Friday, November 24, 2023

As Tibet becomes Xizang, Delhi faces a new concern

Tibet No More
My article As Tibet becomes Xizang, Delhi faces a new concern appeared in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle.

Here is the link...

US President Joe Biden greets China's President President Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, California, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference. (AP)

The long-awaited meeting between the two most powerful leaders of the planet finally took place at a farmhouse on the outskirts of San Francisco on November 15. During his press conference, US President Joe Biden said that Chinese President Xi Jinping was effectively a "dictator", which seemingly undid whatever good could have come out of the meeting.

When asked whether he still held the view (mentioned in June) that Mr Xi was a dictator, Mr Biden answered: "Look, he is. He’s a dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who runs a country that is a Communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours."

Listening to his boss, US secretary of state Antony Blinken made a telling face: "He has done it again."

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, was not long to respond: "This statement is extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation," he told reporters on Thursday at a routine briefing. But Mr Xi’s speech at the welcome dinner remained uncontroversial: he mentioned the Belt and Road Initiative as well as the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) and proposed that China was "opened to all countries at all times, including the United States. China is also ready to participate in US-proposed multilateral cooperation initiatives."

He remembered his first visit to the United States: "I stayed at the Dvorchaks in Iowa. I still remember their address -- 2911 Bonnie Drive. The days I spent with them are unforgettable. For me, they represent America… Our two peoples are both kind, friendly, hardworking and down to earth."

These are different ways of dealing with seemingly insurmountable differences.

But remember Mahabalipuram? Everyone had praised the Modi-Xi encounter in 2019, and seven months later the People’s Liberation Army entered eastern Ladakh.

Though the California encounter may also end with a new confrontation (in Taiwan or the South China Sea?), one should not forget the hard realities of today’s life in China, particularly in what Beijing calls the "minorities areas", meaning Tibet and Xinjiang.

On November 10, Xinhua reported that the State Council Information Office had just released a white paper on the governance of the Xizang Autonomous Region.

But what is Xizang?

As a true colonial power, Communist China often changes the names of the people, places and even nations. It is the case of Tibet, which is now called "Xizang".

The main objective of the white paper titled "CPC Policies on the Governance of Xizang in the New Era: Approach and Achievements", is to make official the new name for the occupied territory of Tibet. It goes to highlight the CPC’s guidelines for governing Tibet, showing that Beijing has brought about "all-round progress and historic success in various undertakings in the region".

Of course, it praises Emperor Xi: "Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, Xizang [Tibet] has experienced a period of unprecedented development and huge change, bringing more tangible benefits to the people."

It also gives figures: "Xizang’s gross domestic product reached 213.26 billion yuan (about $29.3 billion) in 2022, representing an average annual growth rate of 8.6 per cent since 2012. The length of the region’s railway network had almost doubled during this period and 5G network has covered all counties and main townships there. The region had also eradicated absolute poverty."

Before concluding that "together with the rest of the country, people in Xizang have witnessed the tremendous transformation of the Chinese nation from standing up and becoming prosperous to growing in strength, and are now embarking on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all respects".

The word "Tibet" is never used in the white paper, except as an adjective such as "Tibetan" or in the name of an organisation or institution, such as "Tibet Airlines".

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamsala, strongly rejected the white paper, saying that the document was "unacceptable" and filled with "misinterpretation, misconceptions and lies".

It further pointed out that this 19th white paper on Tibet consistently downplaying the region’s distinct political identity by using "Xizang" or "Xizang Autonomous Region".

The CTA spokesperson, Tenzin Lekshay, called it "an insult to the Tibetan people. …The 32-page document talks about the aspirations of the people, but somehow the Tibetan people are missing, so we wonder what kind of aspirations they are talking about, whose aspirations they are talking about".

Also worrying for Delhi, China made official the term "Xizang" with India’s neighbours by sending visit Wang Junzheng, the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s party secretary, on a five-day visit to Kathmandu and then to Colombo. The "Tibet" delegation (without any Tibetans) was received at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu by Urmila Aryal, the National Assembly Vice-chairperson.

Mr Wang’s visit was to maintain the "good momentum of high-level exchanges between two countries", a communiqué of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs said.

During his stay, Mr Wang met with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal "Prachanda" Dahal: "Since we share a long border with Tibet, during the visit, our officials and the CPC delegation will discuss strengthening the bilateral ties along with implementing the agreements signed during the Prime Minister’s China visit," observed Rupak Sapkota, foreign affairs relations adviser to Mr Dahal.

The "Xizang" representatives also paid courtesy calls on vice-president Ramsahaya Prasad Yadav; later they met deputy prime minister and home minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, minister for federal affairs and general administration Anita Devi Sah as well as Ganesh Prasad Timilsina, the chairman of the National Assembly.

He also visited "joint" projects in Pokhara, though it was clear that the objective of the exercise was to get acceptance for the name for "Xizang".

That is not all. A day later (on November 14), Wang Junzheng was seen in Colombo with Ali Sabry, the Sri Lankan foreign minister, who wrote on his X handle: "Pleased to meet with Wang Junzheng, secretary of the CPC of Xizang Autonomous Regional Committee in #China at the foreign ministry. Amongst other areas, we discussed potential bilateral cooperation @ChinaEmbSL [@MFA_SriLanka."

This means that more nations are now using "Xizang" instead of Tibet.

The moral of the story: Despite Mr Xi’s sweet words about building a community "with a shared future for mankind", ancient nations like Tibet have no place in Beijing’s schemes.

It does not augur well for humanity … or for India which has a long border with Tibet. After all, President Biden had been perhaps right about the Chinese "dictator".

