Thursday, August 30, 2018

All is not well in China’s PLA

Exercises in Tibet
My article All is not well in China’s PLA appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

The atmosphere of suspicion in the People’s Liberation Army is an indicator of the troubles within. Whether these are serious issues or just to ‘scare the monkeys’, is another matter. India must be cautious

An important event took place during the last week of August: India hosted China’s Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe for four days. The visit was important for several reasons. One, it was the first encounter at the highest level of the military after the Doklam episode; Gen Wei is also a State Councilor and a member of the all-powerful seven-member Central Military Commission (CMC), chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The visit also came just after the ‘summer holiday’ of the communist party’s top guns at Beidaihe, according to some of the scarce information which filtered out from the beach resort, the summer was hot. Further, Gen Wei was accompanied by a 27-member delegation, which included Air Marshal Dingqui Chang of the CMC’s Joint Staff Department, Lt Gen Guiqing Rong, Deputy Commander of the Western Theatre Command (WTC) handling the entire border with India and Maj Gen Haiyang Li, Commander of the Southern Xinjiang Military District facing Ladakh. The appetizer was the visit of Lt Gen Liu Xiaowu, another WTC’s Deputy Commander, who led a border defence delegation to India between July 2 and 6.
Incidentally, on July 25, Ming Bao, a Hong Kong newspaper, reported that Gen Liu was under investigation and had been stripped of all military authority pending the conclusion to an enquiry. China watchers suspected that Liu, while serving in Guangzhou several years ago, had been too close to two sacked CMC members, Gen Zhang Yang (ex-Director of the General Political Department) and Gen Fang Fenghui (ex-Chief of General Staff Department). These rumours have never been confirmed (and they are probably not true), but they show the highly suspicious atmosphere vis-à-vis the military in China today. It is a fact that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is shaky and nobody really knows ‘who is with whom’.
Gen Wei’s arrival was also preceded by a goodwill visit of a four-member Indian Army delegation headed by Lt Gen Abhay Krishna, India’s Eastern Army Commander, to China from August 13 to 19. The delegation visited four cities, including Lhasa. Interestingly, there was a total blackout by the Chinese military media, which is something rare. This silence did not bode well for the visit of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a few days later.
Was Gen Wei’s four-day India visit a success? One can say ‘yes’, in the sense that the defence establishments of both countries got to know each other better; that was the idea behind the two-day informal meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in April. At that time, the two leaders issued a ‘strategic guidance’ to their militaries to start building trust.
Unfortunately, during Wei’s visit, the setup of a hotline between India’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and the PLA equivalent could not be finalised. China wanted a WTC deputy commander to be on the other side of the line; it was not acceptable to Delhi, who preferred the real equivalent (which does not exist). An early operationalisation of the hotline was, however, mentioned during the talks.
Nirmala Sitharaman and her counterpart also decided to work towards reducing troop confrontations along the disputed border, with better implementation of confidence-building measures and greater interaction between local commanders. The Times of India reported: “As for the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, which has 23 ‘disputed and sensitive areas’ stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, the two sides decided to direct their troops to ‘maintain restraint’ and not allow matters to escalate,” like in Doklam last year.
The scope of joint exercises should be expanded, which is a good thing if implemented sincerely. Remember, during Doklam, the hand-in-hand exercises were unilaterally canceled by China. More border personnel meeting (BPM) points will hopefully be opened; existing ones are located at Nathu La (Sikkim), Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul (Ladakh) and Bumla and Kibithu (Arunachal). Already on August 15, troops of the two countries met at Kepang La in the Tuting sector of Upper Siang (Arunachal).
A new BPM point may even come up in Uttarakhand (Mana pass?). But there is more behind the scene. Xi Jinping was seriously questioned in Beidaihe, though the details are not known, it appears that Premier Li Keqiang did not approve of many of his policies. Bill Bishop, the knowledgeable publisher of Sinosism, a China-centered newsletter wrote: “It’s not a coincidence that in just the last week Xi has chaired very high level meetings showing his control over the ‘gun’ (PLA) and the ‘pen’ (propaganda). He does not look like someone who is weakened — if anything he may be gaining strength. If there really had been an effort over the summer to push back against Xi and/or Wang [Huning, another member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee], those moves look to have been squashed and they likely gave Xi an even clearer idea of where his enemies are.”
Xi’s first outing, after more than two weeks of ‘disappearance’ was to speak to the Generals;  he pleaded “for politically loyal and clean Armed Forces.” He seems today in control, but it might not have been easy.
On August 24, The South China Morning Post reported that three senior Chinese Generals “have been either severely punished or detained as part of a corruption investigation this week, as President Xi Jinping sent a strong message to the military that his crackdown on graft is far from finished.” Two out of three were demoted by seven grades to become deputy regimental officers. One was once the PLA’s youngest Lt Gen and the other one, a former military intelligence chief. Both had close ties with disgraced former CMC vice-chairmen, Generals Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, who were accused of accepting bribes in return for promotions, according to the Hong Kong newspaper: “The latest moves underscored Xi’s determination to eradicate the remaining influence among the troops of two corrupt former top military leaders.”
Both also had close ties with Gen Zhang Yang …so did Lt Gen Liu Xiaowu, who was in India in July. The PLA Daily recently reported that at least 13,000 military officers had been punished for corruption over the past five years, 200 among them were Generals. Whether it is true or just to ‘scare the monkeys’, is another issue, but the point is that all is not is well in the PLA, and India should keep this in mind while negotiating.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Will Tibet ever find her soul again?

The second volume of  my quadrilogy on India Tibet Relations (1947-1962) was released on Septeber 6 by Amb KS Bajpai at the United Service Institution of India.

The title is Will Tibet ever find her soul again?

Click here to order...

