Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How China lost a friend in Ladakh

My article
How China lost a friend in Ladakh appeared in Mail Today/DailyO


Post-Covid-19, China is facing great internal difficulties, why pick fights with most nations and particularly India?

During his visit to Nimu, near Leh (Ladakh), Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with the Indian troops facing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the border; in his address, Modi stated: “Indians can go about their lives peacefully because they know that our Armed Forces are standing firm, protecting the nation.”
Connected or not with the visit, two days later, probably feeling that the wind was turning, the Chinese asked for talks. For Beijing, the situation had taken unexpected turns; the Communist leadership had not realised that Delhi could take retaliatory measures so fast.
Wang Yi, China’s clever Special Representative (SR) and Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke on the phone for two hours with Ajit Doval, his Indian counterpart and National Security Advisor.

Status quo question
The two SRs agreed that maintenance of peace in the border areas was essential and “[the] two sides should not allow differences to become disputes.” It is China who created the ‘differences’, not India. The SRs also spoke of the necessity to ensure “at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas.”
Indian observers are doubtful that the so-called disengagement would be sincerely completed. Geo-strategist Brahma Chellaney, wrote in a newspaper column: “A full return to status quo ante as sought by India seems remote, thanks to India’s own mixed signals. By encroaching on additional areas behind the previous disengagement facade, China has armed itself with greater leverage to impose a revised status quo.”
India should study the classic Unrestricted Warfare written by Sr Col Qiao Lang and Wang Xiangsui some two decades ago; the Chinese officers advocated “Ten Thousand Methods Combined as One”; they believed “the war will be fought and won in a war beyond the battlefield; the struggle for victory will take place on a battlefield beyond the battlefield.” India needs to use new ‘methods’, such as banning 59 Chinese Apps or cancelling major infrastructure projects involving China.

Steps to be taken
Unfortunately, Delhi has lost an excellent occasion when the Dalai Lama turned 85 on July 6. It would have cost nothing for the Prime Minister to tweet his best wishes for good health and long life to the Tibetan leader; it did not happen. The Foreign Secretary, who is from Sikkim should also have paid his respects to the Dalai Lama. This would have sent a strong message to Beijing, that Tibet, is closer to India than to China.
Today, the only way to have a fair chance on the battlefield is to have ‘ten thousand’ such small messages sent to Beijing; otherwise, the battle is bound to be lost. This reminds me of the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to the Swiss Parliament in 1999. He didn’t like the presence of pro-Tibet demonstrators ‘greeting’ him on his arrival. In a speech to the lawmakers, he said: “Switzerland has lost a good friend”. The Chinese President was so angry that during the following State banquet with the Swiss authorities, he refused to eat.
In a different context, the Prime Minister and the External Affair Minister should show their anger at Xi Jinping, and let him know, “you have lost a friend”. Ambitious generals in Chengdu’s Western Theater Commands sold the idea to Xi to place the PLA troops on the LAC in new positions, better located to destroy, if necessary, the new infrastructure built by India in East Ladakh; but in the process, Xi Jinping lost the trust built during the Wuhan Consensus in 2018 and the Chennai Connect in 2019. Both exercises were meant to build confidence at the highest level of the State, without being bothered by any protocol or a formal agenda. A few powerful statements would have an effect; it would put pressure on the Chinese President from within the Communist Party. By using more ‘ten thousand methods’, India could make sure that Xi’s actions are questioned by the Party’s elders; particularly during the forthcoming yearly summer conclave in the beach resort of Beihai.
Post-Covid-19, China is facing great internal difficulties, why pick fights with most nations and particularly India? There is no doubt that many in China are waiting for such an occasion to question Xi. A few points need to be noted in the current crisis in Ladakh, which is bound to last till the winter. Himalayan and Border studies must be developed in India. Most present studies remain in the philosophical domain, instead of the strategic, defence and historical field; for example, why don’t organisations such as the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Shimla and other such institutions, start such study programmes?

A lesson from history

Ultimately, the Historical Division in the Ministry of External Affairs should be reopened (it was closed by all-knowing mandarins in the 1990s). Similarly, a historical cell or directorate should be set up by the Department of Military Affairs headed by the Chief of Defence Staff. It would greatly help officers serving on the borders (for example officers of the 14 Corps negotiating with their Chinese counterparts) to have a wider understanding of the overall situation (something the Chinese have). It would have wide positive consequences for the preparedness of the Defence forces. It is a fact that it is part of modern warfare; the Chinese have understood this long ago.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Chinese Aggression in Maps

Map of Chinese claims of 1960
According to a Press Release from the Ministry Of Eternal Affairs, the situation in Ladakh may de-escalate  in the next few days.
On July 5, the two Special Representatives of India and China agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas was essential for the further development of the bilateral relations: “In this regard they further agreed that both sides should complete the ongoing disengagement process along the LAC expeditiously.”
The Statement further said: “The two Special Representatives agreed that both sides should take guidance from the consensus of the leaders that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas was essential for the further development of our bilateral relations and that two sides should not allow differences to become disputes. Therefore, they agreed that it was necessary to ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity.”
This will not fully change the situation on the ground and moreover, there is no doubt that China's mindset will remain expansionist and that the posts will be changed again, whenever it will suit Beijing.

