Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sikkim's political stability is crucial to India’s security

My article Sikkim's political stability is crucial to India’s security appeared in South Asia Monitor and IANS


Here is the link...

In terms of India’s security, Sikkim remains a trend-setter and a model; India can’t afford to have insecure and ‘unhappy’ borders, when the northern neighbour is always ready to change the status quo, writes Claude Arpi for South Asia Monitor


In the summer of 2017, the Doklam incident could have taken a dramatic turn for India (and China too!); fortunately, it ended well with the withdrawal of the Chinese and Indian armies from an area near the trijunction between Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan. However, early 2018, several media reports mentioned fast-paced road construction activities in the area, particularly a 12-km-long stretch from Yatung, in Chumbi Valley, to Doklam, being built by China.
 “The black-topping of the road, which according to sources, has been underway since the middle of September 2017, means that the Doklam plateau will see an increasing deployment of PLA in days to come,” News18 reported.
A crucial factor in India’s favour has been the strategic and political stability of the border state of Sikkim. For several reasons, it is vital for India’s security that it remains so. First, Denjong or the Valley of Rice, as Sikkim is traditionally known, is a prosperous state; that the charismatic Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has become the longest serving Indian Chief Minister in 2018 is a clear sign of its stability.

Sikkim is also India’s first organic state, showing the way to other progressive states in the country. On October 12, 2018, Sikkim won the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Future Policy Award 2018 for being the world's first 100 percent organic state. The citation said, “Sikkim is the first organic state in the world. All of its farmland is certified organic… Embedded in its design are socio-economic aspects such as consumption and market expansion, cultural aspects as well as health, education, rural development and sustainable tourism.” This makes Sikkim particularly special.
In terms of India’s security, Sikkim remains a trend-setter and a model; India can’t afford to have insecure and ‘unhappy’ borders, when the northern neighbour is always ready to change the status quo. Another welcome change has been the disenclavement of the state.

On September 24, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated an aerodrome at Pakyong, near Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital. The airport has been constructed at a cost of some Rs 600 crore, the first commercial flight from Pakyong taking off on October 4 with SpiceJet operating a 78-seater Bombardier Q400 flights to and from Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Recently, an Antonov AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force landed for the first time at Pakyong. It will be a game-changer for the Indian Army.
The way for India to strengthen its Himalayan boundary lies perhaps in Sikkim. When one reaches Gangtok, the first thing one realizes is that Sikkim is spotlessly clean and the environment well-protected. This is particularly striking when coming from a state where plastic and garbage litter every public place. It is a truly refreshing and uplifting experience to see clean forests, streams and villages. Driving up from West Bengal, Sikkim seems like paradise.
This brings the possibility of developing eco-tourism, which could bring rich dividends. But that is probably not enough. It is also necessary to empower the local population. Chamling has recently decided to institute a universal basic income for each of Sikkim’s 610,577 citizens. If the scheme is a success, Sikkim will become India’s most progressive state.

Though Sikkim is today stable, large sections of society feel they have been victim to historical injustices in the past. After the merger with India in 1975, some communities were excluded from tribal status. A two-day summit, organised by EIECOS (Eleven Indigenous Ethnic Communities of Sikkim), in May 2018 in Gangtok demanded that all communities with a Sikkim Subject’s Card should be given ‘tribal’ status and Sikkim be declared a tribal state, like other north-eastern states. Three years after Sikkim joined India in a quasi-unanimous referendum, some communities were unfortunately left out, while Scheduled Tribe recognition was granted to others.
While inaugurating the Sikkim Summit for Tribal Status 2018, Chamling said: “We embraced India as a country on the condition of never compromising our uniqueness as Sikkimese people, protected by the Indian Constitution.”
With fast-paced developments taking place on India’s borders, the pressure is going to greatly increase. For the local population to remain steadfast, a small gesture such as granting tribal status to Sikkim would go a long way to make the people of Sikkim happier and, therefore, more prepared to support the defence of India’s borders.
This is valid for other Himalayan states which too have their long-pending demands which are often ignored by Delhi. It is true for Ladakh, for Arunachal Pradesh, and also for Himachal and Uttarakhand. India needs to satisfy the basic aspirations of the local populations and give them the freedom to develop according to their own genius.
A visit to Nathu la, the border pass between India and China, makes one realize the strategic importance of Sikkim which has the potential to keep peace between the two Asian giants despite recurrent tensions. It witnesses BPMs (Border Personnel Meetings) between the Indian and Chinese Army, in a ‘hut’ built for the purpose, several times a year. It symbolizes the decision taken at the highest levels in India and China to resolve localised border issues around a table.
The Himalayan people may not represent a large or politically influential section of the Indian population, but the country’s security depends on them. Let us hope that Sikkim can remain a model of stability and lean environment, as well as a beacon for other Indian states. It is the need of the hour.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Alzeimerish China

My Article Alzeimerish China appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link..

