Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Yumemania continues

Yume weather station
I often mentioned Yume (or Yumai or Yumed) the tiny hamlet, north of the McMahon Line (Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh), on this blog.
Since it was adopted by President Xi Jinping through a letter to two sisters living in Yume, yuans have been pouring. In fact, it is deluge.
Roads have come up, electricity and water supply are no more a problem, new houses have been built, not only for the 32 ‘original’ inhabitants, but also for the tourists who will soon arrive in the border village.
The Global Times (GT) reported earlier this week that China has built an unmanned ‘automatic’ weather station in Yume.
According to the tabloid, Beijing has set up a new observation station “to provide meteorological support to national defense.”
It is clear that the new station is not only for forecasting the weather for the tourists wanting to experience the life in the model village.
The GT explains: “The station in Yumai township under Lhunze [Lhuntse] county of Shannan [Lhoka] Prefecture in Tibet will eliminate a blind area of meteorological services.”
A ‘blind’ meteorological corner, located so close to the Indian border?!
Quoting a statement the Tibet Weather Bureau, the newspaper candidly admits: “It will also provide strong meteorological support for national defense and further promote border development as well as military-civilian integration.”
The idea to support ‘national defense’ and promote ‘military-civilian integration’ (sometimes called 'fusion') seems the main objectives of the project. The latter scheme, so dear to Xi, translates into dual-use of all infrastructure assets on the plateau, whether airports, roads, highways, OFC links, etc.
Tashi Norbu, a technician in charge of the station, told the mouthpiece of the Party: “The station can observe six factors, including air temperature, air pressure, wind speed, wind direction, humidity and precipitation, with more accuracy than before.”
All this does not have direct military applications, though meteorological data are always helpful when an airport is planned not faraway (in Lhuntse in this case).
Norbu frankly added: “Yumai is at the border. The station could provide data to help with transportation and communication in national defense. It could also offer support during regional live-fire conflicts.”
Therefore, it is not only for the nine households and 32 residents that the new infrastructure has come up.

Yume Township
The ‘New Era demo village for comfortable living on China’s border’, as Yume is known, is already bustling, commented the GT a few weeks ago.
The village has even a new Party chief, Dawa who looks after the public services (including water drainage, power, communications, roads, county government, medical clinic, schools,) and the new construction sites.
According to the GT, the project with a total investment of some 17.2 million US dollars, will take place on 440.98 square mu (72.65 acre) and a total construction area will be 17,254 sqm: " In addition, there will be a central park and six plazas. The project is estimated to complete by October of 2018.” There is no doubt that the schedule will be kept.
The tabloid explained further that every year, Yume “has 260 days of snow and rain. Due to the extended rainfall period, highland barley is impossible to grow locally and the natural environment is challenging. Before the end of 2017, the township was snow-bound almost six months of the year. With snowy and narrow mountain roads, it took more than a dozen hours to cross Mt. Relha, and another eight kilometers to reach car transport. Every year, as it got closer to winter, the locals’ priority was always to store supplies for the season, and residents always had to store an entire winter’s worth of food and resources.”
Even before the weather station was publicized, Dawa had announced: “We are now receiving accurate information sent by meteorological departments every day. The station is necessary as it fills the gaps in meteorological and hydrological information, which could support our development."
He then added that it would help a lot for the local pastures and for the road construction, before concluding: “more weather stations will be set up when the road is completed.”
He is talking of a new road to the border (Asaphila)?
Some articles speak of the Chuyul highway.
Song Zhongping, a military expert told the GT that weather is “an important factor that could influence the take-off and landing of aircraft and the launch of missiles during a battle. The small weather observation station could provide such information,” adding that “grasping accurate weather information could help seize good opportunities in the battles.”
According to Dawa: “Residents will enjoy better meteorological services to better safeguard every blade of grass and tree on the territory of the motherland.”
The set up of the station is definitively not innocent.

The case of Nagchu
Another place is also building weather stations on the plateau.
It is Nagchu (also written Nagqu). Here, the projected purpose is tourism development …and an airport.
In June, China Tibet News reported: “In recent years, Nagqu City has been vigorously implementing the government-led tourism development strategy. It aims to develop tourism into an economic leading industry and significant results have been made.”
The government website elaborated: “During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, combining the actual situation of local tourism development and with a total investment of 80 million yuan, Nagqu has declared 10 projects including 4 key tourism infrastructure projects and 6 rural tourism infrastructure construction projects. Nagqu vigorously promotes tourism propaganda,” adding “In addition, leading group for the evaluation of star hotels and star scenic spots and leading group for the creation of boutique scenic spots are established in Nagqu. Safety inspection work in the tourism industry is carried out and no travel safety accidents occur.”
Before starting these projects, weather stations were built.
The objective was clearly for getting data for the construction of the airport.

A strange case
The Nagchu Dagring Airport was announced in 2010.
It was supposed to be completed by 2014; it was to be the highest airport in the world at 4,436 m (14,554 ft), surpassing Chamdo Bangda Airport as the highest. Though the construction was said to have started in 2011, the airport was never built. This is a rare case of an announced project which has been temporarily abandoned.
The new weather stations in Nagchu are probably linked to the second coming of the airport.