Chinese Aggression
In the present context, it is interesting to look at a small booklet released in January 1963 by the Publications Division of the Government of India; it contains a series of ten maps. The publication is called “Chinese Aggression in Maps.”
These maps are fascinating, especially after the unwarranted attack by the Chinese forces in Ladakh, particularly in Galwan, Hot Springs/Gogra and the Fingers area of Pangong tso (lake).
The Introduction de the booklet explains: “Brought together in this brochure are ten maps which graphically present the extent of the Chinese occupation of Indian territory through aggression from time to time; the fraudulent nature of the three-point proposal with which China launched a peace offensive after the large-scale invasion by Chinese forces on October 20, 1962; and the minimum condition which India has insisted on for the resumption of negotiations to settle the India-China boundary question.”
Most of the maps carry explanatory notes below.
It is a cartographic demonstration how Communist China has been changing the posts and will continue to change the posts.

The Historical Background
We have already dealt with this in previous posts.
The booklet's Introduction continued: “Falsehood and deception marked the Chinese Government's policy towards India till it culminated in the massive invasion of India's northern frontier, from Ladakh in the west to the North East Frontier Agency in the east, on October 20, 1962. A perusal of the maps printed in this brochure will make it clear that falsehood and deception are the warp and woof of the peace offensive with which China followed up its armed aggression.”
It further gave a historical background: “India was among the first countries to extend recognition to the People's Republic of China which came into being on October 1, 1949. In August 1950 when the forces of the People's Republic of China came into Tibet, the Government of China declared their willingness to solve the problem of Tibet by peaceful and friendly measures and their desire to "stabilise the China-India border". On receipt of this communication, the Government of India expressed their appreciation of the Chinese Government's intentions regarding Tibet and affirmed that ‘the recognised boundary between India and Tibet should remain inviolate’.”
Delhi expounded its position further: “Close and friendly relations developed between the Government of India and the People's Republic of China in the subsequent years and on 29th April, 1954, the two Governments concluded an Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet and India under which India gave up ail extra-territorial rights and privileges enjoyed in Tibet, and recognised Tibet as a region of China.”
As our four volumes of the history of relations between India and Tibet have shown, that was pure folly, to give away the privileges without getting anything in return. But it was the Hindi-Chini bhai bhai days.

Already the Issue of the Maps

But already, the Chinese maps were showing large chunks of India’s territory; the 1963 booklet stated: “The question of Chinese maps which were showing an incorrect boundary alignment between India and China was raised by Prime Minister Nehru with Prime Minister Chou En-lai in October 1954 and again in November 1956. The Government of India were given to understand in October 1954 that the Chinese maps referred to by the Prime Minister of India were merely a reproduction of old Kuomintang maps and that the present Government had no time to revise them. In November 1956, Prime Minister Chou En-lai told the Indian Prime Minister that in the case of Burma, the Government of China bad accepted the formalisation of the boundary in 1914 (the McMahon Line) and proposed to recognise it with India also - that is the Eastern sector of the Indian alignment. Prime Minister Chou En-lai said he would consult the Tibetan authorities in this regard.”

The Aksai Chin Road
But China was not India’s friend or brother: “Surreptitious Chinese intrusions into Indian territory in Ladakh started in 1957. The clearing of the Aksai Chin Road was the first step. An Indian patrol party on its normal rounds was detained by the Chinese forces near Haji Langar in September 1958. The Government of India protested against this detention and also against the clearing of the motor road by the Government of China across the Aksai Chin area of Indian territory. These surreptitious intrusions continued in the Ladakh area and there were some other incidents between Indian patrols and the Chinese soldier. The Government of India, in the belief that these were instances of irresponsible behaviour of the Chinese local authorities, lodged protests against these intrusions and incidents.”
The fact that Delhi had been knowing for years about the Aksai Chin is not mentioned.

The Aggression Continues
The note however pointed out: “In September 1959, the Government of China, for the first time, laid a formal claim to 50,000 square miles of Indian territory in Ladakh and in the North East Frontier Agency. This led to exchange of communications at a high level, between the two Prime Ministers. The two Prime Ministers met in Delhi in 1960, and this was followed by the meeting between officials of the two sides in pursuance of the decision taken at the meeting of the two Prime Ministers. Further intrusions by the Chinese, however, continued. By 1961, the Government of India considered it necessary, in view of progressive Chinese intrusions, to take limited defence measures to contain these surreptitious Chinese advances into Indian territory.”
That was the beginning of the Forward Policy, but it was far too late, as India had occupying most of the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh.

The Final Blow
The Indian note nonetheless added: “Foiled in their attempt to take over further Indian territory in Ladakh, the Chinese started further aggression in the Eastern sector of the India-China boundary in the NEFA region on 8th September 1962. After a couple of probing attacks, Chinese forces mounted a carefully prepared and well-planned all-out attack on 20th October 1962 on Indian defence forces in the Eastern as well as Western sectors of the India-China border. Having acquired, as a result of their initial successes, a further slice of about 2,500 square miles of Indian territory, the Chinese Government started their first peace offensive-the Chinese three point proposal--on 24th October. When India refused to accept the military dictates of the aggressor, the Chinese, after re-group­ ing and further preparations, mounted another massive offensive from 15th to 19th November, 1962. On the morning of 21st November, the Chinese started their second peace offensive with the same object of retaining the gains of their calculated and cold­ blooded aggression-the so-called unilateral cease-fire and withdrawal proposals of 21st November, 1962.”

Wedded to Peace??
The conclusion was that “The Government and people of India are, by their history and tradition, wedded to the ways of peace. They have always been and are in favour of peaceful settlement of differences between nations. Peace and peaceful settlements can, however, be pursued only on the basis of decency, dignity and self-respect. It would be fatal to compromise with aggression or submit to the military dictates of the aggressor. The first essential before we can revert to paths of peace and peaceful settlements is the undoing of all the consequences of aggression. This means that at least the status quo as it prevailed before the latest Chinese aggression started on 8th September, 1962, should be restored.”
It will never be.

