Friday, February 28, 2014

In Beijing, sound and fury signify nothing

Gen. Odierno with Gen. Fang Fenghui
My column in the Edit page of The Pioneer appeared  yesterday under the title In Beijing, sound and fury signify nothing.


Here is the link...

While China has undoubtedly been vocal in its opposition to the Dalai Lama-Barack Obama meeting, it has also been pragmatic enough to continue its relations with the US in the business-as-usual mode

During his visit to Beijing earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry probably informed his Chinese ‘friends’ that President Barack Obama would be meeting the Dalai Lama when the latter arrived in Washington, DC. Then Beijing did what it is good at: It pulled one of its sharpest loose-cannons from his quasi-retirement to shoot at US foreign policy. Mr Zhu Weiqun used to occupy an important position in the Chinese United Front Department, which deals with ‘minorities’; for years, he was the main interlocutor for the Dalai Lama’s envoys in the still-born negotiation process between Dharamsala and Beijing. Mr Zhu does not have an executive assignment anymore; he is a mere director of the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a grand-sounding title which can be useful when Mr Zhu’s ‘expertise’ is required.
Mr Zhu wrote a hard-hitting article published by the official Chinese media, where he argued that the West will soon “see the real face of the Dalai clique and East Turkestan movement” (Xinjiang). Mr Zhu, however, admitted that in the Western world today, the Chinese case on Tibet is still “weak and isolated”, but “the trend of history” was changing fast as “time is on China’s side”. Reuters noted that Mr Zhu’s message uses “unusually strong language”, suggesting that China should ignore foreign pressure on human rights.
Mr Zhu, a hardliner on Tibet, undoubtedly knew about the forthcoming meeting between the Tibetan leader and the US President. For him, “As China becomes more involved in international affairs, and as Tibet and Xinjiang further open to the world, more and more Westerners will have an understanding of Tibet and Xinjiang that better accords with reality.” The “reality”, according to Mr Zhu, is that nobody can point a finger at China, particularly when it concerns human rights and freedom of speech.
The original article, which says that the US should be pragmatic when it looks at the issue of the Dalai Lama, was published in China Tibet Online, an official Chinese website which reports issues related to Tibet. It appeared a couple of days before the announcement that the Dalai Lama would meet President Obama in the White House. Mr Zhu asserted: “What should be developed should be developed, and when stability should be maintained it will be maintained — China must totally disregard whatever the West says.” This sounds like the old Tiananmen Square rhetoric; whatever the cost, the hard-line should and will be maintained. Mr Zhu speaks of a “strange phenomenon” emerging: “When China is in steady progress, the Western leaders would line up to woo China, but change their attitude immediately and slander China as long as something happens in Tibet or Xinjiang… which is really unbelievable.”
Mr Zhu misses one part of history. Tibet has, for centuries, been an independent nation with its own Government, Army, coinage, stamps and passport. Now the Dalai Lama seeks for Tibet only a genuine autonomy within the People’s Republic of China. When he was negotiating with Dharamsala, Mr Zhu systematically blocked this type of compromise. Interestingly, he concluded: “The American foreign policy is based on ‘pragmatism’ for its own interests and ideology.”
The day before the Obama-Dalai Lama encounter, Beijing thundered that the proposed meeting would be a “rampant interference” which would damage bilateral relations. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying angrily added: “If any country deliberately insists on harming China’s interests... it will also damage its own interests and will harm the bilateral relations between China and the relevant country. If the US President wishes to meet any person, it’s his own affair, but he cannot meet the Dalai Lama.”
Xinhua was also sanguine: “No matter what Mr Obama is to discuss with the Dalai Lama, their meeting will be sheer politics, but of no avail in manipulating China over the Tibet issue. It is high time for the United States to wake up to Dalai Lama’s hypocrisy and abandon the lose-lose deal.” But business is business. Between ‘pragmatic’ states, lose-lose can become win-win in no time and contrary to what Mr Zhu asserted, it is not the privilege of the United States to be pragmatic, China has a thousand-years-old tradition of pragmatism.
The day Mr Obama met the Dalai Lama, The New York Times quoted a top US military commander as saying that, “the US Army is working on starting a formal dialogue and exchange programme with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army before the end of the year.” From where was General Raymond T Odierno, the US Army Chief of Staff, speaking? You won’t believe it! He was speaking from Beijing!
Though the Chinese Government knew about the Obama-Dalai Lama scheduled meeting, General Odierno’s trip was not cancelled. During his Press conference in the Chinese capital, the General affirmed: “It really is about us focusing on a long-term relationship and the importance of us conducting exchanges, conducting institutional visits.” That is a win-win statement. Gen Odierno affirmed that a formal high-level Army-to-Army exchange would be helpful because “throughout history, miscalculation is what has caused conflict,” adding that the purpose of his visit was to lay the groundwork for senior-level exchanges between the two Armies.
After visiting barracks in Shenyang Military Area Command, Gen Odierno affirmed that the Chinese troops are “incredibly professional and wonderful”. After meeting with the top Chinese Generals, he declared: “It’s been very encouraging and made very clear to me the importance that you place on collaboration and cooperation. And I think that is the key.” Don’t you think that it is pragmatism all the way and from both sides? The fact that Beijing allows such a senior US General’s visit to happen despite America’s “rampant interference” in China’s so-called internal affairs, is pure pragmatism.
In the meantime, repression continues in Tibet, particularly in the restive Nagchu Prefecture and, instead of trying to dispel Tibetan resentment, Beijing makes it worse with hard-line policies. To give an example, Mr Gao Yang, a Han cadre who served a long time in Tibet, has been nominated as Party Secretary of Nagchu; he replaces the Nagchu-born Tibetan Dortho. A Han from Shandong Province, replacing a Tibetan will not help in diffusing the situation.
In any case, India should certainly learn from the Chinese and the Americans. But Indian diplomats will argue that Indian diplomacy is based on ‘principles’, not on pragmatism. By the way, why doesn’t the Indian Prime Minister meet the Dalai Lama? But perhaps the Mandarins in the Prime Minister’s Office see such a meeting as “rampant” interference in China’s affairs.

Monday, February 24, 2014

China has 3-D topographic maps of Ladakh

The Zorawar Fort, near Demchok occupied by China
As Deputy Chief of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong arrives in India for the annual Defence Dialogue, some interesting news has just come from China, which apparently possess the latest 3-D topographical maps of the Ladakh front.
It raises an important question: will the Indian Defence Secretary R K Mathur, when he receives Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, discuss an exchange of maps in Ladakh/Aksai Chin?
Probably not! It is a pity.
According to PTI, “The talks are expected to cover defence exchanges, joint military exercises as well as steps to increase confidence building measures between the two forces in the light of the signing of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA).”
A fourth round of military exercises, to be held in India, should also be discussed.
The Defence Dialogue will be followed by a Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) on March 18-19. The Indian delegation will be headed by Deputy Chief of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Regarding the Defence Dialogue, the Indian Defence Secretary will probably be too shy to raise the issue of exchanging maps showing the Indian and Chinese ‘perceptions’ of the Line of Actual Control.
In any case, Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong would certainly say that he is not in a position to supply proper maps of Beijing’s ‘perceptions’.
However, an article in The People’s Daily recently boasted of high quality of 3D topographic maps available in Lanzhou Military Area Command, which looks after the Ladakh front, particularly places such as Daulat Beg Oldi, Chumar or Demchok.
The People’s Daily reported: “Chinese military has unveiled its world advanced three-dimensional (3D) topographic map of Lanzhou city”.
It explained: “A measuring and mapping information center under the Lanzhou Military Area Command (MAC) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) used world-advanced 3D printing technology in the topographic map-making and successfully developed China’s first 3D topographic map on November 20, 2013.”
Rest assured that the maps are not for Lanzhou City only.
This practically means that the Chinese troops posted in the Aksai Chin and other parts of Ladakh possess the most accurate maps of these disputed areas. The Communist mouth piece affirmed: “Compared with the traditional man-made sand tables, the latest 3D topographic map has lighter weight and portability. Obsolete maps were used as the printing materials instead of professional and expensive printing materials such as gypsums. It has cut down the cost to the maximum and made the map highly promotable [portable?].”
The People’s Daily, quoting an official of the Lanzhou MAC, further asserted: “The 3D topographic map can provide accurate and reliable basis for military topographic analysis, for commanders to make decisions and for troop units to carry out their missions, thus it possesses high military application values.”
Wang Mingxiao, the director of the research team told the Chinese newspaper: “The research team had been dedicated to upgrade the map by improving the precision of the A4-sized 3D topographic map from the previous 1.0 mm to present 0.1 mm, and shortening the printing time from the previous 24 hours to 8 hours. They also expanded the scope of the 3D topographic map as well.”
However Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong is bound to tell the Indian Defence Secretary that China can’t provide maps of what it 'perceives' as China’s Line of Actual Control.
Beijing still believes that its interests are better served, if confusion over the LAC continues to prevail.