Wang Yang, today CPPCC's Chairman
Incidentally, Wang Yang, then a Vice Premier (now member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo) visited a meteorological station in Nagchu in 2015.
China Meteorological News Press said that Wang Yang investigated "relevant work including poverty alleviation and development, husbandry, tourist industry and meteorological services. He visited a meteorological station from Nagqu Prefecture located in a plateau region and extended regards to meteorological workers. He expressed respect to those who work in the remote areas, high mountain regions and islands and contribute to meteorological undertaking persistently, and extensive basic-level meteorological staffs."
The article said: "The hardworking and plain-living spirit of plateau meteorological members also touched Vice Premier Wang Yang. Tibet took pride in advancements and achievements of meteorological cause, which impressed as well as inspired us."
Wang would have declared: "The meteorological observation data of Tibet are crucial to weather forecasts and climate prediction for downstream regions since it lies on the upstream of weather system. As a result, to ramp up the research of meteorological science and technology along with climate change on the basis of Tibet’ own edges carries a significant implication.”


Why was the airport stopped in the first place?
One of the reasons was the serious law and order problems faced by Nagchu a few years ago; they have eased now, making the City more conducive to take up large infrastructure projects.
Another reason was that Nagchu was well-served by the train (it is the main hub, for military purpose too, of the railway line between Xining and Lhasa).
And finally, it was announced in 2015, “In a bid to tighten the safety of its airports, China will stop building airports higher than 4,411 meters above sea level in the next two years, as it is yet to work out a set of technology standards to build such airports.”
Li Jian, a deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) told the media three years ago, “Super-high plateau airports, namely those no less than 2,438 meters above sea level, face stricter safety challenges than their low altitude counterparts. There are no international technology standards for super-high plateau airports and it will take China two or three years to work out a set of standards. Before this, no plans will be approved.”
Not only altitude was a problem, but the weather too.
Three years have passed and the Nagchu airport will probably see the light in the coming years.

A Landing Ground in Yume?

One of the reasons for setting up a sophisticated weather station in Yume is probably the construction of an Advanced Landing Ground which would serve the border, particularly Asaphila, a border pass which is disputed by China and which has witnessed regular PLA’s intrusions in the past.
In 2014, Indian troops blocked PLA’s attempts to construct a road in the Asaphila area.
The Hindu then commented that “the incident, however, did not lead to a prolonged military face-off but it is a clear indication of the continuation of ongoing aggression between the two sides along the 4,057 km long LAC.”
More recently in April, it was reported that China lodged a strong protest against the Indian Army for transgression into Asaphila. India rejected the complaint.
According to PTI, “the Chinese raised the issue at a ‘Border Personnel Meeting’ (BPM) on March 15 here but the Indian Army dismissed it, saying that the area in the upper Subansiri region of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to India and it has regularly been carrying out patrols there.”
When the Chinese called India’s patrolling in the area a 'transgression', the Indian Army objected to the terminology.
Yume is not very far away. Weather station or more infrastructure means a reinforcement of the border in this area and probably more Chinese transgressions or intrusions.
There is no doubt that China wants to put more pressure in Asaphila-Takshing area, before the road from Limeking to Takshing is fully serviceable.

A few more weather stations near the border of Arunachal Pradesh.

In Zhayul County, north of Kibithu
In Lunang, Nyingchi County
In Nyingchi County

Could the Thai rescue have happened in India?

My article Could the Thai rescue have happened in India? appeared last week in Rediff.com

Here is the link...

