Saturday, June 24, 2017

China's 'Tibet recipe' in Xinjiang should put India on alert

Chen Quanguo leaves Tibet to apply his recipe in Xinjiang
My article China's 'Tibet recipe' in Xinjiang should put India on alert appeared in Mail Today.

Here is the link...

The stability of the Muslim region is vital for Beijing and its gigantic BRI project. At the end of August 2016, Wu Yingjie takes over as party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from Chen Quanguo who is sent to "pacify" the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party has taken this crucial decision during the annual closed-door meeting in the summer resort of Beidahe. Chen replaces Zhang Chunxian as XUAR party secretary.
It is indeed a promotion for Chen, given the fact that Xinjiang's party secretaries often serve in the politburo. Infrastructure His selection is linked to the "Tibet Recipe", the way Chen managed to "pacify" the TAR.
Once in Urumqi, Chen immediately started applying the formula that he used in Tibet to Xinjiang. But what is this recipe?
First, Chen transformed the Roof of the World into a vast Disneyland. In 2006, the arrival of the train on the plateau changed everything for Beijing and unfortunately for the Tibetans.
Wave after wave of Chinese tourists could be poured into Tibet to experience the "Paradise on Earth" with its blue sky, pristine lakes and rivers, its luxuriant forests and deep canyons (the latter in Southern Tibet).
In 2016, 25 million tourists, mainly from the Mainland, are said to have visited the Land of Snows. For this, infrastructure needed to be developed, airports opened, four-way highways constructed, hotels and entertainment parks built; this was done in Tibet on a war-footing.
Wave after wave of Chinese tourists poured into Tibet. In passing, the Tibetan intangible heritage had to be preserved, often with Chinese characteristics. The same formula has now to be replicated in Xinjiang. Second, in order to "stabilise" the plateau, Chen imposed restrictions on the local population like never before.
Similar policies will be used in Xinjiang. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organisation based in the US, just released a "glossary" of special slogans or "formulations" (tifa) used by the Chinese officials and the media when referring to party policies on the plateau.
HRW explains: “China’s authorities place extraordinary emphasis on the importance of ‘propaganda’ in sustaining their rule. This phenomenon is particularly evident in Tibet, where there has been a long history of human rights violations, extreme hostility towards political rights, and heavy restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”
"Poetic" tifas such as Social Management, Comprehensive Rectification, Preventive Control, Eliminate-Unseen-Threats, Nets-in-the-Sky-Traps-on-the-Ground or Copper-Ramparts-Iron Walls, are recurrently used.
The latter one for example, translates into “an impenetrable public security defense network consisting of citizen patrols, border security posts, police checkposts, surveillance systems, internet controls, identity card monitoring, travel restrictions, informant networks, and other mechanisms.”
The implementation of these tifas, which originated during Chen’s tenure in Tibet, is often dreadful... but efficient for Beijing.

Chen has taken these tifas with him to Xinjiang and started making good use of them. The "stability" of the Western province is vital for China, as it is the geographical hub for the Belt and Road Initiative: it will connect the New Silk Road (Central Asia) to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Chen now plans to bring millions of tourists to Xinjiang in order to "dilute" the Uyghur characteristics. In a "White Paper on Xinjiang" recently published by Beijing, the Communist Party hides its failure by saying: “Legitimate rights of religious organisations have been effectively safeguarded. Xinjiang has published translations of the religious classics of Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity in multiple languages,” adding 1.76 million copies of the Quran have been printed and distributed. But on the ground the situation is different.
To take just one example, Beijing has decided to collect DNA samples from all Xinjiang’s residents. This week, Xinhua reported China's decision to dispatch 10,000 teachers to the restive XUAR and TAR “to support local education could help solve the educational problems.” Stability Beijing says that the main problem is the lack of eligible bilingual teachers in the regions, but will the teachers from the mainland teach the Turkish language of the Uyghurs or Mandarin? Not difficult to guess. Language, in Tibet or Xinjiang, is an instrument of assimilation.