Why China needs to divert the Brahmaputra

Several times during the last couple of weeks, I have  mentioned the Chinese new plans for the diversion of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Siang/Brahmaputra) and other Tibetan rivers towards the Yellow river.
My information came from a longish article posted on the website of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources of China.
The article is entitled, 
Research on the Feasibility of Greatly Opening Up the Yellow River for Shipping (click on the link to read the original Chinese study).
Thanks to a friend, here is the translation of the two first sections which explain the rationale of the projected mega mega project. The map is strictly based on the description given in the article.
It goes without saying that there are probably different views in China, but there is definitively a strong lobby who wants to use the Yellow River as a navigation corridor and therefore needs the Siang/Brahmaputra's waters.

Navigation of the Yellow River and the Necessity of its Development
For a long time, people have been much more concerned with the exploitation of water resources than with the development of marine shipping. The NW of our country is dry, with little rainfall, and has a great need for water. There are vast areas of wilderness waiting for development, which really means they are waiting for large quantities of water to be brought in, because once they have water, the desert can become green, and only on that foundation can development begin. So people are very interested in projects to bring water from the South to the North. With regard to the extremely difficult "western line" project, many tempting plans have been proposed for large-scale water relocation. People have grasped the importance of water resources, but there is another important point still missing -- marine transportation and shipping. The Chang Jiang (Yangtze) has the best conditions for marine shipping of any river in the world, and can carry a greater volume of goods than any other river, but its utilization is not up to the standard of the Mississippi and Rhine, the other 2 great shipping waterways of the world. The Three Gorges project should have provided the best opportunity for full and efficient use of the Chang Jiang's shipping potential, but at that time, development proceeded under the principle of "power generation first, marine shipping second", and so the project never lived up to its potential to promote marine shipping. There is a limit to electric generation, but the river's capacity to carry goods can keep growing and growing as the riverbed is excavated deeper, so the potential economic benefits are very great. Even under the limits imposed by the current condition of the Chang Jiang, the Chang Jiang river basin area accounts for a solid 45% of China's GDP, and stands firmly as the main economic development axis of the entire country. If it can be said that survival and ecology are tightly linked to water resource management, then development and becoming strong and prosperous are even more tightly linked to marine shipping.
The key characteristics of marine shipping are high capacity and low cost, and it is suitable for the transportation of energy sources, minerals, heavy chemical products, heavy equipment, grain, livestock, and other large goods. This is most clearly seen with ocean shipping. Since China opened up for economic development, the fast development of the Southeast coast clearly proves the advantage conferred by marine shipping. The Yellow River basin, and the Northwest provinces, which are closely linked to it, have rich energy and mineral resources, and enormous potential for production of agricultural and husbandry products. It can be called an ideal area for large-scale marine shipping of heavy goods, and has potential far exceeding the Chang Jiang. Developing Yellow River shipping, especially opening it up to the ocean for navigation of ships exceeding 10,000 tons, is a fabulous prospect which the Yellow River basin could only dream of for centuries past. Therefore, opening up navigation of the Yellow River, and especially enabling ocean navigation for super-heavy class vessels, is of great necessity, and the day when it comes true is the day when the Yellow River basin and the Northwest will spread their wings and fly.
Continued improvements in quantity eventually result in a revolution in quality. As quantity increases, quality also improves, and qualitative improvements open the way for even greater improvements in quantity. The huge scale and vast area of the Yellow River corridor are an opportunity for a qualitative leap, and the economic and societal benefits which navigation of that corridor could bring, and what it would mean, are of incomparable value, almost beyond words. Therefore, for continued high growth rates in China's economy, expanding domestic demand, faster societal transformation, and sustainable development, opening up the Yellow River waterway could provide an enormous driving force forward, and is of the utmost strategic meaning.

The Necessity of Construction of the "West Line" Water Diversion Project
As humans make ever greater use of water resources, and as the world's climate grows ever warmer, the importance of strategic planning in water resource management is ever more prominent. In the next 30-50 years, as renewable energy sources come into widescale use, the importance of energy to societal and economic development will gradually give way to the greater importance of water resources for societal and economic development and human survival.
China has total water reserves of 2.8 trillion cubic meters, which is 4th in the world. But per capita water reserves are only 2300 cubic meters, which is 1/4 of the world average, and comes in 121th place. China is therefore among the 13 most water-poor countries in the world. Of China's more than 600 cities, more than 400 are in short supply of water, and more than 200 have severe water shortages. More than that, China's North-South distribution of water is severely skewed. 44.3% of the population live in the North, and 59.6% of arable land is in the North, but the North has only 14.5% of China's water resources, with average per capita water reserves of 747 cubic meters, 1/3 of the national average. Among the North's water supplies, the Yellow River, Huai River, and Hai Luan River are most prominent. The river basins of those 3 account for about 30% of both national agricultural output and GDP, but they possess only 7.2% of the country's water. As water supplies become tighter each day, water quality degrades, plant ecology deteriorates, and the land is subject to desertification. This has developed into the harsh reality we now see of dust storms. Ongoing water shortages in the North, have already become a great obstacle restricting economic and societal development, and severely threaten sustainable economic growth for the people.
The great "western line" water diversion project is the groundwork for the Yellow River shipping waterway project, and without it, there is no room to even talk about opening up the Yellow River for marine shipping. Because, the Yellow River has only 50 billion cubic meters of flow per year, not enough for drinking and industry. During dry periods, the probability is great that the Yellow River could even run dry, and not have enough water flow to float ships. The Yellow River shipping waterway project can provide full utilization of the "western line" water diversion project; with it, much more efficient use can be made of the water diverted into the Yellow River basin. Without it, it will be very hard to "digest" the high capital expenses incurred by the "western line" project and its long period for break-even on investment. The "western line" project can provide the foundation, and the Yellow River shipping waterway project can make it worthwhile. The 2 projects are tied together as one; without the other, neither of them could achieve its potential.
Aside from providing the water needed for marine navigation, it can also provide much-needed water resources. To the dry Northwest, that is highly desirable and seemingly unattainable. Only with large quantities of water, the Northwest can improve its soil, check the expansion of deserts, and finally rein in the raging dust storms. The trend of "local improvements in human habitat, but ongoing degradation as a whole" can be turned back, the poverty and backwardness of the West can be changed, the ever-growing gap between rich and poor can be shrunk, the ongoing sluggishness of domestic consumer demand can be improved, and economic development can be expedited. Therefore, the "western line" project, with its long distances and great scale, crossing between river basins, surely must be carried out.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hardline and Pragmatism

February 21, 2014 (Map Room)
China is good at putting ‘unusable’ Party leaders in cupboards (with always nice names/titles on the door). The reasoning is that, at a required time, these old cadres can be taken out of their ‘retirement’ and recycled for the sake of the Party’s interests. This is called a pragmatic approach.
Take the case of Zhu Weiqun, who used to occupy a senior position in the United Front Department and was the main interlocutor of the Dalai Lama’s envoys in the still-born negotiations process between Dharamsala and Beijing.
Zhu Weiqun is today the director of the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. That’s a long title which can be useful when Zhu’s ‘expertise’ in required. After all, he is the official who had the longest encounters with the Tibetan delegates and can read their minds.
Zhu recently ‘expatiates’ for Xinhua ‘on why the West been is unwilling or unable to give up acts harmful to both China and itself’.
The article was reproduced by China Tibet Online, an official Chinese website which reports issues related to Tibet.
Zhu’s article is titled: “US’s ‘pragmatism’ consideration on Dalai Lama’.
It appeared a couple of days before the announcement that the Dalai Lama would meet President Obama in the White House (Beijing was obviously in the know about the meeting).
China Tibet Online used this picture
to illustrate the meeting

