Saturday, September 29, 2018

Rafale row: How India's pain is now China and Pakistan's gain?

My article Rafale row: How India's pain is now China and Pakistan's gain? appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

Amid political blame game, the IAF suffers and will continue to suffer.

A lot of ink has recently flowed over the Rafale (‘gust of wind’ in French) planes, but to understand the issue, it is necessary to go back a few years.
In February 2013, during the biannual Aeroshow at Yelahanka in Bangalore, the main topic was the supply of 126 Rafale fighter planes by Dassault Aviations to the Indian Air Force.
A few weeks earlier, news had circulated that the French company was keen to have a deal with Reliance Industries to help build 108 Rafales in India; Dassault and Reliance Industries had apparently already signed a partnership for the purpose.

Private player
During a press conference, AK Antony, the then defence minister, was categorical; he did not want to hear about a private player in the deal.
Observers felt that Antony continued to live in the Soviet era where the defence industry must be owned by the state.
If Boeing, Dassault, Safran, Lockheed-Martin or Rafael of Israel are able to serve their respective countries well, why can’t the Tatas or Reliances and others do so in India?

Two points need to be noted.
First, the association between Reliance and Dassault predates the arrival of Modi at the Centre (though at that time, the collaboration was with Mukesh Ambani, and not Anil as today) and second, why did Dassault select Reliance?
Simply because the French companies (with Thales for the avionics and Safran providing the engine) needed a strong Indian industrial group which could facilitate the transfer of technology and help manufacture the fighter planes in India; none of the industrial players had ‘experience’, mainly due to the ‘socialist’ policies of the government.

The situation is different today.
In the new deal, there is no transfer of technology, though there is an offset component. Some 50 per cent of the entire contract needs to be reinvested in India; it explains why an Indian partner is required for Dassault.
In 2015, the negotiations between Dassault and HAL had reached an impasse when PM Narendra Modi unlocked the situation; on April 9, he looked into the possibility to purchase 36 planes ‘off-the-shelf ’.
It was a pragmatic move. While dropping the former framework, India considered primarily the national interests and the IAF’s ‘critical operational necessity’.
Eighteen months later, after tough negotiations, the deal was finally signed to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets.
The details, obviously secret, were contained in several thousand pages of the inter-governmental agreement. It would give a breathing space to the IAF (which has been systematically and sadly forgotten in the present debate).
The saga started in 2001 and could have lasted decades more if Antony’s MMRAC (medium multi-role combat aircraft) formula had been stuck to. Air Marshal BK Pandey, one of India’s best experts, explained: “Dassault lacked confidence in the capability of Hindustan Aeronautical Ltd (HAL) with respect to Quality Standards, Time Lines and Cost, the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer, i.e. Dassault) was not prepared to partner with HAL and risk their reputation.”

Serious question
The Congress tweeting “chor, chor” every day, without any understanding of the situation and without proof to corroborate the accusations, raises a serious question: can an issue of supreme national importance be discussed on the public stage via Twitter?
The normal course would be to let the CAG find out if there is indeed a scam. Why can’t the CAG be trusted to meticulously go through the details of the inter-governmental deal?
But with the elections approaching, ‘national interests’ are shelved. In any case, politicians do not care much for such niceties; they want quick political gains. Unfortunately, the present ‘debate’ may jeopardise future defence procurements.
In April, the defence ministry issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the purchase of 114 new jets. Under the proposed scheme, 18 jets will come in ‘a flyaway condition’ (like the 36 Rafales); the rest will be produced in India under the new ‘strategic partnership’ policy, i.e., a joint venture between the selected foreign aviation major and its Indian partners. It is feared that the present noise around the 36 planes from France could be a precedent to question each and every defence acquisition.

India’s interest
Air Marshal Pandey feels that there is an apprehension “that the fresh move termed as MMRCA 2.0 could meet with the same fate (as the present deal). This will be a big disaster for the IAF which will be left with no choice but to depend largely on the LCA Tejas and the AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, a hypothetic HAL project) if it does become a reality.”
To make things murkier, former French President François Hollande claimed that the Modi government suggested industrialist Anil Ambani’s company as an offset partner.
It was apparently later denied by Hollande, with AFP reporting that during a visit in Canada, Hollande declared that he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this”.
In the meantime, the harm was done, though the Indian and French governments, as well as Dassault, categorically denied any truth in Hollande’s first statement. The French press reported that it was linked to funds received from the Ambanis by Hollande’s girlfriend. Though in France nobody takes Hollande very seriously, even as President, he had the lowest approval rate that a French leader has ever had, the Indian politicians jumped on the occasion.
Ultimately, it is India’s defence preparedness and the IAF, which suffers and will continue to suffer. But the problem is that many politicians seem not to care much for India’s interests. And who is laughing today? China and Pakistan.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A life completely devoted to Ladakh

Nehru and Kushok Bakula receive the Dalai Lama in December 1956 at Palam Airport
My article A life completely devoted to Ladakh appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer


Here is the link...

It is a pity for Ladakh and India that there is none to succeed Kushok Bakula Rinpoche who led the frontier region politically and spiritually for years. Let’s hope that a new Ladakhi leadership emerges

