Sunday, October 20, 2019

What if Nehru had used the IAF in 1962

Fifty seven years ago, the Chinese attacked India on the slopes of the Thagla ridge in NEFA as well as in Ladakh.
On this occasion, I re-post three old articles, including my interview with Wing Commander 'Jaggi' Nath What if Nehru had used the IAF in 1962, which appeared in Rediff.com

Also the account of a young captain who was taken to Tibet as POW war on October 20,  1962. He recalls his days in the camp in the Yarlung Valley.
I had earlier posted another account of the Indian POWs in Tibet on this blog as well as Brig Amar Jit Singh Behl's account of his experience on the front in October 1962.


Interview with Wing Commander 'Jaggi' Nath, MVC Bar

'If we had sent a few airplanes (into Tibet), we could have wiped the Chinese out.'
'And everything could have been different in the 1962 War.'
'They did not believe me there was no Chinese air force.'
'Can you imagine what would have happened if we had used the IAF at that time?'

'The Chinese would have never dared do anything down the line.'

Wing Commander Jag Mohan (‘Jaggi’) Nath, MVC (Bar)

Canberra plane
Wing Commander Jag Mohan (‘Jaggi’) Nath is the first of the six officers to have been twice decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), India's second highest war time military decoration. He was awarded the MVC for his contributions in the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and Indo-Pakistan War of 1965.
‘Jaggi’ Nath was born in Layyah in undivided Punjab in 1930 into a family of doctors; he studied in the prestigious Government College in Lahore. Soon after Partition, he joined the Royal Indian Air Force as a trainee; he was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in October 1950 and served till 1969, when he took voluntary retirement to join Air India.
In a letter to Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha in 2014, Wing Commander Nath spoke of his mentor, Marshal of IAF Arjan Singh: “Like a father figure, he had always been concerned and caring. I owe my Bar to MVC [in 1965] strictly to him. His personal allocation of all reconnaissance tasks, code naming me ‘Professor’, kept me safe and alive on all my missions. I owe my happy times to him –of the 11 years on Canberras, 8 years in 106 [Squadron] without a break only on [the] Canberra, his consistent appreciation gave the squadron a sense of achievement and kept my spirits sky high.”
He received his first MVC for his role in reconnaissance missions over the Aksai Chin and Tibet, before and during the 1962 war; the citation says: “As Flight Commander of an Operational Squadron, Squadron Leader Jag Mohan Nath has fulfilled a number of hazardous operations tasks involving flying over difficult mountain terrain, both by day and by night, in adverse weather conditions and in complete disregard of his personal safety. He has displayed conspicuous gallantry, a very high sense of duty and a high degree of professional skill.”
His missions proved immensely useful to learn everything about the Chinese military build-up on the Tibetan plateau. Unfortunately, the political leadership refused to believe the hard evidence gathered during of his sorties or use them.
His conclusions were: China had NO Air Force worth this name on the Tibetan plateau in 1962. The fate of the Sino-Indian War could have been totally different had India used its own Air Force, but the Government in Delhi chose to ignore to the findings of the brave airman.

The soon-nonagenarian meets Claude Arpi in his modest flat in Mumbai. He is still fired-up by the events of 1962.

Wing Commander Jag Mohan Nath with Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh.
CA: Tell us about the years before the 1962 conflict with China? Tell us about 106 Squadron, using Canberra planes. Once you said that the planes are not just Air Force assets, but national assets!