Chen is also working hard to improve the infrastructure. Last week, Xinhua announced the construction of 10 new airports to be built in Xinjiang by 2020; further, six older airports will be renovated and expanded. It has implications for India.
One of these airports will be built in Yutian (also known as Keriya), a county of Hotan Prefecture not far from the disputed Aksai Chin. Located south of the Taklimakan desert and north of the Kunlun range, Keriya has always been a major stopover on the ancient Silk Road. In view of the proximity of the Indian border, it makes sense for China to have a new "civil" airport at Keriya, considering that there is no such thing as a "civil" airport in China, especially so close to the Indian border. Keriya airport is designed to annually handle 1,80,000 passengers and 400 tons of cargo; it will have a 3,200-meter runway, a 3,000-square-meter terminal building and cost 104 million US dollars, says Xinhua. There is no doubt that Chen has been mandated to apply the "Tibet Recipe" in Xinjiang.
Will he succeed is another question.
It is however certain that the stability of the Muslim region is vital for the Middle Kingdom and its gigantic BRI "linking" project; India needs to watch and be prepared.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

China has not won the heart of its minorities

My article China has not won the heart of its minorities has been published by The China Policy Institute of the University of Nottingham

Here is the link...

On June 1, the Information Office of China’s State Council (Cabinet) published a White Paper (WP) entitled “Freedom of religious belief protected in Xinjiang.” These types of publications are part of regular exercises trying to provide a rosy picture to the world in areas where China faces serious issues; in this case, it is the restive province of Xinjiang.
On April 21, 1949, Mao Zedong instructed the PLA to ‘liberate’ the entire country; his orders included the borderlands of Xinjiang and Tibet. After getting the assurance from the Soviets that they would not interfere but would support the annexation of the Western Dominion, as Xinjiang was then called, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) swiftly moved to ‘liberate’ the Middle Kingdom’s Western borders. The annexation of Xinjiang was particularly important as it controlled access to the trade with Central Asia; by occupying it, Mao also blocked any possibility of Soviet return in the region, should they change their mind; in addition, the PLA would be closer to the Indian frontiers, particularly in the Aksai Chin area, still a hot disputed spot today.
In less than two months the vast deserts and oases of Xinjiang became effectively part of the new People’s Republic of China. But while the PLA defeated nature and men, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was unable to win the hearts of the local population. A similar scenario would take place in Tibet, less than a year later. The recent WP is a propaganda exercise aimed at hiding the Communist Party’s failure; it says: “Legitimate rights of religious organisations have been effectively safeguarded …Xinjiang has published translations of the religious classics of Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity in multiple languages,” adding 1.76 million copies of the Quran have been printed and distributed.
In less than two months the vast deserts and oases of Xinjiang became effectively part of the new People’s Republic of China. But while the PLA defeated nature and men, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was unable to win the hearts of the local population. A similar scenario would take place in Tibet, less than a year later. The recent WP is a propaganda exercise aimed at hiding the Communist Party’s failure; it says: “Legitimate rights of religious organisations have been effectively safeguarded… Xinjiang has published translations of the religious classics of Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity in multiple languages,” adding 1.76 million copies of the Quran have been printed and distributed.
The atheist Communist Party by controlling every detail of the religious life of the native Uyghurs, often fuelling more resentment; by the end of 2016, argues the WP: “Xinjiang had two world cultural heritage sites, five national historical and cultural cities, 113 cultural relic sites under state key protection, and 558 cultural relic sites under autonomous regional protection, with more than 616,000 tangible cultural relics being collected and kept in 182 state-owned units.”

There is, however, a deep gap between the official declarations and the situation on the ground. The Economist recently titled: “The bullies of Urumqi, The extraordinary ways in which China humiliates Muslims,” noting that today in Xinjiang there is as a ban on ‘abnormal beards’ and even naming a child ‘Muhammad’.
The London magazine continued: “In recent months they have intensified their efforts to stifle the Islamic identity of Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighurs, fearful that any public display of their religious belief could morph into militancy,” mentioned other ‘heavy­handed curbs’ such as ban on unauthorised pilgrimages to Mecca, orders to students not to fast during Ramadan, tough restrictions on Islamic garb, etc.

Click to continue to read...

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Tibet Recipe, a New Airport in Xinjiang

Xinhua announced yesterday the construction of a new regional airport in Xinjiang.
It will be built in Yutian, a remote County of Hotan/Khotan Prefecture in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Yutian is also known as Keryia.

