Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Panchsheel, 60 years after

April 29, not 28!!!
Sixty years ago, on April 29, 1954, the (in)famous Panchsheel Agreement was signed in Beijing.
On the occasion, I post an article I had written 10 years ago for Rediff.com.
It is probably a coincidence, but India and China have today scheduled a crucial meeting of the border management group.
The objective is to  reinforce patrolling protocols on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Times of India reported: "An Indian team from foreign and defence ministries will be in Beijing to hold the sixth meeting of the working mechanism on border affairs. Although the previous meeting was held just a couple of months ago in February, Indian government wanted another meeting. The Chinese team will be led by Ouyang Yujing, director general, Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs, while the Indian team will be led by Gautam Bambawale."
The reporter adds: "With the advent of summer, and the opening of Himalayan passes, both Indian and Chinese sides are getting ready to intensify patrols on the LAC. With India is in the middle of general elections, the current government does not want to take any chances with potential misadventures on the LAC. Any untoward incident could have potentially destabilizing effect on domestic politics in India."
A few days ago, the Indian Director General of Military Operations met with China's deputy army chief, Lt Gen Qi Jianguo and discussed the "maintenance of peace and tranquility" along the LAC and enhance bilateral military engagements.

Peaceful Coexistence again?

Xi Jinping with Yu Zhengsheng and Fan Changlong
Zhang Chunxian is behind
By the way, do you know where President Xi Jinping is these days?
On April 27 and 28, he visited the paramilitary commandos in Kashgar and the troops of the Xinjiang Military Region, facing India in Ladakh. 
Xi was accompanied by 5 other members of the Politburo, Yu Zhengsheng, member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and Chairman of the Small Group on Xinjiang (Central Working Coordination Small Group on Xinjiang), General Fan Changlong, senior vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and of course, Zhang Chunxian, Party Secretary in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region; Li Zangshu, Director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and Wang Huning, Xi Jinping's close confident and speech-writer.
While in Kashgar, Xi told the soldiers: "I hope that you care about each other, help each other, learn from each other, safeguard national unity and defend the motherland frontier."
He also told the commandos (SWAT): "The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in wartime." 
In other words, practice and be ready to deal with 'terrorists'.
On April 28, Xi Jinping visited the Kashi [Kashgar] City's Public Security Bureau (police station). He inspected video surveillance cameras, equipment for anti-terrorism riot drills, etc.
The Party General Secretary said: "I am very concerned about your equipment and training to deal with violent terrorist criminals. You must have the effective means. You must train in real combat environment."
It was indeed an important visit!


My Rediff article on Panchsheel published on April 29, 2004

Today, India and China 'celebrate' the 50th anniversary of  the 'Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India,' better known as the 'Panchsheel Agreement.'
Is there something to celebrate? While this can certainly be questioned, nobody can dispute that the events of 1954 marked an epoch for India and Tibet.
The time has perhaps come to look into the history of these troubled years and introspect to see if new opportunities can be found to sort out the old knots of the past.
The ball started rolling a hundred years ago (in July 1904) when a young British colonel, Francis Younghusband, forced his way into the holy city of Lhasa. Today it is fashionable to speak of the 'clash of civilisations' but in this particular case, it was truly two different worlds meeting for the first time.
At the end of his stay in the Tibetan capital, Younghusband forced upon the Tibetans their first agreement with the mighty British empire. By signing this treaty with the crown representative, Tibet was 'acknowledged' by London as a separate nation. However political deals are never simple; Tibet's Western neighbour, China, whose suzerainty over Tibet in Lord Curzon's words was a 'constitutional fiction', was extremely unhappy not to be a party to the accord.
Ten years later (March 1914), wanting to show fairness, London called for a tripartite conference in Simla to settle the issue: the three main protagonists sat together at a negotiation table for the first time. The result was not fully satisfactory as the Chinese only initialized the main document and did not ratify it. The British and Tibetans however agreed on a common border demarcated on a map: the famous McMahon Line was born.
This treaty was still in force when India became independent in August 1947.
But in October 1950, an event changed the destiny of the Himalayan region: Mao's troops marched into Tibet.
Lhasa appealed to the United Nations against China's invasion of Tibet. India, though recognising Tibet's autonomy ('verging on independence' as per Nehru's words), began to vacillate and was unable to stand up in favour of their peaceful neighbour against the might of Red China.
In May 1951, some of the Dalai Lama's representatives signed --  'under duress' --  a 17-Point Agreement with Communist China. For the first time in its 2,000-year history, Lhasa officially 'accepted' Tibet as a part of China. However, the incorporation of the Tibetan nation into China was not immediately acknowledged by Delhi which continued for a couple of years to maintain a full-fledged mission in Lhasa.

The signature of the Panchsheel Agreement between India and China on April 29, 1954 marked the tail-end of events set in motion by the entry of Younghusband into Tibet. While the British expedition accepted Tibet as a separate entity, the signatures on the Agreement put an end to its existence as a distinct nation. The Land of Snows merely became 'Tibet's Region of China.' The circle was closed with incalculable consequences for India and the entire Himalayan region. One of the most ironic aspects is that the Tibetans themselves were not even informed of the negotiations.
The preamble of the Agreement contains the Five Principles which formed the main pillar of India's foreign policy for the next five years. They heralded the beginning of the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai policy and the 'non-aligned' position of India.
A great tragedy is that the Agreement is remembered not for its content, which concerns the trade relations between India and Tibet, but for its preamble which directly caused the destruction of an ancient, spiritual 'way of life' (backward in one sense though much more advanced at an inner level).
Another misfortune is that the idealistic Five Principles have never been followed either in letter or in spirit by China. Non-interference in the other's affairs and respect for the neighbour's territorial integrity are two of the Five Principles, but Chinese intrusions into Indian territory began hardly 3 months after the signature of the accord.
The Agreement opened the door to China's military control of the Roof of the World by the People's Liberation Army. This translated into building a network of roads and airstrips heading towards the Indian frontiers in NEFA and Ladakh.
Nehru and his advisors had progressively fallen in love with a 'revolutionary' China and sacrificed Tibet for the sake of the new-found brotherhood. India did not obtain any benefit out of her 'generosity.' On the contrary, she lost a peaceful and friendly neighbour.
Eight years later, the Principles had evaporated so much that the two Asian giants fought a war in the Himalayas.
The Panchsheel Agreement is composed of two parts: the Preamble (the Five Principles) and the content (regarding trade between India and Tibet and pilgrimage rights for Indians and Tibetans). However it was the title itself, 'Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India' which was the most important victory for Beijing. For the first time since Younghusband had entered Lhasa, India acknowledged Tibet as only a 'Region of China.'
India had to pay dearly, and is still paying 50 years after an agreement (which in any case lapsed in June 1962) for the idealist policy of her first prime minister.
Nehru wanted to be a modern Asoka, renouncing violence and force to solve the problems of the world. In his admiration for the noble emperor, he did not remember that the Mauryan empire did not survive the Asokan edicts. The greatest empire of ancient India crumbled less than 70 years after Asoka's death.
It is perhaps unfortunate, but still a fact of life that strength and power are necessary to defend some eternal values. Sardar Patel knew this, but he passed away in 1950. Had he been alive, no Panchsheel Agreement, finishing off the Tibetan nation, would have ever been signed.
Today, fifty years after the signing of the Pancheel Agreement, one can only hope that a new generation of Indian leaders will be able to live by the Principles as enunciated in the agreement, but will also have a more insightful vision to take firm actions to make India truly strong and self-reliant.
The agreement had many tragic consequences. We recently wrote about the proposed damming and diversion of the Brahmaputra which can only happen because the people of Tibet have no say in what is happening in their country. Though neither the Preamble (the Five Principles) nor the provisions of the agreement are in force today, the acceptance of Tibet as a part of the People's Republic of China remains a fact.
Another disastrous outcome of the signing of the agreement is the refusal of some of Nehru's advisors to bargain for a proper delimitation of the border between Tibet and India, against the relinquishment of India's rights in Tibet (accrued from the Simla Convention). These officials considered these advantages an imperialist heritage to be spurned by a newly independent India.
During the talks with Beijing between 1951 and 1954, K M Panikkar, the Indian ambassador to China and his colleagues 'cleverly' tried to avoid bringing the border question to the table. Their reasoning was that if the Chinese did not consider the border to be an agreed issue, they would themselves bring it up for discussion. The Indian cleverness backfired, ending in a disaster for India. In his speech after the signature of the agreement, Zhou Enlai congratulated the negotiators for having solved all the matters 'ripe for settlement.'
Fifty years later, the folly of this policy still haunts an India unable to sort out her border tangle. In June 2003, Prime Minister Vajpayee expressed the wish to start 'fast track' parleys on the issue with Beijing.
Does it mean that today the border tangle is 'ripe for settlement'?
Will the 50th anniversary of Panchsheel finally witness a breakthrough?
We shall have a look at the different options in the second part of this article.