JMN: I got to know exactly what was happening [in Tibet].
But let me tell you from the start. I joined 106 Squadron on January 1, 1960. My Squadron was involved in strategic Aerial Photographic Reconnaissance; Canberra airplanes were used all over the border to survey and update the maps. We covered the entire Indian territory three or four times; this could be done only with the Canberra and not with the Dakotas, which were used in the early years, as they flew at lower altitude. The Canberra, a bomber, was perfect for surveying.
I will give you one example, 106 Squadron was tasked to survey the Aksai Chin; one day, we were flying towards Xinjiang when we saw a white line, which was the Aksai Chin road; we spotted troops on the road, when we saw this happening, we passed on the information to the Air Force Headquarters. This was probably at the end of 1960 [in early 1961, 14 J&K Militia (Ladakhi) moved its Headquarters to Partapur; it was feared that the Chinese, who had already penetrated along the Chip Chap river, might occupy Daulat Beg Oldi or DBO].
We put on our reconnaissance cameras on; there was one single camera used for survey and four other cameras for taking pictures; the findings were later reported on maps; each time we saw something interesting, we switched on the photographic cameras.

CA: You were the only one do this?

JMN: I was not only one. That was the job of the Squadron to survey these areas. This information was passed on [to the Air Headquarters], but nobody said anything.
In late 1960 or early 1961, the Chinese had a confrontation with the Jammu & Kashmir Border Police at DBO; it was the first confrontation. The J&K Police had already realized that they Chinese were up to some tricks, but everything was kept at a low key because Pandit Nehru and Krishna Menon, the Defence Minister, were totally switched off [from reality].
The first reconnaissance flight of Squadron 106 over this area was done by me. My Commanding Officer [later Air Marshal] Randhir Singh was on leave at that time, I was alone. I was briefed by Western Air Command to go, find out from where the Chinese have come and take photographs.

CA: In the White Papers on China, the Chinese government always complains of some Indian planes ‘intruding’ in Tibet air space. Was it you?

JMN: Yes, that was me.
I flew several times, in some cases up to three to four hours over Tibet, which was under Chinese occupation. My reconnaissance used to start from Gilgit area [Karakoram Pass] and I went westward; I would sometime do reconnaissance over the entire Himalaya, sometime till the trijunction with Burma [today’s Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh]. I photographed the entire route, following the Brahmaputra [Yarlung Tsangpo], not one time, but so many times.


Wing Commander Jag Mohan Nath
with Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh
CA: Do you mean to say that before 1962, the Army and Air Force Headquarters had a clear picture of what was happening?

JMN: Sometime at the end of 1960, one day, Air Chief Marshal Subroto Mukerjee, [the Chief of Air Staff or CAS] was on leave; he may have been sick. Air Vice Marshal [AVM] Diwan Atma Ram Nanda, then Deputy Chief of the Air Force, was holding forth in Delhi, at that time.
I am talking of the job given to the Air Force by the Army to survey DBO. AVM Nanda told me: “You go and take pictures and I will send an escort with you.” Can you believe it, an escort, in case the Chinese would attack me [with an airplane]!
The whole thing was weird.” AVM Nanda told me: “Another Canberra will escort you while you take the picture of DBO.”
That day, the clouds were very low. I had to fly below the clouds to take the pictures. While the Canberra at the back was armed with guns; my plane had no provisions for such a thing, it was purely a reconnaissance aircraft, fitted with cameras.
It was my first flight [over the Aksai Chin] and I was keen to get results.
As I went, the clouds were very low. I could not take a picture. I went to the Shyok river [The Shyok River, a tributary of the Indus River, flows through northern Ladakh. The river widens at the confluence with the Nubra River].
The river made a U turn and DBO is on the top.
So, I went ahead while Squadron Leader [AIK] Suares of 5 Squadron was keeping an eye on me in case the Chinese come. I went down under the clouds and followed the Shyok river valley, then I came up and went down again following the River. When I went down again, I had to slow down, because the turning radius of the Canberra is low (if you fly slow, the turning radius in smaller). Suares asked me “Jaggi, are you still carrying on”.
I said: “Yes, I am on, the cameras are on”. He asked: “Are you still planning to continue?” I answered: “Yes, I am going”. That was the discussion between both of us.
I kept going down like this and suddenly, I saw the Chinese there. I took photographs of the Chinese soldiers all over the place. I could have taken their portrait. They were all around.

Front page of Times of India for his first Maha Vir Chakra in 1963.

CA: How many Chinese could you see?

