Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The only question is can Xi Jinping and his advisors be swift and agile enough to change the tide and restore the trust in the ailing Dragon?

My article The only question is can Xi Jinping and his advisors be swift and agile enough to change the tide and restore the trust in the ailing Dragon? appeared in Firstpost

Year of the Dragon: China's economic challenges and surging uncertainty ahead

Here is the link...

We are entering the Year of the Dragon. It is said that the next 12 months will be energetic; the year may give rise to celebrations and grandiose projects and may even be auspicious for marriage, birth and new beginnings, but it may also be a time of surprises when opportunities can be grasped or lost. Natural disturbances can also be expected.
The element presiding over the coming year is Wood which: “gives an animal mobility and vitality, a supple and balanced creative power, and a quality of softness. Wood years are years of transformation," say the astrologists.

What does it mean for the Middle Kingdom?
We shall not go for any predictions but look at some facts. The Dragon Year will certainly see some great surprises and disturbances in the coming year in China and first in the economic domain.

China’s growth
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently noted that “uncertainty surrounding the Chinese economy is high. The organization expects the world’s second-biggest economy to grow by 4.6% this year and slow down to 4% in 2025,” adding that “the ongoing housing sector crisis could further dampen private demand and confidence and lead to budget strains.”
Last year, the Chinese economy officially grew by 5.2 per cent, but the figures coming from Beijing are most of the time exaggerated.
The IMF report also warned: “Deeper-than-expected contraction in the property sector could further weigh on private demand and worsen confidence, amplify local government fiscal strains, and result in disinflationary pressures and adverse macro-financial feedback loops. Staff estimate that, in such an adverse scenario which entails a deeper and more prolonged contraction in the property sector, GDP in 2025 could be 1.8% lower compared to the baseline (of 4%).”
The IMF believes that weaker exports and lending could exert greater strain.

Housing is an issue
According to The Nikkei, China is grappling with the aftermath of its bursting housing bubble: “Given weak sales and an inventory build-up in the sector, it is now expected to take more than five years for the country to shed excess stock.”
As China’s housing demand will likely fall further due to a shrinking population and rising living standards, the world is bracing for a surge in exports of cheap building materials from the country.
The Tokyo-based publication explained: “Intense price-cutting competition is underway as the country’s housing market becomes saturated. The level of excess stock, calculated by subtracting all the residential floor space sold from the total area of homes built, reached just under 5 billion sq. meters at the end of 2023. Assuming each home has a floor space of 100 sq. meters and three family members, China now has excess space to house 150 million people, equal to about 50 million homes.”

 Gold purchase
Another sign of the weakening of the economy is that gold purchases have soared 30 per cent, mainly because of the businesses’ anxiety.
In another article, The Nikkei said: “Chinese gold purchases rose 30% in 2023, as the country’s central bank bought the commodity to replace its dollar holdings amid tensions with the US and individual investors sought a haven for their assets as the economy stumbled.”
It quoted data from the World Gold Council’s 2023 Gold Demand Trends report: “The world’s central banks acquired 1,037 tonnes of gold last year on a net basis, the second most in data going back to 1950 behind only the 1,082 tonnes for 2022. The People’s Bank of China’s net purchases totaled 225 tonnes, the highest since 1977, the earliest data available for the country.”
The article cited geopolitical risks such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which drove up gold purchases in countries like Poland, which bought 130 tonnes last year, and Libya, which acquired 30 tonnes.
It perhaps explains that gold ingots have become popular even with Chinese individual investors.

Citing the National Bureau of Statistics, Wion News Channel observed that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) experienced a 0.8 per cent year-on-year drop, marking the most significant decline since September 2009, following a 0.3 per cent decrease in December: “China encountered its deepest deflationary threat since 2009 as consumer prices witnessed a severe decline in January, highlighting the persistent challenges for the world’s second-largest economy in its struggle for recovery.” The news channel further commented: “The persistent deflationary pressure depicted in China’s CPI data underscores the urgency for decisive and swift actions by policymakers to prevent the entrenchment of deflationary expectations among consumers.”
There is no doubt that the post-COVID recovery has been lacklustre.

Foreign companies
On 24 January, the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad published a survey which found that 46 per cent of German companies operating in China believed that their Chinese competitors will become leaders in their respective industries within the next 5 years: “About 83% of German companies surveyed believe that China’s economy is declining, though 64% anticipate this downward trend being just a temporary 2-3 year slowdown.”
The next day, Lianhe Zaobao, the largest Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper said that the Germans found that “the number of German companies withdrawing or considering abandoning the Chinese market has doubled in the past four years. The survey’s findings, which come as China’s economy continues to weaken, highlight the challenges facing German companies operating in China. Top concerns cited by German companies include increased competition from local Chinese companies, unfair restrictions on market access, economic headwinds and geopolitical risks.”
The same Singapore publication commented on the vacancies of office place in Beijing; it observed: “Demand for office space in Beijing has fallen as China’s economy weakens and companies are becoming more conservative about expansion.”
Citing the Chinese economic publication Caixin.com, it added that the vacancy rate for Beijing office space has hit a 13-year high of 20.4 per cent, the first time in recent years that the rate has goes over 20%: “The shrinking technology industry in Beijing, coupled with conservative growth strategies and cost-cutting measures adopted by companies facing stiff economic headwinds, have combined to dampen office rental demand.”
The Caixin explained that the trend was attributable to companies relocating their headquarters out of Beijing, downsizing and taking less rental space, and an overall lack of new demand to replace surrendered office space.

Not overtaking the US
In an interview quoted by Reuters, Cornell University professor Eswar Prasad pointed out the fact that China’s economy “faces a variety of fragilities” and the Middle Kingdom’s economy may not overtake the US’ soon. “The likelihood of the prediction that China’s GDP will one day overtake that of the US is declining,” said Eswar Prasad, who served as an IMF official in charge of China.
When asked about his forecast, Prasad answered: “China faces a variety of fragilities, including undesirable demographics, a collapsing real estate market, deteriorating investor sentiment at home and abroad and the lack of clarity over a new growth model. Even a 4 per cent-5 per cent growth rate will be difficult to sustain over the next few years. The likelihood of the prediction that China’s GDP will one day overtake that of the US is declining.”
It is a fact that the Chinese stock market has been continuously declining since mid-2023, reaching new lows as the Shanghai Composite Index fell below 2,700 points on 2 February.

How to vent frustration?

On 3 February, the Epoch Times noted an interesting development; many investors who suffered heavy losses flooded the comments section on the official Weibo account of the US Embassy in China.
As the official propaganda machinery controls the Chinese Net, they found a way to vent their frustration, some even imploring the United States to take over the Chinese stock market.
One Chinese investor commented: “We know they are lying, and they know they are lying. They know we know they are lying, and we know they know we know they are lying. But they still keep lying. Can you tell me which ‘glorious era’ this description refers to?”
Another post by the US embassy about the Third Anniversary of the Military Coup in Myanmar was flooded with messages from Chinese stock investors asking for help from the US: “America, please come and rescue the hundreds of millions of A-share investors in deep trouble,” another wrote “Save the poor Chinese stock investors. I love America,” while someone said: “The official media doesn’t let us speak. I come here to request rescue.”
It is certainly not the US which will save the Chinese investors; the only question is can Xi Jinping and his advisors be swift and agile enough to change the tide and restore the trust in the ailing Dragon? One can seriously doubt it.

Monday, January 29, 2024

China is preparing for ‘history warfare’ that India must counter

My article China is preparing for ‘history warfare’ that India must counter appeared in Firstpost

Through 'history warfare', Communist China will try to prove that it has always occupied the Tibetan plateau and that the border areas (whether Tibet or Xinjiang) have always been under Chinese possession 

Here is the link...

Recently, news circulated that after the Galwan incident which claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers and some 40 Chinese soldiers in June 2020, new clashes would have taken place between India and China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This probably explains why External Affairs Minister, Dr S. Jaishankar often mentions that the relations between the two Asian giants are ‘not normal’.
Clashes would have taken at least twice on the LAC during the past three years, China would have attempted to violently attack some Indian Army checkpoints (probably not in Ladakh) between September 2021 and November 2022.
General Manoj Pande, the Chief of Army Staff, himself stated that the situation on the border with China was ‘stable, yet sensitive’.
While these incidents need to be taken seriously (and they are, by the Indian Army), they show the limits of the Chinese ability to militarily create mischief on the northern border.