I post here the Introduction

The first volume of the India Tibet Relations (1947-1962) left us soon after the signature of 17-Point Agreement in May 1951. The Tibetan delegates had no alternative but to accept that the “the Tibetan people shall return to the family of the Motherland of the People's Republic of China” and “drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet.” (Article I)
Ngabo Ngawang Jigme and his colleagues further agreed that “The local government of Tibet shall actively assist the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to enter Tibet and consolidate the national defenses.” (Article II)
One can ask: who was this defence consolidation against?
Very few realized then that it could only be against India, as the Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai honeymoon between Delhi and Beijing had just started; over the next months and years, the Indian officials posted on the Roof of the World would discover the true objectives of the Communists. But during the first months, nobody in Delhi or the Embassy in Beijing was ready to listen to them.
This volume shall go in depth into the slow break-down and deterioration of the age-old Indo-Tibet relations, gradually being replaced by a cruder relation with the new occupiers of Tibet.
India’s friendly relationship with its Buddhist neighbour was progressively terminated by the presence of the PLA on the plateau. During the period covered by this volume, very few Tibetans had the courage to fight the ineluctable; most Tibetans, whether from the aristocracy or the clergy, collaborated with the occupying forces. This period however saw the birth of a national conscience and a ‘people’s movement’, which unfortunately never got Delhi’s support.
“Will Tibet ever find her soul again” wrote the Indian Trade Agent (ITA) in Gyantse, at that time.
After looking at the situation in Tibet during the first months after the signature of the 17-Point Agreement, we shall witness the arrival of the Chinese troops in Lhasa, preceded by General Zhang Jingwu, the representative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP).
Most of the documents used in this volume come from the JN Collection (also known as the Nehru Papers), held in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi as well as from the National Archives of India. It is the first time that such documents have been used (or even seen). The arrival of Gen Zhang and his first encounter with Sumul Sinha, the head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa, are described in detail. It makes fascinating reading. The happenings of the coming years could already be perceived in this first ‘polite’ meeting.
Another issue which has never been narrated earlier is the fate of the four Indian prisoners of war during the so-called Liberation War, i.e. the invasion of Tibet in the summer of 1950. After several months of hard negotiations, the young Indian radio operators would finally be freed. The Indian diplomacy did a good job in this case.
During the first year of occupation, a report of the Indian Trade Agent in Gyantse vividly described the changing trends in the power balance on the plateau.
The Indian officials, who for decades dealt directly with the Tibetan authorities, had now to pass through the Chinese PLA officers.
The most grotesque incident of this period was the feeding the PLA’s troops with rice coming through India. Without Delhi’s active support, the Chinese troops would not have been able to survive in Tibet. Cables, telegrams and despatches between Lhasa, Yatung, Gangtok, Delhi and Beijing shall enlighten us on this never-heard-before episode.
It will be necessary to move for a moment to Tawang and look at the situation after the arrival of Maj Bob Khathing, who smoothly managed the takeover of the administration and began to protect the local Monpa population against the rapacious Tibetan tax collectors’ exactions.
We shall also go through the advance of the Indian Administration in the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). As a consequence of the report(s) of the North and Northeastern Border Committee, led by Maj Gen Himmatsinghji, the Deputy Defence Minister, Delhi had decided to provide basic amenities and a proper administration to the tribal population living south of the McMahon Line in NEFA’s five Frontier Divisions. The difficulties of the first years are highlighted through various historical documents.
When one looks at the fate of the Tibetan nation, the closure of the Indian Mission in Lhasa and its renaming as Consulate General working under the Indian Embassy in Beijing, it is another tragedy never recorded in India’s history books. Delhi accepted meekly, without even informing the Parliament that India ‘officially’ had a new neighbour.
This was preceded by the de facto closure of the Indian Consulate in Kashgar, in Southern Xinjiang in 1950, which implied that the customary trade between Kashmir and Central Asia, via Ladakh and Xinjiang came to an end. The famous old Silk Road was dead. The closure of the Consulate has also been recorded for the first time.
Another fascinating aspect rarely studied is the trade with the Himalayan States of Tehri-Garwal, Himachal Pradesh as well as Ladakh through the seasonal Indian Trade Agency in Gartok, one of the three agencies functioning under the office of the Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim. The trade with Tibet in the Western Himalaya, is looked at through the eyes of Lakshman Singh Jangpangi, the ITA in Western Tibet. The flourishing business in Yatung located at the gate of Sikkim in the Chumbi Valley, is also documented.
We shall come back for a moment to NEFA to see the quick developments on Tibet’s borders. Incidentally during the period under study, China never claimed Tawang or the entire NEFA as theirs; today, Beijing terms the whole area ‘Southern Tibet’.
As for the first volume, our main difficulty has been that the Ministry of External Affairs has stubbornly (and illegally – the Public Records Rules stipulates that documents should be declassified after 25 years) refused to declassify the historical records held in South Block. As a result, some aspects might be missing in this study. As mentioned in Volume 1, it is certainly not in India’s interests.
Regarding the strategic roads built by the PLA, particularly the one started through the Aksai Chin in Ladakh, we used fascinating recently-released CIA documents to reconstitute the military set up on the plateau before 1954.
An Indian document also gives us an idea of the Chinese troops deployment in the early years of the Chinese occupation.
An interesting element, on which most Indian politicians of the time agreed, was the development of the border areas as a way to counter Chinese advances (and propaganda). It was what the Himmatsinghji Committee had suggested in 1951. The Indian Frontier Administrative Service played a crucial role in this context; the remarkable service, with outstanding officers, more or less at par then with the Indian Administrative Service, greatly helped consolidate the Indian borders in the North-East in the early 1950s.
One of the saddest aspects highlighted in this study is the Prime Minister’s (and some of his ‘advisors’) lack of understanding of the ‘Chinese Threat’ in the early fifties. Sumul Sinha, who served in Lhasa during two years (1950-52), tried to point out this danger when posted in the NEFA division of the Ministry. He was severely reprimanded by the Prime Minister. Thereafter, he was a dejected officer, though some ten years later, his reports appeared to have been prophetic.
After looking at the deteriorating situation in Lhasa before the beginning of the Tibet Talks in Beijing (which started on December 31, 1953), we shall go in great detail into the so-called negotiations during which India lost all the rights and advantages it had in Tibet since the beginning of the 20th century.
Three chapters are consecrated to the Tibet Talks, in which Tibet never participated (was not even informed), ending after four months with the signature of the Panchsheel Agreement.
These chapters go into the ‘framework’ of the Negotiations, the first and second months of the talks and finally the disastrous outcome of the Agreement.
We have tried to go deeper into this event which occurred exactly 50 years after the British military operation in Tibet: the signing of this bi-lateral accord between India and China redefined India’s age-old trade relations with Tibet; the Tibetans themselves were excluded from the negotiations and the benefits of the Agreement.
In many ways it marked the tail end of the events set into motion by the entry of Francis Younghusband in Tibet. While the British expedition indicated recognition of Tibet as a separate entity, the signing of the Agreement put an end to Tibet as an independent nation. The circle was closed, with incalculable consequences for the Himalayan region and India. The other misfortune is that the Agreement would be remembered not for its content, which triggered the slow destruction of a 2,000 year-old ‘way of life’, but for its preamble (the Five Principles) which was supposed to govern the relations between India and China.
Prime Minister Nehru based India’s relation with China, on his Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai policy, but the idealistic Principles would never be followed either in letter or in spirit, by Communist China.
It took a few more years and many persistent Chinese intrusions on Indian soil to sensitize the Indian government and public to the gravity of the situation.
For several years, Nehru naively believed his Chinese counterpart when Zhou Enlai told him that the world would be changed “when Panchsheel would shine over the universe like a sun”.
This volume ends with the devastating floods in Gyantse in July 1954; the building of the Indian Agency would be washed away and several Indian officials, including the ITA and the Officer Commanding-designate (OC) of the military escort, would lose their lives.
A tragic and symbolically ominous end to a depressing period of turbulent changes.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Wang in Tibet: Sinicization of the religions in China

Tibet is an extraordinarily popular destination these days, not only for the 26 million Chinese tourists visiting the Roof of the World, but also for the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
In just one month, two almighty members visited Tibet (Number 2 and 4 in the hierarchy).
I mentioned the visit of Premier Li Keqian just before Beidaihe 'summer holidays' and now it is the turn of Wang Yang, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) to spend three days on the plateau (apparently in Chamdo and Lhasa).
Xinhua reported that Wang visited a Tibetan family in Chamdo, during his three-day 'inspection tour' on the plateau from August 24 to 26.
The news agency commented: “Top political advisor stresses poverty relief, religious work in Tibet.”
His visit was to urge the Tibetans (and the local cadres), to do more “to advance targeted poverty relief and accelerate the paces of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects” and also to take care of the “religious work to ensure prosperity, development and lasting stability in Tibet Autonomous Region.”
“Winning the tough battle of eliminating poverty in Tibet is of great significance to people's well-being and ethnic solidarity,” Wang said.
Apparently he came for the same objective than the Premier at the end of August.
Strange!
Is there so much poverty on the plateau more than 60 years after the so-called Liberation?
Wang advised the cadres: “Priority should be given to improving the quality of poverty relief, with a reasonable sequence of work and no hastening to meet deadlines.”
He spoke of the long-term effects of relief (of poverty) work: “The current standard of poverty relief must be strictly implemented,” he added.
Wang also stressed ecological protection, “ecological relocation work in high-altitude mountainous areas should proceed steadily and in an orderly manner. The national ecological security shield must be strengthened.”
What does ‘relocation work’ mean? It is not clear, probably to relocate the nomads in ‘new cities’, often looking like ghettos.

Sinicization of the religions in China
Wang also visited Sera monastery near Lhasa, where he asked the monks to work  for “improved and innovative temple management and advancing anti-separatism efforts.”
Are the monasteries still the hot-beds of ‘separatism’?
It looks like.
Wang was accompanied by Drukhang Rinpoche Thubten Khedrup, the President of the Tibet branch of the China Buddhist Association.
The CPPCC Chairman chairman spoke of “social stability and prosperity of Tibet in the long term, urging preparedness and precautions for danger in times of safety.”
What danger? From Dharamsala? From India?
While visiting the monastery, he mentioned the new of theme of Xi Jinping’s religious campaign, “Sinicization of the religions in China”.
More efforts should be made to integrate Tibetan Buddhism into China’s socialist society, he explained, asking the monks “to firmly uphold the leadership of the CPC, inherit and promote patriotism, and be courageous to battle all separatist elements, in order to further protect the national reunification, ethnic unity and social stability.”
Why was the Panchen Lama, who has been camping in Lhoka prefecture in the past few days, not accompanying Wang is a mystery?
In terms of seniority, he is certainly ‘senior’ to Thubten Khedrup.
Why was he not around is rather strange, though some more pictures may emerge in a few days, showing an encounter.
While in Sera, Wang instructed the monasteries to better cultivate “talents in religious work within the religious circle, to preserve the good image of Buddhism, and push forward the healthy development of Tibetan Buddhism.”
With Chinese Communist characteristics of course…
Was there a meeting with the PLA officers and soldiers posted on the platea?
Nothing has appeared so far.Wang was accompanied by Zhang Yijiong, who since 2012 serves as executive deputy director of the United Front Work Department and as such is responsible for the Tibetan affairs in Beijing.
Incidentally, Zhang succeeded Hu Chunhua as Deputy Secretary of the TAR.
Today Hu is a member of the Politburo (at one time, he was the heir-designate of the Emperor).
All this does not explain why two visits by members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee were necessary.
To enter in the Guinness Book of Records?
We will have to wait to know.
As mentioned earlier, it was Wang Yang who should have visited Tibet in the first place.

