Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The case of Barahoti, the first Himalyan blunder

In blue, the passes 'forgotten' in the Panchsheel Agreement
During the annual Army Commanders’ Conference held at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, one of the topics addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the three Service Chiefs was the infrastructure development along the borders with China and Pakistan.
The commanders apparently pleaded for a far better infrastructure to facilitate the movement of troops in case of crisis.
This raises two important issues: one, the neglect of the Himalayan frontier with China for the past 60 years and two, there is no ‘minor’ issues when the Indian borders are concerned.
Take Barahoti, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, which witnessed the first Chinese intrusions on Indian soil in 1954. It is a telling case.
Every summer, the Indian media cries foul: “The Chinese have come again”. “The Chinese Dragon struck again”, say reports originating from the ‘inaccessible’ part of Uttarakhand.
In July 2016, The Times of India explained: “It all began on July 22, when an Indian team of 19 civilians led by a Sub Divisional Magistrate first entered into the area in Barahoti, an area perceived by Chinese as their territory. …Six Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, in civil clothes and unarmed, accompanied the Indian civilians 200 metres inside the ‘alleged disputed’ territory.”
The Chinese troops PLA prevented the Indians paramilitary forces from going further and asked them to return: “No soon did the Indian team return, the Chinese PLA came in exactly 200 metres inside. Seeing the aggressive stance, Indian side led by ITBP asked the Chinese team to return to their original position.”
The story is not finished: on July 25 for the first time, China sent a helicopter to the area. Whether it crossed the LAC (as perceived by India) is not clear. But it was evidently to intimidate the ITBP.
The Government of India, as usual, played down the incident.
The fact remains that the ITBP personnel were not carrying firearms (not allowed as per an agreed protocol signed in 2005 and reiterated in 2013), while Chinese were carrying arms and wearing uniforms.
How did the story start?
In July 1952, in a secret note, the Intelligence Bureau described the topography of the Himalaya in this area: “The Garhwal-Tibet border can only be crossed through the Mana and Niti Valleys where there are open places and habitation, while the rest of the border area consists of snow-covered mountains studded with glaciers. …There are four Passes between Niti Valley and Tibet”. One of them was Tunjun-la, we shall come back to it.
A couple of years earlier, some Tibetans officials had entered the tiny plain of Barahoti. The IB explained the background of the so-called dispute: “About the end of last century the Tibetans had established a Customs Post at Hoti Plain. To stop this practice, the British Government had to send out a detachment of Gurkhas along with the Deputy Collector in 1890. This had a salutary effect and the Tibetans removed their post. It appears that for some time past the Tibetans have again been establishing a Police-cum-Customs post at Hoti during the trading season.”
As in most areas in the Himalaya, the access is far easier from the Tibetan side than from the Indian. Over the years, this greatly facilitated the Chinese intrusions.
The IB note continued: “It is quite possible that if the Tibetans are not stopped from establishing their post at Hoti Plain, they might eventually claim it to be their own territory.”
The IB recommended: “It is, therefore, essential that the Govt. of India should make it clear to the Govt. of Tibet and its Dzongpon that the Hoti Plain is Indian territory and the Tibetans have no right to establish any Customs post there.”
AT that time, the Uttar Pradesh Government asserted that no case of “encroachment has so far been reported though at one or two places tax collectors from Tibet did come in but were persuaded to go back.”
The above was enough for China to claim the area as ‘hers’. It happened as soon as the negotiations for the Panchsheel Agreement, (which only deals with trade and pilgrimage between Tibet and India) were completed. But the Indian diplomats had goofed up, they had forgotten to discuss the Indo-Tibet border.
Though Delhi had sent a complete list of the Himalayan passes to the ‘smart’ Indian negotiators in Beijing, the latter believed that by naming six passes, they had delineated a border.
As a result of India not insisting on all the passes, China started claiming several areas south of the watershed, in particular the area south of the Tunjun-la pass, where the plain of Barahoti is located.
In a note written after the signature of the Panchsheel Agreement, N.R. Pillai, the Foreign Secretary remarked: “It would also be desirable for us to establish check-posts at all disputed points as soon as possible so that there may be no opportunity for Chinese to take possession of such areas and face us with a fait accompli. “
But alas nothing was done. Will it be done now?
It is much later that South Block understood the meaning of Premier Chou En-lai’s opening remarks, at the time of signature: “there are bound to be some problems between two great countries like India and China with a long common border… but we are prepared to settle all such problems as are ripe for settlement now”.
It took only two months for India to discover that all problems had not been solved. The first Chinese incursion in the Barahoti area of Uttar Pradesh occurred in June 1954. This was the first of a series of incursions numbering in the hundreds which culminated in the attack of October 1962
Correspondence went on for four years and in 1958 a conference was held to sort out the issue. China refused to admit that the watershed marked the frontier and that Tunjun-la pass had been for centuries been the traditional border.
After the failure of the talks, Subimal Dutt wrote: “Each side has put forward its arguments in favour of its case. The Chinese are contesting our arguments and we are, of course, contesting theirs. The only positive suggestion made by the Chinese is that there should be a joint local enquiry.”
But India refused when it discovered that was just a pretext for China to find out the exact location of the place. They thought that Barahoti (they call it Wuje) was north of Tunjun-la.
The Chinese intrusions still continue today.
During a debate in the Parliament in August 1959, when Nehru was asked why Indian can’t soldiers keep a watch during the winter months too, he replied: “I see no special reason to make our people suffer miserably for this, to make them sit there in winter, in the cold.”
In November, Barahoti was again discussed in the Lok Sabha. Nehru’s final submission was that one should not attach too much importance “to these matters and becoming touchy about them rather distorts the picture in our minds. …in the old days, two persons would fight if a moustache was a little longer or shorter or a little higher or lower.”
More than 60 years after it started, the case of Barahoti shows that for the Chinese, there is no big or small moustache, every inch is a victory, and the second lesson is that there is no short cut to building a strong infrastructure even it costs the nation some sacrifice.
Let us hope that the recommendation of the Army Commanders’ Conference will soon be implemented and not stopped by one babu or another.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Case of Demchok

Radar on the ‘Chinese side’ of Demchok
On August 14, 1939, as he camped near Gartok, one of the three British (Indian) Trade Agencies in Tibet, Rai Bahadur Dr Kanshi Ram, the British Trade Agent (BTA) in Western Tibet, found finally time to write to the Political Agent of the Punjab Hill States in Simla: “I have the honour to submit herewith the following report of my journey from Simla to Gartok via Srinagar and Leh, Kashmir,” Ram started.
He had left Simla on May 20 to reach Srinagar on May 27; after a week-long stay in the Valley, he began his journey to the Tibetan border. He was accompanied by the Wazir Wazarat of Ladakh; both were to meet the Garpon or Governor of Western Tibet  for a tripartite inquiry into the alleged murder of a Tibetan, Champa Skaldan by Zaildar, a Ladakhi of Rupchu. The crime had been committed in Ladakh a few years earlier.
After a week-halt in Leh, they started for Demchok, the last Ladakhi village before the Tibetan border. They reached Demchok on July 17, 1939, where they were to meet the Senior and Junior Garpons; the inquiry started three days later.
Dr Kanshi Ram, in his report to Simla, notes: “On the night of July 21 the stream by the side of which we were camping suddenly rose to higher level and began to flow over our camping ground at midnight. We were abed as alarm was raised and we then got up and took our luggage and other belongings to a place of safety, and had to keep awake throughout the night. The rain which began to pour down since morning was still continuing. The next morning we crossed the stream and camped on the Tibetan border at a place of safety. The Wazir also renewed his camp some yards away from the stream amongst the boulders. This stream forms a natural boundary between Tibet and Kashmir at Demchok.”
This is interesting because it shows that before Independence, the Indo-Tibet border in Ladakh was well defined and agreed upon by the government of British India (represented by the BTA), the State of J&K (the Wazir) and the Tibetan Government (the Garpons).
It is not true anymore; since the end of the 1950s, a very large area around Demchok is claimed by Beijing though no Chinese had ever been seen in the area. The fact is that soon after invading the Tibetan plateau, the Communist regime in Beijing started claiming more and more of India’s territory in the Himalaya.
We shall look at the case of Demchok which is a case study of Chinese ‘advances’ which resulted in what today is called a ‘difference of perceptions’ on the LAC.

The building of the Aksai Chin road
The Chinese ‘advances’ in the Demchok sector began with the objective to protect a new road linking Tibet to Xinjiang in the Aksai Chin area.
Though the issue would only become public through a debate in the Lok Sabha in August 1959, in the early 1950s already, Delhi was aware that China was building a road, but South Block was not ready to acknowledge it.
The Official Report of the 1962 War published by the MoD states: “The preliminary survey work on the planned Tibet-Sinkiang road having been completed by the mid-1950’s, China started constructing motorable road in summer 1955. The highway ran over 160 km across the Aksai Chin region of north-east Ladakh. It was completed in the second half of 1957. Arterial roads connecting the highway with Tibet were also laid. On 6 October 1957, the Sinkiang-Tibet road was formally opened with a ceremony in Gartok and twelve trucks on a trial run from Yarkand reached Gartok. In January 1958, the China News Agency reported that the Sinkiang-Tibet highway had been opened two months earlier and the road was being fully utilised.”

In his book The Saga of Ladakh,  Maj Gen Jagjit Singh mentions that in 1956, the Indian Military Attaché in Beijing, Brig Mallik received information that China had started building a highway through Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area. Mallik had reported the matter to Army Headquarters in New Delhi which passed the report to South Block.
Other examples could be given , but the fact that the road lies close to Demchok, triggered the Chinese claims on the area.

The Panchsheel negotiations
In 1953-1954, long negotiations preceded the signature on the "Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India", known as the Panchsheel Agreement for its famous preamble, on April 29, 1954.
The negotiations ended with India giving away all its rights in Tibet (telegraph lines, post offices, dak bungalows, military escort in Gyantse and Yatung, etc.), while getting no assurance on the border demarcation from the Chinese government in return, on the contrary.
The talks were held in Beijing between Zhang Hanfu, China’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, N. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador to China and T.N. Kaul, his Chargé d’Affaires and Chen Chai-Kang, a Director. They lasted from December 1953 till end of April 1954.
On February 21, N. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador in China informs R.K. Nehru, the Foreign Secretary, that Kaul had met Chen the previous day.
Amongst other issues, the ‘trade marts’ were discussed: “Chen agreed regarding Tashigong and said we could also have Demchok.”
The move was clever: Chen was offering a Tibetan mart …on India’s territory.