Opening New Fronts
In this context, there is no doubt that Xi Jinping’s regime will try to open new fronts, perhaps not so visible, but which could lead to serious consequences if India is caught napping.
One of these is what could be called ‘History Warfare’, through which Communist China will try to prove that it has always occupied the Tibetan plateau and that the borders areas (whether Tibet or Xinjiang) have always been under Chinese possession.
Earlier this month, The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party asserted: “Half-decade-long frontier archaeology yields major discoveries, reveals diverse yet united Chinese civilization.”
The article says that in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, nearly 80 archaeological projects were taken up between 2019 and 2023.
Why is Chinese control suddenly projected far from the historical frontiers of the Middle Kingdom (represented by the Great Wall of China); the answer is clear, all these areas are part of China since immemorial times: “archaeological projects in Xinjiang, along with other discoveries made in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, and other parts of the country, have contributed greatly to the enrichment of the current research landscape of China's frontier archaeology.”
A new term has come into being ‘frontier archaeology’; in fact a China Frontier Archaeology Symposium was recently held in Beijing; its declared objective was “to facilitate discussions about future topics in Chinese archaeology.”

Ethnic cultural diversity
The Symposium looked into questions such as ‘ethnic cultural diversity’ or ‘ancient Silk Road cultural exchanges’. A ‘frontier’ archaeologist, Chen Hurong told The Global Times that this reflects “the unique value of frontier archaeology. …Compared with many inland archaeological projects, frontier histories can often vividly depict ancient China's exchanges with other cultures.”
Another Chinese ‘expert’ affirmed that apart from Xinjiang and Xizang autonomous regions, northern China is also the birthplace of many ‘frontier sites’. Note that ‘Xizang’ is the new name for ‘Tibet’, a century-old nation which no longer has a name of its own.
According to Party’s mouthpiece: “Extending the Chinese frontier archaeological landscape to Southwest China's Xizang [Tibet] Autonomous Region, more than 10 research sites have been investigated in the last five years including the Nwya Devu and Sang Kar Gang sites.”
The Nwya Devu (Nyadeu in Tibetan) is an archaeological site located in the eastern Changthang region of Nagchu Prefecture, at the altitude of 4,600 m (15,092 ft) above sea level. It is the highest known archaeological site from the Paleolithic area; it is supposed offer evidence for one of the earliest known presences of humans at high-altitude …around 40,000-30,000 BP (before present era).
The conclusion of the research will undoubtedly be that Tibetans are ‘Chinese’ since 30,000 or more years, and the 1950 invasion was simply a forced ‘return to the motherland’.
Another site has witnessed extensive excavations by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP); called Sang Kar Gang, it is located near Lhasa, the Tibetan capital: “Over 1,000 stone artifacts were unearthed, providing crucial materials for the understanding of the earliest human migration into the central Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, their routes and survival strategies.”
This highly-political research explores “the process of early human adaptation to the plateau is also crucial to gaining a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the formation and evolution of modern populations in Xizang.” Adaption from where? The answer is obviously from China.
Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia are also being excavated to show the extent of the Chinese influence, millennia ago.
To link it with contemporary China, The Global Times is not shy to admit: “Many cross-cultural frontier archaeological projects conducive to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have been launched.“

The Situation on the Indian Side
On the Indian side, not much has been done to confront the History Warfare onslaught.
However, The Times of India recently reported a study claiming that natives of Ladakh clearly share their genetic heritage with India and Tibet, not China: “The research asserts that the three lakh natives of the region are a genetic mix of 60% from India and Western Eurasia and 40% from Tibet.” The conclusions of the research were published in the international magazine ‘Research Reports’ in the US. This is good news.
The research team comprised DNA sequencing experts from Benares Hindu University’s zoology department, led by Prof Gyaneshwar Chaubey, experts in archaeology as well as some Ladakhi scholars, including Padma Shri Dr Tsering Norbu (a retired Ladakhi surgeon), Dr Sonam Splanzin (the first woman Ladakhi archaeologist) and Dr Stanzen.
The team studied 122 samples (98 females and 24 males), all belonging to the Bot tribe, from two places in Central Ladakh.
Prof Chaubey explained: “Ladakh is the highest inhabited region of India and has unique biodiversity. With a population of nearly 3 lakh people, Ladakh is an example of long-term human occupation going back at least to the Paleolithic period.”
It was earlier unknown whether genetic and archaeological diversity in the mountainous region has developed indigenously or resulted from gene flow from distinct geographic regions.
The interesting conclusion of the research is that the genetic component of the samples is completely different from the ancestry of China.

Trans-Himalayan Archeology
Another attempt to explore the past has been conducted by archeologist Vinod Nautiyal and his team; according to them: “The Trans-Himalayan region, which runs parallel to the main Himalayan Range and south of the Tibetan Plateau, has not been explored extensively because of its rough terrain. Early work reported human burials from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir but the most significant evidence comes from Malari in Uttarakhand where a cave burial culture dated c. 200–100 BC has been identified.”
They admit that in contrast “across the Himalayas in Mustang, western Nepal, a large number of multi-storey caves used both for burial and habitat ion between c. 1200 BC and AD 1500 have been excavated.”
They quoted the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh which boasts of only two sites which can provide information on human burial; these burials have been dated speculatively to c. 2500–200 BC: “Neither of these sites, nor the human remains, have been subject to any archaeological or further scientific investigation,” they admit.
It is a fact that not much has so far been written about the migration and the trans-Himalayan relations.
Similarly, the Franco-Indian Archaeological Mission in Ladakh (Mission Archéologique Franco-Indienne au Ladakh, or MAFIL) was created in 2012. It was founded as a joint venture with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Their objective is to show in an irrefutable manner, that Buddhism was present in Ladakh in the last quarter of the first millennium AD and maybe as early as the middle of the first millennium. The only material evidence comes from rare rock inscriptions.
This is important, but it lacks the trans-Himalayan aspect.
More importantly, studies need to be conducted on the ancient kingdom of Zhangzhung; it could document the intense activities and contacts between Northern India, the Tibetan plateau and Central Asia, while these remained minimal with China.
A friend who has done extensive archeology in Spiti, recently wrote to me: “I am looking at mineral resource data for western Tibetan Plateau, as of the 2nd Millennium BCE. I have managed to convince myself that the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) used Ladakh, Zanskar and Spiti as well as Ngari as sources for minerals and other raw resources in the Bronze Age. …Gold, silver, copper, iron, lead and precious stones (eg, sapphires, turquoise, crystals, agate, steatite) would have been traded; but also wool, animal skins, and timber products. The IVC could have exchanged these items with finished metal objects.”
This is worth digging into further to counter China in this new form of warfare.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

How India and France are shaping a dynamic partnership in the changing global landscape

My article How India and France are shaping a dynamic partnership in the changing global landscape appeared in Firstpost

Here is the link... 

After 25 years of ‘partnership’ India and France have reached an unparalleled level of trust and proximity

Nobody, not even the best soothsayers or experts, can explain why the world is suddenly changing so quickly, but remember the prophesy once sung by Bob Dylan, it seems to become true, “For the times, they are a-changin'”.
A sign of the changing time, France has a new prime minister, 34 years of age of a different sexual orientation as the head of the government.
Who could have imagined this a few years ago?
Of course, in India is difficult to understand that such a young ‘inexperienced’ leader, could lead a country with multiple problems, but how old were Adi Shankara or Swami Vivekananda when they changed India in so much depth.
One can’t compare the new French leader to the two above mentioned spiritual giants, but one can hope that fresh blood will be good for France in these ‘changing’ times.

Macron back in India
In the meantime, the French President Emmanuel Macron will be Chief Guest for Republic Day.
I still remember his last State visit in March 2018; addressing a French gathering in Delhi, the President spoke of the Chinese hegemony in the region and said that France was ready to work with India on the oceans: “France is a power of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans; we are present at the Reunion, we are also there in French Polynesia and New Caledonia. And we are a maritime power, it is often forgotten but France is the second maritime power in the world. We have a strong navy, we have nuclear submarines equipped like few other powers in the world; a maritime surveillance capability through our own satellites and technologies; it is obvious we are a military and intelligence power ranking us among the first nations in the world.”
This language was surprising at that time, but one can measure how much the world has changed and particularly the great powers’ views on the Middle Kingdom in the post-Covid era (and post-Eastern Ladakh confrontation for India).
Many more countries have today realized that China can’t be left free to engulf the oceans around.