Monday, November 6, 2023

Claude Arpi | To integrate border areas, devise a new philosophy

My article To integrate border areas, devise a new philosophy appeared in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau had once said: "Nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man."
Jawaharlal Nehru too was a romantic; he wrote thus about the inhabitants of the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA): "I am not at all sure which is the better way of living, the tribal or our own. In some respects, I am quite certain theirs is better… There is no point in trying to make of them a second-rate copy of ourselves."
Though constitutionally a part of Assam, in the 1950s the NEFA was administered by the ministry of external affairs, with the governor of Assam, seconded by a senior officer (often from the ICS), designated as an adviser to the governor.
In 1955, Dr Verrier Elwin, the famous British anthropologist who had just taken Indian citizenship, joined as adviser for tribal affairs. Verrier’s concept of the development of these areas was expounded in his celebrated book, The Philosophy of NEFA, which became a sort of "bible" for all the officers serving in the NEFA.
Near 70 years later, one realises that this romantic view of the border areas amounted to the segregation of a large chunk of the Indian population. Verrier Elwin and Nehru only looked at the anthropological side of the problem, forgetting the strategic as well the economic aspects of border development; it resulted in a huge development gap between the frontier areas and the rest of India.
All factors, including military, need to be taken into consideration to arrive at a holistic "philosophy".
However, the first Prime Minister took an excellent initiative: he created a separate cadre for India’s frontier areas, namely NEFA, Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan: "These primitive people especially have to be dealt with care and friendliness and require expert knowledge which our average administrator does not possess. Hence the necessity for a specially trained cadre."
It was the Indian Frontier Administrative Service (IFAS). This was shut down in the 1960s.
Today India is changing fast, particularly the border areas. One could say that the New Philosophy of the Northeast (this is also valid for Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh or Ladakh) is at present being rewritten and this time it should not to segregate the border populations but to integrate them into India.
Take the example of the Chumig Gyatse Holy Waterfalls in the Yangtse sub-sector of Tawang. This is one the most sacred places in Arunachal Pradesh, blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, the great yogi and tantric master who lived in the 8th century AD; it has now been opened to visitors.
The Great Guru extensively visited the border areas and his legacy can still be found in many places (for example, the Taktsang monastery near Tawang, Rewalsar in Himachal Pradesh or Gurudongmar in Sikkim).
On the exact spot where the Guru is said to have created 108 waterfalls, the Yangtse clash took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the night of December 9, 2022.
Several other border areas are now being opened to visitors.
An article in a national newspaper mentions: "The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has decided that tourists, mountaineers, and trekkers will no longer need an Inner Line Permit to visit Milam Glacier [located at 18,000 feet]. The Inner Line Permit has been one of the most mandatory requirements for decades now. It is one of the most famous places for adventure enthusiasts in the Kumaon Himalayas [of Uttarakhand]."
The article explains: "The Inner Line Permit requirement had many adverse effects on the tourism sector." But it goes beyond that: these areas are within Indian territory and there is no reason why permission should not be required to visit them. The "susceptibility" of the northern neighbour should not be New Delhi’s concern.
Interestingly, one newspaper had reported in 2015: "As villages along the international border in Uttarakhand face out-migration on an unprecedented scale, uninhabited areas lie open to territorial claims by the Chinese."
The reporter had studied the case of Niti, the last Indian village, located 26 km south from the Niti Pass which demarcates the border between Tibet and India, 88 km from Joshimath. For centuries, the village saw traders, pilgrims and officials freely moving between the two countries and the area flourished. Unfortunately, all this stopped in 1962.
In 2015, only 35 families remained in the village, while a few decades ago there were 250. After the trade with Tibet (today China) stopped, the area is virtually closed to outsiders and slowly it became a "ghost" region, with most young people moving to the plains in search of education or a better life.
Hopefully, the "philosophy" is changing fast and the village can now develop with eco-tourism.
In Ladakh too, the UT administration along with the Indian Army and the ITBP are making all-out efforts to change the trend to stop the out-migration. For example, on July 15 and 16, a Nomadic Festival 2023 took place not far from the Line of Actual Control in Hanle, famous for its observatory and white cranes. It was open to any visitor who could witness cultural troupes from different villages in Changthang presenting dance, songs and traditional sports: "The main focus of the festival was to present a kaleidoscopic view of the nomadic lifestyle and traditions of the people of the region… Nomadic communities in Ladakh lead a challenging but self-sufficient lifestyle, adapting to the harsh climatic conditions and high altitudes. They have a deep connection with nature and maintain a strong sense of community and cultural identity," said a release.
A couple of months later, Umling-la, the world’s highest motorable road at 19,024 feet, entered a Guinness World Record by hosting the World’s Highest International Fashion Runway, under the Vibrant Ladakh Festival.
All this is good for the local population as well as the defence forces: a populated border is a stronger border.
But the real factor that the Government of India, the UT administration and other stakeholders should not forget to keep in prime focus is the environment. Nobody wants to see another Joshimath or Chunthang (Sikkim), where a number of people lost their lives due to man-made disasters.
And perhaps the government should also think of re-creating an IFAS cadre, with motivated and dedicated officers ready to serve at the remote borders of India.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Why New Delhi should worry about instability in China's PLA ranks

My article Why New Delhi should worry about instability in China's PLA ranks appeared in Firstpost.

New commanders may be inclined to please the Emperor in order to consolidate their position in the hierarchy and therefore take a more belligerent stance towards Taiwan and India 

Here is the link...

The planet is in turmoil. As if the Ukraine war was not enough, a new conflict has erupted in the Middle East.
The Russo-Ukrainian War had started in February 2014 soon after Ukraine's Orange Revolution, when Russia annexed Crimea. But it is only in February 2022 that Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, aiming at occupying most of the country. Since then the conflict has taken a disastrous turn with more than of a lakh casualties on each side.
Chaos is also visible in the Middle Kingdom where the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers have both ‘disappeared’ since weeks. This is certainly not a sign of stability for a country which dreams of overtaking the United States in the years to come.
Havoc also in Afghanistan, where multiple earthquakes struck northwest of the city of Herat killing more than 4,000 people, leveling thousands of homes; the earthquake was said to be of magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale.
And now a new conflict has erupted in the Middle East; in a column in The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman spoke of “Israel’s Worst Day at War”: “This is not your usual Hamas-Israel dust-up. The Gaza-Israel border is only 37 miles long, but the shock waves this war will unleash will not only thrust Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza into turmoil but will also slam into Ukraine and Saudi Arabia and most likely Iran. Why?”
Friedman answers: “Any prolonged Israel-Hamas war could divert more US military equipment needed by Kyiv to Tel Aviv, and it will make the proposed Saudi-Israeli normalization deal impossible — for now. And if it turns out that Iran encouraged the Hamas attack to scuttle that Israeli-Saudi deal, it could raise tensions between Israel and Iran and Tehran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and also between Saudi Arabia and Iran.” He concludes: “This is an incredibly dangerous moment on multiple fronts.”
Some reports on the social media speak of 6,000 bombs dropped in Gaza in the first six days of the conflict (during the air campaign against ISIS between 2014 and 2019, the US-led coalition dropped 2,000-5,000 munitions per month across all of Iraq and Syria).
According to a release of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), as on October 12: “Dozens of fighter jets and helicopters attacked a series of terrorist targets of the Hamas terrorist organization throughout the Gaza Strip. So far, the IAF has dropped about 6,000 bombs against Hamas targets.”
Incidentally, a story was going around: “The so called Five Eyes Intelligence knew about Nijjar's killers; why did it not have knowledge of the 5,000 Hamas rockets and hundreds of terrorists preparing to attack Israel?”
It is something for Mr Trudeau and his allies to answer or at least to ponder about.
For Delhi, an important question to look at is: will China benefit of the new war and how will it affect India?
There is no doubt that with the intensification of the conflict, the United States, China’s main adversary, will be bogged down on two fronts. This will undoubtedly weaken Washington (and its allies).
According to The Global Times, China’s (new and old) Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized Israel after its counterattack in Gaza against Hamas. Wang blamed the rapidly worsening conflict in the Middle East on a lack of justice for the Palestinian people: “The crux of the issue lies in the fact that justice has not been done to the Palestinian people," Beijing's top diplomat said in a phone call with Brazil's Celso Amorim, a special adviser to Brazilian President Lula da Silva.
Reuters says the comment by Wang appeared “to mark a hardening of its stance amid heavy Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and talk of a possible ground operation to dislodge Hamas, which controls the strip. Earlier this year, China positioned itself as a potential mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, as it seeks to become a more influential player in the region.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin used the same argument: "the Palestinian-Israeli conflict keeps repeating for a fundamental reason: The Middle East peace process has been off the right track, the foundation of the two-state solution has been continuously eroded, and relevant U.N. resolutions are not followed through in good faith."
In view of its pro-Palestinian stand, Beijing will probably be unable to mediate in the conflict, but China will certainly benefit from the engagement of the United States on two fronts at the same time.
In these circumstances, some observers believe that it would be the ideal time for Beijing to occupy Taiwan.
This raises several questions: first, is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) militarily ready? The next question is: can China open another front (in the Himalaya for example) against India to divert the world’s attention from its much larger objective on Taiwan.
China’s problem is that today India is ready to defend its territory and it will not be surprised like in May 2020 when the PLA entered several places in Ladakh.
On October 9 & 10, the 20th round of India-China Corps Commander Level meeting was held at Chushul-Moldo border point.
A release of the Ministry of External Affairs says: “The two sides exchanged views in a frank, open and constructive manner for an early and mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector, in accordance with the guidance provided by the national leadership of the two countries, and building on the progress made in the last round of Corps Commanders' Meeting held on 13-14 August 2023.”
It was agreed to maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations and both sides said that they were committed “to maintain peace and tranquility on the ground in the border areas in the interim.”
But China keeps putting the blame on Delhi …for wanting to occupy its own territory.
Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told The Global Times, “the biggest obstacle in making a breakthrough in corps commander level meetings lies in India's objective, which is not simply reaching disengagement of troops from friction points, but to use the talks to compel China to withdraw and allow India to carry out patrols and occupy Chinese territories in certain areas.”
Liu accuses the US to cozying up to India, “siding with New Delhi in the border dispute, granting it higher status and more flexibility on major global issues, to serve its Indo-Pacific Strategy to contain China.”
Long Xingchun, a professor at the School of International Relations at Sichuan International Studies University, even argues "China will not make major concessions to India on border disputes, particularly on territorial issues, due to concerns over India's strategic drift toward the US."
Now, what could happen?
On the western front (Ladakh), China can’t do much while the talks are on and India has massively posted troops on a LAC, which is still ill-defined. The status-quo, particularly in Depsang and Demchok should presently suffice for Beijing.
In the Central Sector (where maps were exchanged in 2000), it is difficult to envisage an advance in the Barahoti sector during the winter though Delhi should be aware of China’s new aggressiveness; ditto in Northern Sikkim were the PLA could hardly advance a few hundred meters in the Naku-la or Chorten Nyima sectors, but Chinese surprise incursions can’t be overlooked.
Trickier is the Eastern Sector, where China could try its luck in places like Asaphila, Dipu-la or in the Fish Tails area. But here too the Indian Army seems to be aware of the danger. Let us not forget that the PLA was repelled last December in the Yangtse sector, a few hours after it tried to occupy some ridges south of the LAC.
What should worry Delhi is the instability in the PLA ranks.
According to Chinese social media, several personnel changes will take place in the weeks to come. It includes Liu Zhenli, a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) taking over as defense minister to replace Li Shangfu, who has ‘disappeared’
The Commander of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) Gen Chang Dingqiu may take over as director of the CMC Joint Staff Department (JSD), while the position of PLAAF commander may be filled by Lt Gen Jing Jianfeng.
Further, Wang Xiubin, commander of the Southern Theater Command is slated to become commander of the Strategic Support Force (SSF) while Lt Gen Hu Zhongqiang, the deputy commander, will likely succeed him as the commander of the Southern Theater Command.
This does not include several important changes in the offing in the Western Theater Command facing India.
All these new commanders may be inclined to please the Emperor in order to consolidate their position in the hierarchy and therefore take a more belligerent stance from the PLA vis-a-vis Taiwan and India.
Turmoil is undoubtedly here to stay for some time and in these circumstances, Delhi should not be caught napping like in May 2020.