The mountainous ‘Land of the Passes’, as Ladakh is known, is celebrating the centenary of one of most illustrious sons, the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche. Born on May 27, 1918, at the Royal Palace of Matho near Leh, Bakula was the youngest child of Nangwa Thayas, the King of Matho. His mother was Princess Yeshes Wangmo of the Royal House of Zangla. At a young age, he was recognised by the 13th Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of Bakula Arhat, one of the legendary 16 Arhats who were direct disciples of Gautama Buddha.
In the course of his life, Bakula had a most distinguished political and diplomatic career; ending up serving as India’s Ambassador to Mongolia where he was instrumental in reviving Buddhism. Bakula was also a member of the fourth and fifth Lok Sabha. In the early 1950s, Bakula was part of the Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly representing the Ladakh region. He would often speak in favour of the integration of Jammu & Kashmir. He was proud that Jammu & Kashmir was an integral part of India: “That great country of high ideals and glorious traditions to which the nations of the world look for guidance and which is one of the potent factors for the maintenance of world peace.”
I recently came across an episode of his life which is not well-known: The Rinpoche’s visit to Tibet in 1955/56. It is particularly interesting because India faced a difficult situation after the Chinese takeover of the country, at a time when Delhi was dreaming of an eternal Hindi-Chini brotherhood. Bakula, who was then Deputy Minister for Ladakh Affairs in the Jammu & Kashmir Government, soon understood the political implications of his visit.
On November 16, 1955, Fu, the Councilor in the Chinese Embassy in Delhi walked into the South Block to discuss the Lama’s visit. He immediately asserted that China welcomed Bakula’s visit as ‘a private pilgrim’ “…therefore the Lama did not need to carry a passport or have a visa.” Fu cited the 1954 Sino-Indian agreement: “Pilgrims need not carry such documents,” he said. Fu’s interlocutor, TN Kaul, immediately saw the trick: China was not keen to acknowledge that a ‘Kashmiri’ carried an Indian passport. After a long discussion during which Kaul insisted that the trip was officially sponsored by the Indian and Jammu & Kashmir Governments, Fu had to reluctantly accept to put a stamp on Bakula’s diplomatic passport. It was the first indication of the changed situation in Tibet.
The Rinpoche was accompanied by Durga Das Khosla, an official of the Jammu & Kashmir political department, Nirmal Sinha, a scholar attached to the political officer in Sikkim and four Ladakhis, attending to the Rinpoche. At that time, India was preparing for the celebrations of Buddha Jayanti to be held the following year; it was an opportunity for Bakula to talk to Vice President Radhakrishnan, who was also the Chairman of the celebrations Committee for the Dalai Lama’s participation in the functions.
After an uneventful journey to Gangtok, the party crossed into Tibet at Nathu La on January 8, 1956. Their first encounter with the Chinese was near Chumpithang in the Chumbi Valley. Khosla, who wrote the report of their visit, complained of a ‘very surprising experience’: “When I presented my passport to the Chinese officer in charge, an interpreter who was also a Chinese, enquired from me why was I going to Lhasa. I told him that I was on duty with Kushok Bakula. He was surprised to hear this and at once retorted that Kushok Bakula was a Ladakhi, and that Ladakh being a part of Tibet, an Indian Officer could not be connected with him.” Poor Khosla had to argue at length that Ladakh was a part of Jammu & Kashmir State, to be finally allowed to proceed.
Later the sharp Jammu & Kashmir official noted: “The Chinese Government has secretly circulated a new map of Tibet among their official organisations and the pro-Chinese Institutions — in which they have shown the whole of Aksai Chin (Soda Plains) hump as a part of Tibet. Kashmir’s northern border as illustrated in this map shows some daring incursions into our Karakoram area of northern Ladakh and Baltistan.”
It was three years before the Aksai Chin issue came to Parliament and the then Prime Minister Nehru admitted that a road had been built by China on Indian soil. Khosla’s note would subsequently be dismissed, as Beijing assured Delhi that those were old maps. Bakula stayed for the next three months in Tibet; he had the opportunity to have long talks with the Panchen Lama in Shigatse, an audience with the Dalai Lama in Lhasa and could meet the who’s who in the Tibetan Capital. For the Rinpoche, who had earlier studied at Drepung, Tibet’s largest monastery, it was an opportunity to see Lhasa again after 15 years in vastly different circumstances.
On January 26, the party participated in the Republic Day celebrations at the Indian Consulate General and Bakula hoisted the National Flag: “The Maharaj Kumar of Sikkim, who was present on the occasion, also spoke a few words,” Bakula recalled.
On his way back in Delhi, the Lama was received by the Prime Minister for 90 minutes and he gave Nehru a report of his tour to Tibet: “There are about 20,000 Chinese troops at present working all over the country. They build roads and buildings. A few schools for teaching Chinese and Tibetan languages have been opened at Lhasa and Shigatse. One hospital equipped with an X-Ray plant is said to have been opened at Lhasa. The Chinese at present do not interfere with the normal activities of the monasteries,” he said.
According to the Ladakhi Lama, the Chinese were going around “declaring that they will not be interested with the religious affairs of the Tibetans for times to come.” But Bakula commented: “Yet the deep-seated suspicion of the Tibetans — both lamas and laymen — against the bonafides of the Chinese people is all common and contiguous.” The Chinese did not keep their words and Delhi did not pay heed to Bakula’s warnings.
It is a pity for Ladakh and for India, that today there is no one of Bakula’s vision and capacities to politically and spiritually lead the frontier region. Even though the Dalai Lama visits Ladakh every year, it is difficult for him to defend the rights of the Ladakhis. Let us hope that a new Ladakhi leader emerges soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Emperor Xi’s ‘Voice’ war expands, don’t ignore it

My article Emperor Xi’s ‘Voice’ war expands, don’t ignore it appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

In the West, more and more concerns are emerging about China’s political influence over universities, cultural organisations or ordinary citizens.