Monday, April 28, 2014

When Zhou was ready to accept the McMahon Line

I am reposting here a note written on this blog in September 2009. 
At the end of the 1950s (till 1958-59), the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai had no problem with the McMahon Line (except for the 'colonial' connotation of the name).
A few years ago, a section of Volume 36 of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru dealt with the visit of Zhou Enlai in India (November-December 1956).
The transcript of the discussion between Nehru and Zhou Enlai on the McMahon Line are posted on my website.


Click here to read...

[posting dated September 14, 2009]
With the constant Chinese nagging about the McMahon Line (and Arunachal), this letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to U Nu, the Prime Minister of Burma shows that the Chinese leadership had no problem to recognize this demarcation between India and 'China's Tibet' in the 1950's.

To Mr. U Nu
Prime Minister of Burma
New Delhi
22 April 1957
My dear U Nu,
I have received today your letter of the 17th April 1957, with its enclosures.
Thank you for it.
I shall have the matters referred to in your letter examined by the Historical Section of the External Affairs Ministry. In case I can give you any useful information about them, I shall do so in a later communication.
I am sorry that there has been so much difficulty in your arriving at a settlement about border problems with the Chinese Government. I confess that I do not very much like the attitude of Premier Chou En-lai [Zhou Enlai] in this matter. The impression created upon me is that he was not fully adhering to what he had told you or U Ba Swe [previous Prime Minister] previously. But this is for you to judge.
I am writing to you immediately so as to inform you of one particular development which took place here when Chou En-lai came to India on the last occasion. In your letter you say that while Premier Chou En-lai was prepared to accept the McMahon Line in the north, he objected to the use of the name 'McMahon Line', as this may produce 'complications vis-a-vis India', and therefore, he preferred to use the term 'traditional line'.
When Chou En-lai was here last, we discussed many matters at great length. He referred to his talks with you and U Ba Swe and indicated that a satisfactory arrangement had been arrived at. In this connection he said that while he was not convinced of the justice of our claim to the present Indian frontier with China (in Tibet), he was prepared to accept it. That is, he made it clear that he accepted the McMahon Line between India and China, chiefly because of his desire to settle outstanding matters with a friendly country like India and also because of usage etc. I think, he added he did not like the name 'McMahon Line'.
This statement that he made to me orally was important from our point of view and so I wanted to remove all doubts about it. I asked him again therefore and he repeated it quite clearly. I expressed my satisfaction at what he said. I added that there were two or three minor frontier matters pending between India and China on the Tibet border and the sooner these were settled, the better. He agreed.
I entirely agree that the use of the word 'McMahon Line' is not right and should be put an end to. It reminds one of British incursions and aggression. We are, therefore, not using these words any longer. Indeed, so far as we are concerned, we have maintained all along that our frontier with China, except for the two or three very minor matters, was a fixed and well known frontier and there was no dispute about it. We had never raised this question with China, but I had stated in Parliament here and also to Chou En-lai in Peking that there was nothing to discuss about our frontier as it was fixed and well known. We have now our check-posts all along this frontier.
Thus, so far as we are concerned, this frontier (known previously as the McMahon Line) is not a matter in dispute at all and Chou En-lai has accepted it. It is true that his acceptance was oral, but it was quite clear and precise.
As regards the two or three minor matters, we are expecting some Chinese representatives to come to Delhi fairly soon to discuss one of them. The territory involved is a very small one in the high mountains. We do not propose to raise the other two small matters at this stage. After one question is settled, we might, if we think proper then, refer to the other two.
I am writing to you immediately in answer to your letter so as to keep you informed about this so-called McMahon Line between India and Tibet and what Chou En-lai said to me on this subject, This has some relevance to your own McMahon Line.
...
With all good wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Jawaharlal Nehru

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tibetan soldiers in the PLA

Training in Tibet: how many Tibetan soldiers?
I post below an article published in China Daily about the participation of Tibetan soldiers in the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Without going into the details of the article, it appears that the PLA is using more and more 'local' Tibetans in border areas (with India), not just in Yunnan.
For China, it makes sense as these recruits are able to speak the local language (one can seriously doubt the assertion of the reporter that someone from Chamdo can't understand someone from Shigatse and therefore both have to communicate in Mandarin).
The induction of Tibetans into the PLA however raises a larger question: does the PLA 'trust' Tibetans to defend China's borders?
It is clear that the Tibetans mentioned in the China Daily's article serve at a lower level. 
How many senior officers belonging to the so-called minorities serve in the PLA?
Still very few.
Let us not forget that ALL the 67 senior PLA officers who are member of the CCP's Central Committee are Han Chinese.
Another issue, what will happen if a solution is one day found between Dharamsala and Beijing?
Presume that Beijing agrees to something like the Middle Path advocated by the Dalai Lama.
In 2003, I questioned the Dalai Lama on this issue.
I asked  "What do you mean by 'genuine autonomy' for Tibetans within the People’s Republic of China?"
The Dalai Lama answered:
Foreign Affairs and defense will be carried by the Central government [Beijing]. In other words, Tibetans should have the final authority in all the matters that they can handle better. For example, for large scale factories, we might not be able to manage, so we will take Chinese expertise and help. Of course, for Foreign and Defense, which are themselves large subjects, we need the help of the Chinese.
I further asked: "Suppose tomorrow, the Chinese accept your formula and you leave with them defense matters. The next day, they plan a war against India. What will you do in such a case?"
After seriously thinking, the Tibetan leader answered:
As a Tibetan, it is impossible to think of shooting an Indian. In fact, once a few Indian journalists came here, they were seating where you are today and I explained to them the concept of
'genuine autonomy'. I told them jokingly “it is unthinkable for a Tibetan to open fire towards India, so let the Chinese do that”.
It was a joke (laughing).
But in case such a serious situation develops, of course, I will try my best to cool down the conflict, first as a person devoted to peace and against violence, I will express myself and try [to solve the conflict].
Then the best part of my life has been spent in India. India is also the home of our spirituality, the home of Buddhadharma. For me, the Sino-Indian relations are so important; conflict should be avoided at any cost. It is what I think.
It is one of the issues that Tibetans in exile should think about.
Today, many of the refugees in India serve in outfits associated with the Indian Army. If one day, the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Path' is acceptable to China, will these jawans return to Tibet and serve under the PLA?
It is of course a hypothetical question.
Senior Colonel Abdul Rehman Habimulati

An Uyghur Officer in Ngari
Another interesting development: the South Xinjiang Military District (opposite India in Ladakh) has a new Deputy Commander.
The name of this Senior Colonel (corresponding to a Brigade Commander) is 哈里木拉提 · 阿不都热合满 (Habimulati Abdul Rehman?).
Habimulati Abdul Rehman is an ethnic Uighur, born in Urumqi, Xinjiang in 1961.
According to his bio, he got a bachelor degree in military high-tech applications and management from the prestigious Shijiazhuang Army Command College.
He also served as head of the South Xinjiang Military District’s Political Department.
No Tibetans seems to have reach this level so far.


