Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mahabharata on the Roof of the World?

Zhu Weiqun with fake Rinpoche, Dupkang
The serious South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Zhu Weiqun, the interlocutor of the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoys and a hardliner on Tibet affairs (see my yesterday’s post on the subject) has been accused to take huge bribes “to grant approvals for people to become living Buddhas”.
Zhu dismissed the accusation as a ‘vulgar smear’.
The SCMP quotes the overseas Chinese website BowenPress which announced that Zhu was under investigation by China’s graft busters (The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection?) for allegedly granting the status of ‘living Buddha’ in exchange for cash.
This is big news.
As mentioned yesterday, Zhu has always taken a hard line on Tibet and particularly on the religion.
From 1998 and 2013, Zhu served as Vice-Minister in the United Front Work Department; as such, Zhu was directly responsible for Tibet (at vice-ministerial level).
Presently, Zhu is presently chairman of the CPPCC’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee, under Yu Zhengsheng.
Zhu always said that Beijing is the sole authority to decide the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.
For Zhu, the Central Government (Beijing) has decreed “a set of rules to authorise living Buddhas based on historical and religious practices and he has strictly followed the policies and regulations.”
This is the end of it, even if no Tibetan is ready to accept it.
Zhu answered the accusations of corruption in The Global Times; he said that he had no idea who was behind the smears, but he believed the accusations were targeted at his ‘long-term battle with the splittist Dalai clique’, which only made him ‘proud’ of his work.
The fact that he can answer in The Global Times tends to prove that he is not fully out of the Tibetan scene.
Zhu Weiqun told the Party’s newspaper: “The Dalai Lama continues to proclaim his reincarnation is a 'purely religious matter' and something only he can decide, …quite apart from making a fool of Tibetan Buddhism, is completely useless when it comes to extricating him from the difficulty of reincarnation."
Reuters quoted Zhu saying that the Dalai Lama is 'making a fool' of Tibetan Buddhism with suggestions he may not reincarnate, or reincarnate as something inappropriate, but the faithful are not buying it.

The New Role of Zhang Gaoli

Incidentally, these days it is Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo who speaks for Tibet.
Is Yu Zhensheng not trusted anymore (see my yesterday’s post)?
On March 25, Zhang spoke of the upgradation of the rural electric power grids  to improve local residents' livelihoods and bolster China's economy.
Zhang said that priority should be given to Tibet and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions as well as Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
Zhang also announced that Beijing will invest more than 700 billion yuan (107 billion U.S. dollars) in rural power grid upgrades in China.
This is a lot of money!
Already on March 11, Zhang Gaoli had met the Tibetan delegation during the Nation People’s Congress.
Where was Yu Zhengsheng? Yu is 'technically' in-charge of the United Front Department and Tibetan affairs?
The climate seems to be changing on the Roof of the World.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Fireworks in the Middle Kingdom ...and on the Plateau

The lonely man of China
The Middle Kingdom is sailing through rough weather and we may soon witness more fireworks.
The Nikkei in Japan reported a verbal ‘jab’ between President Xi Jinping and Yu Zhengsheng, the Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) during the recently-concluded Two Sessions at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Commenting on the CPC’s 19th Congress to be held in November next year, The Nikkei correspondent said: “The quinquennial event is to take place in the autumn of 2017. Five of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the ruling party's top decision-making body, led by Xi, are expected to retire during the congress.”
He then quoted an old China hand: “China's political theater has so far been Xi Jinping's one-man show, but signs of discord within the Politburo Standing Committee have now emerged. The rift may come to the surface over the committee seats.”
Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, opened the fire against Xi on March 14 during the concluding session of the CPPCC.
During his concluding remarks, Yu deviated from the official line.
Apparently, the Communist leadership had agreed to uphold ‘Four Consciousnesses’ that is ‘of politics, the bigger picture, the core and consistency’.
Yu spoke of only three: i.e. the need to further enhance the consciousness of politics, the consciousness of the bigger picture and the consciousness of responsibility.
What about the ‘consciousness of the core and the consciousness of consistency’ projecting Xi as the ‘core leader’ to be followed by all in the Party.
Every good member is supposed to praise ‘the core of the Chinese leadership’ (Xi) and have some ‘consistency’ in following ‘the core leader’.
Observers believe that Yu demonstrated ‘resistance’, while bringing up a ‘new consciousness’, that of responsibility
According to the Japanese newspaper, Yu once told some followers that his role in the Party is that of a ‘balancer’; Yu’s role is to mediate any feuds that might break out among Communist Party factions.
Incidentally, he also looks after the United Front Department, whose role is to ‘unite’.
In his opening speech on March 3, Yu had mentioned that differences of views and perceptions can arise over specific issues and he stressed the need to seek ‘consistency’, while respecting ‘diversity’.
What means ‘diversity’?
It was not defined, but Nikkei however concluded: “[Yu] himself has nothing to fear. But close attention should be paid to how the ‘balancer’ performs on a political stage that is becoming more discordant.”
Interestingly, Yu is in charge of Tibet and Xinjiang affairs in the Standing Committee of the Politburo.
Mingjing, a Chinese publication asserted that the open letter attacking Xi Jinping and asking him to resign was first published in Wujie News (Watching) website in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The letter was entitled: ‘A Request for Comrade Xi Jinping to Resign from Leadership Positions in the Party and the State.’
It blamed Xi Jinping for many negative events in China and called for him to step down. It was of course quickly removed from the Wujie website.
Wujie claimed that article had been posted by a hacker.
Wujie is a joint venture of the SEEC Media Group Limited (the parent company of Caixing magazine), the Xinjiang Government and the Alibaba Group.
Zhang Chunxian, the Xinjiang Party Secretary is on the publication's board (incidentally, Wang got his job thanks to Zhou Yongkang).
Was it an act of a hacker?
With Alibaba hosting the site, it is considered the safest hosting service in China, further the state Cyberspace Administration didn't find any sign of a hacker intrusion.
Could have Wujie published the letter on its own?
The website was subsequently shut down for several days.
The Mingjing You Bao (Mingjing Post) provides the name of the officials behind the Wujie media group.
  • Jiang Jianguo, the Deputy Director of the CCP's Propaganda Department: Wujie's CEO Ouyang Hongliang is a confidant of Jiang Jianguo. Jiang and the disgraced Ling Jihua both got their part-time Master's degree from Hunan University.
  • Zhang Chunxian, Xinjiang Party Secretary.
  • Zhou Benshun was Zhou Yongkang's loyalist. He once served as the Secretary-General of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee where Zhou Yongkang was the head.
  • Wang Boming, the Chairman of the SEEC Media Group Limited: Wang has a brother, Wang Dongming, who is the former Chairman of CITIC Securities. Wang Dongming was forced to resign after many high ranking officers at CITIC Securities were taken down for their involvement in the stock disaster in 2015.
  • Liu Lefei, Vice Chairman of CITIC Securities: Liu is the son of Liu Yunshan who is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and in charge of the propaganda work for the CCP.
Indeed, some big shots.
Are some of these officials behind the publication of the letter?
Difficult to say.
But obviously, Xi Jinping does not have only friends and comrades in the Party.