Beijing will celebrate the emancipation of the serfs in Tibet on March 28. Ironically, the communist party has forgotten what happened at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 ...and in Tibet three months earlier.

Cary Huang, a senior columnist with the South China Morning Post, wrote recently: “In 2019, China ushers in a year full of both festive jubilation and political trouble. Its communist leadership places enormous emphasis on the anniversaries of important historical events …China has a lot to celebrate in 2019 but it also has old wounds to heal.” He noted that with its packed 2019 calendar of commemorative events, Beijing may “forget” some of them, “many of which are politically charged or divisive. For a nation moving forward, it’s time to acknowledge the difficult past.”
But today, in Xi Jinping’s China, who is ready to analyse the past? Huang gave the example of March 28, the day when Beijing will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Serfs Emancipation Day. What is this “emancipation?” March 28, 1959, marks the end of the massacre of the Tibetan population in Lhasa and Beijing’s taking of rigorous control over the Tibetan capital; 18 days earlier, the Dalai Lama had fled the Roof of the World to take refuge in India. On March 28, the revered Dalai Lama was sacked as chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region and was replaced by a (then) more pliant Panchen Lama.
Incidentally, will Beijing observe the 30th anniversary of the death of reformist party chief Hu Yaobang and the subsequent student-led pro-democracy protests, which resulted in thousands of casualties during the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989? An Alzeimerish communist party is bound to have forgotten what happened on the Square after the demise of Hu Yaobang as well as the thousands who died in Lhasa but the Emancipation Day is still celebrated.
Several non-Tibetan accounts of the events of March 1959, including the popular uprising, the flight of the Dalai Lama, the massacre of the Tibetan population and finally the so-called ‘emancipation’ — all this in less than three weeks — are available.
In his ‘Report for the months of March, April and May 1959’ sent to the Ministry of External Affairs, Maj SL Chibber, the Indian Consul General in Lhasa said: “In the history of movement for free Tibet, the month of March, 1959, will be most historic …during this month Tibetans high and low, in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, openly challenged the Chinese rule … the might of [the] Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who on March 20, 1959, started an all-out offensive against the ill-organised, ill-equipped and  untrained Tibetans with artillery, mortars, machine guns and all types of automatic weapons, was short-lived.”
The Dalai Lama left Lhasa secretly three days earlier. Chibber continued: “On March 28, 1959, the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China dissolved the local Tibet Government and transferred all its functions and powers to the Preparatory Committee for the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).”
Another recent publication, ‘The 1959 Tibetan Uprising Documents — The Chinese Army Documents’, released last year using documents from the PLA’s Military Intelligence, corroborated Chibber’s version of the 1959 bloody events.
Yet another account was given by Jianglin Li in her book, Tibet in Agony. She also used Chinese sources to describe the crackdown in Lhasa. Jianglin wrote: “In March 1959, a series of critical events played out in Lhasa. From March 25 to April 5, the CPC’s Central Committee held an enlarged politburo meeting, and the seventh plenary session of the Eighth Central Committee in Shanghai. Pacification of rebellion in Tibet and relations with India were two of the issues discussed. Wu Lengxi, who was then head of Xinhua news agency and chief editor of The People’s Daily, revealed a glimpse of Mao’s thinking on the China-India relationship in his memoir: “Let the Indian Government commit all the wrongs for now. When the time comes, we will settle accounts with them.”
The accounts were ‘settled’ three years later on the slopes of the Thagla ridge and in Ladakh.  Jianglin added: “Mao was brooding on ‘settling accounts’ with India as early as March 1959. Yet on May 15, in a letter from the Chinese Foreign Ministry to the Indian Government, he wrote: ‘Pacification of rebellion and implementing democratic reform in Tibet would pose no threat to India whatsoever.’ ”
RS Kapur, another Indian official posted as Indian Trade Agent in Gyantse, wrote in his Annual Report for the Year 1959: “The year 1959 will go down as the most important year in the history of Tibet. It marked an end to the way of life of the Tibetan people. The Dalai Lama, who felt that he could no longer function effectively, left his country in March. …With Opposition out of the country, Chinese got a free hand and they went all out to subjugate the country. People have been deprived of their movable and immovable property.”
He further asserted: “While the heart of Tibet was bleeding, the free world only made speeches. With the end of the debate on Tibet in the United Nations, Tibetans lost all hopes of their survival, stared at the sky with blank eyes and asked: Where is God? Where is Buddha?”
During the 1950s, the Chinese had time and again used the same propaganda argument; once the Tibetans would be ready, the PLA would leave the Land of Snows. Some members of the Communist Youth League were told: “Tibetans should work hard to become capable of shouldering the responsibility of the administration of their country.” They were given the example of Inner Mongolia where the Chinese personnel withdrew when the local people were able to run the administration in an efficient way.
Che Dalha, the TAR Chairman, announced that everything was fine now. “High-tech and digital industries, together with agriculture, tourism and culture, green industries and modern services, have become major industries, contribute to high-quality growth in the region,” he declared. Tibet’s GDP in 2018 was estimated at more than $21 billion, up about 10 per cent from 2017.
However, during a session of the 11th TAR People’s Congress, Che spoke again and again about poverty alleviation. His Government, said Che, had lifted 50,000 people out of poverty in 2018 and would eradicate absolute poverty by 2019; he promised that he would create new jobs for 50,000 people in cities and towns. Once could ask: what was the point to ‘liberate’ Tibet and then ‘emancipate’ the Tibetans if there are still so many poor 60 years later?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wake Up India