Twenty Five Years of Strategic Partnership

The 90’s saw a a tremendous boost in bilateral relations with the visits of President Chirac in January 1998 and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s trip to Paris later in the year (incidentally, the new French prime minister is Mr. Attal, with two ‘t’, though the French will not pronounce differently)..
The most striking feature of 1998’s visit was the setting up of a framework for a strategic partnership.
Using a de Gaulle-like language, Jacques Chirac saluted India, “a nation which has affirmed its personality on the world stage”. He said that he had come to show that “France wanted to accompany India in its potent march [towards the future].”
Chirac’s words were not mere political niceties.
When India conducted its nuclear tests in Pokhran in May, France was one of the few countries which did not condemn Delhi (or impose sanctions). This was greatly appreciated in Delhi and when Prime Minister Vajpayee returned Chirac’s visit in October, the new strategic dialogue could take its first concrete steps.
These events set in motion a closer collaboration.

The Deals

The French government has recently submitted a response to India's Rs 50,000 crore tender to purchase 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets for the Indian Navy; according to India Today: “India has initiated the USD 6 billion deal with France for the acquisition of 26 Rafale Marine aircraft, aiming to enhance the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier capabilities.”
The purchase of three new Scorpene submarines is also in the pipeline.
These deals are expected to be soon finalized.

Reciprocal Collaboration
The collaboration between France and India is multiple and reciprocal. For example, the Paris Region of France is calling for more investments from India.
Valérie Pécresse, President of the Paris Region, recently met Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Tata Sons chief N Chandrasekaran in Mumbai and asked the Indian entrepreneurs to invest in her region. Pécresse told media: “We are on a charm offensive to win hearts and minds of Indian students, tourists, investors and film makers.”
Today Indians represent fraction of the 50 million tourists visiting Paris; for example, figures say that the number of Australians and Chinese visiting the French capital is far higher than Indians.

Local Collaboration
The collaboration is today getting delocalized. France recently set up an exclusive pavilion at the third edition of the Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet (GIM), a two-day event from January 7, whose objective was to foster economic ties with India. The Consulate of France in Puducherry and Chennai coordinated the French participation; France was a country partner for the event. The French Pavilion showcased many Paris-based companies including Michelin, Precia Molen, Valeo, Cryolar and Numeric among others.
A communiqué explained: “France is a major source of foreign direct investment for India with more than 1,000 French establishments already present in the country. Tamil Nadu, boasting the second largest economy in India with a Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) exceeding USD 300 billion, stands out as India's most industrialised state, housing over 130 Fortune 500 companies.”

Student Exchange: the Future
Last July 14, during his visit as guest of honour of France during the National Day, Prime Minister Modi among other announcements, mentioned bilateral cooperation, research and higher education. He announced that Paris has accepted to welcome in France 20,000 Indian students by 2025 and 30,000 by 2030.
A roadmap said that the cooperation will be centered on ‘a union of forces’; it will make “sciences, technologic innovation and university cooperation [the] vectors for progress and independence for our two countries”.
A chapter of the roadmap is dedicated to ‘human partnerships’.
France and India are “determined to develop their university bonds and encourage exchanges between students”.
To give a concrete shape to the project, Mumbai University (MU) has decided to join hands with a French university for dual degree program. Students will have to spend six to nine months in France at the University of Troyes on fellowship training as per the dual degree program.
According to a MU communiqué: “The combined expertise from both institutions may lead to potentially groundbreaking research outcomes in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Students enrolling with the Department of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at MU for postgraduation (PG) will now get dual degree — jointly awarded by the MU and the University of Technology of Troyes in France.”

The Ideal Partners?

During Macron’s 2018 visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of “Five S”, Samman (respect); Samvad (dialogue); Sahayog (cooperation), Shanti (peace), and Samriddhi (prosperity). Paris certainly still agrees with this.
Today, most commentators converge to say that France and India are the ideal partners; in US-based The National Interest, Don McLain Gill wrote: “Among Western countries, France has often been the first to illustrate a mature understanding of India’s position on varied issues ranging from nuclear tests to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War.”
Shishir Gupta said in The Hindustan Times: “PM Modi and Macron share a very close chemistry. They often talk to each other about major positions. …When Macron comes to India, the centerpiece will be Atmanirbhar Bharat.”
Gupta mentions the joint research and development of small modular nuclear reactors: “These are nuclear reactors that produce less than 300 megawatts. These reactors are fundamental to nuclear energy. They are also fundamental to the green hydrogen project.”

Joint Development

After 25 years of ‘partnership’ India and France have reached an unparalleled level of trust and proximity; this should translate into something not easy to do, even for European partners, i.e. joint developments in new fields of science or technology.
Already public sector giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has opened a new design and test facility at its Aero Engine Research and Development Centre (AERDC) in Bengaluru which will be used to test helicopter engines to be co-developed between the French firm Safran and HAL; the engine is to be fitted in the new 13-tonne Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH), which will replace the Russian Mi-17 helicopters.
In February 2023 HAL and Safran had announced a tie-up to produce the engine for the 13-ton helicopter; HAL will participate in the design, development and production of the core engine components. Safran already has a joint venture with HAL to manufacture engines for the advanced light helicopter (ALH), weighing 5.5 tonnes.
Apart from the dream to develop together an engine for the Indian jets, high-tech drones could be another field of future collaboration. Recently, the Indian Navy received its first indigenous medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by Adani Defence and Aerospace at its Hyderabad facility (with Israeli transfer of technology).
Why can’t Paris and Delhi decide to develop the drones of tomorrow? Not an easy proposal, but perhaps worth trying.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

We were told that the Chinese will come in waves

2ns Lt A J S Behl, second from right, at Tsangdhar in early October 1962

The first part of my interview with Brig Amar Jit Singh Behl is posted in Rediff.com

'I will say with pride that at no stage did any of my jawans suggest to me that we should withdraw or tried to run away from the fight... not even one of my men deserted.'
'We had fired all our rounds and the Chinese were coming in. We had only our LMGs and guns. We did whatever we could, but ultimately, we had to surrender.'

Brigadier Amar Jit Singh Behl (retd) speaks to Claude Arpi in an exclusive interview, continuing our new series on the India-China War, 50 years later.
Fifty years after the debacle of the Namkha chu river, very few survivors remain to tell their side of the story of the 1962 India-China war.
Claude Arpi met one of them, Amar Jit Singh Behl, then a young and 'carefree' second lieutenant from the 17 Parachute Field Regiment.
After retiring as a brigadier, Behl lives with his wife in Chandigarh, where he is an avid golfer.
He spoke to Rediff.com about the most harrowing three weeks of his life on a plateau in NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh), dominating a small, but now famous rivulet, the Namkha chu.
Behl and his men fought well, but were ultimately taken as prisoners of war to Tibet, where for seven months they ate boiled radish.
This is the story of a brave para gunner in a war which inflicted lasting scars on the country.

I joined the elite 17 Parachute Field Regiment on July 2, 1962 at the end of an officer's course at Agra cantonment. I was put through my probation tests, which included very high standards of physical efficiency tests, tactical and technical tests.
I was then allowed to wear the paratrooper's prestigious maroon turban. I also completed my parachute basic course which consisted of six day jumps and one night jump. By September 6, 1962, I was a full-fledged paratrooper with a wing on my right sleeve.
I reported to Captain (later Major General) H S Talwar for orders. He commanded the troop called 'E' troop, from 52 Parachute Field Battery. I was feeling very proud to be given a chance to go to NEFA with my troops.
On September 24, 1962, we were ordered to join the 7 Infantry Brigade with guns for fire support in the Operation Zone.
Captain Talwar was the troop commander and I was the GPO (Gun Position Officer), looking after the firing of the guns and the overall administration of the guns.
The troops with the equipment and 4 guns were loaded in five C 119 Fairchild Packet aircraft and one AN 12 aircraft. Captain Talwar travelled in the latter.
The rest of us moved to NEFA via Lucknow, Barrackpore and Jalpaiguri.
On October 3, we reached Tezpur where Captain Talwar received us.
We were given a briefing by Major Narender Singh, the General Staff Officer (GSO 2, OPS) of the 4 Infantry Division. We were told that the Chinese will come in waves, but there was nothing to worry about, because they were not well equipped.

You mean it was known that the Chinese will come in waves?

It was the normal doctrinal tactics of the Chinese in Korea and elsewhere, it is how they proceeded. After the briefing, I was given a sketch of the area.

Not a proper map?

No a blueprint only, a sketch of the Thagla ridge, Dhola Post, Namkha chu (river), etc. We were told that we will go to Tawang by road and later we will be airlifted.

