Friday, December 15, 2017

The Future of Tibet and India

The Dalai Lama arrives in India (March 31, 1959)
As I finished writing this article, the news flashed that "the Dalai Lama could possibly head to China on a private visit, the Sikyong (head) of the elected Central Tibetan Administration, Lobsang Sangay, confirmed today."
Sangay told the press: “Don’t read too much into it. At most it’s a private visit and it’s too early to say anything.”
The visit, if materializes, is bound to be a serious security issue.
[The Dalai Lama's visit to Tibet was later denied by the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala].
 
Tibet and the Dalai Lama have recently been in the news. Does this mean that the Tibet issue is moving towards a solution? Probably not.
On November 23, the Dalai Lama affirmed in Kolkata: “Tibet does not seek independence from China but wants greater development. …China and Tibet enjoyed a close relationship, though there were occasional ‘fights’.”
While saying that China must respect the Tibetan culture and heritage, he added: “The past is past. We will have to look into the future. …We want to stay with China. We want more development.”
‘Development’ did not come up when the Tibetan spiritual leader met with former US President Barack Obama on December 1; they discussed ‘compassion and altruism’, according to an aide. The Dalai Lama said that the meeting with Obama was ‘very good, I think we are really two old trusted friends’; during their 45-minute encounter, the two leaders only discussed promoting peace in today's world torn by strife and violence.
On his return to Dharamsala, the Tibetan monk announced that he may not travel abroad in the future; his fatigue had increased significantly, he said. He has already nominated two official emissaries, President Lobsang Sangay and former PM Samdhong Rinpoche who should be acting as his official envoys.
A few days later, the Dalai Lama was again in the news, he gave an unusually long (a full page of the newspaper) interview to The Times of India (ToI). Apart from mentioning the Tibetan tradition and its closeness to India’s belief system, and their relevance in today’s world, when asked about his earlier declaration about more development in Tibet, the Tibetan spiritual leader commented: “We also need material development. And many Chinese are showing genuine appreciation of Tibetans' spiritual knowledge. …Eventually in the future, with Buddhism, we could control China. Yes, this is possible!” The Dalai Lama added: “The Chinese government must respect Tibetan culture and the Tibetan language. One time, Chinese narrow-minded officials deliberately tried to eliminate Tibetan language and script — this is impossible to do. Tibetans too have an ancient culture that's difficult to eliminate.”
This time again, no word about returning to his native land and about ‘more development’ for Tibet which could become a serious problem for India.
What would indeed mean more development on the plateau?
For the Tibetans, it would probably translate into more Han Chinese migrating to Tibet in order to build and maintain new roads, airports, railway lines and cities.
For India too, it would have implications as all these new developments have a dual use, i.e. civil and military.
On July 1, 2016, China Military Online reported that a joint meeting on the development of military-civilian integration (known as ‘dual-use’) of airports had been held in Beijing.
On the agenda was the ‘Interim Provisions of Operation Security at Dual-use Airports by the PLA Air Force (PLAAF)’. According to the PLA website, it is based on win-win principles for both the military and civil administration. The new arrangement integrates the development of military-civilian airport resources between the PLAAF and civil aviation; the article further explained: “Its main purpose was to establish a complementary management mechanism with smooth coordination and shared resources to gradually form a support capability that guarantees flight safety at peace times and meets combat needs at wartimes.”
Soon after, Lhasa Gongkar airport became one the two first ‘integrated’ airports in China.
Since then, the National People's Congress passed a new law dealing with national defense transport. The legislation covered the use of infrastructure for defense as well as civilian purposes. Xinhua reported: “The new law regulates the planning, construction, management and use of resources in transportation sectors such as railways, roads, waterways, aviation, pipelines and mail services, for national defense.”
After the recent incident at the trijunction between Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, more ‘development’ facilitating the rapid deployment of troops and airborne Special Forces on the plateau, China could be tempted to enter into a conflict with India.
Another example: the Siang becoming black was recently commented on in the Indian press. Though not due to a ‘diversion’ of the Brahmaputra, the silt can, with certitude, be attributed to ‘developments’ in Southern Tibet and possibly to an earthquake which occurred on November in the vicinity.
Earthquake near the Great Bend on November 17

The day the Dalai Lama met Obama, a Chinese website mentioned the road to Metok, the last Tibetan village before the Yarlung Tsangpo enters India in Arunachal Pradesh and becomes the Siang. The Chinese article says that Metok was an ‘isolated island’ due to lack of transportation: “The situation was unchanged until October 31, 2013 when Zhamo Road was completed …[since then] the road mileage has been increasing rapidly.”
Daqiao, Metok’s deputy county chief admitted: “The completion of the road also boosts local tourism, which has generated much more incomes for local people by offering services to a growing number of tourists.”
Wang Dong, Daqiao’s boss added: “We are upgrading the road this year with an investment of 1.2 billion yuan.”
It is a lot of money to ‘upgrade’ an existing road so close to the Indian border; undoubtedly, such ‘development’ will bring more silt to the Brahmaputra …and the PLA closer to India’s border.
In a related issue, former Ambassador Phunchok Stobdan commented in The Wire: “Within this rapidly-unfolding scenario, the Dalai Lama appears to have sent Samdong on a discreet visit to Kunming [in China’s Yunnan province]. Samdong’s visit, starting from mid November, must have been facilitated by no less than You Quan – newly-appointed head of the United Front Work Department that overseas Tibetan affairs. You Quan, who formerly served as party secretary of Fujian, is a close associate of President Xi.”
Though Samdhong’s visit has not been confirmed, it is doubtful that the Tibetans could sign a deal with an everyday more authoritarian regime in Beijing in the present circumstances; it is however worrisome for India. If the Dalai Lama returns to Tibet, will the Tibetans take Beijing’s side on for the disputed borders, particularly in Ladakh or Uttarakhand (in the case of Tawang, the Dalai Lama has made it clear time and again, that it is Indian territory)?
Another strange development is the nomination of a Tibetan General, Thubten Thinley to the recently-held Communist Party’s 19th Congress. General Thinley, besides being a rare specimen of a ‘minorities’ general’, specialized in military recruitment; his job is to recruit Tibetans in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). For China, it makes sense to enroll more Tibetans in the PLA and post them on the ‘Indian’ borders.
Local Tibetans are tempted by the enrollment, as it brings more decent revenues to the poorer sections of the Tibetan society,.
The Dalai Lama told the ToI: “China needs India, India needs China …There is no other way except to live peacefully and help each other.”
It might be true in theory, but the Doklam incident has taught us that there is a gap between the theory and the present practice.
India should be watchful of Beijing’s next move on the Tibet issue.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The 'Tibetan' Hans