In Sera Monastery

In Chamdo
In Chamdo

Sunday, August 26, 2018

One year after Doklam standoff: Will Bhutan increase deployment to check activities of Chinese military?

1959 Chinese map of the border
My article One year after Doklam standoff: Will Bhutan increase deployment to check activities of Chinese military? appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

China has always been jealous of India's special relation with Bhutan, which it claims as its 'vassal state'.



The Standing Committee on external affairs, headed by Shashi Tharoor, former minister of state, was recently in the news. After several hearings on the Doklam episode, some of its conclusions were leaked to the media. Of course, one could ask: Are the MPs not under oath when they get confidential briefings? But it is perhaps too much to expect from some of the people’s representatives. Remember, on June 16 last year, Indian and Chinese troops faced each other for 73 days after India decided to stop the construction of a road on Bhutanese territory, near the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan.

Chinese military
According to PTI, though the Committee report “did not clarify whether the committee was favouring increasing the deployment of Indian troops in the region,” Delhi should encourage Thimphu to ensure a larger deployment of its soldiers in the Northern Doklam area “to check the activities of Chinese military in the sensitive region.”
The above recommendation raises the crucial issue of the relation of Bhutan and China.
In this context, it is interesting to look into the past.
In June 1955, RK Nehru was foreign secretary, when he decided to pay an official visit to Bhutan. At that time, to go to Bhutan, the easiest way was to cross through the Chumbi Valley (north of Doklam) in Tibet, before proceeding to Paro. After a stay of a few days in Yatung, the main village of the Chumbi Valley where India had an important Trade Agency, Nehru left for Bhutan on June 14; he returned on June 26 and again stayed a couple of days in Yatung.
In his report, the foreign secretary wrote: “My visit to Bhutan via Yatung had been notified to the Chinese. We were given to understand that I would receive all facilities and courtesies. I received all the facilities needed, but no special courtesies were shown.”
Why? China was simply jealous of India’s special relation with Bhutan.
Nehru mentioned that South Block had notified Beijing about his visit: “but we were aware that they claim Bhutan as their vassal state. This claim was last made in 1910, but it has never been given up.”
The question may be different today, but the fact remains that the leadership in Beijing has always thought that it was natural for Bhutan to have ‘special’ relations with China. The then foreign secretary continued: “As recently as 1948, the claim was repeated. …The Chinese position in the past has been that we [India] cannot have special relations with Bhutan without their concurrence. I presume this is still their position, though it is not being asserted openly.”
Nehru admitted: “For all these reasons, they could have refused to give transit visas, but this would have led to a conflict. The alternative was to give visas, but to take no special notice of the visit. This is what they actually did.”
It was not the first time that China was trying to play the ‘Bhutan Card’.

First meeting
In August 1950, the Indian Mission in Lhasa reported an encounter between Bhutan’s commercial agent in Lhasa and General Zhang Jingwu, Mao’s representative in Tibet, who had just arrived in Lhasa; it was the first meeting between the Chinese general and a foreign ‘diplomat’ posted in Tibet.
It was quite farcical.
The agent had to state his name, age and functions; then he was required to explain why restrictions were imposed on Tibetan traders entering Bhutan.
The agent had to explain to the tough general that his government had stationed five or six men along her frontier merely to prevent Tibetans from stealing mules from villages in Bhutan.
Let us remember that at that time, India was responsible for Bhutan’s foreign relations; China was deeply unhappy about this.
On October 1, 1950, on the first anniversary of the People’s Republic, the Chinese gave a party in Lhasa.
Zhang gave special considerations to Bhutan: “of foreign representatives Bhutan Agent received much attention and encouragement verging on patronage,” wrote Sinha, the head of the Indian Mission.
The PLA general constantly praised the Bhutanese Agent, even “styled Envoy of the Independent Asian State of Bhutan.” Sinha informed Delhi “through [the] questions put to the Agent, [it was as if] Bhutan had nothing in common with India. Bhutan was ‘coolly told’ that it would be invited to send a Mission to Peking next year.”

Diplomatic relations
The Chinese were very much aware that the Dragon Kingdom’s diplomatic relations were taken care by Delhi, but it was clearly a calculated move to put Bhutan and India on the same diplomatic level.
Even the Tibetans were quite surprised about the “new status of Bhutan Agent and the fuss made of him.” Today like yesterday, though not ‘openly asserted’, the Chinese mindset remains the same; this partially explains why Beijing decided to start building a road near the tri-junction, without informing Thimphu or Delhi.
Beijing could not think that a ‘foreign’ country (India) would intervene and stop the work.
A few weeks ago, though Thimphu does not have formal diplomatic relations with its northern neighbour, Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou spent three days in the Dragon Kingdom. It was the first high-level visit post-Doklam.
Kong, accompanied by the Chinese ambassador to India, met Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and foreign minister Damcho Dorji; they discussed ‘matters of mutual interest’, acknowledged Bhutan. Though Bhutan kept India ‘in the loop’ about Kong’s visit, there is no doubt that the Chinese pressure on Bhutan will increase in the coming months, especially as the parliamentary elections are coming soon in Bhutan.
In these circumstances, it is unsure Bhutan will agree to increase its deployment in the Doklam area.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

China is opening a new front in Ngari

New roads to the Indian border
During the last few years, Beijing concentrated on the development of Southern Tibet (Nyingchi and Lhoka prefectures), not far from the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh (the McMahon Line).
I have often mentioned the mushrooming of new ‘model’ villages on the Tibetan side of the Indian border. This development was officially linked to ‘poverty alleviation’ and the ‘defense the borders’.
Several senior Communist leaders have visited these new villages, either north of Kibithu (there is War Memorial as a bonus); in Metok, north of Upper Siang district; in Yume (also written Yumai), north of Takshing in Upper Subansari or in Lepo, Marmang and Tsona, north of Khenzimani and Tawang.
In China, one should always recall the words of the boss; Xi Jinping said:
Govern the nation by governing the borders, Govern the borders by first stabilizing Tibet, Ensure social harmony and stability in Tibet and strengthen the development of border regions.
But the Indo-China border is long and not only located in the Southeast.
In the West, Tibet (today China) shares a disputed frontier , with the Indian States of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir (Ladakh).
Whatever happens north of this border should be of some interest/worry for Delhi.

Shifting the Front
It looks as in the coming months, the development front will shift from Nyingchi/Lhoka to Western Tibet (Ngari Prefecture).
One telling sign: the amount of archeological excavations undertaken.
China, as a colonial power, has to establish its bonafide in the region.
Last week, Xinhua reported “Chinese archaeologists have excavated more than 20 tombs thought to be around 2,000 years old in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region,” and then to conclude: “ancient tombs provide clues to mysterious civilization in Tibet.”
The idea is to prove that Tibet has not always been Buddhist (which is true).
One of the projects was launched by the Sichuan University in early July.
Quoted by Xinhua, Huo Wei, head of the School of History and Culture of this university announced that “more than 70 artifacts have been found in these tombs in Peyang Tunggar [Dungkar] ruins [near Tholing, the capital of the former Guge Kingdom], including bronze mirrors, fabric, pottery, and accessories. We found millet in a pottery cup and tea in a wooden box, which are believed to date back between the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and Jin Dynasty (265-420). We also discovered a central Asian bronze mirror with handles in one of the tombs."
Huo further explained: “The discoveries showed that there was a long stage of civilization in the Peyang Tunggar region, and the civilization had close ties with the surrounding areas. Before Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the seventh century, there was a period called Shangshung culture according to historical recordings. The location and historical dates of the tombs coincide with existing knowledge about Shangshung.”