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Unsung Heroes of the 1962 War

My article The Unsung Heroes of the 1962 War appeared in

Here is the link...

The Chinese admitted that they had suffered the maximum casualties fighting in the first battle on October 20, 1962, and these casualties had been inflicted mostly by 2 Rajput.
Claude Arpi salutes Major B K Pant and his fighting force of 112 men, 82 of whom lost their lives in the Battle of Namkha Chu, and whose courage must never ever be forgotten by a grateful country for who they laid down their lives.

For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China is one of the most traumatic post-Independence Indian events; for those who fought, for their families and for the Indian Army in general, the experience was extremely harrowing.
Contemporary China likes to speak of what they call their 1962 'counter-attack' in the North-East Frontier Agency and Ladakh, but uses it for different purpose: to project its present strength and threaten India, forgetting that India of 2022 is not the India of the 1950s or 1960s.
When today the Chinese military leadership speaks of a 'repeat of 1962' (If India would not behave), it seems to overlook the many battles where hundreds of Chinese PLA troops were killed by heroic Indian soldiers.
The Forgotten Heroes
Unfortunately, some of the heroes of 1962 have been neglected by history.
Though the official history of the war published by the ministry of defence records the prowess of several units, many individuals are not mentioned.
Take the 2 Rajput, for example, the official history says: 'Of the units deployed on the Namkha Chu [river], the Rajputs suffered the most. They were preparing for the morning 'stand to' routine practice in adopting defensive positions in battle order when they were caught between the frontal fire of the Chinese guns and the main attack from the rear.
'Their companies were widely dispersed and each fought its own battle, taking on wave after wave of the enemy as long as men remained standing. In many cases, entire platoons were wiped out.'
It is a fact the nearly all the company commanders were killed except the wounded Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel M S Rikh and the battalion's second-in-command, Major Gurdial Singh (who was eventually awarded a Mahavir Chakra); both were taken to Tibet; the former's role is hardly acknowledged today.

The Tale of Major BK Pant
One of the officers of the 2 Rajput who has not sufficiently been mentioned in the history of the battle of Namkha Chu is Major B K Pant.
In his memoirs (The Himalayan Blunder) Brigadier John Parshuram Dalvi, the commander of the ill-fated 7th Infantry Brigade ,called the young major's leadership and indomitable courage, a true epic: 'When the Chinese shelling commenced, Pant went round the locality bracing the men for the inevitable assault.
'He told the men that this was the day in which they would write a new chapter in the history of the battalion; and the time had come to show the Chinese the qualities which had made the name Rajput synonymous with courage and tenacity.'
Why this bravery was not recorded in the Official History is a mystery.
Brigadier Dalvi explained that Major Pant was wounded in the leg but continued to insist on exposing himself during the shelling 'to reassure his men who had never experienced artillery fire.'
The company held strong against three waves of Chinese attacks and suffered heavy casualties.
Soon, Major Pant was wounded in the stomach and both legs.
Realising that the major was responsible for their heavy casualties, the Chinese brought heavy machine-gun fire to neutralise him before launching their fourth attack; by then Major Pant's body was riddled with bullets.
Brigadier Dalvi writes that despite his agony the brave major continued to inspire his men who seeing 'the indomitable will of this man, rose to super-human heights and broke the fourth attack. Pant losing blood rapidly, was nearing his end but would not cry enough.
'He shouted to the men that Rajputs never give up and never die. His last stirring clarion call was to remind his jawans to fulfill their destiny and historical role as members of the martial clan from whom descend all other fighting men in India.'
Major Pant's last words were: 'Men of the Rajput Regiment, you were born but to die for your country. God has selected this small river for which you must die. Stand up and fight as true Rajputs.'
Brigadier Dalvi noted: 'The Chinese later admitted to one of our senior prisoners-of-war that they had suffered the maximum casualties of the NEFA fighting in the first battle -- and these casualties had been inflicted mostly by 2 Rajput.'
Major Pant's force of 112 men had 82 killed and wounded.
After retirement, Brigadier M S Rikh, the former commanding officer of the 2 Rajput, asserted: 'Where officers lead men will always follow. It is easy to command, but it is a different matter to lead. A leader has to show the way. A commander directs as to what is to be done.
'Doing and directing are two different things. In an infantry battalion there can only be leaders and no directors.
'It has been my privilege to have commanded 2 RAJPUT at a time when the unit had to carry out the most difficult task in its whole history.'
Brigadier Rikh admitted that 'the battalion did more than even I expected it to do. For no man can do more than give his life for a cause, however impossible the task may be.'
He recalled his experience while being interrogated by the Chinese interpreters in the PoW camp: 'They asked me on several occasions what were the characteristics of the Rajput Battalion as different from that of other troops in the Indian Army. I enquired of them the reason why they were asking me these questions.
'They finally told me that it was in the first battle on 20 Oct 1962, that the Chinese army had suffered the maximum casualties of all the fighting in NEFA.
'These casualties had been inflicted on them by the Battalion. I felt proud to have commanded such a unit.'
The former CO concluded: 'We must ensure that at a future date when the time to defend our country again comes, we are not found lacking.'
He then told young officers: 'Yours is the responsibility, lead the way with courage and perseverance, the men will not be far behind.'

Another Testimony
Major General (then a lieutenant colonel) K K Tewari, the commander of the 4 Infantry Division's Signals Regiment who spent seven months in Tibet with Lieutenant Colonel M S Rikh, also witnessed Major Pant's prowess.
General Tewari wrote: 'Major Pant had really inspired his men and they had killed a number of Chinese. We were told by many of our men in the PoW camp later that even after Pant was killed and his position overrun, the Chinese kept bayoneting his dead body repeatedly.
'They were perhaps angry because of the large number of casualties which Pant and his men inflicted on them.
'Otherwise, who would expect a regular army soldier to go on bayoneting a dead body in battle! This was also confirmed by a Chinese officer when we were in the PoW camp.'
General Tewari regretted: 'Major Pant should certainly have been honoured and given a high gallantry award posthumously. But such was the state of wrong in the Indian Army hierarchy at the time, that not only did he go unrecognised but others who had run away the quickest with least regard for their command responsibilities, were given gallantry awards.'

