Monday, November 19, 2018

Patel-Nehru rift over Tibet & China was deep

My article Patel-Nehru rift over Tibet & China was deep appeared in the Deccan Chronicle

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The most serious cause of discord was the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese “Liberation Army” in October 1950.

On October 31, the world’s tallest statue, the Statue of Unity dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The work on the 182-metre tall statue has been completed after round the clock work by 3,400 labourers and 250 engineers at Sadhu Bet island on Narmada river in Gujarat. Sadhu Bet, located some 3.5 km away from the Narmada Dam, is linked by a 250-metre-long long bridge.
Unfortunately, for several reasons, scarce scholarly research has been done on the internal history of the Congress; the main cause is probably that a section of the party would prefer to keep history under wraps. Take the acute differences of opinion between Sardar Patel, the deputy prime minister, and “Panditji”, as Nehru was then called by Congressmen. In the last weeks of Patel’s life (he passed away on December 15, 1950), there was a deep split between the two leaders, leading to unilateral decisions for the PM, for which India had to pay the heaviest price.
The most serious cause of discord was the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese “Liberation Army” in October 1950. In the course of recent researches in Indian archives, I discovered several new facts. Not only did several senior Congress leaders, led by Patel, violently oppose Nehru’s suicidal policy, but many senior bureaucrats too did not agree with the Prime Minister’s decisions and objected to his policy of appeasement with China, which led India to lose a peaceful border.
On November 11, 1950, the deputy prime minister of India addressed a meeting organised by the Central Aryan Association to commemorate the 67th death anniversary of Swami Dayanand Saraswati. It was to be his last speech. What did he say? The Sardar spoke of the potential dangers arising from what was happening in Tibet and Nepal, and he exhorted his countrymen: “It was incumbent on the people to rise above party squabbles and unitedly defend their newly-won freedom.” He cited the example of Gandhi and Swami Dayanand.
Sardar Patel then criticised the Chinese intervention in Tibet; he asserted that to use the “sword” against the traditionally peace-loving Tibetan people was unjustified: “No other country in the world was as peace-loving as Tibet. India did not believe, therefore, that the Chinese government would actually use force in settling the Tibetan question.” He observed that the Chinese government did not listen to India’s advice to settle the Tibetan issue peacefully: “They marched their armies into Tibet and explained this action by talking of foreign interests intriguing in Tibet against China.” The deputy prime minster added that this fear was unfounded; no outsider was interested in Tibet. The Sardar continued by saying that “nobody could say what the outcome of Chinese action would be. But the use of force ultimately created more fear and tension. It was possible that when a country got drunk with its own military strength and power, it did not think calmly over all issues.” He strongly asserted that the use of arms was wrong: “In the present state of the world, such events might easily touch off a new world war, which would mean disaster for mankind.”
Did he know that it was his last message? “Do not let cowardice cripple you. Do not run away from danger. The three year-old freedom of the country has to be fully protected. India today is surrounded by all sorts of dangers and it is for the people today to remember the teachings of the two great saints and face fearlessly all dangers.”
The deputy prime minister concluded: “In this kalyug we shall return ahimsa for ahimsa. But if anybody resorted to force against us we shall meet it with force.” He ended his speech citing Swami Dayananda: “People should also remember that Swamiji did not get a foreign education. He was the product of Indian culture. Although it was true that they in India had to borrow whatever was good and useful from other countries, it was right and proper that Indian culture was accorded its due place.” Who is ready to listen to this, even today?
Days earlier, Patel had written a “prophetic” letter to Nehru, detailing the implications for India of Tibet’s invasion. In fact, Patel used a draft done by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the secretary-general of the ministry of external affairs and Commonwealth relations. However, Nehru decided to ignore Patel’s letter.
Witnessing the nefarious influence of K.M. Panikkar, the Indian ambassador to China, who ceaselessly defended China’s interests, Bajpai, the most seasoned Indian diplomat, had lost his cool. On October 31, in an internal note, he detailed the sequence of events which followed Tibet’s invasion and the role of Panikkar, whose attitude was compared to Sir Neville Chamberlain’s towards Hitler.
Bajpai’s anger demonstrates the frustration of many senior officers; the account starts on July 15, when the governor of Assam informed Delhi that, according to the information received by the local intelligence bureau, Chinese troops, “in unknown strength, had been moving towards Tibet from three directions.” Not only was Panikkar unable to get any confirmation, but he virtually justified Beijing’s military action by writing: “In view of frustration in regard to Formosa, the Tibetan move was not unlikely.” During the next three months, the Indian ambassador would systematically take the Chinese side.
After receiving Bajpai’s note, Patel wrote back: “I need hardly say that I have read it with a great deal of interest and profit to myself and it has resulted in a much better understanding of the points at issue and general, though serious, nature of the problem. The Chinese advance into Tibet upsets all our security calculations. … I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.”
Some more details of the seriousness of the situation filters through Inside Story of Sardar Patel: The Diary of Maniben Patel, the daughter of the Sardar. In an entry on November 2, 1950, Maniben wrote: “Rajaji and Jawaharlal had a heated altercation about the Tibet policy. Rajaji does not at all appreciate this policy. Rajaji very unhappy — Bapu (Patel) did not speak at all.”
Later in the afternoon, “Munshi complained about Tibet policy. The question concerns the whole nation — said he had written a personal letter to Panditji on Tibet.”
Later, Patel told K.M. Munshi: “Rajaji, you (Munshi), I (Patel), Baldev Singh, (C.D.) Deshmukh, Jagjivan Ram and even Sri Prakash are on one side, while Gopalaswamy, Rafi, Maulana (Azad) are on his side.” There was a vertical split in the Cabinet; and it was not only about Tibet. The situation would deteriorate further during the following weeks.
On December 12, Patel was divested on his portfolios. Nehru wrote: “In view of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s ill-health it is absolutely necessary that he should have complete rest and freedom from worry, so as to be able to recuperate as rapidly as possible. …no work should be sent to him and no references made to him in regard to the work of these ministries.”
Gopalaswami Ayyangar, from the “other side”, was allotted the ministry of states and Nehru kept the ministry of home. The Sardar was only informed after the changes were made. He was a dejected man. Three days later he passed away.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Chinese dichotomy