The plans were changed and when we reached Bompu, we were told to come back to be airlifted.

It seems there were two beautiful girls, said to be locals, but later suspected to be Chinese spies, at this place.

Yes, I saw them. Everybody wanted to meet them and have a cup of tea in their teashop.

The next morning we were sent to Dirang near the Bhutan border in an Otter aircraft and the next day, we left for Ziminthang by MI 4 helicopters.

Ziminthang was the tactical headquarters of the 4 Infantry Division. I met Major General Niranjan Prasad, my old brigade commander of the 50 (1) Para Brigade, who was the GOC (General Commanding Officer) of the 4 Infantry Division.

Because he knew me, he called me though I was only a second lieutenant. He asked me to put up my best show. He expected very high standards from his para gunners.

The next morning, with my troops (43 men) we moved on towards our assigned positions, without acclimatisation and porters.

The first night we stayed at Karpola pass (16,000 feet). The next day, we reached Tsangdhar where I was to establish my gun position.

Tsangdhar is a flat plateau dominating the Namkha chu. The Dropping Zone (DZ) was a bit ahead; the idea was to bring the equipment as close as possible from the Namkha chu.

Unfortunately, some of the equipment went into Chinese hands and deep ravines.

It means the Chinese were only occupying the Thagla ridge, not places south of the Namkha chu.

Yes, though the 9 Punjab (regiment) was patrolling parts of the Thagla ridge. I established my gun position in two days; it was done by October 8.

Unfortunately, we had recovered only two guns out of four and 80 rounds out of 250 rounds.

It was because the terrain was very tough, there were many trees. But my men did well, they recovered the guns, assembled them, we were ready to launch an attack or defend the 7 Brigade, whatever the scenario would be.

Lieutenant General B M Kaul, the 4 Corps Commander, had planned to take back the Thagla ridge on October 10 (Operation Leghorn).

I don't know about October 10 or 8, but Pandit Nehru on his way to Sri Lanka made a statement: 'The Indian troops have been ordered to evict the Chinese; the time is left to the discretion of the Army.'

It is in this connection that General Kaul said that we will evict the Chinese on October 10. His plans eventually collapsed.

When did General Kaul visit Namkha chu?

Around October 8, when I was putting up my guns in Tsangdhar, 2 to 3 hours walking distance from the river. Later General Kaul went back to Delhi because he was not keeping well.

I believe he told the government that the operations should be called off and that Indian troops should only maintain a defensive posture.

But as a junior officer, I did not know about these things.

Did you meet General Kaul?

I met him on October 3 at Tezpur airport. He saw me, called me and ordered me to ensure that I should be in Tsangdhar before October 10. I said: "I will do it, Sir."

Had he any notion of the terrain and the respective positions?

I was too junior to question him (laughing), I had only nine months of service and he was a very senior officer.

But we completed everything on October 8, collecting the guns, assembling them, digging the gun pits, the ammunition pits, securing the area with machine guns, etc.

We were ready in time. We were 2, 3 hours walk above the Namkha chu.

On October 10 there was a clash in Tsangle (on the north of the river). Orders was that Tsangle should be held at all cost, we did know what it meant (as it was an isolated place).

After October 10, (presumably after General Kaul met with various people in Delhi), it was decided that we should go on a defensive posture.

He must have briefed Pandit Nehru and (then defence minister V K ] Krishna Menon who had selected him for the task (for evicting the Chinese). It was an impossible task.

What happened on October 20?

In fact, it started before October 20.

On October 19, with naked eyes, we could see troop movements in certain gaps between Chinese defences.

The Chinese were not trying to hide themselves; in fact they wanted to show: 'Look we are here in large numbers.'

At night, they lit up fires; their objectives were to prove their strength and show that they had come in the rear of our defence too.

All our telecommunication lines were cut. They had infiltrated through and gone to our rear.

You have to realise that the bridges on the Namkha chu were nothing else but a few logs of trees assembled together. They were not bridges in the real sense.

On the night of October, the message was clear, 'We are here.'

That day, my nursing assistant died of pulmonary oedema. Before that, in spite of treatment, my two JCOs and one havildar major were evacuated by helicopter due to high altitude sickness. I was left with 38 halvildars and my jawans.

The communications had been cut the night before, and we could not even use the wireless set due to very thick trees along the Namkha chu.

I had nobody senior to direct me. I could not get through to my commander, Captain Talwar, who was with Brigadier John Dalvi at the Brigade HQ. There was no communication with anybody.

On October 19, I went to Major Panicker who was with the OC (Office Commanding) of the brigade supply depot and asked him: "I don't know what is happening. I have no communication."

That night, I had my dinner, checked the sentries and went to sleep. The next morning (October 20) at around 4:30 am, even before I could check my trenches, the shelling started.

At around 9 am, while the shelling was going on, I saw a helicopter coming, but it did not take off. I sent a small patrol of two people to see what had happened. It was about 400 yards down to my gun position.

My patrol came back and said: "There is a Sikh officer with a maroon turban (Major Ram Singh of the Signals) and a non-Sikh pilot (Squadron Leader Vinod Sehgal)". They were dead.

After one-and-half or two hours, another helicopter came, the pilot went half way through and left.

I later learnt that it was Squadron Leader Arnold Williams; he must have gone back after seeing what was going on. He never landed; he went straight from Bridge II to Ziminthang.

Though we had no communication with anybody, I ordered my guns to start firing direct. There was a prominent area, the Black Rock, where we saw a number of Chinese, we kept firing there.

We fired 20, 30 rounds and kept quiet for a moment. There was one of our mortar batteries not far from us, the havildar major came to see me and ask what was happening. He was hit by an LMG (Light Machine Gun) burst and died.

By that time, troops had started withdrawing from Namkha chu and Tsangle area. These people were telling me, "Don't move, keep firing" (to protect their retreat). There were officers, JCOs, jawans running away. The brigade had altogether 3,000 people.

I was a young second lieutenant; I held my post, kept firing in direct roll, also using my LMGs and guns to control the situation.

I felt ashamed of those who were running away. I felt proud of my troops, everybody wanted to fight it out.

I will say with pride that at no stage did any of my jawans suggest to me that we should withdraw or tried to run away from the fight, though three jawans had died by this time, they all obeyed me till the end.

They saw a large number of all ranks running past our gun position, but not even one of my men deserted.

At about 3:30 or 4 pm, we had fired all our rounds and the Chinese were coming in. We had only our LMGs and guns. A large number of them came by waves.

We did whatever we could, but ultimately, we had to surrender.

In this period of 10, 11 hours, I had lost three jawans, two were seriously wounded, 6 or 7 were more lightly wounded.

I saved two seriously wounded soldiers: Gunner Awtar Singh and Operator Chamkaur Singh had got serious splinter hits. I tried to take them to the ADS (Advance Dressing Station), but it was not possible due to shelling.

I told them, "I have a bottle of brandy, I will give you 2 to 3 large doses and pour one on your wounds. Then, keep your tongue between your teeth."

I cleaned my hands with brandy and pulled out the big shrapnel and tied up a dressing on the wounds. We kept this bandage for one month. Later, the Chinese medical officer treated them in the PoW's camp; today, they are perfectly alright.

I got a splinter in my leg, but I never bothered about it.

By 4:30 pm, the whole thing was over, before this I reluctantly gave order to dismantle the guns and throw important parts in the nullah, so that they couldn't be used again.

We were not free soldiers anymore. I was shocked to realise that I was a prisoner of war, but felt consoled that all my jawans had stood by my orders and fought to the last.

The entire picture in the area did not show any signs of organised action, but showed a state of ad hocism.

Click to read Part II...

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Claude Arpi | Why Pak politicians need to study Kashmir history

My article Claude Arpi | Why Pak politicians need to study Kashmir history appeared in Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle

Pakistan’s politicians started crying foul over J&K's status, saying that the Indian government’s decision had “no legal value”.

On December 11, 2023, India’s Supreme Court upheld the August 2019 abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated the state into two Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan’s politicians immediately started crying foul, saying that the Indian government’s decision had “no legal value”.
Jalil Abbas Jilani, a minister in the country’s caretaker government, said that “Kashmiris have an inalienable right to self-determination in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.” Mr Jilani, like most of his colleagues, has probably never read the relevant UN resolutions: we shall soon come to that.
The Pakistani media too believed that this was a “grave injustice” and an “unjust verdict”. On December 12, Dawn said that it was an attempt to rewrite history: “The court’s decision may strengthen India’s stranglehold over Kashmir, but it cannot extinguish the Kashmiris’ strong desire for freedom and dignity.”