My article Wake Up India appeared in Mail Today

It is rather unusual to wish your countrymen (and your neighbours) with a War Cry. It is what Xi Jinping, the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) and Chinese President, did.
On January 4, during a CMC meeting, Xi ordered the Chinese armed forces to enhance their combat readiness and be prepared for war.
Xi urged the armed forces to resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and withstand complex situations and severe struggles: “The world is facing a period of major changes never seen in a century," he asserted while speaking of the various risks and challenges facing China.
The Chinese Armed Forces are expected to speed up their preparation in view of a series of landmark anniversaries in 2019, particularly the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic; the 1989 massacre of Tiananmen Square will, of course, be omitted from the ‘celebrations’.
Four days later, the Chinese State-owned Global Times reported that some units of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) stationed in Tibet have been equipped with a new vehicle-mounted howitzer to boost China's combat capability and improve border security.

China's arm race
The mouthpiece of the Communist Party referred to the new system as ‘PLC-181’, claiming that it had already been deployed by an artillery brigade in Tibet during the 73-day-long stand-off in Doklam in 2017.
At the same time, Xinhua reported that some 2 million personnel had been involved in more than 18,000 mostly small-scale exercises in 2018. The report did not offer a comparison for 2017, but state media reported earlier that the PLA conducted roughly 100 larger-scale exercises in 2016.
Apart from that, China has been active for months in boosting its border defence with India; one can cite a few examples: construction of Xiaogang (‘moderately well-off’) model villages in Tibet on the Indian border; rapid development of infrastructure on the plateau (in particular three new airports in Lhuntse, Purang and Tingri); new drones to boost border control; the new-generation Type 15 lightweight battle tanks, which are much swifter and have better mobility than other armoured vehicles that can easily be deployed in Tibet in the event of a conflict with India.
At the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, a new laser weapon system was displayed. According to The Global Times quoting military analysts, it could “effectively contain tactical reconnaissance and prevent terror attacks and can be easily deployed on level ground like in Tibet and islands of the South China Sea.”
The LW-30 laser defense weapon system could use a directional-emission high-energy laser to quickly intercept many kinds of aerial targets, such as photoelectric guidance equipment, drones, guided bombs or mortars.
Another article spoke of troops equipped with futuristic individual combat weapons like grenade-launching assault rifles, corner shot pistols and knife guns; it is said that the PLA special forces were building ‘Super Soldiers’ able to meet the requirements of a ‘digital’ modern warfare.
Already in August 2018, photos of China-developed Z-20 utility helicopters trended on Chinese online military forums; it is to replace the imported UH-60 Blackhawk and will be deployed in Tibet.
Many more such examples could be cited.
All this shows that China is working hard to be ready to face any contingency.