Fireworks on the Plateau
Are the above ‘waves’ connected with some strange happenings in Tibet?
According to the website Chinascope, Jamphel (alias Jambay) Gyatso, a Tibetan scholar recently published two articles criticizing two Chinese officials, Ye Xiaowen, the former Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), and Zhu Weiqun, Director of the Ethnic and Religious Commission of the CPPCC and former interlocutor of the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoys.
I briefly mentioned it on this blog in December 2015.
Both Ye and Zhu have had close connection with Beijing’s Tibet policies.
Jamphel Gyatso noted that, over the past decade, the CCP’s Religious Management Group, under Ye and Zhu, adopted wrong policies to manage Tibet:
Instead of separating religion from governance, Ye tried to replace Tibetan Buddhism with a new orthodox religion: the will of the Party’s religious office. Ye’s new policy of ‘certifying’ Living Buddhas led to corruption in the Buddhist temples. Zhu tried to escalate this simple event to the level of the political, linking it to Tibetan separation.
It is rare for a scholar to openly criticize the CCP’s official religious policies.
More interesting, Gyatso’s critics appeared in The Paper which appears to have close links with Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan.
The Paper reported on February 22, 2016, that Ye Xiaowen was removed from his latest official positions as the Party Secretary and Deputy Director of the Central Institute of Socialism.
I have earlier mentioned the role of Ye in selecting the Party’s Panchen Lama.
Ye had explained the Party’s religious management policy thus:
the ultimate goal of the CCP, as the representative of the Chinese proletariat, was to realize communism and eradicate capitalism. …the elimination of religion and any concept of gods and higher beings is a fundamental duty of the Party. In the ideological battle, the Communist Party was to ensure the triumph of Marxist atheism. …Why would the Chinese Constitution grant freedom of religious belief when the Communist Party fought for the ultimate eradication of religion?
Ye also believed that China’s religious issues are closely related to its ethnic issues:
At the time of the Cultural Revolution, there were more than 50 ethnic minorities spread out over large segments of the country. Most of them had their own religions. … Any problem with religion could easily trigger conflicts between ethnic groups. …there is a hidden danger that such conflicts could disrupt the state. So the religious policy of China needs to fit the situation.
Ye explained the policy of ‘roping in minorities’:
In order to prevent religious issues from triggering conflicts between ethnic groups, to rope in minority groups, and to convince people in religious circles to join the ‘united front,’ the CCP included the freedom of belief clause in the Chinese Constitution to accommodate the religious situation in China.
He added that:
This was the mission of SARA to weaken religions while recruiting religious leaders to serve the Party’s agenda of regional stability. Ye boasted about the CCP’s ‘wisdom’, that is, how the Party used the velvet glove. It bribed and coerced key religious leaders by giving them high ranking official titles, money, privileges, and fame. It relocated them to desirable homes or even to the central government compound, while, at the same time, using ruthless measures against religious dissidents.
“Giving high ranking official titles, money, privileges, and fame”, is not new. It has earlier been practiced by the Ming and the Manchu Dynasties.
Ye however continued:
disobeying the CCP’s religious management is an act of disrupting the state. Religions that followed the CCP’s leadership would be recognized as patriotic religions. All others were considered secessionist.
I mentioned on this blog, the video circulated in China in November 2015 about Zhang Tielin, a famous Chinese actor who became a ‘Living Buddha’, courtesy his guru Padma Woeser Rinpoche.
Zhu Weiqun, in a TV interview had said: “A fake Living Buddha might endanger national security,” while Ye had commented that the only way to be able to tell a real Living Buddha from a fake Living Buddha was whether they followed the State Council’s Regulations on Religious Affairs (in other words, if he follows the Party).
Article 11 states,
For any activities that violate this regulation and [if any person] claims to be the reincarnation of a Living Buddha on his own, the government religious affairs office can issue administrative punishment of the responsible individual or responsible organization, following the Regulations on Religious Affairs. Anyone who has committed this crime should be held for criminal charges.’ This is the law to attack fake Living Buddhas.
In other words, only Marxist Lamas can be Good Lamas.
Jamphel Gyatso’s article continued:
In the name of the action of cleaning temples and cleaning Buddhas, Ye Xiaowen created a certification process to issue a ‘Living Buddha Certificate’. However, neither temples nor senior monks could determine who was a Living Buddha. Ordinary monks, nuns, or the general public did not have the right to ask for it either. Who made the decision? The government religious affairs offices at different levels did so. They reviewed, approved, and then issued this Living Buddha Certificate.
And the trick is played.
It is the way the 15th Dalai Lama will be recognized, if nothing drastic happen before in Tibet.
Further, can you believe it, Ye also linked the ranking of ‘Living Buddhas’ to the ranking of government officials: “This further contributed to the corruption in the Tibetan Buddhist communities.”
It became, says Gyatso,
an administrative system over the temples and defined the ranks and positions for Living Buddha, such as county level Living Buddha, prefectural level Living Buddha, and provincial level Living Buddha. He also defined which level of Living Buddha could serve as the National People’s Congress representative, as a CPPCC member, and as local members.
Jamphel Gyatso also criticized Zhu Weiqun for the latter’s interview with CCTV on December 13, 2015:
Nowadays, there is an issue that draws our attention. More and more people care for and love Tibetan culture, believe in Tibetan Buddhism, and long for Tibet, the world’s last and most holy piece of pure land. We must further promote and strengthen the friendship between the Chinese and Tibetan people, further safeguard the unity of the motherland, and further strengthen ethnic unity. This is the main theme and the general trend. We absolutely must not allow the creation of confrontation, conflict, and estrangement between the Han people and Tibetan religious believers.
Jamphel explains, “Whenever something takes place in Tibet and other areas where Tibetans live, Ye Xiaowen and Zhu Weiqun label them it as ‘secessionist’ and posture themselves as anti-secession heroes,”  and Gyatso added: “Today, history is repeating itself. Zhu Weiqun is using the anti-secession basket again.”
He also refers to Padma Woeser and Zhang Tielin: “no one accused them of engaging in ‘separatist’ activities or ‘endangering national security.”
Of course, they are Hans:
Only Zhu Weiqun, with his vision and insight, saw that these two engaged in ‘separatist’ activities and endangered national security. Unfortunately, Zhu did not continue to investigate their problems further. Instead, he changed the subject so as to target the Tibetan regions, the Tibetan people, and the Tibetan lamas.
To conclude Jamphel addressed Zhu Weiqun:
Comrade Zhu, do not wield the stick of ‘anti-secession’ against the Tibetan people. …You should know that this in itself is the greatest separatism; it is ‘endangering national security’; it is destroying reunification of the motherland; it is destroying Han and Tibetan unity; it is undermining national unity; and it is sabotaging stability. History will condemn whoever does this!
Indeed, we may soon have fireworks in Tibet too.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Tibet's Invasion: the Last Warning

Harishwar Dayal (left) with Lovell Thomas, the American journalist in front of the Residence in Gangtok
An interesting exchange between the Indian Prime Minister (Jawaharlal Nehru), the  Political Officer in Sikkim (Harishwar Dayal) and the Head of the Indian Mission in Tibet (Sumul Sinha) took place at the time Communist China started to mass troops at the border of Tibet in August 1950.
The full-fledged invasion will take place 2 months later on October 7, when the PLA crossed the Upper Yangtze.
In August, Dayal asks/tells his Government:
  • To urgently decide a line to be taken "on Tibetan question and how and when India will act."
  • That India has promised to provide diplomatic support when the Tibetan question is raised
  • Friendly representations have so far been ineffective 
  • India is not doing charitably in assisting Tibet
  • The domination of Tibet would cause nervousness and unrest among border peoples  in NEFA and from Ladakh to Assam
  • The policing of the northern frontier has so far required negligible military effort. It would assume immediate practical importance. 
  • India should not condone the Chinese aggression on Tibet 
  • There is no Anglo-American activity in Tibet as the Chinese propaganda pretends.
  • Dayal gives the example of Eastern Europe which makes it clear that the autonomy offered by the Communists is meaningless. 
  • He suggests that friendly, but positive representation might avert aggression while maintenance of an attitude of indifference would certainly encourage it.
    The latter option would eventually be chosen by Delhi.
Here is the exchange:

From the Political Officer in Sikkim, Gangtok.
To Foreign (Ministry of External Affairs), New Delhi.
Repeated to the (Indian) Mission (in) Lhasa.
TOP SECRET telegram dated August 17, 1950
Lhasa telegram [from Sumul Sinha] of 14th August and 16th August [1950] make it urgent for Government of India to decide definitely what line they are going to take on Tibetan question and how and when they will act. Message conveyed in your [previous] telegram assured Tibet of diplomatic support when Tibetan question was raised. It is evident that satisfactory solution must largely depend on existence of friendship between India and China. But it is equally evident that friendly representations made after invasion has begun must be ineffective (repeat ineffective).

2. Question is not (repeat not) simply one of charitably assisting Tibet. Communist domination of Tibet would cause nervousness and unrest among border peoples along whole of India’s Northern frontier from Ladakh to Assam and policing of that frontier which has hither - to required negligible military effort and expenditure would assume immediate practical importance. Moreover in Korea Government of India have opposed aggression even though the party attacked is a reactionary regime dominating one part of a country whose people wish for UNIFICATION. They could not (repeat not) in the circumstances condone aggression on Tibet from Chinese side of the De FACTO border.

3. Recent statements by Chinese spokesmen that their forces will enter Tibet only to free her from Anglo-American influences and that Tibetan way of life and autonomy will be left undisturbed are clearly insincere. There is now no (repeat no) Anglo-American activity in Tibet and Chinese have already attacked the established religious and political Order by CHAMPIONING the PANCHEN LAMA candidate. The example of Eastern Europe makes it quite clear that establishment of Communist autonomy meaningless.

4. In these circumstances it appears necessary that Chinese Government should immediately be informed of Government of India’s views on Tibet and of their concern at reports of military concentrations on Tibetan border. They could be told that India is keenly interested in maintenance of full Tibetan autonomy and integrity for reasons of her own security. Any military activity against Tibet would worsen the already present International situation besides causing alarm in India.

5. Friendly but positive representation on these lines might possibly avert aggression while maintenance of an attitude of indifference would certainly encourage it. Communist countries have evidently accepted India’s stand on Korea with understanding. If Chinese Government are genuinely anxious to cultivate India’s friendship they should be ready to appreciate India’s concern for her own security.

6. I did NOT hear All India Radio announcement of statement said to have been made by Indian High Commissioner in London. Grateful for details.

A day later, Nehru replied that the pressure tactics suggested by Dayal are unlikely "to succeed because, ultimately, we have no effective sanctions."
One could ask, in which case "why to intervene in the Korean crisis"?
Just for the glory?

Here is Nehru's reaction to Dayal's telegram. Dayal and Sinha were rightly getting nervous!