Already in 1953
On July 15, 1953, a CIA note dealing with “Chinese Communist Troops, West Tibet” and “Road Construction, Sinkiang to Tibet and Ladakh” mentioned that late 1952, the 2 Cavalry Regiment, commanded by one Han Tse-min, had set up his headquarters at Gartok (the main trade centre in Western Tibet).
It announced that the regiment had 800 camels and 150 men garrisoned at Rutok, in the vicinity of the Panggong lake.
At that time, the 2 Cavalry’s commandant spoke of the Chinese intention to built three new roads in the area.
  • A road from Rutok to Keriya, south of the Taklamakan desert (the construction is ‘contemplated’ says the report); on the eastern edge of the Aksai Chin.
  • A motorable road from Khotan to Suget Karaul ending at Vanjilga (at the western end of the Aksai Chin).
    It later became the Aksai Chin road (now National Highway 219), though the alignment may have been slightly different from the present one as it was then probably impracticable for heavy vehicles (only 4 years later, heavy trucks were able to ply on the road).
  • A road from Khotan (or Hotan) to Rutok to be completed in June or July 1953. 
Though the road between Rutok and Keriya was never completed, the Chinese engineers never dropped the project.The main difficulty is to cross the Kunlun range, south of Keriya
In December 2016, I mentioned on this blog the construction of a new road linking Xinjiang and Tibet. National Highway 216 (G216) runs in the XUAR in the southern direction from Altay City to Baluntai in Hejing County, where it joins China National Highway 218. It is 857 kilometres in length.
The starting point of this project is the Jieze Lake near the G 219 highway (north of Rutok). The road will be built “in accordance with the two-lane highway construction,” asserted then a Chinese report.

New airport planned in Keriya
In this context, and in view of the proximity of the Indian border, it makes sense for China to have a new ‘civil’ airport at Keriya (Yutian is the Chinese name), considering that there is no such thing as a 'civil' airport in China, especially so close to the Indian border (Aksai Chin).
Keriya airport is designed to annually handle 180,000 passengers and 400 tonnes of cargo; it will cost 104 million US dollars and witness more than 2100 annual take-offs and landings every year.
The airport will have a 3,200-meter runway, a 3,000-square-meter terminal building, four aprons, and facilities for air traffic control and power, water, heat and fuel supplies, says Xinhua.
The project has been cleared by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China and announced by the regional NDRC.
The Yutian/Keriya County, located south of the Taklimakan Desert, and north of the Kunlun range, covers 39,500 square kilometers and has 277,400 permanent residents.
It is a major stop over on the ancient Silk Road (OBOR), according to the Chinese news agency. The nearest airport, in Khotan/Hotan City, some 200 km away and north of the disputed Aksai Chin.
Interestingly, Yutian airport is one of 10 new airports to be built in Xinjiang by 2020.
Six older airports will also be soon renovated and expanded.

The Tibet recipe

At the end of August 2016, Wu Yingjie took over as Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from Chen Quanguo who was sent to ‘pacify’ Xinjiang. The decision had been taken during the annual closed-door meeting at Beidahe.
An official statement released had then announced that Zhang Chunxian would be replaced by Chen Quanguo as secretary of the XUAR’s Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
This was indeed a promotion for Chen, given the fact that Xinjiang's Party Secretaries often serve in the Politburo (though Chen will have to wait until the 19th Party Congress later this year to find out if he has made it).
His selection was linked to the Tibet recipe, the way Chen managed to ‘pacify’ Central Tibet.
There is no doubt that Chen will apply the same formula in Xinjiang: bring millions of tourists and ‘dilute’ the Uyghur characteristics.
The 10 new airports, particularly the new one in Keriya/Yutian have to be seen in this perspective.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Why was India House destroyed?

India House in Yatung destroyed by China
I am posting again a three-year old article on the visit of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Tibet and Bhutan and the nights he spent in Yatung, in the Chumbi Valley.
During the recent 2017 Tibet Tourism Products Promotion Meet for South Asia held in Lhasa, Qiao Zhifeng, director of Yatung County Tourism Bureau spoke about the development of Yatung as a tourist spot. 
He announced that China will soon build a cableway "in a customs relic site of the Qing Dynasty" and a glass skywalk in Dromo (Chumbi valley) forests.
What is this Qing (Manchu) relics site is not clear.
Regarding the 'skywalk', Qiao explained: "Different from the common cliff glass skywalks, the one in Dromo forests will be built above the green woods, offering visitors a new and all-around viewing angle of the forests.”
While Beijing plans to erect a memorial in the honour of the Manchus, nobody speaks of the beautiful India House, which was the residence-cum-office of the Indian Trade Agent in Yatung till 1962 and where Nehru stayed for two nights (on his way up and on his return from Bhutan) in 1958. 