My article The Chinese Dichotomy appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

Though China is keen to become the world leader in promotion of Buddhism, it will never happen because of the gap between the Marxist theory and repression on the ground

China is a country full of dichotomies. Take Buddhism. On one side, China promotes Buddhism; on the other hand, Beijing severely represses the Buddha dharma. On October 28, the World Buddhist Forum opened with fanfare at Putian, in Fujian Province. According to the official release, it was attended by a record number of over 1,000 Buddhist monks, scholars and representatives from 55 countries. Zong Xing, Vice President of the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) and Xiao Hong, a deputy secretary of the China Religious Culture Communication Association (CRCCA), the joint hosts, gave a press conference.
Xiao announced that the forum wanted “to carry forward the positive Buddhist cultural spirit, promote exchanges between Buddhism and other religions and make contributions to building a community with a shared future for humanity.” That sounds good. One of the themes of the meet was “Buddhism and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”, a project dear to President Xi Jinping. A couple of weeks earlier, the Global Times had reported that a two-day symposium in Qinghai Province discussed the way Buddhism could better serve the BRI and resist separatism.
The website noted: “Guided by the core socialist values, the symposium aims to encourage Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to the socialist society and teach the religion to serve the construction of the BRI.” Was the Fujian Forum a great success? It does not appear so reading the rare comments which appeared in the Chinese Press. One of the problems was that Master Xuecheng, the BCA president and Abbot of Longquan Temple in Beijing, had to resign in a hurry in August.
The 52-year-old was accused to have coerced nuns into having sex, overseen illegal construction work and embezzled funds. The claims were made in a 95-page document published on July 31; it immediately went viral on Chinese social media, bringing support to China’s #MeToo movement. It is not that Xuecheng was not well-connected with the Communist Party; he was a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), but in the present days, even tigers fall (President Xi had warned the ‘tigers’ and the ‘flies’ that he would not accept corruption).
One of the BCA’s Vice Presidents was Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama. He made a timid appearance on the first day. He spoke on, “to live together in harmony through the Middle Path”, a purely religious topic; Norbu emphasised a common future for humanity and the fact that the creation of a ‘common-destiny community’ is more and more accepted the world over. He mentioned the Buddhist precepts of living in symbiosis, equality, tolerance, compassion and harmony: “We are one family living in the same house,” he said. There was no word of praise for Xi.
His presence was hardly reported by the Chinese media, probably because he did not eulogise Xi Jinping and he ‘forgot’ about the BRI in his speech. The only big shot was You Quan, director of the United Front Work Department, which looks after religious affairs for the Party’s Central Committee. He hoped that “Buddhist communities would look deeper into Buddhism values and contribute wisdom to promoting the well-being of humanity and safeguarding world peace.”
Here comes the dichotomy. While Beijing promotes Buddhism’s humanitarian precepts, it takes repressive measures against Buddhist practitioners. For the third consecutive year, the authorities banned a major Tibetan prayer festival in Larung Gar, the largest Buddhist institute in Tibet, situated in Serthar County in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province. The monastery had a population of 30,000 Buddhist nuns and monks before it was partially destroyed by the ‘authorities’ last year.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a Chinese official announced that the Dechen Shingdrup festival would be banned this year. He cited Chinese ‘religious affairs management laws’. Further, outsiders should not be invited to Larung Gar. A source told RFA’s Tibetan Service: “The notice advised village leaders and Chinese Communist Party committee members to inform the public that they would not be allowed to enter the village for any religious events. …In past years, when it was allowed, the festival lasted for a whole week.” Human Rights Watch  published a new report on the ‘Four Standards Policy’ recently introduced in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). The ‘standards’ are competence in Buddhist studies, political reliability, moral integrity capable of impressing the public and willingness to play an active role at critical moments. In other words, be good Communist Buddhists.
Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, commented: “Chinese authorities have always placed heavy constraints on religious freedom, especially in Tibetan and other minority regions, compelling Tibetan monks and nuns to be propagandists for the Communist Party takes Government intrusion in religion to abhorrent new levels.”
The new policy is a continuation of the 2005 Regulations on Religious Affairs but with more oppressive clauses. On October 25, the Global Times said that the TAR Government was encouraging Tibetan monks and nuns “to learn about the laws, a move experts hailed as using education to raise local people’s legal awareness.”
Tibet’s Department of Justice announced that “professional working teams organised by the regional department of justice taught the monks about legislation and law enforcement in the region. …Teams are composed of prestigious monks, legal professionals and officials that were dispatched to temples.” Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Tibet University in Lhasa, summarised the issue: Legal education on law enforcement was weak in Tibet “because some Buddhist practitioners consider themselves as people beyond judicial reach.”
Already in August, when Wang Yang, the CPPCC Chairman and a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, visited the Sera monastery near Lhasa, he mentioned the new theme of Xi Jinping’s religious campaign, “Sinicisation of the religions in China.” Wang said that more efforts should be made to integrate Tibetan Buddhism into China’s socialist society; he asked the monks “to firmly uphold the leadership of the CPC, inherit and promote patriotism and be courageous to battle all separatist elements, in order to further protect the national reunification, ethnic unity and social stability.”
Though China is keen to become the world leader in promotion of Buddhism, it will never happen because of the gap between the Marxist theory and the repression on the ground, which are incompatible.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