Map No 2
We shall just look at Map No 2 ('Line Separating Indian and Chinese Forces on September 7, 1962'), as it shows how China has always changed the posts.
The caption said: “This map depicts the three lines which have figured most prominently in the correspondence between the Governments and Prime Ministers of India and China after the massive invasion of India which was launched by Chinese forces on October 20, 1962."

The November 1959 Line
The first line shows the disposition of Chinese posts in Ladakh in November 1959.
The captions says: "It will be seen that at that time there was strictly speaking no ‘line of control’ but only a series of Chinese posts on Indian territory.”
This line joined the then Chinese posts at Spanggur Post, Khurnak Fort, Kongka Pass and Shamallungpa and ran northward, past Haji Langar, to join the Aksai Chin Road.
Another shows the line of contact between Indian and Chinese forces immediately prior to September 8, 1962, the date on which Chinese forces invaded Indian territory in the Eastern sector also. India has made the reasonable proposal that there should be a restoration of the positions along this line as the minimum condition for resumption of negotiations with China.
Finally, another line showed the limits of the further area occupied by Chinese forces after the massive aggression which they launched against India, both in the Western and Eastern sectors on October 20, 1962. China now falsely claims that this was the line of actual control by Chinese forces in November 1959. …The area between the September 7, 1962, line and the 'line of actual control of 1959' as falsely claimed by China represents the further aggrandisement of Indian territory by China as a result of its latest aggression. India insists that this area of further aggression should be vacated by the Chinese and the position of the Indian and Chinese forces prior to 8th September restored, before there can be a resumption of negotiations to settle the India-China boundary problem.

Chinese map showing the correct alignment in Galwan area
Today’ s Situation
Since the beginning of May, China has been trying to change the posts again, mainly in three places, namely, Galwan, Hot Spring and the Fingers areas of Pangong tso (lake).
Let us look at Galwan first.
According to Chinese maps, the Chinese claims stops some 10 kilometers from the confluence of the Galwan and the Shyok rivers.
The above map is very clear.
Now, China would like to annex the Indian territory till the confluence. There is no historical justification to this, but strategically, it will allow the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to obstruct the new 220-km long road between Darbuk-Shyok-DBO  ( Daulat Beg Oldie ) which is to reduce the travel time between Leh to DBO from 2 days to 6 hours.

Another Chinese map shows a similar alignment

Chinese map showing the correct alignment in Galwan area
During the 1960 meetings' of the Officials,  China defined its 'perception' of the boundary.
At that time, nobody was speaking of Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India asked: "The Indian side would like to have some heights of peaks and location
of passes on this particular ridge."
China assured:
"From 78° 5' East, the line turned south-west to a point Long. 78° l' E. and Lat. 35° 21' N., where it crossed the Chip Chap river. After this, it turned south east along' the mountain ridge and passed through two peaks Peak 6845 metres and Peak 6598 metres. The co-ordinates of Peak 6845 M were Long. 78° 12' E, Lat. 34° 57' N. The co-ordinates of Peak 6598 M were Long. 68° 13' E., Lat. 34° 54' N. After the alignment passed over the two peaks, it went south along the mountain ridge, where it crossed the Galwan river at Long. 78° 13' E, Lat. 34. 46' N. It then passed over Peak 6556 M and followed the watershed between the Khugrang Tsangpo river and its tributary the Changlung river, crossed the Changlung river at Long. 78° 53' E, Lat. 34° 22' N, and reached the Kongka Pass."
In Galvan area,  the point which has been reported on the map below. It corresponds with the Indian alignment; the small difference is due to the poor surveying tools at that time.
Google Map with the Chinese claims of 1960 in Galwan area

Chinese logic: by advancing the line towards the confluence with the Shyok, China would have had the perfect position for its howitzers to destroy the new road, when required...

Hot Spring/Gogra Area
The second site of Chinese intrusions is Hot Spring/Gogra area.
Like Galwan it was not a disputed place earlier.
The coordinates given by the Chinese in 1960 correspond to the Indian position, it is therefore clearly a new front opened by China with no historical basis.
Strategically, it allows China to block rear reinforcements to reach Galwan.
The entire operation seems to have been planned to open more disputed places in Ladakh and protect these areas.
Google Map with the Chinese claims of 1960 in Hot Spring area


Fingers at the Pangong tso (lake)
The third location of intrusions is the Fingers area on the northern bank of the Pangong tso.
Here too Chinese maps tally with the Indian position.
The reluctance of the Chinese to vacate the area from finger 4 to 8, has to historical sanction.
Chinese map showing the correct alignment in Pangong tso area

This map was published in the 1980s in Lhasa by the Communist government.
It shows clearly that the line crosses the lake in the east of the Fingers and Sirijap.

Chinese map showing the correct alignment in Pangong tso area

Same remark for the previous Chinese map.

Enlarged Chinese claims of 1960

When one enlarges the 1960 posted above, it is more difficult to say where exactly passes the Chinese claim line, but it is certainly east of the Fingers.

This map of StratNews Global (below) shows the approximate location of the Indian LAC.
It tallies with the above Chinese maps, therefore China should have no claim from Finger 4 to 8.
But today, Beijing is ready to fight a war for areas that it did not even claim before.
It is called wild expansionism.
The Fingers and Sirijap areas

Conclusions
One can only conclude that China has always changed the posts, at least since 1949, when Mao decided to annex Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan).
India is paying today for the inaction and acquiescent attitude of the Indian government then.
It is a fact that tears after years the line has moved; it keep moving even today.
Even if Beijing accepts a disengagement today or tomorrow and partially withdraw to its April position, it will have opened new fronts in Ladakh, new 'disputed' places which were non existing earlier.
Some mad generals in Chengdu will have to be seriously reigned in by the Communist Party in Beijing if China wants to regain a semblance of trust from India's part.