The Indian Agency building has been destroyed by China to erase all traces of the Indian presence in Tibet.
Questions should be asked to Beijing why such historic building was destroyed, particularly as the Agency was an asset of the Government of India.

(My old post)
As Prime Minister Modi prepares to pay his first foreign visit to Bhutan, I post here some pictures of another visit, Jahawarlal Nehru's in 1958.
Nehru's letter to the Chief Ministers explains his visit.
The interesting feature is that the Prime Minister and his daughter Indira Gandhi had to cross the Chumbi Valley in Tibet. On his way to Bhutan, they spent one night  in Yatung where an Indian Trade Agency was located and on the return journey, they stayed another night in Yatung.
Read this earlier posting about the Indian missions in Tibet.
And about China grabbing Bhutanese territory.
I wish Narendra Modi could take the same route than Nehru.
Unfortunately, the times have changed ... not for the good.

Letter From Jawaharlal Nehru to the Chief Ministers
Gangtok, Sikkim
October 15, 1958
My dear Chief Minister,
Prime Minister Nehru on his way to Bhutan
My last letter to you from Gangtok in Sikkim, on the eve of my journey to Bhutan via Tibet. After I left Gangtok, I was almost entirely cut off from communications till my return to Gangtok two and a half weeks later. I received an occasional message by wireless from Delhi. But this was rarely sent as I had requested that only something that was really important should be forwarded to me. Usually we could listen in to the AIR news broadcasts in the evening, as we had a radio with us. There were no newspapers at all and I had a sensation of being in another world.

2. The little corner of Tibet that I saw upset my idea of that country. I had always thought that on the other side of the Himalayan ranges, there was the high tableland of Tibet, more or less flat and treeless. As a matter of fact, on the other side of the Nathu La, there were the same precipitous mountains covered with thick forests. This was the Chumbi Valley where Yatung is situated and, broadly speaking, it was similar to Himalayan scenery. At the top of the Nathu La ended the road that our engineers had constructed, and on the other side we had to descend by precipitous bridle paths. This road on our side is a remarkable feat for which our engineers deserve great credit. If a road could be built on the other side of the Pass, connecting Yatung, then there would be through road communications between India and Tibet. On the Tibetan side this road will be a much simpler proposition than the one that we have built on our side. Through road traffic would make a great difference to trade as well as to travellers. There is still a considerable inflow of goods from India to Tibet although this has gone down during the last year or two. I was told that upto last year quite a number of automobiles had gone this way after having been taken to pieces and carried by porters.

3. The change from Sikkim to Tibet was noticeable, though not very great. Some little distance before we reached Yatung, we were received by representatives of the Chinese General in Command at Lhasa [General Tan Guansan] and of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.  Tibetans peered at us from their houses or from the roadside, curious about us, and yet not quite sure whether they should come near us.

4. Yatung was a small spread out town. The main market road was full of Indian shops. There were, I believe, over ninety such shops, many of them having started business in the course of the last three years, when this trade was highly profitable. Conditions were more difficult now and so a number of these Indian shops were closing up. The Chinese authorities had put up a number of new buildings-schools, hospital, community centre and residential houses for themselves. Our own Trade Agent's house had its own little hospital and buildings for the staff. In Gyantse and Lhasa our representatives were very badly housed. In Gyantse, a great flood two years ago had destroyed our house and over ninety of our personnel had been drowned. It struck me how difficult were the living conditions of the members of our staff in various parts of Tibet. There was the harsh climate and the high altitude; the lack of social life or amenities and a sense of seclusion from the outside world. Only physically tough people could stand these conditions for long.

5. On crossing the Tibet-Bhutan border, we were met by the Prime Minister of Bhutan  and a numerous cortege. We journeyed on horseback or mule-back, a long caravan, going ever higher and higher. The Bhutan Government had taken great pains to improve the bridle paths and erect log huts en route for our night rest. The mountain scenery was more attractive and impressive. Some of us had felt a little uncomfortable on the first day of our journey because of the height, but soon we grew accustomed to that altitude and nothing untoward happened. We had a doctor with us, who carried all kinds of drugs and medicines and numerous oxygen cylinders. I am glad to say that those oxygen cylinders were never used and ultimately, on our return journey, we left most of these oxygen cylinders at our hospital at Yatung.