Summers are hot in Beijing; this explains why every year, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) takes the direction of the beach resort of Beidaihe, north of the Chinese capital. The tradition has existed since the 1950s, “when Mao Zedong would alarm aides by swimming far into the soupy waters of the Bohai Sea,” commented The Economist.
But the top bosses of the Party are not in the resort only to swim and enjoy the privileges of the Communist nomenklatura, ‘hot’ discussions take place between Politburo members and their colleagues.
This year, there were rumors that President Xi Jinping faced severe opposition over his policies; Xi’s close ally, Wang Huning, the member of Politburo’s Standing Committee responsible for propaganda, was in the hot seat.
The leaders disappeared from the radars of the Chinese (and world) media for two weeks when suddenly Xi and his colleagues reappeared in the limelight. The President chaired two meetings; the first one with the senior cadres of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during which Xi asked the generals “to comprehensively strengthen the leadership of the Party over the defence forces.”
He made it clear that the Party will tighten its control over the Army.
But it was not enough.
China watcher Bill Bishop, author of the Sinocism newsletter, noted that after reaffirming his control over ‘the Gun’, Xi had to show that ‘the Pen’ was under his wing. For the purpose, Xi chaired a national conference on propaganda and ideological work.
According to Xinhua, the Chinese President underscored that in order to better fulfill China’s missions in the new era, a “solid publicity and ideological work to unite the people to embrace shared ideals, convictions, values, and moral standards,” was necessary.
He urged the cadres for “unity of thinking, holding high the banner of Marxism and socialism with Chinese characteristics;” in other words, all behind the Party, the Party above all.
Bishop concluded that it was “indicating that whatever criticism there was about the propaganda strategy [before Beidaihe] and Wang [Huning], has now been completely rejected.”
The Emperor won the round.
Chinese influence abroad is today pervading all spheres of activities, but it is not the intrusion of the Chinese hackers in Western websites to fish out the latest designs of fighter planes, drones or missiles or the West’s advanced studies in Artificial Intelligence.
The Wilson Center in Washington DC recently published a detailed report entitled “A Preliminary Study of PRC Political Influence and Interference Activities in American Higher Education” to quote the author: “As the CCP consolidates its control over every aspect of domestic society, it increasingly seeks to shape the world in its image. Mammoth multimedia platforms broadcasting the ‘Voice of China’ [promote] projects like the Belt and Road Initiative.”
The report observed that China promotes ‘global initiatives as public goods’, while Americans believe that these moves are aimed at creating “a world antithetical to US values and interests.”
In the West, more and more concerns are emerging about China’s political influence over universities, cultural organizations or ordinary citizens. It has prompted “a slew of congressional hearings on the subject. In the American education sector, lawmakers and journalists have focused their attention on the state-sponsored Confucius Institutes, which allegedly promote CCP propaganda and censor campus activities critical of China,” said the Wilson Center’s report.
In the recent past, Chinese cultural institutions have interfered in US universities, for example, in the choice of the speakers invited by universities (the Dalai Lama is one the victims of Chinese pressure). A large number of cases are cited such as inducements offered to faculty not to write on the dark sides of China or probing faculty and staff “for information in a manner consistent with intelligence collection”.
The list is long.
Propaganda and ‘influence’ go hand-in-hand.
During the National People’s Congress meeting in March, China had decided to unify its Voice. A document of the State Council released on March 21, announced that Beijing had decided to form the world’s largest media group called Voice of China.
It was to combine the existing China Central Television, China National Radio, and China Radio International under one unified umbrella and name with the responsibility to “promote the Party theory and guidelines, organize major publicity and coverage, guide social hot topics, strengthen international communication capabilities, and publish positive news on China.”
Voice of China was to produce the Party’s propaganda program, copying the model of stations in foreign countries, using limited amount of advertising.
The influence/propaganda policies apply outside China as well as inside.
On September 10, Wang Shitong, a Standing Committee member of the CCP’s Guangzhou Municipal Committee proposed that, “it is necessary to shoulder political responsibilities effectively in order to strengthen the Party’s buildup in the Internet industry.”
Last month, Guangzhou’s Internet companies had seen the development of 169 CCP organizations, covering 436 companies, of which 83 were newly established this year, an increase of 96.5 percent over the same period last year. The Guangzhou’s Internet sector has a total of 7,358 members of the Communist Party, including 3,267 members who are new to the party as of this year, a significant increase of 79.9 percent over the same period last year. Can you believe it?
While Party members are involved in internal propaganda, the ‘external’ operations are orchestrated by United Front Work Department (UFWD) whose role is to “neutralize sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of the CCP.”
On August 24, 2018, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission published a report “China’s Overseas United Front Work - Background and Implications for the United States” explaining that the UFWD, “the agency responsible for coordinating these kinds of influence operations—mostly focuses on the management of potential opposition groups inside China, but it also has an important foreign influence mission.” The UFWD seeks to co-opt ethnic Chinese individuals and communities living abroad, “while a number of other key affiliated organizations guided by China’s broader United Front strategy conduct influence operations targeting foreign actors and states.”
The UFWD plays an increasingly important role in China’s broader foreign policy, “to seek influence through connections that are difficult to publically prove and to gain influence that is interwoven with sensitive issues such as ethnic, political, and national identity, making those who seek to identify the negative effects of such influence vulnerable to accusations of prejudice.”
The Trump Administration has started a counter-attack, it has ordered two Chinese state-backed organizations to register as foreign agents, “a move one US official said went beyond trade to reflect Beijing’s lack of give on media access,’ commented The South China Morning Post.
The Wall Street Journal reported that both Xinhua and China Global Television Network (CGTN) have been told to clearly label their affiliation with Beijing and disclose budget and ownership structure information under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. A new ‘war’ is clearly on.
India does not seem to bother. Is it wise?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

'The past has a knack of exploding in our faces'


My interview with Michel Danino The past has a knack of exploding in our faces appeared in Rediff.com


'People beat their chests when the Babri Masjid was brought down, not realising that it was just one event in a chain going back centuries; to look at the last link or two in isolation is absurd.'


Michel Danino is a French-born naturalised Indian scholar, who in 1977 came to India and settled here 'for good'.
After living in Auroville for a few years, he engaged himself in the preservation of tropical rainforests in the Nilgiri Hills. There he worked extensively on the edition, translation and publication of Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's works, especially Mother's Agenda.
He also studied Indian archaeology and ancient history so as to understand the roots of Indian civilisation.
In 1996, he wrote his first book The Invasion that Never Was, with an enlarged edition in 2000. His masterpiece, The Lost River: On The Trail of the Saraswati was published in 2010.
Danino -- visiting professor at IIT Gandhinagar (Gujarat), where he helped set up an Archaeological Sciences Centre. -- was awarded the Padma Shri in 2017 for his contribution towards literature and education.
Claude Arpi met him in Pondicherry where he had come to release the fully revised version of his book Sri Aurobindo and India's Rebirth based on Sri Aurobindo's writings.



Your book Sri Aurobindo and India's Rebirth has just been published. What does 'India's rebirth' mean? Why this title, was India really dead?


In a sense, to the freedom-fighters of the early twentieth century, India was half-dead. The need for 'awakening' pervades the entire literature of those times.
Awakening from the long slumber induced by the colonial rule, and in a deeper sense (the one taken by Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, among others), the slumber of self-oblivion.
Rebirth was, to them, not merely 'nation-making', but a process of self-rediscovery and reawakening of India's strengths.

Who was Sri Aurobindo?

Chronologically (more or less!): A poet, an avid student of Indian civilisation, a freedom-fighter, a visionary of India's mission for herself and for the world, a philosopher, an author, an explorer of the worlds of consciousness, a yogi, an architect of the future.

Why do so very few understand or even acknowledge Sri Aurobindo in India today?

Sri Aurobindo is uncompromising: As a writer, he never endeavours to be 'readable'; you must rise to his level or close the book.
As a philosopher and teacher, he departs from orthodoxies, Western or Indian; he rejects humanism and all hopes for a more 'moral' human being as shallow and ineffectual, and insists on a fundamental change in human nature as the only hope for the species' survival.
As a visionary, he points to India's spiritual foundations as the main source of her national and civilisational strengths which, today, is regarded as politically incorrect.
Most of our eminent Indian intellectuals make no effort to understand his vision, much less his work; for them he was, at best, a 'spiritual figure' (if not a religious one!), and therefore good only for bhaktas.
Take Ramachandra Guha's Makers of Modern India as a symptomatic case: Sri Aurobindo does not figure among them -- neither does Swami Vivekananda, incidentally; modern India apparently owes nothing to them.
No central or state university is named after them. Not that such a lack of recognition matters much in the end: if their work had any intrinsic value, it will outlast our ephemeral second-hand intellectual constructions.

A few words about your other books.

They all had Sri Aurobindo as a starting point, in a way, since his study of the Vedas happened to reject the theory of an Aryan invasion of India. That was not central to his interpretation of the Vedic hymns (which, here too, departed from recent interpretations whether Indian or European), but he was clearly annoyed by this racial and racist theory, which he saw as wholly arbitrary and unsupported by the hymns.
I set off on an exploration to find out the current state of scholarship on the Aryan issue, eventually writing The Invasion That Never Was, which proved quite popular but later left me dissatisfied; in 2006 I wrote an updated and much longer version in French, followed by a multidisciplinary study of the Saraswati river (The Lost River: On The Trail of the Saraswati, 2010).
For the last few years, I have been working on a comprehensive study of the Aryan issue, using it as a pretext to explore the origins of Indian civilisation. I also contributed an essay on Indian culture and the challenges it has been facing (Indian Culture and India's Future, 2011).