Wang Huning, Politburo Standing Committee member in the Tibetan delegation
In March, China will have a new government or State Council.
Its composition is already more or less known.
The always well-informed South China Morning Post announced the names of most of the State Council’s members.
It will however have to be ratified by the People’s National Congress (NPC) next March.
Some 20 ‘Tibetan delegates’ represent the Tibetan Autonomous Region at the NPC.
Among them are a few Hans.
In the last NPC, the most illustrious member of the Tibet delegation has been Wang Huning, today member of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the CCP Central Committee and Director of the Central Policy Research Center of the CCP Central Committee.
He will probably be re-nominated (incidentally, President Hu Jintao was also a member of the Tibet delegation).
Another Han member used to be Chang Xiaobing, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of China Unicom; since then he has been ‘investigated’ and he is today languishing in jail. He will be replaced by another corporate tycoon.
A third one has been in the news this week.
It is Prof Ding Zhongli, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who has just been nominated Chairman of China Democratic League (CDL).
According to his biography, Ding Zhongli is a native of Zhejiang province. Born in 1957, he graduated from Zhejiang University, and received a doctorate from the Institute of Geology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is the director of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Since 2008, he became vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Ding Zhongli has been researching paleoclimatology and the Chinese loess deposits for over twenty years. He and his co-authors systematically investigated the loess stratigraphy of the Loess Plateau, demonstrated the continuity of the loess-soil sequence by correlating the loess sections of the Plateau, and subdivided the loess deposits into 37 pedostratigraphical units in the past 2.6 Ma. He established an orbitally-tuned time scale for the loess sequence on the basis of the Baoji grain-size record. …By correlating the climate records of the loess with those of the deep-sea sediments, he showed that changes in global ice volume may have been a major factor in driving glacia-interglacial variations of the Asian monsoon system.
Why is Ding member of the Tibet delegation at the NPC?
One reason might be that the Chinese leadership wants to keep a tab on the environment of the plateau (Xi can keep an eye on the political developments through Wang Huning).
Prof Ding has now become Chairman of the China Democratic League (CDL).
What is the CDL?
It is a ‘political’ party founded in March 1941; it is headquartered in Beijing and it has a membership of 230,000. The ideology of the party is ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
The CDL (or Minmeng) is one of the eight legally recognised political parties in the People's Republic of China.
At the time of its formation (in 1941), it was a coalition of three pro-democracy parties and three pressure groups. Its two main goals were to support China's war effort during the Second Sino-Japanese War and to provide a ‘Third Way’ from the Nationalists and the Communists.
The party tilted towards the CCP during the Chinese Civil War.
According to Wikipedia: “Thereafter, two of its constituent parties, the China National Socialist Party and the Chinese Youth Party, left the League to join the Nationalists in Taiwan. The ‘Third Party’ eventually became the Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party in 1947. It left the League, but remained pro-Communist.”
In 1997, it adopted a constitution, which stipulated that its program was "to hold high the banner of patriotism and socialism, implement the basic line for the primary stage of socialism, safeguard stability in the society, strengthen services to national unity and strive for the promotion of socialist modernisation, establishment and improvement of a market economy, enhancement of political restructuring and socialist spiritual civilisation, emancipation and development of productive forces, consolidation and expansion of the united patriotic front and realisation of the grand goals of socialism with Chinese characteristics."
We may have to wait next March to see if Prof Ding is still a member of Tibet delegation to the NPC, but there is no reason why he should not be.
The question remains what is/will be his contribution?
The CDL's program is probably fitting with Beijing’s objectives in Tibet.
A Chinese government website noted that in September 1949 the CDL attended the First Plenary Session of the CPPCC in Beijing. It took part in drawing up the Common Program and preparing for the establishment of the People's Republic of China: “Since New China was founded, the CDL has been sharing weal and woe with the CPC and making important contribution to the state political life, economic construction, culture and education.”
With Wang Huning and Ding Zhongli, Beijing can keep a close check on the political and environmental developments on the plateau.
Whether the Tibetans will benefit the presence of these two Han delegates is another issue.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How a football match exposed China's growing paranoia over Tibet and the Dalai Lama

My article How a football match exposed China's growing paranoia over Tibet and the Dalai Lama appeared in DailyO/Mail Today

Here is the link...

Recently, the Chinese U-20 men’s team walked off a pitch in Germany to protest activists unfurling the Tibetan flags.