But it is not the end of the story
Though in December 1962, the Indian civil administration returned to Bomdila from where the administration progressively restarted functioning, it is only in 1986 that the Assam Regiment of the Indian Army went permanently in the forward areas after 1962.
In some places, the army found a large quantity of bodies.
The Assam Regiment was tasked to record in detail the names, locations, position of the bodies, etc of each jawan that they found.
They did this and even prepared maps of the locations.
On the mountain heights, the bodies were well preserved, but on the Namkha Chu only skeletons were found.
Unfortunately, the Assam Regiment was not allowed to bring back the bodies and later they were tasked to destroy all the records of what they found; orders had come 'from above' not to keep anything, says an officer who witnessed the incident; Delhi was probably too nervous of a Chinese reaction (the official argument was that it would disturb the families of the dead Indian jawans).
Incidentally, in 1986, the General Officer Commanding the 5 Division (responsible for the area) was Major General J M 'Jimmy' Singh, also from 2 Rajput. Unfortunately, he could not convince Delhi.
It has to be noted that no Indian officer's body was found.
What happened to the remains of the Indian officers killed on the Namkha Chu and other areas is still a mystery.
One can only assume that they were taken to Tibet and buried there.
Sixty years after these tragic events, the Chinese should be asked to clarify this, even though they probably prefer to forget some of the aspects of the Namkha Chu battle.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Revisiting 1962

The Namkha chu which witnessed the first battle in October 1962
A recent visit in the forward areas of the Tawang sector opened my eyes wider. Though I have been studying different aspects of the 1962 border war with China for years, it is only by seeing the terrain of the tragic confrontation which turned into a debacle for the 7th Brigade of Brigadier John P. Dalvi, that one can realize the utter incompetence of some of the ‘political’ generals who conducted the battle of the Namkha chu on behalf of the senior leadership in Delhi.
Two conclusions came immediately to mind: first, the disaster wass entirely of the Indian political leadership’s making, particularly from Prime Minister Nehru and a small clique of sycophants around him (such as VK Krishna Menon, BN Mallik, Gen PN Thapar or Lt Gen BM Kaul).
Seeing the scene of the battle, makes you understand that a similar defeat can’t happen anymore. I shall further elaborate on this later.

Escaped Unpunished
What is flabbergasting is that the ‘culprits’ of 1962 never bore any consequences. In his Himalayan Blunder, Brig Dalvi wrote: “General Pran Nath Thapar resigned on ‘grounds of health’ - the hackneyed euphemism for what the British call ‘the bowler hat’. He was rewarded with the Ambassadorship to Afghanistan. Lt Gen BM Kaul, the Commander of the ill-conceived and ill-fated IV Corps, was compelled to seek premature retirement - a bitter pill for Mr. Nehru to swallow - as Kaul was widely believed to have been his protégé and military confidant.”

The Forward Policy
One often speaks of the Forward Policy decided by the government in 1961, as being the trigger for the war; according to Dalvi, during a meeting in the autumn of 1961: “at which Mr. Menon, General Thapar and General Kaul were present. Studying a map showing recent Chinese incursions, Mr. Nehru is reported to have said that whoever succeeded in establishing a post would establish a claim to that territory, as possession was nine-tenths of the law. He then asked if the Chinese could set up posts why couldn't we?”
Gen Kaul later claimed that “(Nehru) was told that owing to numerical and logistical difficulties, we could not keep up in this race with the Chinese. …China with her superior military resources could - operationally make the position of our small posts untenable.”
But wisdom did not prevail.
Seeing the narrowness of the gorge between the Hathungla and the Thagla ridges and the small nallah (the Namkha chu) running between the two giant massifs even a child would understand that the Himalayan stream was not the best defensive place (or even offensive). But Delhi stuck to its guns: “Chinese have to be evicted.”
In his Himalayan Blunder, Brig Dalvi recalled: “My appreciation of September 1962 is a pivotal document. It is capable of various interpretations by different people. Gen Kaul has used copious extracts to weave a claim of reprieval for his impatience and haste between 5th and 10th October (1962). He has manipulated passages to insinuate that he was on occasion a helpless spectator of events …and that he was compelled to implement the defective plans devised at the tactical level.”
The politicians (including the ‘politician’ generals) are masters are justifying their foolishness and blunders, Dalvi recalled: “(Kaul) has muted his role in moving 7th Brigade to the Namka Chu. …He omits the antecedents of the Appreciation and how it came into being, but quotes excerpts to achieve his ends. He has attributed some parts to Gen Umrao [33 Corps Commander] and others to the Brigade Commander.”
Kaul later justified his decision for accepting to be associated with what he called the Government's final desperate gamble: “I was thus expected to perform a miracle and begin operations immediately. I could hardly start bickering (sic) about the obvious handicaps at a time when India found herself in a precarious situation and therefore decided to cross my fingers, make the best of my lean resources (one brigade) and face the situation as best I could.”
The truth was that to force the 7th Brigade to set up posts near the nallah and hope to defend India’s position from there, was criminal.

Tree planted by the Dalai Lama as he arrived in India
on March 31, 1959
Chinese Tactics
Kaul and his patrons in Delhi did not know anything about the Chinese tactics.
The Chinese author Jianglin Li, who has masterfully recorded the movement of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, wrote: “By analyzing many memoirs, autobiographies and biographies, openly published, classified or semi-classified, I found out that the 12 large scale battles fought in central Tibet from March 1959 to early 1962 were in fact conducted as a thoroughly organised military training, beyond the actual requirements of a counter-insurgency operation …commanders were testing the battle strategies best suited to the terrain.”
She cited battles which were clearly fought to gain “experience of fighting with the large unit encircling tactic and carrying out policies in pastoral regions. …It has been proved by many experiences that carrying out encirclement is the most effective method to wipe out large numbers of rebel bandits.” Encirclement was extensively used by the PLA during the border war with India, but Kaul had never heard of this and insisted on climbing the Thagla ridge from the narrow nallah (using log bridges).

Flying Orders
Beginning of October 1962, orders were flying over the ridges, “have all the troops of 7 Brigade moved to Tsangdhar?” asked Kaul. Tsangdhar was a high altitude plateau used as a dropping zone.
When the officer answered, "Not yet, Sir", Kaul demanded: "Why not? It was my definite order that the troops must be in position by the evening of 7th October [1962].”
The newly-appointed Corps Commander then threatened: "How dare you disobey my orders, you are the Brigade Major. I have given an assurance to the Prime Minister that I will carry out the operation.”
In these conditions, it was difficult for Brig Dalvi to ‘disobey’ and realign his forces to better strategic positions, for example on the top of the Hathungla.

Why things are different today
The debacle of 1962 will not be repeated for several reasons.
Today, a brigade commander can take an immediate ‘strategic’ decision on the spot; as the chain of command is clear and respected, the brigade commander first refers to his Division commander who in turn will consult the Corps and Army commanders. Eventually final orders will have to come from the Army HQ in Delhi and the Ministry of Defence.
Today, there is no question of being ‘friends’ with the Prime Minster.
Further, India has tremendously invested in the infrastructure (though the Chinese side has an easier access to the LAC). Having visited the area for the first time in 1996, I have witnessed the unbelievable changes; in a couple of months time, the tunnel below Sela pass will be opened, shortening the journey between Assam and Tawang by one hour.
Another factor is that the Air Force (IAF) will be used; it was recently reported in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, that the Indian Air Force airlifted more than 68,000 army soldiers and a variety of military equipment to Eastern Ladakh along the LAC); PTI commented: “This swift deployment was facilitated by a combination of strategic airlift capabilities and increased surveillance measures.”
Would China adventure to cross the LAC, it would have to deal not only with the Indian Army but with the IAF too.
A visit to the historic spots of the 1962 tragic events convinces you that China cannot advance even a few meters without being inflicted heavy casualties. Is Xi Jinping ready for this? Certainly not.
After all what did the Emperor gain in Eastern Ladakh?
Did the Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road get blocked or stopped? The answer is ‘no’.
Did China gain strategic advantages in Galwan or Pangong tso areas? No.
Did Beijing manage to intimidate India with their Information Warfare? No.
Did the Ladakh ‘adventure’ bring any economic gain to China? The answer is again ‘no’.
Did the operations of May 2020 enhance the prestige Chairman Xi or the PLA? Not in India at least.
The above explains that it is today difficult for Beijing to walk out of the imbroglio and return to prior to the beginning of the confrontation.
Perhaps the Chinese leadership did not expect that the Indian Army would conduct negotiations; Indian soldiers know the value of even a few meters on this range or that ridge.
In conclusion, a look at the terrain and at today’s defence preparedness as well as the change of mindset makes you confident that 1962 debacle cannot and will not be repeated. The incident in the Yangtse sector in December 2022 is another proof of this.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Holy Waterfalls and the Great Guru

My article The Holy Waterfalls and the Great Guru appeared in

Here is the link...