Here is the China Daily's article: 

Tibetan soldiers strengthen top regiment
April 26, 2014
China Daily

Seven years of operating cannons and hauling self-carried missiles in the People's Liberation Army have left calluses on Tashi Phuntsog's palms and fingers.
His arms show scars from numerous military exercises.
Born and raised in a farmer's family in Shigatze, the second-largest city in the Tibet autonomous region, Tashi Phuntsog, 25, a member of the Tibetan ethnic group, never had a chance to attend high school because of financial difficulties at home.
At 15, after graduating from a rural middle school, he began studying traditional Tibetan painting to decorate houses. He managed to excel in the technique after three years and became known for his craft in nearby neighborhoods.
"I could earn about 200 yuan ($32) a day painting exterior walls," he said. "It was a relatively decent income for local Tibetans. But I knew my body would not be able to sustain the labor when I hit 35."
Curious about the thousands of businessmen from the Han ethnic group in Tibet, he also wanted to know what was happening in the outside world.
In 2007, Tashi Phuntsog got an opportunity to change his life, and he took it. He enlisted in the army.
In the seven years since, he has cultivated his literacy and become an outstanding soldier. He was deployed to an artillery regiment of the Chengdu Military Command and stationed in eastern Yunnan province.
Among the 1,500 soldiers in his unit are members of at least six ethnic groups - including Tibetan, as well as Yi and Miao from Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces, said Zhu Jiang, the regiment's political instructor.
The regiment was named a role model for the army, with soldiers from several ethnic groups excelling as they fulfill their duty of safeguarding the 4,000-kilometer stretch of China's national border in Yunnan.

Learning Mandarin
In 1998, the regiment was singled out by Jiang Zemin, then chairman of the Central Military Commission and Chinese president, as an example of how to improve military training and combat effectiveness.
But many ethnic minority soldiers must first learn Mandarin, an infrequently used language in some minority areas. Overcoming language barriers allows them to spend more time in military training.
When Tashi Phuntsog first arrived at the regiment's camp, he was usually quiet. His commander, Xu Guiping, noticed and presented him with a Tibetan-Mandarin dictionary. He had to start from the basic pinyin system based on faint memories from his middle school days.
Xu would inquire every time they met whether Tashi Phuntsog had completed his homework of copying pinyin and Chinese characters.
Chime Drolgar [Dolkar], a 22-year-old female Tibetan in the regiment, said she studied Mandarin on her own at night after fellow soldiers fell asleep. "You have to go faster when left behind," she said.
As they spoke different dialects, Chime Drolgar could not understand another Tibetan woman, Gondro Drolma, who is from Qamdo [Chamdo] in eastern Tibet. They turned to Mandarin to communicate.
Sometimes, Chime Drolgar would invite other Tibetan soldiers, including Gondro Drolma and Galsang Lhamo, to learn their new language at the library, staying up until the lights were switched off at 11 pm.
Tashi Phuntsog and others had mastered the basics of their new language after a year, and even started to joke with other soldiers.
Lhagpa Dondrub, a 25-year-old from Tibet, was promoted to company commander based on his excellent year-end performance and sent to a military school to further his studies.

Dreams and reality
Last year, 15 women were enlisted from Xigaze, along with another 55 men, said Chime Drolgar. She is now in her second year and training to launch anti-tank missiles.
She said many of her friends dream of joining the army to broaden their horizons and change their destiny. Many might otherwise become herdswomen. A popular drama about young Chinese female soldiers inspired her to try for the army, she said.
Believing that her family would not support her decision, Chime Drolgar filled out a military application form in secret and took the test. But she miswrote her name on the answer sheet and worried about being disqualified.
The local soldier recruitment office suggested that her family drive to catch up with the examiners on their way to Lhasa, capital of the autonomous region, to make the correction.
With little choice, Chime Drolgar called her oldest brother for help, and her sheet was intercepted and revised at the last minute. That night, Chime Drolgar talked to her parents to convince them.
Life in the regiment was nothing like home for Chime Drolgar, the youngest of eight siblings who was frequently excused from housework. She now has to do everything on her own, including making her bed in strict accordance with regimental requirements.

Useful attributes
Ethnic minority soldiers seem to naturally possess physical advantages that an artillery regiment requires, Zhu said.
"For example, Tibetan soldiers have wonderful endurance for tough running and carrying missiles. Kids in Yi ethnic villages throw rocks to direct sheep, and as soldiers are particularly good at throwing hand grenades, pretty far and accurately. Those are desirable capabilities because an artilleryman needs to take aim at flying targets," Zhu said.
In his first year, Tashi Phuntsog was tasked with loading cartridges into cannons because of his muscular arms. He also attracted his commanders' attention when he won first prize in a 5,000-meter foot race the next year.
He was transferred to a self-carried missile company and trained to use a more complicated weapon that can hit a flying object at 5,000 meters.
The once-shy soldier started to ask questions of commanders and fellow soldiers to figure out solutions to technical problems. While other soldiers were playing basketball, he could be seen studying a book.
Based on his excellent performance in tests last year, Tashi Phuntsog was given a top noncommissioned-officer award by the Central Military Commission. He is confident of further promotions.
"My goal is to serve in national defense. I must impress the regimental leadership," Tashi Phuntsog said. "Two of my fellow soldiers have been promoted. I cannot be left behind."

Some of the pictures accompanying the article of the China Daily

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, April 25, 2014

When India had a consulate general in Lhasa

Indian Trade Agency in Yatung (Tibet)
Here is my article in Rediff.com...

China has just turned down India's proposal for an Indian consulate in Lhasa, Tibet. Claude Arpi reveals how India once had a full-fledged consulate general office in Lhasa, which was shut down after the 1962 war.

The Nepalese newspaper The Republica recently reported: 'China has turned down India's proposal to establish its consulate general office in Lhasa, Tibet.'
The proposal was presented by Sujatha Singh, India's foreign secretary, during the 6th China-India strategic dialogue held in Beijing earlier this month.
According to The Republica, after meeting her Chinese counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, Singh told reporters that 'India will now plan a decisive talk with China in this regard.'
It probably signifies that the government is ready to drop the idea of reopening the Lhasa consulate. Nepal is today the only country to have a consulate general office in Lhasa.
Why? Simply, because the idea of having an Indian consulate general irritates the Chinese; it reminds them of the days when Tibet managed its own affairs.
Otherwise, the Sino-Indian bilateral situation is rosy. Liu affirmed that China is ready to work with India to advance the partnership to a new level, while Singh explained 'All political parties in India share a common ground on advancing India-China strategic cooperative partnership.'
Xinhua added: 'He (Sujatha Singh!!!) reiterated the Indian government's view of attaching high priority to its relations with China. He (!!!) said the Indian government is working to consolidate the strategic cooperative partnership that is oriented to peace and prosperity.'
Regarding the opening of a new consulate, it appears that Delhi would be satisfied with another consulate general in Chengdu (Sichuan) or Kunming (Yunnan province) instead of Lhasa.
This remains to be confirmed.
While Beijing is extremely keen to open an office in Chennai, Delhi thought it made sense to reopen the old mission in Tibet. India currently has two consulate general offices in Shanghai and Guangzou.
Let us not forget that India had a full-fledged mission in Lhasa between 1947 and 1952 when it was foolishly downgraded (under Chinese pressure) by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru into a consulate general.
After the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the Indian consulate general in Lhasa (and the three trade agencies in Yatung, Gyantse and the 'seasonal' one in Gartok) were closed.
In this context, a letter from P N Kaul, the consul general in Lhasa between 1959 and 1961, gives an interesting historical perspective. It is addressed to Kaul's successor Arvind Deo.

Click to continue...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Famous Five that broke India’s back

My article The Famous Five that broke India’s back appears in The Pioneer's Edit Page this morning.

Here is the link...

Let alone the people, even foreign policy experts in the country continue to gush over the ‘visionary’ preamble to the Panchsheel agreement between India and China, but gloss over the contents that damaged New Delhi

On April 29, India will ‘celebrate’ 60 years of the Panchsheel Agreement with China. But is there anything to celebrate?
What Acharya Kripalani once called an ‘agreement born-n-sin’, is the worst blunder Jawaharlal Nehru ever committed. The 1962 border war was only a consequence of that original ‘sin’.
Nehru is often eulogized for having introduced the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence into foreign policy; he shouldn’t be.
Several years ago, at a Conference in an Indian University, the Chief Guest, a senior Indian diplomat who had served at the UN, pontificated on the inclusion of the Five Principles; he said that it was Nehru’s greatest gift to humanity. That gentleman probably had no clue about what the agreement really signified for India and Tibet.
The ‘Panchsheel’ was the last nail in the coffin of a 2000 year-old nation.
The signature of the Agreement between India and China marked the tail-end of events set in motion by the entry of Chinese troops in Tibet in October 1950.
Signed after months of negotiation between Delhi and Beijing, the agreement does not talk about ‘principles’, but buries India’s ancient cultural and economic links with Tibet. The objective of the 'Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India', as its title indicates, was to regulate bilateral trade and the visit of Buddhist sites on both side of the Himalaya. It was a historic victory for Beijing, as for the first time, India, in the title itself, acknowledged that Tibet was merely a 'Region of China'.
Though the agreement only dealt with Tibet, the Lhasa government was shamefully kept unaware of its content.
This put a legal end to Tibet’s existence as a distinct nation, with incalculable consequences for India and the entire Himalayan region.
Though the agreement itself lapsed in June 1962, India still pays dearly today, 60 years later; to give one example the cultural and trade exchanges which existed for centuries between Tibet and India are no more.
Unfortunately the Indian public, like the ambassador quoted earlier, still remember the ‘visionary’ preamble (the Five Principles) and have long forgotten the content.
US President Truman
and Secretary of State Acheson
in the early 1950s (Illus. Shankar)