6. The next day's journey brought us to two high passes,  both above 14,500 feet. We left the tree-line and ascended to these heights where only flowers and grass persisted. There were lovely Alpine flowers throughout. It was surprising that in spite of long hours on horseback or sometimes on foot, we felt refreshed after every rest. The air was exhilarating and altogether this visit proved to be quite an exciting event in our lives.

7. When we were approaching within two or three miles of Paro, where the Maharaja was awaiting us, we had to form up into a procession which gradually descended along the mountain side to the valley below. I have seldom seen anything more spectacular than this long procession consisting of people 100 king like medieval knights, dignitaries of the Buddhist church in their special robes, troupes of dancers, etc. Thus we came down the winding road to the valley below where practically the entire population had assembled.

8. We spent five days at Paro. We had met the young Maharaja and his wife  in Delhi some years ago, and the y proved to be charming hosts. In theory, the Maharaja is the all-powerful ruler of his little State. In practice, he is very much one of the people, mixing with them and not very different from them.

Here are some pictures of the Photo Division.

Indian and Chinese flags in Yatung
With Maharaja of Sikkim
With Maharaja of Sikkim and Political Officer (Apa Pant)
With Maharaja of Sikkim and Indira Gandhi
In Yatung with Indian Officers serving in Tibet
Received in Yatung
In Yatung with Tibetan and Chinese offficials
With Indian Trade Agent in Yatung
PM arrives in Bhutan
With Indira Gandhi
In Bhutan
On the way to Bhutan, the Indian Consul General
is behind the Prime Minister
In Yatung
Dinner with Chinese Officials in Yatung
Receiving an Indian Delegation in Yatung
On the way to Bhutan
Addressing an Indian delegation in Yatung
Addressing an Indian delegation in Yatung
Nehru spent 2 nights in the Indian Trade Agency in Yatung
Dinner in Bhutan
Inspecting the Sikkim Guards
In Bhutan
In Bhutan
In Bhutan

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trespass on Barahoti: We had it coming

My article Trespass on Barahoti: We had it coming appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle.

Here is the link...

An improved infrastructure should be provided to the Indian Army and the paramilitary forces to man the area.