The Demchok-Tashigang route
Kaul objected, Demchok was in India, he told Chen who answered that India’s border was further on the West of the Indus. On Kaul’s insistence Chen said “There can be no doubt about actual physical possession which can be verified on spot but to avoid any dispute we may omit mention of Demchok”. Though Kaul repeated Demchok was on India’s side, the Chinese did not budge.
In the same discussion, Chen also mentioned that Rudok and Rawang were not acceptable as trade marts to China. When Kaul insisted, Chen promised to put up the suggestion regarding Rutok again before his delegation, but he added “I know it is impossible as our Government has decided not to open Rudok.”
The Aksai Chin road was passing via Rutok and Rawang .
On April 22, after more than four months of ‘talks’, Raghavan cables the Foreign Secretary that Zhang even ‘virulently’ objected to inclusion of Tashigong in Agreement.
Ragahvan explains: “Tibet talks resumed at plenary sitting to-day... Chinese produced new drafts of both Agreement and Letter partly based on our draft and partly covering new points. …Four main points still at issue are: Inclusion of route from Indian border to Tashigong along Indus. Chang Han-Fu [Zhang Hanfu] vigorously objected inclusion of route in Agreement or Letter. Conceded that traders customarily using this route might continue such use but said an oral understanding to that effect between two delegations would suffice. We strongly contended inclusion of route in Agreement. Our view is Chinese might not concede. If so shall try to get it included by separate letter.”
It did not occur to the Indian negotiators to ask why?
For centuries, the trade and pilgrimage route for the Kailash-Manasarovar region followed the course of the Indus, passed Demchok the last Ladakhi village and then crossed the border to reach the first Tibetan hamlet, Tashigong, some 15 miles inside Tibet.
Not only did the Chinese refuse to mention Demchok in the Agreement, but bargained for nearly 5 months not to cite the Tashigong route.
In retrospect, one can find two main reasons for the Chinese dragging their feet. One, as already mentioned, is the proximity of the ‘Aksai Chin Road’ ; preliminary work on the road had just started at the time of the Panchsheel negotiations.
In 1954, Indian border forces visiting Demchok could have noticed that a road was clandestinely being built; Beijing did not want to take a risk.
The second reason is as grave and presently relevant.
After months of infructuous exchanges, Zhang Hanfu conceded that “traders customarily using this route might continue such use but an oral understanding to that effect between two delegations would suffice, [China] would not like in writing, even by implication, to have any reference to Ladakh.”
It means that China considered Ladakh a ‘disputed area’.
Kaul informed Delhi: “We have taken [the] position that Ladakh is Indian territory and route should be mentioned as its omission would be invidious.”
But China did not accept the Indian contention and “after considerable argument [Zhang] agreed, but subsequently withdrew [his agreement]. [He] suggests we would consider exchange of letters which will not form part of Agreement...”
India had finally to concur to the Chinese formulation. Demchok was mentioned nowhere, though Article IV of the Agreement says: “Also, the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus River may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom.”
China made no concession to India, while India had given up all its assets in Tibet.
Incidentally, a report sent from the Indian Consulate in Lhasa in February 1953 states: “Information as to Western Tibet relatively scanty unfortunately. In 1950 the Chinese advanced towards Rudok and Taklakot with about 500 troops. The present strength could NOT have been increased beyond 2 to 3 thousand due to difficulty in obtaining supplies. They are reported to be at Rudok, Gyanima (north of Uttarakhand), Gargunsa (Ngari), Taklakot and Khojernath (near Mt. Kailash) and Tashigong.”
The Tashigong PLA outpost was located some 20 kilometers east of Demchok.

The Closure of the Kashgar Consulate
At that time, very few Indian diplomats could see beyond the Chinese rhetoric and Zhou’s assurance of friendship. How many noticed the ominous signs on the horizon?
Another warning was the closure of the Indian Consulate in Kashgar in 1953.
Nehru readily agreed to the Chinese decision without taking any retaliatory measures or even protesting. India’s interests were lost to the ‘revolutionary changes’ happening in China. He declared in the Parliament: “Some major changes have taken place there [Kashgar]. …But when these changes, revolutionary changes took place there, it is perfectly true that the Chinese Government, when they came to Tibet, told us that they intended that they wanted to treat Sinkiang as a closed area. They told other State Government, too. …The result was, our Consul remained there for some time, till recently… but there is now no work to be done. So we advised him to come away and he did come away.
During the following years, trade and pilgrimage practically stopped via Demchok. You may think that it is past history, but it is not.
China today continues to adamantly refuse to reopen the Demchok-Tashigong route to Kailash/Manasarovar, while insisting on a long and tortuous route via Nathu-la in Sikkim. Probably, China would have to acknowledge that Demchok is in India.

Demchok engulfed in Chinese maps
Soon after the escape of the Dalai Lama to India  and the first border clashes in Longju (NEFA, today Arunachal Pradesh) and Kong-ka Pass (Ladakh), Beijing decided to redraw its border.
Maps had to match the new claims.
In the 1960s, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs published a collection of maps  explaining Beijing’s tactics.
One of the maps shows three lines: “The first line shows the disposition of Chinese posts in Ladakh in November 1959. It will be seen that at that time there was strictly speaking no ‘Line of control’ but only a series of Chinese posts on Indian territory. The November 1959 'line' would be one that joined the then Chinese posts.”
Then the second line describes the position between Indian and Chinese forces immediately prior to September 8, while the third line depicts the limits of the areas occupied by Chinese forces during the 1962 War: “The area between the September 7, 1962, line and the line of actual control of 1959 as falsely claimed by China represents the further aggrandisement of Indian territory by China as a result of its latest aggression.”
By the end of 1959, China distributed the new maps of the Western Sector in Ladakh, Demchok and the area around was now fully Chinese territory.
The next step for Beijing was to occupy some of these places.
According to retired diplomat R.S. Kalha, in his well-document book : “After the failure of the Nehru-Zhou talks in April 1960, Zhou wrote to Mao on 6 May, 1960, that “as no agreement had been reached ...it was imperative to strengthen China's military presence in the Western sector.” Zhou suggested that Chinese forces should seize the opportunity and favourable weather conditions to establish additional posts inside China's claim line. Mao approved the proposal and Deng Xiaoping was entrusted with the responsibility for its implementation.”
The former ambassador who participated in the boundary talks in the 1990s continues: “Acting on Mao's instructions, by the summer of 1961, the Chinese had advanced in the Western sector nearly 112 kilometres South-West of the positions they held in 1958 and began to set up several forward check posts backed by strong bases in the rear.”
In September 1961, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) prepared a paper on Chinese activities in the border areas and predicted that the “Chinese would like to come up to their claim line of 1960, wherever we are not in occupation.” The IB recommended that “posts be opened in unoccupied areas of Ladakh.”
This marked the beginning of the ‘forward policy’.
On 28 November, 1961 Nehru told the Lok Sabha that the Chinese had advanced even beyond their 1956 (and 1959) claim line in Ladakh and have established new bases. Nehru termed this as Chinese new “aggressive activities”.
Demchok was now in China.
The Report of the Officials of China and India interestingly says: “The Chinese side brought forward remarkably little evidence to substantiate their own claim that the alignment shown by them was a traditional and customary one.” It further added: “In the Demchok area they cited material specifying that the traditional alignment lay along Lhari Karpo. This was very near the traditional Indian alignment, and very far from the line now claimed by China. The Indian side, therefore, welcomed this statement and saw no reason to discuss this further. There was only one Lhari in the area, and that was the stream joining the Indus near Demchok.”
Lhari Karpo is the sacred hill above the village.

The attack on Demchok
In October 1962, the Demchok sub-sector was held by the 7 J&K Militia. The PLA launched an attack on October 22.
According to the book, A View from Other Side of the Hill , which used Chinese sources: “The attack was in the form of two pincers aimed to meet at Kariguo , thus cutting off the route of withdrawal from Shiquan  River Valley. The 3 B/11 R Group  carried out a wide outflanking move on Night 27/28 Oct from Jiagong  southwards to Zhaxigang  and then turned northwest towards Kariguo behind Demchok. …This was the northern inner pincer. The outer pincer in the North was provided by 3rd Cavalry Regiment and the 4th Division Reconnaissance Company. Since the southern outflanking move by the 3 B/11 R Group was delayed, the trap could not be closed fully. Indian troops were able to withdraw during the Night 27/28 Oct to Koyul and Dungti in fairly good order.”
The Chinese narrative mentions that on October 28: “the Chinese troops had achieved their objectives and had occupied the Kailash Range that dominated the eastern bank of the Indus Valley. All the seven Indian strongholds in this sub-sector were removed and New Demchok itself was captured.”
The PLA eventually withdrew, but occupied the southern part of Demchok .
The Indian media often speaks of ‘difference of perceptions’ between India and China on the LAC’; it is the consequence of Chinese advances in Ladakh in the early 1960s as well as during the 1962 War.

The Chinese attack on Demchok in 1962
The two ‘perceptions’ create a dangerous situation with two de facto Lines of Actual Control (LAC). It is not only in Demchok, but in 11 other places, also that India’s and China’s views differ. From north to south, they are: Samar Lungpa north of the Karakoram pass, Trig Heights, Depsang Plain (which saw a serious incident in April 2013), Pt 6556, Chanlung nalla, Kongka La, the ‘fingers’ at Siri Jap near the Pangong Tso, the Spanggur Gap, Mt. Sajun, Dumchele, Demchok and Chumar (which witnessed a massive incursion as President Xi Jinping arrived in India in September 2014).
Dumchele: a Security Risk
Though since 1962, the border is closed, it does not mean that there are no ‘exchanges’ along the LAC.
Not far from Demchok, a place called Dumchele witnesses a good deal of smuggling between Tibet and Ladakh. Local herders visit the shops in Dumchele, which gets its supplies from a Tibetan mart on the other side of the range; the Chinese goods are later clandestinely brought to Leh. While visiting the bazaar in the capital of Ladakh, if you wonder how there are so many Chinese bowls or other cheap stuff, the answer is Dumchele.
An author  describes the place thus: “The right bank, just as is the left bank of the Indus, is dotted with scrub and tsama with many grazing grounds. Directly to the east of this lake and just about 4 km away is the large Chinese market of twenty shops of Dumchele, which is actually in Indian territory. About 6 km behind it is the large and spacious shelf of the Chang La (5,300 m) through which the Chinese have built a truckable road to Dumchele.”
Smuggling happens when the Indus freezes in winter. The ‘trade’ has been going on for years on a rather large scale (some say more than 100 crores annually).
In a paper for Research and Information System , Dr Siddiq Wahid writes: “Dumchele has for some years now been a trading post between residents on this side of the LAC and the Chinese side. The PLA has set up a military post at its edge near a hillock and apparently encourages this trade. This is done with some intensity for a few days in late November or early December. I asked Mr. Zangpo [a resident of Nyoma] if he had ever come to the grazing fields of Dumchele during the winter market fair. He replied that he had, although not very regularly. He then told us about some of the items, other than the usual consumer goods, that were traded (smuggled?) at Dumchele during this market festival. He mentioned tiger bones, tiger skins, rhino horns and sandalwood. He said that the Chinese buy these items enthusiastically from the ‘Tibetans’ who bring them there. Mr. Zangpo knew that this was an illegal activity as he was aware that the Ladakh police have been of late very active in stemming this trade and had made several arrests.”
A mart has been opened by the Chinese at a place called Kakzhung; this is regularly supplied by trucks coming from Tibet. From Kakzhung, goods are sent to Dumchele.
From a military point of view, the situation is far from healthy: the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can gather intelligence on what is happening on the Indian side; that is why China closes its eyes (or actively encourages) goods trafficking.