A new tourist spot
The first stage to develop the area into a tourist spot, is to provide a solid historical background.
Since 1994, Chinese archaeologists have launched several investigations and excavations in Tsada (Zanda) County and have uncovered numerous Buddhist grottoes and ancient tombs.
Archeology is important in the Communist scheme to show that there were ‘older civilizations’ on the plateau, long before its inhabitants became Buddhist and of course, that it used to be part of the Chinese ‘Silk Road’ to Central Asia.
India is hardly mentioned in these articles, though areas like Spiti, Kinnaur or Ladakh have always been deeply connected with Western Tibet (religiously, economically and also politically).
In July, The Global Times affirmed that the excavation in Western Tibet “will help archaeologists understand Tibetan cultural development."
Five institutes and universities, including the Tibet Institute of Cultural Relics Protection, and the School of History and Culture of Sichuan University are on the job: “relics were discovered in recent years during infrastructure construction and archeological investigations,” Xinhua reported.
Lü Hongliang, a professor at the School of History and Culture of Sichuan University, told The Global Times that Ngari “is at the intersection of South Asia and Central Asia on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, giving it an important cultural status.”
With a solid historical basis, the Chinese government can develop ‘cultural tourism’.



Cultural Tourism
The 4th Annual China Tibet Cultural Tourism International Expo is to take place from September 7 to 11 in Lhasa and Nyingchi: “the investment-attraction platform at the expo will not only improve Tibet’s cultural soft power, it will serve to promote tourism and boutique tourism across the region, as well as help more businesses build collaborations in Tibet and boost the local economy,” asserted Xinhua.
The official news agency added: “The Ngari area, located in western Tibet, has an average altitude of 4500 meters, and is known as ‘Roof of the Roof of the World’.”
On July 16, an event was launched in Lhasa, it was called: ‘Go West: Ngari Photo Tour’.
But that is not all, the 7th annual Zhangzhung Cultural Tourism Festival, with events such as traditional horseback racing, exhibitions of archaeological artifacts and the Zhangzhung Cultural Show is being held from July 28.
A full program for the lakhs of tourists coming from the Mainland.
Xinhua admits: “In recent years, the Ngari region has built various boutique tourism events, such as stargazing, the Zhangzhung Cultural Tourism Festival, and other cultural tourism programs, etc., to better enrich the offerings of cultural tourism.”
Enrich the region too.
In August, the Shoton (Yoghourt) Festival was organized in Lhasa. The Tourism and Development Commission revealed that the capital received 2.89 million visitors, an increase of 20.48% compared to the previous year, "achieving an tourism income of 981 million yuan, an increase of 25.28%."
One Zhang, from Hubei Province, who visited Lhasa for the first time, said: “Before, I've only seen the Shoton Festival on TV and online and I thought it was so culturally unique. I feel very lucky to enjoy a perfect Shoton Festival on this visit.”
During the Festival, Lhasa has many events such as Thangka exhibition, hiking tours to Namtso lake, Tibetan opera performances, trade fairs.
Similar events are now planned in Western Tibet.


A New Role Model

In March, China Tibet Online had announced that the Ngari prefecture was to invest 20 million yuan “to improve public cultural services and promote its folk culture.”
It stated that training services will be provided for farmers and herdsmen and role models of ethical and moral standards will be rewarded: “People in border villages will be given easier access to the internet. Educational and red tourism sites will also be set up.”
To ‘promote’ cultural exchanges among local art troupes, the government offered 130 TV to highway maintenance groups and 5,280 movies were screened in rural areas; moreover, a new media center featuring multimedia programs in both Tibetan and Chinese was established.
Does it mean that Ngari has been neglected all these decades, despite the fact that the first Chinese troops entered Western Tibet in Summer of 1950?
It is unfortunately a fact, China would like to change this now.

Poverty alleviation
A few weeks ago, China Tibet News affirmed that the Tsada County “actively promoted the trademark strategy along with paying more attention to the work ideas of developing agriculture. The county develops specialty product trademark so as to achieve a higher living standard for local farmers.”
The County Administration ‘vigorously’ developed specialty products through various exhibition. Online sales platforms have been set-up, while tapping distribution chains: “Actually a three-dimensional marketing strategy has been initially constructed to give new impetus into the development of some characteristic industries.”
All this show the renewed interest of the authorities in Lhasa (and in Beijing) for Ngari.

Looking after the border populations

China Tibet Online described the life of one Tsering Namgyal from Tsada: “he lived for many years in a relatively old wooden house.”
He has now been given a new house: it was a dream for him: “when he was a child, he worked as a serf, and he begged on the street to be given alms by the monks of the monastery; he didn't have enough to eat or wear, and he lived in a wooden house stained black by smoke,” said the website explaining that in 2016, Tsada County was selected as a pilot county of building well-off villages on the border.
According to Dawa Wangdul, the mayor of the border village: “In October 2017, Tsering Namgyal and his daughter, grandson, and granddaughter moved into their 180-square-meter, two-story house new house."
Once again, if Communist China is such a great welfare State, why was the poor not looked after earlier?

Why is it important for India?
It looks like the Chinese government is going to duplicate in Ngari what was done in Nyingchi and Lhoka.
First and foremost by improving the infrastructure to the border villages.
Among the three new airports to be constructed in Tibet – Lhuntse (Lhoka), Tingri (Shigatse) and Purang. The last one is located in Ngari prefecture.
The objective of these airports is to strengthen the border region's communication with surrounding areas. The construction will begin in 2019 and the airports will be functional in 2021.
As often mentioned on this blog, the airports as well as the highways have dual use (civilian and military).
Several roads branching from the Highway 219 are being constructed to the border with India. I have mentioned a few in earlier posts.
The project ‘Guardians of the Sacred Land and Builders of Happy Homes’ is not an innocent scheme.
India needs to watch carefully.


 
Tunggar Grottoes

Sunday, August 19, 2018

China prepares the Dalai Lama's rebirth

Gyaltsen Norbu at Lhamoi Lhatso
Xinhua reported that Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese-recognized Panchen Lama worshiped yesterday at the Lhamoi Lhatso lake in Gyatsa County of Lhoka Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The official news agency said that it was the first time that Gyaltsen Norbu paid a visit to Lhamoi Lhatso which is famous for the visions that a Regent or a High Lama can have in it.
For example. signs can be ‘seen’ and indications can be gathered to discover a new Dalai Lama.
It was the case when Regent Reting Rinpoche went to the lake in 1935 and had several visions; he saw the roofs of the house of the young Dalai Lama who was just reborn in a remote village of Amdo province (now Qinghai).
(See the narration of the Dalai Lama below).
Yesterday, Xinhua reported: “Around 11 am, the Panchen Lama, together with more than 30 monks, started to lead sutra chanting, praying for peace, prosperity, and stability. The ritual also had other activities, including throwing cereals and planting a blessed bottle in the middle of the lake as sacrifice. The worshipping ceremony lasted for about one hour.”
Two years ago, Gyaltsen Norbu visited another sacred lake, the Rinbung Yamtso in Dekyiling area of Rinbung County (Shigatse).
There is no doubt that China is preparing for the Rebirth of the present Dalai Lama.
Let us hope that the meeting called by Dharamsala in November will define the parameters of the reincarnation in a clear way, otherwise the world may have to face a situation with two Dalai Lamas.

Extracts from My Land and my People – Memoirs of the Dalai Lama of Tibet

In 1935, the Tibetan Wood Hog Year, the Regent went to the sacred lake of Lhamoi Latso at Chokkorgyal, about ninety, miles southeast of Lhasa. The people of Tibet believe that visions of the future can be seen in the waters of this lake. There are many such holy lakes in Tibet, but Lhamoi Latso is the most celebrated of them all. Sometimes the visions are said to appear in the form of letters, and some, times as pictures of places and future events. Several days were spent in prayers and meditation, and then the Regent saw the vision of three Tibetan letters - Ah, Ka and Ma - followed by a picture of a monastery with roofs of jade green and gold and a house with turquoise tiles. A detailed description of these visions was written down and kept a strict secret.
In the following year, high lamas and dignitaries, carrying the secrets of the visions, were sent out to all parts of Tibet to search for the place which the Regent had seen in the waters.
The wise men who went to the east arrived in our region of Dokham during the winter, and they observed the green and golden roofs of the monastery of Kumbum. In the village of Taktser, they noticed at once a house with turquoise tiles. Their leader asked if the family living in the house had any children and was told that they had a boy who was nearly two years old.
On hearing this significant news, two members of the party went to the house in disguise, together with a servant and two local monastic officials who were acting as their guides. A junior monastic official of the main party, whose name was Losang Tsewang, pretended to be the leader, while the real leader, Lama Kewtsang Rinpoche of Sera Monastery, was dressed in poor clothes and acted as a servant. At the gate of the house, the strangers were met by my parents, who invited Losang into the house, believing him to be the master, while the lama and the others were received in the servants' quarters.
There they found the baby of the family, and the moment the little boy saw the lama, he went to him and wanted to sit on his lap. The lama was disguised in a cloak which was lined with lambskin, but round his neck he was wearing a rosary which had belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The little boy seemed to recognize the rosary, and he asked to be given it. The lama promised to give it to him if he could guess who he was, and the boy replied that he was Seta-aga, which in the local dialect, ‘a lama of Sera’. The lama asked who the ‘master’ was, and the boy gave the name of Losang.
He also knew the name of the real servant, which was Amdo Kasang.
The lama spent the whole day in watching the little boy with increasing interest, until it was time for the boy to be put to bed. All the party stayed in the house for the night, and early next morning, when they were making ready to leave, the boy got out of his bed and insisted that he wanted to go with them.
I was that boy.