It is on the exact spot where the Guru is said to have created 108 waterfalls, that the Yangtse clash took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA on the night of December 9, 2022.
As it had done in Ladakh in May 2020, the PLA tried to change the unmarked LAC in the Yangtse sector in Arunachal Pradesh.
It was the most serious border incident since the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, notes Claude Arpi.

The Chumig Gyatse Holy Waterfalls are truly special and worth a visit, if you have the occasion (or the good karma) and this for several reasons.
First, this very sacred place in Arunachal Pradesh has been blessed by Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche by the Tibetans), the great yogi and tantric master who lived in the 8th century AD.
Padmasambhava (‘Born from a Lotus’) was a tantric Vajra practitioner from Oddiyana (or Swat, in today’s Pakistan) who played a crucial role in the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet.
After King Trisong Detsen invited Shantarakshita, the Nalanda Abbot to Tibet to teach Buddhism, the latter faced a lot of difficulties from the old shamanic faith. The King had to send him back to Nepal to fetch Padmasambhava in order to tame the local spirits and covert the Tibetans with his magical and ritual powers.
Padmasambhava practiced various forms of tantric Buddhist yoga and thanks to his great occult siddhis, the Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, could be constructed.
The Great Guru extensively visited the border areas and his legacy can still be found not only in Nepal and Bhutan (for example Taktsang monastery in Paro), but on the Indian side too (Rewalsar in Himachal Pradesh or Gurudongmar in Sikkim, etc.).

The 2022 Yangtse Clash

It is on the exact spot where the Guru is said to have created 108 waterfalls, that the Yangtse clash took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the night of December 9, 2022.
As it had done in Ladakh in May 2020, the PLA tried to change the unmarked Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Yangtse sector, northeast of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
According to the Indian media, violent clashes took place between the two armies which confronted each other with nail-studded clubs and other melee weapons on a ridgeline above the waterfalls. It was the most serious border incident along the boundary since the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020.
After receiving timely reinforcements, the Indian troops were able to send back the Chinese PLA to their side of the LAC, though six Indian soldiers who with severe injuries had to be flown to Guwahati for medical treatment. As usual, the casualties on the Chinese side were not disclosed.
Interestingly, Yangtse was one of three main ‘disputed’ areas in 1960 when the Indian and Chinese officials held several months of talks to try to sort out the boundary issue (the other places were Khenzimane/Sumdorong chu sector in the west and Longju sector in today’s Upper Subansiri district).

A Tourist Spot
The good news is that the area has recently been opened to Indian tourists.
To reach the place is a pilgrimage in itself; it takes some 4 hours drive from Tawang. One first moves in the direction of Bumla, the pass where senior Indian and Chinese officers regularly meet to sort out their differences of ‘perceptions’, it is known as Border Meeting Point or BPM.
Just 6 km before Bumla, one takes an eastward turn towards Nagu-la Lake: “One of the most picturesque places to visit in Tawang. …with some alluring reflections of the mountain waters in its serene waters, Nagula Lake is a captivating tourist attraction in Tawang,” says a tourist site.
The scenery around the lake and the pass (at an altitude of 4,200 meters) leaves you spellbound. Of course, one encounters a heavy military presence, due to the proximity of the border and the constant Chinese belligerence.
Then after one more hour drive on the high plateau one reaches a grazing ground for a large number of healthy yaks and often wild horses; the only vegetation is rhododendrons.
Later, moving down, one returns to a thickly forested area with extremely old and tall pine trees. The sight of the sharp gorges further down is rather scary. It takes one more hour of driving in this stunning paradise-like landscape before reaching the Tsona chu (river) gushing down from Tibet a few kilometers upstream.
Everywhere on the road, one crosses groups of local ladies working for the Border Road Organisation (BRO) to improve the road. In this very difficult terrain, the BRO’s work is really commendable.
After a few hundred meters walk, the great falls dropping from the cliffs like fairy hair suddenly appear; a signboard says “Enjoy the Magical, Mystical & Magnificent falls.”
Though the fighting took place on the ridge above the falls, it is in this idyllic surrounding that the clash took place in December 2022. 

Chumig Gyatse
It is truly is a magical place; as in most of the places associated with Guru Padmasambhava, one can feel the presence of the great master around.
A small Chumig Gyatse monastery, below the falls, was inaugurated by the young Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu on July 20, 2020 (note that it was a month before the Galwan incident in Ladakh). Khandu had then to walk for an hour or so before reaching the holy place.
Below the falls, a board said: “The temple is a symbol of spirituality. The magnificent falls adds to the beauty of the temple and makes it one of the most picturesque and mystic sights on earth.”
The same board describes various beliefs about the origin of Holy Waterfalls (also known as HWF by the Indian Army). According to the most popular religious belief: “during 8th century an epidemic struck the villages of this area and all villagers came to Guru Padmasambhava in the hope for relief. Guru Padmasambhava mediated and did penance in the area; in order to make the villagers free from the epidemic, [he] took out his rosary beads garland & threw the 108 beads on the mountain. Wherever the beads fell, a stream of water originated and thus Holy waterfalls came into existence. It is believed that the water here has magical medicinal values.”
It is said that Guru Rinpoche spent five days near the falls before moving to another retreat.
The board near the small gompa which houses a statue of Guru Rinpoche (and where a resident Lama reads the scriptures) informs us: “The Holy water is believed to have medicinal and healing properties and anyone consuming it with faith & devotion gets healed from all his ailments. Also childless couples if consumes holy water with credence, then blessings of Guru Padmasambhava are showered upon them and they are blessed with children. …Chumig Gyatse is a sight to behold.”

Chumig Gyatse and the LAC
The Chumig Gyatse falls lie some 250 meters from the LAC; it is today the main landmark in the Yangtse sector where the two prominent ridges, namely the Bumla ridge to its southwest and the Tulung-la ridgeline to its northeast, meet. The McMahon line at Yangtse is said to be coterminous with the two ridgelines.
It is only after the Chinese tried to occupy the Wangdung pasture in the Sumdorung chu area in 1986 that Indian troops moved troops to the ridge above the falls and occupied the area.

Open for Tourism
It is a great move from the Government of Arunachal Pradesh and the Ministry of Defence to have decided to allow tourists to visit the sacred place. Isn’t it the best proof that the area belongs to India despite the repeated Chinese claims?
Last year only, 6,000 Indian pilgrims/visitors had the darshan of the falls. Probably a similar number will visit this year.
A Tibetan friend told me that by throwing his mala, Guru Rinpoche certainly knew that one day the area would be disputed; he marked the place with the beads of his mala.
A news item reported by Radio Free Asia (RFA) came back to mind: a three-storyed high statue of Guru Padmasambhava was destroyed at the Chanang Monastery in Drago county of the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Tibet. According to sources living in exile and satellite imagery, it was razed in late January 2022.
Satellite imagery of the Chanang Monastery taken October 3, 2019, shows the statue of the Guru on the site, but on another shot taken February 25, 2022, one can see the destruction of the statue indicated by the circular mounts on the ground: “Though there has been no explanation of the reasons for its destruction, it falls in line with the Chinese government’s policy of demolishing Tibetan religious sites in the region,” a Tibetan told RFA.
It is really a grace that the falls are on the Indian side of the LAC; had they been 500 meters north, Guru Padmasambhava would never have been even mentioned, let alone worshipped.
Further, many believe that the Tantric Master still offers protection to the Indian soldiers, who guard this remote scenic spot.