To the Secretary General, MEA (G.S. Bajpai)
and Foreign Secretary (K.P.S. Menon)
Date: August 18, 1950
Our Representative at Gangtok in Sikkim is evidently getting very nervous about the situation in Tibet. His telegram displays this nervousness and advise us to go on bringing pressure on the Chinese Government to refrain from invading Tibet. Our Representative in Lhasa also feels that way. I do not think any such attempt at pressure tactics is likely to succeed because, ultimately, we have no effective sanctions. We are reminded that we promised diplomatic support to Tibet. We have been giving such diplomatic support in so far as it is feasible. We can do little more.
I am however sending you a draft telegram which I wish to send personally to our Ambassador in Peking.
(J. Nehru)
[Prime Minister] 

From Foreign (Ministry of External Affairs), New Delhi.
To the Political Officer in Sikkim, Gangtok
Repeated to the Indian Mission in Lhasa.
Reference your telegram. Threatened invasion of Tibet by China.
On July 16th, we instructed our Ambassador at Peking to emphasise to Chinese Government the desirability of settling Sino-Tibetan affairs by friendly negotiations. On receiving the text of General Liu Po-Cheng’s [Liu Bosheng] proclamation to Tibetans from our Embassy at Peking [General Liu had announced that Tibet would soon be 'liberated'], we instructed him in our telegram dated 5th August to make a representation to the Chinese Government that Sino-Tibetan relations should be settled by means of negotiations and that the projected military march should be stayed. The Ambassador made the representation on 13th August to the Vice Minister who promised to refer it to the Foreign Minister, Chou En Lai who was ill. The reply of the Chinese Government is still awaited. In a telegram sent by us on the 17th August we instructed our ambassador to repeat our earnest hope that the problem of Tibet will be peacefully settled by friendly negotiations.
2. We regret that by oversight this information was not conveyed to you earlier.

3. Press report of Krishna Menon’s statement will be sent to you by bag [V.K. Krishna Menon, the Indian High Commissioner in London had defended Communist China].

The Indian ambassador, K.M. Panikkar's appeal was so weak that the Chinese took it as a green light to go ahead. It will be mentioned two months later in a telegram from Mao to the Southwestern Bureau in Chengdu, responsible for the military operations.
Panikkar believed that in any case Tibet has always belonged to China.
Such a tragedy for Tibet and for India.
Retrospectively, Dayal's warnings were absolutely accurate.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jawaharlal: did he want Tawang or not?

Today being the Assam Rifles Day, I republish this article on Maj Bob Khathing, one of the most illustrious sons of the Assam Rifles.
Without his skills and his intelligence of the area, Tawang would perhaps be Chinese today.
Interestingly, Mao and his colleagues did not realize before 1953/54 that once upon a time, Tawang had been administrated by Lhasa.

A few years before he passed away, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw told the following story: “(On arriving at Delhi from Srinagar on October 26, 1947), the first thing I did was to go and report to Sir Roy Bucher [The Commander-in Chief of the Indian Army]. He said, 'Eh, you, go and shave and clean up. There is a cabinet [Defence Council] meeting at 9 o'clock. I will pick you up and take you there.' So I went home, shaved, dressed, etc. and Roy Bucher picked me up, and we went to the cabinet meeting. The cabinet meeting was presided by [Lord] Mountbatten. There was Jawaharlal Nehru, there was Sardar Patel, there was Sardar Baldev Singh. There were other ministers whom I did not know and did not want to know, because I had nothing to do with them. Sardar Baldev Singh I knew because he was the minister for defence, and I knew Sardar Patel, because Patel would insist that V.P. Menon [Secretary in the Ministry of States] take me with him to the various states.”
The young brigadier continues his narration: “At the morning meeting [Mountbatten] handed over the (Instrument of Accession) thing. Mountbatten turned around and said, ‘come on Manekji (he called me Manekji instead of Manekshaw), what is the military situation?' I gave him the military situation, and told him that unless we flew in troops immediately, we would have lost Srinagar, because going by road would take days, and once the tribesmen got to the airport and Srinagar, we couldn't fly troops in. Everything was ready at the airport.”
The future hero of Bangladesh war then recalls: “As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, 'Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away'. Nehru said,' Of course, I want Kashmir. Then [Patel] said 'Please give your orders'. And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, 'You have got your orders'.”

The Tawang Expedition
Four years later, Tawang found its own 'Patel' in Jairamdas Daulatram, the Governor of Assam.
Daulatram ordered a young Naga officer to go and set up the Government of India’s administration in Tawang area (then Kameng Frontier Agency). Only later did Daulatram mention the operation to Nehru; by then, the job was done.
A couple of years ago, an Indian journalist Sidharth Mishra wrote an article entitled, Forgotten: The man who won us Tawang, about a Naga officer, Major Bob Khathing who headed the operation.
On the occasion of Khathing’s 100th birth anniversary, Mishra provided a fascinating and detailed profile of the officer who later served in the Indian Frontier Administrative Service.
Mishra explains: “In 1951, Major Bob Khathing commanded a force of 200 soldiers and re-established India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, much to the annoyance of Jawaharlal Nehru.”
As Mishra’s article has a few inexactitudes, I am posting today extracts of the ‘official’ biography Khathing entitled Major Bob Khathing — The profile of a Nationalist Manipuri Naga, by Lt. Col. H. Bhuban Singh (published by Pritam Haoban publisher in Imphal in 1992).
An incident mentioned by Mishra is worth commenting. It appears that once the administration of Tawang firmly under control (wrongly written ‘Towang’ by Khathing), the bold Naga officer went back to Shillong to report to his mentor, Jairamdas Daulatram.
Mishra writes:
Once the expedition was over, Bob had a final task to do — to go back to the Governor and inform him that he had carried out his duty without firing a shot (except for the fireworks to create the ‘Voice of God’). So, he set out downhill to Tezpur with a small retinue, leaving the expeditionary force in charge of [Major T.C.] Allen. The Governor sent a Dakota to pick him up from Tezpur and they flew to Delhi to see Jawaharlal Nehru.
The story continues:
The then Prime Minister was livid. ‘Who asked you to do this?’ he vented his anger at the Governor. ‘I wish you had the good sense to consult me before you commissioned this colossal stupidity. I want a complete blackout on this incident,’ he ordered the PMO.
Nehru’s orders were religiously executed: today practically impossible to find anything on Khathing’s expedition in the Indian Archives.
It is however not correct to say that Nehru did not know anything about the happenings in Tawang in the first months of 1951.
Lt. Col. H. Bhuban Singh, Khathing’s biographer wrote:
From Bob’s side too, wireless messages after wireless messages were sent to Charduar [Assam Rifles headquarters], Shillong [seat of the Governor of Assam responsible for NEFA] and onward to New Delhi giving details of what he was doing. At the same time, he sought approval of Government of India for the actions he had taken and intended to take. Shillong and New Delhi were aghast with what Bob did. They must have preferred a peaceful, non-violent and Panchsheel type of approach. While Shillong was reduced to a mere post-office forwarding information only, lots of consultations and conferences took place in New Delhi and lots of tea were drunk without any decision. In the meanwhile, Bob was told by Shillong to be patient and understanding and above all, sympathetic [with the local population], as if he had terrorized the local people. He was further instructed not to precipitate a crisis.
Khathing’s direct interlocutor was N. K. (Nari) Rustomji, the Advisor to the Governor of Assam for the Tribal Areas and through Rustomji, S.N. Haksar, an I.C.S. officer serving as joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.
Nehru, being the External Affairs Minister was bound to have been regularly informed by Haksar.
How could a joint secretary have taken such important decisions (or non-decisions) without referring this issue to his minister?
It is however possible that when Jairamdas Daulatram decided to send more than hundred troops of the Assam Rifles (with more than 600 porters) to Tawang, Nehru did not realize the implications of this decisive action for the nation. Retrospectively, it was a blessing for India, as if he had realize, Tawang would probably today be Chinese.
However, Nehru certainly knew about the happenings in Tawang once the operations had started.
A proof is a top secret report entitled ‘Major Khathing’s Detailed Report About Towang’ sent in April 1951 by Haliram Datta, the Secretary to Adviser to the Governor of Assam to S. N. Haksar in New Delhi.
Datta wrote: “In continuation of Shri N.K. Rustomji’s demi-official No.CGA.6/51, dated 3rd April 1951, I am directed to enclose here with a copy of a detailed report from Major Khathing for the information of the Government of India.”
Nehru may have said: “Who asked you to do this? I wish you had the good sense to consult me before you commissioned this colossal stupidity”, but the fact remains that he was informed when as the expedition was progressing.
However it was legally the prerogative of the Governor of Assam to occupy any Indian territory under his responsibility and Tawang was definitely part of Indian since 1914.
So, what was wrong occupying a part of India's territory?
Another point which is rarely mentioned is the local Monpas where delighted by the arrival of the Khathing expedition. The Tibetan ‘administration’ only consisted in forcefully collected taxes, which the local people often could not afford to pay; the corvee tax (ula) was particularly unpopular.
Interestingly, for years the Chinese government did not react to the Khathing expedition.
A Chinese study on the McMahon line admits: “Not being clear about the Indo-Tibetan border is clearly reflected in the map drawn by the troop that invaded Tibet.” The study further explains:
Regarding the map that the PLA used while invading Tibet, when the 18th Army led by Zhang Guohua invaded Tibet, they still did not have a Tibetan map that they could use. They only had a rough and simple map of Tibet showing subdivisions. There was not even a standard road map. The names of the places and the villages were neither precise nor accurate. This map was found in the archives of the resource committee of the KMT [Kuomintang]; it was made by the British by doing air survey. On the top was inscribed the route followed by Zhao Erfeng while he invaded Tibet [in 1910].
Later it was discovered that the map contained many mistakes:
If we waged a war using this map, there was no way that we could win’, remarked an officer. Then, the Chief of Staff of the 18th Army, Maj. Gen. Li Jue decided that the PLA needed to form a group for surveying and drawing a proper map as soon as possible; in order to study the terrain, Tibet’s landform and prepare an accurate map. On 23 July 1950, after the front line reached Garze [Kangtse], the first team to survey and draw the map of Tibet was formed.
It is only in 1954 that the Communist regime in Beijing discovered the old KMT maps claiming the entire NEFA as Chinese territory.
But to come back to Nehru’s role, he was certainly informed, though perhaps not at the initial stage. Thanks to the guts of Bob Khathing, it was impossible for Nehru to later back out and deny the existence of the 1914 border Agreement between Tibet and India.