Over the years, Beijing has become more and more quick-tempered, not to say paranoid, about Tibet. Recently, the Chinese under-20 men’s football team was in Germany to play a series of friendly matches against local teams as part of a project to improve China’s chances at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. One should remember that President Xi Jinping is a great soccer fan and his "Chinese dream" includes a great national soccer team.
The exchange was organised by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and its German counterpart (DFB). It would have been an innocuous incident elsewhere, but on November 18, during a match against TSV Schott Mainz, a regional team, some Tibetan activists unfurled Tibetan flags; furious, the Chinese players left the pitch for around 20 minutes in protest.

Reaction
It later turned into a full-fledged diplomatic incident. The German football association said that the Chinese under-20s would not play the three matches scheduled before the end of the year, while the CFA announced: “It has been decided to pause the U20 project and arrangements have been made for the team to return home.”
The German media was rather amused by this knee-jerk reaction. But The People’s Daily was not. “It was inconceivable that the just act of safeguarding China’s national interest was labelled by some German media outlets as an ‘attack on freedom of expression’ and a ‘suppression of democratic rights’,” it wrote. The mouthpiece of the Communist Party questioned: “Where was the friendship in the ‘friendly’ games,” adding: “Who would tolerate turning a sports game into a political assault against national sovereignty.”
The paper went in a long tirade justifying China’s stand on Tibet: “Tibet has been China’s territory since ancient times, and the Tibet issue involves China’s core interests and the feelings of the Chinese people.” It even quoted Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics Games. “O Sport, You are Peace! … Through you, the young of the entire world learn to respect one another, and thus the diversity of national traits becomes a source of generous and peaceful emulation!”
Well, it is doubtful that the French baron would have banned the Tibetans to exist as a nation; he was a great humanist, but that is another story. The point is that China is getting touchier; a historical incident about the Tibetan flag is telling. Phuntso Tashi Takla, the Dalai Lama’s brother-in-law, was in charge of the Tibetan leader’s security when the latter visited China in 1954-55.
Three decades ago, in an interview, Takla told me: “In 1954, the Chinese extended full courtesy and cooperation to the Dalai Lama. On some occasions, Mao Zedong came himself to the Dalai Lama’s guest house in Beijing. During one of the several discussions that the Dalai Lama and Mao Zedong had, they were talking on some subject, when Mao suddenly said: “Don’t you have a flag of your own, if you have one, you can hoist it here”. Takla was surprised to hear Mao speaking thus.

Episode
In his memoirs, the Dalai Lama’s translator Phuntso Wangyal corroborated the story. “One day, Mao unexpectedly came to visit the Dalai Lama at his residence… During their conversation, Mao said, ‘I heard that you have a national flag, do you? They do not want you to carry it, isn't that right?’ Since Mao asked this with no warning that the topic was to be discussed, the Dalai Lama just replied, ‘We have an army flag’. I thought that was a shrewd answer because it didn't say whether Tibet had a national flag. Mao perceived that the Dalai Lama was concerned by his question and immediately told him, ‘That is no problem. You may keep your national flag’. Mao definitely said ‘national’ flag,” recalled Wangyal.
The episode in Germany reminded of another incident during President Jiang Zemin’s visit to Switzerland in 1999. As Jiang arrived near the Swiss national parliament building in Berne, a dozen Tibetan sympathisers standing on the rooftop of a nearby building unrolled banners to which multi-coloured balloons were attached; it said ‘Dialogue with Tibet’ and ‘Free Tibet’.

Questions
The incident made the Chinese President so angry that in his speech to the Swiss parliament he said: “You've lost a good friend.” He asked his hosts through an interpreter: “Do you not have this capacity to run this country?” He continued: “I have visited many countries all over the world and have always been welcomed everywhere.” Later, Jiang declined to shake hands with Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss. It was a great diplomatic embarrassment for his hosts.
These incidents raise serious questions. Was Mao, the ruthless leader, more tolerant than his successors? Why is China today so nervous when it comes to the Dalai Lama or Tibet?
One reason is probably a guilt consciousness; Beijing knows perfectly well that till 1951 Tibet was an independent nation; did not Mao speak of ‘liberating’ and reuniting Tibet with the motherland? The Dalai Lama recently declared in Kolkata that he does not seek independence from China: “The past is past. We will have to look into the future. We are not seeking independence... We want to stay with China. We want more development."
Were Beijing to agree to the Tibetan leader’s proposal, what would happen if some young Tibetans unfurl a flag in Lhasa? It is frightening just to think of it.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Of realising dreams and making them come true

My article Of realising dreams and making them come true appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

India must learn from the Middle Kingdom which is already on the path to rejuvenation. It is a pity that while we have the ingredients (brains), political will is lacking

