands that we see each other’s world for what it is, as diverse and humane.From our Western (Copenhagen) perspective, therefore, it is important that the Islamic world is presented to Western audiences as something other than an alien landscape of beards, burkas and bombs – an image that is far too common. First and foremost, we recognize that it is a human world populated by people with needs and desires much like our own. In cultural terms, the Islamic world is also incredibly rich and diverse.Arguably, one of the essential aims of scholarship is to uncover and present our common humanity to the widest possible audience. Certainly, this is a thread in the endeavours of academic publishers generally, also of our own NIAS Press. For this reason, we welcome this special issue of NIASnytt, which showcases the work (published by NIAS Press) of six scholars writing on quite different aspects of Islam and/or Muslim peoples. Together these offer an alternative vision of the Islamic world to what is all too frequently presented in the West. They give a glimpse into the humanity and diversity of this world.

NIASnytt 3/2008Theme: The many faces of Islam

A cosmopolitan peripheryby Philip Taylor, Australian National University

In this extract from the preface to his study of the Cham Muslims of the Mekong delta, Philip Taylor describes how the Cham protect their cultural distinctiveness at home by being markedly cosmopolitan outside.

Putrajaya as Islamic assertionby Ross King, University of Melbourne

Arguably Southeast Asia’s most spectacular and architecturally distinguished city, Kuala Lumpur (KL to its denizens) in 2007 celebrated the 150th anniversary of its foundation and its 50th as capital of an independent Malay(si)a. The celebrations were fragmented, however, as KL now has a very different twin in the new administrative capital of Putrajaya some 30 kilometres to its south, a putative high-tech focus or ‘technopole’ for a wider Southeast Asian region – even more, for an emerging pan-Islamic world to stand against a reviled, railed-against West. Where KL is a diverse, cosmopolitan, multiracial metropolis, Putrajaya fulfils an elitist vision of a Malay-Muslim utopia. KL’s multi-cultural richness is reflected in the diversity of its architecture and the complexity of its urban spaces. Putrajaya, by contrast, is an architectural homage to an imagined Middle East.

Between and beyond mosques and malls in Malaysiaby Johan Fischerr, Roskilde University

Exploring consumption practices in urban Malaysia, Proper Islamic Consumption (NIAS Press, 2008) shows how diverse forms of Malay middle-class consumption (of food, clothing and cars, for example) are understood, practised and contested as a particular mode of modern Islamic practice. The book illustrates ways in which the issue of ‘proper Islamic consumption’ for consumers, the marketplace and the state in contemporary Malaysia evokes a whole range of contradictory Islamic visions, lifestyles and debates articulating what Islam is or ought to be. The empirical material on everyday consumption in a local context reinvigorates theoretical discussions about the nature of religion, ritual, the sacred and capitalism in the new millennium.

Women and Islam in urban Malaysiaby Sylva Frisk, Gothenburg University

Throughout Malaysia, religious educative activities have flourished and grown in popularity since the 1980s, developing out of the broad current of Islamization of Malaysian society. Women’s roles in the Islamization movement have generally been described in terms of followers and supporters of the movement, whereas men, in their capacity as leaders of political parties or as religious ideologues, are presented as initiators. Relatively little has been said about women’s participation in the process of Islamization from the perspective of women themselves. In her book Submitting to God. Women and Islam in Urban Malaysia, Sylva Frisk provides an ethographic account of Malay women’s everyday religious activities Kuala Lumpur, which balances this image. The focus is on religion as lived practice with an emphasis on the perfomance of religious duties, the acquiring of religious knowledge and the organisation of collective religious rituals, performed independently from men, in their homes and in the mosque. With its emphasis on women’s active participation in Islamization and the leading role that women are increasingly taking within Islam, the book aims to work against common representations of Muslim women as either passive, sometimes unconscious victims of a male dominated religious tradition, or as victims who try to openly resist that very tradition.