Extracts of  Major Bob Khathing — The profile of a Nationalist Manipuri Naga, by Lt. Col. H. Bhuban Singh (published by Pritam Haoban publisher in Imphal in 1992).

On 6th February, Bob left for Tawang. The distance from Jang to Tawang was 12 miles. The initial climb of 2 miles was very steep and this was followed by a gradual climb of 4 miles upto Sarul ranges. At a bridge across a small stream, before the final climb to Tawang started, the Indian Expedition party was received by representatives of Tsona Dzongpen. The Expedition party camped outside Tawang near Gyankar. The day was the Tibetan New Year Day (First Day of Iron Hare year). In the evening, there was a heavy snow fall and the villagers commented that it was a very good omen.
Next day in the early morning, Khathing accompanied by Captain Limbu and Shri Katuk Lama went to western and then eastern upper slopes which overlooked the ancient Tawang monastery to select a site for the establishment of a permanent administrative headquarters of Assistant Political Officer of Sela Sub-Agency. The selected site should have sufficient area to house a small military cantonment, police lines, civil lines, office accommodation, residential accommodation, schools, hospital and so on, In addition,, a parade-cum-playground would also be required, which would consume lot of area. No suitable site was found as the ground was too undulated and broken.
In the afternoon, porters were paid and most of them returned to Dirang area. There was shortage of money too. So, some of the porters, who came from Dirang Dzong proper and nearby villages, were told to get payment from Transport Superintendent, Dirang Dzong. With the departure of about 600 (six hundred) porters, the camp locked deserted. The military component of Bob’s party was a company of Assam Rifles less one platoon, and therefore had more than 100 (one hundred ) men. In addition, the civilian official component was also over 20 (twenty) men. So with arms, ammunition, tentage, ration, camp furniture office equipment documents and stationery etc. the number of porters required was large. Tawang, with just about 300 houses then might have a population of about 2000. The presence of Bob’s party of nearly 800 with a substantial number of armed personnel must have been formidable and awesome.
The morning of the next day, that is, 8th February 1951 was again spent on reconnaissance for site selection, with Captain Limbu in tow. At last, a suitable site was located in the area north-east of Tawang monastery with sufficient area for playground etc. and having a good water source. The area was wasteland or khasland, but it seemed to Bob that the NEFA administration had to pay compensation for acquiring the land.
In the afternoon, Bob got busy on the job for which he had been sent and come. He called the Tibetan and monastery officials for a meeting. Notices were served on the two Dzongpens and other officials. Since intelligence reports indicated that the Tibetan officials did not like the Indian presence and had accordingly warned the local Monpas from co-operating with the Indians. There upon the newly arrived Assistant Political Officer of Sela Sub-Agency decided on a show of strength. He informed Charduar and Shillong about what was happening and sought clear-cut orders to implement the amalgamation of Tawang area to India, by force, If necessary.
Despite the fact that the local Monpas had close religious and cultural ties with Tibet and despite knowing the fact that Tibetan susceptibilities might be wounded, Bob was determined to flex his muscle. A nice high-ground close to Tawang Monastery, the seat of power, was selected for meeting the Dzongpens, elders and local people. Bob marched his troops from campsite to the meeting place. His one hundred riflemen formed a box completely encircling the high-gound, a reminder of pre-Napoleanic battle formations. On Instruction from Bob, Captain Hem Bahadur Limbu ordered “fix bayonet” to his troops. One hundred “click” sounds of bayonets coming in unison seemed to say “we are even ready for blood”. The shining bayonet blades reflected flickeringly the golden rays of the setting sun in a cloudless afternoon of 8 February 1951 at Tawang. The Dzongpens and officials did not attend the meeting. But they must had been watching the scene from peep-holes of the monastery, and receiving the message, However, the crowd which had gathered, must had realized which camp to side with.
Exuding supreme confidence and exhibiting rare charm, Bob held court for the crowd which included some elders and leaders as also women and children. He spoke to them through interpreter. He told them that the people should not have any apprehension about any interference on their monastic rituals and functioning. Religious freedom was assured by him now and also for future too on behalf of the new administration. He explained to them that the constitution of the new Republic of India tolerated religious freedom and even Godlessness and irreligiousness, As Indians, they would enjoy the same rights and privileges as enjoyed by, say, a Bengali, or a Bihari, or a Maratha, or a Punjabi. All Indians were equal, he hammered into the brains of the Monpas. It is arguably conjectured here that Bob’s Mongoloid features and tribal frankness must had produced electrifying trust in what he said to fellow Mongoloid Indians of Tawang. Had a clever and highly qualified say, a Punjabi A.P.O. been sent to Tawang, it is doubtful if he could had been as successful as Bob, This great Republic of India, inhabited by people of Aryan stock of Mongoloid origin, of Dravidian ancestry and of Negroid family (Andamanis etc) must be made greater and fully integrated. Unfortunately India will never be integrated unless there is a sense of all-round participation in government and the sharing of common national responsibility by all section of the people. The key to national integration are participation, belongingness and joint responsibility. Big words uttered in National integration. Council meetings speak less and mean nothing. Action speaks more and effectively too.
Bob, the intensely patriotic Indian tribal from Manipur, talked unmistakably in tough words. He said that no representative of Tibetan Government could exercise power any longer over the people inhabiting areas south of Bumla Range, which he considered, was the McMahon Line. They would not pay any more tax to the Dzongpens. Instead, they would pay only Rs.5/- per annum per house. They would also enjoy liberal Indian Administration as free citizens. He informed them that no one was above law and all were equal before the eye of law.
Whether Bob subjugated the people of Tawang or liberated them from serfdom is for the world to decide. But one thing is very clear-that is, Bob did his job. Nari Rustomji, in his own words, said that the Government of India could not have found a fitter man than Bob for this job. The crowd welcomed and cheered Bob’s announcements, while the Dzongpens and Tibetan officials sulked. Sure enough. The Dzongpens sent message to Lasha [Lhasa] who in turn complained to India’s Consul General in Lasha, and ultimately, the complaint went to the External Affairs Ministry through Gangtok in Sikkim. From Bob’s side too, wireless messages after wireless messages were sent to Charduar, Shillong and onward to New Delhi giving details of what he was doing. At the same time, he sought approval of Government of India of the actions he had taken and intended to take. Shillong and New Delhi were aghast with what Bob did. They must had preferred a peaceful, non-violent and Panchsheel type of approach. While Shillong was reduced to a mere post-office forwarding information only, lots of consultations and conferences took place in New Delhi and lots of tea were drunk without any decision. In the meanwhile, Bob was told by Shillong to be patient and understanding and above all sympathetic, as if he had terrorized the local people. He was further instructed not to precipitate a crisis.

To read the report of the entire expedition, click here...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Will the IAF not get its Rafales?

French and Indian Air Chiefs in front of Rafale (Jodhpur 2014)
My article Will the IAF not get its Rafales? appeared in Rediff.com

With the Rafale fighter deal stuck over price, can the prime minister step in and find a way out for both countries?
Claude Arpi examines the issue.

During the recently conducted Indian Air Force drill ('Iron Fist Exercise 2016') in Pokhran, Rajasthan, attended by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha declared: “This demonstration is the tip of an iceberg when compared to the overall capability of the air force.”
Well, it is a melting iceberg, with the Indian fleet rapidly reducing.
The Air Chief admitted: “The IAF has flagged concerns about the shortage of fighter jets and the process for the acquisition of 36 French Rafale fighter aircraft is still underway."
What does ‘underway’ mean?