Before letting Zhu speak, the Editor of China Tibet Online noted: “The West has never stopped interfering in Tibet and Xinjiang issues, ever since the founding of the People's Republic of China despite its overall positive relations with China after China's reform and opening-up. Under special condition, such interference could even suddenly be intensified, which caused the bilateral relations to stagnate and even retrograde within a certain period of time. It has not only made trouble to China but also done no less harm to the West.”
Zhu gave ‘his’ reading of the history of the relations between the Dalai Lama and Washington: “In the 1970s, the US needed to concentrate on the ‘Cold War’ toward the former Soviet Union, extricate itself from the Vietnam War. Under this circumstance, China's attitude was very important, while the Dalai Lama was given the cold shoulder for not being very useful and even affects the improvement of the China-US relations.”
This culminated by President Nixon's visit to China in 1972, Zhu analyses thus the situation: “the US significantly cut down on the economic and military support to the Dalai clique. After ceasing the aerial delivery by the CIA for the major armed forces of the clique occupied in Mustang area of Nepal in 1965, it allowed the Nepalese military forces to annihilate it in 1974.”
The former Chinese negotiator then explains the Dalai Lama’s renouncement to Independence in the 1980s: “Desolated by the international community, the Dalai clique had to change its banner from ‘Tibet independence’ to ‘the Middle Way approach’, and stepped onto the path of ‘indirectly Tibetan separatism’ under the cloak of ‘Greater Tibet and High-degree Autonomy’.”
It is in 1987 that the Dalai Lama proposed his Five-Point Peace Plan to the US Congress in Washington. It was a constructive proposal. A year later, in front of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, the Tibetan leader mentioned for the first time his ‘Middle Path’ approach, seeking genuine autonomy. At that time, the Dalai Lama had the full support of the West, he cannot be said that he was ‘desolated’.
Zhu explains further that China's fast development since its reform and opening-up policy in 1978 has put the West into a dilemma: “On the one hand, everyone tries to improve its relations with China to get benefit from it, especially to get rid of its economic and financial crisis. On the other hand, they fear and worry that China would break the long-standing western-dominated international rules and pattern of interests. Therefore, they have taken every opportunity to contain China and separate China as a multi-ethnic country like what it did to the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.”
Zhu Weiqun sees a ‘strange phenomenon’ emerging: “When China is in a steady progress, the western leaders would line up to woo China, but change their attitude immediately and slander China as long as something happens in Tibet or Xinjiang. Of course, their attitudes will become softened immediately after the situation in Tibet or Xinjiang comes back to normal, which is really unbelievable.”
Mr. Zhu misses one part of history.
Tibet has for centuries been an independent nation with its own government, army, coinage, stamps, passports, etc.
China invaded Tibet in 1950 and in May 1951, Beijing forced a 17-Point Agreement on weak Tibetan leaders. The clauses of the Agreement were never sincerely implemented by China.
I mentioned a few days ago a document published by Melvyn Goldstein in which in 1957, the Central Committee, the highest authority in the Party under Mao's leadership, admits that “although Tibet became an inseparable part of China a long time ago, it has maintained an independent or semi-independent status in its relations with the motherland.”
As Mr. Zhu read this 1957 note of his own Party.
The document mentions only a ‘nominal subordination to the Beiyang government [from 1912 to 1928] and the Guomindang administration [from 1928 to 1949]’ and asserts that between the Xinhai Revolution (the 1911 Revolution) and the ‘Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’ in 1951’ Tibet once again restored its semi-independent status.
It says: “The fact that [Tibet] had achieved long-term independence and semi-independence historically distinguishes Tibet from other minority nationality areas in China.”
At the end of the 1950s, Mao and his associates decided to put the so-called reforms on hold.
Where Zhu Weiqun is probably right is when he says: “When some new leaders took office, they usually will meet with the 14th Dalai Lama regardless of China's strong opposition, and then privately promises to China that it will never happen again in a bid to recuperate its relationship with China.”
The duplicity of some Western leaders, at least as far as Tibet is concerned is well-known. Zhu says: “[This] will usually be followed by a large business delegation to visit China in order to obtain economic benefits. And so does the cycle go for the next leader.”
Zhu’s conclusion was: “The American foreign policy is based on ‘pragmatism’ for its own interests and ideology, so is the so-called Tibet issue and Xinjiang issue.”
When it became officially known that the US President would be meeting the Tibetan leader in ‘Map Room’, the Chinese government were upset, very very upset. How dare Obama to come back on his words (has he ever promised not to meet the Dalai Lama?).

Rampant Interference
The proposed meeting would be a 'rampant interference' which would damage bilateral relations said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying: “For the United States leader to meet the Dalai Lama is a gross interference in China's internal affairs and a serious violation of the norms of international relations.”
She angrily added: “If any country deliberately insists on harming China's interests, in the end it will also damage its own interests and will harm the bilateral relations between China and the relevant country. If the US president wishes to meet any person, it's his own affair, but he cannot meet the Dalai Lama.”
Xinhua was also sanguine: “No matter what Obama is to discuss with the Dalai Lama, their meeting will be sheer politics, but of no avail in manipulating China over the Tibet issue. It is high time for the United States to wake up to Dalai Lama's hypocrisy and abandon the lose-lose deal.”
But business is business.
Between ‘pragmatic’ States, lose-lose can become win-win in no time and contrary to what Mr. Zhu asserts, it is not the privilege of the United States to be pragmatic, China has a thousand-old tradition of ‘pragmatism’.
Gen. Fan Changlong receives Gen. Odierno
The day Obama met the Dalai Lama, The New York Times quoted a top U.S. military commander as saying that “the U.S. Army is working on starting a formal dialogue and exchange program with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army before the end of the year.”
From where was General Raymond T. Odierno, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff speaking? You won't believe it! From Beijing!
Though the Chinese government was undoubtedly informed by Secretary of State John Kerry about the Obama-Dalai Lama scheduled meeting (when Kerry was in Beijing a week earlier), General Odierno’s trip was not cancelled. During his press conference in the Chinese capital, the general even spoke of “expanding cooperation and managing differences constructively”.
He affirmed: “It really is about us focusing on a long-term relationship and the importance of us conducting exchanges, conducting institutional visits.”
That is a win-win statement.
The general not only visited the Shenyang Military Area Command (MAC) in northeast China, but he also met General Fan Changlong, senior vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), General Fang Fenghui, Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (also a member of all-powerful CMC) and General Wang Ning, the PLA’s Deputy Chief of Staff.
General Odierno said the formal dialogue between U.S. and Chinese army officials would include discussions of humanitarian relief, disaster management and peacekeeping operations.
Odierno affirmed that a formal high-level army-to-army exchange would be helpful because “throughout history, miscalculation is what has caused conflict.” The purpose of his visit was “to lay the groundwork for senior-level exchanges between the two armies”.
After visiting the Chinese troops, Odierno said that they are ‘incredibly professional and wonderful’. After his meeting with General Fang, he declared: “It’s been very encouraging and made very clear to me the importance that you place on collaboration and cooperation. And I think that is the key.”
Don’t you think that it is pragmatism all the way and from both sides?
The fact that Beijing ‘allows’ such a senior general’s visit to happen despite the US ‘rampant interference’ in China’s so-called internal affairs, is pure pragmatism.
India should certainly learn from the Chinese and the Americans.
But we are told that Indian diplomacy is based on ‘principles’, not on pragmatism.
Now Zhu, the harliner is not required anymore, he can be sent back to his cupboard. He will be recalled is a tough ‘Tibet expert’ is required again.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Metok Road is Closed