Reopening Demchok
What could be a solution?
Considering the ‘Nathu-la’ effect, reopening Demchok route could be an excellent Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and China.
Remember the skirmishes in Sikkim before the Nathu-la pass was officially reopened to trade in July 2006. It had the effect to fix the border, drastically reducing the tensions in the area.
For years, the people of Ladakh have also asked for the reopening of the ancient route. Why is Beijing so reluctant to let people and goods flow again over the Himalaya? Why can’t China allow the devotees wanting to visit Kailash-Manasarovar to use the easiest route, i.e. via Demchok?
It would an additional benefit; it would stop the smuggling between China and Ladakh, which poses serious security risks of infiltration for India.
The Indian External Affairs Minister should definitely raise this question with her Chinese counterpart when they meet.

Young President with many old challenges

President Macron En Marche?
My article Young President with many old challenges appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

It’s difficult to label Emmanuel Marcon as a Rightist or a Leftist. He himself would not wish to be categorised as it will hobble his functioning. India, meanwhile, has every reason to look forward to enhanced bilateral ties

France has decided. By default, some will say. After winning the most unexpected presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron is the new President of the French Republic. The 39-year-old former investment banker defeated Marine Le Pen of the National Front with more than 66 per cent of valid votes.
It is an extraordinary rise for Macron, France’s youngest-ever leader since Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte who was elected President in December 1848, at the age of 40. The leader of the En Marche! (‘On the Move!’) movement will also be the youngest among the G-20 leaders, before Justin Trudeau, who turned 45. By ‘default’, because the voters had not really a choice.
During the second round of the presidential election, more than 4.2 million electors (nearly 10 per cent of the 47.6 millions voters) who went to the booths, deposited a ‘white’ (blank) or ‘nul’ (invalid) ballot. A record!
On Sunday, just before 11 pm, Macron met his supporters near the glass pyramid of the world-famous courtyard of Le Louvre Palace in Paris. “Tonight, France won”, he solemnly declared. He told the jubilant crowd: “Merci mes amis!” (Thank you, my friends). He continued: “I want to thank those who voted for the defence of the Republic.” Then he addressed those who voted for Marine Le Pen, his unsuccessful rival: “I know our disagreements, I will respect them. You have expressed anger, disarray, sometimes conviction. I respect this.” Accepting her defeat, Marine Le Pen proposed a profound transformation of her xenophobic party, which will now have a new name.
In retrospect, it was the strangest French election campaign for decades. First novelty, primaries for the Left and the Central/Right were organised. Macron’s master-stroke was perhaps to have avoided the primaries… and a possible defeat against his former Socialist Party colleagues.
His political fate took a new turn in August 2015, while serving as the Minister for Economy and Industry in François Hollande’s Government, when he stated that he was no longer a member of the Socialist Party (PS).
On April 6, 2016, in Amiens in Northern France, he founded an independent political movement, En Marche!. He was then officially reprimanded by President Hollande (though some rumours say that the entire operation to get him elected may have been piloted from the Elysee Palace).
On August 30, 2016, Macron resigned from the Government, and on November 16 he formally declared his candidacy for the French presidency. He then promised to ‘unblock France’. Very few doubt that France needs to be ‘unblocked’. Despite the post-election euphoria, difficult times are awaiting the nation which invented the French Revolution.
Interestingly, this election saw the fading of the differentiation between the political Right and the Left. Symbolically, Macron the candidate, refuses to carry a label.  Though Macron’s party wants to challenge the entire political system, it might not be easy, knowing that he himself is a pure product of the establishment, having worked with Nicolas Sarkozy and Hollande.
Macron has been described a fervent European; in fact his victory gave an immediate boost to the Euro and the European stock exchanges. But which Europe?
Without being carried away like Le Pen who threatened to walk out of the Common Currency or even spoke of a ‘Frexit’, Macron will have to deal with a Europe needing more than a facelift. There is no doubt however that Macron’s victory created a sigh of relief in Europe; particularly the other side of the River Rhein. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was proably the first to call Macron to congratulate him.
It will be symbolic that at the time of Macron’s investiture in Paris, in a suburb of Beijing, China will be hosting a Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation attended by hosts of foreign heads of states and Governments. Chinese President Xi Jinping will preside over the summit in Huairou district’s Yanqi Lake area from May 14 to 15.  Though India may not be officially represented, Xi’s mega dream shows that the times have changed and dynamism has today shifted to the East.
Is there a place for Europe in the New Deal? Can a young President like Macron change the tide? But before this, he will have cross many hurdles.
The first one will be the nomination of a Prime Minister who has to be acceptable to a large political spectrum; then, soon after, a government will be announced. June might be the turning point with the holding of the legislative elections.
With its strange semi-presidential system, France may witness a ‘cohabitation’ when the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of Parliament. The President has to name a Prime Minister acceptable to the parliamentary majority — in some cases, opposed to his policies. The Prime Minister must be acceptable both to the President and to the legislature. It is not an easy endeavour. This has happened a few times since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, making governance difficult, to say the least.
At Le Louvre, Macron admitted that the future may be thorny: “I am aware that the task will not be easy, but I will tell you the truth … [but] I want the unity of our people, the unity of our country.”
Two days before the vote, hundreds of thousands of emails and documents stolen from Macron during his campaign were dumped online and then spread by WikiLeaks. How will the new President deal with this?
Through foreign policy had not been much discussed during the campaign, Macron will need to choose a path.
During Hollande’s presidency, the Russian President was made a demon. This absurd policy took such proportions that two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, which had been ordered (and paid for) by Moscow, were never delivered to the Russian Navy. There were finally sold to Egypt… with Saudi money.
Will Macron look at this afresh, or will his horizon be limited to Syria and Russia, with small incursions in Africa, like with his his predecessor?
And what about India? Soon after the result of the election, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron for an emphatic victory in the French presidential election. I look forward to working closely with [him] to further strengthen India-France ties.”
Now, much depends on the alchemy between Modi and the new French President. In any case, the strong strategic partnership between France and India will remain in place and several files such as those on Rafale and its offsets, the Scorpene, collaboration with a few smart cities or the Solar Alliance, are on track. Can it go beyond this, it is a million Euro question?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What do we know so far about the French presidential elections

My article What do we know so far about the French presidential elections appeared in DailyO.

Here is the link...

It was indeed the strangest French election campaign for decades. First the novelty: primaries for the Left and the Centre/Right were organised. After Francois Fillon, who served as President Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, emerged as the winner on the Right side of the checker board, many thought that the former would be the next president.
Fillon’s intentions of introducing drastic cuts in the bureaucracy to reduce the budgetary debts had made him popular. But the satirical weekly, Le Canard Enchainé, published documents showing that for more than 30 years, Fillon’s wife Penelope was paid by him as a parliamentary secretary while she was not working.

Though his direct opponent, Marine Le Pen, faced the same accusations of having created "fictive" jobs as the European Union parliamentarian, she claimed parliamentary immunity, thus refusing to appear before the judiciary. On the socialist side, Benoit Hamon emerged as the winner by defeating Francois Hollande’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Unfortunately for Hamon, two "leftist" candidates refused to participate in the primaries and they eventually scored much better than Hamon during Round 1.
First, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hardcore communist who believes that Xi Jinping and modern China are examples to follow for France; his popularity has seen an unexpected surge, primarily because he is a good orator and having never been in power he has not been caught in any financial scams. His surge was probably boosted by the lack of credible candidates.
Emmanuel Macron is other candidate who refused to stand in the primaries (in the French political system, anybody who manages to collect 500 signatures from locally or nationally elected representatives can register his candidature). In Round 1, in which the first two qualify for Round 2, the race was extremely tight between four of the eleven candidates.
Ultimately, Macron emerged the winner (24 per cent) and made it for Round 2 on May 7 with Marine Le Pen, second with 21.3 per cent. Fillon came third with 20 per cent, while Mélenchon scored 19.6 per cent. The socialist Hamon was far behind with 6.3 per cent.
Retrospectively, one could question the usage of the "primaries"? Though electors voted en masse (77 per cent), times are difficult for the nation which gave the triple mantra of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to the world.
During the last five years, a weak presidency has demoralised the nation further. Hollande’s unpopularity had beaten all records, mainly due to his lack of charisma and many goof-ups. General Charles de Gaulle’s "grandeur de la France" (France’s greatness) has long gone.
One factor is the fading of the differentiation between the political "Right" and the "Left". It is symbolic that the candidate projected by the French media as the next president (Macron), refuses to carry a "rightist" or "leftist" label. A Kejriwal-isation of French politics?

While millions of voters apprehend the xenophobic policies of Le Pen, many are attracted by her anti-migrants rhetoric. But the question is: can she expel all the illegal migrants or take France out of Europe?
Lately, it appears that she has not been too sure about fulfiling her promises. Like Donald Trump, who spoke big about building a wall with Mexico or denouncing the Chinese as currency manipulators, but once elected, the electoral promises are faced with hard real-politics — or as the French say, “Mettre de l’eau dans son vin (dilute your wine with water).”
In any case, it is doubtful whether she can gather enough support between the two rounds to win on May 7. During her May 1 rally, she gave a speech which appeared to have been lifted from one of Fillon’s speeches. But the difficulties before France in the volatile "banlieux" (suburbs) and the wave of terrorist attacks in the name of Islam may get her votes in plenty.