JMN: I could not count them, but they were there in good number and I took photographs. That was enough [for my job]. Suares said: “It is enough, we have finished.” We had already taken the pictures. The job was done; later, all the photos were put in front of AVM Nanda, the acting Air Chief, and I explained to him how it had happened. I said that the pictures were taken from very low and all the details could be seen; the Chinese were clearly there. Then, messages came from Pandit Nehru, from Krishna Menon [the Defence Minister] and Lt Gen BM (Biji) Kaul; they would like to talk to the reconnaissance party.

CA: Gen Kaul was Chief of General Staff?

JMN: No, he had not yet taken over, but he was the main advisor of Pandit Nehru; he was the bloody favorite. So, with Air Marshal Nanda, I went to South Block to see Krishna Menon. We were waiting outside when Biji Kaul came. He started talking away: “I know, I know, these fellows [the Chinese] are there. They asked me to throw them back. I can throw them back, not a problem! But they will be back the next day. It has to be planned out properly.”
I was surprised that he would speak like this in front of a squadron leader. I was a junior officer, a low level officer. He continued shouting: “You saw the Chinese soldiers.” I said “Yes, Sir, I saw them. You can blow up the pictures.”
“OK, go to the Defence Minister,” he finally said.
So AVM Nanda and I landed up in the office of Krishna Menon. He did not ask anything, he just said “Did you see the Chinese soldiers?” I answered “Yes Sir, I saw them”. “That’s alright, you can go”, he said. He must have passed the information to Pandit Nehru, but a similar reaction.
There was a total breakdown; I still have such a poor impression of Biji Kaul shooting his mouth without knowing anything.
Krishna Menon also, I told him there were Chinese soldiers and that was it all. It was amazing.
They did not know how to handle the situation.
They knew for more than a year about the Aksai Chin [cutting across Indian territory].
When the 1962 War started, [the Air and Army Headquarters] had all the information. You probably know that the confrontation had started earlier than October 20, [this probably refers to the Dhola Post incident in Tawang sector of the NEFA, when some 600 Chinese soldiers surrounded the Indian troops on September 8, 1962].
On October 20, it started in DBO, and the Galwan River [a tributary of the Chipshap River, which in turn drains into the Shyok River. The main stream of this river rises near the Depsang plain near DBO].
I am still getting worked up when I think of these things.
I remember the Aksin Chin, at that time. I went, the clouds were again low, the war had actually started. In one sortie, I flew over the Aksai Chin, I had to find out where exactly where the Chinese were, what were their positions, their backups, etc. It was well after October 20.

With Defence Minister YB Chavan showing pictures of the recces

CA: Was it at the time of the battle of Rezang-la?

JMN: Yes, exactly.
I took pictures of the Northern borders; it was a three hour flight. I flew up and down [showing gesture of sweeping trajectory]. I could see the concentration of the Chinese; I would go around and take pictures. The Chinese could see me and started shooting with their rifles. How could they shoot down an airplane with a rifle? It was just not possible.
The point is that they did not have anything; NO weapon to shoot down an aircraft, No Air Force!
I went down all the way to Kailash and Taklakot [trijunction Tibet-Nepal-India]; the flight lasted three to four hours.
I got the full picture of how many Chinese soldiers were there; I got everything. The Government had full information at that time.
I had already surveyed the Galwan river area; there too Delhi had the complete picture.
I was getting a full view seating in the front row and could tell how the war was progressing, what was happening. Without reconnaissance, you can’t do anything. Of course today, we are out of business, because of the drones and the quality of the cameras.
The SR-71 was still used for a long time, because it would fly at high altitude and nobody could shoot it down. [The Lockheed SR-71 ‘Blackbird’ was a long-range, strategic reconnaissance aircraft that was operated by the United States Air Force.]
For a long time, planes like that were still required to collect intelligence, because the results were immediate. But the SR-71 are today totally out of the game. For a long time, the images shot by the satellite were not immediate as it took time to analyze them.
[In 1962], I spent hours doing reconnaissance flights.
After October 20, 1962, I used to go with Air Marshal Elric Pinto, the Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command, to meet the Chief of Air Force [CAS], Aspi Engineer. I used to go for a briefing of what needed to be done, but also about what I had done; so many times, I went [to meet the CAS]. I can tell you, that if Elric Pinto had been the Chief, things would have been so very different. Aspi Engineer was too low key.
I told the Air Headquarters: “I am flying hours over Tibet, if they had radars, they [the Chinese] should have picked up the phone and said there is a bloody airplane flying [over our country]. They had radars [but nothing happened]. I could fly three to four hours, but nothing would happen. It is the proof that they had no Air Force in Tibet [near the border]. The best proof is that I was never shot down, except with their rifles.
In 1962, we had all the information about the Chinese [deployment].
I mentioned this to Elric Pinto.
If we had sent a few airplanes [in Tibet], we could have wiped them all out. I told AM Pinto: “we could wipe them out”. And everything could have been different in [the] 1962 [War].