China likes to speak of the 'mysterious Metok of Tibet'.
Last November, the website China Tibet Online wrote the "Story of the Mysterious Medog (Chinese writes Medog for Metok)", explaining that the place is located in the southeast of China's Tibet Autonomous Region and the lower reach of Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River.
The Chinese site quoted a local Monpa girl saying, "the Medog County will be no longer mysterious after it opens to traffic."
Chinese news agencies asserted: "There is no other place in Tibet that gets so many titles as Metok, such as the 'secret lotus', 'lonely island on the plateau', 'world's wildlife museum' and 'rare animal gene pool'.
Soon after the road opened, it was announced that this strategic road located near the Indian border was expected to receive some 40,000 tourists.
As mentioned in my earlier postings, the opening of the Metok Highway to the civilian and military traffic was the most strategic development of the year 2013 as the county is located just north of the McMahon Line.
On December 18, China Tibet Online, in a photo feature on the famous road in winter, commented that the road between Metok and Bomi county had been formally opened to traffic on October 31, 2013, "ending the county's isolation from the outside world. The 117-km highway, which cost 155 million U.S. dollars, links Zhamog Township, the county seat of Bomi, and Metok in Nyingchi Prefecture in southeastern Tibet. With the opening of the road, people in Metok have higher expectations for their future."
Now it appears that the Metok road has been mysteriously closed.
Why?
According to Xinhua: "Tourists are not suggested to visit the Metok County in the coming few months as the Metok Highway is now in high avalanche incidents period."
It is strange since a few months ago, the road was said to be an 'all-weather' road.
Xinhua gives some explanation: "On January 17, the continuous strong snow has triggered a snow slide disrupting traffic along the newly-built Metok Highway, the only passage linking the county with the outside world." According to the Transportation Department of Nyingchi Prefecture, "maintenance staff was dispatched immediately to clear the road, resuming the traffic on the next day."
Apparently, there was no casualties.
But why to close the strategic roads for 2 or 3 months?
Again quoting the Transportation Department of Nyingchi Prefecture, Xinhua adds: "it was still not advisable to make a trip to Metok in the coming few months as the avalanche is frequent between February and March while the melting snow is easy to induce mud slide or landslide in April."
Too bad for the tourists, though as Xinhua put it: "Metok provides tourists a dramatic visual change from snow-capped mountain ranges to tropical and subtropical scenery, which is distinct from other prefectures in Tibet".
For India, the question is: will the road remain closed to military traffic?
It is doubtful. An all-weather road is usually opened the year long.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Promoted from the Roof of the World

Yang Xiaodu
Last year, I posted a list of "Chinese who matter in Tibetan Affairs".
Most of these Communist cadres, after a posting to Tibet, have received a promotion and have been 'kicked up' in plum posts in Beijing.
The latest is Yang Xiaodu.
Last month, only one appointment was made at the annual meeting of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
The Commission is headed by its Secretary, Wang Qishan, a member all-powerful of the Politburo Standing Committee and close collaborator of Xi Jinping in his campaign against corruption.
The Commission has eight powerful Deputy Secretaries, whose position is more or less equal to a Politburo seat in terms of political clout.
During the recent meeting of the Commission, one of the Deputy Secretaries, Wang Wei, was transferred and posted as the Executive Office of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, which works under the State Council. Wang was replaced by Yang Xiaodu, a 60 year old cadre who belongs to the 'gang' of officials who spent many years in Tibet before being promoted in Beijing.
Before joining the Disciple Inspection Commission, Yang was a member of the Party Standing Committee of Shanghai Municipality as well as the Municipality's Deputy Mayor, looking after the United Front Department.
Born in 1953 in Shanghai, Yang joined the Communist Party in 1973.
Yang Xiaodu spent most of his career in Tibet. He served 24 years in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from 1977 to 2001, respectively under Party Secretaries Ren Rong, Yin Fatang, Wu Jinghua, Hu Jintao, Chen Kueiyuan and Guo Jinlong (now Politburo member).
Yang also held senior positions in Nagchu and Chamdo before being promoted Deputy Governor of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Till Yang joined the Discipline Inspection Commission, it had no member of the ‘Tibet Gang’ as I call those cadres who served in Tibet before being sent back to Beijing on promotion.
In 2012, Yang became a member of 18th Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Will he look into the corruption of some Chinese (and Tibetan) cadres in the Tibetan Autonomous Region?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Messages on the Wind

Wind Messages on Iron Horse's Tracks
According to Xinhua, Tibet has a telephone penetration of over 99%. Can you believe it?
Quoting from  a  'communication management meeting of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)', China Tibet Online affirms: "The number of fixed-line phone users and mobile users totaled 3.05 million, accounting for 99.3 percent of the overall population."
Of course, one has to take Chinese statistics with a pinch of salt.
Anyway, another article of Xinhua states that the number of Internet users in the TAR reached 2.03 million at the end of 2013.
Qunggyi, the head of the Tibet Communications Administration explained: "This means 67.5 percent of Tibet's 3 million population have access to the Internet".
He added that many Internet users are surfing the network using their smartphones. The number of 3G network subscribers in Tibet has reached 964,000 and the new-generation 4G network will soon be available.
Further, 665 townships of the plateau region have been connected with optical cables, covering 97.5 percent of all townships, while 3,231 villages have access to broadband Internet, covering 61.4 percent of the total number of villages.
All this is of course closely monitored by the Chinese Public Security Bureau, but this is another issue.
According to taobao.com, a sales platform under Alibaba: "On last year's Singles Day (Nov. 11) shopping spree at China's largest online purchasing platform Taobao, Tibetans spent more than 7.7 million U.S. dollars, almost double that of 2012."
Here are some 'propaganda' photos of the penetration of the cellphones in Tibet.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
This reminds me of the delightful book of the great French explorer Alexandra David-Neel who marched in disguise from Eastern Tibet to Lhasa in 1923/24.
On the way, she met many lamas, anchorites, yogis, magicians who had obtained supernatural powers (siddhis).
One of these siddhis was to be able to send 'message on the wind', what Europeans call 'telepathy'.
Below are excerpts from With mystics and magicians in Tibet by Alexandra David-Neel (Penguin books).
Undoubtedly, 'speaking on the wind' is easier today.
But has humanity really progress?
It is a more difficult question to answer.