Some pictures at Lhamoi Lhatso (August 18, 2018)
 
 


Some pictures of Gyaltsen Norbu's visit to Rinbung Yamtso in 2016 




Photos of Lhamoi Lhatso

 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Tibet is a way for China to wipe its tears: Vajpayee

India has lost one of her greatest political leader, Atal Vihari Vajpayee.
I am posting is an article written for Swadesh, a Hindi journal published in Lucknow.
On October 26, 1950, just two weeks after the Chinese troops entered Eastern Tibet, Vajpayee wrote these words.
He was one of the very few Indian journalists who condemned the Chinese action; he was then responsible for several publications linked with the RSS.
I am also posting Vajpayee's intervention during is a debate in the Lok Sabha after the first Chinese attacks on the Indian border in 1959.

[Translated from Hindi]
The 'Shanti Path’ [the Path of Peace] of the 6th anniversary of the UN was not even finished when we heard of a new invasion.
The armies of Communist China were ordered to invade Tibet.
Although behind the iron curtain they [China] try to hide all news, the news of the invasion, even before being received officially from Peking, was sent by China News Agency [The Xinhua communiqué was dispatched through Hong Kong, not directly from Beijing] and it is why the world received the first news of the invasion of Tibet, not from Peking, but from London.
Some people did not believe in these news, though a few times in the past there had been rumours of invasion of this kind [in August 1950].
 So much so that the Tibetan representatives [Tsepon Shakabpa] who had arrived in India also said that they did not believe in the truth of these news.
One reason for this disbelief was that the [forthcoming] negotiations between China and Tibet.
The Indian government had arranged for the talks through the Ambassador to India of Communist China. But he declared that not Delhi but Beijing was the proper place for the talks.
The delegation of Tibetan representatives was today leaving to Peking via Calcutta.
On one side, peace talks, on the other side invasion, naturally nobody could believe it, but after the Peking government officially announced the invasion, all doubts were removed.
With the announcement of the invasion the communist government has thrown some light on its causes and its aims. Yet the causes and the language are the same as those of all invaders, that is to say, the aggressor is never attacking for egoist purposes, he attacks to liberate the people of the attacked region.
And they had to take this step to save the people from the evil conspiracy of imperialist forces.
The communist China invades also for this same reason -- to save the people of Tibet from the grip of imperialist forces, the communist armies marched in Tibet.
But the efforts it made till today for getting the membership of UN surely put on them some moral responsibility to respect the principles of UN.
China can reject it saying that it is an internal matter, but Tibet is a free country, even if at the time of imperialist China there were sovereignty in name of China over it.
Communist China which is so opposed to imperialism surely is not bound by this tradition, nor can it be a ground for declaring legal this invasion of the independent state of Tibet.
More than Tibet, Formosa is a part of China, but nobody included America would accept its invasion. If an invasion of Formosa is considered as contrary to the ideals of the UN, then how much more for Tibet?
Will the UN pay attention and help Tibet?
It is possible that the powers, trapped each one in its own interest, will not pay attention to Tibet.
The reason for the invasion of Tibet is not the discovery of uranium or the greed of the imperialist powers for it; it is an attempt to strengthen the moral of the Communist block.
The invasion of South Korea by North Korea and the initial victory over the army of UN had given a boost to the communists of all countries.
But the victory of UN has put cold water on their enthusiasm. The influence of Russia has diminished somewhat. When the question came on the UN armies crossing the 38° latitude, then China warned that if it happens then she will attack the UN armies.
But the UN did not worry and ordered its armies to get full victory.
Russia felt that with the cold war becoming hot they had to suffer defeat.  Seeing the state of North Korea, China did not have the courage to up its army against UN army. In consequence it was not possible for the Chinese armies to advance towards Formosa and Korea…
Invading Tibet is a way for China to wipe its tears.


22 December 1959
Debate in the Lok Sabha
(Intervention of Atal Bihari Vajpayee translated from Hindi)

Mr Speaker, a new situation has arisen with the letter received from the Prime Minister of China.
Our Prime Minister in his letter of November 16 had placed some alternative proposals before China. According to these proposals, China had to vacate the Indian land in Ladakh [Aksai Chin] and at the same time, it was suggested that India would not send her men to that area.
Our Prime Minister had been criticised in this House for this proposal.
We had found it objectionable; we had said that it will encourage the Chinese aggression and it will give her the opportunity of strengthening her old claims and present new claims. The answer from the Prime Minister of China only confirms this.
Our Prime Minister had suggested that China abandons the Indian land, but they answered : why should this proposal apply only to the border of Ladakh, if we go out of the land defined by the maps of India, then the Indians should go out of the land defined by our maps, they should go out of NEFA.
Mr Speaker, we tried to respect China and as a result we are  being insulted.
Instead of understanding the Prime Minister's good will, China has increased her claims, China puts claims on Uttar Pradesh, on Punjab, on Himachal Pradesh, on places which are ours by geography, by history, by tradition, by treaty. She demands a price for withdrawing from Ladakh.
We should abandon our rights to other regions.
If this is the attitude of China, then what is the basis for the hope of making an agreement with China? There should be an agreement, nobody in the country wants a war, but if we trade with China sacrificing the interests of India, if we cannot defend the honour of India, this peace will not be worth getting, it will not be a stable peace.
The Prime Minister of China answered after one month.
I think that they want to prolong this correspondence, so that they can make roads and construct airports on the land they have taken, so that they can strengthen their attack.
Shri Karam Singh [who had been taken prisoner by China in Ladakh] said in his statement that at the place where he was arrested, motorable roads are being made. War preparations are being made on the soil of India. China needs time for that. It is why this long exchange of letters.
They took one month for replying and our Prime Minister hopes that on receiving his letter they will pack up and go to Rangoon. ... I am happy that our Prime Minister refused the suggestion to go to Rangoon.
It was not a proposal to go to Rangoon, it was an invitation for Munich, they want to re-enact Munich. I am happy that our Prime Minister has refused this proposal.
But he said this afternoon in the Rajya Sabha that in the letter of the Prime Minister of China, an eagerness to meet him was expressed and he welcomed it. Is really the Prime Minister of China wanting an agreement or is the desire to meet our Prime Minister propaganda?
He wants to show the world that China wants peace, while China invades India, and India does not want peace because we are not ready to meet him.
There is a great similitude between the proposal by China and the line adopted by the Communist Party of India. In Calcutta they have repeated that the two Prime Ministers should meet and the Prime Minister of China is also saying that we should meet.
Meet for what?
After all, what is the meeting ground between our two countries? what is the basis for talks? And if the two prime ministers meet, why meet in Rangoon? If they meet, why not in Delhi?
I object to this accusation by the Prime Minister of China that in India an atmosphere is being created against the Chinese friendship.
M Speaker, there is no atmosphere against the friendship, there is an atmosphere against invasion.
As long as this attack will last, this atmosphere will persist.
We are a living people, we have self-respect and if there is trespassing on our land our reaction is necessary, nobody can stop this.
But their Prime Minister wants to make propaganda, he wants to be the divine messenger of peace, he wants to place our Prime Minister in a false position.
Now the Communists will start saying that Mr Zhou Enlai wants a meeting, but Panditji [Nehru] does not want it. If Panditji does not want a meeting, he rightly does so.
After all, what is the basis for a meeting? When there is no agreement on the facts, when there is no agreement on the principles, what is the use of meeting?
And suppose  there is a meeting and it is a failure, the result will be even more frightening. It is why the point of view of the Government is correct. Before the two prime ministers can meet, the preliminary things should be decided, we should decide what will be the basis for agreement. But as far as the preliminary  things are concerned, there is no sign in the letter of China that they want an agreement, except that they have evoked Panchsheel, they have sung the refrain of peace.