It is Football’s Season.
While the great quadrennial fiesta was making the front pages of the world press in Russia and the last qualified teams were struggling in their quest for the Graal, another football saga was taking place in Asia, which has not yet graduated in soccer’s world elite.
Thailand is not usually known for its football skills, but after young football players (the ‘Wild Boar’), aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered a cave at the Tham Luang in northern Thailand on a team-bonding session on June 23, they became the subject of world attention. That day, they had just completed a football practice, and they decided to experiment a new adventure. In the evening they were reported missing.
Immediately, local officials realized that the kids were trapped by heavy rains which had cut them off from the main entrance of a cave.
With the mounting level of water due to the monsoon, the team had to take shelter deeper and deeper in the caves, ending up nearly 5 km from the entrance.
Their 18-day adventure has been a series of miracles and human determination, meticulous organization using the best available skills on the planet.
After their successful rescue, Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation declared: “Today Thai people, team Thailand, achieved mission impossible.”
The first miracle was that on July 2, after nine days in the cave, they were found alive, though emaciated and hungry, by a highly-skilled diver. The ledge, where they had taken refuge was also threatened by encroaching floodwaters.
It was a first relief for the boys, their coach, their families and the Thai people. The starving boys could finally receive some food, medicine and counseling from a doctor who joined them.
It was the beginning of a long story which will certainly end up on our cinema screens once Hollywood realizes that there is some money to make on what could have turned into a great tragedy.
One interesting question, would such a ‘mission impossible’ have been possible in India?
It is of course a very hypothetical subject and one can only pray that similar circumstances do not occur anywhere in the world.
A first remark, the Thai junta who immediately took control of the operations in a military manner, took the decision to involve the best world professionals for the rescue.
This made a huge difference. It is highly probable that in India, the authorities would have said, “We have the expertise, we don’t need foreign aid”.
On June 27, a team of more than 30 American military personnel from the US Pacific Command, including pararescue and survival specialists, arrived on the site; they were joined by three British diving experts. The involvement of the best world specialists changed the scenario.
An Australian doctor was also rushed from his holidays to join the rescue team; Dr Richard Harris, an anesthetist from Adelaide, Australia went into the cave; he would be of immense service for the stricken boys and their coach in medically assessing the 12 boys and their coach. Dr Harris has a long expertise in rescue mission and dangerous cave diving missions.
Incidentally, Dr Harris was the last member to leave the Thai cave after the boys had been saved; he emerged to discover that his father had died just as the operation was coming to an end. What a sad fate!
The Thai authorities also requested Flood Pumps of Kirloskar Co. of India to come and provide their knowledge; Prasad Kulkarni, Chief Designer at Kirloskar and his team reached soon to help (partially) pumping millions of gallons obstructing the tunnels in the cave.
The Indian government would have probably not had the wisdom to call ‘foreigners’ to help.
Another issue: would the Indian government have had the courage to ban the local and international media from the proximity of the site of the cave. Here again it is a hypothetical question, but one can very well envisage some of the ‘famous’ Indian reporters standing in the cave with water till their knees, screaming into their mike to inform ‘the People’. And for sure, endless and futile debates would have taken place in the TV studios, all featuring great ‘experts’ giving their opinions on how to dig a hole in the mountain or use ‘vedic’ meditation to save the children. It would only have confused the issue.
The junta might not be democratically inclined, but they acted decisively and professionally for the good of the kids and their coach.
And they acted under a unified command, speaking with a unified voice.
In India, several ministries would have probably tried to take the control of the ‘operations’ claiming their ‘expertise’.
Another frightening thought, in India the debate would have surely been immediately politicized; the opposition taking the opportunity to settle scores on the safety of the public places or the lack of coordination in the government circles and the government showing off its ‘great organizational skills’.
Then, who could have stopped the country’s VIPs flocking to the site for sharing a ‘bite’ with the media and telling their electors of their ‘personal’ directives to the divers. It would have created utter chaos, and we know who would have been the sufferers.
In the present case, the Thai prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha delayed a planned visit to the site so as not to disrupt the rescue operations. He remained at nearby Chiang Rai, the town in Northern Thailand where the rescued boys were being taken by helicopter to a hospital; the PM was briefed about the conduct the on-going efforts, without disturbing the operations.
Would have this been possible in India?
On the second day of the main rescue operation, AP news agency complained about the difficulty of getting officials to go on the record about the details of the rescue operations: “Thai authorities are being tight-lipped about who was inside an ambulance seen leaving the site, as they were the night before when four of the 13 people trapped inside the underground complex were rescued.”
The correspondent added: “Multiple calls to senior government officials and military personnel leading the operation to rescue the members of the youth soccer team rang unanswered.”
But retrospectively, it was wise to give only a few details of the on-going operations (in particular the names of the kids rescued was not publicized).
The safety of the children, their coach and the divers was the only priority.
Narongsak Osatanaskorn, the former governor, who coordinated the efforts to save the lives of the young football players, spoke a few times, with just what was necessary to be known.
It is only after the 18-day marathon to evacuate the boys was over that he declared: “I never imagined this could happen – but we did it. We completed mission impossible.”
Glenn McEwan, the Australian Federal Police’s Asia manager who participated in the rescue, asserted: “It is amazing what the human being can do. There are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. …We are humbled to have been a part of it. Returning the Wild Boar soccer team safely into the arms of their loved ones is the good news of the year.”
Osatanaskorn also said the rescue effort would serve as a ‘lesson to the world’. India too should study the operation and learn some lessons.
Then the nation could chant ‘hooyah, hooyah, hooyah’, the rallying sign the Thai Navy Seals, who played an extraordinary role in the three-day operation, along with their colleagues from around the world.
Each time a boy came out, the Seals’ Facebook page would post a ‘Hooyah’.
They completed their impossible mission in 60 hours during a round-the-clock operation with seasonal monsoon rains threatening to trap the boys and their coach further inside the cave.
Only one regret, the kids and their coach will not be able to attend the final of the World Cup in Moscow, where they were invited. The doctors want to keep them under observation for some time; one understands this after such traumatic experience.
‘Hooyah’ anyway.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Empire and its nervous periphery

My article An Empire and its nervous periphery appeared last week in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

China has been expanding its boundaries to fulfil its dream of becoming the world’s most powerful nation. But the picture is not rosy. Resentment among the best of China’s friends is growing