Despite (or perhaps thanks to) its rigid system of governance, at the beginning of 2016, China has undertaken in-depth reforms of its defence forces, aiming at a far wider ‘integration’ and a greater jointness of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) different branches.
Instead of the three traditional services, China has now five ‘services’; added to the PLA’s Army, Navy and Air Force, are the PLA Rocket Force (formerly, the second artillery) and the Strategic Support Force (SSF), a game changer, according to all observers.
“While the Chinese PLA’s new SSF is a critical force for dominance in the space, cyber, and electromagnetic domains,” The Diplomat noted a few months back, “the SSF’s function of ‘strategic support’, namely information support, will be equally vital to the PLA’s capabilities to fight and win wars.” It is certainly the force to watch.
It, however, is not only about restructuring the commands and the military regions; President Xi Jinping wants also to give a boost to the Research and Development (R&D) domain to catch up with the United States in terms of new weaponry in the decades to come.
Last week, the Chinese Central Television (CCTV) broadcast a TV documentary in which the actual number of aircraft carriers planned by China was given. In a first stage, it will be six. The first two ski-jump takeoff mid-sized models have come out of the dockyards. The next two should be conventionally-powered carriers with catapult take-off capabilities; probably an electromagnetic catapult. Jane’s Review reported that it will “be fitted onto the second of the country’s indigenously built aircraft carriers, commonly referred to as the Type 002.” Jane’s had previously reported that the system was similar to the General Atomics Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) used by the United States.
The last two carriers will be nuclear-powered comparable to the US Nimitz class. In the long-run (by 2050), China will build another four world-class carriers, thus giving the PLA Navy 10 aircraft carriers.
On November 26, CCTV showed the footage of a Dongfeng-41, or DF-41, Beijing’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, which could strike anywhere in the world. It has a range of 7,500 miles and could carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. A Chinese military expert claimed “the missile can hit every corner of the earth” — ie the US. The warhead is set to be inducted in 2018.
A lot of money is also poured into the Hypersonic Vehicle Technology Project; available data shows that China has started developing conceptual and experimental hypersonic flight vehicle technologies such as hypersonic cruise vehicles (HCV) capable of maneuvering at Mach 5 speeds (6,150+ km/h), flying in near-space altitudes. It could be another game changer.
Cutting-edge research, like in the field of quantum communication (which will make communications un-hackable) is also undertaken by the Chinese scientists.
The Academy of Military Sciences explicitly asserted: “Space and cyberspace increasingly constitute important battlefields. A new type of five-dimensional battle-space of land, sea, air, space, and cyber is currently taking shape, which is wide in scope, hyper-dimensional, and combines the tangible and intangible.” The list of new fields of research is long.
Take the long-range unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2015, media reported the development of the Shendiao (Sacred Eagle or Divine Eagle) as the PLA’s newest high-altitude, long-endurance UAV for a variety of missions such as early warning, targeting, Electronic Warfare (EW) and satellite communications. China is also working on an unmanned combat aerial vehicle named the ‘Black Sword’, which could one day compete with the best US drones.
Beijing has a medium and long-term programme which aims at transforming China into an ‘innovation-oriented society’ by 2020; the plan defines China’s leading-edge technologies. Last year, a US report explained: “China has identified certain industries and technology groups with the potential to provide technological breakthroughs, to remove technical obstacles across industries, and to improve international competitiveness.”
There are other fields such as ‘intelligent perception technologies’ or ‘virtual reality technologies’, but also ‘new materials’ such as smart materials and structures, high-temperature superconducting technologies, and highly efficient energy materials technologies; and, of course, AI (Artificial Intelligence).
In a just released report, Elsa Kania at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) writes: “China is no longer in a position of technological inferiority relative to the United States but rather has become a true peer (competitor) that may have the capability to overtake the United States in AI,” she adds: “it could alter future economic and military balances of power.”
Beijing has also ‘megaprojects for assimilating and absorbing’ technology; an import substitution action plan in order to create indigenous innovations through ‘co-innovation’ and ‘re-innovation’ of foreign technologies. The megaprojects have an objective of ‘assimilating and absorbing’ to help China to ‘develop a range of major equipment and key products that possess proprietary intellectual property rights’
Xi Jinping has a Dream, the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation: “It is an unstoppable historical trend that won't be diverted by the will of any individual country or person,” asserts China Military Online.
Does Delhi even realise the true objective behind the Chinese Dream, which is to make of China a dominant, self-reliant superpower? India has ‘certainly’ something to learn from the Middle Kingdom in terms of ‘dreaming’.
China has its own problems; one is the rigidity of its bureaucracy functioning under the Communist Party, but even if the present Chinese system is not congenial to innovations, considering its structure and the restrictions imposed by the unique Party system, Beijing is going full steam with the most-advanced researches.
In India, the defence sector still depends in a large measure on imports. One of the reasons is the lack of large-scale R&D. This is a serious problem. Take the example of Dassault Aviation; after the constructor of the Rafale was selected in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) project, it expressed some doubts about the capacity of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to absorb French technology; without even speaking about ‘innovations’, HAL could not ‘digest’ the French technology.
The Modi sarkar has tried to partially solve the issue by introducing 50 per cent offsets that Dassault and its partners need to reinvest in India. Tremendous efforts need to be made in the domain of ‘research’, if India is serious about catching up with China and the West in the domain of ‘innovation’.
Will the Indian system able to be a top-class innovator is the real question? China, like India, suffers from bureaucratic deficiencies, but the leadership in Beijing has a tremendous political will (and adequate economic means) to change this scenario in the years to come; it does not seem the case in India.
The Indian Dream has been partially formulated with the ‘Make in India’ scheme, but even if succeeds, it will not solve the R&D issue. It is a great pity, because the ingredients (brains) are very much present.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Indian Village in Tibet

I am posting an interesting report from the Special Officer appointed by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to visit Minsar, the Indian enclave in Tibet in Summer 1950. After the report is a historical note on Minsar.

On August 26, 1950, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir (Prime Minister’s Secretariat - External Affairs Department) writes to the Ministry of States in New Delhi to inform it  about the circumstances of the Special Officer’s visit to Tibet.
The communication is entitled: ‘Village Minsar in Western Tibet'.


...the State Government have already deputed a Civil Officer, Mr. N. Rigzen Ghagil Kalon, with an escort of armed police to visit Minsar village. From the last report received from Mr. Kalon it appears that the Tibetan Govt have put restrictions on people entering their territory with arms. His report further indicates that he reached Rudok on 3rd June, 1950 leaving the police escort behind at Chuchhol [Chushul] a border village on the side of the Jammu and Kashmir State.
At Rudok the Civil Officer was informed by the Tibetan Govt officials that he could proceed to Minsar without an armed escort. Subsequent report from the Chief administrative Officer Leh shows that the Civil Officer along with some constables in civilian dress and without arms are on their way to Minsar.