The 'BRO' Code
India needs to take necessary counter-measures to boost the preparedness of its forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The tragedy is that in the present set-up, politicians are more interested by petty electoral gains than national interests.
The pace of development on the Indian side of the border is painfully slow.
The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju stated in the Lok Sabha that 73 roads had been identified as strategic Indo-China Border roads (ICBRs) with a total length 3812 km, out of which 61 ICBRs with a length of 3417 km have been entrusted to Border Roads Organisation (BRO). Out of the 61 ICBRs, only 28 roads (981 km) have been completed.
In Arunachal Pradesh alone, 11 roads (1110 km) have been identified as priority; though the government says that connectivity has been achieved for several roads, in practical terms many are not motorable as yet.
The quasi monopoly of the BRO is a serious problem. Can the government be bold enough to bring in private players on a big scale in ‘national interests’, before the elections. It is doubtful.
The main reasons given by the Minister for the slow pace are: “delay in obtaining Forest/Wildlife clearances, hard rock stretches, limited working season, difficulties in availability of construction materials, delay in land acquisition, natural calamities and strategic security consideration.”

Soft Weapons
Being ruled in a totalitarian manner, the Middle Kingdom, does not have the ‘political’ and bureaucratic compulsions facing a democracy.
Developing the border infrastructure (roads, advanced landing grounds, communications) more vigorously than presently, should be India’s first priority for 2019; it is the only chance to ‘dissuade’ China.
Another ‘weapon’, a soft one, needs to be mentioned; for the first time in 2018, the number of Chinese tourists in Tibet exceeded 30 million, up 31.5 percent from the previous year. The TAR government hopes to receive 40 million visitors in 2019. What does it mean for India? It will translate into a change of the demography of the plateau and trigger an exponential growth of dual-use (civil and military) infrastructure; not only in the big urban centers such as Lhasa, but in the smallest hamlets on the India border too.
This is a dreadful time bomb ticking louder and louder.
Apart from the infrastructure development, the acquisition of the Rafale aircrafts (and their arrival at Hasimara Air Force Station in Bengal) could be a game changer …if the Opposition lets it happened. In the meantime, Beijing greatly enjoys watching the debates in the Indian Parliament.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

While the heart of Tibet was bleeding the free world only made speeches

Cary Huang, a senior columnist of The South China Morning Post recently wrote: “China has a lot to celebrate in 2019, but it also has old wounds to heal.”
He believes that with its packed 2019 calendar of commemorative events, Beijing may ‘forget’ some of them, “many of which are politically charged or divisive. For a nation moving forward, it’s time to acknowledge the difficult past.”
But in Xi Jinping's China, who is ready to analyze the past?
Huang continues: “In 2019, China ushers in a year full of both festive jubilation and political trouble. Its communist leadership places enormous emphasis on the anniversaries of important historical events, though such politically significant dates might mean good or bad omens.”

The Serfs Emancipation Day
Huang gives the example of March 28; on that day, Beijing will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Serfs Emancipation Day.
But what is this 'emancipation'?
March 28, 1959 marks the end of the massacre of the Tibetan population in Lhasa and Beijing taking over control of the Tibetan capital; eighteen days earlier, the Dalai Lama had fled the Roof of the World to take refuge in India.
The Dalai Lama was sacked as chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region and replaced by a (then) more pliant Panchen Lama.
Huang also notes that on April 15, Beijing may observe the 30th anniversary of the death of reformist party chief Hu Yaobang: “Hu was an advocate for Western-style democratic reform who helped steer China away from orthodox Marxism and Maoism, and his demise sparked student-led pro-democracy protests in 1989, which resulted in the military crackdown in Tienanmen Square on June 4.”
An Alzeimerish Communist Party is bound to have forgotten what happened on the Square after the demise of Hu Yaobang and the thousands who died in Lhasa.


Tibetans 'celebrating' their 'emancipation'
The Uprising in Lhasa
To come back to the ‘emancipation’ of the Tibetans, in a previous post, I have related the events of March 1959.
I quoted from the “Report for the months of March, April and May 1959” sent by the Indian Consul General in Lhasa (Maj SL Chibber) to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.
This Top Secret document was dated June 1, 1959.
I also mentioned other accounts of the events which led to a massacre in Lhasa (thousands lost their lives), culminating in the Emancipation Day.
I cited for example from a Kindle book The 1959 Tibetan Uprising Documents - The Chinese Army Documents published in 2018 which provided documents from the Military Intelligence of the People's Liberation Army on the 1959 bloody events.
Another account of the events was given by Jianglin Li in her Tibet in Agony, "the first clear historical account of the Chinese crackdown in Lhasa in 1959. Sifting facts from the distortions of propaganda and partisan politics, she reconstructs a chronology...”, says the preface of her book.