So let us speak about history.
While working on the Nehru papers a few years ago, I came across a “Top Secret” note written in the early 1950s by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, then secretary-general of the ministry of external affairs and Commonwealth affairs. It was entitled “Background to the Kashmir Issue: Facts of the Case”; and it made fascinating reading.
It starts by a historical dateline: “Invasion of the state by tribesmen and Pakistan nationals through or from Pakistan territory on October 20, 1947; the ruler’s offer of accession of the state to India supported by the National Conference, a predominantly Muslim though non-communal political organisation, on October 26, 1947; acceptance of the accession by the British Governor-General of India on October 27, 1947, under this accession, the state became an integral part of India; expression of a wish by Lord Mountbatten in a separate letter to the ruler the fulfilment of which was to take place at a future date when law and order had been restored and the soil of the state cleared of the invader, the people of the state were given the right to decide whether they should remain in India or not.”
The note also mentioned the invasion of the state by Pakistan regular forces on May 8, 1948; the conditions were clear and in two parts: first the Pakistani troops or irregulars should withdraw from the Indian territory that they occupied and later a plebiscite could be envisaged.
Commenting on the entry of Pakistanis on Indian territory, the note said: “One of the grounds for this [Pakistani] military operation, as disclosed by Pakistan’s foreign minister himself, was a recommendation of the commander-in-chief of Pakistan [a British national] that an easy victory for the Indian Army was almost certain to arouse the anger of the invading tribesmen [raiders] against Pakistan.”
The note also observed: “Pakistan, not content with assisting the invader, has itself become an invader and its army is still occupying a large part of the soil of Kashmir, thus committing a continuing breach of international law.”
Pakistani politicians (and many others) often quote the UN resolutions; very few have read them. The UN resolutions of January 17, 1948, August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949 (UNCIP Resolutions) made it amply clear that “Pakistan cannot claim to exercise sovereignty in respect of J&K”.
In 2019, the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government had triggered a lot of comments from Indian as well as foreign journalists. Most of the scribes were ill-informed about the legality of the issue; while the Indian press dealt with the subject rather decently, it was not so with the foreign press. Why this perennial misinformation or disinformation?
The Government of India is probably to be blamed; the external affairs ministry should have long ago “educated” the media by giving a full historical briefing on all facets of the issue.

But there is yet more: the case of Gilgit.
An interesting announcement appeared in the 1948 London Gazette mentioning that the King “has been graciously pleased… to give orders for… appointments to the Most Exalted Order of the British Empire…” The list included “Brown, Major (acting) William Alexander, Special List (ex-Indian Army)”. Who was this officer?
Maj. Brown is infamous for illegally “offering” Gilgit to Pakistan in 1947.
The British paramountcy had lapsed on August 1, 1947, and Gilgit reverted to the Maharaja’s control. Lt. Col. Roger Bacon, the British political agent, handed his charge to Brig. Ghansara Singh, the new governor appointed by Maharaja Hari Singh. Maj. Brown remained in charge of the Gilgit Scouts.
Despite Hari Singh having signed the Instrument of Accession and joined India, Maj. Brown refused to acknowledge the orders of the Maharaja under the pretext that some leaders of the Frontier Districts Province (Gilgit-Baltistan) wanted to join Pakistan.
On November 1, 1947, probably under order from the British generals, he handed over the entire area to Pakistan.
At the time, the entire hierarchy of the Indian and Pakistan Army was still British. In Pakistan, Sir Frank Messervy was commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 and Sir Douglas Gracey served in 1948-51; while in India, the commander-in-chief was Sir Robert Lockhart (1947-48) and later Sir Roy Bucher (1948). It is only in June 1948 that Gen. K.M. Cariappa took over. Let us not forget that Sir Claude Auchinleck (later elevated to Field-Marshal) served as the supreme commander (India and Pakistan) from August to November 1947.
Who can believe that all these senior generals were kept in the dark by a junior officer like Maj. Brown?
It is obvious that Maj. Brown’s British bosses were aware of his “gift” to Pakistan. The fact that he was appointed to the OBE is further proof. The King does not usually appoint “deserters” or “rebels” to the august order.
Amazingly, six years ago, the British Parliament passed a resolution that confirmed Gilgit-Baltistan was part of Jammu and Kashmir. The motion was tabled on March 23, 2017 by Bob Blackman of the Conservative Party. It reads: “Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights, including the right of freedom of expression.”
It incidentally also means that the agreement signed on March 2, 1963 between Pakistan and China about the Shaksgam Valley of the Gilgit Agency being transferred to China is also legally invalid. In 2024, Beijing should plainly be told this and Pakistani politicians should learn their history.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2024 May Witness More Natural Disasters

My article 2024 May Witness More Natural Disasters apperaed in Rediff.com

Here is the link...

'The Weather Channel argues that India faces the gravest challenge: Climate change-induced health vulnerability.'
'This is an issue often neglected, alerts Claude Arpi: "Prolonged summers, unpredictable rains, floods, droughts, and rising sea levels are the harsh realities of climate change in the country. These factors increase the frequency and severity of illnesses, pushing people into poverty, and forcing migration".'

2023 has ended. It is time for reflection and resolutions: Time to take stock of the past 12 months and to look ahead to the coming year.
There is no doubt for anybody that the world is in turmoil.
Even Xi Jinping, the guarded Chinese president, recently told some 2,300 delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 'We must be prepared for the worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms.'
Apart from the wars in Ukraine and in Gaza, the environment has been the first casualty of planetary happenings.
There is no doubt that the future is not rosy; a few facts: first far away and then closer to us in India, though all are interlinked as there is only one Planet Earth.

The Arctic
The key findings of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) annual Arctic Report Card are significant: 'Rising temperatures in the Arctic have led to unprecedented wildfires that forced communities to evacuate, a decline in sea ice extent, devastating floods, food insecurity, and a rise in sea level.'
The report mentions that the 2023 summer has been the warmest on record in the Arctic; since 1979, the Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the globe.
Year 2023 was the sixth-warmest year since 1900 in this region, crucial for the wellbeing of the planet.
The report enumerates the probable consequences such as the thawing of subsea permafrost, which is the frozen soil beneath the seabed that contains organic matter.
It could result in food insecurity.
NOAA cites Western Alaska which recorded another year of extremely low numbers of Chinook and chum salmon -- 81% and 92% below the 30-year mean, respectively.
But also raging wildfires; Canada -- where 40% of the land mass belongs to Arctic and Northern regions -- was among the worst affected by wildfires.
Rising temperatures have led to dramatic thinning of the Mendenhall Glacier, also in Alaska; as a result, over the years, the meltaway water has annually caused floods in the region.
Finally, Greenland's ice sheet is melting faster and faster. The NOAA says that the ice sheet continued to lose mass despite above-average winter snow accumulation -- between August 2022 and September 2023, it lost roughly 350 trillion pounds of mass.
Let us not forget that Greenland's ice sheet melting is the second-largest contributor to sea-level rise.

The Hindu Kush

Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which keeps a close watch on the Hindu Kush, predicted that flash floods and avalanches would grow more likely in coming years if greenhouse gases are not sharply reduced: 'Melting of glaciers will cause dangerous flooding and water shortages for nearly 2 billion people who live downstream of rivers that originate in the Himalayas,' says a ICIMOD report.
It adds that glaciers in Asia's Hindu Kush Himalayas are melting at unprecedented rates and could lose up to 75 percent of their volume by century's end.
The environmental organisation warns of 'dangerous flooding and water shortages for the nearly 2 billion people who live downstream of the rivers that originate in the mountainous region.'
Wherever one looks, the future is bleak, though very few politicians the world over are ready to take the issue seriously.
They mostly worship another God called 'development', who, they believe, can bring them more votes during the next elections.

The Himalaya
Another report by the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI), a network of senior policy experts working with governments, agrees that mountainous regions such as the Himalaya are facing the most severe effects from the climate change.
As the COP28's climate negotiations were getting underway in Dubai, it observed: 'Scientists are calling for more attention to be paid to the region.'
Beyond 2 degree Celsius, Earth will experience 'catastrophic loss' of mountain glaciers and snow, sea ice, and permafrost, notes the report.
ICCI also warns of 'severe consequences for millions -- as well as irreversible damage to glacial areas -- if the global average temperature rise reaches two degrees Celsius ...New developments in cryosphere research have led the report's authors to declare that the Paris Agreement's goal is outdated: 1.5 C (and not 2 C) is the only option.''
The Paris Agreement is an international agreement aimed at limiting global average temperature rise to 'well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.'
Under the Agreement, countries have agreed to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change ...they are supposed to review these commitments every five years.