Give us your view about the Aryan Invasion. Did the river Saraswati exist or is it a political myth?

My view of the Aryan invasion remains the same: There is no evidence for it, or for a peaceful migration either, and a good deal of counter-evidence.
However, just stating this -- which many scholars, Indian and non-Indian alike, have declared for over a century -- does not resolve the issue, since the Iranian, Central Asian and European sides of the supposed Indo-European migration have to be assessed, and the linguistic problem still calls for a solution.
It's essentially a multidisciplinary issue, which also touches on mythology, archaeoastronomy, genetics and a few more fields, and until all its aspects have been accounted for, no one can claim to have finally resolved it. We are still far from such a solution.
As regards the Saraswati, there can be no doubt that it was a real river; it is praised in the whole early Vedic literature, with details of its geography and progressive disappearance.
In recent times, its identification was determined not by satellite imagery, but way back in the 19th century by a French geographer, Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin, who in 1855 combined those literary references with recent explorations of the Yamuna-Sutlej divide.
The rest of the story can be found in my book. Politics of all hues has indeed barged into such issues, but that is hardly surprising, since archaeology and history have rarely been insulated from politics, being central to the construction of identities.

Tell us what you teach at IIT Gandhinagar. You are also involved with the Archaeological Sciences Centre.

I teach courses on classical Indian civilisation -- its foundations, knowledge systems -- and an introductory course on the history of science and technology in India.
As regards the Archaeological Sciences Centre, which is now over five years old, it conducts and encourages research on the scientific aspects of archaeology, using scientific methods (ranging from various microscopy and characterization techniques to ground-penetrating radar or remote sensing) to investigate excavated sites or materials.
India has lagged behind in this respect, resulting in a poor exploitation of excavated materials; we have a long way to go, but this centre is trying to make a beginning.

Do you find an interest for history among the younger generation today?


I think the number of young Indians interested in history is probably neither more nor less than with previous generations.
On the one hand, the rat race to jobs takes a heavy toll on disciplines that do not offer a fat pay cheque and therefore rarely attract the best talents; on the other, material (including videos) on history is more readily available, although much of it remains of dubious quality.
I have often had students in engineering or scientific disciplines coming to me with a very keen interest in archaeology or history, but having had to succumb to parental pressure.
The biggest challenge, in my opinion, is to drastically improve the pedagogy of history teaching so as to make it creative and captivating to schoolchildren to begin with; the rest would follow more or less automatically.

Is it important to know about the distant past, say, the Aryan question? Is it serious or just a hobby for you? It seems a waste of time when the world is changing so fast, isn't it?

From a certain angle, everything is a waste of time -- including being a successful engineer who happily contributes to the destruction of the planet's environment!
I am not obsessed with the Aryan question; I use it as a tool to explore the origins or Indian civilisation. I am equally interested in other periods or manifestations of Indian history, right up to the struggle for freedom.
Whether we like it or not, the past is never dead and has a knack of catching up with the present and exploding in our faces.
To take a dramatic example (many are less spectacular but equally important), people beat their chests when the Babri Masjid was brought down, not realising that it was just one event in a chain going back centuries; to look at the last link or two in isolation is absurd.

In what way can history help India to face its myriads 'concrete' problems?

In many ways: By helping us understand what Indianness means, and therefore our identity or identities and their complexities; by showing the way to healing some of the festering wounds of the past; by highlighting India's civilisational achievements and knowledge systems in various fields, including her ability to hold together people of such diversity; by clearing up much unnecessary confusion, for instance, in the silly debates on 'secularism'; and sometimes by suggesting workable improvements or solutions to burning problems of the day, whether in polity, agriculture, medicine, water management, environmental protection...

Why did you become a naturalised Indian?

I had in any case decided long ago to spend my life in India, so that was the natural thing to do. I was tired of being seen as a 'foreigner', also of the severe administrative limitations imposed on that status.

Any regret to have come to India and become an Indian?

I never regretted these decisions.

What does it mean for you -- a French-born -- to get the Padma Shri?

A great honour, undoubtedly, though I happen to know many people who deserve it far more. In any case, I never think in terms of honour and rewards; the old philosophy that the work is its own reward has much merit in my eyes.

Any message for the young of India?

Ask, question, explore, challenge, but above all, understand.
Nothing is more pitiful than the spectacle of some of our young 'activists', pale copies of their European counterparts, who spit on what they have never tried to understand in the first place and whose skulls are just echo-chambers.
In the end, what matters is not to accept or reject anything, but to deepen our understanding and grow with it.

We do not belong to the past dawns, but to the noons of the future ...a very rich, a very vast synthesis; a fresh and widely embracing harmonisation of our gains is both an intellectual and a spiritual necessity of the future. - Sri Aurobindo.

Friday, September 21, 2018

After Doklam, how China is opening a new front on the Himalayan border India needs to act fast

My article After Doklam, how China is opening a new front on the Himalayan border
India needs to act fast
, appeared in Mail Today/DailyO.

Here is the link...

In recent months, the Sino-Indian relations have seemingly witnessed a thaw, especially after the visit of General Wei Fenghe, the Chinese defence minister, to Delhi and a few days earlier, the Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Abhay Krishna’s trip to China.
One can only be glad about the newly cordial atmosphere which follows the tense moments during the Doklam episode in June-August 2017. However, this does not mean that China is not preparing to open new fronts on the 4057km-long Himalayan border.
In fact, Western Tibet (known as Ngari by the Tibetans) has lately seen rapid development, particularly of its infrastructure. As often on the Tibetan plateau, it starts with tourism.