Muslims in Singapore: A secular state recruiting slam to its nation-building projectby Michael D. Barr, Flinders University

Since the foundation of Singapore as an independent state in 1965, the People’s Action Party government has not trusted the 15 per cent of its population who are Muslims. Until the mid-1980s they were routinely excluded from National Service for fear of which way they might point their guns in the event of a confrontation with Singapore’s larger Muslim-majority neighbours, and even today they are still subjected to open and public discrimination in the armed forces. These claims are not contentious in themselves since they are matters of public knowledge and are defended by the government at the highest levels. Less public but even more damaging to the welfare of the Muslim community has been discrimination against Muslims in education, employment and in the workplace – and in particular against the Malay-Muslim community, which makes up more than 90 per cent of Singapore’s Muslim population.

Islam in local contexts: Localised Islam in Northern Pakistanby Are Knudsen, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI)

As Clifford Geertz remarked in his Islam Observed (1968), the idea of a ‘changing’ religion is a contradiction in terms, as religion is fundamentally concerned with what is permanent and eternal. Still, one way to come to terms with religious change is to consider the many ways that religion is interpreted, by laymen and scholars alike. Social anthropologists like myself have naturally found a niche for themselves in local studies of religion, especially in what is often referred to as ‘local Islam’. This article, based on my book Violence and Belonging. Land, Love and Lethal Conflict in the North-West Province of Pakistan, discusses the role of ‘local Islam’ among the tribesmen living in the Palas valley, a remote and inaccessible mountain valley located in the Kohistan District of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Northern Pakistan.

Thai Crisis: A Struggle for Democracy or a Struggle for Power? by Thomas Håkansson

          The past week’s occupation of Thailand’s two biggest airports is the result of a quite complicated crisis in Thai society that has remained unsolved for at least three years, but that does probably have its roots as far back as 1932 and the abolition of absolute monarchy. It can seen be a crisis that stems from a struggle for power between two factions within Thai society, one faction represented by the traditional elite and the other faction the “new” elite of (a) popular politician(s).

Three years ago, big protests arose in Bangkok against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was accused of corruption, of disrespecting human rights and avoiding paying taxes. Thaksin had been criticised several times throughout his period as Prime Minister, which started with a landslide-election in 1999, but apparently the sale of Shin Corp. to a Singapore company in the beginning of 2006 was a trigger to more outspoken criticism and open protests. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai policy and rhetoric have often been described as a neo-nationalistic; therefore the sell-out of a big pure Thai company to a non-Thai company was a shock to many Thai people. I have been told by Thai friends, that many lay Thai people were very well aware that Thaksin was corrupt and that he probably misused his position in politics to gain personal benefits, but that they quietly accepted this because he also did something in return by carrying out a policy that the rural and poor Thais benefited from.

After the sale of Shin Corp., the urban middleclass in Bangkok openly voiced their critiques and a protest movement took form in the streets of Bangkok. This protest movement was in part orchestrated by his personal rival Sonthi Limthongkul. The protest movement and the resulting unrest in Thai society ended for a while with the military coup on 19th September 2006. Thaksin’s party Thai Rak Thai was banned from politics and Thaksin himself faced trial for several cases of economic fraud. The military held power for about a year before a new constitution was drafted and new elections for parliament was held. The new government was never very popular, and the Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had to resign earlier this year because he illegally participated in a commercial cooking-programme on Thai television. The following Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is brother-in-law of Thaksin and member of People Power Party (PPP), which has been described by many observers as a re-shuffling of Thaksin’s banned Thai Rak Thai party. In addition to this, many Thais believed that Thaksin was still behind Somchai Wongsawat and the PPP, and therefore basically nothing had changed in Thai politics since 2006. Thus the protest movement with the Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in front re-occurred. The culmination so far of the latest protest movements has been the occupation of Thailand’s two biggest airports and the banning of PPP, and Somchai Wongsawat has been prohibited from working in politics for the next five years. A new party called Phuea Thai is already being formed and is nothing more than the previous Thai Rak Thai party in a third disguise; thus so far the protest movements has not resulted in any real change. It is believed that the former Prime Minister Thaksin is still behind the scenes, and although he is still highly popular among the majority of Thai people he is also still highly unpopular among the urban middle class of Bangkok, thus resulting in yet unresolved tensions in Thai society.