Since the new Emperor sat on the throne in Beijing in 2012, the Middle Kingdom has steadily extended its influence in the periphery of the Empire. The CPC proclaims today: “The great rejuvenation of Chinese nation is an unstoppable historical trend that won’t be diverted by the will of any individual country or person.” The CPC has a dream: For its 100 years in 2049, it wants China to be the most powerful nation in the world. But if one looks at the Empire’s neighbourhood, all is not rosy and resentment has been created everywhere, even amongst China’s best ‘friends’.
Take Pakistan, whose friendship is deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey; according to The Tribune, the border trade with China through Khunjerab Pass resumed last week after a three month gap.  The reason? A traders’ strike against a Web-Based One Customs system newly introduced at the Pakistan-Xinjiang border. The newspaper explained: “The decision to end the strike took place during a meeting held in Gilgit under the supervision of the Army. Traders had blocked the strategic Karakoram Highway which is a part of the multibillion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.” It is obvious that not everyone is delighted by the largesse of the all-weather sponsor, particularly  inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan.
A similar phenomenon is happening elsewhere. Last month, The Washington Post published a long investigative piece on Sihanoukville, a new city of 90,000 inhabitants, which has been developed by China in Cambodia. The number of Chinese tourists doubled in a year to 120,000 in 2017, according to The Post: “Restaurants, banks, landlords, pawnshops, duty-free stores, supermarkets and hotels all display signs in Chinese. The Cambodian government has allowed extraordinary levels of Chinese investment...Thirty casinos have already been built, and 70 more are under construction.” The Blue Bay casino promotes itself as “one of the iconic projects of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.” The smallest studios start at $143,000, while the most prized apartments cost more than $500,000. The Post continued: “With the exception of those working in the hotels and casinos, most Cambodians, whose average income is $1,100 a year, are seeing little benefit from this investment. And resentment is mounting.” It is the pet project of Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister, who has been ruling for the past 34 years, “his willingness to be embraced by China is most evident,” said the US newspaper.
As a result, serious tensions have appeared between the new landlords and the locals. As The Financial Times put it: “Cambodia is not alone in weighing the mixed blessings of Chinese investment, which elsewhere has been welcomed for its scale and relative lack of conditions attached. What is unusual about Sihanoukville’s transformation is that tension in the town has coalesced into a public backlash — unusual in a country where personal freedoms are fading.”
Vietnam, too, is caught between the generous Chinese investments and the nationalists’ demands to not bow to Beijing. The South China Morning Post reported: “Earlier this month...more than 1,000 workers went on strike at a Taiwanese shoe factory in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, blocking a highway.” The workers were singing: “We don’t want to give any of our land away to China, not even for one day.” They protested against their own Government’s plan to set up three new special economic zones where foreign companies (read China) would be granted decades-long leases. Later the protests swept across Vietnam.
The Hong Kong paper said: “Police shut down protests in urban centres, and at times clashed with demonstrators, including in Binh Thuan province near Ho Chi Minh City, where protesters burned police vehicles and defaced Government buildings.…Production stopped at multiple Chinese — and Taiwanese — owned factories across the south of the country.” Hundreds of demonstrators had gathered, holding up banners shouting: “I love my fatherland — don’t let China lease our land.”
Already last year, Forbes titled a report as  “Violent Protests Against Chinese ‘Colony’ In Sri Lanka Rage On.” In January 2017, as the first brick of a Southern Industrial Zone was laid in Hambantota, violent protests erupted in the new port. It left more than 10 people hospitalised and many others were sent to jail. According to an  economic newspaper: “A group of demonstrators led by Buddhist monks from nearby Amabalantota took to the streets as the opening ceremony of the industrial zone took place. However, these protesters were met by mobs of Government supporters, who reputedly attacked them with clubs and fists. The monk-led demonstrators fought back by throwing rocks. The police, meanwhile, found themselves in the middle of the fray, using water cannons and tear gas.”
The reason for the protests was the handing over of the port to the Chinese; “the perceived loss of autonomy to a foreign power as well as the potential land grab that could be necessary to build the 15,000-acre industrial zone.” One can wonder if Nepal has thought of this aspect of the Chinese ‘generosity’. Last month, Prime Minister KP Oli visited Beijing and told Xinhua that Nepal attached great value to its relationship with China “which has always respected its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”. During the visit, it was announced that China would build a railway connecting Tibet with Nepal. It was one of several bilateral deals signed during the Nepali Prime Minister’s visit. The rail link will connect the Tibetan city of Shigatse to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, via the border port of Kyirong. According to a Chinese official website, the two sides further signed 10 other agreements involving technology, transportation, infrastructure and political cooperation.
Nepal has also inked a $2.5 billion deal with China’s state-owned Gezhouba Group to build a hydropower facility in the west of the country. The China Daily quoted Li Keqiang, the Chinese Premier, saying: “China would also like to work with Nepal to build a ‘cross-Himalayan connectivity network’ through aviation, trading ports, highways and telecommunications.”
It sounds good, especially in Kathmandu,  but as I was finishing writing this piece, a Twitter message came in saying, “A Chinese rubber factory in Talgar, Kazakhstan, burned by locals today.” Talgar is located some 20 km from Almaty, the Kazakh capital. Here too resentment is growing. The moral of the story: There is no free meal and a nation like Nepal will sooner or later realise this, even if the Chinese dishes are appetising to start with; in fact the Indian food may be less tasty, but it definitively leaves less hangovers.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Follow the Party: but where are the Tibetans' allegiance?