The Gompa

The Holy Waterfalls and Tibet in the background

The Gompa

Guru Padmasambhava looking after the place

Yaks on the route

En route

The Ridge marking the LAC

Tsona chu flowing from Tibet


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

August 15, 1947: The saddest day in Pondicherry

Seven years ago, I wrote this paper on the 'saddest day' of Pondicherry.  
What happened was very unfortunate indeed!

The attendant of the rishi, Sri Aurobindo, who had given his life for the Freedom of India, was killed by supporters of a political party in front of the Ashram.
On Day 1 (August 15, 1947), goodaism was already part of the Indian political life.
Despite the French police's reputation, nothing happened to the criminals who were never arrested.

...The British Consul General reported that he had heard “rumours of a clash between the Socialists and some passers-by and that some of the Ashram buildings were stoned.”
He informed Delhi that one unconfirmed report mentioned that one member of the Ashram had died as a result of injury inflicted by a stone.
This incident is the most tragic of a day otherwise marked by joy and patriotic fervor. The death of Mulshankar, Sri Aurobindo’s attendant deeply blurred the Independence Day celebrations.
Mulshankar, a young Gujarati had come to the Ashram in the thirties and soon started serving Sri Aurobindo as an attendant and a masseur.
On the fateful day, Mulshankar was stabbed in the neck by local goondas; when he reached the Ashram main door, he was profusely bleeding, and ultimately, he could not be saved.
The press reported: “In the evening of 15 August 1947, the day of India’s independence, armed rioters attacked the Ashram, killing one member and injuring several others.”

Click here to read the paper...

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Son, roll down this nalla

On the occasion of the Kargil Vijay Day, I re-post my  interview with Param Vir Chakra, Jogender Singh Yadav entitled, Independence Day Special: The Hero of Tiger Hill is posted on

Click here to read...

Yogender Singh Yadav survived 15 bullets while capturing Tiger Hill in the Kargil War and was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest award for gallantry.
On the eve of Independence Day, the 32-year-old soldier relives that night when he and his fellow commandos won one of India's most historic military victories.
Yogender Singh Yadav of the 18 Grenadiers believes that every deadly bullet has a name engraved on it. Yadav knows what he speaks about; after all he survived some 15 bullets while capturing Tiger Hill during the Kargil conflict and was awarded the highest award for gallantry: The Param Vir Chakra.
Yadav was a member of the 'ghatak' (assault) commando platoon which captured three strategic bunkers on Tiger Hill overlooking the Drass-Kargil road on the night of July 3-4, 1999.
Twenty-two highly-trained men approached the Pakistan-occupied peak via a vertical cliff at an altitude of 16,500 feet.
The Param Vir Chakra citation said Yadav 'Unmindful of the danger involved, volunteered to lead and fix the rope for his team to climb up. On seeing the team, the enemy opened intense automatic, grenade, rocket and artillery fire, killing the commander and two of his colleagues and the platoon was stalled. Realising the gravity of the situation, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav crawled up to the enemy position to silence it and in the process sustained multiple bullet injuries. Unmindful of his injuries and in the hail of enemy bullets, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav continued climbing towards the enemy positions, lobbed grenades, continued firing from his weapons and killed four enemy soldiers in close combat and silenced the automatic fire.'
Claude Arpi met the hero recently. Interestingly, the long list of prepared questions was soon set aside as the commando, now 32 years old, started to 're-live' his experience. It is only towards the end of the encounter that Claude could ask him a few clarifications.

Claude Arpi (CA): Some thirteen years ago, on July 3, you and your team was given the task of capturing Tiger Hill. What do you remember of these difficult days?
What were your feelings then? How do you recall the events today?

Yogender Singh Yadav (YSY): Even though 13 years have passed, I still feel that the Kargil war happened just yesterday. I will never be able to forget through my whole life the memories of Kargil.
During this war, I do not know how many comrades I lost; comrades who were even dearer than my own brothers.
Inside me live their memories and it will thus continue to be.
I do not know how many hundreds of my comrades were injured; today some among them cannot even walk or move.
Those are 13 years of memories... it is still as if it all just happened to me yesterday.
I remember, 13 years ago, on the night of July 3-4, my battalion was ordered to capture Tiger Hill top.
Tiger Hill was the highest peak in the Drass sector. To take control of it was very difficult; a height of 16,500 feet, with sheer, precipitous sides of ice and snow.
Before that we had won mastery over many hills (particularly Tololing), but our success could turn into failure, if the dominating feature of Tiger Hill was not won, all other victories could be nullified.
The senior commanders concluded that only after Tiger Hill is captured would our other gains bring a complete success.
Our battalion was then ordered to capture the top of Tiger Hill; attack plans were made. A 'ghatak' (assault) platoon was formed, with Lieutenant Balwan Singh as commander.
This 'ghatak' platoon, under the battalion, was to attack the top of Tiger Hill first. The path that we decided to take was such that the Pakistani forces could not envisage that the Indian Army would be using this path to reach the top.
The path to the Pakistani positions had sheer, vertical peaks.
We made plans on how to accomplish our task and finally on July 2, we set out to accomplish our goal. The whole battalion moved together. The attack could only happen at night as the enemy, from their heights, could observe us from afar.
If we had attacked during the day, they would have shot down our jawans; hence we could only attack in the dead of night, that too, when the moon was hidden.
After an arduous climb for two days, during the night of July 3-4, we went through a tremendously difficult path, a very small path. But hearing the stones sliding under our feet, the enemy surmised that the Indian Army has reached this area. They opened fire on us.
When the firing started, there were only seven jawans who were ahead; the others were slowly reaching up from below in a line. A bit of path was blocked and only those seven jawans had been able to reach this higher spot.
We reached up to a 8 to 10 feet level with Pakistani bunkers; 4 to 5 soldiers opened fire at us. All seven of us went on firing and sent several Pakistani soldiers into the valley of death.
We obtained victory on that ledge. But the top of Tiger Hill was still 30 to 35 metres higher. From there the enemy could see where the Indian soldiers had reached. They started firing at us so heavily that neither were we able to move higher, nor could we could come out from behind the rocks.

For five hours, the exchange of fire continued, however they were unable to estimate how many jawans were present below them.
At about 10.30 am, the Pakistanis sent some 10, 12 soldiers to check. When the enemy came close to us, we fired at them and killed them all, excepting one or two.
But by then our positions had been marked by the Pakistanis and they knew how many we were; they returned to the top to report to their commanders that there were only 8, 10 Indian soldiers below.
Within 30 minutes of getting this information, the Pakistani troops launched a counter attack on us; such a powerful attack, using several supporting weapons, throwing big boulders down on us.
As they slowly came closer and closer, they managed to damage our LMG (Light Machine Gun), our supporting weapon.
Then they got still closer and launched a hand to hand battle, during which six of my companions were martyred.
I still remember that moment, those preceding instants when we seven mates were discussing and talking together about what to do next and what was going to happen, and the instant later when all my comrades had been martyred.
I was bereft by this loss, but also glad that before losing their lives they had killed 10, 12 enemy soldiers. I too was severely wounded and was taken for dead by the enemy.
Two, three times, they returned to shoot some bullets into all the dead bodies and checked that no one was alive.
The enemy also shot bullets into my body, I was shot in the arm and leg, but had firmly resolved that unless I got a bullet in my heart or head, I would remain alive, even if they cut off my arms and legs.
It is due to that resolve and will that I am alive today.
Some 500 metres below was our MMG (Medium Machine Gun) post, the enemy then made plans to destroy it. Next to Tiger Hill was the Mushkoh valley, where their base camp was located. It is from there that the orders to destroy the MMG post came.
I heard this order; I knew that some 10, 12 of my fellow soldiers were manning the MMG post.
In my heart, a voice spoke to me and said that I must save my companions. It is true that if one remembers Ishwar (the Lord) with full faith, then Ishwar-shakti (the Lord's power) aids you. It can even appear before you.I prayed to Ishwar to keep me alive long enough to save my comrades.
Perhaps He heard my prayer.