Messages Sent ‘On the Wind’
Alexandra David-Neel

Tibetan mystics are not talkative, those of them who accept disciples teach them according to methods in which discourses have but little place. The disciples of the contemplative hermits seldom see their master and only at intervals determined by the spiritual attainment and needs of the novice.
A few months or a few years may elapse between these meetings. But in spite of their seeming aloofness, master and disciples—especially advanced disciples—do not lack means of communication when they deem it necessary.
Telepathy is a branch of the Tibetan secret lore and seems, in the Land of Snows, to play the part that wireless telegraphy has recently taken in the West. Yet, while apparatus for wireless transmissions are, in Occidental countries, at the public's disposal, the subtler ways of sending messages ‘On the Wind’ remain the privilege of a small minority of adepts in that art in Tibet.
Telepathy is not altogether a novelty to Westerners psychic research societies have, more than once, called attention to telepathic phenomena. These, however usually seem to have occurred by chance. The author of the phenomenon was not aware of his part in it under such peculiar circumstances, he had sent forth the mysterious waves that had reached, at a greater or lesser distance, a human receiver, but he had not done this knowingly and on purpose. On the other hand, the experiments made to transmit volitional telepathic messages have given doubtful results, for they could not be repeated successfully as often as desired.
Things are different among Tibetans. They assert that telepathy is a science, which can be learnt like any other science, by those who have proper teaching and are fit instruments to put the theory into practice.
Various ways are mentioned for the acquisition of telepathic power, though Tibetan adepts of secret lore are unanimous in ascribing the cause of the phenomena to an intense concentration of thought.
One may remark that as far as telepathy has been observed and studied in Western countries, its cause has seemed identical with that discovered by Tibetans.
Mystic teachers declare that mastery in telepathy requires a perfect command over the mind, in order to produce at will the powerful ‘one-pointedness of thought' on which the phenomenon depends.
The part of conscious ‘receiver’, always ready to vibrate at the subtle shock of the telepathic waves, IS considered almost as difficult as that of the sender. To begin with, the intended receiver must have been ‘tuned’ with him from whom he especially expects messages.
Now, volitional perfect concentration of mind on one single object, until every other object vanishes flora the field of consciousness, is the basis of the lamaist spiritual training, and this training also includes psychic exercises that aim at developing the power of detecting the various ‘currents of energy’ that are crossing each other in every direction.
So some affirm that telepathy, as well as tumo [inner heat] and other kindred accomplishments, is a natural by-product of the spiritual training and, consequently, need not be studied separately. This also explains the power with which all great gomchens [meditators] and dubchens [someone with great ‘magic’ powers] are credited, of communicating with their disciples, whatever may be the distance that separates them.
However, some see the matter in another light though they agree that proficiency in the spiritual training brings in its train proficiency in minor accomplishments, such as telepathy, they think that those who are not able to reach the high stages of the mystic path may rightly cultivate telepathy or other byproducts separately.
Mystic masters agree to this to a certain extent and, in fact, a number of them train their disciples in telepathy
A number of Tibetan anchorites have become able without having undergone any special training, to catch the telepathic messages of their guru. This is commonly considered as proof of their great devotion to him. A few have spontaneously acquired the power to emit messages.
As for those who cultivate telepathy, the main lines of the training may be sketched as follows.
First, it is necessary to go through all the practices devised to produce the trance of ‘one-pointedness’, the concentration of thought on one single object and complete oblivion of all other things.
The complementary practice which consists in ‘emptying’ the mind from all cogitations, establishing in it complete silence and blankness, must also be mastered.
Then comes the analysis and discrimination of the various influences which cause sudden, apparently inexplicable, psychic or even physical sensations or moods of the mind, such as abrupt feelings of joy, of melancholy of fear, and also sudden memories of persons, things or events apparently unconnected with anything going on around one.
When the pupil has exercised alone for a time, he may sit in meditation with his master in a silent and darkened room, the thoughts of both being concentrated on the same object. At the end of a given period, the student tells his teacher the phases of his meditation and these are compared with those of the master, concordances and discrepancies are noted.
Now, stopping, as far as he can, the activity of his mind, emptying it of all ideas, reflections and mental representations, the novice watches the thoughts which arise involuntarily and unexpectedly in him without being apparently linked with any of his present preoccupations or feelings. He notes the subjective images which appear. And, again, at the end of the meditation, thoughts and images are made known to the lama teacher who sees whether or not they correspond to those he mentally suggested to his disciple.
Then, the master sends mental orders to his disciple, while the latter is at a short distance from him. If these are duly received and the student answers by acting accordingly, the exercise continues, the distance between master and disciple being gradually increased.
It is believed in Tibet that dubchens are capable of reading the thoughts of others at will. The master being credited with such a power, it would be absurd to train anyone to send him telepathic messages. The very intention of sending them would be detected by him before the messages had actually been sent. Whether this power is real or not, the master is compelled to act as if he possessed it. Consequently, his disciples practice the exchange of telepathic messages among themselves. Two novices or a number of them associate for that purpose under their teacher's supervisions and the training is very much like that described above.
Novices test their progress in dispatching unexpected telepathic messages to one another at a time when the person designated is likely to be busy and not thinking about receiving communications.
They also try to convey messages to people with whom they have never been connected through training in common, and who know nothing about telepathy. Some make experiments with animals.
Years are devoted to these practices. It is impossible to guess how many of the students who pursue this study really obtain results from it.
Whatever may be the fruits they reap, the most worshipful among mystic teachers do not encourage this kind of exertion. The efforts made to acquire supernormal powers are considered by these masters as uninteresting childish sports.
It seems proved that great contemplative anchorites are able to communicate by telepathy with their disciples and some even say, with any sentient being, but that power—as already stated—is considered as a mere byproduct of deep insight into psychic laws, and of spiritual perfection.
It is said that, when on account of the enlightenment acquired through various contemplative meditations one has ceased to consider "one's self" and "others' as entirely distinct entities, devoid of points of contact then telepathy IS easily practiced.
The discovery—during prolonged introspections—of these ‘points of contact’ leads to a sphere in which delimited beings vanish and only continual exchanges are perceived.
These are psychic and mystic experiences which words cannot describe. Whatever may be the share of truth or fancy in such theories, I prefer to avoid discussing them.
One thing I may say, however, is that communications from mystic masters to their disciples through gross material means, such as letters falling from the ceiling or epistles one finds under one's pillow are unknown in lamaist mystic circles. When questions regarding such facts are put to contemplative hermits, erudite lamas or high lamast dignitaries, they can hardly believe that the inquirer is in earnest and not an irreverent joker.
I remember the amusing reflection of a lama from Tashilhunpo when I told him that some ‘philings’ [foreigners] believed in such ways of communicating with departed ones or even with Tibetan mystic teachers: ‘And these are the men who have conquered India!’ he exclaimed utterly amazed at such simplicity in these otherwise redoubtable Englishmen relying on observations which extend over a large number of years, I shall venture to say that Tibet seems to offer peculiarly favourable conditions for telepathy— as well as for psychic phenomena in general. What are exactly, these  ‘conditions’?
It would be presumptuous to attempt defining them while the very nature of psychic phenomena is still so mysterious.
Maybe the very high level of the country is helpful. Perhaps we may, also, take into account the great silence in which the country is bathed, that extraordinary silence of which—if I dared to use so strange an expression—I would say that it is heard above the loudest voices of the most furiously roaring torrents.
Again, solitude might be reckoned with: the absence of big crowds whose mental activity creates many whirlpools of psychic energy which trouble the ether. And perhaps the placidity of Tibetans whose minds are not filled, like ours, with cares and cogitations is another of these favourable conditions.
Whatever may be the causes at work, telepathic transmissions, either conscious or unconscious, seem to occur rather frequently in Tibet.
Regarding my own experience, I am certain that I did receive on several occasions, telepathic messages from lamas under whom I had practiced mental or psychic training. It may even be that the number of these messages has been larger than I suspect. However, I have only retained a few cases in which the lama afterwards inquired if I had understood what he meant to tell at a given time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The 'feasibility' of diverting the Brahmaputra

Map prepared according to an article published on a Chinese official website
Let me come back on the 'feasibility' of diverting the Yarlung Tsango/Brahmaputra towards northern China.
Some years ago, I wrote the 'history' of the project which had become public in 1986 for the first time.
I am posting below what I wrote at that time.
At the end of the 1980s, till the 1990s, experts agreed that the project to 'push water up' and cross the mountain ranges was impossible, unless Beijing decided to use some sorts of small nuclear devices (or PNE, Peaceful Nuclear Explosions).
Twenty years down the line, the situation has changed. China has made tremendous progress in digging tunnels. It is perhaps one of the reasons why the project has recently resurfaced.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that "China Considers Longest Underwater Tunnel Under Bohai Sea".
The financial publication explained: "China may invest US $ 36 billion to build the world’s longest tunnel beneath the Bohai Sea to connect the northeastern city of Dalian to Yantai in Shandong province".
It quotes the China Daily: "proposals for the 123-kilometer tunnel, which is targeted for completion in 2026, may be submitted to the central government in April". The Chinese newspaper cites Wang Mengshu, an engineer working on the project: "A feasibility study taking two to three years could begin as early as 2015."
The proposed tunnel would become the longest in the world (twice the length of Japan’s Seikan Tunnel, which is 53.9 kms long). Bloomberg asserted: "The world’s second-largest economy has poured billions in past years to build infrastructure to spur growth, which may be more critical with gross domestic product forecast by economists to expand this year at the slowest pace since 1990."
The project is also important for the ports of Qinhuangdao, Tianjin and Caofeidian all located on the coast of the Bohai Sea.
Bohai Sea (map SCMP)
Can you imagine that the tunnel (if constructed) would cut the travel time between Dalian and Yantai to 40 minutes (from about eight hours by ferry currently and 1,400 km by road).
In the Bohai tunnel, trains may be able to run at 220 kilometers an hour and passenger vehicles would cross the sea on rail carriages.
During the last meeting of the National People’s Congress in March 2013, Chen Zhenggao, the provincial governor of Liaoning province requested the central government to take up the project as soon as possible to boost the regional economy.
My point is that if China has the technology to dig such a tunnel under the Bohai Sea, it might be able to perform a similar feat around the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo, in which case the new avatar of the Great Western Water Diversion may not be an utopia as thought earlier.
One issue has however not been mentioned, it is the fate of the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve (SNNR), also known as the Three Rivers Nature Reserve.
Located on the Tibetan Plateau (in today's Qinghai province), the 'Reserve' monitors the headwaters of the Yellow River, the Yangtze, and the Mekong. The SNNR has been established to protect the sources and headwaters of these rivers. The reserve is divided in 18 subareas, each containing three zones.
Map Wikipedia
Wikipedia says: "Along with wetland and waters protection, other ecological values, such as grassland, forest, and wildlife enhancement, have also been presented as goals. To advance the goals of the SNNR uncontrolled or poorly managed mining, logging, hunting, and grazing have been curtailed. Foreign and other mining firms have replaced the uncontrolled miners, trees have been planted, and measures have been taken to protect endangered species. To protect the grasslands, pastoralists are not permitted to graze their animals in designated ‘core zones’, and grazing is supervised elsewhere in the SNNR. In addition, residents have been resettled from core zones and other grassland areas of the SNNR, and rangeland has been fenced and is in the process of being privatized throughout the Sanjiangyuan Area."
There are, of course, many controversial aspects in this project, but its objective would be the first causality if the mega diversion was allowed to happen.