The preamble too played a role in the destruction of the ancient Tibetan culture. It speaks of non-interference in the other's affairs and respect for the neighbour's territorial integrity; since India had agreed (in the title itself) that Tibet was part of China, thereafter whatever happened inside Tibet ‘was none of India’s business’, as Delhi was repeatedly told.
A spiritual civilization was turned into a Communist realm without the possibility of any legal resort. Simultaneously, the Agreement opened the doors to China's military control over the Roof of the World. The Machiavellian Zhou Enlai was of course delighted; he declared, “Let the Panchsheel shine like a sun over the universe”.
The ‘friendship’ reached such a height that on October 20, 1954, it was reported that India had decided to supply rice to the PLA stationed in Tibet. Can you believe it! Delhi offered food to the Chinese troops engaged in building a road (crossing the Aksai Chin) on Indian territory!
The Agreement, which was to be the bedrock of an ‘eternal’ friendship between the two nations specified some points of entry into Tibet: “Traders and pilgrims of both countries may travel by the following passes and route: Shipki-la pass, Mana pass, Niti pass, Kungri Bingri pass, Darma pass, and Lipulekh pass.” India wishfully, but erroneously believed that by signing the Agreement the border was being defined (in the Central sector at least). A few months later, the Chinese said: “these passes are in China, the border is located in the south. There are just points of entry for the traders into China.”
Apart from the full-fledged Mission in Tibet, which, for no-reason was downgraded into a Consulate General in 1952, India had three Indian Trade Agencies (ITA), two in Gyantse and Yatung (in Chumbi Valley, near the Sikkim border) and a seasonal one in Gartok (Western Tibet). The ITAs in Gyantse and Yatung were entitled to a military escort. The Post and Telegraph Service, a chain of rest-houses and the principality of Minsar (near Mt Kailash) were also under the Indian Government’s control.
Though the status of the Consulate General and the Trade Marts was confirmed in the Agreement, all the other privileges enjoyed by India were surrendered; the escort was repatriated, the P&T abandoned. All this was ‘offered’ to the Chinese without any compensation or even an attempt to obtain a fair settlement on the border issue in return.
Chinese authorities even confiscated the wireless sets of the ITA in Gartok.
After 1954, the Indian Government found it increasingly difficult to manage the Consulate and Agencies on the ground. An example, after the 1954 flash floods in Gyantse, the ITA building was destroyed; on one pretext or another, the Chinese never allowed its reconstruction.
Till the border was definitively sealed in 1962, Indian visitors and traders were constantly harassed by the Chinese authorities.
The border posts are still closed today.
Even for Indian officials, the situation became more and more untenable over the years and after Dalai Lama took refuge in India in March 1959; the situation turned from bad to worse with Beijing constantly accusing Delhi of interfering in China’s internal affairs.
In early 1960, a note from the Indian Trade Agent in Yatung says, “Just before the outbreak of disturbances in Tibet [March 10, 1959 uprising in Lhasa] there were 50 Indian shops at Yatung and 22 at Phari but now there are 18 Indian shops at Yatung including one panwalla and 2 cobblers and none at Phari”. Several such examples could be given.
When the Panchsheel Agreement lapsed in April 1962, there was no point in renewing it. The Trade Agencies were then closed and China asked the Indian officials to vacate the premises.
Sixty years later, China still refuses to reopen an Indian Consulate in Lhasa.
I recently came across some ‘personal’ letters written by Indian officers posted on the frontiers in the early 1950s. These missives are telling. In December 1950, a few weeks after the PLA entered Tibet, Harishwar Dayal, a senior ICS officer then posted in Gangtok as Political Officer responsible for Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan, while discussing the Chinese advance towards the McMahon Line with his ITA in Gyantse, informed the latter of Sardar Patel’s death, “It is a heavy blow. He was the one person in this Government who had strong realistic view of things, including on foreign relations. Now, we are left at the mercy of the visionaries.”
Let us hope a new ‘realistic’ prime minister will be able to remind President Xi Jinping these few facts when he visits India later this year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

India needs pragmatic leaders not ‘visionaries’

My article India needs pragmatic leaders not ‘visionaries’ appeared in Niti Central yesterday. 

Here is the link...

A Prime Ministerial ‘candidate’ and his family have, recently, been telling the media that the ongoing elections are a choice between 2 visions of India. The history of India’s foreign affairs shows something different. Since independence, India had two choices, the so-called visionaries and the pragmatic leaders like Sardar Patel, who cared for India’s interests on the ground.
I recently came across a bunch of old ‘personal’ letters written by some Indian officers posted on the frontiers in the early 1950s. These missives are telling. In December 1950, a few weeks after the PLA entered Tibet, Harishwar Dayal, a senior ICS officer and distinguished diplomat, then posted in Gangtok as Political Officer responsible for Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan, while discussing the Chinese advance towards the McMahon Line with his Indian Trade Agent (ITA) in Gyantse, informed the latter of Sardar Patel’s death, “It is a heavy blow. He was the one person in this Government who had strong realistic view of things, including on foreign relations. Now, we are left at the mercy of the visionaries.”
This remark came back to my mind a few days back, when I read in The Republica, a Nepali newspaper: “China has turned down India’s proposal to establish its Consulate General Office in Lhasa of Tibet.” The proposal was presented by Sujatha Singh, the Indian Foreign Secretary during the 6th India-China strategic dialogue held in Beijing.
According to The Republica, after meeting her Chinese counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, Singh told the reporters, “India will now plan a decisive talk with China in this regard.” It probably signifies that the outgoing Government is ready to drop the idea of reopening the Lhasa Consulate (Nepal, today, is the only country to have a Consulate General Office in Lhasa).
Why? Simply because the idea of having an Indian Consulate General irritates the Chinese!
Otherwise, the bilateral situation is rosy. Mister Liu affirmed that China is ready to work with India to advance the partnership to a new level, while Singh explained “all political parties in India share a common ground on advancing India-China strategic cooperative partnership.”
Xinhua added: “He [Sujatha Singh!!!] reiterated the Indian Government’s view of attaching high priority to its relations with China. He [sic] said that the Indian Government is working to consolidate the strategic cooperative partnership that is oriented to peace and prosperity.”
It appears that Delhi is now backing down on its earlier demand of re-opening the Lhasa Consulate and would be satisfied with another Consulate General in Chengdu (Sichuan) or Kunming (Yunnan province) instead of Lhasa. This remains to be confirmed.
While Beijing is extremely keen to open an office in Chennai, Delhi thought that it made sense to re-open the old mission in Tibet (today, India has two Consulate General Offices in Shanghai and Guangzou).