When the Pakistani soldiers again shot at us and tried to take our weapons, I attacked them with a grenade. One of their soldiers was killed.
Another turned his muzzle at me and fired at my chest. In my breast pocket was my purse which contained some five rupee coins. The bullet hit the coins and ricocheted away; I felt that I had died.
But the next instant, when he bent to take my weapon, my eyes opened and I realised that I was still alive. Within a moment, I turned and grabbing a rifle, opened fire on them.
During the firing, four Pakistani soldiers were killed. I fired from one boulder, then rolled behind another to fire again and then a third.
They thought that some Indian reinforcements had reached from below and they ran away. I returned to my companions to check if any of them were alive, but to my deep sorrow, no one was.
I tried to see how to descend, when Devi-shakti appeared before me and told me how to go down.
My broken arm was useless at my side, I tried to tie it, I even tried to break it off with a jerk, but I could not manage. Finally, I fixed it into my belt behind my back and rolled downhill towards my companions.
I gave my mates the warning about the impending attack and told my team commander, Lieutenant Balwan Sahib the entire story.
He, in turn reported to our battalion commander that our leading section had been entirely destroyed, only one jawan had returned (Yogender Singh Yadav) and he is giving this information.
Battalion Commanding Officer Colonel Khushal Chand Thakur told them to get this jawan down to him as quickly as possible so that he could hear the information first hand.
At that time it must have been 1:30, 2 in the afternoon (of July 4). Blood was flowing from my wounds like water. Though my comrades gave me first aid, the bleeding would not stop. They brought me back to the CO and by the time we reached, it was completely dark, and I was unable to see.
The CO asked, "Son, do you recognise me?" but I could see nothing. He had me laid in his personal tent, and had 2, 3 stoves lit around me. When my body gradually got warmer, the RMO (Regiment Medical Officer) Sahib came and gave me again some first aid and made me drink some glucose.
I got some sort of energy back in my body and then the CO asked again, "Tell me now, son, what happened with you all?"
I told him the whole story and concluded that "Now Sir, they are going to attack the MMG post. Sir, you see, beyond this helipad there are stones, behind which are the living tents of the enemy, they have support weapons deployed there, and ammunition has been dumped there."
After I gave this information, RMO Sahib gave me an injection to put me to sleep.

When I woke up three days later, I was at the Srinagar base hospital. I learned that the same night, our reserve company had attacked the top of Tiger Hill, and without any casualties, had succeeded in capturing the top.
I was then shifted to the army hospital, New Delhi, and after 16 months of treatment, I could serve the army again.
It is the dream of every soldier to fight for his country and with his own blood to anoint this motherland. To be able to do this is his great fortune.
I consider myself fortunate to have taken birth on Mother India's soil and to be part of this great Indian Army, which is today considered to be one of the best in the world.
I am proud of my country and of our army and I would tell the youth of this country that we can be devoted to our nation from anywhere, but the real progress, the inner and outer protection only comes when we all come together, when we try to progress in every realm and each one tries to grow in our own sphere.
I would appeal to our youth that no matter which area you chose, you should work with honesty, straightforwardness and work hard and you should keep their devotion to their country awake, alive. Jai Hind!
You said that the Devi Ma's Shakti came to you. You had earlier already had a vision, telling you that you would be injured, but would not die. Please can you elaborate?
When, with full faith, a man surrenders everything he has to accomplish a certain task, and this, without reserve, (ulterior) motive or calculation, certainly then, an inner strength, a shakti, arises in him.
He becomes conscious of what is going to happen to him today or tomorrow or whenever.
This happened to me, I was given the awareness that I would be injured; my arms and legs would become useless, but that I would remain alive.
It is a fact that in Kargil we had surrendered ourselves fully to our task (to recover Tiger Hill from the Pakistanis), we were fully aware that we could lose our lives, but we still surrendered ourselves to the task ahead with complete faith in the Lord... then there is no question of thinking that one could fail in one's work.
The task has to be completed -- the Lord himself tests man, He tests how much a person can take, how much pain he can bear; only when one can bear the most intolerable pain does the divine strength comes (to accomplish the task).

CA: You had the certitude that you would not die, tell us more about this vision of 'Devi Ma' who showed you the way down to the MMG post?

YSY: At that time, I knew that I had to reach my comrades; it was a selfless wish, to try to save the lives of my mates, my brothers.
I had no desire to try to save my own life, in fact having witnessed my six companions sacrifice their lives, I was proud that I was now being given another opportunity to serve my motherland and follow in their footsteps.
This is the dream of every soldier, his glorious journey to fulfil the prime duty of his life.
When he returns home wrapped in the national Tricolour, his family, his country and even the whole world rejoices with tears at his self-sacrifice.
I was given that strength and She showed me the way down.

CA: The 'vision' told you which way you must take?

YSY: Yes, absolutely, in front was a being in white who said, "Son, roll down this nalla (gully)."

CA: Have you seen LOC Kargil, the Hindi movie made about your action?
They did not interview me for that. But the movie, LOC Kargil has my role played by Manoj Bajpai.
Did you see the movie? How did you find it?

YSY: I liked it. They have highlighted the task that I and my companions performed; our sacrifice for the good. The world could see this. It made the general public aware of the difficulties a soldier has to endure to do his duty successfully. I liked it very much.

CA: Thirteen years later, would you do it again?

YSY: Yes. Many citizens wants to join the army, (not all are selected), but those who are, feel they are blessed that out of so many aspirants they are the chosen few who will serve to protect their country.
A soldier's ultimate wish is that he should be allowed to do this job of protecting his country, and even if he has to lay down his life to do it, that is not too big a sacrifice.
I have merely shed some of my blood for my motherland, only put a tilak with my blood on her land, but I am still alive. But if I were given the chance, I would put down this life for her.

CA: Since that time, there have been a lot of changes in the army?

YSY: The Army is the Army.
At that time, there were many shortages in the army, lack of equipment, ammunitions, adequate clothing, etc. Has the situation improved?
At that time (in 1999), the war was declared all of a sudden. In those areas (Kargil-Drass sectors), there was little army deployment. The units which had to be called in from other parts of India, from the plains and they did not have the right clothing.
But the main need of the hour (during the war(, was neither adequate clothing nor right equipment available, but to accomplish the task at hand, and this, with whatever means we had.
It is a matter of pride that the Indian Army jawan has a dedication, a patriotism not present in any other army of the world.
It is only because of this that we were able to vanquish the enemy at those impenetrable mountain heights.

CA: It is said that a soldier believes that every bullet carries someone's name on it. Do you believe that too?

YSY: Of course. See, I am a soldier, and so is the man fighting against me, we are not bothered by which bullet carries whose name.
Definitely each bullet carries a name, just as we say that every morsel of food bears the name of the person who must eat it.
Similarly, for a soldier, he has a bullet with his name on it, the one which will kill him; perhaps the bullet with my name was not made and as a result, I am still alive.

Though not mentioned in this interview, one of the motivations of the jawans and officers during the Kargil conflict was the barbarian behaviour of the Pakistanis.
On May 15, 1999, India sent a patrol to ascertain if some parts of her territory were occupied by intruders.
The patrol was ambushed on the Indian side of the LoC and the patrol leader, Lieutenant Saurabh Kalia and five of his jawans were captured and tortured.
Their mutilated bodies were returned on June 9. Yogender and his companions knew this. It motivated them further to recapture Tiger Hill.
Before the attack on Tiger Hill, Yogender Singh Yadav's battalion had been involved in the battle for Tololing, another peak occupied by Pakistan. They fought for 22 days.
Many Indian jawans and officers lost their lives in the battle. Yogender who was just married and could only reach his battalion a few days after the battle had started was given the task of supplying ammunition to the forward troops.
The 19-year-old Grenadier managed to climb the peak twice a day to supply his companions.
In a booklet on his life, he stated: 'It was gruelling and back-breaking work. My officers noted that I had tremendous stamina and could climb these treacherous steep and snow-covered slippery slopes almost constantly for 2 days carrying heavy loads. Please see: Our Heroes: Param Vir Chakra, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav, Shyam Kumari, Vraja Trust, Pondicherry, 2011.
It is why he was selected to lead the final assault on Tiger Hill.