Today, I am posting another document of the events which led to the ‘Emancipation’.
It is an extract of the Annual Report of the Indian Trade Agent (ITA) in Gyantse for the Year 1959; RS Kapur, the ITA witnessed first-hand the tragic events from Gyantse.

Extracts of Kapur’s Report

1. The year 1959 will go down as the most important year in the history of Tibet. It marked an end to the way of life of the Tibetan people. The Dalai Lama, who felt that he could no longer function effectively, left his country with his Cabinet in March and took asylum in India. His departure was followed by a large number of people who could not see any future in their motherland.
2. With opposition out of the country Chinese got a free hand and they went all out to subjugate the country. People have been deprived of their movable and immovable property. Stock of grains in possession of the ‘Landlords’, middle class people and the monasteries have been taken over. The end of the year left the Tibetans entirely at the mercy of the Chinese.

3. While heart of Tibet was bleeding the free world only made speeches. With the end of the debate on Tibet in the United Nations, Tibetans lost all hopes of their survival, stare at the sky with the blank eyes and ask:
  1. Where is God?
  2. Where is Buddha?
  3. Where are defenders of Human Rights?
  4. How can world witness such brutal acts on a race that has always wanted to live in peace?
Buddha, they say, has disappeared from the world and [they] are fast losing hopes of survival of their race. From all appearance Tibet is finished. 
This is the story of the Emancipation with Communist characteristics.

Friday, January 11, 2019

China Prepares for War

On January 8, the Chinese State-owned Global Times reported that some units of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) stationed in Tibet have been equipped with a new vehicle-mounted howitzer to boost China's combat capability and improve border security.
The mouthpiece of the Communist Party referred to the new system as ‘PLC-181’, claiming that it had already been deployed by an artillery brigade in Tibet during a 73-day-long stand-off in 2017 between the PLAGF and the Indian Army at the Doklam tri-junction between Sikkim, Tibet, and Bhutan.
Though this information was not confirmed, The Global Times posted a PLAGF photograph (see above) with units of the new howitzer system in a mountainous area. According to Jane's Intelligence Review, “the platforms are similar in appearance to the Norinco SH-15 155 mm self-propelled artillery system.”

What does it mean for India?
It has to be seen in the larger context of the PLA’s preparedness for War.
On January 4, President Xi Jinping ordered the Chinese armed forces to enhance their combat readiness “from a new starting point and open new ground for developing a strong military.”
He gave this instruction during a meeting of the Central Military Commission (CMC); Xi added that the armed forces had resolutely safeguarded national sovereignty, security and development interests and withstood complex situations and severe struggles: “The world is facing a period of major changes never seen in a century, and China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development," he asserted while speaking of the various risks and challenges facing China.
The Chinese Armed Forces are expected to speed up their preparation in view of a series of landmark anniversaries in 2019, particularly the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.
Xinhua recently ported that some 2 million personnel had been involved in more than 18,000, mostly small-scale exercises in 2018. The report did not offer a comparison for 2017, but state media reported earlier that the PLA conducted roughly 100 larger-scale exercises in 2016.
Apart from that China has been active for months in boosting its border defence with India; one can cite a few examples:
  • Construction of Xiaogang (‘moderately well-off) model villages in Tibet on the Indian border
  • Rapid development of infrastructure on the plateau (in particular three new airports in Lhuntse, Purang and Tingri)
  • New drones to boost border control.
  • In November, The Global Times quoted a professor at the National Defense University who revealed details of China's new armed reconnaissance drone, which had been seen at the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai: “The GJ-2 is believed to enhance China's border patrol and counter-terrorism efforts,” said the professor. The military-industrial conglomerate Aviation Industry Corporation of China had unveiled a new reconnaissance drone series. Reportedly, the GJ-2 prototype flew over the 8,848-meter Mount Everest during one trial flight. The drone has six weapon bays under its wings, capable of carrying more ordnance than its predecessors, including up to 12 air-to-surface missiles.
  • The new-generation Type 15 lightweight battle tank, which is much swifter and has better mobility than other armoured vehicles, could easily be deployed in Tibet in the event of a conflict with India. It was also recently handed over to the PLA; last month, the Chinese Defence Ministry’s spokesman confirmed that the tank has been put into service. According to The South China Morning Post, the tank will enhance PLA’S combat readiness and it could be quickly deployed in sensitive regions such as Tibet and the plateau border area …if a dispute broke out.
  • Already in August 2018, The Global Times, published photos of China's in-development Z-20 utility helicopter trend on Chinese online military forums. It is meant to replace the imported UH-60 Blackhawk to be deployed in Tibet. The Z-20 is a newly developed 10-ton medium-lift utility helicopter, which will fill the gap between light and heavy helicopters.
Many more such examples could be cited.
All this shows that China is working hard to be ready to any contingency.
The deployment of vehicle-mounted howitzer should be seen in this perspective.
India needs not to be worried, but should closely follow the developments on the plateau and take necessary counter-measures to boost the preparedness of the Indian Army and the Air Force on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