Why China’s claim on Galwan is a lie

The annexation of Xinjiang was the original sin
My article
Why China’s claim on Galwan is a lie appeared in Mail Today/DailyO


No Chinese national has ever set a foot in the area till the mid-1950s and it is only due to India’s weakness at that time that Beijing can make this outrageous claim today.

On June 19, 2020, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian provided what he called a step-by-step account of the Galwan clash; it is obviously an account with Chinese characteristics, mixing wishful thinking with the hard facts. One of the ‘Wolf-Warrior’ diplomats, Zhao Lijian stated that the Galwan Valley is located “on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary”.
How can Zhao speak of a LAC? China has never shown their maps of the famous line; in March 2002, Beijing’s representatives presented their ‘perceptions’ of the LAC during a meeting of China Expert Group; hardly 20 minutes later, they withdrew the maps, never to be shown again. Since then, Beijing has systematically refused to tell India where the LAC lies in Ladakh. Isn’t it strange then that Zhao speaks of a line that his government refuses to define?

Litany of half-truths
To come back to Zhao’s statement, it describes the different phases of the shocking June 15 incident, exonerating the Chinese troops of any blame. It went amiss for the 43 PLA soldiers who lost their lives. While accusing India of “unilaterally building roads, bridges and other facilities in the Galwan Valley region” Zhao asserted that Galwan has always belonged to China; the Chinese propaganda has been repeating that Galwan area and the Aksai Chin have been Chinese since time immemorial.
It is far from true. No Chinese national has ever set a foot in the area till the mid-1950s and it is only due to India’s weakness at that time that Mr Zhao can make this outrageous claim today. Some classified documents from the Russian archives about the annexation of Xinjiang were recently published by the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center in the US; they shed some light on the issue.

Evidence of deceit
Charles Kraus, the program’s Deputy Director wrote: “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army invasion in October 1949 of Xinjiang, the vast ‘province’ bordering the Mongolian People’s Republic and Soviet Central Asia, was a stunning development.”
On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong announced from the rostrum of Tiananmen Square in Beijing the birth of the People’s Republic; the Great Helmsman immediately moved to annex the territories in the West of the Middle Kingdom. In less than two months, the PLA annexed Xinjiang and closed down the Indian Consulate General in Kashgar. India’s observatory post connecting with Central Asia was no more. Delhi was told that the new regime would have to renegotiate all its former agreements, a position untenable in international law; but in 1953, Nehru announced in the Parliament that India had to close its Consulate in Kashgar because “nothing could be done about it”.
The capture of Xinjiang was a great military feat and a strategic coup; the doors to Northern India were suddenly open to China. By taking over Xinjiang, Mao controlled the Middle Kingdom’s western borders and trade with Central Asia; he also came for the first time in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly the Aksai Chin area, witnessing the present tension. Kraus concluded: “The invasion was military cunning combined with political skill and, frankly, dumb luck. But it also couldn’t have happened without the aid of the Soviet Union.” Mao’s strategic vision and his ‘dumb luck’ helped to prepare the background for the contemporary events in Galwan, Hot Springs or Pangong Tso areas. Several ominous signs on the 1950 horizon should have forced the Indian government to read beyond the Chinese rhetoric and the Chinese Premier’s assurance of eternal friendship with India. It would not be.
Western Tibet was being invaded a year later; as the two new provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet needed to be linked, a road across India’s territory in the Aksai Chin was started in 1953-54; Delhi chooses to close its eyes. In 1956, a first map of the Chinese ‘perceptions’ was published by China. In a note written in 1963, the Indian government explained: “Territorial claims were put forward for the first time by the Chinese Prime Minister in September 1959, [was] based on a Chinese map published in 1956. In December 1959 [Zhou] affirmed the boundary on this map as the correct boundary claimed by China… Since then the Chinese claim line has varied according to China’s bargaining convenience and the progressively increasing extent of occupation of Indian territory through force.”



The Indian Consulate General in Kashgar
Flimsy declarations
In 1960, Beijing produced another map engulfing large parts of Ladakh; Delhi probably did not realise the implications, thinking that China was still a ‘friend’. The line had moved hundreds of kilometres from Kashgar and Hotan which had only been occupied a decade earlier. Then in July 1962, the first clash took place in Galwan; on July 26, South Block wrote Beijing: "The Chinese forces have established several new posts and resorted to aggressive patrolling in Indian areas, which lie west of even the 1956 Chinese map claim line”. After months of correspondence; with each side accusing the other, Mao decided to attack India before the winter. The rest is history. Today Beijing says that Galwan always belonged to China. What a blatant lie!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Expansionist and Revisionist China

Chinese map (in Tibetan) of Pangong tso showing the Chinese claims
According to a press release of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Nimu, near Leh, in Ladakh to interact with the Indian troops involved with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the border: “[the Prime Minister] met the top leadership of the Indian Army and later interacted with personnel of the Army, Air Force and ITBP,” said the PIB.
The communiqué further reported: “Prime Minister paid rich tributes to the valour of our Armed Forces, stating that their courage and devotion to Mother India is unparalleled. He stated that Indians can go about their lives peacefully because they know that our Armed Forces are standing firm, protecting the nation.”
Modi spoke of the exemplary bravery of the Armed Forces in the recent weeks which made the world take note of India’s strength.