Shri Jadhav:  And they are ready  to stab us.

Shri Vajpayee: They say that we are a backward country, that we have to develop economically, but they are not ready to leave the land of India they have grabbed. Our Prime Minster has already said that the northern border of India is fixed. It has not been drawn on the map and we can discus about some details, but the entire border cannot be made a subject of discussion. But  the Chinese Prime Minister is trying to make the entire border a subject of discussion. He wants to dictate his terms as maker of our border. It is clear that the Indian government and the people of India cannot accept this situation.
But today it is said: what can we do? the Prime Minister in the Rajya Sabha said: "what can we do? Should we make war?“
Nobody wants you to make war, but I want to know : if tomorrow China advances in Longju [in NEFA], or Ladakh, or further, what will you do?

An Hon'ble Member: Negotiations.

Shri Vajpayee: No compromise can be made with an invasion, and it is why we should prepare for war. We may not start the war from our side, but if the other side is intent on war, it cannot be  avoided. But there are other ways than war.  The trade what we had with Tibet is stopped. China put restrictions on Indian trade with Tibet. Yet we did not put restrictions. We have only deployed a guard  before the Chinese Trade Agency of Kalipong. There are other Chinese trade agencies in India whose activities can be stopped. The restrictions that have been put on the Indian embassy in Peking can be put on the Chinese embassy in New Delhi. The time has come to take this step.

An Hon'ble Member: There is democracy in India.

Shri Vajpayee: Because of the Chinese attack, today we face a danger and the friends of China by repeating this slogan ”There is democracy in India“ try to make us blind to this danger.
If we want, we can also break our diplomatic relations with China; there are other means we can adopt other than waging war, and where there is a will, there is a way.
I believe that, except the [Indian] Communist Party, all the country agrees that the Chinese challenge should be dealt with firmly. It is clear that war will have to be fought, but as long as we don't take steps on time, we cannot prepare an atmosphere to face this challenge.
I have to say something else, and it is that our Foreign Affairs Ministry does not work well.
In the Rajya Sabha our Prime Minister spoke of a place named Samado. It has been printed by mistake. This was part of China but we have put claims on it.
He apologised. This type of mistake should not happen. I feel that the Foreign Ministry should be careful. China takes hold of small things like this and tries to weaken our case. In this hour of danger, the Foreign Ministry should rise to the occasion, it has not done it so far. This is necessary. Thank you.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The curious case of Demchok

My article The curious case of Demchok appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

Of course, the Chinese intrusions into Indian territory are not innocent. Solutions are there which lie in the re-opening of the Demchok route. But is China ready to do this?

Despite the Wuhan consensus (or ‘Wuhan spirit’) arrived at after the one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in Hubei Province in April, China continues to needle India at different places along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC). Last week, it was reported that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intruded some 400 metres inside the Indian territory in the Demchok sector of eastern Ladakh and pitched five tents.
After a flag meeting between the local Brigade commander and his Chinese counterpart, the PLA accepted to remove three of the tents from the Cherdong-Nerlong Nallan area. It is said that a few ‘Chinese troops in civvies’ camped in the two remaining tents.
The Economic Times reported, “in the garb of nomads with cattle in tow, [the PLA] had intruded into the Indian territory in the first week of July and did not retreat despite Indian troops repeatedly conducting ‘banner drills’.”
The ‘spirit of Wuhan’ had clearly been forgotten.  One could ask: Is President Xi suffering from amnesia or is a local commander not aware of the ‘consensus?’  The latter would mean that Xi has not full control over the PLA, which is serious matter.

Demchok is special because for centuries, it has been a part of the kingdom of Ladakh and later of the Jammu & Kashmir state. On August 14, 1939, as he camped near Gartok, Dr Kanshi Ram, the British Trade Agent (BTA) in Western Tibet, reported to his boss, the political agent of the Punjab hill States in Simla. A few days earlier, he had begun his journey to the Tibetan border. He was accompanied by the Wazir Wazarat (District Commissioner) of Ladakh; both were to meet the Garpon (Governor) of Western Tibet for a tripartite inquiry into the alleged murder of a Tibetan.
They reached Demchok, the last Ladakhi village before the Tibetan border, on July 17; a few days later, Dr Ram reported: “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 …had to keep awake throughout the night. The next morning we crossed the stream and camped on the Tibetan border at a place of safety.” The ITA added: “This stream forms a natural boundary between Tibet and Kashmir at Demchok.”
This is interesting because it shows that before the Chinese invasion, 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 Jammu & Kashmir (the Wazir) and the Tibetan Government (the Garpon).  Already, in 1684, after a war between Ladakh and Tibet, the Treaty of Tingmosgang had affirmed that “the boundary shall be fixed at the Lha-ri stream of Bde-mchok.” Bde-mchog was clearly Demchok.
After entering Tibet in the early 1950s, the Chinese ‘advanced’ into the Demchok sector, though no Chinese had ever been seen in the area earlier and a very large area around Demchok started to be claimed by Beijing.  In 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 (in)famous preamble. The negotiations ended with India giving away all its rights in Tibet, while getting no assurance about a border demarcation from the Chinese Government in return.
During the talks, the issue of ‘trade marts’ were discussed; the Chinese negotiator agreed about Tashigong (in Tibet) and added “you could also have Demchok.” The move was clever: He was offering a Tibetan mart …on India’s territory. TN Kaul, the Indian negotiator, objected Demchok was in India. To Kaul’s utter surprise, Chen answered that India’s border was further on the west of the Indus. On Kaul’s insistence, his Chinese counterpart 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”. It was a bluff and though Kaul repeated that Demchok was on India’s side, the Chinese did not budge.
On April 22, after more than four months of discussions, the Indian ambassador to China N Raghavan cabled the Foreign Secretary that Zhang Hanfu, the Chinese chief negotiator, had ‘virulently’ objected to inclusion of Demchok in the Agreement. 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 hamlet, and then crossed the border to reach the first Tibetan village, Tashigong, some 15 miles inside Tibet.
Not only did the Chinese refuse to mention Demchok in the Agreement but bargained for nearly four months not to cite the Tashigong traditional trade route.  In retrospect, one can find two main reasons for the Chinese dragging their feet. One was 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 would have noticed that a road was clandestinely being built on Indian territory.
The second reason is as grave and is 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 meant 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].” India had finally to concur to the Chinese formulation. Demchok was mentioned nowhere. The present incursions are not innocent.
Is there 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 opened in the 1960s? When the pass was officially reopened to trade in July 2006, it had the effect of fixing the border, drastically reducing the tensions, at least in this particular area. But is China ready to do this?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

When the most dangerous man came to Pondicherry

Pondicherry pier
On the occasion of Sri Aurobindo's Birthday and India's Independence Day, I repost an old article of 2010.

“I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with”, thus Viceroy Lord Minto spoke of Aurobindo Ghose, the proponent of Purna Swaraj against the mighty British Empire in the early 20th century.
In the afternoon of April 4, 1910, the Pondicherry pier witnessed a scene which will remain etched in history: a strict orthodox Tamil Brahmin, Srinivasachari and Suresh Chakravarti, a 18-year old Bengali revolutionary shared a small boat to reach out to Le Dupleix, a steamer which had just arrived from Calcutta carrying the ‘most dangerous’ man on board.
In his short Bengali book, Smritikatha, Chakravarti gives a humoristic description of the ‘dangerous’ minutes he spent on the rowboat before they could come along side the Dupleix.