On the Indian side
It is however true that the pace of development on the Indian side of the border is painfully slow.
The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju stated in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha that 73 roads had been identified as strategic Indo-China Border roads (ICBRs) with a total length 3812 km, out of which 61 ICBRs have been entrusted to Border Roads Organisation (BRO) with a length of 3417.50 km. Out of the 61 ICBRs, 28 roads of length 981.17 km have been completed.
The quasi monopoly of the BRO is a serious problem.
Can the government bold enough to tackle it? Doubtful.
In Arunachal Pradesh alone 11 roads for a length of 1110 km has been identified. Though it is said that connectivity has been achieved in 27 roads out of these 33 roads, in practical terms many are not motorable as yet.
The main reasons given by the Minister are: “delay in obtaining Forest/Wildlife clearances, hard rock stretches, limited working season, difficulties in availability of construction materials, delay in land acquisition, natural calamities i.e. earthquakes, flashfloods etc. and strategic security consideration.”
China does not seem to be facing so many problems on the other side of the line.
One explanation is probably that the Middle Kingdom is ruled by a totalitarian regime.
Though Rijiju assured the Parliament that “all measures are being taken to ensure timely and smooth supply of essential commodities and ammunition to the troops in remote locations by appropriate means of transport,” the progress are agonizingly slow.
Developing the border infrastructure (roads, advanced landing grounds, communications) is one of the actions India should take immediately on fast track to counter China, at least far more vigorously than presently.
The acquisition of the Rafale aircrafts will also be a game changer …if the Opposition let it happened.
China does not have these problems ...and Beijing greatly enjoy watching some debates in the Parliament.




Sunday, January 6, 2019

World on a boil

My article World on a boil appeared in The Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Globally, countries have descended into chaos amid political turmoil. This scenario will continue as we dawn upon another year. This is the new normal The planet is in turmoil. This did not start in 2018 but worsened during the past year and without being a bird of bad omen, it will...