It could be asked why no other politician has entered the scene in Thai politics in order to re-unite the now very factionalized society. The answer is simply that there is no person capable of doing that in contemporary Thai politics. Speculations have also arisen about when the Thai King will intervene in the locked situation to call for restoration of peace and for negotiations between the rival factions. Many expected that the King in his birthday speech, which he was supposed to give on t
he 4th of December this year, would comment on the crisis and offer a solution to the situation. But unfortunately the King was reported to be ill and therefore did not deliver the expected speech, which has never previously happened during his 61 year reign. The reason for the absence of the King in the present unrest could be that he has simply been weakened by age and poor health, and by the fact that Thaksin has become so highly popular among the majority of the population that an intervention from his side might have no important effect. The composition of the PAD is not completely clear, but has followers from different backgrounds and with various agendas. However, it is clear that the declared goal for the PAD is to support the monarchy of Thailand, to get a parliament of mostly appointed members and to give the monarchy more influence in the political process in Thailand. These goals have been agreed upon not out of admiration for Sonthi Limthongkul but because they agree that Thaksin and his politicians are so corrupt that they need to be opposed.

Thaksin is undoubtedly the most popular politician ever in Thai history and in addition to this also the richest. This makes Thaksin extremely powerful, and according to at least one academic this makes him a rival to the monarchy and the traditional elite in Thai society. This is basically because Thaksin pays attention to the little man in Thai society and, as already mentioned, he conducts a policy that supports the little man and has thus created him-self a patronage in Thai society. The role of supporting the little man of society has traditionally been the King’s so therefore it is tempting to conclude that Thaksin is seen as a threat to the Thai monarchy and traditional elite. Furthermore, the succession to the throne after the present King is yet another uncertainty in the present situation. The King is now 82 years old and in poor health. The Crown Prince is not popular at all among the population of Thailand and even has a reputation of being a playboy. Therefore it is not possible that he can take over the role of his father. Another possibility is to change the tradition of succession of the Thai throne so that it becomes possible for the Princess to become Queen. The Princess is popular among the Thai population and although she might not be as popular as her father, she would probably still be capable of uniting Thai society. But with a man as strong as Thaksin many people fear that Thailand would be turned into a republic when the King is no more, which is of course unacceptable to the traditional Bangkok elite. Therefore it is possible that the PAD’s main goal is not so much to gain a democratic administration of Thailand but more to regain power for the monarchy and the traditional elite of Bangkok.   



Further reading:


McCargo, Duncan 2005. “Network Monarchy and Legitimacy Crises in Thailand”. In: The Pacific Review. Volume 18, Number 4, December 2005, pp. 499-519.


Phongpaichit, Pasuk and Chris Baker 2004. Thaksin. The Business of Politics in Thailand. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.


Winichakul, Thongchai. “Toppling Democracy”. In: Journal of Contemporary Asia. Vol. 38, No. 1, February 2008, pp. 11-37.

A coming clean and green energy revolution in China should attract Nordic interest

by Jørgen Delman and Chen Yong, NIAS

In a situation where both China and the Nordic countries are eager to exploit the opportunities in the world energy and energy technology markets, the purpose of our recently published study, “Nordic Collaboration with China in Energy Research and Development”, was to point to ways in which Nordic research and development (R&D) institutions and companies working with energy research, technology, and innovations could collaborate with Chinese stakeholders and actors in energy R&D to address the key issues associated with China’s energy production and consumption. The study puts forward a series of strategic and specific recommendations on how Nordic collaboration under the Nordic Council of Ministers can engage with the Nordic countries, i.e. their government agencies, their organizations, and their companies, as well as with Chinese partners to promote a clean energy R&D agenda in China.

China’s energy sector

The study is set against the background that, while most of the developed countries are seeking ways out of the fossil-fuel trap, China, being the world’s second largest energy consumer and CO2 emitter, tends to be further locked into it to meet its continued upsurge in energy demand. However, at the same time, strong concerns have been expressed both in China and internationally with regard to the challenges posed by the contribution of China’s surging energy consumption to environmental degradation and climate change.