New ‘model’ villages
Last week, China Tibet Online reported that during the first eight months of 2018, nearly six lakh tourists visited Ngari and the revenue generated reached $106 million; a 30 per cent increase compared to last year.
The website noted: “With the completion of the paved National Highway 219, the building of Ngari Kunsha Airport, as well as improvements to tourist services in Ngari Prefecture, more and more tourists have chosen to visit Ngari in recent years.”
Incidentally, Highway 219 is the Aksai Chin Road. The Himalayan range, the source of the Yarlung Tsangpo, the Indus and the Ganges, without forgetting Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, are promoted as “the ancestor of ten thousand mountains and the source of a hundred rivers”.
During the last few years, Beijing concentrated on the development of the southeastern prefectures of Nyingchi and Lhoka, north of Arunachal Pradesh.
This translated in the mushrooming of new ‘model’ villages on the Tibetan side of the Indian border. This development was officially linked to ‘poverty alleviation’ and the ‘defence of the borders’. The local populations are supposed to be the ‘Guardians of the Sacred Land and Builders of Happy Homes’.
Several senior Communist leaders visited these new villages, either north of Kibithu (where a Memorial for the 1962 War has been built as a bonus); in Metok, north of Upper Siang district; in Yume, north of Takshing in Upper Subansari or in Lepo, Marmang and Tsona, north of Tawang. On July 25, even Li Keqian, the Chinese Premier, visited a village in Mainling County, north of West Siang district.
A telling sign of the new move is the amount of archaeological excavations undertaken; as a colonial power, China needs to establish its bona fide in the region.
The idea is to prove that Tibet was always part of the Belt & Road Initiative. Quoting Huo Wei, head of the School of History and Culture of the Sichuan University, Xinhua wrote: “The discoveries showed that there was a long stage of civilisation in the Peyang Tunggar region, and the civilisation 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.”
In July, The Global Times affirmed that the excavation in Western Tibet “will help archaeologists understand Tibetan cultural development.”

Banking on history

Though hardly mentioned in these articles, a similar civilisation flourished in the Indian side of the Himalayas, in areas such as Spiti, Kinnaur or Ladakh which have been deeply connected (religiously, economically and also politically) with Western Tibet. But today the border with India is sealed!
For Beijing today, the first step to develop the area into a tourist spot is to provide a solid historical (meaning ideological) background.
The 4th Annual China Tibet Cultural Tourism International Expo is taking place from September 7 to 11 in Lhasa: “the investment-attraction platform at the expo will not only improve Tibet’s cultural soft power, it will… (help promoting) business collaborations in Tibet and boost the local economy.”

Importance for India
The official news agency added: “The Ngari area, located in western Tibet, has an average altitude of 4,500 metres,” the Chinese propaganda usually centres on the Kailash: “a huge pyramid of strange black rock sticks up, head and shoulders above the other mountains surrounding it. Shaped like a 6,000-metre pyramid, this unique mountain is Mount Kailash, known around the world as the most sacred mountain in history. Dominating the region, both physically and spiritually, this surreal mountain holds sway over more than one billion people around the world,” says the Atheist State.
Beijing has started duplicating in Ngari what has been done in Nyingchi and Lhoka areas; first and foremost, improving the infrastructure of the border villages. Among the three new airports to be constructed in Tibet, Purang is located in Ngari prefecture. The construction should begin in 2019 and it will be functional in 2021.
The objective of these airports is to strengthen the border's communications with surrounding areas. Let us not forget that airports and highways on the plateau legally have dual-use (civilian and military).
Several roads branching from the Highway 219 are being constructed to the border with India. The project ‘Guardians of the Sacred Land and Builders of Happy Homes’ is therefore not innocent.
India needs to act accordingly and develop its borders.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The new panacea for the Middle Kingdom’s problems?

Premier Li Keqiang inspecting the Lhasa-Nyingtri railway route
Railways have recently been in the news in the Chinese press, particularly new railway lines on the Tibetan plateau and its periphery.
Yesterday, an article dealt at great length about the ‘LaLin’ section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway.
‘Lalin’ is a short form for Lhasa-Linzhi railway (‘La’ for Lhasa and ‘Lin’ for Linzhi, called Nyingtri by the Tibetans).
On September 18, Xinhua reported that the China Railway’s 11th Bureau had successfully laid the first group of ballasts for the Gonggao [Gonkar?] station, the first new station in the railway line: “thus created the traffic conditions for the passage of the Lalin Railway.”
Liu Jun, the Secretary of the Lhasa-Nyingtri Project told the agency that the Sichuan-Tibet Railway was a key project of the National 13th Five-Year Plan: “Upon completion, it will become another railway artery connecting the plateau with the mainland.”
In 2006, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was opened to service.

Details of the Lhasa-Nyingtri Project
The Lhasa-Nyingtri Project section is an important section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway; it is certainly relatively easier to build than the eastern part.
It will have a total length of 435 kilometers and 34 new stations, including 17 which which are already existing. It will start in Lhasa and end at Nyingtri City and follow the Yarlung Tsangbo River (Siang/Brahmaputra in India).
The construction of this section started at the end of 2014; it should take 7 years to complete the entire project and the speed of the train will be 160 kilometers; it will be the first electrified railway in Tibet.
The Railway line will cross the Yarlung Tsangpo 16 times. The railway bridges use large-span bridge structures: “The mountains are high in water depth, the rivers are rushing, the technology is special, and the construction is extremely difficult. There are 14 high-risk tunnels out of 47 tunnels, of which 7 are extremely high-risk tunnels,” explained China Railway's 11th Bureau.

Not being afraid of difficulties
On September 6, another article which appeared in China Tibet Online reported that Lhasa-Nyingtri Railway was making smooth progress; a total of 2.72 billion yuan has been invested between January and August 2018: “Relying on advanced technology and the spirit of not being afraid of difficulties, now the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway project is progressing well,” said a release.
The annual planned investment is 4.38 billion yuan.
According to the authorities, the project should promote town development, resource exploitation [mining?], industrial upgrading, emergency rescue and relief, emergency situation ...and perhaps more importantly national defense.
Beside this, it will play an important role in implementing the scientific development concept, building a harmonious society, implementing the Western Development strategy; it will promote the coordinated development of eastern and western economies, improve the layout of the regional rail network, connect Yangtze River Economic Zone and Sichuan-Chongqing Economic Circle, promote the development of Shangri-La Ecological Tourist Area and improve the investment environment.
Quite a long list of benefits!
And as importantly, the construction of new towns along the line will improve people's living standard, and speed up the pace of poverty alleviation in Tibet.
In one word, the panacea for all problems on the plateau.
But national defence is certainly one of the major objectives of the project.