Follows the report from Rigzen Ghagil Kalon, the Special Officer (Minsar) to the Chief Administrative Officer (Leh). It is dated September 13, 1950, a few weeks before the entry of the Chinese in Western Tibet.
The report is entitled: “Note on condition of the inhabitants of Kashmir Village Minsar in Western Tibet”. Note that Demchok is clearly the last border village in Ladakh; it is now 'disputed' by China.


In compliance to your orders I left Leh on 22-6-50 and reached village Minsar on 24-7-50. The route lies via Rudok. It is ten days journey from Demjok [Demchok] to Minsar. Demjok is the last boundary of the Tehsil Ladakh from which begins the Chhangthang Plateau of Lhasa Tibet. The route from Demjok to Minsar passes through Gartok which is the headquarters of Garpons (Administrative Officers of Lhasa Government). The village Minsar is situated to east of Gartok and about 32 miles west of Mount Kailasas [Kailash]. It is a broad valley with vast plains in it.
There are 68 families with 271 souls of which 120 are males and the rest females and are all adherents of Buddhism.
The entire population depends on livestock which is the only source of subsistence and deal in the trade of sheep, wool, and pashmina. The economic condition of the people is neither much satisfactory nor so much frustrated.
On my way I interviewed Garpons at Rudok and exchanged my ideas with them regarding taking my Police Constables to Minsar and installation of a Chowki [guardian] there. They told me that it would create some consternation in Minsar and its suburbs, if the whole quota of six constables along with rifles were permitted to accompany me and so two constables were permitted to accompany me and the rifles were kept concealed under our saddles. I directed the other four constables to stay at Demjok. I also came across with the traders of Kulu [in Himachal Pradesh] and Leh there. They came with an application to me saying that Tibetan Officials were demanding Custom Duty for their livestock and goods which was not supported by any Rule or Regulation in this behalf. I accordingly went to see the Tibetan Officials and discussed the point with them. They were fully convinced by my arguments that the practice was illegal and they agreed to stop it in future.
The various passengers who had met me on way had already intimated to the people of the village Minsar about me and had accordingly arranged a Tumboo (tent of Yak hair) for my lodging. The Numberdar [hereditary title for powerful families of zamindars of a village or town] and few distinguished persons of the place received me heartily. On the following day I had a discourse with the inhabitants of the place and we exchanged our ideas. I found there a few Garhwal tradesmen who did a lot of propaganda in my favour among the people telling them that I belonged to the National Government of Jammu and Kashmir which is a part of India. It proved a great help to me. I asked for the recovery of revenue and the people told me that they had not the least hesitation in paying the amount to the State Govt., but they had a few grievances against our Government which despite their several representations made at Leh, were not heeded to and no action was taken. They expressed that this attitude of our Government had extremely disgusted them and they wanted an immediate redress before payment of revenue. The grievances are as follows:-
  1. No help was extended to them at the time of the incursion of the Kazaks. The Kazak raid had wholly ravaged their villages and looted and ruined their monasteries. The figures of personal properties of the people leaving aside the monastic wealth were cash Rs. 25000/-, horses 140, yaks 404, and sheep 4889.
  2. The people are subjected to the payment of puggur dues (goods sold by the Tibetan Officials to their subjects at exorbitant price) which is a gross injustice of the Tibetan Government on the people. A few days before my arrival there a Tibetan Official called Urkoo had sent goods such as tea etc worth Rs. 672/- to the village for forced sale for which the villagers had to pay Rs. 1548/- as cost price to Urkoo.
  3. An Official from our Government should stay there annually at least for three months in summer who will look after the general situation of the place.
  4. The people have to supply free transport to the Tibetan officials. The transport engaged by the Tibetan for other purposes such as carriage of goods etc are paid at normal wages of three pice for 32 miles per pony.
In respect of items 2 and 4 it is requested that the Tibetan Government be contacted to stop this mal-practice forthwith which will go a long way in mitigating the troubles and the people will welcome our Government and do whatever we ask them to do.
I contacted the Urkoo who had sent his goods to Minsar and told him to postpone the sale of goods to people for the present till I submit my report to my Government and the requisite orders whether the sale of goods should be made or not are conveyed to his Government by my Government.
I saw on my way orders of the Tibetan Government affixed on all stages to the effect that no Puggur dues and free transport should be demanded. On my return journey I discussed this point with the high Garpon at Gartok and asked him as to how these mal-practices were in vogue in contravention to the clear and explicit orders in this behalf. Garpon told me in reply that as Minsar virtually formed a part of Government of Lhasa and so the Tibetan Officials were right to enforce their laws in the said territory. He also said that Kashmir Government was only to collect revenue annually from the village as done heretofore and for all other administrative purposes the village constitutes a part of Lhasa Government. I asked him to give it in writing to which he showed reluctance and I could easily infer that he had no such document with him by which he was justifying his action.
From the foregoing observations it transpires that our Government has not so far taken any steps in setting up our administration there. It is submitted that speedy measures may please be taken to alleviate the trouble and miseries of the people of this forgotten place which will assure the loyalty of subjects.
No other political condition worth mention needs to be incorporated in the report.