On Sunday night, Macron, the 38-year-old former economy minister of Hollande (who earlier worked as an investment banker for Rothschild), may became a president by default. Though his party, "En Marche!" (On the Move!) wants to challenge the entire political system, it might not be easy knowing that he is a product of the establishment, having worked first with Sarkozy, and then with Hollande.
But cleverly, he has managed to remain vague on his programmes, trying to please the "Right" and the "Left" at the same time. Macron is, however, a fervent European.
With the legislative elections due in June, there are good chances that the French semi-presidential system could witness a "cohabitation" which is specific to the French system. When the president is from a different political party than the majority of the members of Parliament, he has to name a prime minister acceptable to the parliamentary majority. The prime minister must be acceptable both to the president and to the legislature.
It is not an easy endeavour. This has happened a few times since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, making governance difficult, if not unmanageable. Interestingly, foreign policy has figured nowhere in the presidential campaign and India is even less in the French periscope.
Though the sale of 36 Rafales brought some cheer in the morose economic landscape, what is happening in the subcontinent is of no interest to the French electorate.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Chinese adventurism and the Tibet factor

Xi Zhongxun (President Xi's father) and the Panchen Lama (ca 1951)
My article Chinese adventurism and the Tibet factor appeared in The Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Had China extended the 1962 war against India, it would have had to battle it out at various fronts simultaneously. The situation in Tibet was grim and a power tussle was on within the ruling party

The Dalai Lama, Beijing’s bête noire, was recently awarded the Professor ML Sondhi Prize for International Politics 2016. Sondhi, a renowned academic, a Jan Sangh politician as well as a visionary diplomat, was probably the first to advocate normal relations with Israel, at a time when India was still living in a dream-world of non-alignment with the Hebrew state.
During the function, the Tibetan spiritual leader, in a veiled threat to Beijing, stated that China will have to think of Tibet in case of a conflict with India, as handling both simultaneously (India and Tibet) would not be an ‘easy’ task for Beijing. At the same time, the Dalai Lama played down the possibility of a military conflict.
He, however, added that since India has become a military power, the only option for China was ‘compromise’: “India is not a small country. It is gaining military power. So the only thing is compromise. The Chinese have to think about the situation inside Tibet when it comes to conflict with India.”
This raises an important issue: The significance of the ‘Tibet factor’ in the history of the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict; the highly-unstable situation on the plateau in the months which preceded the Chinese attack in the NEFA and Ladakh played a restraining role for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in October 19622 — particularly the 70,000-character petition of the Panchen Lama addressed to Premier Zhou Enlai and another high official, Xi Zhongxun, President Xi Jinping’s father.

The Panchen Lama in Tashilhunpo before 'dying'
At the beginning of the 1960s, resentment was at its peak in Tibet. In January 1962, during a speech at an important party forum, Mao Zedong brought up the issue of the Panchen Lama and the situation in Tibet. The young Tibetan Lama, who had been made Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region when the Dalai Lama left for India in 1959, had started to criticise the Communist Party’s policy in Tibet.
The Tibetan issue was to became a crucial factor which impeded longer military operations against India at the end of 1962. In the 70,000-character petition, (dubbed by Mao as a “poisonous arrow”), the Panchen Lama listed several problems on the plateau.
In the summer of 1962, when the PLA started to work on the details of the military operations, it soon realised that the campaign could not be sustained for a long time. It was, therefore, decided to terminate the war ‘with a unilateral Chinese halt, ceasefire, and withdrawal’. Historian Shi Bo believes that in view of “practical difficulties associated with China’s domestic situation”, the PLA, after achieving its military objectives, had to “quickly disengage and end the fighting as quickly as possible”. China’s ‘domestic situation’ is referring to the power struggle within the Party (Xi Zhongxun would be purged in July) and the situation in Tibet. With discontent brewing on the Roof of the World, the supply lines to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been greatly weakened.
Tibet’s instability appears clearly in the 70,000-character petition sent by the Panchen Lama to Zhou Enlai who requested Xi Zhongxun and Li Weihan, responsible of the United Front Work Department dealing with ‘minorities’, General Zhang Jingwu, the Representative of the Central Committee in Tibet and General Zhang Guohua, the Commander of the Chinese forces during the 1962 war, to read and study the Panchen Lama’s petition.
Interestingly, when the Panchen Lama died in 1989, Xi Zhongxun wrote in The People’s Daily that the Tibet experts found “most of the comments and suggestions [of the Panchen Lama were] good; they could be implemented, but some had gone too far”. Indeed, he had gone ‘too far’ for the communist leadership.
He had criticised the handling of the 1959 ‘rebellion’ (‘uprising’ for the Tibetans). Xi Sr commented: “[It] was counter-revolutionary in nature, being against the party, the motherland, the people, democracy and socialism. Its crimes were very grave. Thus, it was entirely correct, essential, necessary and appropriate for the party to adopt the policy of suppressing the rebellion.”
In separate chapters entitled, ‘Democratic Reforms’; ‘Production in Agriculture and Animal Herding’; ‘Surviving of the People’; ‘Nationalities’ Policy’; ‘Dictatorship of the Party’; and finally, ‘Freedom of Religion’, the Panchen had mentioned the deep grievances of the Tibetan population. He paid a heavy price for having dared to write what everyone knew; he spent the years from 1964 to 1978 in solitary confinement and rehabilitation camps.
Few analysts have pointed out that a longer war would have been difficult to sustain in the atmosphere of ‘rebellion’ prevalent on the Roof of the World at that time. Though openly siding with the ‘reformists’ camp led by Lui Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, the Panchen Lama was also warning the communist leadership of the resentment of the so-called nationalities.
Some new historical documents regarding the 70,000 characters’ letter have recently appeared in English on a blog, War in Tibet. The transcripts make fascinating reading. In the Summary of a Meeting between Comrade Xi Zhongxun, Comrade Li Weihan and Panchen held on June 21, 1962, in The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Jaazharlal Nehru and India are several times mentioned. At one point, Xi Zhongxun intervenes and recalls his encounters with the ‘Master’, the Panchen Lama: “We held several meetings here just for you to vent your anger and figure out ways to solve problems.... if you are angry, let it out. If you have disagreement, speak out. Problems should be solved through consultation and discussion.” But the Panchen Lama’s anger venting would take him to jail for 14 years.
About the restive situation in Tibet, Xi speaks of Nehru: “This requires that we do our work better under the leadership of the [Tibet] Work Committee [implementing the ‘reforms’], and construct our motherland better. Nehru is laughing now, but don’t let him have the last laugh."
At another point, during the three-day discussions, Xi Zhongxun mentions other implications of the Panchen Lama’s letter: “Tibet is the front line of national defence, and there is struggle against enemies as well.” He adds: “This is the joint work of Nehru and Dalai. If they messed up Nepal, how can they not want to mess up Tibet? What’s their purpose? They just want to overthrow the current leadership in Tibet and restore the old order. …Things are difficult in Tibet, but solutions and hope do exist, and our future is bright.”
Though the situation is relatively stable in Tibet today (it is not the case in Xinjiang), it would certainly be an important factor in case of Chinese adventurism. Indian planners should take note of this crucial strategic issue and in-depth studies should be undertaken on the situation in Tibet in the eventuality of a Sino-Indian conflict.
Ngabo, Xi Sr., the Panchen Lama (ca 1986)
Xi Sr., the Panchen Lama (ca 1951)
Xi Sr., the Panchen Lama (ca 1951)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Renaming won’t help China’s cause

Gorsam Stupa, Qoidengarbo for China
My article Renaming won’t help China’s cause appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

The Chinese media said that Beijing’s objective was to reaffirm China’s claim over Arunachal, “South Tibet” for the Chinese.