Here is my 'History of the project' written 10 years ago
The gigantic project was first mentioned at a conference in Alaska in July 1986. Projects under the Global Infrastructure Fund (GIF) were discussed and the ‘Himalayan Hydropower project’ was short-listed. At that time, it was envisaged to have a series of 11 dams around the ‘Brahmaputra loop’ (Great Bend). It included a tunnel through the mountains bringing water to a powerhouse projected to have a capacity of 48,000 Megawatts. The overall capacity of the ‘loop’ was speculated to be 70,000 Megawatts.
Later, the GIF stopped mentioning the project, engineers in Beijing had not shelved it. On the contrary, its new avatar appeared a few years later, as a single mega power station with an installed capacity of around 40,000 Megawatts.
The project was reported in The Scientific American in June 1996. This article giving credence to the Chinese plans. The journal wrote: “Recently some Chinese engineers proposed diverting water into this arid area [Gobi Desert] from the mighty Brahmaputra River, which skirts China’s southern border before dipping into India and Bangladesh. Such a feat would be ‘impossible’ with conventional methods, engineers stated at a meeting held last December at the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics in Beijing. But they added that “we can certainly accomplish this project” with nuclear explosives.”
The Journal continued: “This statement is just one of the many lately in which Chinese technologists and officials have touted the potential of nuclear blasts for carrying out non-military goals.”
It is said that one of the reasons for China’s refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was because their desire to keep the possibility of experimenting with what is called PNE (Peaceful Nuclear Explosion). The Chinese argument was “why should promising and potentially useful technology be abandoned.”
The first (and almost only time) that the matter was reported in the Indian Press was in June 1997 when Outlook magazine wrote a piece entitled: “A river runs through it -- China proposes to divert the Brahmaputra at source to green the arid Gobi desert.” The magazine wrote: “The initial report -- that the Chinese were planning to raise their food output in the decades ahead -- was hardly stop-press material. But as details leaked out, policymakers in India and Bangladesh felt a shiver of apprehension: the Chinese proposed to divert the Brahmaputra river at source, in Tibet, even set off a peaceful nuclear explosion, to serve their purpose.”
At that time, the only thing that a former director, Asian Development Bank said was that under international law, no one could stop China and that “The Chinese government has equal rights to the use of the river."
However, Outlook revealed that “the concern in Assam and Bangladesh is understandable. The Luit - as the river [Brahmaputra] is locally called - figures prominently in the folklore and culture of Assam and the Northeast; has been the theme of countless Bhupen Hazarika songs. The river is crucial to the economy of the entire region, where the concept of irrigation through groundwater sources has not really taken off.”
In the coming months, more publicity was given to the dam as well as the diversion proposals. In September 1997, Agence France Press in Beijing reported: "Three experts propose construction of giant dam in Tibet". It stated: "After a long experience of exploration on the site, we believe that the project could begin to be included in the agenda of the concerned department”. Electricity produced was claimed to be: “available for export to Bangladesh, Burma and India, [a feature of the GIF plans] and the diverted water could irrigate the northwestern deserts of the country".
The project was also mentioned in news briefs in the China Daily Business Weekly (21 September 1997) and the International Water Power & Dam Construction Monthly (November 1997).
In January 1998, , the German TV channel ZDF presented a feature on the Yarlung Tsangpo project, in a program entitled "Die Welt" [The World]. The Chief Planner, Professor Chen Chuanyu was interviewed. He described the plan to drill a 15 km (9.3 miles) tunnel through the Himalayas to divert the water before the U turn and direct it to the other end of the bend. This would shorten the distance of the approximately 3,000 meters altitude drop from 200 km to just 15 km. He explained that the hydropower potential of 40,000 Megawatt could be used to pump water to Northwest China over 800 km away.
An interesting aspect that we have briefly mentioned is that this area known to the Tibetans as Pemak√∂ was considered to be a sacred area, rarely visited by outsiders. The difficulty of access to this unexplored region must have created one of the greatest obstacles for the engineers in Beijing. At the end of the 90’s, the Chinese government decided to permit foreigners to explore the Grand Canyon. The well-known National Geographic expedition, with ultra sophisticated materials and highly professional rafters made the first discoveries. Though it resulted in the death of an American kayaker, Doug Gordou in October 1998, it permitted a far greater knowledge in several previously unexplored parts of the gorges. Books and video footage of this expedition (as well as subsequent ones) certainly helped the Chinese planners to get a more accurate picture of the difficulty of the terrain (as well as the potentialities).
The opening of the area to adventure tourism was certainly the step of the preparatory work to find an approach way for dam site.
It should be remembered here that the U turn of the Tsangpo is very close to the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh (no more 10-15 km as the crow flies) and that China claims the Indian state as its own
In the recent years, the Chinese have been more discreet on the project, although a few reports have continued to come in. The correspondent of The Telegraph in Beijing wrote in October 2000: “Chinese leaders are drawing up plans to use nuclear explosions, in breach of the international test-ban treaty, to blast a tunnel through the Himalayas for the world's biggest hydroelectric plant.”
The Telegraph justly warned: “China will have to overcome fierce opposition from neighbouring countries who fear that the scheme could endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of their people. Critics say that those living downstream would be at the mercy of Chinese dam officials who would be able to flood them or withhold their water supply.”
According to the London paper, the cost of drilling the tunnel through Mt Namcha Barwa appears likely to surpass £10 billion. The article gives further details: “At the bottom of the tunnel, the water will flow into a new reservoir and then be diverted along more than 500 miles of the Tibetan plateau to the vast, arid areas of Xinjiang region and Gansu province. Beijing wants to use large quantities of the plentiful waters of the south-west to top up the Yellow River basin and assuage mounting discontent over water shortages in 600 cities in northern China.”
However, it seems that the proposal has drawn flak from several Chinese scientists. Yang Yong, a geologist who had explored the river, stated that the dam could become an embarrassing white elephant amid growing signs that the volume of water flowing in the Yarlung Zangpo could shrink over the years.
But in 2000, before becoming Premier Wen Jiabao had declared: "In the 21st century, the construction of large dams will play a key role in exploiting China's water resources, controlling floods and droughts, and pushing the national economy and the country's modernization forward."
In China, the only pertinent question is perhaps: does a Chinese emperor have any choice other than to take up pharaonic works if he wants to remain emperor?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