CA: I was once told by Air Chief Marshal Anil Tipnis that when he was a young pilot in 1962, one day, he and his colleagues were ordered to board their aircrafts in Ambala …to support the operations in Ladakh. And suddenly they were asked to deplane. Orders had come from the ‘higher ups’ in Delhi, not to use the Air Force. Who gave this order?

JMN: Listen to this. When I went to Elric Pinto and told him: “We could finish them off in no time, do you know what he said?”. He told me that the Indian Government believed that the Chinese had bombers, they could bomb Delhi and other cities. This information was passed by the top, by Pandit Nehru and Krishna Menon and [later] the information percolated down. [As a result] they decided not to commit the Air Force.
My feeling today is that question [of bombing big cities] may have come for discussion, but they did not believe me that there was no Chinese Air Force. They must have thought “will the IAF will be able to defend the cities!”
There was no [air] confrontation with the Chinese, but if we had had it, it would have been a different ball game; however there was Zero Possibility, as they had no Air Force. The person who should have put his foot down was Air Chief Aspi Engineer. Otherwise why was the Air Force not used to support the Army which was getting beatings everywhere. We could have [first] verified their positions [and then used the IAF].
Can you imagine what would have happened if we had used the IAF at that time? Chinese would have never dared do anything down the line.

What type of set-up India had?
We had the information at our end: the Chinese Air Force was grounded for lack of spares. They were mainly using Mig-17, but as China had problems with Russia, they did get the supply of spare parts; the planes were blocked; other planes were on the Korean front, from where they could not move.
Even a small airplane could not land in Tibet; they had no forward strip at all. Further for their fighter planes, it was a one-way trip [from Korea] as they had no fuel to go back.
All this information was available. What excuse did we have to not use the Air Force? Things could have been completely different, if the Air Force had been used.

Extracts of a letter addressed by Wing Commander JM Nath to Air Chief Arup Raha, in September 10, 2014.

It was always a common knowledge that China was equipped with Migs-15s and 17s. Delhi was out of their range. The shortage of spares as a result of falling out with Russia in 1960 had almost grounded their Air force.
Hours were spent by me personally in broad day light over Tibet and Aksai Chin. Most prominent - a 3 hrs flight at 100 ft AGL [above ground level] covering whole of Aksai Chin-DBO to Chashul [Chushul] and Demchok continuing to Shipkila pass [Himachal Pradesh] and Taklakot near Manasarovar. Thereafter, in broad daylight, the long flights from the origin of Brahmaputra till Pasighat (Trijunction of India, Burma and China) for four hours, numerous milk-runs over the eastern battle front and the adjoining 50-70 nm [nautical miles] area north into Tibet. Thousands of Squadron’s Recce photographs then are a matter of record with IAF and the Army Hq [headquarters]. One may ask, where was the Lack of Intelligence and where was China’s Air Force and their Air defence set up? This account may be considered as from a front seat witness to the 1962 tragic show.”