According to PTI, on June 3, two helicopters of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) hovered over the Barahoti bowl in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand.
The news agency repotted that the choppers, which returned to the Chinese side after about five minutes, “could have carried out aerial photography of Indian ground troops during what was possibly a reconnaissance mission.”
The choppers were identified as the Zhiba (WZ-9) attack helicopters.
Incidentally, on the same day, Lt Gen He Lei, vice president of the PLA’s Academy of Military Science addressed the plenary session of the 16th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
Representing China, Gen He affirmed in front of his colleagues from Asia and the West: “China has always worked to maintain, build and contribute to international and regional peace and has firmly followed the path of peaceful development although it is faced with multiple security challenges.”
Whether it is in the South China Sea (SCS) or Barahoti, the Chinese break the rules that they pretend to uphold; intruding areas, occupying them and later telling the other stakeholders: “let us discuss”. Opponents, placed in front of a fait accompli, are most of the time unable to give a fitting answer (this is even the case of Donald Trump in the SCS).
In the present situation, Chamoli’s Superintendent of Police, Tripti Bhatt told The Hindustan Times that the helicopter(s) entered the Indian airspace from Tibetan side; however, she refused to confirm that it was a Chinese helicopter. This raises several questions.
First, for such sensitive issues, there should be only ONE spokesperson, whether from the Defence Ministry or the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP) who gives factual infor
mation to the press.
Then, photos or videos should be provided to the media, which hopefully can help the Indian public to better understand what China does.
Then an improved infrastructure should be provided for the Indian Army and the paramilitary forces to man the area. This is the result of the neglect of the Himalayan frontier with China for the past 60 years.
Finally, there are no ‘minor’ issues when the Indian borders are concerned. Barahoti, which witnessed the first Chinese intrusions on Indian soil in 1954 is indeed a telling case.
Every summer, the Indian media cries foul: “The Chinese have come again”. “The Chinese Dragon struck again”, scream reports originating from this ‘inaccessible’ part of Uttarakhand.
Last year, The Times of India reported: “It all began on July 22, when an Indian team of 19 civilians led by a Sub Divisional Magistrate first entered into the area in Barahoti. …Three days later for the first time, China sent a helicopter to the area.”
The Government of India, as usual, played down the incident. As a result, this year, two choppers have come …in June and next year more will come.
Last year another serious issue cropped up, as per an agreed protocol signed in 2005 and reiterated in 2013 with China, the ITBP personnel were not carrying firearms, while Chinese were carrying arms and wearing uniforms.
But how did the story start?
In July 1952, in a secret note, the Intelligence Bureau described the topography of the Himalaya in this area: “The Garhwal-Tibet border can only be crossed through the Mana and Niti Valleys where there are open places and habitation, while the rest of the border area consists of snow-covered mountains studded with glaciers. …There are four passes between Niti Valley and Tibet”. One of them was Tunjun-la, north of Barahoti.
A couple of years earlier, some Tibetans officials had entered the tiny bowl of Barahoti. The IB explained the background of the so-called dispute: “About the end of last century the Tibetans had established a Customs Post at Hoti Plain. To stop this practice, the British Government had to send out a detachment of Gurkhas along with the Deputy Collector in 1890. This had a salutary effect and the Tibetans removed their post. It appears that for some time past the Tibetans have again been establishing a Police-cum-Customs post at Hoti during the trading season.”
As in most areas in the Himalaya, the access is far easier from the Tibetan side than from the Indian. Over the years, this greatly facilitated the Chinese intrusions.
The 1952 IB note continued: “It is quite possible that if the Tibetans are not stopped from establishing their post at Hoti Plain, they might eventually claim it to be their own territory.” The IB then recommended: “It is, therefore, essential that the Govt. of India should make it clear to the Govt. of Tibet and its Dzongpon [District Commissioner] that the Hoti Plain is Indian territory and the Tibetans have no right to establish any Customs post there.”
At that time, the Uttar Pradesh Government asserted that no case of “encroachment has so far been reported though at one or two places tax collectors from Tibet did come in but were persuaded to go back.”
The above incident was enough for China to claim the area as ‘hers’. It happened as soon as the negotiations for the Panchsheel Agreement, (which only deals with trade and pilgrimage between Tibet and India) were completed in April 1954. It was soon obvious that the Indian diplomats had goofed up, they had ‘forgotten’ to discuss the Indo-Tibet border.
Though the ‘smart’ Indian negotiators in Beijing had been sent a complete list of the Himalayan passes, they believed that by naming six passes only, they had delineated a border.
As a result of India not insisting on all the passes, China started claiming several areas south of the watershed, in particular the area south of the Tunjun-la pass, where Barahoti is located.
It is only much later that South Block understood the meaning of Premier Zhou En-lai’s opening remarks, at the time of signature: “there are bound to be some problems between two great countries like India and China with a long common border… but we are prepared to settle all such problems as are ripe for settlement now”.
China did not know that Barahoti was south of Tunjun-la in 1958
Less than two months after the signature, India discovered that all problems had not been solved: the first Chinese incursion in the Barahoti area of Uttar Pradesh occurred in June 1954. This was the first of a series of incursions numbering in the hundreds which culminated in the attack of October 1962
Correspondence went on for four years and in 1958 a conference was held to sort out the issue. China refused to admit that the watershed marked the frontier and that Tunjun-la pass had for centuries been the traditional border.
After the failure of the 1958 talks, the Foreign Secretary Subimal Dutt wrote: “Each side has put forward its arguments in favour of its case. The Chinese are contesting our arguments and we are, of course, contesting theirs. The only positive suggestion made by the Chinese is that there should be a joint local enquiry.”
But India refused when it discovered that was just a pretext for China to find out the exact location of the place. They thought that Barahoti (they call it Wuje) was north of Tunjun-la. It seems a joke; unfortunately, the Chinese intrusions still continue today.
More than 60 years later, the case of Barahoti shows that for the Chinese, there is no big or small issue, every inch is a victory, and the second lesson is that there is no short cut to building a proper infrastructure.
And India should not hesitate to send drones to the area if and when required.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Tibet-India Railway