Hollande's visit
Let us do a flashback to January 25, 2016.
As Manohar Parrikar, the Indian Defence Minister and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian signed a MoU for the purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts, President Hollande of France said, in front of the national and international media in Hyderabad House, that the ‘real’ deal would be inked ‘dans les jours prochains’ (‘in the coming days’).
Later Dassault Aviation, the aircraft manufacturer, clarified that it would take about 4 weeks. The French officials, including Le Drian, accompanying the French President during his State visit were quite optimistic that this could be done.
On February 18, during an interview with Karan Thapar on India Today TV Parrikar stated: “Price is the only issue left now, …an agreement on 50 percent offsets has been reached.”
News appeared that Dassault would have quoted around $9 billion for the 36 jets while South Block was expecting a much cheaper price. The final deal would include two types of missiles and bombs, training of pilots and two base facilities for the planes.
Incidentally, the latter creates a huge problem for the French Air Force (FAF), already overstretched with a growing number of overseas military interventions and a shrinking budget. The Rafale deal, if it comes through, like the previous ones signed with Egypt and Qatar, is not a boon for the FAF, which will be responsible for the training and setting up of the bases. It will however be a huge success for the rather unpopular French President …and France’s economy.
As talks were going on, a report in the Indian press pointed out to several loopholes, apparently earlier overlooked by the Modi Sarkar.
The Union Law Ministry would be objecting to some clauses in the January MoU; they could 'compromise' India’s interests, it says.

The Saga
But first let us recall that the initial Request for Information had been issued in 2001. Fifteen years ago! The Request for Proposal (RFP) was only issued in 2007, as the then minister, AK Antony wanted to add new clauses, such as the Total Life-cycle Costs, in the Indian defence procurement policy. The ‘complications’ had started. Finally, in January 2012, the French firm Dassault Aviation was selected for supplying 126 planes to the IAF.
In April 2015 in Paris, realizing the difficulty with the transfer of technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and to avoid going back to the starting blocks, Mr Modi opted for 36 ‘off-the-shelf’ planes only. The French had probably not realized that ‘off-the-shelf’ can be rather complicated in India.

The babus strike again

The main sticking points raised by the Law Ministry, touched upon the issues of liability, bank guarantees, arbitration and a higher-than-usual offset clause.
A ‘senior official involved with the matter’ (how a babu can freely speak to journalists is a mystery which should be inquired into!) told The Indian Express: “While many senior government functionaries, including those in the ministry of defence, have favoured out-of-box thinking to take the deal forward, when we examined the draft Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) and the draft supply protocols, we were left wondering as to how India could agree to all the stipulations suggested by the French side. In our opinion, the two documents were not drafted with the interest of the Government of India in mind.”
What is strange is that while the Minister says that only the price needs to be discussed, the babus’ report speaks of the conditions which “are being heavily loaded in favour of the French nation.”
For the bank guarantees too, The Indian Express’ source asserted that the French government has refused to give any bank guarantees; instead, it has offered to provide a ‘comfort letter’ from its Prime Minister. It is apparently what was accepted during Hollande’s visit to Delhi in January.
The babu’s mindset is also manifest when it objects that while the deal had agreed on Geneva (Switzerland) for arbitration proceedings, the MoD should have pressed for having India as the seat of arbitration.
All this just shows the babus’ deep frustration: they had not been kept in the loop; as a matter of fact, it was precisely why the Prime Minister decided for an ‘out-of-the box’ solution for 36 instead of 126 jets.
On March 10, Defense News, a usually well-informed website, reported that Dassault Aviation was negotiating with Delhi the possibility to build 90 more units with potential local partners. The website quoted the French company’s chairman Eric Trappier: “Dassault seeks to set up ‘a real partnership’ with Indian industry rather a conventional offset, which requires investing in unrelated sectors. That partnership approach would see Safran, Thales and other French suppliers working with local partners on the Rafale if New Delhi agreed the order for 36 and followed up with a further 90 unit. That second order was needed as the former figure was too small to justify a local build.” In other words a ‘Make in India’ scheme!

Dassault's order book
In the meantime, Dassault is talking to Canada, which may drop out from the F-35 program with the US and also Switzerland trying to replace its F-5 and F-18, as well as Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.
The problem for India, as well as for other potential buyers, is that the annual output of the assembly line of the Rafale’ workshop near Bordeaux is 11 units, or one a month, (in August, France does not work!); the output could rise by three units, if India and other countries signed up for the fighter, explained Mr Trappier; further Dassault needs to deliver six Rafales to the FAF in 2016 and one in 2017.
A few days later, while confirming that the Rafale deal with Dassault was still on, Mr Parrikar boasted to be a ‘tough negotiator’ wanting the ‘best price’ for Rafale fighter jets.
It is fine to be a tough negotiator, but Mr Parrikar should not forget that Dassault too is a hard bargainer. Further, the position of the French consortium is not the same as two years ago: Their order-book is full and first ordered, first served, remains the rule.
Last week, defence analyst Ajai Shukla, commented in The Business Standard: “Paris is beginning to acknowledge the possibility that India might not buy the Rafale fighter because of sharp differences over the price, and New Delhi’s insistence on enforceable guarantees regarding the fighter’s delivery, performance and availability.”
Quoting a senior French official, Shukla wrote: “If some people in the MoD do not want to allow the Rafale deal to go through, so be it. We are currently building it for Egypt and Qatar, and we could have another customer in Malaysia.”
It is clearly a poker game, with each party sending ‘feelers’ and vague threats though the media.
But who would be the loser if the deal does not come through?
Undoubtedly both France and India, particularity the IAF, with Air Chief Raha’s melting iceberg melting further due to the change of ‘bilateral’ climate.

The Saudi factor

Quite-worryingly, some news, which passed unnoticed in India, created waves in France: it is the awarding of the Legion d'Honneur, the country's highest honour, to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. It sparked a huge controversy in France, which Jean-Marc Ayrault, the newly-appointed foreign minister tried to justify: “It's a diplomatic tradition …there was ‘nothing grandiose’ about the ceremony;” but Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s worst human rights violator (and suspected by many of financing the IS).
Why honour the kingdom?
The website Intelligence online had perhaps the answer.
In January, it titled: “Riyad wants to lure Paris with a contract for the Rafale”. It quoted a source saying that Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister, appealed to Paris to submit a proposal for the supply of fighter aircraft Dassault's Rafale ‘in the coming weeks’.
Are 72 jets not worth a small medal?
And if the Prince decides, there is no babu in Ryad who will block the contract …and no problem of cash either.
That would mean that the ‘Indian deal’ is further postponed for several years.
Let us hope that once again the Prime Minister will step in and find a way which will be a win-win solution for both countries.

Friday, March 18, 2016

India should follow China's cues on infrastructure

My article India should follow China's cues on infrastructure appeared in The Mail Today

Here is the link...

One may think India is sleeping, but that is not the case. India is busy with civilisational issues.
Whether it is a mega-cultural event on the banks of Yamuna or the ‘tolerance’ debate in the Indian universities, the buzzword is ‘civilisational’, a word cherished by Indian ‘thinkers’.
It reminds me of the lengthy ‘civilisational’ dispatches from KM Panikkar, the then Indian Ambassador in Beijing, to his prime minister during the fall of 1950. Jawaharlal Nehru always promptly replied with grand philosophical cables about ‘peace in the world’.

At exactly the same time, Mao Zedong sent short, to-the-point orders to the People’s Liberation Army to advance towards India’s northern borders, invading Tibet in passing.
The road to Metok near the Indian border (Upper Siang district)
Tourism has become a major force in supporting the economy of China’s border areas - and proper infrastructure is crucial to attracting visitors
Tourism has become a major force in supporting the economy of China’s border areas - and proper infrastructure is crucial to attracting visitors
The Great Headsman went straight to the logistics required: providing the Chinese invading force with the day-to-day practical instructions.
“The philosophers have so far only interpreted the world, the point is to change it,” Mao had written earlier.
To juxtapose the two is an eye-opener. Has the situation changed in the past 65 years? Not much. The focus of the Indian nation remains on philosophical or ideological issues (does tolerance need to be discussed again and again, when it is a fact of life in India?), while China still believes that it does not matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.
Just look at the massive development in Nyingchi Prefecture (called Nyingtri by the Tibetans), north of the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh. Though the happenings in the area have critical implications for India, this does seem to bother anybody in the country. It is true that the North-East is so far from Delhi!
The Yarlung Tsangpo, known as Siang in Arunachal Pradesh and Brahmaputra in Assam, flows through the Tibetan prefecture, which will set up an international ecotourism zone during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). It will receive six million tourists by 2020… and get a hefty $1.2 billion revenue from the mainland visitors.
According to China Tibet Online, during the next five years, Nyingchi will build 10 rural tourism demo villages, adding some 70,000 jobs; the per capita income for the local population will increase by about 10,000 yuan ($1620).
Tourism has become a major force in supporting the economy of China’s border areas, and Beijing’s Five-Year Plan says that it is ‘crucial’ to improve the income of the Tibetans and develop infrastructure for the region.
For the first time in 2015, Nyingchi Prefecture’s GDP has crossed 10 billion yuan to reach 10.4 billion yuan ($1.67 billion); its growth rate of 11.2 per cent is the highest among cities on the plateau.
Can you imagine something similar in Upper Siang, Anjaw or other border districts of Arunachal? In Nyingchi, 25 per cent of the prefecture’s revenue comes from tourism. “There were 3.2 million tourists in Nyingchi in 2015, a 20 per cent increase from 2014. (Today) over 5,000 local residents work in tourism, running 219 family inns,” proclaim the local officials.
Metok tunnel