A map of future railway lines
Interesting is a map found on a Pakistani website accompanied one of these articles.
The ‘Lalin’ railway line is in green, but several new lines are shown reaching the plateau. They are worth noting:
  • The Lhasa-Shigatse-Kyirong section which should be completed in a couple of years (it was delayed due to the 2015 Nepal Earthquake)
  • The Lhasa-Yatung section reaching the Chumbi Valley and the Indian border in Sikkim. It has serious strategic implications for India, especially after the Doklam episode. Though it is rarely mentioned in the Chinese press, it is clearly on the cards (it is not in dotted lines)
  • The projected Yunnan-Tibet railway line which has special strategic implications to India too, particularly for the border in Arunachal Pradesh (in a dotted line). It will join the Sichuan-Nyingtri line somewhere near Chamdo.
  • Korla-Golmud is already under construction. It will be the second major railway line linking Qinghai province to Western Xinjiang.
  • The Shigatse-Rutok-Kashgar line (in dotted line). It is a novelty. It may follow the G219 Highway (known as the Aksai Chin road). Will India protest if China starts building a railway on its territory?
  • A new Qiemo-Korla line across the Taklamatan desert. An extension of G216 Highway is under construction. It should be following the highway.
  • The Khotan-Quiemo line in Xinjiang. It will link up with the Khotan-Kashar line. It is probably important for the totally unstable Muslim province, in order to ‘stabilize’ southern Xinjiang and build new model villages/town along the line.
  • The Khotan-Tashkurgan line, leading to the border with Afghanistan.
    Tashkurgan has historically been part of the Silk Road. “Major caravan routes converged leading to Kashgar in the north, Yecheng to the east, Badakhshan and Wakhan to the west, and Chitral and Hunza to the southwest” says Wikipedia.
  • A never seen-before project to link Chengdu in Sichuan to Golmud in Qinghai. It will close the loop linking the two provinces on the West and North of the Tibetan plateau and link up Xinjiang through the above-mentioned Golmud-Korla line.
Incidentally at the end of July, Li Keqiang, the Chinese Premier visited a construction site of the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway.
Li stressed the importance of the project for the development of Tibet and  for the ecological protection [how is not clear]: "The railway project is beneficial for Tibet to cultivate new growth drivers, and it is the right thing that must be done. Full construction work should be accelerated," Li said.
He added that "at present, infrastructure development in the country's central and western regions is relatively weak, and promoting effective investments to improve weak links will not only narrow the gap in regional development but also helpful for the country to cope with economic downturn."
He further observed: "China should avoid strong stimulus and take targeted measures that are beneficial in both short and long terms."
Implications for India
All this should be quite worrisome for India.
However the main problem for Beijing seems to be: can China afford all these new projects?
Who will finance these mega-developments, especially if the US President turns the screw on the Chinese economy and if Xi continues to ‘invest’ in Africa, Pakistan or elsewhere, outside the Walls of the Middle Kingdom?
It is a serious question, though difficult to answer.
Further, it is bound to create ‘differences’ within the Communist leadership on the investment ‘priorities’ and ultimately jeopardize the ‘stability’ of the Kingdom …when the Emperor and his courtiers start fighting among themselves.









Friday, September 14, 2018

Exposing a repressive campaign in Xinjiang

My article Exposing a repressive campaign in Xinjiang appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Chinese brutality towards the Uighur Muslim minority is not new but what is surprising is that nobody dares to question Beijing. Why these double standards?

Here is the link...

Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a 117-page report titled, ‘Eradicating Ideological Viruses — China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims’, which gave fresh evidence of Beijing’s “mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life,” in the restive Province. The US based agency affirmed: “Throughout the region, the Turkic Muslim population of 13 million, is subjected to forced political indoctrination, collective punishment, restrictions on movement and communications, heightened religious restrictions and mass surveillance in violation of international human rights law.”
The HRW report is based on interviews with 58 former residents of Xinjiang, including five former detainees and 38 relatives of detainees. Bloomberg, citing a United Nations’ assessment, had earlier reported that the Chinese authorities have detained ‘upwards of one million’ Uighurs: “As its mosques are shuttered and travel across its borders restricted, Xinjiang — once at the intersection of ancient Silk Road trade routes — threatens to become a black hole in President Xi Jinping’s effort to build new ones.”
The fact that China would like Xinjiang to be the hub of its mega project compounds the issue. The Uighurs being badly treated by Beijing is, however, not new. In a report dated May 1950, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) states: “On the pretense of suppressing guerrillas, the Chinese Communist troops have been going systematically from valley to valley, burning tents and looting cattle, thus depriving the inhabitants of the means of livelihood.”
Another CIA dispatch from January 22, 1951, affirms: “Muslims in Sinkiang [Xinjiang] are discontented with the Communist regime. Officially, there are no restrictions on prayers, but orchestras play for dancing at evening-prayer time to distract the young, and young men enlisted as soldiers have no time to attend religious services. Gatherings of more than four people are prohibited.”
Interestingly, the Chinese propaganda kept repeating that the Communists had come only to help the Uighurs and once their economy was on track, they would withdraw. Sixty-eight years later, the Turkic population is still waiting for the Chinese withdrawal.
Incidentally, the same CIA report asserts: “Propaganda in Sinkiang is stating that the Chinese ought to take the Ladakh airfield because the Americans intend to use it in their invasion of China via Kashmir and Tibet. The Ladakh road was closed in early December 1950.” It was probably part of Mao’s plans to invade Ladakh.
Last month, The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), admitted that the party imprisons ‘extremists’, to educate them and reform their religious thoughts in Xinjiang. It was a rare admission.
Ma Pinyan, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences and vice president of the Xinjiang Prison Association, told the party tabloid that the state had invited religious experts “to reform the extremists’ thoughts. …in prison [they] need to transform their thoughts.”
Another ‘expert’, La Disheng, former vice president of the Xinjiang Academy of Governance remarked: “As a multi-ethnic region, Xinjiang has proven that prosperous development can only be achieved through ethnic unity, while ethnic conflicts and separatism may lead to disasters.”
Today, a large majority of the population of the restive Muslim Province is considered ‘extremist’. In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Rian Thum, a historian who has been conducting research in Xinjiang, observed: “What does it take to intern half a million members of one ethnic group in just a year? Enormous resources and elaborate organisation, but the Chinese authorities aren’t stingy. Vast swathes of the Uighur population in China’s western region of Xinjiang — as well as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities — are being detained to undergo what the state calls “transformation through education”.
Since last year, a large number of studies detailed the proliferation of re-education camps in Xinjiang that appeared in the Western Press.
China Digital Times, which collected information from different sources, explained: “Ever since former Tibet Party Secretary Chen Quanguo was installed in Xinjiang to replicate his perceived successes [in Tibet where he was posted earlier], Xinjiang’s re-education system alone grew to overshadow China’s officially-abolished re-education through labor system. …Individuals can land in the camps for reasons such as contacting friends or relatives abroad, worshipping at mosques, or possessing Quranic verses on their phones.”
Even the Chinese Press realises that the situation is grim.
On July 6, noted that Beijing has relocated “461,000 poverty-ridden residents to work in other parts of the region during the first quarter of the year,” in a bid to “improve social stability and alleviate poverty.” The report asserted that the Xinjiang Government planned to further transfer 100,000 residents from southern Hotan and Kashgar prefectures by 2019, to get employed somewhere else.
Yu Shaoxiang, another ‘expert’ at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told The Global Times: “Poverty alleviation in Xinjiang is more difficult compared to other places because, aside from poverty, Xinjiang also faces ethnic issues.”
In 2017, Xinhua announced “occupational education programs” covering 1.26 million people in Kashgar and Hotan, where 47,000 poor people found jobs while 317,400 individuals and 331 villages were lifted out of poverty. It is obviously an excuse in an area which is the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
In June, Beijing had announced that the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region’s Government planned to teach “standard spoken and written Chinese language to all 2.94 million students during their free and compulsory education period.” Free and compulsory!
Is there a terrorist threat in Xinjiang? There is no doubt that China faces serious challenges not only from infiltration from its all-weather friend in the south, but also from the Syrian-trained Uighurs returning to Xinjiang.
It is, therefore, a legitimate concern for Beijing; some sources estimate that 5,000 Uighur jihadists were fighting in Syria. A Dubai-based media outlet reported that 10,000 to 20,000 Uighurs were supporting the Islamic State, mostly in Idlib Province.
Whatever the number is, the issue is that ferocious repression or forced assimilation, as it is happening today in the restive region, can only make the situation worse. The future of the Province is not bright, but the most surprising aspect is that Muslim nations around the world are keeping mum about the fate of their Uighur brothers and sisters; nobody dares to question China about its Muslim policy.
The People’s Daily
Isn’t it amazing?
This is called double standards.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Book Release - Will Tibet ever find her soul again?