China takes India for a ride, not pilgrimage

The Panchsheel Agreement of 1954 between India and China was supposed to be the bedrock of an ‘eternal’ friendship between the two nations; the accord guaranteed that the nations would mutually respect each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty; that they would not aggress each other or interfere in each other's internal affairs. It also spoke of equality and mutual benefit in bilateral relations and peaceful co-existence. Nice words.
The Agreement lapsed in April 1962 and 6 months later, India and China fought a bitter war over Tibet, which was the main object of the Agreement (‘On Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India’).
The unique objective of the agreement was to regulate trade and pilgrimage from India to Tibet and verse-versa.
Article III says: “The High Contracting Patties agree that pilgrimage by religious believers of the two countries shall be carried on ‘in accordance with custom’:
(1) Pilgrims from India of Lamaist, Hindu and Buddhists faiths may visit Kang Rinpoche [Mt. Kailash] and [Lake] Manasarovar in Tibet Region of China
(2) Pilgrims from Tibet Region of China of Lamaist and Buddhist faiths may visit Banaras, Sarnath, Gaya and Sanchi in India.
(3) Pilgrims customarily visiting Lhasa may continue to do so
The Agreement further specifies 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. Apart from the first one located in Himachal Pradesh, the others passes lie in today’s Uttarakhand.
Even more interesting, Article IV mentions: “Also, the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus River may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom.”
This is the customary Ladakh road via Demchok, which was for centuries used by the India pilgrims to visit Western Tibet and the Kailash area.
It is today closed, and Beijing adamantly refuses to reopen it.
Sixty years ago, it was also agreed that “diplomatic personnel, officials and nationals of the two countries shall hold passports issued by their own respective countries and visaed by the other party”.
It means that for an Indian pilgrim to go on the Kailash-Manasarovar yatra, he just needed a valid passport and a visa from China.
At the same time, “inhabitants of the border districts of the two countries who cross the border to carry on petty trade or to visit friends and relatives may proceed to the border districts of the other party as they have customarily done heretofore and need not be restricted to the passes and route specified [mentioned] above and shall not be required to hold passports, visas or permits.”
It is how the relations between the Himalayan region and Tibet had worked for centuries; that was great. India and Tibet were neighbours and friends. However after the Chinese invasion in 1950, the number of passes started to shrink.
Today the situation has drastically changed for the worse, though diplomats of both China and India still profess to be friends.
On February 12, 2014, a communique of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) reported that the issue was mentioned in the Parliament.
Preneet Kaur, the Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs announced in the Lok Sabha that her Ministry had fixed the dates and modalities of the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra-2014. It will be organized from 8 June to 9 September. Some 18 batches, each with a maximum of 60 Yatris, will leave for the Holy Mountain. The last date to file an online application is 5 March 2014 and the deadline to submit an application is 10 March 2014.
What is shocking is the ridiculously small number of ‘yatris’ allowed to cross over to Tibet (through one of the most treacherous routes, the Lipulekh pass, near the trijunction between India, Tibet and Nepal).
PTI gives the details of the Kailash Manasarovar yatra organized by the Ministry of External Affairs over the last 3 years. In 2011, 761 yatris travelled to Tibet in 16 batches; in 2012, 774 in 16 batches and last year only 53 in 1 batch (the pilgrimage had to be cancelled due to bad weather).
The fact that this difficult route has been selected shows that China is not interested to let Hindu pilgrims visit the abode of Lord Shiva. It is not the case for Chinese pilgrims.
Xinhua recently published a piece on the holy mountain, which explains: “There is an old Tibetan saying that Buddhists should take a ritual walk around lake in the year of goat, while around mountain in the year of horse. According to legend, Sakyamuni was born in the Year of Horse, therefore, taking one round of ritual walk around the mountain in the horse year is equivalent to 13 rounds, which is highly efficacious and meritorious.”
2014 is a horse year. Xinhua promotes the ritual walks around the Mt. Kang Rinpoche, (the Tibetan name of the Kailash) “as one of the holy mountains in Ngari Prefecture of Tibet”.
The mouthpiece of the Communist Party tells its readers: “It is firmly believed as the center of the whole world by Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, native Bonism and ancient Jainism. Every year, believers from India, Nepal and other countries travel thousands of miles to Ngari for praying in the Mt. Kang Rinpoche.”
You may not believe it, but the Communist newspaper further ads: “the 2014 Horse Year will be a grand festival for the Buddhist, whose long-cherished wish of the whole life is nothing but a pilgrimage to the Mt. Kang Rinpoche. They believe that one circle around the mountain could wash away all the sins of the life, ten circles will save themselves from the pain of hell, while one hundred circles will make them go to heaven and become Buddha.”
The Chinese yatris will get a bonus: the local authorities will provide them ‘religious knowledge about ritual walk around mountain’ and the Tibet Biodiversity Image Survey Tibet (TBIS), some information on the biological diversity of the area.
While the Chinese pilgrims will enjoy the Chinese-built infrastructure on the Tibetan plateau, the Indian yatris will slog along on the perilous Lipulekh route. Mrs. Kaur stated in the Lok Sabha: “the main route of the yatra on the Indian side was badly affected last year, which forced the Yatra-2013 to be cancelled after the first batch.”
What is worse is that the Chinese government does not want to provide any alternate route. Mrs. Kaur admitted: “The Government of India has been discussing with the Government of China the issue of opening additional routes to Kailash-Manasarovar. The Chinese side has been citing difficulty in opening alternate routes on the ground that it would involve travel over longer distances on their side through difficult terrain, with poor road conditions and lack of proper infrastructure for accommodation and communication.”
Why is Beijing refusing to open the Demchok road in Ladakh or the Nathu-la in Sikkim? Has Delhi strongly taken up the issue with Beijing?
Xinhua reported that during the 17th meeting of Special Representatives on the border issue, National Security Advisor Shivsharkar Menon and his Chinese counterpart State Councilor Yang Jiechi “had in-depth exchanges of views on the China-India border problem, bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual interest”.
Xinhua asserted that “China and India have agreed to make common efforts to seek an early achievement of a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable framework for solving the border problem.”
What about the facilities for pilgrims which existed 60 years ago?
Though Xinhua stated that the two countries will join hands to ensure a successful ‘China India Year of Friendly Exchanges’ to promote friendship between the people of the two countries, this does not translate into any concrete improvements for the Indian yatris.
So why pretend that China and India are strategic cooperative partners and “the strengthening of bilateral relations to promote common development conforms to the common interests of the two countries and their people.” It is just empty words.
Common men in India would like to circumambulate Mt. Kailash and take a holy dip in the Manasarovar and Beijing today does not allow them to do so.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chinese dilemmas

My article Chinese dilemmas appeared in The Statesman on February 12, 2014.

China today speaks of  ‘reforms’ and at the  same  time  restricts  further  the freedom of ordinary people. The Horse Year starts on an ominous note. But can repression, always more repression, help China to grow? Certainly not, though the apparatchiks believe that it could...

Click here to read...

It was reprinted in the China Post in Taiwan under the title China's transparency dilemmas

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Dragon is Thirsty; it Wants Your Water

The area where the Yarlung Tsangpo enters India (Upper Siang of Arunachal)
My article The Dragon is Thirsty; it Wants Your Water appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer today.

Here is the link...

While diplomats from New Delhi and Beijing talk about border issues, Chinese engineers continue to firm up plans to divert the Brahmaputra river. This is despite assurances that the project has been shelved.

India had a 17th round of talks with China on the Sino-Indian border.
Shivshankar Menon, the Indian National Security Advisor (and Special Representative) and Yang Jiechi, his Chinese counterpart, met to discuss not only the possibility of fixing the 4,057-km frontier, but also common strategic issues.
Before the routine exercise, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin explained: “The special representatives are expected to focus their discussion for a framework for the resolution of the boundary,” adding: “the two representatives will also discuss the bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.”
That sounds good, especially as a 5th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on the India-China border affairs was also held at the Joint Secretary level; in Akbaruddin’s words: “to review recent development on the India-China border areas especially the western sector and the implementation of Border Defense Cooperation Agreement.”
Unfortunately, while diplomats talk, Chinese engineers continue to plan to divert waters from the Brahmaputra.
During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing in October 2013, the Chinese and Indian Ministries of Water Resources inked a MoU on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-border Rivers. The Memorandum says: “The Chinese side agreed to extend the data provision period of the Brahmaputra River [Yarlung Tsangpo].”
The Indian side was delighted; China had generously increased the period for providing hydrological information on the Brahmaputra River from May 15 (instead of June 1) to October 15 of the same year.
Frankly, this amounts to little when there was not a word about the planned diversion of the Brahmaputra’s waters. Of course, South Block can argue that the project has been denied by China.
In October 2011, Jiao Yong, China’s vice minister of water resources, told a press conference in Beijing that although there was a demand in China to use waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), "considering the technical difficulties, the actual need of diversion and the possible impact on the environment and state-to-state relations, the Chinese government has no plan to conduct any diversification project in this river".
A month earlier, returning from the UN General Assembly on September 27, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in one of high-flying interactions with the media affirmed: "I have myself raised this issue with both the President as well as the Prime Minister of China on a number of occasions. They have assured us that they are not doing anything which will be detrimental to the interests of India."
Already in 2006, the Water Resource Minister, Wang Shucheng had publicly stated that the proposal was "unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific. There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects."
Recently, I got a shock when I discovered an article detailing the project on the website of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission of the same Ministry of Water Resources of China. It describes in detail the phaoronic Great Western Water Diversion and the Yellow River Waterway Corridor.
It mentions a preliminary feasibility study prepared by officials of the Ministry of Water Resources in Beijing. The idea of the Chinese engineers is to divert 150 billion cubic meters of water and ‘push’ these waters into the drying (and dying) Yellow River in order to irrigate northern China.
The Water Diversion Project would collect waters from 6 rivers: Yarlung Tsangpo (later known as Siang in Arunachal and Brahmaputra in Assam), Salween, Mekong and Yangtze, Yalung and Dadu rivers and before reaching the upper reaches of the Yellow River.
The website of the Chinese ministry gives details: some 50 billion m3 would be diverted from the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra (about 30% of the average annual runoff of 165.4 billion m3).
To my knowledge, it is the first time that a 'preliminary' study appears on a Government website with such details.
In the 1990s, a book by Li Ling, Tibetan Waters will save China was circulated amongst experts in China. Li and his acolyte Guo Kai, a retired PLA General had suggested a Shuotian Canal (‘Shuotian’ is a contraction of Shuomatan in Central Tibet, the origin of the canal and the city of Tianjing at the other end). This project would have diverted 206 billion m3 of water from Tibet to northern China.
According to Li Ling, in one strike, the recurrent floods of the Yellow River would be eradicated; inland water transport in north China would restart and the floods in Bangladesh and India would be prevented. The route suggested by Li Ling was however different from the one mentioned on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Water Resource.
The Chinese engineers bank now on two tributaries of the Yarlung Tsangpo, the Palung Tsangpo and Yigong Tsangpo through which the Yarlung Tsangpo’s waters could be ‘pushed’ eastward along the Sichuan-Tibet highway (China National Highway 318, running from Shanghai to the China-Nepal border) through the Baxoi County of Chamdo Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The energy produced by six dams in Lengda, Zhongda, Langzhen, Jiexu, Jiacha and Zangmu (already under construction) will be used to push the diverted waters eastwards.
The diversion would meet the Salween, (one of the three parallel rivers, with the Mekong and the Yangtze) and proceed to Xiaya following the Chamdo-Tibet Highway.
The Sanjiang (Three Rivers) Water Transfer would then follow the Sichuan-Tibet highway before reaching Dege and the confluence with the Upper Yangtze. Now, the ‘four rivers’ could run along the Sichuan-Tibet highway through the Chola Mountains of Western Sichuan and via Garze reach the confluence with the Yalung River. There would now be five rivers (Yarlung Tsangpo, Salween, Yangtze, Mekong, and Yalung). The water transfer would then proceed along the Sichuan-Tibet highway, via Dadu in Luhuo County.
After the confluence with the Dadu River, it would finally shoot off north along the highway through Zamtang of Ngaba prefecture before reaching the Yellow River which would be crossed to reach the Yellow River Ma Chu Great Bend where a reservoir would regulate the flow of the river. 'Maqu' or 'Ma chu' ('River of the Peacock' in Tibetan) is the local name of the Yellow River.
The above details show that the project has seriously been studied.
How feasible is it to realize this mega project? It is impossible to say.
The first leg, before the transfer reaches the Salween, seems impossible, but, in this case, why do the Chinese engineers keep working on the ‘feasibility’ of such a megalomaniac scheme? And why tell Indian diplomats (and the Prime Minister) that it has been shelved?
The problem is that China is thirsty; the Middle Kingdom needs water so badly.
Did the Special Representatives discuss the issue? It is doubtful.
Probably, the present government prefers to leave this hot potato to their successor to tackle?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Peace with China can only be pursued from a position of power