On the other side of the slope, India remains busy with ‘civilisational’ issues. As a result, the infrastructure south of the McMahon Line is coming up at a snail’s pace and still struggling under an antiquated Inner Line Permit system set up by the British.
In Southern Tibet, the infrastructure of the border areas grows faster every day (note that the same infrastructure is used by the People’s Liberation Army). Is this development a danger for the environment of these pristine areas and India downstream? Probably, though last week, during a panel discussion with the delegates from Qinghai province on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, President Xi Jinping pledged to protect the fragile ecology of Tibet.
He said: “The ecological environment has irreplaceable value. We should treat it as our lifeline and protect it like the apple of our eye.”
He exhorted the delegates to treat environment ‘as our lifeline’. This is great news… if it is followed by acts.
In India, infrastructure development has not reached this point, though two Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) in Ziro and Aalo have just ‘reopened’ in Arunachal Pradesh, slightly improving the Air Force’s operational capability; though it is a small step forward, the situation remains pathetic.

A PTI report explained that “the runway surface at Ziro saw a steady deterioration over a period of time due to lack of maintenance and other issues. Encroachment due to absence of a security wall further added to the declining status of the airfield.”
One could ask, why not open the area to tourism on a large scale like China? After all, it is Indian territory.
The last Chinese Plan promises that “Nyingchi will strengthen the transportation networks via air, rail, highways, and waterways, as well as the building of starred hotels, economy hotels, motels, theme hotels, family inns, and recreational vehicle parks to diversify the type of accommodations.”
The China Tibet Online further reports: “The Lhasa-Nyingchi highway was put in use by the end of 2015, while the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway is also under construction. In addition, Mainling Airport could become an international airport with more flights and routes in the future.”
After opening a tunnel in 2013, the small county of Metok, north of the Geling Circle of Upper Siang district, which was earlier known as the last county without road access in China, received 70,000 visitors in 2015. Is it not an example worth studying at least?
One can only pray that Delhi will wake up and start building more roads and tunnels in the border districts of Arunachal Pradesh. For this, tourism has an important role to play - but can the mindsets change in Delhi?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A New Proactive PLA

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has done it again.
According to PTI, Chinese troops entered a few kilometers inside the Indian territory in the Pangong lake area of Ladakh. A stand-off between the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the PLA followed.
“The incident occurred on March 8 when a platoon of at least 11 PLA men led by a colonel-rank officer crossed over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at ‘Finger VIII’ Sirijap-I area close to the Pangong lake,” reported PTI.
The Chinese soldiers came with four vehicles and reached 5.5 km deep inside India’s territory.
Indian sources told the agency that the Chinese soldiers were ‘engaged and countered’ by a ITBP patrol. The confrontation nevertheless lasted for a few hours “after which the situation got defused and the other side (Chinese) retreated.”
Apparently, China has constructed a road up to Finger-IV, also falling under Sirijap area on the banks of the lake.
The Chinese government was not pleased: they blamed the Indian media which has “repeatedly hyped up similar incidents, citing information from unnamed sources.”
While admitting that there were divergences over the border, especially over the LAC: ‘both China and India are well aware of it’; Beijing added that in this case there was “no evidence to prove India's claim of the latest incident. But Indian media is inclined to make a fuss over such issues, and often use words like ‘transgression’ or ‘incursion’.”
Around the same time, the presence of PLA troops was spotted near a forward post, opposite Nowgam sector, a major route for militants to sneak into the Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Lu Kong, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman did not deny it, he just stated with a straight face:"I have not heard about the incident you mentioned."
About Ladakh intrusions, he too blamed the Indian media: “There is no such a thing as border crossing. Some media twisted the fact and hyped up the China-India boundary question.”
A Ministry of Defence source nonetheless told India Today that ‘intrusions’ have lately increased in the vicinity of the Pangong lake and Chumur area in Ladakh: “There were at least 11 incidents of Chinese infiltration last year; in three months this year, there already has been 16 cases of transgression,” and this despite an effective Border Defence Cooperation Agreement and the setting up 2 more border personnel meeting points in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) in Ladakh and Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh.
To understand what is happening on India’s borders, it is necessary to read the latest speech of President Xi Jinping, who is also the Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC).
During the President’s ritual visit to the PLA delegation during the National People's Congress (NPC), Xi affirmed that the PLA's future hinges on innovation and reform, but he also told the generals “to turn cutting-edge military technology into real combat capacity, and urged it to be proactive in combat readiness.”
What does ‘proactive’ mean?
It is the question that India should ask Beijing.
Xi gave a partial explanation “A pre-emptive attitude toward military affairs is needed ...the military needs to plan and act in advance and establish unique advantages in some key fields.”
‘Plan and act in advance’ is probably what is happening in Ladakh and in POK.
The PLA, under Chairman Xi’s command, does not want the borders with India to slip into a routine; in other words, the border should be kept ‘alive’, notwithstanding what the spokesman of the foreign ministry may say.
During his speech at the NPC, Xi not only requested the PLA to uphold political integrity, support the reforms and the rule of law, but he also urged the generals ‘to maintain the military's combat readiness’.
Xi is aware that it is this lack of ‘combat readiness’ which has plagued the Chinese defence forces for decades.
Another way to be ‘proactive’ is for Xi innovative.
The Global Times, the Communist Party mouthpiece quoted Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA's National Defense University, saying: “Only when a nation takes the lead in military technology can it take a leading role on the world stage, which is why China's leaders have highlighted theoretical and technological innovation as the key to upgrading the country's military and national defense.”
The professor added: “Technology plays a decisive role in whether a country will win or lose a battle …The realization of the Chinese Dream is based on a strong nation and a strong military, which must rely on powerful and advanced technology."
Major General Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association told the same Global Times: "China's strategy of active defense does not mean the country would only be defensive. We shouldn't ignore the active strategy in it.”
Elaborating on Xi’s speech, Xu explained: “The PLA must have uniqueness in weapons, which is an inseparable part of building a strong military. The PLA army, navy, air force, Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force must step up innovation to improve the hardware of the army to make sure that China at least does not lag behind the world level.”
‘World level’ means the United States.
During his encounter with the PLA delegation, Chairman Xi spoke of “pouring efforts into developing cutting edge defense technology, which has strategic significance.”
He said that the capability to innovate will determine the future of the Chinese armed force. This means that the PLA not only requires a proactive attitude, but also needs to develop high-tech weapons, ‘Make in China’ with collaboration with local manufacturing industry. This could even lead to exports to ‘cost-conscious countries’ unable to buy arms from the United States, Xi said.
During the NPC, 15 deputies delivered a speech; one of them was by Major General Dai Shaoan, a senior military intelligence officer who served as military attaché in Egypt; Dai argued that with the PLA's increasing normalized overseas military operations including international rescue, escort mission, port call to foreign countries and joint military exercises with foreign militaries, China should set up “a complete legal support system on overseas military operations as soon as possible.”
Dai Shaoan proposed that the NPC passes a legislation to define and legalize China’s overseas military operations and “to make clear the legal position, codes of conduct, internal and external relationship of the Chinese troops involved.”
In other words, to ‘legalize’ the Chinese military presence in Djibouti, Gwadar, Hambantota in Sri Lanka …or in POK to protect Chinese interests in the northern leg of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Manohar Parrikar is scheduled to visit China next month; he supposed to finalize the setting up of a hotline between the Indian Army and the PLA, it should be ideal occasion for the Defence Minister to be ‘proactive’.
But, perhaps it is not in Indian genes to be proactive.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tourism Development on the Plateau ... and in Arunachal