My book Will Tibet ever find her soul again? - India Tibet Relations 1947-1962 (Part 2) was released at the United Service Institution of India by Ambassador KS Bajpai, former ambassador to Pakistan, China and the US on September 6.
Interesting discussions on the meaning of the title followed the release.
 

Here are a few concluding remarks which form the postcript of this volume

As at the end of Volume I of The Relations between Tibet and India between 1947 and 1962, it is important to draw some lessons from the happenings of the years 1951-54 leading to the signature of the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India”. The accord was signed on April 29, 1954 in Beijing by the Indian Ambassador N. Raghavan and Zhang Hanfu, the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister. It is often referred to as the Panchsheel Agreement.

Period 1951-1954
This period was marked by a general deterioration of the situation in Central Tibet and the slow take-over of the institutions by the People’s Liberation Army and the representatives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India. It seemed ineluctable after the signature of the 17-Point Agreement between China and Tibet in May 1951 and Delhi’s surrender of India’s interests in Tibet for the sake of a mythic ‘eternal’ friendship with China.
Soon after the arrival of the Chinese troops in Lhasa, the Head of the Indian Mission realized that Tibet would never been the same. Sumul Sinha’s encounter with General Zhang Jingwu, the Central Committee’s representative, was instructive in this regard.
Also edifying was the case of the Indian PoWs; it would take months of negotiations for Phuntso and his colleagues to be freed. These youngsters from the Himalayan region were accused of trying to obstruct the ‘Liberation of Tibet’; they had been employed by Robert Ford, a British working as a radio operator for the Tibetan Government. Retrospectively, their illegal detention of the young assistants is shocking.
‘Will Tibet ever find her soul again?’ once asked SM Krishnatry in one of his reports from Gyantse, where he served as Indian Trade Agent.
The Tibetans were at a loss, should they collaborate with the Communists or revolt against the Chinese occupation? Interestingly, it was the poorer sections of the society which would start to rebel, while the high clergy and the aristocracy were not unhappy with the Chinese largesse.
In Lhasa, Gyantse or Shigatse, many Tibetans happily collaborated with Chinese; they could not grasp the implications of their ‘liberation’ for the future of the Tibetan nation.
The tide continued to turn against the Tibetans during the following years; the Indian representatives in Tibet could do little to change this course of events; this was the time when Delhi was more and more enamoured with Communist China.
One of the strangest episodes of the period under study is the ‘feeding of the PLA’ by the Indian government, who allowed large quantities of rice to transit via its territory for more than two years.
What lessons could be learnt from the episode?
It is better not to feed the army of a potential enemy, especially when this army is busy constructing road to your borders. The cost of strengthening the PLA’s presence on the plateau would soon be obvious.
While the Chinese were pushing their administration in Western and Southern Tibet, the Indian government was slowly advancing towards the McMahon line; the administration of Tawang was in good hands, thanks to Maj Bob Khathing, though the difficulties were immense.
In the early 1950s, two most tragic events took place: the closure by force of the Indian Consulate General in Kashgar, which was followed by the downgrading of the Lhasa Mission into a Consulate General. This would have long-term implications which can be seen even today, seventy years later. India no longer has a representation in Tibet and Xinjiang, two places which have traded with Northern India for centuries. In the present days, the reopening of any Silk Road has no meaning if these regions are unable to have contacts with India. India may have to take a stand on the issue one day, if it wants in participate of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) sponsored by Chinese. Without these traditional outposts, how could India play a meaningful role in the region?
While these momentous events were taking place on India’s borders, the military consolidation on the Tibetan plateau continued at a fast pace.
What is most surprising is the fact that India was very much aware of the details, but the political leadership read China’s intention totally wrong.
The lesson is that an ideological stand can hamper a proper geostrategic vision of a situation, and ultimately have disastrous consequences for the nation. Accurate information was there, it was just that the leadership decided to close their eyes.
While the Indian administration continued to advance in the NEFA, India had also a presence in Western Tibet with Minsar, the Indian Village traditionally part of the J&K State, next to Mount Kailash.
This would soon be forgotten in view of the nascent friendship with the Communist regime, but the legal facts remain the same, even 65 years later, Minsar is part of the Indian territory, even though it is difficult to enforce the possession of the village today (or in the 1950s).
One of the most fascinating and lesser known aspects of the relations between Tibet and India were the age-old contacts with Western Tibet and the role of the Indian Trade Agency in Gartok. The diary of Lakshman Singh Jangpangi, who for years represented the Indian government in these desolate areas, makes fascinating reading. As a result of the rapid decrease of the trade in Western Tibet, the Himalayan regions slowly lost their main sources of revenue, which translates even today in the quick migration out of the border villages.
Over these first years of occupation of the plateau, one can see the situation slowly changing with the Chinese getting bolder and establishing themselves by force, imposing their law on the local Tibetan officials as well as the Indian representatives. The pilgrims to Mt Kailash and the traders from the Himalayan region and Ladakh started to face more and more harassment.
Delhi seemed to close their eyes on the tragedy happening in the high Himalaya, as more important ‘world’ issues had probably to be tackled.
A bunch of notes from the CIA on the infrastructure development in Tibet, as well as the Indian views on the Chinese military deployment, give frightening insight on the Chinese intentions in Tibet and Xinjiang. It was the time when the Aksai Chin road linking the two ‘liberated’ provinces started being built.
In Delhi, very few officers had the courage to call a spade, a spade. Sumul Sinha, who had previously been posted as the Head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa, was one of them. Now serving in the North-East Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, he dare to mention in a note, ‘the Chinese threats on the NEFA’. He would be blasted by a Prime Minister, who still relied on KM Panikkar, now Indian Ambassador in Cairo, to advise him about India’s China policy. Volume I has amply covered this subject.
While the situation in Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet continued to deteriorate, the strengthening the Indian borders was imperative. For the purpose, an Indian Frontier Administrative Service was created and several ex-Army officers were recruited. This is one of the positive outcomes of the exacerbated tensions on the borders. These remarkable officers performed miracles on the frontiers.
Finally, at the end of 1953, negotiations started for a new Agreement with Tibet. The consequences of China’s occupation of Tibet, were to be settled in a couple of weeks; it would take four months to arrive at a settlement …but forgetting the border in the process (Zhou Enlai had said on the first day that only issues ‘ripe for settlement’ would be solved, but nobody understood what he meant). Slowly over the weeks and months, India would give away all its rights in Tibet, getting nothing in return.
The main lesson of this volume is perhaps the narrative of the negotiations themselves, which should become a text book: how negotiations should not be conducted with China.
Further, the fact that the Prime Minister wanted ‘quick results’ did not help. The Chinese negotiators extracted concessions one after another; in many cases, it was plain surrender from the Indian diplomats.
At the end of the ‘talks’, Delhi discovered that the main Indian official dealing with the Chinese, a married man, wanted to marry his Chinese girl friend; he would have to be replaced by the Indian ambassador.
It was a tragic moment of the Indian diplomacy, which has never been acknowledged by the Indian side.
The Volume ends by the terrible floods in Gyantse, which washed away the Indian Trade Agency and killed the Trade Agent and the new Officer Commanding the military Escort. It was a sign that the days of the Indian presence in Tibet were counted.
China would never allow the Agency to be rebuilt despite the Agreement.
The main lesson remains the unnecessary surrender of Indian rights in Tibet.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Diplomat TN Kaul's 'serious affair' with a Chinese girl and what all went behind 1954 Indo-China agreement on Tibet