A historical Note on Minsar
Before the invasion of the Roof of the World by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1950, India had a small territory in Tibet. This village is called Minsar.
For centuries, the inhabitants of Minsar, although surrounded by Tibetan territories, paid their taxes to the kingdom of Ladakh. During in the 19th century, when Ladakh was incorporated into Maharaja Gulab Singh’s State, Minsar de facto became a part of the Jammu & Kashmir State.
In October 1947, after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession, Minsar became Indian territory.
This lasted till the mid 1950s.
John Bray, the President of the International Association of Ladakh Studies, who wrote about the Bhutanese and Indian (Minsar) enclaves in Tibet, noted: “Both sets of enclaves share a common origin in that they date back to the period when the Kings of Ladakh controlled the whole of Western Tibet. The link with Bhutan arises because of the Ladakhi royal family’s association with the Drukpa Kagyupa sect.”
This school of Buddhism, different of the Dalai Lama’s Gelukpa has been influential in Ladakh and Bhutan for centuries.
The rights to the small town of Minsar were inherited from the Peace Treaty between Ladakh and Tibet signed in Tingmosgang in 1684. Besides the confirmation of the delimitation of the border between Western Tibet and Ladakh, the Treaty affirmed: “The king of Ladakh reserves to himself the village of Minsar in Ngari-khor-sum [Western Tibet]”. For centuries, Minsar was a home for Ladakhi and Kashmiri traders and pilgrims visiting the holy mountain.
A report of Thrinley Shingta, the 7th Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, who spent three months in the area in 1748, makes interesting reading: “Administratively, it is established that the immediate village of Minsar and its surrounding areas are ancient Ladakhi territory. After Lhasa invaded West Tibet in 1684, it was agreed and formally inscribed in the Peace Treaty between Tibet and Ladakh, signed in 1684, that the King of Ladakh retained the territory of Minsar and its neighbourhood as a territorial enclave, in order to meet the religious offering expenses of the sacred sites by Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash.”

Minsar today
The Panchsheel Agreement
In 1953, wanting to sign his Panchsheel Agreement with China, Jawaharlal Nehru decided to abandon all Indian ‘colonial’ rights inherited from the British. Though he knew that the small principality was part of the Indian territory, he felt uneasy about this Indian ‘possession’ near Mt. Kailash in Tibet. Nehru was aware that Minsar had been providing revenue to maintain the temples around the sacred mountain and the holy Manasarovar lake, but believed that India should unilaterally renounce her rights as a gesture of goodwill towards Communist China.
He instructed the diplomats negotiating the Panchsheel accord in Beijing: “Regarding the village of Minsar in Western Tibet, which has belonged to the Kashmir State, it is clear that we shall have to give it up, if this question is raised. We need not raise it. If it is raised, we should say that we recognize the strength of the Chinese contention and we are prepared to consider it and recommend it.”
Eventually Minsar was not discussed in 1954 during the talks for the Tibet (also known as Panchsheel) Agreement and, the Bhutanese enclaves could not be brought up during the India-China talks in 1960, as China refused to deal with Sikkim and Bhutan.
It means that the fate of these enclaves has never been negotiated or settled. It remains so today.
On December 31, 1953, while opening the ‘Tibet talks’ (without the participation of the Dalai Lama’s government), Premier Zhou Enlai affirmed: “all outstanding problems between China and other countries could be solved on basis of mutual respect for territorial integrity, non aggression and non-interference in internal affairs so as to enable peaceful co-existence. I know Prime Minister Nehru Government and people of India also feel the same way. On basis of this principle all outstanding questions between us which are ripe for settlement can be resolved smoothly.”
Minsar issue was never sorted out.

The Legal Position

We should remember that treaties, conventions or agreements signed by any states, do not depend on an individual or a political party; they remain in force whoever is in power. The Chinese occupation of Tibet did not change this fact.
Further, the return of any part Indian Territory needs to be ratified by the Indian Parliament only, through an amendment of the Constitution. Therefore the so-called ‘return’ of Minsar to Tibet (and China) is still today illegal and invalid in law.
John Bray wrote: "the Sino-Indian boundary dispute remains unresolved. Since the 1960s, the attention of the two governments has focused on the demarcation of the frontier and, more recently, on the prospects for mutual trade. The status of Minsar is no more than a minor footnote to these concerns, but one that has still to be cleared up."
Nehru’s perception that old treaties or conventions could be discarded or scraped greatly weakened the Indian stand in the 1950s (and later when China invaded India). Nehru’s wrong interpretation made it easy for the Chinese to tell their Indian counterparts “look here, McMahon was an imperialist, therefore the McMahon line is an imperialist fabrication, therefore it is illegal”.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Chinese troops intrude in Ladakh: a coincidence?

Gen Zhang Yang in Ngari
Xinhua has just reported that General Zhang Yang, a former member of the Central Military Commission’s (CMC) and the boss of the CMC’s Political Work Department, committed suicide last week.
The South China Morning Post said that a source close to the former Guangzhou Military Command confirmed that Zhang hanged himself at his home in Beijing on the morning of November 23: “the news of his death had been relayed to all People’s Liberation Army theatre commands."
Later Xinhua confirmed the circumstances of his death.
Zhang was apparently linked to former disgraced CMC vice-chairmen Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou who have been sentence for “serious disciplinary violations” in other words, corruption.

A couple of months back, I posted the following comments:

Yesterday while announcing the appointment of new PLA Army and Air Force Chiefs, Han Weiguo and Ding Laihang respectively, The Nikei in Tokyo pointed out:
[about] the rest of the 11-member Central Military Commission, Gen Fang Fenghui, Li's predecessor as head of the Joint Staff Department, and General Political Department chief Gen Zhang Yang were reportedly arrested in late August on suspicion of ‘disciplinary violations’. The allegations are believed to involve graft, though details have not been disclosed.
The Japanese newspaper added:
Though such arrests are extremely unusual, the two officers are not the only Central Military Commission members ensnared in Xi's anti-corruption campaign. Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both loyal to former President Jiang Zemin, were previously ousted over bribery allegations. Fang and Zhang reportedly had close ties to Guo and Xu, respectively.
Reuters asserted that during his monthly news briefing, Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang declined to comment on Fang, who turns 67 next year, usually around the age at which Chinese officials retire.
It is getting hot in Beijing.