How old CIA reports reveal that China has been repressing Muslims since the 1950s

The Communists 'advising' the Uyghurs in the 1950s
My article How old CIA reports reveal that China has been repressing Muslims since the 1950s appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

State-run media Xinhua, however, promotes Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region — home to many ethnic minority groups — as a ‘paradise on earth’

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a 117-page report entitled “Eradicating Ideological Viruses - China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims;” it gave fresh evidence of Beijing’s “mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life.”
The US based agency affirmed: “Throughout the region, the Turkic Muslim population of 13 million is subjected to forced political indoctrination, collective punishment, restrictions on movement and communications, heightened religious restrictions, and mass surveillance in violation of international human rights law.”

History of abuse
Bloomberg, citing a United Nations’ assessment, said that the Chinese authorities have detained more than one million Uighurs: “As its mosques are shuttered and travel across its borders restricted, Xinjiang - once at the intersection of ancient Silk Road trade routes - threatens to become a black hole in President Xi Jinping’s effort to build new ones.”
But the fact that the Uyghurs are badly treated by Beijing, is not new; one just needs to go through some old reports of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to understand that it has been ongoing process since the 1950s.
One such report of January 1951 states: “Muslims in Sinkiang [Xinjiang] are discontented with the Communist regime. Officially there are no restrictions on prayers, but orchestras play for dancing at evening-prayer time to distract the young, and young men enlisted as soldiers have no time to attend religious services. Gatherings of more than four people are prohibited.”
Another CIA report of September 1952 notes: “Prior to June 1952 the Chinese Communist Government in southwestern Sinkiang Province had adopted a policy of deporting all persons whose families originally migrated to Sinkiang from the area which is now West Pakistan. Deportation was preceded by confiscation of property, and the persons being deported were accompanied to the Sinkiang-Pakistan border by an armed guard.”
Today, the Chinese authorities have detained a number of Uighur women who are married to Pakistani businessmen from Gilgit-Baltistan region. It has deeply angered Pakistan, supposedly China’s all-weather friend.
In 1952, two years after the arrival of the first Chinese troops in former Eastern Turkestan, the CIA says: “all major government departments, including those of agriculture, police, secret police, magistrates, revenue, and engineering, were headed by Chinese officials and advised by Soviet officials.” The Uyghurs were not trusted and removed from all their posts; ditto today.
In March 1953, a CIA report asserts: “In the fall of 1952 no one was permitted to travel from southwestern Sinkiang …where the authorities were engaged in liquidating large numbers of people accused of having participated in the 1944 revolt against Chinese rule.”
The CIA agents reported that the fortification walls surrounding Kashgar had been torn down by forced labor: “All women in both cities were compelled to work at removing the debris resulting from the destruction. The men of Kashgar were being forced to work on the construction of roads and buildings.”

Communists take over
By the end of year, all profitable business, including the silk industry in Hotan had been taken over by the Communist authorities: “Private business was discouraged, and almost all shops had been turned into government owned cooperative stores. The salaries paid to shopkeepers were barely enough to cover their living expenses.”
And like the Communist officials would do in Tibet a couple of years later, the new government of Xinjiang told the people: “the Chinese in the administrative structure are there simply to teach the natives of Sinkiang the art of governing, and that soon the full governmental administrative responsibility would be turned over to the people of Sinkiang.”
The same report cited a long list of purges, arrests and executions.
More than 60 years later, ferocious repression and forced assimilation still takes place in the restive region; the Uyghurs face repression, reeducation and relocation.
On July 6, The People's Daily noted that Beijing has relocated “461,000 poverty-ridden residents to work in other parts of the region during the first quarter of the year,” in a bid to “improve social stability and alleviate poverty.”
The report asserted that the Xinjiang government planned to further transfer 100,000 residents from southern Hotan and Kashgar prefectures by 2019, to get employed somewhere else.

Current practices
Yu Shaoxiang, an ‘expert’ at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told The Global Times: “poverty alleviation in Xinjiang is more difficult compared to other places because, aside from poverty, Xinjiang also faces ethnic issues.”
The irony is that this region is the hub the ‘humanist’ Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which is to bring prosperity and happiness to the local populations.
It does not mean that China does face serious challenges, not only from infiltration from its friend in the South, but also from the Syrian-trained Uighurs returning to Xinjiang.
But can this be a pretext for such drastic policies?
On August 31, during a hearing at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Hu Lianhe, the Chinese representative countered  the claims that the Muslim minorities was being subjected to extrajudicial detention and political indoctrination. Hu denied the existence of ‘re-education camps’, asserting instead that China is ‘a victim of terrorism’, and that the Xinjiang has only initiated a “special campaign to crack down on violent terrorist activities according to law.” He however admitted to the trial and imprisonment of ‘a number of criminals’ and that people guilty of minor offenses were sent “to vocational education and employment training centers…to assist with their rehabilitation and reintegration”
In the meantime, Xinhua promotes the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, as a ‘paradise on earth’. It affirms that 130 million tourists visited the Western province during the first nine months of 2018. Can you believe it? But for sure, the Han tourists did not visit the reeducation camps.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A French 'Tiger' in India