Chinese trekkers near Metok
As mentioned in one of my last posts, when he joined a panel discussion with the delegates from Qinghai province, President Xi pledged to protect the fragile ecology of Tibet. This is great news …if implemented!
Xi said: “The ecological environment has irreplaceable value. We should treat it as our lifeline and protect it like the apple of our eye."
He exhorted the delegates to treat environment 'as our lifeline'.
Let us see if the President's words will be followed by acts.
A day later, Xinhua reported that Beijing had ‘poured’ some 3.44 billion U.S. dollars into water conservancy infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) during the past five years.
According to ‘local authorities’ of the Water Resources Department, this has benefited about 1.8 million farmers and nomads; it has stabilized grain output, and also ensured safe drinking water and power supply in remote areas.
The ‘local’ statistics are often difficult to check in China.
It was also announced that from 2011 to 2015, the TAR saw its capacity of water supply increase by 700 million cubic meters and some 100,000 hectares of irrigation land had been ‘created or improved’.
Further, 773,000 ‘rural’ residents, students, teachers and monks were provided with clean drinking water while hydropower helped 270,000 people in accessing electricity.
Is it true or just propaganda? It is difficult to say.
Also during the proceedings of the National People’s Congress, officials from Yunnan announced that no new small-scale hydropower plants will be built on the Nu (Salween) River in order to restore the environment.
This is a clear admission that environment has been damaged in the past.
Li Jiheng, Yunnan’s party boss, even spoke of turning the river into ‘China’s Grand Canyon’.
Is it a change of policy? From dams to tourism?
Li told China National Radio: “The Nu River will become a world-level tourism destination in five to 10 years. It will succeed and even surpass the Grand Canyon in the United States.”
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) was more cautious in its approach, “the fate of the country’s last free-flowing river is still unclear as the officials remained tight-lipped on whether they would go ahead with plans to build a series of dams on the upper reaches of the Nu”.
It however confirmed that the Yunnan government will stop exploiting ‘small mines’ and building ‘small hydropower projects’ to help restore vegetation on river banks.
What about larger dams?
For years, environmentalists had pleaded for scrapping plans to construct large dams the river.
Wang Yongchen, an environmentalist, who believes in keeping the natural state of the Nu river, told the SCMP:  “Their comments are rather vague and tricky. No one would confirm plans for large dams. They say it’s up to the central leaders if large dams will be built.”
The plans to dam the upper reaches of the Nu had been shelved in 2005 by Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier who had expressed concerns for the environment …and the safety of the dams.
Plans were however revived in 2013.
In 2013, the State Council surprised the environmentalists and scientists by mentioning new plans to construct 13 dams on Nu River.
The SCMP says: “Since then, local officials have admitted preparatory work – such as building roads around the planned sites – has started. But no real progress had been made on dam construction so far.”
Scientists have discovered that some 40 per cent of aquatic species have already disappeared from the Nu River, mainly due to human activities such as overfishing, mining and dam construction.

Closer to India
In an earlier post, I mentioned the development on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Siang/Brahmaputra river.
The development in Nyingchi/Nyingtri prefecture, north of the Indian border in Arunachal has critical implications for India.
Nyingchi plans to have an international ecotourism zone during the ‘13th Five-Year Plan’ (2016-2020) in order to receive six million tourists by 2020 …and get a hefty 1.2 $ billion revenue from the Chinese tourists.
According China Tibet Online, Nyingchi will build 10 national-level rural tourism demo villages in the next five years, with more than 20,000 people involved in the tourism industry, adding 70,000 jobs with an average of per capita income increase of 10,000 yuan.
The Chinese figures demonstrate that tourism has become the major force in developing the economy and infrastructure of the area; it is also ‘crucial’ to improve the Tibetan income, says the Plan.
The Chinese website, affiliated to Xinhua, says that in 2015 for the first time, Nyingchi GDP has crossed 10 billion yuan to reach 10.4 billion yuan (1.67 US $ billion), with a growth rate of 11.2%; it is the highest among cities on the plateau.
Some 25% of the prefecture’s revenue comes from tourism: “there were 3.2 million tourists in Nyingchi in 2015, a 20% increase from 2014. Over 5,000 local residents work in tourism, running 219 family inns. Per capita income in the pasturing area surpassed 10,000 yuan for the first time to reach 10,800 yuan, which is 1,600 yuan (258 $) more than the Tibet average,” says the local officials.

Is India sleeping?
On the southern side of the plateau, India seems to be sleeping, busy with mega-cultural events or ‘tolerance’ in the Indian Universities.
While north of the McMahon Line, the number of tourists grows every year by 15% to 20% , the infrastructure south of the McMahon Line is going at snail pace.
Let us not forget that the infrastructure in Tibet can be used by the People’s Liberation Army at any point in time.
China Tibet Online asserts that “the local government began to focus on improving their ability to accommodate the tourists and make the environment sustainable, various measures were introduced, including ecological protection and improvement of the tourism industry to ensure honest practices.”
About improving the environment, this is to be seen.
Though India has just been able to ‘reopen’ two Advanced Landing Grounds in Ziro and Along in Arunachal Pradesh, thereby slightly improving the Indian Air Force's operational capability, still the two ALGs are located far-away from the border.
Air Marshal C. Hari Kumar, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command announced that "The ALGs will further enhance our existing operational capabilities in Eastern Air Command," adding that the new capacity build-up will enable operations by some of the force's new inductions including the C-130J Super Hercules.
This is good news.
The Air Marshal also asserted that “Besides enhancing air maintenance capability of the IAF in the region, the new airfield will also facilitate civil air connectivity soon.”
North of the McMahon Line
With a cumbersome and antiquated Inner Line Permit system, the area can probably forget the ‘civilian’ connectivity for a long time to come.
On the other side of the Line, during the 13th Five Year Plan, “Nyingchi will strengthen the transportation networks via air, rail, highways, and waterways, as well as the building of starred hotels, economy hotels, motels, theme hotels, family inns, and RV parks to diversify the type of accommodations.”
The China Tibet Online further reports: “Last year, fixed investment in Nyingchi reached 16.3 billion yuan. The Lhasa-Nyingchi highway was put in use by the end of 2015, while the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway is also under construction. Renovations of the Lhasa's airport are in full swing. There are now seven direct flights reaching Nyingchi, with possible new routes added from Xi’an, Shanghai, and Xiamen this year. In addition, Mainling Airport could become an international airport with more flights and routes in the future.”
Once again, India is left behind in terms of infrastructure development, though the Army has recently showed its capacity of build ‘environment-friendly’ pontoons on the Yamuna, construction is much slower on the banks of the Subansiri, Dibang or other rivers of Arunachal.
It is truly a national tragedy.

A Budget cut that has unsettled the PLA

My article A Budget cut that has unsettled the PLA appeared on Thursday in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

While India hopes that the Rafale deal will materialise, a modest hike in China’s Defence Budget is surprising. It will be difficult for Beijing to tackle unhappiness in the PLA ranks, at a time when it has undertaken reforms

One of the most unexpected news coming from China recently is the low raise in the People’s Liberation Army Defence Budget for the coming year. During the first session of the National People’s Congress, it was announced that the increment would only be 7.6 per cent compared to 10.1 per cent last year; it is the smallest military budget increase in several years; the first single-digit since 2010.
Even The Global Times, the party mouthpiece, admitted that the news came as a surprise “as some media previously predicted that the Defense Budget would increase by as high as 20 per cent”. It is also what the usually well-informed South China Morning Post had expected.
China’s 7.6 per cent increase corresponds to $146 billion, while India’s entire defence allocation is only $40 billion, the 0.96 per cent rise for India will not give the nation a chance to catch up.
Prakash Nanda, a defence analyst commented: “What is more surprising is that not only did Mr Arun Jaitley fail to mention the Defence Ministry in his speech, but his ministry also went one step further in removing the Ministry of Defence from the list of ‘important ministries’ in highlighting the budget proposals in its Press releases.” All this is quite worrying.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, however, announced that the Rafale deal with Dassault of France was on, though the minister boasted to be a ‘tough negotiator’ and wanted the ‘best price’ for Rafale fighter jets from France.
It is fine to be a tough negotiator, but Mr Parrikar should not forget that Dassault too is a hard bargainer. Further, the position of the French consortium is not the same as two years ago: Their order-book is full with firm orders from Egypt and Qatar, adding to the French Air Force needs; and first order, first serve, remains the rule.
Small mercy for the Indian Air Force, Mr Parrikar announced that the next Budget takes into account the Rafale deal for which ‘adequate money’ had been kept aside. One can only hope that an agreement will soon be found. Let us return to the other side of the Himalaya, where the situation is not too bright…and transparency even worse than in India.
Watching the beginning of the deliberations of the two sessions, ie, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress, one realises that China is bound to face serious difficulties in the near future.
With the ‘modest’ rise in the defence outlay, the Communist Party of China may find it difficult to tackle ‘unhappiness’ in the PLA ranks, at a time Beijing has undertaken sweeping reforms and with renewed tensions over the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.
Never since 1949, have reforms been so drastic; one can mention the retrenchments of 300,000 defence personnel, the re-shuffle of the theatre commands, the setting up of a PLA Rocket Force and a Strategic Support Force or the 15 new departments, offices and commissions. All these require funds. In this context, the reduction in Defence Budget appears ‘surprising’.
The South China Morning Post reported that “military officers have taken the rare step of publicly registering disappointment at the increase in China’s defence budget”.
Major General Qian Lihua, former head of the Foreign Affairs office of the Ministry of National Defence, acknowledged during a CPPCC panel discussion that this year represented a “big reduction”. This type of acknowledgement is rare in China.
Retired Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, also a member of the CPPCC, openly said that “the growth in defence spending should be commensurate with the national economy — but it also needed to be proportional to the country’s security need”.
Mr Yin further told China National Radio, “We should not let our military’s development stall... because the security challenges at our peripherals, especially at sea, have been increasing.”
Mr Yin added that the current share of defence spending to gross domestic product (which is around 1.5 per cent) was still too low: “I think two per cent to 2.5 per cent would be optimum,” Mr Yin asserted, adding: “And we are slashing 300,000 military personnel — additional resources are needed to resettle these veterans.”
Though some Taiwanese sources claim that the retrenched troops may find their way “to form to 10 armed police tactical units and 100 armed police warfare groups, both likely to be stationed in the restive Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region”, the information has never been confirmed.
During the NPC, China announced that it will build a more comprehensive national security system. The draft of the new law calls for implementing national security policies in fields involving politics, territory, economy, society, resources, cyberspace and others.
These drastic measures, many China watchers believe, could trigger the ‘collapse’ the Middle Kingdom in the new future.
Already last year, David Shambaugh, a respected Chinese expert, who is director of the China Policy Programme at the George Washington University, wrote on the subject in a Saturday essay in The Wall Street Journal; His ‘The Coming Chinese Crackup’ circulated widely on social media.
He had then remarked: “The endgame of communist rule in China has begun, and President Xi Jinping’s ruthless measures are only bringing the country closer to a breaking point.”
Mr Shambaugh has now elaborated his theory in a 203-page new book, China’s Future, where he argues that “China is in a state of ‘atrophy’ and ‘decline’, which will continue if no major political reform takes place in the near future”. The professor’s main argument is the following: “Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the Communist Party itself. China’s strongman leader, Mr Xi, is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and corruption will shore up the party’s rule.” His new book elaborates on his earlier conclusions
According to Mr Shambaugh, it is the political system which is not up to the mark; if China continues on its present track of hard authoritarian rule, the mainland will crack up. The only way out would to ‘unleash innovation and effectively reform the financial system’ but this is unlikely, as the Communist Party is too insecure; it can’t envisage any means other than control, repression and coercion.
Mr Shambaugh argues that continuing with the current policies is “a recipe for further social volatility.” Last week, when Mr Xi paid a highly-publicised visit to China’s top media organisations, journalists had to pledge ‘absolute loyalty’ to Mr Xi.
A Guardian article published an article entitled, ‘Love the party, protect the party: How Xi Jinping is bringing China’s media to heel’.
Add the instability of the so-called ‘minorities’ areas (Tibet, Xinjiang, etc). It remains an explosive issue if these regions continue to be mishandled by Beijing, as it is presently. Ultimately, authoritarianism has limits and Mr Xi seems to have entered a vicious circle. He may find it impossible to reset the Middle Kingdom to ‘normal’. India does not have these problems.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Yearly Communist Rituals are on