Tawang has been in the news in recent times.
According to an article in The China Daily, published at the end of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh: “Under India’s illegal rule, the residents of Southern Tibet live difficult lives, face various kinds of discrimination, and look forward to returning to China.”
The mouthpiece of the Communist Party says that the Dalai Lama “can’t wait to give away Tawang district… in exchange for India’s support for the survival of his separatist group.”
Calling the Dalai Lama a “troublemaker”, the daily further affirms: “Depending on India for a living, the Dalai Lama’s eagerness to please his master is understandable, but he is going too far by selling Southern Tibet in exchange for his master’s favour.”
A few days later, China Tibet Online, a website affiliated to Xinhua, referred to the Tibetan leader’s visit to “Southern Tibet”, particularly to “Dawang”, a pin yin transcription for Tawang.
Renaming names is however not new. It has been done by all colonisers. More than anybody, India is aware of this.
China has done it in a more systematic manner. After it invaded Tibet in 1950-51, Shigaste became Rìkazé or Xigatse, Sakya was Sa’gya, Metok, north of Arunachal’s Upper Siang district, Mutao or Medog.
Apart from the cases of pure pin yin-sation like the ones just mentioned, in many cases, names have been completely changed. Ngari province is now called Ali Prefecture (Chinese faulty pronunciation can’t probably pronounce “Ng” and “r”), Kyirong at the border with Nepal is now Jilong and worse, Barahoti in today’s Uttarakhand is called Wuje, while Demchok in Ladakh is termed Parigas.
Humans too are subjected to similar renaming: the Panchen Lama selected by China, Gyaltsen Norbu, is Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu.
All this shows that the recent announcement about the “official standardised names” for six places in Arunachal Pradesh is not a scoop; the only surprise is that it was not done earlier, which is simply because the claim itself on Tawang is an afterthought. In any case, today it looks like a childish reaction to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state earlier this month.
The Chinese media said that Beijing’s objective was to reaffirm China’s claim over Arunachal, “South Tibet” for the Chinese. The Global Times reported: “China’s ministry of civil affairs announced on April 14 that it had standardised in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of six places in ‘South Tibet’, which India calls ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, in accordance with the regulations of the central government.”
The official names of the six places (transcribed in Roman alphabet) are Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidengarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bumo La and Namkapub Ri. Let us have a look where these places are located.
Wo’gyainling is the new spelling for Urgyeling, the birthplace of Tsangyang Gyaltso, the sixth Dalai Lama, a few kilometers south of Tawang town. One understands the political reasons why China would be so attached to the place. Beijing is not ready to accept that a Dalai Lama could be born outside Tibet (China).
The second place is Mila Ri. It is a lake known as Mila Nagula situated near the famous “Madhuri” Lake, north of Tawang and South of the Indo-Tibet border. The place is mentioned in the 1962 war records, advancing PLA troops passed the lake on their way to Tawang. As “Ri” means “mountain” or “ridge” in Tibetan/Monpa, Mila Ri is probably one of the ridges above the lake.
The third place is Qoidengarbo Ri, for “Chorten Karpo” or “White Stupa”. It refers to Gorsam Chorten, the only large white stupa in the area (and the largest in Arunachal). It is not far from Zimithang, the tactical HQ of the 4 Infantry Division during the 1962 war. The name may refer to one of the ridges around the stupa.
Mainquka is Menchuka (or Mechuka, alternative Indian spelling) is a most strategic valley in West Siang district of Arunachal.
It is the only of one the six places outside Tawang district. China is not happy that India recently landed a C-17 Hercules transport aircraft in the area. Menchuka was also occupied by the Chinese in October-November 1962.
Bumo La is the border post of Bumla, 45 km north of Tawang, where the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA meet several times a year. “Bumo” means “girl” in Tibetan/Monpa.
Namkapub Ri is linked to Namkha Chu river, the theatre of the first Chinese attack in October 1962. “Ri” is for one of the ridges above the river (perhaps Hathungla).
By naming these six places, Beijing wants to remind India of the 1962 war and the fact that the Dalai Lama “belongs to China”.
As the ministry of external affairs stated, renaming places can’t change the fact that the territory south of the McMahon Line belongs to India.
What about the local population in Arunachal looking forward “to return” one day to China under the Communist banner?
During the Dalai Lama’s visit, not only did the entire local Monpa population (some 35,000 to 40,000, according to police sources) throng to have a glimpse of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, but also large flocks of Buddhist pilgrims from the remotest villages of Upper Subansiri, West Siang or Upper Siang districts, who travelled for days to have a once-in-a-lifetime darshan.
Why did the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang trigger so much violence from the Chinese propaganda machinery?
First and foremost, by allowing the Tibetan leader to visit Tawang, New Delhi has reasserted that the Land of Mon, as Tawang is known, is an integral part of India, whether China agrees or disagrees. This does not please Beijing, which lately has started adding Tawang to China’s “occupied territories”.
Moreover, if China is under the impression that Delhi’s policy is going to change, it is mistaken; Beijing has to reconcile and live with it.
The Chinese response is also a reaction to the Dalai Lama’s immense popularity in India’s border areas. This deeply irritates Beijing whose propaganda is unable to win over the “masses”, whether on the Tibetan side of the border or in the Indian Himalaya.
Beijing does not know how to react to such reverence for the Tibetan leader; given that the Chinese leadership has been unable to win over the hearts of the Tibetans, more than 60 years after their so-called liberation. In these circumstances, how could the Communist leadership convince the population of Arunachal Pradesh to join the authoritarian regime?
Another reason why Beijing has been so furious is that China has today become “bigger”; and it dislikes to be contradicted by “smaller” nations (like India).
Despite using batteries of “experts”, including a wanted Ulfa dissident, to bolster its claims, Beijing has been unable to project its case and ended up by resorting to insulting the revered Buddhist teacher and threatening India. It will lead Beijing nowhere in the long run

Friday, April 21, 2017

Six new places in Arunachal claimed by China

Did Beijing ask the local population if they want to be part of China?
China has announced 'official standardised' names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh.
It is a childish reaction to the Dalai Lama's visit to the State earlier this month.
The Chinese media said that Beijing's objective was to reaffirm China's claim over Arunachal, 'South Tibet' for the Chinese.
A few days earlier, Beijing had started naming ‘Tawang’ as ‘Dawang’, according to its pin yin spelling.
The Global Times reported: "China's ministry of civil affairs announced on April 14 that it had standardised in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of six places in 'South Tibet', which India calls 'Arunachal Pradesh', in accordance with the regulations of the central government."
The official names of the six places (transcribed in Roman alphabet) are:
  • Wo'gyainling,
  • Mila Ri,
  • Qoidengarbo Ri,
  • Mainquka,
  • Bumo La and
  • Namkapub Ri.
Let us have a look where these places are located.

Wo'gyainling is the new spelling for Urgyeling, the birthplace of Tsangyang Gyaltso, the Sixth Dalai Lama, a few kilometers south of Tawang Town.
One understands the reasons why China is so attached to the place. Beijing is not ready to accept that a Dalai Lama could be born outside Tibet (China).

The second place is Mila Ri.
It is a lake known as Mila Nagula.
Mila Ri is one of the ridges above the lake.
‘Ri’ means ‘mountain’ or ‘ridge’ in Tibetan/Monpa.
It is situated near the famous 'Madhuri' Lake, north of Tawang and South of Bumla. The place is mentioned in the 1962 War records.

The third place is Qoidengarbo Ri, for 'Chorten Karpo’ or ‘White Stupa’.
It probably refers to Gorsam Chorten, the only large white stupa in the area (and the largest in Arunachal).
It is not far from Ziminthang, the tactical HQ of the 4 Infantry Division during the 1962 War.
The name may refer to one of the ridges around the stupa.

Mainquka is Menchuka in West Siang.
China is not happy that India recently landed a C17 Hercules transport aircraft in the area. Watch the video.
I have often written on Menchuka (or Mechuka, alternative spelling) on this blog.
Menchuka was occupied by the Chinese in October/November 1962.

Bumo La is the border post of Bumla where the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA meet several times a year.
Incidentally 'bumo' means 'girl' in Tibetan/Monpa.

Namkapub Ri is probably link to Namkha chu river, the theater of the first Chinese attack in 1962.
It is one of the ridges above the river (Hathungla?).

By naming these six places, Beijing probably wants to remind India of the 1962 War and the fact that the Dalai Lama ‘belongs to China’.
But renaming names is not new.
It has been done by all colonizers.
In this case, it will be difficult for China to convince the local populations to join them under the Communist banner.

Below a map showing the Chinese advances toward Tawang on October 23-24 1962 (courtesy: Maj Gen PJS Sandhu, retd) from the book 1962: A view from the Other Side of the Hill published by United Service Institution of India.
One can see Milakteng (Mila Ri) and Bumla. The stupa is not marked on the map.
Map by Brig John Dalvi, 7 Infantry Brigade commander in October 1962
The Gorsam Chorten (Stupa) and the Namkha Chu are shown.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Xinjiang takeover: China’s master-stroke

Aksu in Southern Xinjiang was one of the PLA's Headquarter
My article The Xinjiang takeover: China’s master-stroke appeared in the Edit age of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

By taking over Xinjiang, communist China controlled the western borders of the Middle Kingdom, access trade with Central Asia, block any possibility of Soviet advance, and come in contact with Indian frontiers

Xinjiang, China’s western province, has often been in the news during the last few months, mainly due to instability of the region and the repressive measures taken by Beijing to curb ‘religious extremism’ and the rise of ‘terrorism and separatism’ amongst the Uyghur local population. It is interesting to look at how communist China annexed the ‘New Dominion’, as Xinjiang was known.
It was perhaps one of the greatest strategic feats in modern military annals. Mao Zedong’s words are telling about the mindset of the Chinese military leaders at that time (has it changed today?): “People may ask if there is contradiction to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle. This is to put the wrong question. Does one eat to no purpose simply because he relieves himself later? Does one sleep in vain because one wakes up and goes about? These are illusions born out of subjectivism and formalism and do not exist in real life.”
There was no question of Mao of losing territory in 1949; in fact, ‘real life’ meant controlling the periphery of the Middle Kingdom as fast as possible, starting by the ‘liberation’ of Xinjiang and Tibet.
On February 4, 1949, during a meeting with Soviet Foreign Trade Minister Anastas Mikoyan, Mao Zedong raised the issue of Xinjiang and pointed to the northwestern district of Ili (today’s Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture), where China had noted the presence of a Communist Party. Mikoyan said that he did not know about the existence of communists in the area, but he was aware of nationalist forces wanting independence: “This movement was triggered by the incorrect policy of the Chinese Government, which does not want to take into account the national specifics of these nationalities, does not permit the development of the national culture.”
The Russian Minister continued: “If the nationalities of Xinjiang were given autonomy, the soil for the independence movement would likely [disappear]. We do not stand for the movement of independence of the Xinjiang nationalities and do not have any claims on Xinjiang territory.” After Mao had been the green light he needed, he explained that China planned “giving Xinjiang autonomy, in the same manner as for Inner Mongolia, which is already an autonomous region”.
Interestingly, Mao enquired “whether there is a lot of oil in Xinjiang or a little”. He also suggested the construction of “a railroad connecting the Chinese railroads with the Soviet railroads through Xinjiang. This would have great significance for joint defence in case of a new war [with the West]”. Had he in mind a project similar to Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Road?
While the remnants of the nationalist forces were systematically annihilated in the mainland, in Xinjiang, Mao used a two-pronged ‘war’ tactic: First inducing the surrender of the nationalist forces and then sending a large number of troops in two different directions (north and south Xinjiang); the assurance of support received from the Soviets made things easier.
By swiftly taking over Xinjiang, the communists would control the western borders of the Middle Kingdom, access trade with Central Asia, block any possibility of Soviet advance in the region (in case the Soviet leaders changed their mind later) and come in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly in the Aksai Chin area. By the end of September 1949, a large contingent of communist troops started moving towards the New Dominion where a 70,000-strong nationalist force was still stationed.
Following the Hexi (Gansu) Corridor, the PLA advanced towards Urumqi, which was ruled by a coalition comprising the Nationalists (KMT) and representatives of the former Second East Turkistan Republic (ETR), supported by the Soviet Union. The ETR sympathisers were particularly strong in the three districts in northwestern Xinjiang, where they had retained some autonomy, while the KMT controlled most of southern Xinjiang. After having obtained the Soviet support, the second phase was marked by Chiang Kaishek’s Generals turning coat. On September 25, Tao Zhiyue, the Nationalist Commander-in-Chief of the Xinjiang garrison and Burhan Shahidi, the Political Commissar, announced the formal surrender of the nationalist forces to the Chinese communists. Several Kuomintang Generals joined the PLA and began serving the communists; those who refused to surrender fled to Taiwan or Turkey. A second victory for Mao …without fighting!
Later, the five ETR leaders who were to negotiate with the communists, died in an air crash in Soviet airspace over the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic; it was rumoured that they were murdered. The way was now open for Mao’s troops. Starting from Yumen, east of Jiuquan in Gansu Province, the communist troops went through indescribably harsh terrain, deep gorges, cold desert, and “they started a massive advance of forces towards Xinjiang along north and south of Tian mountain”, says the Chinese account.
The PLA 'advising' the Uyghurs
With poor communications, the advance of communist forces into Xinjiang was extremely ‘difficult and risky’; the distances were long, 1,253km from Jiuquan to Urumqi and 2,547km from Kashgar: “In order to overcome the communication and transportation difficulties, Soviet Union came for assistance with 40 transport planes so as to quickly transport soldiers from Jiuquan towards Urumqi”, notes the Chinese account.
On October 14, supported by a tank regiment, the main forces of 4 and 5 Division of the 2 Army reached Hami in Northern Xinjiang. They then took a southward turn and ten days later, the 4 Division ‘liberated’ Yanchi, where the troops stayed a couple of weeks to recover from the quick march. By that time, the 400 motor vehicles given by the Soviets had all collapsed… in any case there was no fuel anymore. To complete their advance towards Kashgar, the troops…to walk more than 1,000km in one month.
The Chinese records say: “The main force, in more than two months’ time, successively liberated each important town and city in the north and south of Xinjiang, pinned down uprising launched by reactionaries of Nationalist Party at many.” Marshal Peng Dehuai and Xi Zhongxun (Xi Jinping’s father) praised the troops in a telegram: “You have created an unprecedented record of the advance of forces.” Strategically, communist China was at the Gate of Tibet — and, of India. Soon, construction across Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area would start.
Nearly 70 years later, one understands the enormous importance of the annexation of Xinjiang with its natural resources such as oil, but also the trade routes such as the One Belt One Road initiative or the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. But in the process, Mao had forgotten his promises to give autonomy to Xinjiang; this probably explains China’s present difficulties.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