In India too

It is not that the world leaders have not been warned with hard facts and scientific reports.
In 2023, Northern Sikkim experienced a severe Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF); the South Lhonak Lake, a lake located at an altitude of 17,000 feet suffered a rupture as a result of continuous rainfall.
Consequently, water gushed into the downstream regions, causing flooding in the Teesta River, in turn severely impacting Northern Sikkim.
The Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SSDMA) said that it caused the Chungthang hydro-dam in Sikkim (on Teesta river) to breach, resulting in a large number of casualties.
A scientific report published in January 2023 by Nature explained: 'Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) represent a major hazard and can result in significant loss of life. Globally, since 1990, the number and size of glacial lakes has grown rapidly along with downstream population, while socio-economic vulnerability has decreased.
'Nevertheless, contemporary exposure and vulnerability to GLOFs at the global scale has never been quantified. ...15 million people globally are exposed to impacts from potential GLOFs.
'Populations in High Mountains Asia (HMA) are the most exposed and on average live closest to glacial lakes with about 1 million people living within 10 km of a glacial lake.'
The Weather Channel, an American pay television channel based in Atlanta, argues that India faces the gravest challenge: Climate change-induced health vulnerability.
This is an issue often neglected: 'Prolonged summers, unpredictable rains, floods, droughts, and rising sea levels are the harsh realities of climate change in the country. These factors increase the frequency and severity of illnesses, pushing people into poverty, and forcing migration.'
And this without even mentioning the pollution in the big cities, which will in a long term, be responsible for millions of casualties.
For this too, politicians are good to shift the blame on the neighbourhood states or individuals.

The Weather Channel quotes from a new study published in Climatic Change, using 50 indicators across 640 Indian districts, researchers mapped exposure, sensitivity to the hot weather and adaptive capacities (ACs) to gauge health vulnerability.
The authors identified 38 districts with very high vulnerability, 306 with high vulnerability, 278 with moderate vulnerability, and 18 with low vulnerability.
States with the highest number of vulnerable districts include Uttar Pradesh (37), Rajasthan (15), and Madhya Pradesh (3).
The report concluded: 'India's climate crisis demands a radical shift in development thinking. The old models cannot protect millions facing health risks like never before.'
We could multiply the examples, but it is obvious that the future of the planet is bleak.
Year 2024 will probably witness more natural disasters, calamities, tragedies, either man-made such as the Silkyara Bend-Barkot tunnel in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand which caved in, while under construction, simply because proper environmental studies had not been conducted.

One could also cite the case of Joshimath, hit by a geological phenomenon known as land subsidence, resulting in gradual sinking of the surface due to the removal of water, oil, natural gas, or mineral resources from the ground; or the devastation in Mandi-Kulu-Manali area of Himachal Pradesh due to heavy rains and wild construction for tourism.
This will continue as long as men continue to worship only one God, 'Development' and forget to bow down another God (or Godess), Mother Nature.
But it is probably too difficult to understand for politicians who have other purposes in life; however unless Mother Nature is also on our Altar, the future will remain bleak.
Nations need to be ruled by a Diarchy, with Environment and Development together giving a lead to the planet.
If the latter is privileged, there will be a backlash by the former, with the dire consequences for us, human beings.
A last prediction: The Himalayas could witness serious earthquakes in 2024. Let us hope that it does not take place.

Monday, December 25, 2023

The Sino-Indian Boundary - A Historical Background with emphasis on the Ladakh sector


The Fault Lines is a series by FNVA that discuss developments occurring on our Indian frontiers. Engaging extensively with the Universities on these regions and bringing them to the fore.

The Second Episode of The Fault Lines sees Claude Arpi, Author, Tibet Expert, Advisor at FNVA and Director of the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture at Auroville addressing on the topic "The Sino-Indian Boundary - A Historical Background with emphasis on the Ladakh sector".

This Episode is moderated by Professor Sonam Joldan from the University of Ladakh and was addressed to the University of Ladakh. Claude Arpi in part 1, here shares with us the historical background and significance of Ladakh when it comes the current India - China Boundary which was previously the India - Tibet Border.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

How closure of diplomatic mission in Lhasa remains Nehru's lesser-known ‘Tibetan’ blunder

Dekyi Linka, the British and then Indian Mission in Lhasa
My article How closure of diplomatic mission in Lhasa remains Nehru's lesser-known ‘Tibetan’ blunder appeared in Firstpost

New Delhi seemed to have lost its nerve, which greatly helped China attain its final objective: To remove all traces of Indian presence and influence from Tibet. The blunder seems irreparable today

Here is the link...

Addressing the Parliament, Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently remarked that Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was responsible for the loss of what is known as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK): “The problem of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir occurred because of Pandit Nehru. Otherwise, that part would have belonged to Kashmir,” aid Shah, adding: “Nehru ji said it was his mistake. It was not a mistake. It was a blunder to lose so much land of this country.”
We shall not discuss here — the Kashmir blunders, though there are many more which could be listed, to cite just one: Why did India accept Lord Mountbatten as the first Governor General and Chairman of the Defence Council while Pakistan had nominated Muhammad Ali Jinnah as first Governor General?
Less known are some of the first prime minister’s ‘Tibetan’ blunders. He was assisted in this by KM Panikkar, India’s ambassador in Beijing, who often batted for Communist China; remember the words Sardar Patel wrote on November 7, 1950: “I have tried to peruse this correspondence as favourably to our Ambassador [Panikkar] and the Chinese Government as possible, but I regret to say that neither of them comes out well as the result of this study”.
Another of the most tragic events of the early 1950s was also initiated by Panikkar: It was the 1952 ‘downgrading’ of the Indian Mission in Lhasa into a Consulate General. While Delhi was dithering on whether to address the confirmation of its borders with China through bilateral talks with Beijing, the Chinese managed to gain this portentous change.
In the exchange of letters and notes between the Indian and Chinese governments after the latter’s troops entered Tibet in October 1950, Delhi never once insisted on the rights it had inherited from the Simla Convention in 1914, with the consequence that China even today does not recognise the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh.
In 1952, India still enjoyed several privileges in Tibet; apart from the full-fledged Mission in Lhasa, there were three Indian Trade Marts managed by Agents posted in Gyantse, Gartok and Yatung. Except for Gartok, the Agents were entitled to a military escort. The Post and Telegraph Service, a chain of rest-houses and the principality of Minsar (near Mt Kailash) were also under the Indian Government’s control.
Ideologically, Nehru was not comfortable with these ‘imperialist’ advantages, though he often admitted that they were useful for trade. It is true that after the arrival of the Chinese troops, the Indian government found it increasingly difficult to retain these benefits on the ground.
On July 28, 1952, in a letter to Nehru, for the first time Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier officially requested the ‘regularisation’ of the Indian Mission in Lhasa; it meant downgrading the Mission into a Consulate General. Tibet would not be considered a separate country anymore.
Finally, on August 15, 1952, the Indian Representative was re-designated as a Consul-General under the Indian Embassy in Beijing. By downgrading the Mission, Delhi officially accepted that Tibet was a part of China. Thereafter, India had no border with Tibet anymore, but only with China, with the consequences that one can still see today.
The new arrangement continued for the following ten years. Though downgraded, the Indian presence in Lhasa could take care of the trade between India and Tibet, could look after the hundreds of Indian monks from the Himalayan region studying in Tibet, as well as the thousands of pilgrims undertaking the Kailash/Mansarovar yatra every year.