The history of the Consulate in Lhasa is truly the story of blind ‘visionaries’. India had a full-fledged Mission in Tibet till the end of 1952. Apart from the Mission in Lhasa, there were three Trade Agencies managed by ITAs in Gyantse and Yatung (in Chumbi Valley, near the Sikkim border) and a seasonal one in Gartok (Western Tibet). Till 1954, the ITAs in Gyantse and Yatung were entitled to a military escort. The Post and Telegraph Service, a chain of rest-houses and the principality of Minsar (near Mt Kailash) were also under the Indian Government’s control. Over the years, all this was ‘offered’ to the Chinese, without any compensation or even an attempt to obtain a fair settlement on the border issue.
Soon after Tibet’s invasion, the Indian Government found it increasingly difficult to retain these facilities on the ground. Visitors, traders and officials from India began to be unnecessarily and regularly harassed or put to hardship. The visionary Prime Minister was ideologically not comfortable with what he called ‘imperialist sequels’, though he knew that these ‘privileges’ were useful for trade, as was the McMahon Line which was a proper delineated agreed border between India and Tibet.
In summer of 1951, KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador to China, another great ‘visionary’, came to Delhi for consultations. By that time, he was already fully in love with the Communist regime in Beijing. Jawahar Lal Nehru, too, was convinced that the future of India lay with the East, “For the first time, China possesses a strong Central Government whose decrees run even to Sinkiang and Tibet. Our own relations with China are definitively friendly.”
A few months later, when questioned again on the Indian Mission in Lhasa, Nehru vaguely answered that it was dealing “with certain trade and cultural matters more or less [sic!]”. He also declared that he was not aware of “any infiltration of Chinese troops in India.”
Reports had already begun about Chinese incursions through the UP-Tibet border (today’s Uttarakhand) as well as through the Ladakh-Tibet border. The first Chinese surveys for the Sinkiang-Tibet highway cutting through the Aksai Chin occurred at that time. Though, Nehru was informed by LS Jangpangi, the ITA in Gartok, he chose to ignore it.
In June 1952, Nehru became more prudent; he explained the ‘changed circumstances’: Tibet was no longer an independent country, therefore, it was better to downgrade the diplomatic relations between Tibet and India. The Indian Representative in Lhasa was re-designated as a Consul-General.
During the same month, the smart and suave Zhou Enlai told the gullible Indian Ambassador in China that he “presumed that India had no intention of claiming special rights arising from the unequal treaties of the past and was prepared to negotiate a new and permanent relationship safeguarding legitimate interests.”
Not only did the Chinese offer nothing to India in exchange for her generosity, but Delhi accepted to open a Chinese Consulate in Bombay. Can you believe it!
A few months later, Panikkar who had been transferred to Egypt wrote: “the main issue of our representation at Lhasa was satisfactorily settled… there was no outstanding issue between us and the Chinese”.
Well, the ‘visionary’ had merely forgotten the unsettled issue of border. In April 1954, the ‘born-in-sin’ Panchsheel Agreement was signed. Though, the status of the Consulate General and the Trade Marts was confirmed, all the other privileges enjoyed by India were surrendered. Over the years, the situation became more and more untenable for the Indian officials. After Dalai Lama took refuge in India in 1959; the Chinese authorities constantly harassed the staff of the Consulate and Trade Marts. When the Panchsheel Agreement lapsed in April 1962, there was no point in renewing it. The Trade Marts were closed and China asked the officials to vacate the premises. As the building in Yatung belonged to the Government of India, the Chinese even asked India to take the building away.
Since then, there has been no Indian representation in Tibet. It is a great pity for the Himalayan areas which, for centuries, had close economic and cultural ties with Tibet.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

When India had a Consulate in Lhasa

The Nepalese newspaper, The Republica reported that "China has turned down India's proposal to establish its Consulate General Office in Lhasa of Tibet."
The  proposal was made by Sujatha Singh, the Indian Foreign Secretary during the 6th China-India strategic dialogue held in Beijing last week.
Nepal remains the only country to have a Consulate General Office in Lhasa.
According to The Republica, after meeting her Chinese counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, Singh told the reporters that "India will now plan a decisive talk with China in this regard."
What does it mean?
India is ready to drop the idea of reopening the Lhasa Consulate?
Let us not forget that India had a full-fledged Mission between 1947 and 1952; in 1952, it was foolishly downgraded by Nehru into a Consulate General(under Chinese pressure).
After the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the Indian Consulate General in Lhasa (and the 3 Trade Agencies in Yatung, Gyantse and the 'seasonal' one in Gartok) were closed.
It appears that the outgoing Indian government is backing out of its earlier demand and would now be satisfied  with another Consulate General in Chengdu (Sichuan) or Kunming (Yunnan province) instead of Lhasa.
This remains to be confirmed.
Today, India has 2 Consulate General Offices in Shanghai and Guangzou.
At the same time, China is extremelly keen to open an Office in Chennai.
In this context, I am posting a letter from P.N. Kaul, the Consul General in Lhasa between 1959 and 1961. It is addressed to his successor Arvind Deo, who is to take over soon.
Note that in 1961 already, the Chinese were putting pressure on India to reduce the activities of the Consulate, particularly the trade.
Personal D.O. [Demi-Official Letter]
P.N. Kaul, IFSA [Indian Frontier Administrative Service]
Consul General
Lhasa, Tibet

To Shri A.R. Deo
Consul General Nominate
Camp Mumbai

September 15th, 1961

I was informed by the Ministry a month ago of your posting here as my replacement. I expected a communication from you for seeking clarifications on any minute details, but did not hear from you – obviously because you are on leave. Yesterday’s [diplomatic] bag (incidentally Bag comes here on every 4th, 14th and 24th of the month from Gangtok) brought in a few notifications regarding you from which I learnt your leave address.

2- You must personally have gone through the latest Note on Living Conditions in Lhasa; I enclose a copy to be on the safe side. The Note deals with most aspects. There are a few things, however, which you personally may be interested to be informed about:

a-    The work here is very little indeed since March, 1959. Social life outside our Consulate General is nil; there being the Chinese Foreign Bureau and the Royal Nepalese Consulate General with whom you have only occasional formal social contacts. The new Royal Nepalese Consul General, Yak Thumba, arrived a week back and has been ill ever since – he is, however, recovering fast.
b-    We have clerical staff of one Sikkimese Head Clerk (Local rank of Vice Consul) [Gyatso Tshering?], two “Sikkim-based” clerks, one Kalimpong boy as Tibetan Translator-cum-Librarian, one “Sikkim-based” Wireless Operator, One Cypher Assailant from Delhi and another assistant from Delhi just posted in replacement who functions as Confidential Assistant-cum PA; he also knows some Chinese having been student in Peking for three years on a scholarship. Besides there we have one Assistant Civil Surgeon I as our Medical Officer. All the above staff until recently had their families with them but the new Vice Consul and the newly posted assistant from Delhi are without their families here at present. My only worthwhile recreation has been sporting in a mediocre game of tennis with my staff in the evening.
There is no Indian Community in Lhasa.
c-    The staff and the local Class IV servants are not overworked. Until recently I had an Indian personal bearer-cum-cook with me but I was compelled to send back as he created problems! I have since been able to easily to cope with one Gurkha Class IV as my cook on payments during off hours, there being hardly much entertainment to outsiders. He is a reasonably fair cook but has no knowledge of cooking of South and West Indian dishes. One of the Class IV, since I sent away my own servant, has been doing my bearer in spare time on payment. A personal bearer or a bearer-cum-cook would however, be useful but the snag is that they remain idle most of the time.
In the balance it would be worthwhile having one Indian servant with you. Please treat this as purely personal informal advice.
d-    You do not need to bring any furniture or crockery with you. Rice (inferior), Atta, Dalda, sugar, etc., it is advisable to purchase and dispatch from Gangtok itself and the shopkeepers do all the needful. It is advisable to avail of your entitled maundage [?] to save on transportation charges later on. Fine rice, papars, pickles and the like should be brought with you from India. Electricity is available here since two years and pressure cookers, heaters, firewood stoves, (bukkaries) are available in the Consulate; you need to bring one electric iron for your use.
There is a radiogram and a radio in your residence; there only two dozen long playing records though, you can order more later on. The living quarters are tolerable enough for Lhasa. Needs of clothing, etc. have been fully explained in the Note on Living Conditions.
There is a Toshakhana [literarily treasure-house, in this case for food and liquor] grant of about Rs. 4000- per annum for entertainment. Stocks of liquor, cigarettes, sausages, cheese and the like are adequate in the Toshakhana. I have been purchasing my par needs from it, though it has been objected to by the A.G.C.R. [Auditor General & Central Audit] You can order for yourself from Calcutta drinks, imported tinned items like milk, Kraft cheese, sausages and bacon duty free from Calcutta. There will be hardly be any vegetables during winter and you are coming towards the beginning of winter season. I have however, got some tomatoes dried for you, besides you will be able to get fresh cabbage and turnip preserved in hot house and the universal potato.
There is one Consulate Willys Station Wagon [Jeep] mainly for your use, the second one is on its last leg and its replacement should materialize through D.G.S.D. [Directorate General of Supplies & Disposals] in three to four months time. If you have time in Delhi you may see Mr. Shrinivasan, Under Secretary (TG) and expedite its mataerializing.
a-    No foreign exchange problems are involved here. You get your pay in rupees; market exchange rupee-yuan is favourable to us. Rupees remittance facilities through Bank Drafts issue by the Office exists.
Our mail takes 10 to 15 days to reach here. Telegrams at India rates can be sent over the Chinese P&T channels.
b-    Most of our things of necessity are not available locally. On an average one truck on hire for our stores and rations materialize from Yatung to Lhasa monthly. One has to furnish requirement indent to Chinese one month in advance.
c-    The Consulate care will fetch you and your essential baggage from Yatung. A truck will be indented for to bring your heavy baggage and any stores lying at Yatung. Your baggage should be made into 35 seers leads as it has to travel from Gangtok to Yatung by ponies/porters. An odd heavier essential package is, however, managed by porters at higher rates.