The Planet is in turmoil.
This did not start in 2018, but it worsened during the past year and without being a Bird of Bad Omen, it will continue in 2019.
The 2018 Award for Chaos goes to …Donald Trump.
The New York Times published an article titled “You’re Hired! You’re Fired! Yes, the Turnover at the Top of the Trump Administration Is Unprecedented.”
Jim Mattis, the defense secretary was the last on the list. He was the fourth member of the Trump Administration to resign or be forced out in the last two months. The article says: “Some roles have been more volatile than others. For example, there have been four White House communications directors, with stints ranging from less than a week (Anthony Scaramucci) to more than six months (Hope Hicks). Sean Spicer, while serving as press secretary, filled the position twice...”
A list of major departures is given: Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense after Trump announced plans to withdraw troops from Syria; Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior, amid several ethics investigations; Nick Ayers, Chief of Staff to vice president; John F. Kelly, White House’s Chief of Staff; Jeff Sessions, Attorney General or Indian-origin Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the UN.
No need to go into the political implications for the US and the planet.
Other nations are in turmoil too.
As the Gaulish tribes had always feared, the sky is falling on President Macron’s head; during the last two months he has had to face millions of Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) in the streets of France. This phenomenon involves some atavism; in fact, the Gaulish character traits have never really disappeared, they keep re-emerging from time to time. One of these traits is to be anti-establishment.
Remember in the comic, Asterix the Gaul? Centurion Gracchus Armisurplus, commander of a Roman Compendium fortified garrison, pays a heavy price each time the Gauls walk out of their village; Asterix and his companions could not accept the established Roman hierarchy.
Whether in May 1968 or today, the French love to march down the streets to protest; nobody can stop them shouting “Ras le bol”, (‘the bowl is brimming over’) or chanting “Macron, du Pognon” (Macron, give dough); Macron once called his countrymen with their proud Gaulish DNA, the ‘Gaulois réfractaires’ (‘change-allergic Gauls’).
Cross the Channel and you find Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader saying in his new year's message that post-Brexit his country is a ‘complete mess’ and that it ‘cannot go on like this’. The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but the island nation, which once upon a time ruled the world, may plunge in to chaos if the MPs reject the UK's withdrawal agreement ...ditto if they agree to Prime Minister May’s proposals.
Corbyn accused the government, “eight years of damaging Tory failure has left us with a divided country where millions are struggling to make ends meet.” It is always easier to blame the others, especially when one has oneself triggered the mess in the first place.
One word about the born-in-turmoil Pakistan; according to a media report, Islamabad will need to disburse $40 billion to China in 20 years as repayments of debt and dividends on a $26.5 bn investment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Citing documents of the ministry of planning and development, The Express Tribune affirmed that out of $39.83 bn, debt repayments for energy and infrastructure projects amount to $28.43 bn and the remaining $11.4 bn need to be paid in the shape of dividends to the investors.
What a mess!
China is not left out. There is no doubt that with his unpredictability, President Donald Trump has changed the rules of the game for Beijing; he acts wildly …like China has been doing for years and Beijing is not accustomed to this. Whether Beijing accepts it or not, Mr Trump will be at the centre of China’s fate in the coming year.
Jeffrey Sachs in Project Syndicate asserted: “The Trump administration’s conflict with China has little to do with US external imbalances, closed Chinese markets, or even China’s alleged theft of intellectual property. It has everything to do with containing China by limiting its access to foreign markets, advanced technologies, global banking services, and perhaps even US universities.”
Indeed, Year 2019 will be a crucial year for China.
On the morning of May 4, 1919, student representatives from 13 different local universities met in Beijing and drafted five resolutions, in particular, to oppose the granting of Shandong to the Japanese and the creation of a Beijing student union. Later in the afternoon, some 3,000 students of Beijing University marched to Tiananmen Square shouting slogans such as “Struggle for the sovereignty externally, get rid of the national traitors at home” or “Don’t sign the Versailles Treaty”.
Will we witness a remake of the dramatic events which will be celebrated by the Communist Party of China (CPC) during the year?
2019 will also mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic, and 30 years of the massacre of Tiananmen Square.
At an event marking the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening, President Xi Jinping of China told the 3,000 officials assembled in the Great Hall of the People: “Every step in reform and opening up will not be easy, and we will face all kinds of risks and challenges in the future and we may even encounter unimaginable terrifying tidal waves and horrifying storms. …Only by improving the party’s leadership and governance … can we ensure the ship of reform and opening up will sail forward.” Can the Party be the saviour of the Middle Kingdom?
During his New Year message, President Xi said: “Looking at the world at large, we're facing a period of major change never seen in a century. No matter what these changes bring, China will remain resolute and confident in its defense of its national sovereignty and security.” He spoke of China's sincerity and goodwill to safeguard world peace. Let us see.
You may ask, what about India?
Mess, confusion, uncertainty, chaos, turmoil and the ugly face of democracy will prevail, till the general elections at least; this is a safe prediction. But India is perhaps a better place to face the chaos, we call it ‘democracy’ here, the least-worst system of governance.
A Year of Chaos ahead?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

In 2019, why India must remain cautious of Chinese intentions

My article "In 2019, why India must remain cautious of Chinese intentions" appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

New Delhi can play the duet but has to be ready for the duel.

China watchers are breathing easier; India and China are friends again.

On December 21, China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in New Delhi for a four-day visit to India.

During his stay in Delhi, Wang reiterated that the Chinese ‘dragon’ and Indian ‘elephant’ “should join each other in a duet, not a duel.” He spoke of both countries ‘ushering in an Asian Century’; it was reminiscent of the Nehru-Zhou Enlai duo. Wang co-chaired the first-ever meeting of the China-India High-Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges with his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj.