A 'Tibet-South Asia' promotion meeting for travel products was held in Lhasa on June 11.
The theme was ‘crossing Himalaya, rambling paradise in the clouds’.
China Tibet News, a Chinese website says that more than 100 travel agencies from inside or outside Tibet took part in the promotion meeting.
What was the objective of the gathering?
The website said to “show innovative idea of product design on Tibet’s travel, strengthen exchanges and communications with fellow traders, promote developmental directions of individuation, branding, and high-end quality in tourism industry, activate developmental vitality of folk travel organization, as well as expand upgrading of tourism product and profit space.”
This is fine.
A question however remains, why ‘Tibet-South Asia’?
Apart Nepal, Tibet has no ‘tourism’ contact with any ‘South Asian’ country.
Except for the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra opened from Pittoragarh district of Uttarakhand and Nathu-la in Sikkim, there are no ‘tourist tours’ crossing over the Himalaya to Tibet or vice-versa.
During the meeting in Lhasa, some travel agencies made some major recommendations for outbound ('out of Tibet') tourism products for Nepal …and other South Asian countries.
It is there that the route to Chumbi Valley and Yatung (written Yadong by the Chinese) was mentioned.
The article said that the ‘Yatung border tour’ aroused everybody’s interest.
According to Qiao Zhifeng, director general of Yatung Tourism (under Shigatse City’s administration), the Yatung County has rich touristic resources and apparently, the local government has been keen “to exploit Yatung tourism since 2016.”
Quio explained that a three-day tour from Lhasa-Yatung has become “a very mature travel route, it also has attracted a lot of self-driving tourists and group tourists.”
He added: “In the future, we will continue to plan and develop colorful tourism products relying on abundant and superior tourism resources, and the market. At the same time, we will strive to improve the infrastructure construction of software and hardware to attract visitors from all over the world.”
'Improve the infrastructure' means 'bring the railway line to Yatung'?

Chinese tourists in India via Nathu-la?
Can the next step be to send Chinese tourists to India via Yatung and Nathu-la?
In July 2006, at the time of the opening Nathula pass for trade between India and China, Sun Yuxi, the then Chinese Ambassador in India told some journalists that Beijing planned to extend its railway linking Beijing to Tibet, to a newly opened border point in India's northeast and possibly link it to India's east coast.
Sun said "From Yadong, the Indian border area is only a few dozens of kilometers away. Then, anytime we feel the need we will link it. If the train got through all the way to Kolkata, that will be something. Lots of potential, opportunities will develop there.”
Nobody took Sun seriously then.
In July 2015, Ananth Krishnan wrote in The Daily Mail “Local officials in Yadong [Yatung] say a line running to the India border could transform the currently paltry $15million border trade, which relies on a small border market that is open from Monday to Thursday in Yatung.”
Krishnan then reported: “China has already upgraded the roads from Lhasa to Yatung. A 500km journey to the India border took Mail Today only seven hours.
Last year, in an article in the China Daily, Ma Jiali, a well-known Chinese ‘India expert’ and a researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations explained that “a trans-Himalayan railway would be of great economic value as it could later connect China, the largest economy in Asia, with India, the continent's third-largest economy.”
But has India been consulted?
Surely not.
However Beijing seems decided to go ahead with the project of ‘connecting’ India.
Nepal, on its part, is more than willing to have “a convenient link to China because it believes that China's development will offer great opportunities for Nepal,” commented Jia last year (a map was then attached to the article).
It showed the train continuing its journey to Purang (Burang), near the tri-junction Nepal-Tibet-India and Yatung in the Chumbi Valley. The Purang leg will be a further step to connect Tibet and Xinjiang, through a railway line parallel to the Aksai Chin road (via the Indian territory).
The creation of Western Theater Command will make the process easier.
It would make two branches of the OBOR ending up at India’s gate.
The point is: can tourism alone justify the laying of a railway line to Yatung?
Certainly not.
The answer is somewhere else.
The raising of a Mountain Strike Corps on the other side of the pass?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Damming the Indus: 'hordes' of Chinese tourists will pour in to visit the 'last paradise on earth'

My article Damming the Indus: 'hordes' of Chinese tourists will pour in to visit the 'last paradise on earth' appeared in Mail Today/Mail Online

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On the occasion of the opening of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) forum in Beijing, President Xi Jinping urged countries across the globe to join hands with China in pursuit of globalisation: 'We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability. What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence.'
India has some doubts about the 'big family'. Take the example of the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an OBOR's offshoot; it crosses Gilgit- Baltistan (GB), considered by India an integral part of Jammu & Kashmir.
Not only has China pushed Islamabad to make GB a fifth province of Pakistan, but according to, 'Information and interviews exclusively accessed by CNN-News18 showed that the land was procured mostly by force by Pakistani generals for the CPEC and those resisting are either killed off or incarcerated without a trial.'
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping, ahead of the Belt and Road Forum, in Beijing on May 13, 2017
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping, ahead of the Belt and Road Forum, in Beijing on May 13, 2017
Wajahat Hasan, chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Thinkers Forum, told the same channel: 'Thousands had their land snatched and occupied by the military authorities and their agencies.
'Under this black draconian rule, nobody can raise their voices against the CPEC.'