In case you have any further clarifications to seek please send a signal over tour Delhi-Lhasa Wireless link, or a telegram if advisable.

Please do let us know you exact date of arrival in Gangtok and Yatung. I suggest you spend four days at Gangtok, although I am quite anxious to leave soon.

You may consult Mr. A.K. Sen and Director S. [Sumal] Sinha for further details as both were Ex-C.G. in Lhasa

With my very best wishes and Regards

Yours

(P.N. Kaul) IFAS
Source: National Archives of India
Shri P.N. Kaul, I.F.A.S., Consul-General for India, Lhasa, Progs., Nos. 5(3)-L, 1961, C.G.I. LHASA TIBET, 1961

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fifty Years ago: China already planned to dam the Brahmaputra

The Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra)
As I am quoted, I am posting below an article published by the  Geopoliticalmonitor.com, a Canadian intelligence publication.
Though the project of a mega dam on the Brahmaputra (or worse, the diversion of the river) is today 'officially' denied by Beijing, there is no doubt that some scientists are working on it.
It is not a new project.
I recently came across a letter from the Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, addressed to the Political Officer in Sikkim (Apa Pant).
The Note is dated October 1960. It appears that in the 1950s, the Chinese were already planning to use the hydroelectric potential of the Brahmaputra.
I reproduce here this letter which is available in the National Archives of India.

Secret 
From: B.C. Mishra
Deputy Secretary
Ministry of External Affairs
New Delhi
October 7, 1960
No. 12/281/NGO
Dear Shri Pant,
The following extract from a tour report of the Secretary General, Relief Committee for Tibetans, New Delhi, will be of interest to you:
"During the course of the talk, the Dalai Lama also informed that he had reports that Chinese are planning to build high dams across Brahmaputra and Indus group of rivers in the Tibetan region. He told that, as a matter of fact, the Chinese had those schemes in view ever since they came to Tibet in 1951. He wondered how far such projects undertaken unilaterally would be in the interest of India and when the projects took shape how the Government of India would view the situation”
2- We have received no information so far about any proposal of the Chinese Government to construct dams across the Indus and the Brahmaputra before the rivers leave Tibet. The correct international practice in such matters is that building of dams, reservoirs, etc. by the upper riparian must not cause material injury to the interests of the lower riparian. Since, however, the information contained in the above extract is rather vague, we cannot make representations to the Chinese. However, the necessity of being alert in this matter can hardly be over-emphasized.
3- As I said above, we have no correct information about any Chinese plan to construct dams or reservoirs on the rivers. However, we do know that there is a great fall in the Brahmaputra just before it enters Indian territory – I believe 6 miles from our border. This fall has a great potential for power and irrigation (?). It will, of course, require huge resources to make anything out of it and it will certainly take a long time. Nevertheless, I thought you would be interested to be apprised of this. You may perhaps like to pass the above information on our Missions in Tibet too.

Yours sincerely
sd/ (B.C. Mishra)

To Shri Apa B. Pant
Political Officer
Government of India
Sikkim
Gangtok
Fifty-four years later, Mishra's conclusion: "However, the necessity of being alert in this matter can hardly be over-emphasized," is still valid.

Water Wars: The Next Clash between India and China
Amitava Mukherjee
April 17, 2014

A China watcher named Claude Arpi has drawn attention to a recently posted article on the website of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission under China’s Ministry of Water Resources. The article speaks of the necessity and feasibility of diverting the waters of some rivers, including the Brahmaputra (called Yarlung Tsangpo in China), to meet water supply needs in China’s arid north and northwest. This further confirms the fact that, in spite of several denials, China is still progressing with the controversial project that could spell doom in not just large parts of India but Bangladesh as well.
If the article is to be believed, engineers in China’s Ministry of Water Resources have already completed a feasibility study. In 1999, Jiang Zemin, a former president of China, announced the grandiose “Great Western Extraction” plan which would transfer huge volume of water from Tibet to the Yellow River. In 2008, Prime Minister Singh raised the issue with the Chinese leadership, but Wen Jiabao, the then Chinese prime minister, replied that the water diversion plan was imperative due to China’s water insecurity.
There was a grain of truth in Wen Jiabao’s statement, and herein lies a grave source of tension in the Indian subcontinent. Fast-paced development has raised water imbalance in China to such an extent that the Chinese government has no other option but to look at unconventional replenishment options. Already 300 million people in China have no access to safe drinking water and 400 of the country’s 600 major towns are suffering from water shortages. While southern China has 80 inches of average annual rainfall, northern China - with massive population centers like Beijing with over 20 million people and Tianjin with 12 million - receives only 8-16 inches of annual rainfall on average. Groundwater levels under Beijing have fallen by 2.5 meters since 1999 and a staggering 59 meters since 1959.
The situation is very alarming, as water conflicts may soon become the main source of discord between India and China, replacing the two countries’ ongoing boundary dispute. China has 2.8 trillion cubic meters of water and stands fourth in the world in this regard. But due to the gigantic size of its population, China’s per-capita water reserves stand at only 2,300 cubic meters. The northern portion of the country has 44.3 percent of overall population and 59.6 percent of its arable land - but it has only 4.5 percent of the country’s water resources. The region has an average per-capita water reserve of 747 cubic meters, which is one third the national average.
The burning question then becomes: how much of the Brahmaputra’s water does China plan to divert?  To all intents and purposes Beijing seems to have a two pronged strategy. The first one is called the South-North Water Diversion Project, which seeks to transfer 45 billion cubic meters of water from the Yangtze River to the north and northwest of the country. The first phase of this project has already gone operational. But the most ambitious strategy aims to shift 50 billion cubic meters of water from the Brahmaputra to the Yellow River. Experts believe that the energy generated from these proposed hydro-electric projects on the Brahmaputra might turn out to be useful in pushing up river waters through difficult mountainous terrains.
No one knows whether there are any Chinese plans for the river Indus, which also originates in Tibet. If Beijing were to divert the Indus, then several other Indian rivers, like the Sutlej, Kosi, Gandak, and Mahakali which get their replenishment from it would run dry.
The Brahmaputra is a trans-national river. It enters India from China at Arunachal Pradesh, where it is known as the Siang. While in Assam it takes the name Brahmaputra and enters Bangladesh at a place named Bahadurabad. On March 1, 2012 residents of Pasighat, a town on the bank of the Siang in Arunachal Pradesh, witnessed a very strange sight. On that date, the Siang - which used to be nearly several kilometers wide - ran completely dry. Since then the river has continued to shrink.
There is no doubt that China is in need of water. However, the Mumbai-based Strategic Foresight Group has calculated that the Himalayan river basins in Bangladesh, China, India, and Nepal shelter 1.3 billion people. In the next two decades, annual per-capita water availability in these basins will decline by 13-35 percent. Moreover, 10-20 percent of the Himalayan rivers are largely dependent on glaciers and lakes for their supplies and 70 percent of these glaciers may melt in the next 100 years.
Within China there are two opposing schools in regard to the Brahmaputra water diversion proposal. In 2006, Wang Schucheng, the then Minister for Water Resources, described the proposal as unnecessary, unfeasible, and unscientific. But Wang Guangqian, an expert on the subject who enjoys great influence over the present Chinese power set-up, threw his weight behind the idea of Brahmaputra water diversion. In such a milieu, India has also stepped up its efforts to make use of the river’s flow. Already New Delhi has sanctioned an 800-megawatt hydro-electric project on the Brahmaputra. A technical  expert  group (TEG) constituted by the Indian government has suggested the construction of hydro power projects on the rivers Lohit and Subansiri, both tributaries of the Brahmaputra, at sites close to India’s border with China. India has also decided to speed up studies on the basins of the rivers Subansiri, Lohit, and Siang for their strategic utilization.
Bangladesh will face serious problems if China and India start actively competing over the Brahmaputra. Bangladesh receives around 1,106 cubic kilometers of water per year from external sources, out of which around 600 cubic kilometers of water come from the Brahmaputra. Bangladesh’s own internal generation is only 105 cubic kilometers, which means the country’s dependence on external water supplies is around 91 percent.
Thus, the need of the hour is a multilateral approach for solving this growing controversy over the Brahmaputra – before it starts to do real harm to Sino-Indian relations.
Amitava Mukherjee is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Infrastructure Links on the Tibetan Plateau