Panchsheel parable

In an Oped in The Hindustan Times, Wang wrote: “China and India are each other's important neighbours and the world's two largest developing countries. Friendly exchanges and win-win cooperation between China and India will positively affect the evolution of a global landscape and human society.

The new 'bhai-bhai' atmosphere is the outcome of the ‘Wuhan consensus’; the informal Wuhan summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April which ‘left a deep imprint’ on bilateral relations. One can only rejoice about the new relaxed mood.
This, however, reminds me of the euphoria when India and China signed the Panchsheel Agreement on Tibet in 1954.

It is usually forgotten that less than two months after the accord was inked, the Chinese started trespassing in Barahoti in Chamoli district. Since then, the ‘intrusions’ have unabatedly continued and will continue in 2019. This probably means India needs to remain vigilant.

One of the most memorable events which took place in 1978 was when 18 farmers in Xiaogang village, in Anhui Province, signed a secret agreement to divide collectively-owned farmland into individual pieces and drop the collectivisation of the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in some 40 million casualties.

Forty years later, the name Xiaogang is been used for a different project: the building of a large number of ‘model’ villages in Tibet, along the border with India.

On October 19, China Tibet News reported that since the beginning of 2018, Tsona County, north of Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang District, has been “vigorously promoting the construction of border ‘Xiaogang’ villages” (the literal meaning of ‘Xiaogang’ is ‘moderately well off’ ). Tsona County alone has invested 519 million yuan (US$ 74 million) in the construction projects of nine border villages, benefiting 1,961 people from 617 households. Some 2.2 billion yuan (US$ 314 million) has already been spent and 40 per cent of the projects completed.

The Tibet turnstile

In May, China Tibet News explained that Lepo, the first village in Tibet, north of the border in Khenzimane (in Tawang district) boasted of rich vegetation and clear waters: “With impressive scenery and unique ethnic customs, Magmang ecological civilization village is also situated in Lepo Valley, Tsona County.” Magmang was awarded “China's beautiful leisure village” by the Ministry of Agriculture. China has 26 national key tourist attractions; including the Lepo Valley, near the Thagla ridge, which saw clashes between India and China in October 1962.

The new tourist scheme, "Slowing down the speed of tour, enjoying the sea of azaleas in Lepo Valley", prolonged the peak season, explained the Chinese authorities. It is probably not a coincidence that the Dalai Lama spent his last night in Tibet in Magmang on March 30, 1959, on his way to take refuge in India. The next day, he crossed the border at Khenzimane.

The model villages are officially linked to two themes: ‘poverty alleviation’ and ‘defense of the borders’. The local populations are said to be the ‘Guardians of the Sacred Land’.

Beijing has started duplicating what has been done in Nyingchi and Lhoka areas in Ngari prefecture, north of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh; first and foremost, improving the infrastructure of the border by building Xiaogang villages.

Part of this scheme is to build three new airports in Purang, in Ngari prefecture of Western Tibet; in Lhuntse, north of Tawang district and a last one, near the Nepal border. The construction should this year and will be functional in 2021. The official objective of these airports is to strengthen the border's communications. Let’s not forget airports and highways on the plateau legally have a dual-use (civilian and military).

Enter the dragon
There is another aspect to the Communist Party’s policy on the Indian borders: recalcitrant Tibetans are relocated to places further away from ‘sensitive’ Indian borders. An article appeared in the French edition of China Tibet Online: ‘Relocation of the villagers of Lhodrak: mission over’, mentioning ‘relocation’ of Tibetan populations far from the border. Some Xiaogang villages are located north of Bhutan, near the eastern trijunction between India, China and Bhutan, an area disputed by China.
There is however a difference with the western trijunction (Doklam). India has no military presence in the area.
A new Type 15 light tank was also inducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the Tibetan plateau. Chinese analysts say it is for “combat readiness in these sensitive regions.” Beijing’s defence ministry confirmed the deployment. In July, The PLA Daily claimed that Beijing moved military gear while conducting a long live-fire exercise at an altitude of 5,000 meters, on the plateau. The Western Theatre Command simultaneously moved the hardware by rail and road south of the Kunlun Mountains in northern Tibet.
All these trends show that India should remain watchful during the coming year and certainly not get carried away by any ‘Asian brotherhood’ slogans.
Play the duet, but be ready for the duel.