Thuksey Rinpoche, Kushok Bakula, Indira Gandhi and TN Kaul in Ladakh
My article Diplomat TN Kaul's 'serious affair' with a Chinese girl and what all went behind 1954 Indo-China agreement on Tibet appeared in Mail Today/Daily O

Though Kaul was asked to return to India immediately, he took four weeks to come back to Delhi.

Here is the link...

History is often politically distorted and it is sometimes only decades later that one discovers it. The image that successive governments left of the Panchsheel Agreement is that it was “the best thing” that Nehru did. Unfortunately, the facts do not tally with the myth.

Fate Sealed
The ‘five principles’ were just a small preamble of the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India" signed on April 29, 1954 in Beijing by the Indian Ambassador N. Raghavan and Zhang Hanfu, the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister of China; it was about mutual trading and pilgrimage rights.
On May 15, Nehru admitted to the Parliament that the agreement had settled the fate of Tibet, a peaceful independent nation, which was suddenly deprived of its autonomy: “So far as Tibet is concerned, it is a recognition of the existing situation there,” Nehru stated.
For the Prime Minister, the most important feature of the Agreement was not the fate of the Tibetans, but the ‘wider implications for world peace’.
That day, Nehru was in his revolutionary mood: “Now we must realise that this revolution that came to China is the biggest thing that has taken place in the world at present, whether you like it or not.”
During the debate which followed, most of the members from the Congress and the Communist Party were enthusiastic in their endorsement of the agreement. Acharya Kripalani however strongly attacked the Government policy: “We feel that China, after it had gone Communist, committed an act of aggression against Tibet.” A few years later, Kripalani, would call the Agreement, “Born in Sin”.
Historical documents, recently opened to the public, bring some light on how the accord was arrived at; retrospectively, it is clear that it has been the worst-negotiated treaty post-independence.
Whatever position and advantages India had in Tibet, were lost week after week during the four-month hard talks in Beijing, while the border issue was left hanging …it is still pending 64 years later.
One incident which has never been related outside South Block needs to be related.

'Honey Tray'
On March 13, 1954, NT Pillai, the Secretary General of the Ministry wrote to the Prime Minister about the private life of the glamorous Indian Chargé d’affaires in Beijing who had written to Nehru about his private life. After quoting the second marriage of V. Shankar, a staff member of the embassy, Pillai wrote “Kaul's letter has left me somewhat dazed. …Here are two able young men - serious minded, practical, shrewd, even ambitious - cutting themselves away from their moorings, with apparently little thought of where they are going to drift.”
TN Kaul, the Chargé d’affaires was having a ‘serious affair’ with a Chinese girl and wanted to marry her: “One feels sad and subdued at the sight of this volcanic eruption of deep-seated emotions. For all the actors in this human drama, both willing and unwilling, …[it is] as a member of a profession with a code of behaviour, that I must consider the situation before us.”
The Secretary General was deeply upset: “Every Foreign Service officer is expected to obtain the Government's permission before he marries a foreigner. Had Kaul been an unmarried man, a widower, or divorcee, his request for permission to marry a Chinese girl would have caused us enough worry, if only because we know nothing of the antecedents of the girl.”
Not only did Kaul have a lawfully-wedded wife and two children, but more critically for India, he was conducting tricky the negotiations with China.
Even in normal times, this is called a ‘honey trap’; in this case, India’s relations with Tibet and the fate of the common border depended on the outcome of the talks.
Pillai rightly pointed out: “If the new partner is to be a foreigner, even the legality of the alliance is open to doubt, and the Government cannot by according their administrative approval, legalise what is not permissible under the law.”
Pillai said that in the case of Shankar, he was sent back to his Province, “we cannot treat Kaul very differently. At the same time I do not suggest we should threaten him with expulsion from the ICS.”

Missed Opportunity
Pillai considered Kaul’s request for two months’ leave ex-India on the conclusion of his duty in Peking unreasonable: “It is his duty to return to India and report to us on the negotiations in which he has participated. With his past record, he will not, we hope, shirk his obvious duty.”
This entire episode is flabbergasting to say the least.
Was the intransigence of the Chinese negotiators connected to the fact that they had a hold on Kaul? It is difficult to say for certain.
In any case, it was unheard of that a senior diplomat, holding crucial talks for his nation, could have at the same time an affair with an ‘unknown’ lady from the opposite side.
The Prime Minister immediately replied to Pillai’s note: “I would like Kaul to return to India as soon as possible without waiting for end of Tibetan talks which I presume are nearing completion.” The next day, Ambassador Raghavan took over the negotiations.
Though he was asked to return to India immediately, Kaul took four weeks to come back to Delhi. The Prime Minister ‘spoke’ to him; he was however transferred as Joint Secretary in charge …of China, where he officiated several years. Later, he became Ambassador to Soviet Union, America and Foreign Secretary.
India not only lost her advantages in Tibet, but it missed an incredible opportunity to settle her border with China; a gentle neighbour was lost while the guilty officer was forgiven …and promoted.
Is there another country in the world where this could happen?