On July 4, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee, called on the CPC members to implement “the Party's organizational line for the new era and make the Party stronger.”
Efforts were required to break new ground in "the great new project of Party building,” he said.
Xi added: “In order to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, our party must have the courage to carry out self-reform to make the Party stronger."
The Chairman of the Central Military Commission spoke of the importance of fostering competent officials who are loyal to the Party, have moral integrity, and demonstrate a keen sense of responsibility: “all measures should be taken to attract excellent, patriotic, and devoted people.”
Xi insisted on the principle of “selecting officials on the basis of both integrity and ability, with priority given to integrity.”
‘Integrity’ means, "follow the Party line".

Taking oath to follow the Party for life
In this context, ‘oath taking’ ceremonies were organized all over Tibet on occcasion of the 97th Anniversary of the Communist Party’s Foundation.
The CPC was founded in 1921, chiefly by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. The party grew quickly, and by 1949 after driving the nationalist forces, the Kuomintang (KMT) from mainland, Mao established the People's Republic of China.
Let us remember that the world's largest armed forces, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) which has among other tasks to man the Indian border, is the Army of the Party.
During the recent ceremonies, the stress was put on education, including ‘patriotic’ education for the masses (known as the ‘Four Standards and Four Loves’).

In Ngari
All-over Tibet
In Ngari Prefecture, the People's Armed People (PAP) conducted a 'One-Week Oath Taking' program. A opening function was organized to mark the occasion.
The First Division of TAR’s PAP took oath to put their life (till death) at the Service of the Party.
In other places, oath-taking ceremonies/functions were organized too.
In Purang, near the Nepal-Tibet-India trijunction, the Border Security and Inspection Forces took the oath of Service to Party.
In Lhasa, the Military leadership sang Revolutionary songs in front of Potala Palace.
The 11th Committee of the China's Steel Road Construction Company Office retook Oath of Service to Party in Chusur county (of Lhasa City) on June 29.
In Chongye
In Nyingtri (Nyingchi) City, the Party organized various program of songs and dances ‘praising the graciousness of Party’ and urging people to follow the Party line.
In Ratoe village in Nyethang town, Chusur County in Lhasa City, Party cadres and Party officials also took the Oath of Service to Party.
The Gyatza county of Lhoka Prefecture also celebrated the ‘One Week’ program. Newly resettled Tibetans from other areas (an euphemism for displaced nomads) were welcome.
Group songs were presented by county Gyatza county Artist Association.
In Chongye in Lhoka Prefecture, the Publicity (Propaganda) Bureau’s officials marked the 97th CPC’s Anniversary by retaking Oath of Service to Party.
An audience of farmers and nomads were explained by Publicity Bureau’s officials, the meaning of the ceremony.

In Tsona
Near Indian Border
Even near the Indian border in Tsona (north of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh), Wang Kaibing, a member of the Standing Committee of the County Party Committee and other officials went to a grazing point near the border “to carry out the theme of the Party”, i.e. the villagers are “sacred land keepers and the builders of happy homes”.
Officials were accompanied by the Armed Police personnel stationed on the border.
All party members faced the Party flag and retook the Party's Oath.
One Pema Tsering urged the participants to first remember their identity as Party members, to be loyal to the Party, to work actively and fight for Communism for the rest of their life.
All party members spoke of jointly studying the spirit of the 19th Party Congress and promoting the ‘Four Standards and Four Loves’.
Pema Tsering, who belongs to the Border Temporary Party Branch, gave a report on the development on the border.
Wang Kaibing spoke highly of the work done by the Temporary Party Branch and urged to strengthen the political leadership in the border areas: “We will strengthen the education of the ideals and convictions of the farmers and herdsmen in the border areas, educate and guide the farmers and herdsmen to strengthen their ideals and convictions, and actively maintain a high degree of unity in the ideological and political actions with the Party's Central Committee, and resolutely safeguard the authority of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core.”
He spoke of:
  • Standardizing the life of the Party's organization
  • Strengthening the awareness of 'serving the people'
  • Strengthen the construction of Party by listening to the stories of the old party members about their ‘counterattacks’ (against India in 1962):
  • Knowing the Party, Listening to the Party, Following the Party, and Establishing a sense of pride as a Chinese citizen.

The Five-Point Peace Plan
In 1987, the Dalai Lama presented his Five-Point Peace Plan to the US Congress.
His third Point spoke of the “fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms must be respected in Tibet. The Tibetan people must once again be free to develop culturally, intellectually, economically and spiritually and to exercise basic democratic freedoms. …While Tibetans in exile exercise their democratic rights under a constitution promulgated by me in 1963, thousands of our countrymen suffer in prisons and labour camps in Tibet for their religious or political convictions.”
The democratic freedoms mentioned by the Dalai Lama seem so far today.
Under Xi Jinping's leadership, China has greatly intensified the Rule of the Party.
Even populations on the Indian borders have to take oath to serve the Party ...for life.
But can it last forever?
Are the people ‘following’ the Party on their free will?
One test would be to allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet for a short visit.
We could probably see the real allegiance of the Masses.
China will not take this risk, they know too well where are the ‘Loves’ of the Tibetans people.
In Nyingtri
In Lhasa

The Gyatsa county
Gyatza county
 
In Chusur county

In Nyingtri

In Purang
In Ngari

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Dalai Lama: the Difficult Years