France has the Blues

Who will shift to the Elysée Palace in May?
My article France has the Blues appeared in Rediff.com

Here is the link...

'Who would have thought that Brexit would take place or Donald Trump would become US president or Kim Jong-un's madness could bring the prospect of nuclear war over Asia?'
'It is the time of the unexpected; the French elections should perhaps be seen in this perspective,' says Claude Arpi.

The world is going through strange times.
Is it not odd that so many unexpected things keep happening?
Who would have thought a few years ago that Brexit would take place or Donald Trump would become the President of the United States of America or Kim Jong-un’s madness could bring the prospect of a nuclear war over Asia. Indeed, it is the time of the unexpected; the French elections should perhaps be seen in this perspective.
Though eleven candidates are fighting hard to reside for the next five years, in the Elysée Palace, only one of them will ultimately make it.
Most electors agree that the ‘times are difficult’ for the nation which gave the triple Mantra of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to the world (and too the Indian Constitution); today France has doubts about its future, ‘the blues’, one could say in Frenglish.
France is no longer in a revolutionary mood; during the last five years, a weak Presidency has demoralized the nation further. Francois Hollande, whose unpopularity popularity had beaten of the records, got the lowest rating any president of the 5th Republic; this is mainly due to his lack of charisma and some of his goof-ups (for example, getting caught by the paparazzis on a scooter visiting his girl friend).
General de Gaulle’s ‘grandeur de la France’ (France’s greatness) has long gone! Will France find a real leader to give again the nation a position in the world?
Another factor which is not limited to France, but has appeared elsewhere on the planet, is that the differentiation between the political ‘right’ and the ‘left’ does not mean much anymore. It is symbolic that the candidate, projected by the French media as the next president (Emmanuel Macron), refuses to carry a ‘rightist’ or ‘leftist’ label.
Regarding the opinion polls, there is today a quasi unanimity in the French public that they are manipulated either by the large ‘press groups’ or ‘influenced’ by powerful political parties; it is a fact the media today is unable to project what will happen on April 23.
I asked a mathematician friend of mine, who has worked on this issue, why the surveys were often ‘statistically’ wrong (Brexit, US elections, recent German by-elections, etc.); it was not the ‘fault’ of the theoricians, my friend said; but simply that the electors do not decide till the last minute for whom they are going to vote. A week before the first round, which will select the two candidates for a final round on May 7, 40% of French voters are still ‘undecided’. Further, the mathematician argues that in the recent elections, electors often change their preference at the last minute (this probably happens less in India).
One particularity of the present French presidential elections is that the ‘primaries’ were organized to select the candidates who will represent the ‘left’ and ‘centre/right’. On the socialist side, Benoit Hamon emerged as the winner, by defeating Hollande’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Unfortunately for Hamon, the two candidates from the ‘left’ who refused to participate in the primaries, are now far ahead in all polls.
First, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hard core Communist who believes that Xi Jinping and modern China are examples to follow for France; his popularity has seen a unexpected surge, primarily because he is a good orator and having never been in power, has not been caught in any financial scams. Some are now projecting him to reach the second round for ‘la lutte finale’ (the final struggle). His present surge is probably boosted by the lack of credible candidates.
Macron is other candidate who refused to stand in the primaries (in the French political system, anybody who manages to collect 500 signatures from locally or nationally elected representatives can register his candidature.
Macron, the 38-year-old former Economy Minister of Francois Hollande (who earlier worked as an investment banker for Rothschild), wants to ‘bring optimism’ to the country; his party ‘En Marche!’ (‘On the Move!) challenges the entire political system. Though a pure product of the establishment, having worked first with Sarkozy, then with Hollande, Macron projects himself the anti-establishment candidate. Will he be the next President?
Millions already see him in the Elysée Palace with his wife, 20-years older than him. Cleverly, he has managed to remain vague on his program, trying to please the ‘right’ and the ‘left’ at the same time. Macron is however a fervent ‘European’, contrary to several other candidates who argue for a ‘Frexit’ or at least surgical reforms for the European Union.
Macron’s candidature has created a lot of confusion for the already confused left; Defence Minister Le Drian recently joined him, hoping to get a job in May and President Hollande is also said to be inclined to vote ‘Macron’, though the latter ‘deserted’ his Cabinet last year and subsequently criticized his government.
Confusion at its best …in the Land of Cartesianism.
During the primaries of the ‘right’, François Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, defeated the ‘hyper’ former President and Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux, who had also served as Prime Minister in the past.
Each candidate has his own recipe to take the country out of the current depressing slump; the problem is, in France like in India or the US, will the candidate who makes it remember what he promised during the campaign? Doubtful. Macron is more honest; his promises are so vague that nobody can attack him later if he becomes president.
After the two ‘primaries’ most of the observers thought that it was ‘done’, Fillon would be the next President. His intentions of introducing drastic cuts in the bureaucracy to reduce the budgetary debts had made him rather popular, but…
But… the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé, published documents showing that for more than 30 years, Fillon’s wife, Penelope was employed by him as a Parliamentary Secretary ...while she was not working.
As the judiciary is looking into the accusations, Fillon has attributed it to a ‘Black Cabinet’ hosted in the Elysée. It is practically impossible for the former Prime Minister to come fully clean now; a small mercy for him, his direct opponent Marine Le Pen is facing the same accusations of having created ‘fictive’ jobs as a European parliamentarian. She has claimed parliamentary immunity and refused to appear before the judiciary. She also believes in a ‘Black Cabinet’ theory, which probably exists in a form or another (has any Indian leader in power snubbed the use of the IB or other agencies to promote their political purpose?).
While millions of voters apprehend the xenophobic policies of Marine Le Pen, many are attracted by her anti-migrants rhetoric, but can she expel all the illegal migrants or take France out of Europe?
The difficulties facing France in the volatile ‘banlieux’ (suburbs) and the wave of terrorist attacks in the name of Islam, not only in France, but also Germany and more recently Sweden, will get her votes in plenty.
Can she do it during Round 2 is the question that nobody can answer today.
It is why I say strange. There is even a candidate, François Asselineau, president of the Union populaire républicaine (Popular Republican Union) who speaks of Sri Aurobindo; unfortunately he does not seem to have grasped the integral philosophy of the Rishi; Asselineau has just one obsession …the Frexit.
Foreign policy has figured nowhere in the campaign.
If Fillon or Le Pen pass, there will certainly a rapprochement (a ‘rebalancing’ would be more correct) with theRussians. During Hollande’s presidency, Putin was made a demon. Fillon asserted that it was "ridiculous to portray Putin as a monster with hands full of blood". Filon and Le Pen would see Putin more as an ‘ally’ against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
What about India?
India figures nowhere in the French periscope, though the sale of 36 Rafales brought some cheer in the morose economic landscape, what is happening in the subcontinent is of no interest of the electorate.
After winning the first round of the primaries, Fillon spoke of completely changing France’s ‘software’, but the hardware needs to be updated too.
This will be the job for the next president.
It is not clear who can undertake this task.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Four Merits and Four Loves in full swing?

Swearing on the Four Merits and Four Loves
Communist China always loved slogans with numbers.
Remember ‘The Four Olds’ during the Cultural Revolution.
The term was coined by Chief Propagandist Chen Boda in an editorial of The People's Daily in June 1966.
In the article titled ‘Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons’, Chen asked the masses to reject the Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas which were anti-proletarian and had been in the past, "fostering the exploiting classes and poisoning the minds of the people for thousands of years.”
Today, the prolific Communist propaganda speaks about Four Merits and Four Loves. A campaign is said to be 'in full swing' in Dagzê Township of Nyingtri prefecture.
Dagzê, not far from Lhasa, is the seat of the Ganden monastery.
A website bVTIBET.com published a picture taken on April 13 showing “propagandists designated from various departments at all levels units of Dagzê County of Lhasa City, taking notes carefully.”
Dancing on the Four Merits and Four Loves
It says that the Propaganda Department of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has gone to the seven TAR prefectures/townships “to propagandize educational activity on the theme of Four Merits and Four Loves.
The Four Merits refers to being “Civilized, Polite, Moral and Dedicated” while the Four Loves are Love for the Motherland (China) and Hometown, Love for the parents, Love and Respect for the teachers and elders and finally Love for learning and working.
The website adds that the trained propagandists visited the different counties and towns of the TAR to propagate ‘in full swing’ the Four Merits and Four Loves.
Nyingtri is apparently the first area where the new scheme has been implemented.
All schools in Nyingtri had to attend a series of events such as speech contest, artistic performance, drama competition promoting the Four Merits and Four Loves: “students will study hard and contribute to the efforts to building a strong and prosperous motherland in the future,” says the website.