George Clemenceau was French PM (and War Minister) during WWI
Bodhisattvas in his table
French President Emmanuel Macron recently stated that the commemoration of the 100th year of the end of World War I between the Allies and Germany was an occasion to promote a ‘recast multilateralism’. The presence in Paris on November 11 of the representatives of all those who participated in the War, including Germany, demonstrates this choice.
France has not forgotten India’s participation; Paris recently offered India a piece of land to construct the ‘Indian Military Memorial’ for Indian troops at Villers Guislain, in Northern France. The memorial comprises a bronze Asoka emblem and a plaque, honouring the Indian soldiers who died in the War.
But there is more to the relations between India and the War; read the story below and you understand the meaning of multilateralism between France and India.

A Tiger among Politicians
Whenever one thinks of the Great War, a name comes to mind, Georges Clemenceau.
Born in 1841 in Vendée, the hotbed of the monarchists during the French Revolution, Clemenceau came from a lineage of physicians. His father never really practiced, but he was attracted by political activism, following the ‘Radicals’, a Party not enamoured of Catholicism.
Though a lifelong atheist, Georges had an interest in religious matters from the early age. He joined politics as an anti-clerical, often fighting the French Catholic Church, strongly believing that that the Church and the State should strictly be kept separate.
From November 1917 to January 1920, he was the Prime Minister of France and he played the central role in the victory of the allies; he then became known as ‘Père la Victoire’ (‘Father Victory’) or ‘Le Tigre’ (‘The Tiger’), as he always favoured a total victory over the German Empire and militated for the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine to France. In 1919, he became the main architect of the Treaty of Versailles at the Paris Peace Conference.

Clemenceau at Guimet Museum (behind the central pillar), c. 1890
Clemenceau the philosopher
There is another aspect to George Clemenceau; he was a great humanist, thinker, traveler and lover of India and its philosophies.
Mao once said: “The philosophers have so far only interpreted the world, the point is to change it." Clemenceau first changed the world by giving Victory to the allies, while being a philosopher at the same time.
This reminds me of Sir Francis Younghusband, the British ‘imperial adventurer’. During his stay in Lhasa in 1904, he had become fond of the Ganden Tripa, the senior-most Tibetan Lama. In spite of the political difficulties and their personal backgrounds, they often sat together to discuss religion and philosophy. They developed a very close rapport. On his return to England, he became a great adherent of the philosophy of Ahimsa.
But in the case of Clemenceau, it was not a ‘sudden conversion’ as for Younghusband, he had spiritual inclinations from his early years in politics.
Already in July 1885, he gave a speech in the French Parliament: “Inferior race the Hindus? With this great refined civilization that is lost in the mists of time!” He also spoke of the Buddhist religion which later migrated from India to China, but left “this great efflorescence of art of which we still witness today the magnificent remains.”
He would always remain fond of Buddhism.

Clemenceau sitting with Agvan Dorjiev
the 13th Dalai Lama's emissary in Europe, in 1898
The Guimet Museum
Clemenceau was involved in the creation of the Guimet Museum in Paris. He was close to Emile Guimet, a rich industrialist from Lyon and a passionate about oriental religions. He traveled all over Asia and once back in France, he decided to create "a didactic place dedicated to Buddhism, and, in general, to religions around the world.” Guimet Museum was inaugurated in Paris in 1889; later Clemenceau even attended Buddhist ceremonies organized by the museum.
On February 21, 1891, when a puja in honor of the founder of the Shinshu sect was performed by two Japanese monks, Clemenceau sat in the front row; a journalist asked the future Prime Minister: “Now, you can’t stop us going to the Mass?” Clemenceau quipped: “What to do, I am a Buddhist!”
For him, Gautam Buddha was at the top of the thinkers’ hierarchy; he is indeed "the greatest preacher of peace and fraternity that has appeared in the world". Clemenceau called him the ‘sublime monk’, who preached the love of his neighbor and this without proclaiming the existence of an almighty God. He greatly preferred Buddha to Jesus, probably due to the omnipresent Church in Catholicism at that time in France.
The Tiger also liked the fact that Buddhists did not proselytize. In 1905, he told L'Aurore, a French newspaper: “With what impatience do I wait for the day when we will see Buddhist and Shinto missionaries coming to Marseilles who will come and try to convert us!”
From 1917 to 1920, when he served as Prime Minister and War Minister, he kept several statuettes of bodhisattvas placed prominently on his desk.

Clemenceau in Ellora, a few months after retiring as French PM (1920-21)
Clemenceau the Traveler
But Clemenceau knew that it was not enough to read books about philosophy, he decided to immerse himself into the cultures he was studying.
Months after his retirement, at the age of 80, he embarked on a long journey to Egypt, Sudan, Ceylon, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma and finally India.
As soon as he arrived in Calcutta on December 5, 1920, he fell extremely sick; worried doctors advised his immediate repatriation to France.
The Tiger was not going to listen to the orders of the doctors: “Whether I die in Calcutta or in Paris, on a Wednesday or a Saturday, it does not matter, but you would not want me to come to India’s door and then return to France without having visited India. Either I will die or I will visit India!”
He recovered and went on a long journey in India starting by Benares.
He often wrote to his friend, the great impressionist Claude Monet: "I have come to Benares to take the most prodigious bath of light ... A large clear blue river, with an imposing curve of white palaces, which fades in the powder of dawn.” He tried to attract his friend to India: “if my name was Claude Monet, I would not like to die without having seen Benares.” He wrote about “a humanity crazy with expressive colors” which animates India: “I do not want to go to heaven if Benares is not there,” he asserted, adding that even: “the incomprehensible cult of these sacred cows, coming in the morning to eat the flower malas with which I was garlanded,” finds an explanation.
Clemenceau was very fond of Asoka, the King who renounced violence, he wrote: “The reign of the great Asoka is one of the purest human glories,” an antithesis of what Father Victory had been known for during the Great War.