The Dalai Lama turns 83 today.
He will be celebrating his birthday in Ladakh at the Shiwatsel Phodrang, the teaching ground at the outskirts of Leh.
Yesterday the Dalai Lama told the press: “I am very happy to be here once more. I seem to be physically fit and if that continues I hope to spend some time here, avoiding the monsoon on the plains. The warm weather here will probably help relieve my joint pain. You people of Ladakh have a special bond with me based on your faith and loving-kindness, of which I am very appreciative.”
Is he preparing for his ‘return’ in the mountainous region?
Only he knows.
But it is certainly one of the possibilities.
In the meantime, he is in good heath (except for the knees) and continues to guide his people.
From 10 to 12 July, he will teach Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisatva’s Way of Life.
He will also participate in the Yarcho Chenmo - the ‘Summer Buddhist Council’ of philosophical debate and discussion – from July 18 to 20 at Samstanling Gonpa Sumoor in Nubra Valley.
On the occasion of his 83rd Birthday, I post the transcript of a meeting between the Tibetan leader and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India in March 1962.
It was hardly three years after he took refuge in India ...and seven months before the conflict with China.
The rehabilitation of the Tibetans was going on full swing.
It was a difficult time.
Thousands of monks were still living in poor conditions in camps in Buxa in Assam and thousands of lay refugees were working on high-altitude Himalayan roads.
The first priority for Nehru and the Dalai Lama was education of the children.
The ‘Mysore scheme’ refers to the resettlement of the refugees in camps (Mundgod, Bylakuppe, Hunsur) near Mysore in Karnataka.

The notes have been taken by the Prime Minister’s Office.
(Extracts from Volume 76 of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, (Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund)

Talk with The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama called on the Prime Minister the 25th March, 1962, at 11 a.m. and again on the following evening at 6.30 p.m. on his way back from Mysore, where he had recently visited the Tibetan Refugee Settlement.
In reply to PM's enquiry, the Dalai Lama said that the Mysore Scheme was going ‘excellently’.
He added, however, that the Tibetans would have to put in hard work in order to make the Scheme fully successful. The Dalai Lama expressed his gratefulness to PM for all that was being done to rehabilitate Tibetan refugees in India.

    2. The Dalai Lama also spoke about the general question of settling Tibetan refugees on land as a long term measure: the programme for the education of Tibetan youths; the future of refugee Lamas in India; and his book, which he hoped to publish shortly. PM gave His Holiness a sympathetic hearing and passed necessary orders on points discussed on the above mentioned subject, which are summarised below:

Settlement of Tibetan refugees as agriculturists as long-term aim

3. The Mysore Scheme should serve as a prototype, and finalised as soon as possible. Measures should be taken urgently to provide adequate water supply, and medical cover. There is little point in opening primary schools unless teaching staff has been provided. As and when the time comes there should be a middle school and later a high school.

4. The important thing was to realise the long term aim to rehabilitate all Tibetan refugees on land. It should be realised that the Tibetan refugees working on road etc. were doing so only as a temporary expedient, and there should be no hesitation in pulling them out from being so employed as and when land becomes available to rehabilitate them.

    5. The Scheme already approved administratively for Madhya Pradesh should be pushed forward, and early arrangements made to inspect one other site offered by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.

    6. PM would mention to the Chief Minister of Orissa  [Biju Patnaik] or if necessary, write to him, to suggest alternative sites suitable to settle 5,000 Tibetan refugees; the sites so far offered having been found unsuitable.

    7. PM felt that it should be possible to rehabilitate on land some 10,000 refugees in NEFA. The scope of the present Scheme should be expanded to make this possible.

    8. PM offered to speak to the new Chief Minister of Mysore  [SR Kanthi] to take some 2,000 more Tibetan refugees as soon as the first lot of 3,000 have reached Mysore for settlement.

    9. At the request of His Holiness, PM offered to write to the Chief Minister of Punjab [Partap Singh Kairon] and the Lt-Governor of Himachal Pradesh  [Bajrang Singh Bhadri] to provide some suitable land to rehabilitate Tibetan refugees.

    10. JS(E) [Joint Secretary - East in the MEA] was directed to put up a note to PM as and when any of the Chief Ministers mentioned above came to Delhi to call on him.

    11. Refugees who worked towards the implementation of such Schemes in reclaiming land etc. should be given a wage at the normal rate applicable in the area.

    12. P.M. ordered that "we must take up these matters and finish quickly as well as we can - Mysore and others".

Education of Tibetan Youths
    13. PM ordered that there should be residential schools for all Tibetan youths - boys and girls - of school-going age except in regard to children who formed part of an agricultural settlement and for whom good day schools can be provided, as for example in Mysore.

    14. It would not be fair to expect that children would receive proper education in the so-called roadside schools. The requests from parents to send their children to residential schools should be complied with. It was pointed out by the Dalai Lama that this decision of the Prime Minister would meet the case of children living with their parents and going to roadside schools in such places as Narkanda.

    15. PM felt that we should make proper arrangements for the running of the residential schools. PM also ordered that additional schools should be opened beyond the three functioning at Simla, Mussorie and Darjeeling at the moment, to meet the demands of all school going Tibetan youths wishing to receive education at such schools. In particular, arrangements should be made urgently to provide education to some 400 Tibetan youths who are at present in Sikkim. The best way to do it might be to set up a residential school in Gangtok itself on the lines of one of the three existing schools.