As a consequence, a new interest in “clean” energy has emerged in China in recent years. The government has elaborated ambitious plans to reduce energy intensity and to increase the proportion of clean energy in the energy mix while not jeopardizing economic growth. To achieve these goals, the government invites cooperation from the international energy community. However, the Chinese political leadership is also arguing that there is a need to foster indigenous competence and capacity in relation to development of new technology. Clearly, China needs to find ways to make its energy system more sustainable, and China neither has the intention to reinvent the wheel, nor the off-the-shelf solutions that can be used immediately given the scale and complexity of the issues that the country is encountering. This situation presents interesting opportunities for more Nordic involvement.

Contents and focus

The study provides an overview and analysis of the Chinese energy sector, its policy and business environment, the associated innovation system, and, finally, international and Nordic activities in relation to the energy sector in China. These include more or less formalized government-to-government cooperation agreements and activities, university-to-university cooperation, government-private commercial promotion activities, and corporate R&D activities.

14 case studies exemplify how different international, primarily Nordic, and Chinese stakeholders cooperate with energy related policy and R&D issues and activities. The study also makes detailed recommendations for coordinated Nordic efforts in relation to the Chinese energy sector.

In view of the enormity of China’s energy sector, the authors primarily focus on a selected range of renewable energies that hold promises for China and where the Nordic countries would clearly have an interest in both R&D cooperation and the market opportunities. This should not be construed to mean that other opportunities in the energy sector are of no interest to the Nordic countries, e.g. China’s strong focus on the need to enhance energy efficiency across the economy.


The study finds that in order to stimulate the development of a cleaner energy sector, the Chinese leadership has formulated a string of policies, strategies, plans, and concrete targets to guide the future energy sector. Increased energy efficiency is now the top political priority and the growing energy demand should in principle be covered by national energy resources. The energy system should be exceedingly diversified with a strong focus on development of renewable energy. Environmental management is to be strengthened during both production and use of energy, and mutually beneficial international collaboration within the energy sector should be enhanced. The government has also set aside considerable funding to stimulate these developments.

For international players, considerable benefit can be gained from these developments. Huge investments are going into energy R&D in China. International actors may tap into these potentials as China is still keen on international collaboration and partnerships. The Chinese market also offers opportunities for a swifter move from R&D to commercialization of technologies on a large scale. The potential commercial returns are promising as the Chinese energy sector is growing rapidly, not least renewable energies. New business opportunities are emerging and Chinese actors are seeking partners to expand into promising new or existing worldwide markets for new energy technologies.

Opportunities for Nordic interests

Based on an analysis of the experience of a range of Nordic and other international stakeholders from the public, the university, and the corporate sectors as well as of multilateral agencies operating in the energy sector in China, the study identifies a number of opportunities for the Nordic countries to work on renewable energy R&D with China. First of all, there is considerable experience to build on. There is recognition in China of strong Nordic competences in renewable energy R&D and Nordic values and modes of collaboration are appreciated and respected. At this critical juncture in the development of China’s renewable energy sector, there are excellent opportunities to partner up with Chinese counterparts in the national and regional innovation systems to deal with the development of new renewable energy technologies in a huge and rapidly developing market.


Nordic players must be aware of the challenges in China. First of all, the Chinese stakeholders are mostly thinking “big”, while the Nordic stakeholders are often small in comparison. The Nordic countries do not have the same weight and influence individually as the EU and the World Bank. It is also worth mentioning that some of the Nordic interviewees were of the opinion that the development of the renewable energy sector in China is primarily, at this stage, driven as much by political considerations, i.e. environmental, security and climate concerns, as by the potential for investors to gain immediate profits from their investments.

Transfer of core technology to China is a key policy issue and often becomes a requirement in project negotiations and in relation to the ownership of proprietary rights. It will also be an important issue in the climate negotiations leading up to the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009. There is no simple solution to the issue, and some international players choose to comply, whereas others stay away. Others still muddle along, and the lucky few have just the technologies that the Chinese side needs, almost no matter under which conditions.

Nordic R&D collaboration with China in energy?