Suresh Chakravarti
Perhaps due to old reminiscences of his years in Great Britain, the Bengali leader would not leave before offering the duo a cup of tea in his cabin. By the time they disembarked and boarded the rowboat waiting to take the famous passenger to French India, it was 4 pm.
Chakravarti had arrived in Pondicherry a few days earlier, scouting for an accommodation for his leader; for the couple of days, Srinivasachari and his friends did not act on his request, thinking that he was a spy. It is only when the arrival of the political leader was confirmed that it was decided to have a reception committee at the pier. The young Bengali managed to dissuade Srinivasachari and others (including Subramanya Bharathi) to have any official function. “Sri Aurobindo's coming to Pondicherry was a closely guarded secret and he would like to live in strict solitude in order to avoid harassment by the agents of the British Government”, says one of Sri Aurobindo’s biographers.
For several months, Sri Aurobindo and his companions stayed on the second floor of a house belonging to one Shankar Chetty; Swami Vivekananda had stayed there when he had visited Pondicherry a few years earlier. In his memoirs, Chakravarti details the material arrangements: as there was no bathroom in Sri Aurobindo’s room, he had to come down to the ground floor at dusk for his bath. The daily menu never changed, same boiled rice, same brinjal, same dal cooked on two earth stoves. Nobody complained ever, the Yogi and his apprentice-yogis.

Shankar Chetty House

During the first three months, the young men remained inside the house day and night, it was too dangerous to roam the streets of the White Town; some British agents were certainly looking for a scoop for their promotion.
Life continued thus during the following years, though rules gradually became less strict for the disciples who were even allowed to play football. As for Sri Aurobindo, he was intensely immersed in his sadhana.
One young Tamil boy called Amrita, who later became a senior disciple, recalled that in 1913, "Every evening, a little after dark, [Subramanya] Bharathi would go to Sri Aurobindo's house. He chose that time not with the purpose of avoiding people who would want to make a note of his visit. It was because Sri Aurobindo used to come out of his room and receive his friends only after seven in the evening. An exception, however, was made for close friends like Bharati and Srinivasachari, who, at a very urgent need, could see him at any time of the day. Bharati would visit without fail.”
The 100 years of the Master’s arrival in Pondicherry are today celebrated: politicians will probably garland statues of Sri Aurobindo, ‘scholars’ will recount his achievements and the contribution of the State of Pondicherry to his inner realizations; many will quote Rabindranath (who visited him in 1928): “Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee! O friend, my country's friend, O Voice incarnate, free, Of India's soul....The fiery messenger that with the lamp of God Hath come...Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee,” but there is another side to the coin.
During the 40 years of his stay in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo faced constant enmity, to put it mildly, not only from sections of the local population, but also from the representatives of the British Crown, the French Administration as well as local politicians.
Recently I had the good luck to come across a secret file kept in the French National Archives in Nantes (France). This Police Report addressed to the Governor of French India was written in 1928. The local police dispatched the weirdest information to their bosses in Paris. A chapter about the Ashram reads: “It seems that the monastery has no rules, no status, one is at a loss to give a name to this association of foreigners [probably meaning Bengalis] in which all castes and religions meets and fusions [is it a compliment?]. Arawbinda [sic] Ghose would be the incarnation of Siva, the Destroyer God of the Tantric Trinity [sic], Mrs Paul Richard (alias Madame Mira Richard, alias Miradevy, alias Kalidevy, alias “Mother”) would represent Kali, the Goddess of War and Mr Paul Richard himself would be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ [Richard had left Pondicherry 14 years earlier after a short stay]. Two members (we couldn’t get their name) would respectively be St Abraham and Mohamed.”
The creativity of the French Police is difficult to match; they speak of ‘inner disciples’ (the Bengalis) and the ‘outer disciples’, something unknown in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga.
The report goes on for more than 20 pages: “The Great Sage appears to his ‘churchy’ followers twice a year … in a chariot decorated with flowers [Sri Aurobindo never came out of his room]. The adepts had to make offering of no less than 100 rupees.” The Police also speak “of a midnight darshan for inner disciples presided by Arawbinda Ghose himself.” Pure invention.
The British reports were not better. Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana however, continued apparently unhindered; with a few rare exceptions (such as French Governor François Baron), the local hostility was always present.
But there is worse. A shocking event took place in the evening of August 15, 1947. India (and Pondicherry) celebrated India’s Independence; Sri Aurobindo, whose birthday coincided with this momentous event, had just issued a message with his Five Dreams for the future of India and the entire human race, when goons belonging to a local political party turned violent and attacked some of the inmates of the Ashram. Mulshankar, a personal attendant of Sri Aurobindo who had left his duty for a few minutes and gone home for a shower was attacked and killed. Nirodbaran, a close confident of the Master wrote later: “Sri Aurobindo listened quietly [to the news] and his face bore a grave and serious expression that we had not seen before.”
India was free, but the Goonja Raj had begun.
Three years later, to a follower asking his opinion for a new status for French India, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “But if nothing is changed in local conditions and freedom is left for a certain type of politicians and party leaders to make use of their opportunities to pervert everything to their own profit, how are they to be prevented from prolonging the old state of things.”
Undoubtedly the greatest revolutionary of 20th century did not want to ‘prolong the old state of things”, he wanted changes to occur in every field of life, whether political, social, economic or spiritual.
Would politicians and philosophers hearken his words, he would indeed become the most dangerous man, because he dreamt of earth-shaking changes for humanity, and entrenched powers do not like changes.
But one day, his Dreams are bound to give a new shape to India and the World.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Tibet and the 'Larger Issues'

Discussing 'larger issues'
Zhou Enlai, Panchen Lama, Mao, Dalai Lama, Liu Shaoqi (October 1954)
Recently the Dalai Lama made some remarks on Jawaharlal Nehru and the Partition of India.
Without going into the (unnecessary) controversy, it is interesting to see the views of the first Prime Minister of Independent India on what he called the ‘Tibetan émigrés’ in the early 1950s, three months after signing (without informing the Tibetans), The Agreement on trade and intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India (infamously remembered as the ‘Panchsheel Agreement’.
In a note dictated on June 18, 1954, Nehru answers some of the questions raised by BK Kapur, the Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim (from March 1952 to March 1955).
The PO was looking after Tibet (including Western Tibet till the Ladakh border), Bhutan and Sikkim).
The note gives some hints on Nehru’s policy vis-a-vis the Tibetans (‘Naturally, the Tibetans have our sympathy. But that sympathy does not take us far’).
It is addressed to the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs (NR Pillai), the Foreign Secretary (RK Nehru) and Joint Secretary (TN Kaul). It is available in the Nehru Papers (Nehru Memorial Museum and Library)
Nehru’s note brings first and foremost the ‘larger issues’ which four years earlier, decided the Prime Minister to ‘drop’ a Tibet ‘verging independence’ (in Nehru’s own words), for the sake of a friendship with China.
These ‘larger issues’, the local officials (Harishwar Dayal before Kapur in Gangtok, Sumul Sinha in Lhasa or Maj SM Krishnatry in Gyantse) ‘could’ not understand them, at least according to the Prime Minister.
But one could ask: did Nehru understand that, with the arrival of the People’s Liberation Army on the plateau, India was in the process of losing its peaceful border with Tibet.
It has to be noted that June 1954 corresponds to the first Chinese intrusions in Barahoti in today’s Chamoli district to Uttarakhand.
This obsessive concern for ‘wider issues’ will lead India to an utter disaster in October 1962, when China attacked India in NEFA and Ladakh; India was not ready to defend its borders.
“Mr Kapur has not fully appreciated this wider policy of ours”, said Nehru, though more than 60 years later, it is clear that officers like Kapur had grasp a far truer image of China than the corridors of South Block.
Nehru commented “I do not like Mr Kapur talking about Chinese communists, although they are communists. He should talk about the Chinese Government.”
Unfortunately, Mao’s government was ‘Communist’ and proud to be; India paid dear to realize this.

The Note
The various questions raised in these notes and in Mr Kapur's letter an important not only in themselves, but because they are concerned with much larger issues. Indeed, they are concerned with our wider policy towards China and our general world policy.

2- Naturally, the Tibetans have our sympathy. But that sympathy does not take us far and cannot be allowed to interfere with a realistic understanding of the situation and of our policy. I have an impression that Mr Kapur has not fully appreciated this wider policy of ours. It is necessary, therefore, that he and others concerned should understand it and should realise that this policy is the only one which might be helpful to the Tibetans, not in the measure perhaps that they desire, but to some extent. Any other policy of encouraging the Tibetans to oppose Chinese over lordship over Tibet would be raising false hopes in the Tibetans which we cannot fulfil and is likely to react unfavorably on the Tibetans. It would, of course, be opposed to the principles we have laid down in our recent Agreement with China.