After the Border War
On December 3, 1962, two weeks after the ceasefire had been declared on the northern front, South Block suddenly decided to unilaterally close down its Consulate General in Lhasa. Despite years of research, I have never been able to find the rationale for this decision.
The Ministry of External Affairs just informed Beijing that India had decided to close its Consulate General in Lhasa as well as the Chinese Consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata.
It is not known what triggered this hasty action, especially at a time when India had nearly 4,000 prisoners of war in Tibet; there is no doubt that a Consul General would have been useful for their welfare, to provide information to their next of kin and their eventual repatriation.
On December 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing wrote to the Indian Embassy in Beijing complaining that India had “unreasonably requested China to terminate its Consulates-General at Calcutta and Bombay.”
Beijing started accusing New Delhi of having an anti-Chinese policy.
But the loser has been India, not China, which has since reopened its two consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata, while Delhi could never reopen the Indian one in Lhasa.
On December 15, 1962, the Chinese Government finally agreed to close down its two consulates general and to withdraw its staff: “But this decision does not in any way mean that the Chinese Government accepts the Indian Government’s unreasonable demand or agrees to the Indian Government’s unilateral action.”
Retrospectively, one can only say that from India’s side, it was a misconceived decision, nobody thought of the consequences.
One of the justifications was that the communications with Lhasa were completely cut off between October 9 and 25: “Even the telephone of the Consulate General was cut and outsiders were forbidden to enter the premises.” This was a few days before the treacherous Chinese attack on India’s northern borders. But it hardly justifies the closure of the Consulate, especially after the war was over.

Justifying the Closure of the Consulate
During the following months, the Ministry of External Affairs kept trying to justify its decision to close down its consulate in Tibet.
While all this haggling was taking place, China refused to speak about the 3,900 Indian PoWs kept in different camps in Tibet. This issue was never even part of the innumerable exchanges; it is most astonishing to say the least.
Why was the issue of the PoWs never raised directly with the Chinese?
Delhi reiterated the contents of the notes of November 4 and December 28, 1962: “The local Chinese authorities at Lhasa had willfully harassed the staff of the Indian Consulate General at Lhasa. Local Chinese authorities had, in every manner possible, restricted the freedom of movement of the staff.”
Beijing just rejected the allegation that it had violated acknowledged international practice or had disregarded diplomatic courtesy.
But again, all this does not explain why the Indian Consulate in Lhasa was closed? Nor how and why was the decision taken?
Could it have been a rushed and unilateral decision taken by local officials in Lhasa and later endorsed by Delhi? Perhaps the truth is that there was an atmosphere of utter confusion and chaos reigning in Delhi.

Trying to Reopen the Consulate
An Indian diplomat, Shivshankar Menon is said to have played a pivotal role in trying to reopen the Indian Consulate in Lhasa in the 2000s; however, it soon became obvious that it was easier to hurriedly close the Indian mission in 1962, than to reopen it. It has also to be noted that Nepal still has a representative in Lhasa today, with a thriving presence.
Designated as the ‘Year of Friendship between China and India’, Year 2006 seemed to offer a possibility for the two countries to leave their tumultuous past behind. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited China in May; for China and India, it was the occasion to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defence cooperation.
Did Pranab Mukherjee officially suggest reopening a consular office in Lhasa in return for allowing China to open one in Kolkata during his visit? The rumour was that Beijing was not keen and asked Delhi to open an office in Guangzhou instead.
In July, 2006, the Nathu La pass between Tibet and Sikkim was officially reopened for border trade for the first time after 1962. Were the bilateral relations going to make a new start?
At the time of President Hu Jintao’s visit to Delhi in November, The Indian Express observed: “Though India has made it repeatedly clear that it recognises Tibet Autonomous Region, China turned down the Indian proposal for opening a consulate in Lhasa ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent visit.”
On March 31, 2015, PTI reported that India’s proposal to re-establish a mission “in the sensitive Tibetan capital Lhasa did not get a favourable response from Beijing.”
The news agency asserted “India is set to open its third consulate in China in the southwestern city of Chengdu after its proposal to re-establish a mission in the sensitive Tibetan capital of Lhasa which was closed down during the 1962 war did not get a favourable response.”
For millennia, China has been mastering The Art of War expounded by its great strategist, Sun Tzu. This episode is another demonstration that by attacking an enemy (by accusing the Indian diplomats of mischief) and mentioning all sorts of Indian wrongdoings, the Communist regime in Beijing managed to divert the energies of an India already weakened by the unexpected war (of 1962), but the blunder was Indian at the start.
New Delhi seemed to have lost its nerve, which greatly helped China to attain its final objective: To remove all traces of Indian presence and influence from Tibet. The blunder seems irreparable today.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

How Pakistan surrendered in 1971

Lt Gen AAK Niazi, with Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora
(behind Vice Adm N Krishnan and Maj Gen JRF Jacob), December 6, 1971
My interview of Lt Gen Ashoke K Chatterjee, How Pakistan surrendered in 1971, appeared in Rediff.com

Here is the link...

'You have been surrounded from all directions, if you want the safety of your troops and your personal safety, we will give you eight hours to make up your mind to surrender.'

Lt Gen Ashoke K.    Chatterjee, former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command speaks to Claude Arpi about the 1971 Bangladesh operations and his participation in the Surrender in Dacca.
Gen Chatterjee was then a young officer from the Sikh Ligh Infantry posted in the Eastern Command in Kolkata. He had the privilege to accompany Lt Gen Jagjit Sigh Aurora, the Army Commander to Dacca for the surrender of the Eastern Pakistan forces led by Lt Gen AAK Niazi, the last Governor of East Pakistan and Commander of the Eastern Command of the Pakistan Army.
Gen Chatterjee’s direct boss was Maj Gen ‘Jack’ Farj Rafael Jacob, the Chief of Staff of Eastern Command.
It is a fascinating first-hand account.

In March 1971, I was a Lieutenant Colonel (GSO-I), meaning General Staff (Operations) - Grade 1. At that time, a Lt Col was looking after the entire operational aspect of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. Today, the same appointment has been upgraded to a Major General rank.
I was working under the Chief of Staff; every morning at 8 o’clock, I had to report to him and subsequently brief all the officers at the headquarters of the Eastern Command.
My briefing included internal security issues in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh [NEFA at that time], Mizoram as well as the situation on the China [Tibet] and Bhutan borders and on the East Pakistan front.
After this, I had to meet Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, the Army Commander, along with Gen Jacob in a smaller   gathering for a briefing regarding the happenings in East Pakistan.
General Jacob took a lot of interest in the planning of the operations, while General Aurora was more interested in preparing for the war. The latter used to go on around all the formations, the 4 Corps (in Tezpur), the 33 Corps (in Siliguri) and the 9 Mountain Division which was based in West Bengal.
[During these war games/briefings] for the Bangladesh operations, we decided to avoid hitting the enemy in conventional attacks.
The problem was that they were holding their defences on large obstacles, such as water courses, deep rivers, which we could not cross without specialised equipment.
Therefore, the idea was to always avoid these strong points, take a longer detour and come from the rear; cross smaller obstacles, not held by the enemy, and then maneuver.
By the time the Indian Army entered Bangladesh, the Mukti Bahini [the guerrilla resistance movement consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians who fought for the liberation of Bangladesh] had created such a sense of fear among the Pakistan Army and also the people supporting the Pakistan government, that psychologically we had already won the war.
At some stage, a Bangladesh government was formed in Kolkata; it was prior to our going into Bangladesh. The Mukti Bahini had workers all around East Pakistan, starting from West Bengal, North Bengal, Cooch Bihar district, then in Assam, Sylhet border, Tripura border, Mizoram border, everywhere we had organized Mukti Bahini camps. They would go in by night, raid the Pakistani strongholds and get back in the morning. So, the Pakistani army was afraid of the Mukti Bahini and we realized they had lost faith and confidence in the locals, except for some Bengali people who still provided support to them.
By the time we went in [for the War], there was some opposition at Jessore in West Bengal sector, we also encountered opposition in the North, in the area of East Dimapur. There was hardly any opposition in Khudmiya, same thing for Sylhet, but there was opposition at the Tripura border, when the Pakistanis had deployed the average of a brigade against a division of ours.
Our buildup took place and luckily we were on exterior lines, and they were fighting on internal lines, so our deployment had to be from multi directions along East Bengal border.
It reminds me of our Param Vir Chakra (PVC) Lt Col Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore, who died in 1965 during the Battle in the Sialkot Sector in the then East Pakistan. He was a tribal soldier from the 14 Guards; he won our first Param Vir Chakra in the Eastern Sector.
Our first thrust-line moved in from Tripura, the Guards battalion crossed the river Meghna and then moved in right up to the river line near Dacca. This created a panic among the Pakistani Army and subsequently the 8 Mountain Division came from Sylhet and closed in on Dacca.
The 33 Corps came from North Bengal, and 9 Division from West Bengal in Jessore Sector. These morning briefings continued throughout the war.
We used to get sitreps (‘situation reports’) and I used to go to the ops [operation] room at about 4 o’clock in the morning to get all the sitreps, speak to the general officers commanding [GOC] the divisions and the Corps about important issues.
I still remember Gen Sagat Singh, GOC 4 Corps, responsible for the two thrust lines on Dacca from the East.
Luckily for me he was my instructor when I was doing my junior commander’s course in Mhow [at the Army War College].
Gen Sagat always said: “Ok this is the story from my side, now you ring up the divisional commander and get his story too.”
He was commanding 4 Corps, the 8 Mountain and 57 Mountain Division came under him; he was based in Agartala and that is how the 4 Corps came in from that direction. Eventually the 4 Corps crossed the river, and they reached Dacca.
There was a Mukti Bahini force that came from Meghalaya, Foxtrot Sector, I don’t remember now which force; it was commanded by the Shillong Area Commander.
Gen Sagat was given certain troops and the Mukti Bahini was put under his command. They were the troops who entered Dacca first with the Mukti Bahini along with a platoon of the Indian Army which came from the north, from Shillong. They crossed the hills and just came down. And when they reached the outskirts of Dacca, the 57 Mountain Division had crossed the river Meghna. There was really a panic among the Pakistan Army. 