Clemenceau in Elora (1920-21)
'Le Soir de la Pensée' (The Evening of the Thought)
On his return from India, Clemenceau worked on his philosophical testament Le Soir de la Pensée, which shows not only his great erudition, but also his deep understanding of India’s philosophical thought.
Several chapters mention India; one is entirely consecrated to The Philosophies of India. Clemenceau admitted having experienced a ‘delicious joy’ in discovering the Ramayana, the Vedas and the Buddhist scriptures.
He acknowledged that he had grasped only the superficial aspects of the Indian Thought: "I do not know by what excess of daring I try to summarize aspects and developments of the Hindu thought in a few lines. [But] this subject holds me and leads me.”
Elsewhere he says: “By her Vedic hymns and her great poems, we find unexpected resemblances to Greece. …The genial feature is that it does not formally reject any affirmation which could bring some doubt to the proclaimed belief.” He continued: “The cosmogonies of India cannot be counted. All contradictions accumulate, without ever losing confidence, always ready to assimilate everything.”
Hundred years after the Armistice, this aspect of Father Victory should be remembered, though his philosophical views never interfered in his political decisions as one of the main actors of the Great War.

(I am grateful to my colleague Christine Devin for her numerous inputs in this story)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Recast multilateralism

More than 60 heads of States will jointly commemorate the 100th year of the end of World War I between the Allies and Germany. A hundred years after the bitter war, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also participate in the Armistice celebrations, perhaps because today there is no longer a victorious or defeated nation; the entire world, including India, suffered too dearly for between 1914 and 1918.
For what? Nobody is sure now.
The French daily Le Figaro explains the dichotomy: “Commemorate means making choices.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to go for a week-long ‘memorial and territorial journey’ through the different sites of the Great War. For the French, the numerous functions are more than a celebration of a victory; there is a triple message in the event: one, to remember the ‘poilus’ (‘the unshaven ones’) as the French soldiers were known during the War; then to celebrate the capacity of the French nation to rebuilt itself and finally, and perhaps most importantly, to promote a ‘recast multilateralism’.
The presence in Paris on November 11 of the representatives of all those who participated in the War, including Germany, demonstrates this choice.
At the same time, France has not forgotten India’s participation; Paris recently offered a piece of land to construct the ‘Indian Military Memorial’ for Indian troops at Villers Guislain, in Northern France. The memorial comprises a bronze Ashoka emblem and a plaque, honouring the Indian soldiers who died in the War.
Some 130,000 Indian troops, including Sikhs and Gorkhas, fought in France and Belgium during the bloody conflict during which more than 9 million people died; a quarter of the Indian contingent never returned to their native provinces; during the battle of Neuve-Chapelle in France in March 1915, the Sikhs regiments lost 80% of their men.
Some of the French battlefields where Indian soldiers showed their bravery and dedication to a cause which was not theirs, are today part of the History of France.
A few years ago, David Omissi, a military historian wrote Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldier’s Letters, 1914-18; this edited collection of letters sent by Indian soldiers to their family in India is deeply touching.
Jawans of the 9 Bhopal Infantry, 15 Ludhiana Sikhs, 47 Sikhs, 57 Frontier Force, 58 Frontier Force, 59 Frontier Force, 89 Punjabis, 107 Pioneers, to quote a few, valiantly fought for a country that they did not know; they could not even speak the language.
For these Indian soldiers, it was their first trip to Europe (and for many, their last as they ended being buried on the front). As he arrived in France, an Indian soldier wrote to his family: “What is Paris? It is heaven!” He soon discovered that the trenches were Hell.
Another bewildered jawan described London: “in the train that goes under the earth … a strange and wonderful experience — they call it the underground.” Nobody had even heard of a ‘Tube’ in his native Punjab.
Already on October 7, 1927 France officially acknowledged India’s participation in the World War and expressed its deep gratitude; a memorial in Neuve-Chapelle was inaugurated by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies who paid a vibrant homage to the Indian soldiers.
France and Britain had decided to express their deepest appreciation for the role of Indian soldiers, though it is not clear for which cause they fought so bravely. This is often the case in wars and a century later, the reasons for the conflict become more blurred.
Isn’t it a lesson of international relations: today the Germans and the French are great friends trying to build Europe together?
It is undoubtedly better that way.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In kalyug we shall return ahimsa for ahimsa, but if anybody resort to force against us we shall meet it with force

I am posting today, what is probably the last public speech of Sardar Patel.
On November 11, 1950, the Deputy Prime Minister of India addressed a meeting organized by the Central Aryan Association to commemorate the 67th death anniversary of Swami Dayanand Saraswati.
This raises a serious question: very little research has been done on the last weeks of Patel's life.
It is highly regrettable.
One of the problems is that all historical documents of this period remains classified in the MEA.
Why should the Modi Government follow a Congress policy is difficult to comprehend.