Khatas are presented to Xi by the Qinghai delegation at the NPC
Who says that the Communists do not believe in rituals?
Every year in March, the same rituals take place in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Deputies of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National Peoples’ Congress (NPC) assemble in Beijing to demonstrate the ‘vitality’ of China’s democratic system …with Chinese characteristics.
The High Mass is known as the 'Two Sessions'.
Deputies from far-away (and often restive) provinces land in the capital to ‘debate’ and vote the new Laws of the Land.
Incidentally this year they have to ratify a new counter-terrorism law, which may not be to welcome by the 'ethnic' masses.
Monika Chansoria wrote in The Sunday Guardian: “The anti-terrorism law’s Article 18 establishes obligations of technology companies to assist the Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of National Security in investigating terrorism, including providing technical support and assistance with information encryption. This essentially implies that technology firms will be required to install ‘backdoors’ in products or hand over sensitive information including encryption keys to the Chinese government.”
A frightful program!
Tibetan delegate

The Ritual Visit
An important part of the rituals is costumed parade of the ‘ethnic’ delegates wearing colourful dresses, impressive hats and shiny jewelry ...and Communist badges.
The Mass is also for the ‘regional’ delegation, the occasion to get the darshan (and sermon) of one of Magnificent Sevens (i.e. the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo),
I had been wondering who of the Sevens, would drop by at the ‘Tibetan party’ this year.
In 2013, Xi Jinping, the Numero Uno himself appeared.
In 2014, Yu Zhengsheng, No 4 in the hierarchy, provided the annual lecture (‘follow the Party’).
Last year, Wang Qinshan, No 6 and the czar of the anti-corruption campaign, delivered the Message on behalf of the Sevens.
This year, Zhang Gaoli, No 7 and Chinese Vice Premier, attended the second session of the NPC Fourth Session and met the ‘Tibetan’ delegates.
Xinhua reported that the Vice Premier participated in the deliberations with the ‘lawmakers’ from Tibet Autonomous Region.
Zhang Gaoli took the opportunity to stress some important principles, such as governing Tibet according to the Law, striving to make people rich or working through long-term development, for the region bright future.
Zhang asked the 'Tibetans' to continue building a moderately prosperous society, for that: “Tibet needs to strengthen ethnic unity and make earnest efforts to maintain stability,” he added.
Zhang Gaoli and the Tibet delegation

‘Follow Xi’
Zhang also explained that it is important to 'follow' General Secretary Xi Jinping and read the series of his important speeches, and implement his ‘Four Comprehensives’; Tibet should adhere to the directions of the Party's leadership, follow the rule of law and work for the cohesion of the people of different nationalities …by keeping in mind Chinese characteristics ...as well as the characteristics of Tibet's development path.
When the ‘Tibetan’ delegates gave their views, Zhang Gaoli listened and took notes; from time to time, he interrupted the speaker to inquire about the situation in Tibet.
The atmosphere was very warm, commented Xinhua.
It has to be!
Interestingly, among the 20 ‘Tibetan’ delegate (on a house of 2,900 members), only 15 are Tibetans or belonging to ‘border’ tribes (memba and lopa).
Apart from Chen Quanguo, the TAR Party Secretary and Wu Yingjie, his deputy, 3 Han have been nominated to keep a check on the Tibetans.
One is Wang Huning, Xi’s closest collaborator and member of the Politburo; another one is Prof Ding Zhongli from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (probably keeping an eye on the environment of the plateau).
The last ‘Tibetan’ Han delegate is (was) Chang Xiaobing, till December 2015 the Chairman of China Telecom, who is now ‘investigated’ by the sleuths of Wang Qishan. He was obviously not seen on the pictures, as he is probably in jail.
Wang Huning too did not appear during the deliberations (at least on the published pictures).

Where was Xi Jinping?
According to The China Daily, the Chinese president joined a panel discussion with the delegates from Qinghai province.
He spoke at length about the environment of the Tibetan plateau, particularly about the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve (or the Three Rivers Nature Reserve); it is where the headwaters of the Yellow River, the Yangtze River, and the Mekong River are located.
Xi said that protecting the fragile ecology there is of utmost importance.
He told the local government officials that it was their duty to protect the ecological environment on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, especially in the Sanjiangyuan area: "The ecological environment has irreplaceable value. We should treat it as our lifeline and protect it like the apple of our eye.”
According to Xinhua, President Xi urged the officials to try hard to lift people out of poverty and maintain ethnic unity (Tibetans and Hui constitute at least half the population of Qinghai.
Sanjiangyuan is said to be one of the world's most biologically diverse nature reserves, the area is home to more than 2,200 types of wild plants, 85 animal species and over 230 kinds of birds, explained the Chinese news agency: “However, since the late 20th century, the source lakes have shrunk as a result of environmental damage caused by human activities and overgrazing.”
In December, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, headed by Xi, passed a bill to launch a national park in Sanjiangyuan, highlighting the area's significance as a national focus for environmental protection.
Xi told the lawmakers that the ecological system of the plateau is fragile and glaciers, lakes, rivers and wetlands should be protected to guarantee that ‘rivers of clean water run eastward’.
Is the Chinese President really aware of the importance of the plateau for Mainland China?
Only Beijing's actions will tell!
Luo Huining, Qinghai’ Part boss and also a member of the NPC, affirmed that Sanjiangyuan is the most sensitive place for global climate change and the ecology there is related to the water safety of China and the rest of Asia.
More controversial is the decision of the Qinghai government to relocate 60,000 residents (read 'nomads') from the national park area ‘for ecological restoration’.
Luo asserted: “Our goal of establishing Sanjiangyuan national park is not to boost tourism, but to protect the ecology there."
Can he be believed?
The nomads will the first to pay the price of ‘relocation’.

On the other side of the Himalaya
India is also concerned by the new dams coming up on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Siang/Brahmaputra in Tibet (3 more like the Zangmu dam during the 13th Five-Year Plan).
Though China announced that the projects are “scientifically planned to ensure that there is no impact on water flows to downstream areas “, can Beijing be trusted in the absence of any trans-border treaty or agreement?
Beijing however affirmed that its position is ‘just and legitimate’.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei even told PTI: “There has been good cooperation between China and India on the issue of trans-border rivers for a long time. The Chinese side has overcome many difficulties and provided service such as provision of hydrological data to the Indian side thus playing a positive role".
This is a ritual declaration.

A few comments
1- Where was Gyatsen Norbu, the Chinese Panchen Lama?
He was not seen on any picture though he is a member of the CPPCC National Committee?
Was he indisposed?
2- Why are the Sikyong candidates so uninterested by what is happening in Tibet and China? They do not have anything to say on the seriousness of the situation inside Tibet?
3- Why only 20 delegates for the Tibetan Autonomous Region?
Han chauvinism probably.