Expansionism
Significantly, the Prime Minister observed that that “the time for expansionism is over. We are living in an era of development.”
He recalled that it is this mindset of expansionism which had done a great harm [to the world].
In this context, it is worth mentioning two issues.
First, about ‘expansionism’.
A map (in Tibetan) published in the 1980s by the Communist Government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) shows the Chinese claims in the Pangong tso (lake) area lay east of Sirijap, a small plain on northern bank of the lake.
As mentioned earlier on this blog, India had established three posts in Sirijap prior to the Sino-Indian War (between April 1960 and October 1962) and a bitter battle took place around these posts in October 1962.
Today the Chinese are trying to occupy till Fingers 4, which is located more than 12 kilometers in the West. Is it not expansionism?
The Chinese map (in Tibetan) tells us about the constant Chinese ‘expansionism’; the fact that Beijing stubbornly refusing to fix posts and provides its perceptions of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), allow China to expand its territory.

Chinese Lieutenant General carving '1962' on a pillar at the border
A Repeat of 1962?
My second point is that Xi’s China is still dreaming of 1962, not understanding that India and the world have changed.
Last week, Lt Gen Zhang Xuejie, the Political Commissar of the Tibet Military Region (TMD) went to the ‘border’ and wrote in red letters ‘1962’ on a stone; it is not clear if it was north of Sikkim in Kampa la area or near the tri-junction between Tibet, Nepal and India. 
What message did not want to convey?
That China could repeat the operations of 1962?
Gen Zhang is probably not aware that the Indian Army in 2020 is not the same than in 1962.
He has certainly never heard of the battles of Walong or Rezang la where hundreds of Chinese PLA were killed by far-better Indian soldiers (but this is never told to the Chinese people).
The PLA should also remember what happened to them in 1967 in Sikkim.
Though Galwan does not come under the TMD, (it is under the command of the Southern Xinjiang Military District of the Xinjiang Military District), the TMD military leadership should study what happened on June 15 in Galwan when China lost at least 45 of its soldiers, including a Commanding Officer. It should also remember that it was Xi Jinping's birthday, that day.
Can Communist China and particularly the PLA understand that the time for expansionism is over?
It is doubtful. They live like ostriches, their heads buried in their Communist jargon and outdated ideology.
It is not a good omen for China.
Lt Gen Zhang Xuejie on the way to the 'border'


A few days later, the PLA organised a ceremony on the lake to show their presence  ...and their faith in the Communist Party.
The caption said: "A [PLA] party of the Xinjiang Military Region carried out a 'Partnership with the Party, Take the Roots in the Plateau as a Vanguard'; it was the theme of the day on the bank of Pangong Lake at an altitude of 4,300 meters."
Note the Buddhist prayer flags in the background; atheists, but believers?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Man who Told India about the Himalayan Blunder

Brig Dalvi in captivity in Tibet (courtesy: Michael Dalvi)
Today we are celebrating the 100th Birth Anniversary of John Parashram Dalvi who commanded the ill-fated 7 Infantry Brigade on the Namkha chu (river) in the West Kameng Frontier Division of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in October 1962.
Very few today realize that without his courage, we would never have known what really happened during those tragic days of October/November 1962.
When Brig John Dalvi returned to India on May 4, 1963, he and his 26 junior colleagues were interrogated like criminals, the government suspecting them to have been brain-washed by the Communist Chinese.
According to his family, this was even more difficult to bear than his days in captivity; he had been kept in a separate camp near Tsethang in Central Tibet, far from his men, in complete disregard of the Geneva Conventions.
Later Brig Dalvi was offered a second Star (to be promoted as a Major General) by a senior minister of Nehru Government to keep quiet.
He preferred to write about what really happened; he was never promoted.
His Himalayan Blunder had to first be published in UK by his sister, as no publisher in India dared accepting such a manuscript. It was only years later, that it was released in India.
Can you imagine what would have been our knowledge of the history of the conflict if Brig Dalvi had not penned his memoirs?
Remember that today, the Henderson-Brooks-Bhagat is still kept under wraps in the Army Headquarter...
In homage to Brig Dalvi, on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary, I post here the preface of his book, which is so relevant with the present happenings in the Himalaya.

***

As I was writing this, I received this message from Michael Dalvi, the son of Brig John Dalvi.
It is very touching.