The Sardar passed away on December 15, two days after being 'shifted' to Mumbai (because 'Delhi was too cold').
What do we know about the last one month of Patel's life?
Practically nothing, except that he opposed Nehru's policy on Tibet.
His prophetic letter on Tibet written on November 7 raises further questions.
A note sent to Bajpai shows that Patel had got his information from the General Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs (Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai), who was getting regular information from Sumul Sinha, the Head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa.
Another unanswered question: did Nehru acknowledge Patel's 'prophetic' letter addressed which raised number of serious security issues for India.
Probably not.
Did Nehru inform Patel about his decision in early November, to radically change India's Tibet policy, as reflected in Nehru's note addressed to B.N. Rau, the Indian Representative to the UN on November 18.
Probably not.
Patel, by the end of November, was a dejected man and he fell sick.On December 13, after he had been 'shifted' to Mumbai, Patel was divested of all his portfolios by the Prime Minister, he was not even informed.
He was deeply hurt and he passed away 2 days later.
On that day, ministers were told to continue their business as usual.

Here is a report of his last speech.

Sardar Patel Exhorts people to stand unitedly to see conditions in Tibet and Nepal and defend their country
The Hindustan Times, 11 November 1950

"In this kalyug we shall return ahimsa for ahimsa. But if anybody resorted to force against us we shall meet it with force." 

Sardar Patel said in Delhi that the present or potential dangers arising from what was happening in Tibet and Nepal made it incumbent on the people to rise above party squabbles and unitedly defend their newly-won freedom. The path shown by Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Dayanand, he added, would help the people to tide over these none too easy times.
Sardar Patel was addressing a meeting organized by the Central Aryan Association to commemorate the 67th death anniversary of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, social reformer and thinker.
Referring to the recent developments in Nepal, Sardar Patel said: "In this country, our near neighbour, the Raja has sought sanctuary in the Indian Embassy. How could we refuse to give him refuge? We had to give it.
Those who are wielding real power today in Nepal do not accept the Raja as the head of the State. They have installed the Raja's three-year-old grandson on the gaddi. They want us to accept this position. How can we do so?"
Sardar Patel emphasized that the 'internal feud' in Nepal had laid India's frontiers in the north wide open to outside dangers. It was imperative, therefore, for Indians to be well prepared to meet any challenge that might come from any quarter.
Sardar Patel criticized Chinese intervention in Tibet and said that to use the `sword' against the traditionally peace-loving Tibetan people was unjustified. No other country in the world was as peace-loving as Tibet. India did not believe, therefore, that the Chinese Government would actually use force in settling the Tibetan question.
"The Chinese Government," he said, "did not follow India's advice to settle the Tibetan issue peacefully. They marched their armies into Tibet and explained this action by talking of foreign interests intriguing in Tibet against China. But this fear is unfounded: no outsider is interested in Tibet. India made this very plain to the Chinese Government. If the Chinese Government had taken India's advice, resort to arms would have been avoided."
Continuing, Sardar Patel said that nobody could say what the outcome of Chinese action would be. But the use of force ultimately created more fear and tension. It was possible that when a country got drunk with its own military strength and power, it did not think calmly over all issues.
But use of arms was wrong. In the present state of the world, such events might easily touch off a new world war, which would mean disaster for mankind.
In these difficult times, Sardar Patel said, the duty of the Indian people lay not in fleeing from trouble but facing it boldly. That was the real message of both Swami Dayanand and Mahatma Gandhi. "Do not let cowardice cripple you. Do not run away from danger. The three-year-old freedom of the country has to be fully protected. India today is surrounded by all sorts of dangers and it is for the people today to remember the teachings of the two great saints and face fearlessly all dangers."
The Deputy Prime Minister continuing declared: "In this kalyug we shall return ahimsa for ahimsa. But if anybody resorted to force against us we shall meet it with force." Sardar Patel said that Swami Dayanand was one of the two great saints Gujarat gave to the world. Although Swami Dayanand and Mahatma Gandhi were born in Gujarat, they had dedicated their lives to the service of mankind. Ultimately they belonged to not only the whole of India but the world. It was for the people now to understand the teachings of these two saints and follow them in their actual lives.
The greatest contribution of Swami Dayanand, he said, was that he saved the country from falling deeper into the morass of helplessness. He actually laid the foundations of India's freedom. A movement against untouchability, later to be supported by Gandhiji, was launched, and reconversion to Hinduism of the already forcibly converted persons was started. Swami Dayanand put a complete stop to the tendency in those days of preaching adharma in the name of dharma, which had made the Hindu Dharma the laughing stock of the world. ,
"Swami Dayanand wiped off," he said, "the dirt and grime that had settled on the Hindu Dharma. He swept aside the cloud of superstition shrouding it and let in light."
In the Indian Constitution untouchability had been declared a crime and Hindi accepted as the national language. It was actually Swami Dayanand, Sardar Patel said, who first propagated that Hindi be made the national language.
People should also remember that Swamiji did not get foreign education. He was the product of the Indian culture. Although it was true that they in India had to borrow whatever was good and useful from other countries, it was right and proper that Indian culture was accorded its due place.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Why China will change: The Tibet factor (An Interview with Lodi Gyari)

Lodi Gyari Rinpoche is no more. He passed away yesterday morning in a San Francisco hospital, where he was being treated for liver cancer. 
Rinpoche was 69. His family members were reported to be with him.
Gyari Rinpoche was born in 1949 in Nyarong in eastern Tibet, where he received a traditional monastic education as the tulku of Khenchen Jampal Dewe Nyima from Lumorap Monastery. 