I re-post here a piece posted in September 2015 about Gen Zhang Yang on the Indian border.

September 13, 2015
Was it a coincidence?
Just the day before the new stand-off between the Indian and Chinese defence forces in Ladakh started, a senior member of the Chinese Central Military Commission visited the region.
Let us look at the facts.
As it already happened before the visit of Premier Li Keqiang to India in April/May 2013 and also as President Xi Jinping arrived in Ahmedabad in September 2014, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intruded on India’s territory.
The face-off is currently happening in Burtse area, a few miles east of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), where the 2013 confrontation occurred.
According to The Times of India, “the bone of contention is a surveillance structure being erected by the PLA very close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).”
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police apparently objected to the construction of the structure and, with the help of the Army, stopped the PLA.
Subsequently, the PLA called for reinforcements, followed by a massing of more Indian forces in the area.
The Times of India said: “The two forces are still locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation and efforts are being made to defuse the situation.”
General Zhang Yang 'inspects' a farm in Ngari

The Coincidence
On September 9 and 10, a member of the all-powerful Central Military Commission visited Ngari Prefecture, which borders Ladakh, in Western Tibet. General Zhang Yang was in Tibet to ‘celebrate’ the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
At the end of the main function held in Lhasa, the ‘Central’ delegation divided itself into different groups. As mentioned in a previous post, Yu Zhengsheng went to Shigatse and visited the Tashilhunpo.
Vice-Premier Liu Yandong went to Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture, while Jampa Phuntsok ‘inspected’ Nagchu. Another ‘sub-delegation’ led by Du Qinglin, Vice-chairman of the CPPCC, went to Nyingchi.
General Zhang Yang headed for a two-day tour of Ngari Prefecture. He went to convey the ‘loving care’ and the ‘deep feeling’ of the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, and the Military Commission to the ‘cadres and masses of all nationalities’.
Note that ‘of all nationalities’, just means ‘Tibetans’.

Like his colleagues, General Zhang brought along a banner carrying President Xi’s words, ‘Strengthen National Unity and Construct a Beautiful Tibet’.
Zhang was accompanied by Lt. Gen. Xu Yong, commander of the Tibet Military District.
Speaking at the main function in Lhasa, Lt Gen. Xu Yong had, a day earlier, declared that after 50 years of vicissitudes, with the region's rapid economic development and social progress, the living standards of the masses’ have markedly improved and social stability has overall been sustained: “During these 50 years in the same boat, the troops stationed in Tibet and police staff always depended on the Party's to write the bloody battles to defend Tibet, carve a new chapter the history of Tibet.”
What does General Xu refer to, when he speaks of ‘bloody battles’? It is not clear. The 1962 conflict with India?
Xu lavishly praised his boss, CMC's Chairman Xi: “All the troops stationed in Tibet and police officers must resolutely obey the Central Military Commission and Chairman Xi command; conscientiously implement the Sixth Tibet Work Forum’s spirit; vigorously carry forward the heritage of the ‘Old Tibet Spirit’ and faithfully fulfill our mission of responsibility,… and make new and greater contributions for the great prosperity of the motherland and border stability.”
Nothing new!
Also in the delegation, was Wang Yongjun of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). A year ago, WantChinaTimes had reported that the CCDI’s boss, Wang Qishan had started ‘parachuting’ CCDI officials into key posts around China in order to strengthen the party's anti-graft campaign and bring new blood to certain regions.
In January, 2014, Wang Yongjun, formerly deputy dean of the China Discipline Inspection and Supervision Institute was transferred to head the Tibet regional branch of the dreaded (by the corrupts) CCDI.
The Political Commissar of the Tibet Armed Police Corps, Xiao Tang was also in attendance in Ngari.
Meeting the 'masses'
After the customary photo sessions with the ‘cadres and the masses’, (i.e. herders, farmers, toilers, etc.), the General who also heads the PLA’s Political Department, stressed “the need to thoroughly study and implement the spirit of the important speech Xi Jinping, in particular, his speech at the Sixth Work Forum and implement the good advices given by Yu Zhengsheng during the 50th anniversary function.”
He concluded, “seize the opportunity, work hard and continue to strive.”
This is the usual stuff.
But during his visit to Ngari, General Zhang Yang and his delegation “made a special trip to lay a wreath on the revolutionary martyrs’ cemetery.”
Which martyrs? 1962 again?
And perhaps more importantly, one line in the local press mentions that Zhang 'visited the troops'.
Was the 'political' general informed that the PLA was planning to build a structure in an area considered by India to be within her territory?
If Zhang was not informed, the PLA has a serious problem of command.
If he was informed, it is a serious issue for India.

PS: By the way, where was Lt. Gen. Peng Yong, the commander of the Xinjiang Military District, who looks after Ngari area?  Can a Yong (Xu) replace a Yong (Peng)?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Faking the Fake