There are some public Nordic and other international programmes in the Chinese energy sector, but there is room for more collaboration. Based on the analysis in the study, the authors argue that it would be timely to establish a strategic Nordic framework for collaboration with China within renewable energy R&D. The Nordic countries have competences that are in demand and where they would evidently benefit from access to the Chinese resource pool and a potentially huge market. Such a framework should be designed to coordinate and mainstream Nordic energy R&D in the Chinese energy sector. This would not only exploit Nordic synergies better and enhance the presence of Nordic energy expertise in China, it would also help the Chinese partners get a better picture of Nordic strengths within energy know-how and technologies as well as who would be the interesting partners.

Many Nordic stakeholders from the public and private sectors indicated to the authors that a Norden-China programme could add value to existing bilateral activities. Nordic and Chinese researchers are interested in collaborating with each other and Nordic companies operating in China have started to localize at least some of their research in the country. The R&D communities in the Nordic countries must be part of that process; otherwise they may be excluded from the Chinese R&D sector and a potentially huge market for clean energy technologies.

Strategic approach and a coordinated Norden-China programme

A number of strategic issues must be considered. First of all, a common Nordic platform would be able to harness stronger influence in China as well as more funding, which is essential to achieve success, but it would also allow the partners involved to get access to a considerable, often complementary knowledge pool in the Nordic countries and China respectively, as well as to each other’s research resources and infrastructure. Nordic stakeholders would get better access to a market with a strong focus on developing and integrating renewable energy in the energy mix and an ambition to become leader with regard to some key technologies.

A coordinated effort could facilitate the strategic positioning of the Nordic region and China at the frontier of the battle against unsustainable use of conventional energy sources and climate change. It could create a common understanding of and a framework for joint action to address common challenges in China, regionally as well as globally. The strategies of the relevant Nordic agencies would be fully in tune with this line of thinking and it is highly relevant for China. Effectively, Sino-Nordic partnerships in China could become building blocks in new global R&D and/or business strategies.

Furthermore, a Nordic-Chinese platform would heighten Nordic visibility and maximize Nordic knowledge dissemination in relation to our common challenges, i.e. the increase in energy demand, the need to improve energy security, and the common aspirations to mitigate climate change. The conditions for establishing a Norden-China platform in relation to R&D within renewable energy are mature and it would be possible to align a framework program with Nordic and Chinese policies.

The objectives of a joint programme should be practical and achievable while also being ambitious; it must also be clear which technologies or topics are in focus. The focus should be within the areas in which the Nordic know-how and research capacity are widely recognized and appreciated worldwide, thereby attracting Chinese attention and interest. Collaboration must be based on mutual recognition and institutionalization of mutual agreements, leading to mutual benefits through equal partnership in relation to ownership of research results and property rights. It is necessary to build a strong case to attract Chinese attention.

Nordic synergy and added value must be demonstrable, e.g. by building on existing programmes and infrastructures. Different organizations from the Nordic system and at the national level in the Nordic countries should be invited to participate and possibly be responsible for different components of the programme.

Coordination should also be sought with other international programmes, e.g. the programmes of the European Commission. There is a strong drive amongst both Chinese and international players to set up centres and their activities must be coordinated or complement each other. In order to become successful, they must fit into China’s existing structures, otherwise they will not function.

Although not always linked directly to energy issues, the unique Nordic innovation tradition is something that the Nordic countries could offer to China, particularly in the wake of China’s promotion of an indigenous innovation strategy.

Specific proposals

The study proposes to consider three levels of cooperation/collaboration, ranging from small scale, over medium scale, to large scale collaboration. They could either integrate into a full-scale programme from the outset or develop through a more sequential or cascading approach.

1.      Small-scale collaboration: “Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Expert Committee”

This proposal is based on the assumption that there is a wish to test the ground initially or that only limited resources are available. The aim is to become familiar with each other’s renewable energy research agenda and, possibly, develop a strategy and a plan for a joint framework programme. The program would organize an Expert Committee comprising top energy experts and officials from each side to discuss and identify which energy issues are most significant for China and the Nordic countries and which would be suited for R&D collaboration. Through a series of workshops and other activities, the Expert Committee would determine the need and elaborate the framework for further activities and/or a cooperative programme. In addition, seed funding for small-scale academic activities to stimulate more exchange or feasibility studies could be a part of this initial program.