Preparations for the Surrender
Soon after, Gen Jacob drafted a beautiful letter for Gen Niazi.
In his letter Gen Jacob mentioned: “you have been surrounded from all directions, if you want the safety of your troops and your personal safety, we will give you eight hours to make up your mind to surrender.”
This was, I think on December 9; General Niazi was then in Dacca. Pressure was being built on him from international groups also and then ultimately on December 12, he agreed.
On December 13,, the surrender papers were drafted in Kolkata and on 14th morning along with the Army Commander, we were to fly into Dacca where the ceremony was to take place.
My overall impression is that the Pakistan Army had no will to fight. They were encouraging the Razakars [an anti-Bangladesh paramilitary force organised by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan] to create atrocities on the civilian population, which they felt would affect the Bangladesh volunteers [the Mukti Bahini], who after March 1971 had come across the border to India and were operating under India’s control.
The role of the Razakars was revealed to me only after the signing of the surrender document, I put this together after talking to many Pakistani officers of rank of brigadier and generals…
The next day, I was told by my Army Commander [Gen Aurora], “you will represent me in Dacca.”
At the time of the Surrender, Major General Sarkar, who was the head of the civil administration of the Mukti Bahini, became the civil administrator on behalf of the Eastern Command.
So the responsibilities were divided between General Sarkar and myself.
I was to look after the military aspect; he looked after the civil side.
Military aspect meant that India did not want to get committed to restoring law and order in Bangladesh. The Indian forces in Bangladesh had come from our Northern borders, from Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.
Because we went in the month of December, we thought that in March, with spring, the Chinese border could get activated, so the idea was to complete the operation quickly so that the Indian troops could then go back to their original task.
There was not much threat from the Chinese, they moved near our border, but they did not cross it. All the major mountain passes in Sikkim, or Arunachal Pradesh, including Nathu-la [in Sikkim] and Jelep-la [in West Bengal] were closed due to heavy snow fall.

The Set-up for the Surrender
The ceremony of the Surrender was very interesting. Gen Niazi had agreed to surrender on the December 12. He had got the clearance from his government in West Pakistan. The United Nations had also intervened; they put pressure on Western Pakistan leaders to surrender. Having decided that, we formulated the surrender text the next morning, not only with Army lawyers, but also with the leading Kolkata lawyers including one of the High court judges.
They all sat to make the surrender papers.
On the December 15, it was cleared by the Army Headquarters in Delhi.
On December 16 morning, we left from Kolkata Eastern Command Headquarter to the airport by helicopter and then used a Dakota plane to reach Dacca; Gen Jacob, Gen Aurora, his wife and me. We landed at Dacca and from there we drove by road. After the surrender ceremony, the Army Commander with his wife returned back to Kolkata the same evening. Gen Jacob too returned to Kolkata the same day.
As we arrived, the Bangladeshis, the civilians were very excited; there was a surge of people; the ceremony took place at the heart of Dacca city, on the Dacca Polo Ground.
On one side was the university, on another side was the famous Kali Mandir, and on yet another side was the Secretariat building, all these places were surrounding the polo ground; it was something like in Kolkata where you have the Eden gardens or in New Delhi, Rajpath, with greenery all around. Such was the setting at the Polo Ground in Dacca where the ceremony took place.
It was late in the evening and luckily, Gens Aurora and Jacob had flown on a fixed wing aircraft, which could fly even at night.
And at the point of time, Gen Sagat, who had crossed the river from the East, was also in Dacca. His responsibility was to look after the military affairs in the city of Dacca, though ultimately after three or four days, he was requested to go back to his original headquarter in Tripura and I was instructed to stay behind to represent the Eastern Command in Dacca.
Gen Sagat had also to initiate a headquarters for the civil administration of Bangladesh; high court judges of Bangladesh, police officers, magistrates, commissioners, deputy commissioners were brought in for administering and restoring the civil administration as fast as possible.

The Ceremony of Surrender
We were late by about by seven minutes, I think the Surrender was to take place at 5 o’clock in the evening, Gen Niazi, Gen Jacob, Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan (Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief - FOC-in-C of the Eastern Naval, and the Air Marshall Hari Chand Dewan, in charge of Eastern Air Command, were there along with Gen Niazi, waiting for Gen Aurora, the Army Commander to come.
[On behalf of Bangladesh, Group Captain AK Khandker acted as witness to the surrender. Lt Gen Sagat Singh, Commander of the Indian IV Corps, Air Marshal Hari Chand Dewan, Maj Gen JFR Jacob, Chief of Staff of Eastern Command, acted as witnesses on behalf of India.]
When we drove in and the Bengalis saw Gen Aurora and his wife coming, the entire population broke loose and came to try to hug them. As a result, we were so scared; we were not used to such a large crowd and our four military police chaps could hardly keep our group away from the crowd.
Gen Aurora told me: “Ashoke, look after my wife and stay with the military police.” Ultimately, we went and witnessed the ceremony; it lasted about 15 minutes. The moment Gen Aurora went there, he told Gen Niazi, “You sign the surrender papers”. Niazi said ‘yes’, saluted and signed.
I think Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali (he was later accused to be a ‘conspirator’ of the civil war in East Pakistan and one of persons directly responsible for committing the mass atrocities) was also there from Pakistani side, and a major general, who was the Chief of staff was there too.
At that time, Gen Niazi was already under arrest.
The Pakistani side had also a naval officer, Rear-Admiral Mohammad Shariff, Commander of the Pakistani Naval Eastern Command and Air Vice-Marshal Patrick D. Callaghan of the Pakistan Air Force's Eastern Air Force Command, who signed the Surrender.
An interesting thing is that by that time the Pakistani army operating in Bangladesh were all prisoners of war, they were all disarmed. On the December 12 itself they, they had surrendered and we disarmed them.

If you had been leading us
Later, I was given the bungalow of a Pakistani major general, I don’t remember his name now; he used to be a civil administrator, he used to represent Gen Niazi, just like Gen Sagat used to represent Eastern Command. He was from General Niazi’s headquarters. He was commanding eastern command for the Pakistani side. After he was taken prisoner of war and sent to the PoW camp.
I occupied his house. Surprisingly his private staff, who cooked, looked after the garden, washed the clothes, etc, was all Bengali. They provided this service to him; when I came they jumped and said: “You are our savior, we will do whatever you want”, it was perhaps why this house was allotted to me.
While I lived in that house, they cooked for me; I was there for about eleven days after the surrender. Interestingly, after the fourth day, the prisoners of war had to be given some exercise, so the jawans were made to clean the roads, under guard of course.
Since I was in the General’s accommodation, (with a huge lawn and a garden, December is the flowering season in Bengal, there were lovely flowers, roses, etc), I sent a request for a working party to clean up the place on a daily basis.
And after two days a Pakistani JCO [Junior Commissioned Officer] came up and reported to me: “The working party has come to clean your house,” he said. After they had finished, I offered them a cup of tea, something we normally do (whenever a working party comes, they are given a cup of tea). Half-way they take a break, are given tea, then they go again to work.
When I offered tea, the JCO was so overwhelmed that a colonel could offer a cup of tea to a prisoner of war, he came to me with tears in his eyes and said: “Sir, we would never have lost, if we had been with us, leading us, if army officers like you, like the Indian army officers had led us. Our officers were corrupt; they were indulging in making money, in womanizing. We would never have lost the battle with officers like you.”

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".