Claude Arpi gratefully acknowledges the help of Mrs Shyam Kumari, Lieutenant Colonel Uma Tewari (AMC, Retd) and Abha. The interview was conducted in Hindi.

Friday, July 14, 2023

PM Modi in Paris: How Indo-French ties have evolved into an epitome of strategic, economic and cultural cooperation

My article  PM Modi in Paris: How Indo-French ties have evolved into an epitome of strategic, economic and cultural cooperation appeared in Firstpost

Here is the link...

In the present turbulent times, the stability of the relation between Delhi and Paris is important for the world

This year, France and India are celebrating 25 years of their strategic partnership. The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the chief guest for the parade on the French National Day (Bastille Day) in Paris will be the culmination of this momentous year. It will also witness a host of new agreements between the two nations.
One could believe that Narendra Modi’s decision to purchase 36 Rafale planes ‘off-the-shelf’, during his April visit to Paris in April 2015, was the true beginning of the partnership; it is true that it was a quick, pragmatic and smart move. Delhi brought the IAF’s ‘critical operational necessity’ to the negotiating table while dropping the cumbersome Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft framework. But it was far from being the first bilateral deal in terms of defence.
A letter sent by HS Malik, India’s Ambassador to France to prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in October 1953 testifies that 70 years ago, France and India were already special friends.
At that time, India purchased 71 Ouragans (known in India as ‘Toofanis’) from the French firm, Dassault.
Though at that time the question of the French settlements in India was not solved; (the de facto transfer of Pondicherry and the three other settlements Yanon, Mahe and Karikal took only place a year later on 1 November, 1954), some trust was obviously already present.
Addressing Nehru, the Indian ambassador wrote: “All of us in the Embassy who have been working on the implantation of the contract with the Defence Ministry for the supply of Ouragan aircraft were greatly relieved and delighted when we got the news that our four pilots with the four Ouragans had reached Palam safely. This flight from France to India has involved a great deal of organizational work for which much credit is due to the team of the Indian Air Force Officers.”
Malik continued: “I venture to bring to your notice the wonderful cooperation that we have received both from the French officers of the Ministry of Defence, from the Cabinet Minister downwards, and from the French industry. We signed the contract only last June. Already four planes have reached India; another 35 are being sent on October the 30th on the aircraft carrier Dixmude, and the remainder, 32 aircraft, will be dispatched in January 1954. I think you will agree that this is indeed prompt execution of the agreement as embodied in the contract between us and the French.”
Malik added: “Our pilots who came here to learn to fly this type of aircraft, which was new to them, won the admiration and respect of the French Air Force and, generally speaking, …in spite of the language handicap, [the pilots] have made friends and won the respect of the people among whom they have lived.” These words speak for themselves.

Old and stable relations

The selection of the Toofanis or the Rafales was a hallmark of the partnership between Delhi and Paris.
Historians usually consider the period between 1947 and 1962 as the first phase of Indo-French relations. Year 1962 was for France the year it constitutionally departed from the subcontinent and for India.
As early as January 1947, though the relations were not too cordial between France and India due to the colonial burden, the French government asked for a 10-year extension of the 1945 agreement permitting military air ferries to fly across India. Nehru, the interim prime minister noted: “Public opinion in India is very much against the use of force by the French Government against the people of Indochina and anything which we do to facilitate the use of this force is bound to be resented and vigorously criticized”, but on 16 July, 1947 an agreement on air services between India and France was signed.
Soon after, an interesting development occurred. Nehru, then interested in the programme ‘Atoms for Peace’, was “anxious to help in every way in developing atomic energy in India”. He decided to unofficially send Homi J Bhabha to enquire about the possibility of collaboration for the peaceful use of atomic energy: “In view of the fact that India possesses very large resources of minerals suitable for the generation of atomic power, India is destined to play an important part in research on atomic energy in cooperation with other countries.”
Homi Bhabha had extremely cordial contacts with Frédéric Joliot-Curie and Raoul Dautry, the first heads of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), founded by de Gaulle in 1945.
The French armament sales during this first phase were relatively large despite the factors mentioned above.
On 22 September, 1962, General de Gaulle received Nehru in Paris. Nehru first congratulated him for the settlement of the Algerian crisis as well as the ratification of the cession of the French Establishments in India. De Gaulle replied that he was happy to see that India had dealt successfully with some of the issues the West had doubts about at the time of independence.
Though the Indian Air Force did not directly take part in the conflict with China, Toofanis, as well as 110 Mystère and 12 Alizée (of Bréguet Aviation), were in service in 1962. Further, 150 AMX 13 light tanks were sold to India after an agreement was signed in 1957 (remember the battle of Chushul in November 1962).
With Dassault, the collaboration continued uninterrupted and in the 1980s India acquired the Mirage 2000.
If president François Mitterrand laid the foundation of a solid friendship with India, the regular dialogue was institutionalised during president Jacques Chirac’s visit in early 1998 through a ‘strategic’ partnership. This is still the base of the present trusted relationship. As for cultural relations, they will go on regardless of who is at the helm of India or France.

Modi in Paris
To be invited as the chief guest at the Bastille Day Parade is a rare honour. French Ambassador in India, Emmanuel Lenain told India Today that the visit would have “maximum impact and maximum outcomes”.
Lenain mentioned “the leaps in defence cooperation, which would be visible at the special military parade. We’re going to have Indian troops marching on the Champs-Elysées at the beginning of Bastille Day, and we have Indian Rafale participating in the fly past.” The ambassador added: “We provide the best technology to India as a close partner and ally. We also provide maximum content of ‘Make in India’, so we have made a good offer. The decision is now really in the hands of Indian authorities.”
The cherry on the cake could be the signature for Rafale-M; the Indian Navy is believed to have expressed a preference for the French fighter plane for its new aircraft carrier.
The Indian Navy is also interested in additional Scorpene-class submarines (six Kalvari submarines were built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited with French transfer of technology), also in the pipeline, an Airbus deal to manufacture C-295 tactical transport aircraft in Gujarat.
But there is more, after the Indian prime minister managed to get Washington’s agreement for the transfer of jet engine technology; negotiations with Paris should materialise to co-develop a high-thrust engine for the country’s stealth fighter jet programme, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
According to India Today: “France’s Safran is believed to have agreed to completely share its jet engine technology with India to help develop the high-thrust 110kN engine. Safran has already co-developed a helicopter engine for India’s homegrown chopper fleet, and has been negotiating over the fighter jet engine for long.”
It is interesting to note that in recent years, France has emerged as a winner over Russia in defence purchases by India; with the Ukraine war, this trend can only increase.
In another interview with ANI, Lenain explained: “We work in the spirit of partnership, French companies have been the pioneers for years for make in India and now we totally understood the philosophy of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and they really want to share best technologies and to develop jointly in future.”
India and France will also be working on a roadmap for renewed cooperation for the next 25 years, which might be extremely challenging for the planet.
Indeed, India and France have gone a long way during the last 70 years (and especially after 1998). But it is important to remember that when India conducted its nuclear tests in Pokhran in May 1998, France was one of the few countries which did not condemn Delhi (or impose sanctions). This was greatly appreciated in Delhi and when in October 1998 prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee returned president Jacques Chirac’s visit to India, the new strategic dialogue could take its first concrete steps.
These events set in motion a closer collaboration and the indeed present partnership owes much to these two leaders.
From the ‘friendship’ mentioned by General de Gaulle in 1962, the relationship has become a true strategic, economic and cultural partnership.
In the present turbulent times, the stability of the relationship between Delhi and Paris is important for the world.