While China works on a fifth generation aircraft...
My article Peace with China can only be pursued from a position of power appeared on the website of NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

As Chinese State Councilor and Special Representative Yang Jiechi arrives in Delhi to discuss the boundary question with his Indian counterpart, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon (it will be the 17th round of talks since 2003), China declared that it hoped to make its common border with India ‘a bridge and bond’.
It may take many more years to settle the border issue between India and China; there is one historic reason: the 4,000 km frontier has for thousands of years been the border with Tibet and not with China. It is only after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 that China and India acquired a common border.
Another reason why it will take time to find a mutually acceptable solution is that Beijing could live with the status quo and the ‘moving’ LAC for a few decades more.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei may say: “An early settlement serves the interests of both China and India, and it is a strategic objective set by the two governments,” but in the past the facts have spoken otherwise. For example, in the Depsang plane in April 2013 or more recently in Chumur in South Ladakh, China’s interests are clearly to keep India on tenterhooks.
In the meantime, Beijing can have a good laugh. They have only to read the Indian (and foreign) press about the sorry state of affairs in the Indian defence sector.
The Government has postponed until the next financial year the plan to purchase 126 fighter planes from France's Dassault Aviation. Why? The national coffers are empty. It is what Defence Minister AK Antony affirmed while inaugurating the DefExpo, the biennial defence mela at Pragati Maidan: “Major procurement can only be possible in the next financial year. There is no money left.”
The Rafales, the French combat aircraft was selected for ‘exclusive negotiations’ in January 2012. The talks were to buy 18 planes off-the-shelf and build the balance in India (under license with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited). Admitting that his ministry has already spent 92 percent of its defence capital budget for the financial year, AK Antony said that the talks “will stretch into the following fiscal year”.
At the end of 2012, the defence ministry had announced that it had prioritized its expenditure for the remaining months of the financial year 2012-2013.
Though the longest-serving defence minister then spoke of 'new ground realities' and 'changing security scenario', the finance ministry nevertheless slashed crore the defence budget by Rs 10,000. It was said to be the provision for the Rafales whose deal could not be finalized by March 31, 2013. An entire financial year has passed and India is today ‘broke’.
A year ago, The Times of India had commented: "the IAF had been assured an additional Rs 10,000 crore to cater for the first installment of the [Rafale] project under which final commercial negotiations are underway for French Rafale fighters, if inked within this fiscal."
Now, the Finance ministry has conveniently forgotten its promise.
In these circumstances, the Chinese can indeed remain ‘cool’ and speak of ‘the border as a bridge’.
Mr. Antony also asserted that arms procurement has been delayed “as he tried to clean up the process …it was important to send a message that India would tolerate no wrong- doing in these deals”.
Well, who takes the bribes? It can only be somebody in the Government who can influence the decision, otherwise why would ‘foreigners’ just pay bribes? To help some needy bureaucrats or politicians?
It explains the ‘slump’ in the exhibitors at the DefExpo this year. As many exhibitors did not turn up, 3 sections of Hall 7 and an entire floor in Hall 18 remained unoccupied; The Asian Age explained: “the mood among those who have come, is downbeat.”
Capt. Bharat Verma, editor of Indian Defence Review told The Asian Age: “You cannot blacklist 27 global companies and kick them out of DefExpo, and then expect it to be a roaring success.”
La Tribune, the French daily financial website pointed to 5 factors which triggered the depression: the forthcoming legislative elections in May which make it difficult for the present government to take decisions, (it mentioned the not so successful visit of Shivshankar Menon to Paris last week); the falling rate of the rupee which increases the cost of importing military equipment; the pervasive corruption (the newspaper quotes amongst others the Bofors deal, the cancellation of the 197 choppers to be supplied by Eurocopter and the latest VVIP helicopter scam); the extremely complicated procurement procedure and finally the legendary slow speed of the Indian administration. This makes the list too long for many suppliers.
It is not that India does not need to counter China by buying armament abroad (or signing joint venture deals with foreign firms). In the meantime indeed, China is progressing at giant strides.
Associated Press quoted James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, saying that “China had pursued a very impressive military modernisation that was designed to address what it saw as America's military strengths.”
Speaking at a House Intelligence Committee hearing about China's attitude in the East and South China Seas, Clapper affirmed: “They've been quite aggressive about asserting what they believe is their manifest destiny in that part of the world."
On January 27 in The Study Times, a publication of the Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, explained how China’s dream relates to a stronger army: “Up until now, China’s basic military strategy has been self-defense, to defend China’s mainland. …As China rises, China’s military strategy should be more and more outgoing. …We should not only be effective in deterring and defeating any aggression against our native mainland; we should also be effective in deterring and stopping any country that is against our vital interests abroad and deterring and stopping any neighboring countries that play with fire and intensify conflicts.”  
Of course, the US, a ‘Big Power’ is first targeted; India is not considered as a match for China (for Beijing at least).
Another official Chinese publication The International Herald Leader (IHL) commented on China’s hypersonic missile tested in early January. While US officials said that the test of new weapon marks “an important advance for the Chinese new strategic nuclear and conventional missile development program”, the IHL article accused the US to continuously hyping China’s weapons and spacecraft tests, “to create a sense of urgency for the United States mission and arouse a sense of crisis among US allies”.
The article concluded that the US “does not, by any means, have an exclusive patent on hypersonic aircraft. …Only when China becomes really strong will the ‘China military threat’ noise eventually disappear.”
Today, Beijing can speak of Sino-Indian as a ‘bridge’ because the Communist Government has given itself the means to offer peace (on its terms), to Delhi at least. China has understood that to speak about peace, one has to be powerful; it is unfortunately not India’s case.