A SON'S HUMBLE TRIBUTE
The man you see here in uniform, in which he took such great pride joy & honour, would have been 100 years of age today. It is my honour, privilege and pride to be his son. He is flanked by insignias of the Indian Army and his beloved Battalion, 4th (Rajput) Guards. Commissioned (Indian Military Academy, Dehradun)  at age 21 he went straight off to do battle with the Japanese in Burma with his Regiment, 10/5 Baloch.
In 1962, he went off to do battle again.
This time the Chinese, as Commander 7 Brigade then based in Tawang. NEFA.
Our collective energies are currently deeply absorbed in the Chinese challenge facing our nation.
It's as good a time as ever, indeed imperative, that at this crucial & critical time, we honour and respect the memory of the bravest of the brave of our warriors who have selflessly done battle before in the service of our nation.
And, learn from the hard lessons of history. 
Never ever again, must a proud commander, of the finest fighting men in the world, have to go to a premature grave with the deaths of his men & officers on his conscience.
EVEN IF FOR NO FAULT OF HIS !!!
That his troops, under-clothed, armed with obsolete weapons, under fed and woefully ill-equipped for mountain warfare fought to the bitter end is a tribute to the discipline, training, fortitude and indomitable spirit of the Indian Army. They died with honour, often, to the last man and the last bullet and not before inflicting huge casualties on an enemy militarily and psychologically unprepared for such intrepidness !!
We must never forget that fact , sitting in the cozy comfort of our safe houses rendered secure by the daily sacrifice of our troops !!
To quote Macaulay: 
How can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods ? 
And I pray God that no man should have to witness his father's gradual but inexorable mental and physical deterioration & decline.
From a conscience debilitatingly burdened, tormented, riddled with bitterness, anger, frustration helplessness and guilt for those who didn't make it back !!
This guilt eventually destroyed his soul. It gnawed at the very core of his being from living each day with the  memory of men of steel who followed blindly, into impossible situations, against unimaginable odds, and in many cases certain death, driven to great heights of valour only for the Izzat of their paltans, their army, and the honour and security of their country !!!
And let the guilty, and their political successors contemplate, the great crime of sending brave men to do battle against AK47's with WW I obsolete.303 Lee Enfield bolt action rifles !!!!
And with not enough ammunition to fight a relentless enemy. Often resorting to hand to hand combat and using the weapons of fallen Chinese soldiers !!!
WHILST THE GUILTY , SITTING IN THEIR AIR-CONDITIONED OFFICES IN DELHI, ORDERED COFFEE PERCOLATORS, STANDARD LAMPS MADE FROM SHELLS , AND OTHER CIVILIAN ITEMS TO BE PRODUCED IN ORDNANCE FACTORIES !!!!
These were criminals. Make no mistake about that. History has labelled them thus. For the sheer brazen and brutal heartlessness of their crimes of omissions and commissions against a simple, trusting, loyal & dedicated soldiery !
I only hope those who currently control and conduct the destiny of our great country, and our  unquestioning uniformed bravehearts learn from the hindsight of history. !!
It's done & dusted sir. You are dead and gone ages ago but your army, that was your life, lives and fights on !!!
RIP Sir wherever you be, and, hopefully, till we meet again to clink pewter tankards of your favourite tipple; chilled to perfection !!!

MICHAEL DALVI

***

Cable from Internation Red Cross asking
about Brig Dalvi and two of  his colleagues
Brig J.P. Dalvi, Natraj Publishers (2009)