In 1959, he fled with his family to India.  
In 1970, Rinpoche had been one of the founding members of the Tibetan Youth Congress.
In 1982 and 1984, he was a junior member of the delegation which went to China to 'negotiate'. 
See my book, Dharamsala and Beijing: the Negotiations that never were. 
From 2002 to 2009, he conducted the talks with China as the Dalai Lama's Special Enjoy. 

I am posting today a twelve-year old interview with Lodi Gyari Rinpoche.
It appeared on April 20, 2006 in under the title Why China will change: The Tibet factor

Here is the link...

A few days before his departure for Beijing for the fifth round of talks with the People's Republic of China, the Dalai Lama's chief negotiator and Special Envoy in Washington, DC Lodi Gyari Rinpoche spoke to Claude Arpi.
Examining the dynamics of the 'dialogue process' with China, he shared his frustrations and hopes for the future. He also explained how difficult it has been for the Dalai Lama to abandon his claim for independence and to accept that Tibet becomes a 'genuinely autonomous' part of the People's Republic.
He also examined an interesting factor which may play a role in finding a solution to the Tibetan tangle: The revival of Buddhism in China.

What can you tell us about the negotiations that you are conducting with China?

The Tibetan movement is a very unique movement. This can be seen from the way we are conducting the negotiations with the People's Republic of China. We are doing it in a different way. If one day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama's' efforts succeed, it will not only have an impact on the six million Tibetans, but it will also be a breakthrough for humanity, because of the nature of our negotiations.
Even for someone like me, engaged in the negotiations, I see it more as a spiritual practice than an exercise in diplomacy. Let me explain this. I remember very vividly that in 1987, when His Holiness first presented the 'Middle Way approach' in a formal document, he consulted a few people outside of the Tibetan leadership.
One of them was former (US) President (Jimmy) Carter. His Holiness has a lot of respect for President Carter, not because he had been the US president, but because His Holiness believes he is very wise and religious minded (in fact he became closer to us after he left the White House). So I flew directly from New Delhi to New York to Minneapolis, where President Carter was staying at that time, to show him an 8-page document, which later became the 'Strasbourg Proposal'.
He really took time to read it through (he is famous for that) and took nearly one hour to study it very carefully. Then he turned to me and asked: "What is His Holiness' bottom line?" I told him: "This is the bottom line." He was surprised: "If this is the bottom line, you have to start from somewhere else."
I responded to President Carter saying this issue was raised, but His Holiness' position is that he is not a politician and that he was a simple monk who wants to be really sincere and transparent and place on the table what he really wants.
It is because of such a nature of our negotiations position that I feel our success, when it happens, will be a major breakthrough in the art of negotiation.

Was it difficult for the Dalai Lama?

It has been extremely difficult for His Holiness. When he chose 'the Middle Way' path, there were tremendous protests from his own people. This strong opposition came from people who were ready to give their lives for the cause. And as someone who served His Holiness very closely and has been intimately involved in the process, I can tell you, it was very painful. It was certainly a difficult thing for those of us who had the honour to be associated with him. But it was even more difficult for His Holiness to take such a decision.
He showed that he was a real leader, because a real leader has sometimes to take unpopular decisions. He showed that he had the courage to take difficult decisions. I always share this with my Chinese colleagues to give them an idea of the extent His Holiness has gone to work for a mutually satisfactory solution.
I would like to mention a personal experience. My mother was one of the first women to take on the fight against the Chinese. She was quite well known. Though she was a very gentle woman, she never hesitated to fight the Chinese.
When I accompanied His Holiness to Strasbourg to present the Proposal, she was deeply upset with me. Until His Holiness' presentation of his proposal to the European Parliament, I would keep this document under my pillow because it was extremely confidential.
When I returned from Strasbourg, the first thing my mother told me: "If I had known that the documents that you were so preciously guarding were this Proposal, I would have ripped it apart."
This is just to give you an idea about the mindset of the Tibetan people when they first heard of the Proposal. This shows how difficult the process has been.

Tell us more about your involvement in this dialogue.

My first trip to China was in 1982, when I was chairman of the Tibetan parliament. I was part of the high level exploratory delegation sent by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When we first landed in China, the Chinese officials came forward to greet us. For a moment, I did not know what to do: if I shake hand with them, it would a betrayal of the thousands Tibetans as well as my family members.
At that moment, I had a flashback of my grandmother and my brothers who died under indescribable circumstances. I thought that if I shake hands, I would betray all those Tibetan who died. Many Tibetans had a similar experience.
Despite all this, we are today engaging the Chinese because we believe that it is the best solution. From this angle also you can see how important the dialogue process is. This is certainly not just diplomacy. It is the background of our dialogue with China.

How would you describe the negotiations?
Usually some kind of glamour is associated with negotiations of this nature, but in our case, it is not like this. There is a real human approach. That is why I believe that the impact of this type of dialogue goes far beyond the Tibetan people and the Tibetan plateau.
Further, if these efforts of His Holiness bear some fruits, it can bring about some fundamental shift in China. You may think it is too ambitious, but if it sincerely done, it is possible though it is difficult. From this point of view also it is very important that our process succeed.

Does anybody else in the world show interest in the Sino-Tibetan dialogue?