The New Chinese Lhasa
Gyaltsen Norbu, the Panchen Lama nominated by the Communist Party of China (CPC) has recently been in the news. The Global Times said that young Lama accused vendors on Taobao, an online shopping website affiliated to the Alibaba Group “of selling artworks that are falsely attributed to him.”
He asked the public not to buy these items.
In a WeChat post, the 27-year-old Tibetan Lama, himself considered ‘fake’ by the Tibetans in exile, said that “all calligraphy being sold on the e-commerce platform bearing his name are fake.”
The Panchen Lama said he himself discovered that a dozen Taobao vendors were selling such works.
He had done a keyword search for his own name.
Incidentally, he probably did not find the name of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the ‘real’ Panchen Lama, who is languishing in ‘house arrest’ for 22 years; Gedhun’s name, like the Dalai Lama’s is strictly banned in China.
The ‘fake’ Panchen Lama wrote: "None of them are my authentic artworks, please don't buy them.”
The Chinese media claims that Gyaltsen Norbu is known for his calligraphy skills: “Since childhood, he spends an hour each day practicing the art both in Chinese and Tibetan”, reported Tibet.cn.
All items were apparently later removed from the website.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP), also belonging to the Alibaba Group, picked up the story: “Senior Tibetan Buddhist leader found dozens of shops on Taobao selling counterfeit calligraphy and paintings.”
The article, quoting a regional government’s official, asserts: “A top religious leader in Tibet has accused dozens of shops on Alibaba’s Taobao e-commerce platform of selling counterfeit art bearing his name.”
The SCMP affirms that the Panchen Lama is the second-highest figure in Tibet’s spiritual hierarchy,  giving some recognition to Gyalstsen Norbu.
The Hong Kong paper explains: “Tibetan Buddhism has become increasingly popular in China in recent years, especially among upper-middle class people.”
More popular than the Communist Party with its 89 millions adherents?
Certainly!
At the end of the article, it is admitted: “The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in exile in Dharamsala, India, opposed Beijing’s selection and proposed a different candidate as the 11th Panchen Lama. That boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was taken into custody by the Chinese government and has not been seen in public since May 1995.”

The Regulations for reincarnations
On November 24, 2017, the website en.tibetol.cn reported that the Lama “together with over 60 Tibetan Buddhists from the High-level Tibetan Buddhism College of China and the Lama Temple attended the Exhibition on the Reincarnation System of Living Buddhas held by Tibetan Culture Museum in Beijing.”
Apparently, the CPC suddenly acquired a great knowledge in the ‘reincarnation’ process?
Could it be called ‘atheist reincarnations’?
Or is it simply ‘political’ reincarnations?
We are told by the website: “The exhibition was held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the implementation of the Regulations on the Reincarnation System of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism.”
Living Buddhas is the name given to reincarnated lamas, usually known as tulkus or rinpoches.
One remembers that in 2007, the State Council had published ‘Regulations’ to be able to control the reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama (for example, the 'regulations' assert that all Living Buddhas should be recognized by the Party).
The website says: “The exhibition highlighted the history of the reincarnation system of living Buddhas and the religious rituals of the reincarnation of Dalai and Panchen Lamas.”
I mentioned on this blog the ‘fake’ recognition ceremony of Gyaltsen Norbu.
According to the website, the Chinese Panchen Lama declared that the Living Buddhas “have not only gained high accomplishments in religion but also made great contribution to the unity of the country and the prosperity and security of the contemporary society.”
‘Contribution to the unity of the country’ refers to the time when Tibet was an independent nation and Tibet was not ‘unified’. But it is probably true that some lamas collaborated with the Communist Party in the 1950’s to ‘unify’ the country.
According to Gyaltsen Norbu: “The implementation of the ‘Regulations’ safeguards the inheritance of the reincarnation system.”
He urged the new generation of Living Buddhas “to protect the unity and solidarity of the country and guide the religion suitable to the socialist society.”
Once again, the ‘unity’ of China is emphasized.


Commercialization of religion
On November 24, 2017, another article in the SCMP mentions that Beijing has decided to ban “commercialisation of Buddhist and Taoist activities.” This is seen as a move to tighten the Party’s grip on religion believes the Hong Kong paper: “The State Administration for Religious Affairs and 11 other departments rolled out measures to step up governance over commercialisation of the two religions in a 10-point directive which will be implemented by local governments across the nation.:
According to the Xinhua news agency, issues such the “commercialising the two religions are a key public concern.”
One of the problems of the Communist State today is that there are more and more followers of the Buddha in the Middle Kingdom. It is not the case for the followers of the Communist Party.
The new regulation says: “All commercial investment in Buddhism and Taoism is prohibited under the directive, with the basis that their temples are non-profit in nature. The religions are important in Chinese culture and society and some of the country’s most popular tourist attractions revolve around centuries-old Buddhist and Taoist temples.”
Interestingly, the local Party cadres have specifically been requested to stop “promoting and profiting from religious activities in the name of fostering economic development.”
Karl Marx was probably right: religion is the Opium of the People, more so in today’s China.
The commercialization regulations order: “Investing in or contracting out the operation of temples or other religious venues is also banned, along with any other profit-making activities associated with the two religions. Temples in scenic spots cannot overcharge tourists for entry, while they are banned from building any new large outdoor religious statues. Existing ones will also be under scrutiny.”
According to the SCMP, these measures will be protecting the religions …while maintaining social stability. The latter rationale is probably the most important because religion in China becomes more and more a concurrent of the Communist Party despite the fact that the 19th Congress has promoted Marx’ religion on a grand scale.
Further the Regulations say that any revenues gained from religious operations should be used for charity and maintenance purposes only, and religious groups must follow a standard taxation, banking and accounting system.
It seems that it has not been the case in the past: “commercialisation could be destructive for Buddhism and Taoism, disrupt normal religious activities and breed corruption.”
In the meantime, the Dalai Lama recently declared in Kolkata that he does seek independence from China: “The past is past. We will have to look into the future. We are not seeking independence... We want to stay with China. We want more development."
However, it is not clear what does it practically means in the present circumstances.
What would be, for example, the relation between the ‘fake’ Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama, in case Beijing accepts the Dalai Lama’s plea.
His ‘return’ would certainly raise many many more such questions.
To paraphrase Zhou Enlai, it is obvious that: “Time is not ripe for settlement.”
But in the former Chinese Premier’s case, he was referring to the border dispute with China.
That was in 1954.