New Tunnel on the Golmund-Xining railway line
While India is busy with the legislative elections, China continues to frantically develop its infrastructure on the Tibetan plateau and at its periphery.
A couple of days ago, Xinhua announced, 'world's longest plateau rail tunnel completed'.
The Chinese news agency reported that the Xinguanjiao Tunnel, the world's longest plateau rail tunnel on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, had been completed last week.
According to Zhi Changying, an official with the China Railway Tunnel Co. Ltd. (CRTC), a partner in the project, the 33 km tunnel is the longest rail tunnel in China.
It is a part of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It is located between Golmud in northwestern Qinghai province and the capital, Xining.
Except for the tunnel, the 763-km-long line was opened to traffic in November 2010.
It took some 7 years to the CRTC and the China Railway 16th Bureau Group Co., Ltd. (CRBGC) to built the tunnel which was the main 'bottleneck' on the Golmund-Xining railway line.
Liu Hairong, a CRBGC official admitted that the project posed several challenges for engineers due to high altitude, complicated geological conditions and tight budgets [sic].
Zhi Changying said that the tunnel will be opened to traffic at the end of 2014: "It will give a much-needed boost to the transportation capabilities of the high-profile Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which connects the northwestern Qinghai Province and Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region", stated the official who added that it will allow to better connect Qinghai and Tibet.
But that is not all.
The China Daily announced that the construction of a new road between Xichang (in Sichuan province) – Shangrila (in Yunnan province).
Te highway is expected to be started soon, 'with a planned construction period of five years'.
And when the Chinese say 5 years, it is usually 5 years.
The new highway will connect the Xichang-Panzhihua Highway with the Shangrila-Lijiang segment of the Xining-Chamdo–Dali highway.
It will start from the city of Xichang.
Let us not forget that the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) is one of the main Chinese space vehicle launch facilities The launching pads are located some 64 kilometres, northwest of Xichang, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan.
Xichang Satellite Launch Center
According to Wikipedia: "The facility became operational in 1984 and is primarily used to launch powerful thrust rockets and geostationary communications and weather satellites. It is notable as the site of Sino-European space cooperation, with the launch of the first of two Double Star scientific satellites in December 2003. Chinese officials have indicated interest in conducting additional international satellite launches from XSLC. In 1996, a fatal accident occurred when the rocket carrying the Intelsat 708 satellite failed on launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Also, a 2007 test of an anti-satellite missile occurred from the center."
Is the new road linked with the satellite launch? Difficult to say!

China National Highway 318
The new highway will be 320 kilometers long. It will run through Yanyuan county in Sichuan province and the touristic Lugu Lake. More than half of the highway is located in Sichuan province.
The highway will have 97 super large, large and medium bridges and 24 tunnels; it will have four lanes all along; it is designed for a speed of 80 kilometers per hour.
This will be a new route linking Chengdu to Yunnan and Central Tibet (via Highway 318).
Once opened to traffic, it will only take two hours from Xichang to Lugu Lake. Chengdu, Sichuan's capital is 7 hours away from the picturesque lake.
The highway will connect National Highway 108 to National Highways 214 and 318.

China's National Highway 318 (G318) runs from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the China-Nepal border. It is the longest of China's National Highway with 5,476 kilometres. From Shanghai it crosses Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan, and ends in Tibet.

China National Highway 214 (G214) runs from Xining in Qinghai province to Yunnan. It is 3,256 kilometres long. From Xining it goes southwards to southeastern Tibet (Yunnan province).

China National Highway 108 (G108) connects Beijing to Kunming via Chengdu. In Beijing it is known as Jingyuan Road. It is 3,338 km long. Xichang is located approximatively half way between Chengdu and Kunming.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When a Border Deal was Possible!

Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary (and future National Security Advisor?) wrote an excellent article in The Business Standard yesterday.
Saran speaks of a 'lost opportunity' to solve the Sino-Indian border issue in the early 1980s.
He writes: "In 1983, when I was serving in our embassy in Beijing, there were a series of informal and confidential exchanges on the possibility of resolving the border issue. ...The answer was to point to Deng's package proposal, i.e. to formalise the status quo. Our counter was that something more than the status quo would be necessary given the grievous blow to Indian psyche that the 1962 war had delivered. There was some indication that if Gandhi would be ready to visit, then some additional territory in the western sector, occupied as a result of the 1962 operations, may be conceded. Unfortunately, the Indian side did not follow up on this and the opportunity was lost."

In this context, it is interesting to quotes from a paper by Sumit Ganguly, 'The Sino-Indian Border Talks, 1981-1989: A View from New Delhi' (Asian Survey, Vol. 29, No. 12, Dec., 1989, University of California Press, pp. 1123-1135).
Ganguly describes the eight rounds of Sino-Indian talks, held before Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in December 1988.
Here is Ganguly's views on the first round:
The Eight Rounds
Most of the Indian officials who were closely connected with the process of border talks between 1981 and 1988 cluster the eight rounds into two groups. Though the specific division varies, they all agree that the first four dealt with ‘basic principles’ and the last four with ‘the situation on the ground’.

The first round.
The first round of talks began in December 1981 with the Chinese offering the so-called package proposal, a suggestion Deng Xiaoping had put forth via the two visiting Indian journalists. Pared to the bone, this proposal entailed freezing the status quo on the ground, with minor concessions by both sides. Its seriousness can be questioned because, when pressed by the Indian side, the Chinese refused any cartographic examination.
In fact, according to a senior Indian official closely connected with this round, the Chinese did not appear interested in turning it into anything more than a propaganda exercise. When the Indian side appeared less than enthusiastic about the package proposal, the Chinese suggested that the border issue be frozen and progress be made on other matters such as scientific and cultural exchanges. Foreign Minister Rao rejected the Deng package proposal, contending that it equated the aggressor with the victim, denied the legality of the McMahon Line, and in no way assuaged India's 1962 humiliation. Furthermore, it was felt that the package would legitimize Chinese gains made through the use of force.
Additionally, there was a historical problem associated with this proposal as, in many ways, it was a reprise of the one made by Zhou Enlai in 1960. It had been rejected then because of Chinese claims to significant portions of land claimed by India. To accept the proposal in 1978 would have meant further territorial concessions. India's minimal expectation was that the Chinese would concede that they were occupying a modicum of Indian, or at least disputed territory. From a negotiating standpoint, this position could hardly be deemed particularly helpful, but it needs to be borne in mind that many in the Ministry of External Affairs had strong memories of the humiliating defeat inflicted on India by China in 1962 and this had strongly colored their perceptions.
In fact, in the words of an Indian diplomat who has been associated with the border talks, there are the so-called ‘settlers’ (of the dispute) and ‘non-settlers’ in the Ministry of External Affairs.

The second and third rounds

The first round ended without accomplishing much beyond agreeing to meet again. By the second round, which was held in New Delhi, Chinese ardor had cooled considerably and little transpired then or in the third round. India's position was that it would not discuss the legality of the case as the legal positions of the two sides had been fairly well documented in the Officials' Report of 1960. The one tangible concession that the Indian side was willing to make was that it would seek some common ground without abandoning its legal position...
But the real chance to sort out the border issue occurred earlier, in April 1960, when the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai visited Delhi. Since then, the scar of 1962 has greatly complicated the issue for the Indian public opinion as well as for the Indian political class.