    16. Prime Minister has also ordered that the nursery school at Dharamsala should become the responsibility of the Government of India. It was not desirable that a school of this type should depend on charity, mostly received from foreign sources.

    17. The definition of students eligible to receive education under this programme should be widened to include those who came to India even before 31.3.59, but who were prevented from returning to Tibet because of political developments which took place since then. The only proviso would be that parents of such children, who are well to do should be asked to contribute towards the expenditure incurred on the education of their children.

    18. Children of refugee parents who are in Nepal and who for various reasons cross over to India should be given the same facilities for their education as admissible to Tibetan children whose refugee parents are in India.

    19. PM mentioned several times that he would like highest priority to be given to the proper running of schools for Tibetan children.

    20. PM enquired about the UK Save the Children Fund school in Simla and advised the Dalai Lama to suggest to the Principal, Lieut-Col. Young, not to try and run the venture as a British Public School.

Tibetan Lamas in India
21. The Dalai Lama mentioned that there were at least 7,000 Tibetan Lamas in India of whom only some 2,500 were being kept as such at Baxa [Buxa in Assam] and at Dalhousie. The remaining 4,500 are working on roads and it could not, therefore, be said that all the Lamas were being maintained by the Government of India without doing any work. The Dalai Lama explained that the number of genuine Lamas would not be much less than those who are being maintained at Baxa and Dalhousie and requested the Government of India to ensure that nothing was done to come in the way of their following their religious pursuits-meditation etc.
The Prime Minister agreed.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Conspiracy of Silence

My article Conspiracy of Silence appeared in The Mail Today/DailyO


One of the biggest failures of the present government has been to ignore post-independence history. To give an example, South Block still does not declassify historical documents and transfer them to the National Archives of India, as legally mandated.
Another disappointment is that the VK Krishna Menon Papers held at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, are still kept under wraps and not accessible to researchers and scholars.
Menon humiliated competent Armed Forces’ officers, in some cases with the backing of the Prime Minister; why should this be kept secret?
 
Keeping the Secret
Further, without rewriting history, it is important to learn from past successes, victories, as well as defeats. In fact there is certainly more to learn from blunders, than sucess
The case of Lt Gen SPP Thorat’s report about the ‘Chinese Threat’ on India’s borders is worth citing. On October 8, 1959, Thorat, then responsible for the Eastern Command, sent a paper on the defence of NEFA to the Army Chief who forwarded it to the Minister. Thorat’s findings were outright rejected by Menon and worse, Thorat was accused of being an ‘alarmist and a warmonger’.
The report began thus: “Previously, the only real threat against India which merited consideration was from Pakistan. To this now has been added the threat from China. …This is primarily due to the claim made by China upon large territories which are clearly ours. … (China) has also refused to recognise the McMahon Line as the international boundary and has made deliberate incursions into our territory in Ladakh, Uttar Pradesh and NEFA (North- East Frontier Agency.”
Soon after Menon took over the Defence Ministry, Thorat, like General Thimayya, the Army Chief, had fallen out of Menon’s favours.
Maj Gen VK Singh, who wrote one of the Army Commander’s biographies noted that Thorat “clearly brought out that with the troops, weapons and equipment available at that time, a Chinese attack could not be contained or defeated, and the 'forward policy', being advocated by Menon was not practicable.” Thorat also provided a time table showing “how the defences would fall day by day in case the Chinese attacked.” He advocated the use of the Air Force to counter China.
VK Singh further noted: “When Thimayya retired in May 1961, it was expected that Thorat would succeed him as the Army Chief. He was highly decorated, had combat experience, and was held in high regard in the Service. Most important, he was GOC-in-C Eastern Command, and was familiar with the situation on the borders with China.” Unfortunately for India, Gen PN Thapar got the top job; though technically senior, he had little field experience but was pliable and close to the minister.
An exchange between Gen Thapar and Lt Gen Thorat shows the pettiness of the then leaders; it occurred as Thorat was in the process of retiring.
At 8 am on June 24, 1961, Lt Gen Thorat received a letter from the Army Chief who had been ‘asked’ by the Prime Minister for his comments “on the following allegations against you [Thorat] which have come to his notice.” By the evening Thorat had answered all the points.

China War
The first allegation was about a speech given by Thorat in Ranikhet where the Army Commander would have said: “Indian Officers were seeking promotions through political influence which was disrupting our army, or words to that effect.”
Thorat replied that he had only said that “officers must give their loyalty to their superior Commanders and through them, to the COAS [Army Chief] whoever he may be. Any tendency to look in other directions for early advancement was likely to ruin the discipline of the Army.”
The habit of finding other ways of ‘advancement’ had already sneaked into the Army, mainly due to Menon’s ways of working.
The second allegation was that Thorat would have told a senior IAF Officer that he was “allergic to the Defence Minister whom [he] could not stand and who was disrupting the army.” There is no doubt that many in the Army thought that way. Had Thorat said it openly?
Thorat answered to the Chief: “I recollect that some IAF officer possibly at Jorhrat or Tezpur asked why I had not been appointed COAS. To the best of my memory, I remember having replied that you were senior to me and also that the Hon'ble Defence Minister and I were not very fond of each other.” He admitted that it was not proper to make such a statement.
 