Another worrying issue: when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited China to attend the forum, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to fund and build five mega hydroelectric power (HEP) projects.
The Pakistani press spoke of an Indus cascade of dams, two of them costing $27 billion (`17,000 crore), being located in GB.
The Pakistani newspaper, The Express Tribune, had earlier claimed that Pakistan and China would develop the North Indus River Cascade with an investment of $50 billion (`32,000 crore) to generate up to 40,000 MW hydro power.
According to Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the Indus cascade will start from GB to reach the existing Tarbela dam downstream, not far from Islamabad.
At the MoU-signing ceremony, Nawaz Sharif affirmed: 'Development of the North Indus Cascade is a major focus of my government and the construction of Diamer-Basha Dam is the single most important initiative in this regard.'
He added, 'Water and food security are of paramount importance for Pakistan keeping in view the challenges posed by climate change.'
A 7,100 MW HEP project will be built at Bunji on the way to Skardu, the capital of Baltistan.
Though described by WAPDA as a run-of-the-river (RoR) project, it is clearly not one, as it will have a 22- km-long reservoir which will inundate 12- km of the road between Gilgit and Skardu.
The next dam is the Diamer-Basha HEP with a potential of 4,500 MW. The Diamer-Basha reservoir will submerge some 104 km of the Karakoram Highway and displace about 30,000 people, admits the WAPDA.
It will cost $15 billion(`965 crore). Both projects follow the Karakoram Highway in GB. Joydeep Gupta, a water expert, explained in a news portal: 'The Diamer- Basha dam is being promoted by WAPDA as a sediment trap and therefore good for downstream hydropower projects. But the same sediment — mainly silt — rejuvenates the soil downstream every year and has been the main reason why agriculture has been sustained in the Indus valley for millennia.'
But this does not bother the Pakistan politicians.

The other projects (the 4,320 MW Dasu HEP, the 2,200 MW Patan HEP, the 4,000 MW Thakot HEP using four headrace tunnels to divert waters and generate electricity) are located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
A 'lost' Saraswati river in the making? It has now been scientifically proved that big dams are not sustainable for several reasons; the first one being the amount of silt retained behind the dam, which stops nourishing downstream areas.
Interestingly, there is a movement in the United States to progressively decommission all large dams, which 'kills' the river, with many species of fishes unable to migrate upstream.
Another important factor is the strong 'dam lobby' in China which smells the billion dollars; it has been active since the time of Premier Li Peng and his mega Three Gorges dam.
Nepal too seems to have fallen prey to this lobby. Nepal's ministry of energy recently signed an MoU with China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) for the development of a 1,200 MW Budhigandaki HEP, which will be the biggest hydro project in Nepal.
The agreement was signed at the prime minister's residence, with the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal in attendance.
The dam will be built under the 'engineering, procurement, construction and finance' model. It means that CGGC will help arrange soft or commercial loans from China.

Already in August 2010, warning bells have been ringing in the corridors of South Block in Delhi.
The well-informed journalist, Selig Harrison, then wrote in The New York Times that according to 'a variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists and Pakistani human rights workers', two important new developments in Gilgit-Baltistan were taking place: 'a simmering rebellion against Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People's Liberation Army'.
Tomorrow, tens of thousands of Chinese workers (17,000 for the Daimer-Basha HEP only) will come to GB; a decade or so later, when the work is completed, many will 'buy' land from Pakistan and settle for good in the area.
Further, China is bound to develop GB as a 'special' tourist destination (once the basic infrastructure is in place for the dams) and ultimately hordes of Chinese tourists will pour in to visit the 'last paradise on earth'.
How will India react? The time has perhaps come to think about this. Does Delhi want a China Town in Skardu or Gilgit? One of the solutions is to renegotiate the Indus-Water Treaty, signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan. With the latest developments, it seems completely outdated today.

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