I am posting here a description of the 1960 talks between Nehru and Zhou Enlai. Using the recently declassified P.N. Haksar Papers at the The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, Lorenz Lüthi, an Associate Professor in History of International Relations at McGill University in Montreal wrote about the Sino-Indian Relations, 1954-1962.It is a good analysis.
Over the period of April 20-25, Zhou and Nehru met daily while their ministers and specialists held conversations in parallel or in between summit sessions. The two talks on the first day revealed not only differences in claims but also differences in defining terms. Both sides stressed their maximalist positions as they had during the past six months. Nehru underlined how much India’s national security, including the security of its capital Delhi, was affected by Chinese troops in the Himalayas, while Indian troops there hardly threatened most of China or its capital, Beijing.
Zhou in turn stressed that China did not recognize the McMahon line at its borders with both India and Burma, and repeated the claim that the customary border at the eastern sector was in the Himalayan foothills.
Talks the following day suffered from a bad start. During Zhou’s courtesy call, Vice-President Sarvepalli Radnakrishnan bemoaned how China was treating India despite all the help Delhi had provided Beijing in international relations since 1950.
On the issue of borders, he repeated India’s maximalist positions, arguing that China had occupied all of Xinjiang, to which Beijing had added Aksai Chin, in the late 19th century and Tibet only in 1950. Zhou replied—with irritation—that both had been Chinese for hundreds and thousands of years, respectively. Foreign Minister Chen Yi reminded the Indian vice-president of the value of good relations with the PRC: “What are a few thousand square miles of territory compared to the friendship of six hundred million Chinese?”
Obviously, the same question could have been also asked about China’s friendship with hundreds of millions of Indians. Zhou left the courtesy call in anger.
The negotiations with Nehru in the afternoon were personally less hostile but still uncompromising. After observing that the two sides had aired their disputing versions on the border, Zhou proposed to find a procedure to discuss the issues step by step. With regard to the territory of NEFA at the eastern sector, the Chinese Premier claimed that, while Tibet and the PRC had hardly possessed any actual control in the past, they still had a legal claim—a statement which Nehru disputed immediately.
Zhou continued to insist that the PRC would legally recognize neither the McMahon line nor the Simla convention. In turn, the Indian prime minister claimed that India had patrolled Aksai Chin in the 1950s without ever meeting Chinese troops there until late in the decade. In a talk with Indian ambassador R.K. Nehru late that evening, Zhou made a hard case for Aksai Chin based on a history of patrolling since 1950 and on road building that had not been disputed by India.
On the third day, April 22, Zhou strenuously tried to move the discussions towards an agreement. Under the heading of establishing facts and finding common ground, the Chinese Premier explained why China could not accept the McMahon line. In his view, the Tibetan government had no right to sign the Simla convention in 1914, as it was bound by age-old law to get approval from the Chinese government for any such international agreement. Apart from the fact that China had no effectual central government at the time, his explanation implicitly pointed to the crux of the problem.
Any legal recognition of the McMahon line would have meant that Tibet had acted as an independent country in 1914, which would have undermined China’s historical claim to it and would have marked PRC actions in Tibet since 1950 as aggression or even imperialism. No wonder that Zhou wanted Nehru to stop bringing up Simla at all, but he was willing to solve the problems at the eastern border on the basis of the status quo. While making a concession at the eastern sector, the Chinese prime minister again was unwilling to compromise on Aksai Chin. Implicitly, he had put a deal on the table.
Both sides would compromise on the basis of the existing geographic makers which formed one of the principles in international law regarding border settlements. Thereby, the territory of NEFA would go to India, and Aksai Chin to the PRC. But Nehru was not willing to accept the deal.
The talks on April 23 resumed where they had left off the previous day. Nehru opened the conversation by complaining that, the previous evening, the Chinese side’s experts had refused to engage in any discussions regarding Aksai Chin.
Obviously, Zhou had ordered his team to stall after Nehru had refused to accept the deal proffered the previous day. In reply to these Indian complaints, the Chinese prime minister used arguments similar to those which Nehru had used all along for the eastern sector, to come to an agreement at the western sector: geographical markers, linguistic place names, treaties, maps, etc. Despite his proposal for a five-point statement on the principles which should govern the solution of the Aksai Chin dispute, the day did not end with any movement toward an agreement.
On April 24, Nehru replied to Zhou’s assessment of the situation at the western sector, countering the Chinese narrative of past events that underscored PRC claims with an alternative narrative supporting Indian claims. The host also warned that, after the Indian Supreme Court had recently made a land mark decision on unrelated border issues with Pakistan, any agreement on boundary changes had to pass through the process of a constitutional change in India’s parliament.
This legal obstacle, however, probably carried little weight with the guest from the Communist neighbor. But Zhou again was willing to break the impasse by proposing principles about troop disengagement and future patrolling.
On the last day of talks, the two leaders negotiated on the text of the joint communiqué to be issued. Zhou was willing to use Nehru’s draft as a basis for discussions. But he quickly realized that his host wanted a communiqué that described the talks as a failure—not even a statement of mutual respect for the status quo at the eastern sector was inserted. The Chinese guest also complained that there was no reference to panch sheel in the Indian draft, but Nehru firmly replied that any such reference would make the communiqué look insincere after all that had happened in the Himalayas in the past years. Eventually, the joint communiqué ended up to be a short and pessimistic text that announced the lack of agreement and the start of bilateral talks among specialists in June. At the press conference late on April 25, Zhou deplored the failure to reach an agreement, but publicly announced his proposals both for a five-point statement on the principles, which should govern the solution of the Aksai Chin dispute, and for the principles of troop disengagement and future patrolling. Clearly, Zhou tried to impress the public that he had come to find a settlement, which even Indian observers recognized in retrospect. Yet, the Indian Premier subsequently blamed his Chinese counterpart for the failure, publicly calling him a “hard rock.” Archival documentation from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, however, suggests the opposite, as shown above. Internally, the Indian side also considered the talks a complete failure; a circular to all embassies asserted that there was virtually no agreement on any of the issues raised. In fairness, however, it did acknowledge that Zhou offered a deal linking the territory of NEFA to Aksai Chin.
This all raises the question of why Nehru was unwilling to go for Zhou’s deal? It offered the status quo at the eastern sector which benefitted India and it left Aksai Chin to the PRC which had strategic interests there. The problem rooted in the public propaganda war ongoing since the fall of 1959 in which both sides had made exaggerated claims. In China’s case, one might add, this had happened for nationalist and tactical reasons with regard to the eastern sector where its claims were rather weak. The propaganda war, however, had cornered Nehru to a much greater degree than Zhou.
Unlike his Chinese counterpart, the Indian prime minister headed a country with vibrant public debate and a rigid constitutional framework, and not one with a tightly controlled monopoly both of information and political power. As the historian Srinath Raghavan concluded, Nehru was convinced that Indian public opinion would not accept any deal in which territories would be exchanged. Also, Delhi considered its case to be strong while it charged Beijing with using dishonesty and military force.
Furthermore, the Indian prime minister knew that the Supreme Court decision made relinquishing Aksai Chin virtually impossible in the contemporaneous political climate, as constitutional changes required a two third majority in parliament.
And finally, after all the Chinese ideological propaganda in previous years, India’s leaders also had lost all trust in their former Chinese friends. Among the four impediments, which Raghavan lists, Nehru might have been able to overcome the first three through a less rigid public stand in 1959 and 1960.
To a certain degree, Nehru thus was the victim of his own public statements and actions. The Indian distrust toward China, however, predated the events of 1959.
India and China subsequently came to different conclusions about how to proceed with regard to the disputed borders, particularly since the bilateral meetings among specialists did not lead to any results by the end of 1960. Even if Nehru might have had good reasons not to agree to Zhou’s offer of a deal, his subsequent assertive policy was unwise and even dangerous.
In 1961, Delhi decided to implement a forward policy at both sectors by resuming border controls and establishing military sentry posts within disputed territories. Beijing was aware of these developments, but did not react beyond the lodging of protest notes initially. By the summer of 1962, the two sides traded fire across the disputed border again.
Another border war was in the offing.
The rest is history. 
One point has to be noted: Nehru told Zhou that "after the Indian Supreme Court had recently made a land mark decision on unrelated border issues with Pakistan, any agreement on boundary changes had to pass through the process of a constitutional change in India’s parliament," this legal point is still probably valid today.
It makes the possibility to find a solution all the more distant.
Shyam Saran's article also proves that the Chinese are masters at moving the posts when it is in their interest to do.