Right Prediction
This exchange however shows the small-mindedness of those who asked these questions just before Thorat’s retirement.
The next query was worse: “your Headquarters spent large sums of money on the farewell parties, functions and parades for General KS Thimayya in Lucknow during his visit earlier this month. How much money was spent, and how many vehicles were employed under the items mentioned above?”
The Army Commander listed ‘his’ expenses during the farewell functions: (a) At Home: Apr 26 Nil; (b) Guest Night: Apr 29, Nil; (c) Parade: May 1, Rs 450. He went on to provide the details for the Rs 450.
Thorat’s conclusions were: “Should [the PM] not be satisfied with my explanation, I request that I may be given an opportunity to clear myself in person, in the presence of those who have made these allegations.”
Thapar had nastily written to Thorat, “these are serious allegations and cannot be ignored.”
It is said that after the war Nehru realized how right Thorat had been in his assessments and predictions. It was too late.
One can only hope that the VK Krishna Menon Papers will soon be available to the Indian public; then we may realize all the blunders committed by the arrogant Minister, and learn from them.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Is France India’s naval ally in the Pacific?

My article Is France India’s naval ally in the Pacific? appeared last week in The Mail Today and DailyO


Here is the link...

A close Indo-French collaboration can only be a win-win proposition.

About a year ago, I attended a conference in Delhi; the topic was the Indo-Pacific, a fascinating topic, though at first I wondered, what is this “Indo-Pacific”? The dictionary tells us that the Indo-Pacific is “a biogeographic region of Earth’s seas...The term is especially useful in marine biology and ichthyology.” A conference on different species of fishes? No.

French power
On June 26, 2017, a joint statement issued by the US President and the Indian Prime Minister at the end of the latter’s visit to the US, enlarged the definition: “As responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi agreed that a close partnership between the United States and India is central to peace and stability in the region.”
Amongst others, the objective of the Indo-US partnership was to increase free and fair trade and the strengthening of energy linkages: the new concept was clearly to counter the seemingly unstoppable Chinese advances in the South China Sea and elsewhere on the oceans.
At the time of the Conference, I wondered why France was not included as a participant: “nobody thought of it”, I was told. All this has changed after President Macron’s visit to India in March. Addressing a French gathering in Delhi, the dynamic President reminded his countrymen: “France is a power of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans; we are present at the Reunion, we are also there in French Polynesia and New Caledonia. And we are a maritime power, it is often forgotten but France is the second maritime power in the world. We have a strong navy, we have nuclear submarines equipped like few other powers in the world; a maritime surveillance capability through our own satellites and technologies; it is obvious we are a military and intelligence power ranking us among the first nations in the world.”
France was ready to work with India on the oceans. The same month, The Asia Times reported: “The French Jeanne d’Arc naval task force, integrated by British personnel and units, is heading for East Asia and the South Pacific. Paris and London say this five-month deployment is aimed at improving maritime cooperation between their navies. In reality, it can be read as a new initiative by the two European countries to support the United States in its freedom of navigation operations in the region against China’s military activism.”

Counter force

More recently, an article published in The South China Morning Post noted: “France is increasing its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, sending warships through the South China Sea and planning air exercises to help counter China’s military build-up in disputed waters.”
It is clear that France has definitively become a player to count on in the Indo-Pacific in the years to come.
The Shangri-La Dialogue, annually organised in Singapore by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an independent think-tank based in London, saw Prime Minister Modi giving the keynote address. It was also an occasion for France to express its interests. Florence Parly, the French Armed Forces Minister told the forum: “I am also delighted to be here, because this region, for us too, is home. It is good to remind that France has 9 million square kilometre of exclusive economic zone in the Indo-Pacific area; 1.5 million citizen in our five overseas territories, 200,000 expatriates, different sets of permanent military forces, and vital economic interests in the region.”
She announced that a French naval task group, together with British helicopters and ships, would soon be visiting Singapore “and then sail ‘into certain areas’ of the South China Sea.” But she made it clear that France was for ‘Raising the bar for regional cooperation’ (the theme of the Dialogue) but not raising’ regional competition.’

Global impact
A brochure published by the French ministry, made it clear that the respect of international maritime law was a serious issue for Paris: “In the South China Sea, the large-scale land reclamation activities and the militarisation of contested archipelagos have changed the status quo and increased tensions. The potential consequences of this crisis have a global impact considering that one third of the world trade transits through this strategic region.”
It observed that “France is rooted in the southern part of the Indian Ocean... and is also anchored in the Pacific Ocean... Our armed forces stationed overseas and our permanent military basing allow France to fulfil the security responsibilities of a resident power of the Indo-Pacific.”
Modi concluded his keynote address by mentioning “Five S”, Samman (respect); Samvad (dialogue); Sahayog (cooperation), Shanti (peace), and Samriddhi (prosperity). Paris can certainly agree with this. France will indeed be a major player in the region in the years to come; a close Indo-French collaboration can only be a win-win proposition. China has to realise that the Middle Kingdom can’t engulf the seas around it.