3- Mr Kapur talks that the Chinese Government is not likely to be influenced by considerations of non-interference, etc. At the same time he hints that we should also not be influenced by any such considerations, except in so far as that we should not do anything which might create obvious difficulties for us. That is neither a moral nor a practical proposition.

4- No country can ultimately rely upon the permanent goodwill or bona fides of another country, even though they might be in close friendship with each other. It is conceivable that the Western Atlantic alliance may not function as it was intended to and there might be ill will between the countries concerned. It is not inconceivable that China and the Soviet Union may not continue to be as friendly as they are now. Certainly it is conceivable that our relations with China might worsen, though there is no immediate likelihood of that. Therefore, we have always to keep in mind the possibly of a change and not be taken unawares. Adequate precautions have to be taken. If we come to an agreement with China in regard to Tibet, that is not a permanent guarantee, but that itself is one major step to help us in the present and in the foreseeable future in various ways. If there is an agreement at Geneva about the problems of Indo-China and Korea, that La no guarantee about the future, but it is certainly a big step forward to lessen tension which enables the countries concerned to think more objectively and peacefully and perhaps find a surer basis for peace. In spite of that agreement they will not give up their suspicions or their preparations, but other factors will also come into the picture. At present an objective and realistic understanding is made almost impossible by emotional responses. The Russians and the Chinese are full of charges against ‘Western Imperialism’ and aggression and all that. The Americans and others can only think in terms of Communist aggression and villainy, of international communism trying to dominate over the world and so on. All this prevents intelligent thought. If we wish to discuss these matters helpfully, we must avoid certain terms which create powerful reactions in the mind, such as imperialists, communists and the like. I do not like Mr Kapur talking about Chinese communists, although they are communists. He should talk about the Chinese Government. In the same way, I do not like people talking about the Iron Curtain. The mere mention of these words confuses thought and shows that we are not considering a matter objectively.

5- Of course, both the Soviet Union and China are expansive. They are expansive for evils other than communism, although communism may be made a tool for the purpose. Chinese expansionism has been evident during various periods of Asian history for a thousand years or so. We arc perhaps facing a new period of such expansionism. Let us consider that and fashion our policy to prevent it coming in the way of our interests or other interests that we consider important.

6-I can quite understand that many people in Tibet have been disappointed at the agreement between us in China over Tibet. This must be partly because of the colour put on it by the Chinese in Tibet. That agreement, however, was quite inevitable. It was a recognition of a certain factual situation which we could not possibly change. We have, in fact, at least got some advantage out of that agreement in other respects. If we had not had that agreement, the position would have been no better for us in Tibet and a little worse for the Tibetans. It certainly would have been worse for us from a wider point of view.

7- We must remember that our so-called interests in Tibet derive largely from our inheriting certain British interests to which they succeeded in establishing in the days of British expansionism. We became the inheritors of British imperialism to a slight extent. We were popular with the ruling classes of Tibet at this stage because they thought we would come in the way of Chinese expansionism. We could not do so in Tibet and we could not possibly hang on to privileges which had no meaning in the present state of affairs.

8- Mr Kapur says something about our not throwing cold water on various movements in Tibet against the Chinese though we should not associate ourselves with them, that we should allow them to simmer and not die out. Let us be clear about this. Whatever happens in Tibet proper is beyond our reach. We can neither help nor hinder it. The question is what we do in our own territory. Do we encourage this or not? It is clear that we cannot encourage it. Al best we can tolerate it, provided it is not too obvious or aggressive. A very delicate balance will have to be kept up.

9- Kalimpong is and has been a nest of intrigues and spies. It is not only a centre of Tibetan émigrés, but also of Communists (Chinese). Also of Americans, White Russians and many others. We tolerate all these persons and we can tolerate also the Tibetans of various kinds and views. But if any of these indulge in aggressive activities which might lead to violence, then obviously we cannot tolerate them. I am sure that the Tibetan émigrés in Kalimpong, etc, are in close touch with the Americans, White Russians, etc, and are being encouraged by them with money and in other ways. In fact, I heard that there was a question of their collecting arms also. All this seems to me childish and totally unrealistic.

10- Even one of the major and much advertised efforts of the Americans to bring down the People's Government of China through Formosa is now recognised to be futile. Is it then in the slightest degree conceivable that some petty violent effort organised by Tibetans and others on our border would produce results in Tibet? This can only be thought of in terms of some aggressive Americans as a diversion from their larger world policy or in case a big war occurs. From the Tibetan point of view, it can only prove harmful. There is not the least chance in the world of China leaving Tibet or being driven out of Tibet unless China is defeated in war. Of that there appears to be no chance. Therefore, these adventurous tactics beyond the borders of Tibet have no meaning and call only embarrass and prove harmful. We need not come in the way if they are peaceful and unobtrusive but I quite agree with SG [Secretary General] that we should explain our policy and the world situation to the people from Tibet so that they may not misunderstand us. It is clear that if they indulge in any aggressive action and the Chinese Government complains to us, we shall have no alternative left but to take some steps against them, at any rate to curb them. We shall certainly not hand them over to the Chinese State, because they have a right of asylum in our country and we can give them the fullest assurance about this. At the same time we cannot permit our territory to be used as a base of operations against the Chinese.

11- The real argument in favour of Tibetan freedom or autonomy is the nature of the country. It is most inhospitable to others, it cannot maintain large numbers of foreigners and the like. If the Tibetans are stout enough to keep up a spirit of freedom, they will maintain a large measure of autonomy and the Chinese will not interfere. If the Tibetans actively rebel, they will be ruthlessly put down by the Chinese and even their autonomy will go. They are between the Soviet Union and China and one or other of these two Powers will have a dominating political influence there. We in India cannot exercise it for geographical as well as other reasons. As a friendly Power to China we can be helpful occasionally hi the diplomatic field.

12- The brother of the Dalai Lama [Gyalo Thondup], whom I met some years ago, is obviously connected with various under-ground activities. Some time back we warned our officers not to get entangled in them. That warning should be given again. That does not mean that we should be unfriendly to him. It simply means that we should be friendly and frank and should explain the limitations of the position.

13- We must remember that Tibet has been cut off from the world for a long time and, socially speaking, is very backward and feudal. Changes are bound to come there to the disadvantage of the small ruling class and the big monasteries. Religion may continue to be a powerful force to hold the Tibetans together, but social forces are also powerful. Thus far the Chinese have been careful not to interfere with social customs, religion, etc.
So far as I know, they have not even interfered with the land system which is feudal. I can very well understand these feudal chiefs being annoyed with the new order. We can hardly stand up as defenders of feudalism.

14- I want to make one thing perfectly clear, and this should be made clear to the Tibetans who are in India, that there is no question of our handing them over to the Chinese. They have every right to live in India or to seek asylum in India and we shall respect that.

15- As regards the Tibetan Mission in Kalimpong, we need not take any step about it and so far as we are concerned, they can continue for the present, but I rather doubt If they will be allowed to continue by the Chinese authorities. We must make sure, however, that the Tibetan Mission, as the Joint Secretary says, is not used as a cover for something else.

16- As regards the Dalai Lama's treasure which is now in Gangtok, I do not see the point of transferring it to Calcutta or elsewhere. First of all we have no direct knowledge of the Dalai Lama's wishes. Secondly, so long as it is in India, it does not much matter whether it is in Gangtok or in Calcutta. It is under our control. If adequate guards are not there, we should make arrangements for proper protection. Any attempt to move it will probably get some kind of publicity. It Is far better to allow this matter to lie low. If at any time the Chinese claim it, then we shall have to consider what we should do about it. For the present, our view should he that it is a private treasure of the Dalai Lama and it is for the Dalai Lama to dispose of it.

17- Our policy thus should be an observance, in letter and spirit of our agreement with China in regard to Tibet, at the same time we continue our friendly feelings for Tibet and her people and make it clear that our traditional friendship with them continues. This, however, cannot lead us to any course of action which is against our agreement with China and which we think will be harmful even to Tibet and her people. For the rest, we have to be vigilant and wide awake.

18- SG suggests a holiday camp for soldiers at Kalimpong. This is not a bad idea and it might be investigated.

19- Our general position as contained in this note should be explained to Mr Kapur.

20- Mr Mullik [Bhota Nath Mullik, Director, Intelligence Bureau between 1950 and 1964], should also be made to understand it. I shall be seeing him also. We have to be very careful about our activities in Kalimpong because of the espionage and counter-espionage that is continually going on there.