PREFACE
THIS BOOK was born in a Prisoner of War Camp in Tibet on a cold bleak night.
On the night of 21st November 1962, I was woken up by the Chinese Major in charge of my solitary confinement with shouts of 'good news - good news'. He told me that the Sino-Indian War was over and that the Chinese Government had decided to withdraw from all the areas which they had overrun, in their lightning campaign. When I asked the reason for this decision he gave me this Peking inspired answer: “India and China have been friends for thousands of years and have never fought before. China does not want war. It is the reactionary (sic) Indian Government that was bent on war. So the Chinese counterattacked in self-defence and liberated all our territories in NEFA and Ladakh, in just one month. Now we have decided to go back as we do not want to settle the border problem by force. We have proved that yon are no match for mighty China”. He concluded with this supercilious and patronising remark: “We hope that the Indian Government will now see sense and come to the conference table at once so that 1,200 million Chinese and Indians can get on with their national development plans and halt Western Imperialism”.
This kindergarten homily was, and remains, the most humiliating moment of my 7-month captivity and indeed of my life. That night I experienced a wave of bitter shame for my country. In my grief I took a solemn vow that one day I would tell the truth about how we let ourselves reach such a sorry pass. With time heavy on my hands, as I had no radio, newspapers or books, I brooded over India's humiliation and the fate of my command. I was repatriated, along with all the other officers of field rank, on 4th May 1963. We reached Barrackpore, the Military Airport at Calcutta at mid-day but could not land there and were diverted to Dum Dum.
We deplaned and were greeted with correct military protocol, tinged with a chill reserve. It was only later that I found out that we had to clear ourselves of the charge of having been brainwashed - a strange charge from a Government which had itself been brainwashed into championing China's cause for more than a decade without a doubt the prisoners had been declared outcasts. Apparently we should have atoned for the past national sins of omission and commission with our lives. Our repatriation was embarrassing as the national spotlight had again been focused on the Sino-Indian Conflict.
From the tarmac we were herded straight to the Customs enclosure where a sprightly team of appraisers had assembled to 'examine' our luggage. They had been told that some Indians had arrived from Hong Kong and were waiting to confiscate transistors and opium! I knew then that there had been no material change in India and we were in the same old groove.
After a cursory and stereotyped de-briefing at Ranchi, I was ordered- to meet the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. J.N. Chaudhuri at Delhi on 15th May. He asked me to write a report for the personal information of the Defence Minister and himself. The aim was, in Gen. Chaudhuri's words: "To teach ourselves how not to hand over a brigade on a plate to the Chinese in future". He added that we had become the laughing stock of even countries like …and … (I hesitate to name these countries!).
I welcomed the opportunity afforded by the Chief's instruction for a personal report as this would give me a chance to collect my thoughts. The basic facts had been branded into my memory. To make doubly sure, I had many sessions with Lt. Col. Rikh, Commanding Officer of 2 Rajputs and Lt. Col. B. S. Ahluwalia, Commanding Officer of the 1/9 Gorkhas, Major R.O. Kharbanda and Captain T. K. Gupta of my Staff.
We recounted, cross-checked and authenticated the facts which form the basis for this book. Rankling at our unfriendly reception and the many garbled versions I heard from friends, I wrote a forthright account which 1 handed over to the Chief personally. I do not know the fate of this report as I was never again asked to discuss or explain it. It may have touched some sensitive nerves.
It was soon apparent that the Army had become the centre of much controversy and that the blame for the 1962 fiasco had been cunningly shifted to its alleged 'shortcomings'. What was more alarming were the extravagant claims made by some senior Army Officers, who attained eminence only after the 1962 reshuffles, as to how brilliantly they would have handled the situation and defied the authority of Nehru, Menon and Kaul. This attitude made me despair of whether my countrymen and colleagues would ever learn any lessons from India's first attempt at conducting a modern war and strengthened my resolution to tell my story.
1962 was a National Failure of which every Indian is guilty. It was a failure in the Higher Direction of War, a failure of the Opposition, a failure of the General Staff (myself included); it was a failure of Responsible Public Opinion and the Press. For the Government of India, it was a Himalayan Blunder at all levels.
Brig Dalvi walking with his captors
The people of India want to know the truth but have been denied it on the dubious grounds of national security. The result has been an unhealthy amalgam of innuendo, mythology, conjecture, outright calumny and sustained efforts to confuse and conceal the truth. Even the truncated 'NEFA' Enquiry has been withheld except for a few paraphrased extracts read out to the Lok Sabha on 2nd September 1963. For some undisclosed reason, I was not asked to give evidence before this body nor (to the best of my knowledge) were my repatriated Commanding Officers.
It is thus vitally necessary to trace, without rancor and without malice, the overall causes which resulted in the reverses and which so seriously affected India's honour. Some of the things that happened in 1962 must never be allowed to happen again. There is a school of thought which advocates a moratorium on the NEFA Affair on the grounds that such 'patriotic reticence' is desirable in the context of the continuing Chinese (and Pakistani) military threats. I do not think that this theory is tenable. The main protagonists of this line played a part in the tragic drama, or belonged to the political party which provided the national leadership and their plea for silence does not spring entirely from a sense of patriotism.
There are others, mostly barren politicians, who use the Nehru legend to buttress their failures, or inveterate hero-worshippers who express irritation at any adverse reference to Mr. Nehru's long spell as the Prime Minister of India. As was said of Lord Chatham, the British Prime Minister, 'His country men were so conscious of what they owed him that they did not want to hear about his faults'. But it is impossible to narrate a failure, which historically marked the end of the Nehru saga, without critical, often harsh comments on the principle dramatis personae who held high office and who were revered by the people. The magnitude of our defeat could not have been wrought without Himalayan Blunders at all levels. But this is not a "J'accuse".
India has a near unbroken record of military failures through the ages. Our peasantry has always fought gallantly; but it is an indisputable fact that seldom has this bravery been utilised to win battle field victories and thus to attain our political objectives, due to inept political or military leadership, or both. Need we follow this tragic path interminably?
It had fallen to my lot to be associated with the China problem for over 8 years from 1954 to 1962. I was first connected with the Higher Direction of War, in a modest capacity, as a Lt.-Colonel in Military Operations Directorate. Later, as Brigadier-in-Charge of Administration of the troops on Ladakh, I saw, at first hand, what passed for 'logistic support'. Finally as Commander of the key sector of Towang, North-East Frontier Agency, I was involved in our so-called operation al planning to defend our borders. The years of higher responsibility were complementary and gave me a personal insight into our National Policy as well as our half-hearted military response to the Chinese challenge.
I have tried to tell the story as I saw it unfold, over the years, to add to our knowledge. I have included the politico-military background only because this had a direct bearing on our performance in the military field, in 1962.
This is a personal narrative - a narrative of what 7 Infantry Brigade was ordered to do and what happened when they attempted to carry out those orders. In all humility I can claim that only I am in a position to explain many nagging questions that need explaining, facts that are necessary.
The theme of the book is the steadfastness of the Indian soldier in the midst of political wavering and a military leadership which was influenced more by political than military considerations. The book records their valour, resolution and loyalty - qualities which are generally forgotten in the mass of political post-mortems which have been served up to the Indian people.
This is a record of the destruction of a Brigade without a formal declaration of war - another central fact that is often overlooked - and which coloured the actions of all the principal participants.
I have made every effort not to view things in a retrospective light or with the clarity of hindsight. I have recorded experiences, ideas and feelings as they appeared at the time. I have tried to give an objective account of all that happened, of the people involved  and of the decisions they took. My opinions as a participant in the climatic finale of September-October 1962 must be subjective. The main essential is to know how the principal participants thought and reacted.
As Lord Avon (Sir Anthony Eden) says in "the Preface to his Memoirs, The Full Circle: "This book will expose many wounds; by doing so it may help to heal them".
By this book I express my undying gratitude to my Commanding Officers for their trust and loyalty; to the men of all classes and from all units under my command for their selfless devotion to duty; and to my staff whose dedication sustained me in those harrowing days.
This book is the fulfilment of my promises to my friends, in all walks of life, to vindicate the reputation of the men I had the honour to commando I hope that I shall have discharged my responsibility to all those who gave their lives in the line of duty and whose sacrifice deserves a permanent, printed memorial.
John Dalvi

PLA using Tibetans against India

Recruitment of PLA Militia
My article PLA using Tibetans against India appeared in Rediff.com


Tibetans will participate in future conflicts with India (in all probability, some were already present in Galwan).
'As nobody in India would like to have a deadly fight with Tibetan soldiers and officers, the issue needs to be closely followed,' observes Claude Arpi.