2.   Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Small Projects Facility

The goal is to move from the initial cooperation that would test the ground into activities with at least a five year perspective. The Small Projects Facility would aim at stimulating collaboration as well as exchange of expertise and information at a higher level with the aim to create common platforms with regard to policies, research, and development of specific technologies. The projects to be supported could comprise:

·          Creation of networks between Nordic and Chinese partners

·          Creation of a common virtual platform with a science and technology watch function, exchange of news and information about development in R&D in renewable energy in China and the Nordic countries, and activity watch Establishing a facility to support scholarly exchange, i.e. guest scholarships, workshops, conferences

·          Establishing a PhD facility for exchange, joint courses, and some trial joint sandwich PhD programmes establishing a start-up fund to test possibilities and opportunities for joint research programmes and/or R&D programmes including corporate stakeholders. This could start with financing of small-scale studies involving researchers and corporate stakeholders

·          A financing facility for workshops and conferences

·          Energy innovation games for students within business and technology

·          Training of Chinese Master’s and
PhD students in relevant subjects abroad

·          A facility in support of student exchange

·          The possibility of earmarking Chinese government stipends for Nordic students

·          Production of a series of TV programmes for Chinese TV on Nordic environment and energy to be shown on Chinese TV during World EXPO 2010

·          Nordic interventions at World EXPO 2010, e.g. presenting the results of joint Nordic and Chinese efforts within R&D in relation to renewable energy.

3.   Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Programme

The third step would lead to large scale collaboration which should institutionalize Nordic-Chinese energy collaboration under a “Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Programme” in order to be able to work towards common strategic goals through joint R&D initiatives. The following two initiatives are proposed under the “Norden-China Renewable Energy Program”:

·          A “Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Council” would be an expansion of the proposed Expert Committee. It should aim at bringing together top expertise from the research sector, the corporate sector, and public bodies on both sides to identify common needs and demands, and regularly consult on and provide guidance for joint activities within the renewable energy sector, either defined broadly or limited to R&D in renewable energy. Ideas and guidelines for public-private partnerships could also be of interest.

·          Establishment of a “Norden-China Renewable Energy Innovation Centre” would promote Nordic R&D, projects, and investments and create synergy amongst different Nordic initiatives in relation to all types of renewable energy in China. This would also allow the Nordic countries to utilize each other’s expertise in both the public and the corporate sectors to promote comprehensive projects and solutions, e.g. in relation to China’s eco-cities or allow them to get specialist advice. The centre could also help establish procedures and channels for effective commercialization of joint research results.

These initiatives could be established as an outcome or they could incorporate the series of activities proposed under the first two types of initiatives. The proposed Renewable Energy Innovation Centre could implement the “Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Programme” under the guidance of the “Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Council”. Such a programme should provide funding for more comprehensive activities and projects of various types, such as:

·          Longer-term joint research or technology development programmes

·          Extensive academic exchange

·          Joint or collaborative research education, PhD stipends (including business PhD stipends), and regular exchange and joint supervision of PhD students

·          Establishment of a Norden-China PhD programme on energy management

·          Establish a programme for in-service training of Chinese researchers and teachers in energy programmes in the universities, both in energy systems management and in specific technologies.

4.   Norden-China Energy and Climate Change Programme

In view of China’s increasingly constructive engagement in the international climate mitigation regime and the particular role of the Nordic countries on the global level in this respect, the proposed “Norden-China Renewable Energy R&D Programme” could be expanded into a “Norden-China Energy and Climate Change Programme” which would include the previously proposed activities as well as the organization of additional projects and events that could reinforce the Nordic-Chinese partnership in relation to dealing with the effects of climate change. The following additional activities are proposed:

·          A “Norden-China conference on climate and energy – COP 15/Copenhagen and beyond”

·          Quick/brief projects on modelling to be used as an input for COP15 by both the Chinese and Nordic side. The proposed titles of the projects are: (1) Review on technology transfer in China; (2) application of sector based approach in China; a Nordic-Chinese workshop on technology transfer for climate change mitigation. The workshop would present and discuss the results of the studies proposed and put them in a global and national context.