Another self-immolation
This sounds good, but in another corner of the plateau, self-immolations continue.
Radio Free Asia
(RFA) reported that a Tibetan committed self immolation in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
A video circulating on the Internet, showed a man in police uniform spraying a fire extinguisher on a smoky body lying on the ground while other policemen are running towards the scene and blocking shouting onlookers from approaching the body.
According to RFA sources: “the incident took place on Saturday at about 7.00 am local time at the main square in Kardze town, where large crowds are known to gather. Chinese police swiftly took the self-immolator away.”
There is a serious discrepancy between the Communist propaganda and the ground reality in Tibet today.
Is China ready to look into the root cause of the problem?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dual infrastructure in Tibet: a threatening scenario for India?

This text appeared as a chapter of China: Threat or Challenge? published by Lancer Publications.

The historic relations
The story started millions years ago when the Indian island collided with the Asian plate. Without this collision, life could have continued for eternity undisturbed on the Indian island, but it was neither the destiny of Tibet to remain a sea forever, nor the fate of India to be perpetually an island.
Thereafter, during the last two millennia, Tibet and India lived in close and harmonious contact.
During the period known as the First Propagation of the Buddha Dharma in Tibet (7th-8th century), many great Indian Masters such Padmasambhava and Sankarakshita visited the Land of Snows; Buddhism became the state religion. The Second Propagation (10th-11th century), considered as the Renaissance in Tibet, came from India. The temples and gompas (monasteries) of Tholing and Tsaparang in Western Tibet (as well as Alchi and Tabo in the Indian Himalayas) are the remnants of an extraordinary outbreak of Buddhist Art, Literature, Architecture and Spirituality.
Armies were unnecessary on both sides of the Himalayan slopes.
With the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959, the economic and political relations between India and the plateau took another turn and at the end of October 1962, the ancient links were abruptly discontinued with radical consequences for India’s borders.

A miracle in road history
Soon after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Lhasa in September 1951, the Chinese started improving the infrastructure between China and Tibet and building new strategic roads on a war-footing.
Mao Zedong knew that the only way to consolidate and ‘unify’ China’s new colonies (Tibet and Xinjiang) was to construct a large network of roads . The work began immediately after the arrival of 18th Army in Lhasa in September 1951. Priority was given to motorable roads: the Sichuan-Tibet  and the Qinghai-Tibet  Highways. Surveying for the Tibet-Xinjiang Highway  cutting across Western Tibet (and the Indian territory in Ladakh) started at the end of 1951; construction began in 1953/54.
On 29 November 1954, Xinhua News Agency reported: “The two large armies of road builders from the eastern and western section of the Sikang-Tibet Highway joined hands on November 27. Sikang-Tibet Highway from Ya-an  to Lhasa is now basically completed.” The communiqué further mentioned that “gang builders and workers, including about 20,000 Tibetans, covered over 31,000 li on foot in the summer of 1953 and began construction of the 328 km of highway eastwards from Lhasa.” Three weeks later, another report stated that the Qinghai-Tibet Highway was now open to traffic.
The construction of one feeder road leading to Nathu-la, the border pass between Sikkim and Tibet had some strange consequences. India began feeding the Chinese road workers in Tibet, sending tons of rice through this route.
A year later, the first airport in Tibet, located in Damshung, north of Lhasa became functional.
Both the road network and the airports were to play a crucial role not only in what China calls the ‘Liberation of Tibet’, but also today in the so-called ‘stabilization’ of plateau, without forgetting the 1962 border conflict with India.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), China Tibet Online, a website affiliated to Xinhua said that the 1990s saw “a milestone of transportation development in Tibet. …Following the opening of the two crucial highways 60 years ago, Tibet has become better connected to the outside world.”
In a message for the occasion, President Xi Jinping called these projects, ‘a miracle in road history’. The Chinese President pleaded for further improvements in transport infrastructure in the TAR: “The two highways have played a vital role in Tibet's social system, economic and social development, as well as consolidating the southwest frontiers and promoting national unity.”
The next phase for an infrastructure boom on the Tibetan plateau, at an even faster pace, was the arrival of the Qinghai Tibet Railway in the Tibetan capital in July 2006.

The Tourist Boom
For the past 10 years, the infrastructure on the plateau has developed faster than during the past 1000 years. The railway has had incalculable consequences on what is left of the Tibetan identity, but also the development of ‘Western China’ in general as well as the defence of the borders (with India).
The opening of the railway line, first to Lhasa and later to Shigatse  has been followed by a deluge of Chinese tourists on the plateau.
In 2015, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) broke all records; it welcomed more than 20 million tourists. This was officially announced during the ‘Two Sessions’, i.e. the meeting of the Regional People’s Congress and the Consultative Political Conference held early February 2016 in Lhasa.
The tourism industry in the TAR generated 28 billion yuan (4.26 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015, nearly three times the figure of 2010.
Lhasa, Tibet’s capital alone saw its tourism revenue triple over the past five years to an estimated 15.49 billion yuan in 2015. The number of tourists visiting the capital rose to 11.79 million in 2015, a 23 percent increase compared to 2014.
China Tibet News reported that the passenger traffic on the Qinghai-Tibet railway hit 11.934 million in 2015, rising by 3.885 million passengers from 2014. The growth rate reached 48.3%, hitting a new record.
The Chinese website added: "In 2015, tourism in Qinghai and Tibet grows dramatically. Qinghai-Tibet railway company seized the new opportunity and took a series of effective measures to improve its passenger traffic capability. The company added 2,422 passenger trains, 2,992 additional coaches and 1.73 million seats."
Because the air is still pure, the sky still blue, the Kyi chu river still clean, millions of mainlanders are attracted to Tibet.
According to the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016 to 2020), Lhasa should receive 24 million Chinese tourists (an annual increase of 15 percent), as well as 300,000 international tourists (an annual increase of 20 percent).
The total revenue from tourism for the Tibetan capital alone is expected to exceed 30 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for more than 40 percent of Lhasa's GDP.
The real figures will probably exceed the plans.
For Beijing, the tourist boom is a win-win solution to solve all the problems of the plateau; the Chinese authorities have hence decided to accelerate the infrastructure construction and develop high-end tourism brands with:
  1. A new railway line Lhasa-Chengdu (in Sichuan); the western leg from Lhasa to Nyingchi to be completed by 2020 will reach the Indian border
  2. A railway line to Kyirong and Nepal, probably to be continued to Kathmandu and perhaps Lumbini
  3. A second international airport in Lhasa
  4. A new terminal for the Nyingchi airport
  5. A new airport in Nagchu
  6. A 4-lane highway between Lhasa and Nyingchi
  7. Improvement of National Highway 219 between Tibet and Xinjiang
All these projects have strategic implications for India, as ALL infrastructure built on the plateau has a dual use: civilian and military.

Dual Use of the Infrastructure
On April 25, 2016, Xinhua reported that during their bi-monthly session, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) discussed a new law on national defense transport. The legislation will cover the use of infrastructure for defense as well as civilian purposes.
According to the Chinese news agency: “The new law is expected to regulate the planning, construction, management and use of resources in transportation sectors such as railways, roads, waterways, aviation, pipelines and mail services, for national defense.”
The idea is to integrate military and civilian resources and make sure that the national defense transport network is compatible “with market and economic development.”
It is what General Zhao Keshi, head of the Logistical Support Department and member of the all-powerful Central Military Commission, told the legislators.
A national authority will be formed with the objective of “overseeing the national defense transport network,” announced the general.
The main players will be the local governments, military departments and more importantly, the newly-created Theater Commands
They will be jointly responsible to implement the new law.
Xinhua explains further: “A consultation mechanism will be established between local governments and military departments to disseminate and discuss information on construction plans, ongoing projects and demands.”
And when the needs occur, civilian transport vehicles and facilities will be pressed into service by the PLA.
The concept behind the new law is that national defense transport should consider the needs of both peace and war times, and vice-versa: when the civilian departments plan for new infrastructure, it should be usable by the PLA.
Interestingly, the national defense considerations will be included in any technical standards and codes for transport facilities and equipments.
Xinhua adds: “No organization or individual is allowed to undermine the proper use and safety of national defense transport projects and facilities.”
Beijing will be setting up “a strategic projection support force to facilitate efficient organization of long-distance and large-scale national defense transport”.
Though the draft law says that “the expenses for defense transportation missions should be borne by their users and the criteria should not be lower than the market price,” it is not clear who will pay the bill as both the PLA and the civilian administration are the ‘users’.
A Joint Command Organization for national defense transport will be set up in wartime or under special circumstances of peacetime, such as armed conflicts that endanger national sovereignty, says the draft.
The Joint Command will have large powers such as coordination of national or regional resources, organization transport operations, repairs and protection of transport infrastructure and facilities, etc.
With the creation of the Western Theater Command (WTC), regrouping all the units on the Tibetan Plateau (earlier the plateau depended on two Military Regions, namely Chengdu and Lanzhou) and in Xinjiang, the coordination and management of the infrastructure on the ‘Indian’ front will be far easier and more efficient.