Recently, a message circulated on Twitter with the names of the 38 Chinese soldiers who would have died in the Galwan incident on June 15 ('coincidentally', Chinese Communist party Generak Secretary Xi Jinping's 67th birth anniversary).
The tweet has not been confirmed; it might well be one of the hundreds of Information Warfare unverified information going around since the beginning of the standoff between India and China and Ladakh.
What was interesting is that the message also provided the regions from where the purported casualties had come from.
Among them, eight were from Tibet and their names tallied more or less with Tibetan names transliterated in Pinyin (Lakpa, Tsering, Kalsang, etc.).
Once again it could not be verified (something very difficult, next to impossible to do), but the fact that Tibetans are involved near the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh is beyond doubt.
Some knowledgeable sources put the percentage of local Tibetans as high as 10% of the People's Liberation Army soldiers stationed in the Tibet Military District or the Southern Xinjiang Military District. The present 'hot' spots in Ladakh -- Galwan, Hot Springs, Fingers, Depsang -- are under the command of the Southern Xinjiang Military District.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The great Chinese bluff on Galwan and Aksai Chin

My article The great Chinese bluff on Galwan and Aksai Chin appeared in The Daily Guardian


On June 19, 2020, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, one of the ‘wolf-warrior’ diplomats, provided what he called a step-by-step account of the Galwan clash which occurred on June 15; he stated that the Galwan Valley was located “on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary”.
While accusing India of “unilaterally building roads, bridges and other facilities in the Galwan Valley region”, Zhao asserted that Galwan has always belonged to China. To understand how false this statement is, it is necessary to look into history.

The Annexation of Xinjiang
Hardly two months after Mao solemnly announced the birth of the People’s Republic of China from the Tiananmen Square, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) annexed Xinjiang, closing down the Indian Consulate General in Kashgar in the same stroke.
Delhi was told that the new regime wanted to renegotiate all its former agreements, a position untenable in international law.
By taking over Xinjiang, Mao controlled the western borders of the Middle Kingdom and the access to Central Asia; he also came for the first time in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly the Aksai Chin area, witnessing the present tension.
The capture of Xinjiang, formerly East Turkestan was perhaps one of the greatest military and strategic feats in modern annals; it is only due to India’s weakness at that time that China could advance its frontier southward.

What happened next?
After the PLA entered Lhasa in September 1951, the Chinese made plans to improve communications and built new roads on a war-footing. One should not forget that in 1950 (when Eastern and Western Tibet were invaded), a caravan from the Chinese border took two months to reach Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. The only way to consolidate and ‘unify’ the Empire was to construct a large network of roads. One of these roads was the Tibet-Xinjiang Highway (today infamously known as the Aksai Chin road).
The first surveys were done at the end of 1951-52 and construction began in 1953-54 and it was eventually inaugurated in July 1957.

A daring mission
In early 1957, the Army selected an officer to go with a patrol and physically confirm the reports that China was building a road in the Aksai Chin area; the officer was Lt Col RS Basera of 1 Kumaon Rifles. Later, in a note Basera’s son wrote: “His mission was to be tough, exciting and most unique, as he had to proceed under cover to the vast plateau of Aksai Chin and confirm reports that the Chinese were constructing a motorable road from Kashgar to Lhasa.”
Disguised as a yak herder, Basera was accompanied by Havildar Diwan Singh from the Corps of Engineers. They were to move with three genuine Ladakhi yak herders. During a briefing at the Headquarters in Leh, Basera was told that it was crucial to maintain utmost secrecy about the mission.
The Military Intelligence (MI) instructed them not to carry any documents that could disclose their identities, no notes should be taken. They were asked to memorize the map and the route: “They had to move in the easterly direction from Leh for about 250-300 km, till they reached the expected location of the new Chinese built road, in Aksai Chin. Initially, they would pass over difficult, undulating terrain, till they crossed the Karakoram Mountain Range and Shyok River,” wrote Basera’s son. Their mission was of national importance, said their handlers in the MI.
After a long and adventurous journey, they finally entered Aksai Chin. On the third day, one of the herders suddenly pulled Basera's shoulder and showed him a dark line on the horizon; it was the road. They mentally noted every detail of the road that was not yet tarred and rushed back to inform the authorities of their discovery. They were asked to report in Delhi. According to the report of Basera’s son: “the defense minister surprisingly supported the Chinese side, and even called it a friendly neighbour. He asked the MI director (DMI), if the area through which the road passed had been confirmed on a map.”
But that was not all, the Prime Minister and the defense minister, “more or less rebuked the DMI for sending the patrol. The PM told the defense minister that no more such patrols were to be sent to Aksai Chin till the matter had been thoroughly investigated,” as such patrols could easily vitiate the good relations between friendly neighbours, Nehru added.
Returning to his post, Lt Col Basera felt utterly dejected: “The long and difficult patrol they had undertaken, now appeared to have been a futile, month-long exercise.”
The History of the Conflict with China, 1962 published by the Indian Ministry of Defense cited other cases: “In order to ascertain the exact alignment of the road before sending a protest to China, two reconnaissance-cum-survey parties were send out in the summer of 1958; an army party under Lt Iyengar [from the Madras Sappers] towards the north and an Indo-Tibetan Border Police party under Karam Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police towards the southern extremity of the road.”
The Official History says: “The Army party did not return because they had been arrested by the Chinese and were released two months later. From the police party, it was learnt that a part the Tibet-Sinkiang highway was definitely in Indian territory.”
There is no doubt that the Indian government had information about the road crossing the Indian territory, as early as the mid-1950s.
The greatest tragedy is that there must be hundreds of such files zealously kept in the almirahs of South Block (either in the MEA or the MOD).
The ‘secrecy’ is today helping some political parties to criticize the government, overlooking what had been happened in the past, with the consequences what we can see today in Galwan or Hot Springs.
Why the present government is not releasing these files is a mystery.
Regarding Mr Zhao’s assertions, there was no Chinese in the Aksai Chin before the mid-1950s; it is probably what China calls ‘time immemorial’.