The role of Nordic collaboration

Bearing in mind that a considerable number of scattered R&D activities in the renewable energy field are already being undertaken between the Nordic countries and China, the main role that Nordic collaboration could play would be to create synergy, to add value to, to explore new areas and venues that would encourage innovative R&D initiatives, and to source funding.

Finally, the study proposes that the Nordic system must mobilize the necessary political and professional support to move ahead. To be able to do so, it is suggested to establish two types of work forums:

·          A Nordic “China Renewable Energy R&D Ideas Factory” comprising key Nordic organizations such as Nordic Council of Ministers, Nordic Energy Research, NORDFORSK, Nordic Innovation Centre, NefCO, NIAS-Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, etc. They would discuss the study and how to move forward, i.e. develop an initial strategy and an outline of a roadmap for the implementation of the program. The group should be able to draw on Nordic and Chinese resource persons as appropriate.

·          A small secretariat must be established by the appropriate Nordic organizations to coordinate and implement the activities proposed and initially support the activities of the “Ideas Factory”. The staff in the secretariat should have experience with internal Nordic collaboration as well as collaboration with China. The secretariat should help the Nordic system mobilize the resources necessary to initiate a substantial collaborative program in renewable energy R&D with China.

Funding of Nordic-Chinese renewable energy R&D collaboration

The study discusses the issue of funding extensively. A program with small funding would not be feasible, considering the current Chinese and international initiatives in relation to renewable energy R&D in China. Therefore, Nordic collaboration will have to mobilize considerable funding resources through its own channels, through the national channels, and through co-financing from the stakeholders in a program, not least the Chinese side. At the same time, a principle of “smart” funding must be pursued, i.e.:

·          Establishment of a Nordic “basket fund” with contributions from different stakeholders in the Nordic system

·          Funding must be used to complement what is already happening

·          Funding of overlapping activities should be avoided

·          The principle of matching funds from the Chinese side should be applied to the extent possible, preferably in both kind and cash.


Jørgen Delman and Chen Yong. Nordic Collaboration with China in Energy Research and Development. First published in November 2008 by NIAS Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Leifsgade 33, DK-2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark (ISBN: 978-87-7694-051-9). An electronic version can be accessed  here:

The study was commissioned by Nordic Energy Research.

Jørgen Delman is Director and NIAS and Chen Yong is researcher at NIAS. He previously worked with Stockholm Environment Institute.



By Stig Toft Madsen

Lund University

The attack on Mumbai last week came after a series of attacks on other Indian cities. Shortly after the attack, a hitherto unknown group “Deccan Mujahidin” took the responsibility. Because the attack on Mumbai followed the attacks to which the “Indian Mujahidin” had owed responsibility, many commentators initially connected the two groups, tracing both of them to the better-known organisation called SIMI (The Students Islamic Movement of India).With the discovery that the group of attackers had apparently reached Mumbai by sea and that they may have communicated in Punjabi (which is spoken by only a few Indian Muslims), the needle of suspicion started turning towards Pakistan. The lone surviving attacker confirmed this track of thinking by apparently admitted that the whole team of gunmen had reached India from Karachi after receiving training by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Lashkar-e-Toiba has for many years been in the forefront of the jihad in Indian Kashmir. It is also suspected of having (or having had) strong links to the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and to the al Qaida. Unlike the Taliban, which thrives in Pashtun dominated areas, the Lashkar-e-Toiba has its headquarters close to Lahore in the Punjab.Indian news media further submitted that Mumbai gangsters may have helped the team of attackers as they landed on the shores in Mumbai. This brought the name of Dawood Ibrahim back to the headlines. Together with other smugglers, Dawood Ibrahim is strongly suspected of having organized the serial bomb attack in Bombay in March 1993, an attack which was described as “The World’s Worst” by the Frontline magizine The locations of these bombings in chronological order were:

Bombay Stock Exchange

Narsi Natha Street

A petrol pump near the Shiv Sena headquarter in Dadar

Gopal Nagar Worli, near the passport office

Madanpura, Nagpapda

Air India’s building at Nariman Point

Century Bazar

Zaveri Bazar outside a well-known jeweller’s store

Plaza Cinema, Dadar

Sea Rock Hotel

Centaur Hotel, near Santa Cruz airport

Centaur Hotel, Juhu,

and Machchimar Colony, Mahim (hand grenades)

In other words, the present attack on Mumbai has awakened a range of enemies of the state in the public mind and the official mind in India.

This has lead Indians to speak of “India’s 9/11”.

The attack on the USA on September 11, 2001 was the first of its kind on US soil since Pearl Harbour. The attack on Mumbai last week was not the first on its soil. In terms of causalities, the Bombay blasts in 1993 probably caused more death. However, the comparison does make sense for at least two reasons.

The attack on the US on September 11, 2001 made the US confront Pakistan, which for years had supported the Taliban regime that gave shelter to Al Qaida in Afghanistan. The day after the attack, the ISI chief (who happened to be in Washington DC) was called to a meeting where he faced Richard Armitage. Armitage demanded that Pakistan make its position on terror clear. Pakistan complied with US demands and joined the war on terror. However, the Pakistani interpretation of what that meant focussed on Al Qaida. The Taliban was not subjected to an all-out attack by the Pakistani military, and as regards the many jihadist groups found practically all over Pakistan, Pakistan did even less to curtail their activities. Nevertheless, Pakistan did scale down its subversive activities on its eastern sector, and from 2002 onwards the relations between India and Pakistan markedly improved. The Pakistani election this year promised further improvement. It is this improvement, which “India’s 9/11” may now jeopardize. Just as the US talked tough to then ISI chief, India apparently was about to do the same to the current ISI chief until his visit to India was called off. Just as US went on the offensive, Indian politicians are now under pressure to act tough.

The phrase “India’s 9/11” also makes sense in an entirely different way. The attack on the World Trade Centre hit many people so hard because it took place on an iconic building in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy. Similarly, the attack in Mumbai hit iconic buildings in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy.

In Mumbai, the attack hit ordinary people at the main railway station journeying to and from the Konkan or the Deccan. A Jewish institution was singled out for murder and mayhem. Further, the attack was aimed at hotels and restaurants at Nariman Point and Colaba. Hotels and restaurants may attract the attention of terrorists, because the many unsuspecting people gathering there are easy targets. At both the Taj, the Oberoi and in Leopold Café many guests were likely to be non-Indians. The terrorists apparently were out to kill Americans and the British. But apart from offering potential high-value targets, some buildings in themselves may attract terrorists.

The pictures of the Taj at fire will probably stick in the minds of many people. The Taj is an institution closely connected with Bombay’s history over the past one hundred years. Built by the Tata family, the Taj has hosted key events in Indian history right from its inauguration as the article “xxx” in its in-house magazine amply bears out. The Tatas are Parsees from Iran, who made Bombay their home. The staff has included both Muslims and Hindus as senior managers. Though the hotel is expensive, its doors have generally been open for anyone not too scruffy.

The Oberoi chain has cultivated its own image of exclusivity a notch or two above the Taj chain (Sanghvi 2007). In fact, both hotel chains belong to the “Upper Crust”. Together with the hapless travellers at the Victoria or Chhatapati Shivaji Terminus and the Jews, it is this upper crust, which was burnt. Dining out in Bombay has acquired a sad connotation.

November 30, 2008


Conlon, Frank F. 1995. “Dining Out in Bombay.” In Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asia World, edited by Carol A. Breckenridge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Upper Crust, India‘s food, wine and style magazine 6:4, 2005Ramachandran, VK “Blasts of Terror”, Frontline, April 9, 1993

Sanghvi, Vir Men of Steel, Roli Books, 2007

Allen, Charles, “The Taj and Swaraj”, The Taj Magazine 27, 1:40-53