Why this frenzy of infrastructure development on the plateau?
At least three issues explain the infrastructure frenzy on the plateau: (in)stability of the restive region, mega-boom of tourism and as importantly, ‘guarding’ the border with India. Though it is rarely mentioned in the Chinese media, one could add the exploitation of the natural resources of the plateau (like water and minerals).
(i)    Tibet: a Paradise for Tourists
The main pretext for rapidly developing infrastructure has been tourism. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, in April 2015, Lhasa was one of the cities with the best air quality in China. The ministry compiled air quality data from 74 major cities. Seven of them, including Lhasa, have met the national standards for best air quality for five main pollutants.
The China Daily recently advertized the Roof of the World thus: “Tibet with its mystery is the spiritual Garden of Eden and is longed by travelers home and abroad. Only by stepping on the snowy plateau, can one be baptized by its splendor, culture, folklore, life, snow-mountains, saint mountains, sacred lakes, residences with local characteristics and charming landscape.”
Why would China spend so much time and energy on Tibet if there was not a quick return? Tourism brings tremendous revenues to the regional government and helps in tackling the two other issues.
(ii)    ‘Stability’ of the Plateau
In the wake of the 2008 unrest in Tibet, Beijing still seems nervous. On September 7, 2015, soon after the grandiose parade, Yu Zhengsheng, CPPCC chairman, who was the chief guest, met a large number of representatives from the PLA and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) posted in Tibet.
Yu urged the army, the police and the judicial staff “to crack down on separatist forces and be ready to fight a protracted battle against the 14th Dalai clique.”
Yu also asked the defence forces “to improve their abilities of governing Tibet according to law [sic], specifically cracking down on the separatist forces, strengthening social management and protecting the people's rights.” He also mentioned the stability of the border areas, a leitmotiv of the Chinese leadership’s discourse. For all this, infrastructure is crucial.
An article in China Tibet Online entitled ‘Iron and Steel road pierces into plateau tourism’ says: “These world class locations are like pearls embedded along the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, and now because of extensions of the Qinghai-Tibet railroad they are all linked up.” It notes that according to the TAR’s Tourist Bureau there were more than 100,000 Tibetans engaged in tourist services in Tibet in 2015., with their annual incomes are over 10,000 yuans.
By providing a decent income to the local Tibetans, China believes it can keep the restive populations relatively happy; in addition, it ‘stabilizes’ the plateau.
(iii)    Defending the Border
Last but not the least, the defence of the borders are often mentioned in the Chinese media, during the Tibet Work Forum, Xi reiterated his theory about the ‘border areas’; he said that “a series of strategies have been in effect during the 60-plus years of governing Tibet," and then cited the theory that "governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilizing Tibet is a priority for governing border areas. ”
This speaks for itself.

The train to the borders
The railway is will soon reach the Nepal Border (Kyirong) and the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh and possibly the Chumbi Valley adjacent to Sikkim.
Here too tourism is used as the stone which kills several birds. Mainland’s travel agencies promote packages such as “Three-day tour to Nyingchi for enjoying peach blossoms”. The promotions tell the tourists that they will not only “enjoy beautiful scenery but also visit local families and taste unique Tibetan delicacies.”
Let us not forget the main town in Nyingchi prefecture is Bayi.
Bayi, which stands at India’s doors, translates by ‘8-1’, meaning that the area belongs to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) whose anniversary falls on 8-1 or August 1).
Bayi’s Tourism Bureau announced that the district received more than 174,000 tourists from January to March in 2016, up by 53.23 percent.
The Chinese government promotes "Pure Land, Beautiful Nyingchi" or the “The Switzerland of Tibet” or the gorges of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra).
Beijing says that the area “enjoys unique ethnic culture, biological culture and beautiful scenery. Bayi District has developed rural tourism, folk custom tourism and other forms of tourism.”
While the train will be reaching Nyingchi in 2020, a four-lane highway may be reaching soon. On May 23, China Tibet Online mentioned the ‘World's most beautiful highway, Lhasa-Nyingchi Super Highway’  which should be completed in 2017.
A spectacular picture of the road leading to the Indian border is captioned. “Ecology corridor, green gallery, landscape avenue ...stunning scenery of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Super Highway attracts lots of people.”
While the Indian Government sticks to its archaic mindset where an antiquated ‘Inner Line Permit’ dating from the Raj still prevails, China is developing its borders at a rapid pace.
Why can’t India emulate Beijing in this field?

The Case of Metok
Located north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, Metok is small county with a population of hardly 11,000 inhabitants. Before the opening of a tunnel in October 2013, Metok was ‘the last county in China not accessible by a highway’.
Metok is situated south of the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra). Xinhua describes the place thus: “The ‘Land of the Hidden Lotus’ lies at an altitude of 1,200 meters. Due to the regional Himalaya fragment belt and the Metok fragment belt, there is frequent geologic movement making it an area often witnessing numerous earthquakes, avalanches, landslides and mudslides. With a humid climate with much rainfall adding to all of this, Metok ended up becoming the last county in China to be connected by road.”
Can you believe it: two years later, the county received over 70,000 visitors?
China Tibet Online noted that since a highway reached the village of Metok in 2013, “tourism industry has seen rapid development”.
The propaganda invites the Chinese tourists to see the Galongla Waterfall, the wonder of Swallow Pond, the Metok Waterfalls, the Menba suspended tower and other scenic sites, “as well as ‘plant fossil’ spinulosa trees and other such thousands of kinds of plants and animals.”
How many Indian tourists are allowed to visit Tuting/Geling in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, located north of Metok, on the banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo river ? A handful at the most!
Would it not be the best way for the Government of India to demonstrate on the ground that Arunachal is part of India?
Xinhua noted that following the opening of the Metok road, the local population has “quickly started moving forward towards a better-off life.”
With one stone, many birds are killed. Since 2013, the length of public road the Metok County has reached 270 kilometers .
It is worth noting that it is in the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo that a mega Three Gorges Dam, is purported to be planned.
The opening of roads, the improvement of communication infrastructures as well as the rapid development of the tourist industry could one day facilitate the construction of the dam.
Needless to say that these developments located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line should be a deeply worrying development for India.

The railway line between Lhasa-Chengdu
The new railway between Chengdu and Lhasa is the next mega project for China. The Economist remarked: “Plans for a new railway line into Tibet pose a huge technological challenge—and a political one.”
The London-based publication noted: “A COLOSSAL roller-coaster is how a senior engineer described it. He was talking about the railway that China plans to build from the lowlands of the south-west, across some of the world’s most forbidding terrain, into Tibet. Of all the country’s railway-building feats in recent years, this will be the most remarkable: a 1,600-kilometre track that will pass through snow-capped mountains in a region racked by earthquakes, with nearly half of it running through tunnels or over bridges. It will also be dogged all the way by controversy.”
Though half as long as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway (QTR), but may take thrice the time to build. The cost is estimated at 105 billion yuan ($16 billion).
The Economist remarks that while Lhasa is about 3,200 metres higher than Chengdu, “yet by the time the track goes up and down on the way there—crossing 14 mountains, two of them higher than Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain — the cumulative ascent will be 14,000 metres.”
It does not seem to pose a problem for the Chinese planners.
Once the railway is functional, the entire plateau will be economically and strategically integrated into the Mainland and 100 million Chinese tourists will pour into the Roof of the World every year.

Other developments
Apart from the protects already mentioned, such as the railway line to Kyirong and Nepal, the second international airport in Lhasa, the new airport in Nagchu, and in parallel, the new Lhasa-Chengdu railway line, smaller projects are presently going on.
For example, the Gonggar Railway Station at the Lhasa Airport is now under construction. Xinhua reported: “At present, station projects of Gonggar Railway Station in Tibet Autonomous Region is stepping up its construction, and expected to be completed by the end of 2016.”
The news agency adds that the new station will be adjacent to 101 Provincial Highway, 15 km distance from Gonggar-Lhasa Airport, “It will provide convenience for many domestic and overseas tourists in and out of Tibet after the completion of the railway station.”
The setting up of a sophisticated electricity grid is progressing at fast pace. According to China Tibet Online: “Key western development projects—the Qinghai-Tibet networking project has been in operation for 5 years, withstanding the cold, low atmospheric pressure, high winds and sand, and other harsh environmental tests. Operations have remained safe and stable, bringing benefits to the people along the ‘bright, heavenly road’ in Qinghai and Tibet.”
The National Grid Qinghai Electric Power Company provided some data: since its inception, the Qinghai-Tibet networking project has already conveyed 3.3billion kW/h to Tibet, equivalent to 416,900 tons of standard coal transport, which is a reduction in carbon emissions of 1.03 million tons.
More interestingly: “The Qinghai-Tibet D.C. power system successfully carried out reverse-carry loads. The Tibet power grid achieved 332 million kW/h of hydropower delivery during the high water level periods, all of which was consumed within Qinghai Province.”
It means that once a few dams, now under construction, are operational (particularly on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra), Tibet will be able to supply China with electricity. The Chinese website further describes the project: “The Qinghai-Tibet networking project is a key western development project. It is also the world’s highest D.C. electricity transmission project and the longest transmission line across frozen ground. Located mostly in a low atmospheric pressure area with a lack of oxygen, cold, high winds, and radioactive hot spots, at an average elevation of 4,500 meters high, the highest elevation point is at 5,300 meters high. More than 900 kilometers of the line are located in areas above 4,000 meters high.”
All this has important strategic implications for India.

The Aksai Chin to Xinjiang
Another large project is renovation of the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, known in China as National Highway 219 and in India by his infamous name ‘the Aksai Chin road’: infamous because the Nehru government took more than 5 years to discover that the PLA had built a road on Indian territory.
In an article titled ‘Across China: Heavenly road brings the high life to Tibetan Plateau’, Xinhua remarks: “It is the melon season in neighboring Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, fresh fruit is stacked up at the roadside, waiting to be ferried through the Kunlun Mountains and up to the plateau along the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway.”
This road has not only linked the two most strategic (and restive) provinces of China (Tibet and Xinjiang) but also helped to tremendously cut the cost for the occupation of Western China by the PLA.
Xinhua takes an example: “Less than a decade ago, a kilogram of melon could sell for 60 yuan (about 10 U.S. dollars) on the plateau.”
It then quotes Zhang Lei, head of an armed police transport detachment stationed in Ritu County along the highway: “Last year the price was just a little over 10 yuan.”
National Highway 219 is built at an average altitude of over 4,500 meters and is the world's highest motorable road.
The Chinese news agency gives the historic background: “Originally covered by gravel in 1950s, the 2,340-kilometer highway was almost fully paved by 2013, slashing the travel time between Yecheng County in southern Xinjiang and Ngari Prefecture in Tibet from 15 days to just one day, with another day to reach Lhasa. Accidents and fatalities also decreased dramatically.”
The article concludes: “The highway today looks to me like an airport runway -- wide, flat and smooth - a heavenly road, indeed.”
It is certainly a great boon for the PLA and China’s border management in general.
Xinhua explains: “With a safe, modern highway, transportation costs from Yecheng to Ngari have fallen by 55 percent, leading to cuts of about 40 percent in the price of commodities in the Tibetan town. Better yet, the number of tourists in Ngari has surged five-fold.”
In other words, the PLA’s ‘Indian front’ will get its supplies faster and cheaper.

China is indeed far, far ahead of India in terms of border management and development.
Though it may not be a threat in itself, the tremendous progress made by China on the Tibetan plateau shows that in peace time, it is working hard to prepare for war time.
The time has perhaps come for Delhi to wake up and study the happenings on the other side of the LAC. It is particularly important at a time the two former Military Regions of Chengdu and Lanzhou have been merged into one Western Theater Command, greatly improving the management of China’s borders with India.