Lately, there is a renewed concern about China, especially in Washington, DC. There was a time when there was so much enthusiasm about China: it was considered as the most important country to be courted. It was the biggest market that ever existed. China could get away with everything. But things have changed.
If the Middle East developments had not happened, it would have come even earlier, but there is today a great concern about China; some people even see China as a threat.
I tell my American friends: "Well your concern is real, but You can not solve anything through confrontation or by using force. You should make China more friendly and less isolated."
That is why I think that with the positive attitude of His Holiness, the Tibetan issue can be a tremendously positive factor for the future of China. I do not say this in an idealist way, but am being very practical.

Can you give us some examples?

Zhao Ziyang, the former Chinese premier, died recently after spending many years under house arrest. When he was critically ill, we received a message from one of his sons: 'My father is very ill, can you ask His Holiness to pray for him?' We assumed that this request came because the son was interested in Buddhism. I passed the request to His Holiness who prayed for him. Then after the death of Zhao Ziyang came a communication from all his children thanking His Holiness for praying for their father.
But what surprised me most is when we were informed that virtually the last word of Zhao Ziyang was the name of His Holiness. We are talking about a person who reached the highest level of the Chinese hierarchy (general secretary of the Communist party and premier).
This illustrates the extent of reverence for His Holiness even in China today. There are many other instances.
I do not believe that it is too far-fetched to think that the Tibetan issue can have a profound impact on tomorrow's China. This sentiment is shared by many Chinese. I see this through my contacts not only with the Chinese government, but with Chinese of all shades.
I am surprised and encouraged to come across Chinese in the government, in the Communist party, but also this new class of rich Chinese entrepreneurs who believe that what China really needs is the presence of His Holiness.

Are you trying to negotiate the future of the Tibetan people?
If you look at the Tibetan plateau, you see that Tibet is the giver of life: all the major (Asian) rivers have their sources in Tibet. Perhaps in a few years time, definitely in 50 years time, people will be fighting wars over water.
Recently, I dined with some senior Indian officials. I was telling them that it was very smart of them to invite the Saudi king as chief guest for the Indian Republic Day. They said their prime minister made a special exception and went to receive the king at the airport. I said: "Yes, after all, he is the custodian of the most holy shrine for the Muslims." They said: "Yes, he is also the custodian of oil."
Unfortunately, the time will come when there will be a scarcity of what we today take for granted, particularly resources like water. You do not need to be a prophet to know that there will be shortage of water in 50 years time. Just with that consideration alone, imagine how important the plateau of Tibet is.
You know that former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji took the wise decision to stop the deforestation in Tibet. He took the decision not because he cared for the environment, certainly not for the sake of the Tibetans, but he realized that the floods in China were due to the deforestation in Tibet, which was not natural ones, but man-made.
For many decades, the Chinese authorities had not cared for the Tibetan plateau, thinking that whatever they can take from Tibet will only benefit them. But at the end the people of China began to suffer much more than the Tibetans.
So you can see that the whole issue of Tibet is larger than the interest of Tibet and the Tibetan people, and has wider ramifications.

What about India?

In terms of geopolitics, it is very encouraging that there is today much more trade relations between India and China. It is not the Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai relation, which was very unfortunate, but a much more rational relation. But then, it would be an illusion if anyone in South Block (the Delhi area where India's ministry of external affairs is located) feels that there could be a real progress in the relations with China without solving the problem of Tibet. It would be very naïve.
For centuries, Tibet acted as a buffer between these two great Asian civilisations. Now we can become a bridge. A buffer was important during the 19th and the 20th century to bring a certain amount of stability: It was like a wall separating empires during what is known as 'the Great Game.'
Today we do not need a buffer, but a bridge. Tibet could play that unique role, to be the bridge. This could help find a lasting and genuine solution. A solution in which the Tibetan issue would not be considered would not be lasting.
A genuine and lasting solution will be in the interests of these two great Asian nations. No one else than Tibet can help to bridge the difference between India and China. Though we are very much part of the Indian civilization, many people feel the Tibetan language must be similar to Chinese language, just because of the fact that Tibet is under China. Similarly, they believe that the Tibetan culture or civilisation is similar to the Chinese.
I have to explain that our link is much deeper with the Indian civilisation. His Holiness describes the link between the Tibetan and Indian civilisations as a filial link. Many aspects of the Indian civilisation have been kept intact in Tibet.
His Holiness jokes and says that the Indian civilisation has been put in a deep freezer on the Tibetan plateau. One of the good things out of our misfortune is that many texts, the ancient wisdom of India, has been preserved in Tibet.
Today scholars in Sarnath are retranslating these texts into Sanskrit or Pali. But by circumstances, we are politically and otherwise very much part of the Chinese political orbit. This fact is also a positive factor.

What is the status of your negotiations today?

The first round of negotiations dates from 1982, when the first Tibetan high level exploratory delegates went to China. More recently, I went thrice to China after 2002 and we had a fourth round of talks in Geneva in January 2005. Soon, I will go back to China to conduct the 5th round of talks.
It is a very slow process; it is going to take a long time, before we can make substantial progress. I always tell my Tibetan friends: "Don't be in a hurry and don't ask me to hurry." We should not allow ourselves to be forced into an agreement too quickly. After all, we have already waited very long.
His Holiness is in good health; we have time. We are committed and optimistic and we will continue very slowly.

Are you optimistic about the outcome of the talks?

Yes, I am hopeful, because if I had lost hope, I would have no business to conduct these talks. If I did not believe in this process, it would be immoral for me to continue to lead this team. I do it as my spiritual practice.
His Holiness is not only my political leader, but also my guru. If I had any doubt in my heart, my job would be to go to His Holiness and tell him: "Your Holiness, please take me out of this business because I do not believe in it."