(The second part of this interview will be on Wing Commander ‘Jaggi’ Nath role in the 1965 War against Pakistan and his second Maha Vir Chakra).

1963: Indian PoWs in Beijing

Some Indian PoWs in Tibet in 1962-63 with their Chinese guards
(first row left, Lt Col Gurdial Singh, 3 J&K)
I recently came across an interesting book, My Peking Memoirs of the Chinese Invasion of India by Dr Purnendu Kumar Banerjee, the Indian Chargé d’Affaires in Beijing during the Sino-Indian War.
In the chapter reproduced below, he mentioned the reception given to the senior Indian officers who had spent more than six months as prisoner of war in Tibet, in extremely dramatic conditions.
Against their will, the officers were taken on a propaganda tour of 'New China'.
The Communuist leadership had planned to 'parade' these officers on the Tiananment Sqaure on May 1 on the occasion of the Labour Day.
Brig John Dalvi strongly opposed this final humiliation for his men.
The Chinese had not choice, but to drop their plans.
It is in these circumstances that they were 'allowed' to visit the Indian Embassy in Beijing (it was certainly part of Beijing's propaganda efforts, to show how 'liberal' was China).
Before going into PK Banerjee's memoirs, here is the account of Maj Gen (then Lt Col) KK Tewari, one of the Commanding Officers who spent seven months in captivity.

If you are interested, you can read this old post, POW in Tibet (Gen Krishna Tewari's book, A SOLDIER’S VOYAGE OF SELF DISCOVERY is also downloaded from here).

Extracts:
One day a couple of us even had a walk from the hotel to the Tiananmen Square, which was in the news recently due to the student unrest in China. On 30th April, we were taken to the Great Wall of China which is supposedly the only man-made structure in the world visible from space. Built in 300 B.C. by the Chou Dynasty, it is 3,000 miles long (1,700 miles of it in the plains and the rest in the mountainous area), it took 300,000 men ten years to complete it, used enough material to build a wall 8 feet high and 3 feet thick around the world, has an average height of 28 feet 8 inches with a base width of 24 feet and a top width of 18 feet. We were also shown the famous Ming tombs.
On 1st May, we saw the fire-works from the roof of the hotel to celebrate May Day.
On 2nd May evening we were entertained to tea at the Indian Embassy and a warm reception by Dr. PK Banerjee, who embraced each one of us at the entrance. The Chinese guards, of course, were left outside and it was a lovely feeling to step into the ‘little India’ in Peking. However, all the time our thoughts were on our return to our homeland.
It was on 3 May that we left Peking for our journey home.
On our last night in Peking, we were taken to a musical show put on by an oriental troupe who performed Indian, Pakistani and Ceylonese dances and songs. It was an enjoyable treat. We had to
be up early for the 45 mile drive to the airport and after a lot of photographs, we took off at 5:20 a.m. from Peking in two IL 14 aircraft. We landed at Sian for refuelling at 8:45 a.m., were given, surprisingly enough, a very poor breakfast after all the excellent service we had been given till then and took off again at 10:20 a.m. We had another brief landing at Chengdu at 12:45 to pick up Rattan who had been left behind earlier due to his illness, took off at 13:25 and landed at Kunming at 15:45.

Extracts:
My Peking Memoirs of the Chinese Invasion of India (Clairon Books, New Delhi) by Purnendu Kumar Banerjee (Indian Chargé d’Affaires in Beijing)
Chapter 30

INDIAN PRISONERS OF WAR
I mentioned earlier our attempts to have the International Red Cross in Switzerland assist in the disposal of dead bodies and. the release of Indian troops and officers. As the Chinese refused to deal with the International Red Cross, the matter remained confused and a solution to the problem was delayed. At the same-time the Chinese exploited the situation to their benefit in various ways. Since the invasion and even long after the ceasefire, they played up their propaganda. For example, they maintained that Nehru, as an agent of the imperialists, had forced the Indian troops to attack a friendly neighbour, China; that the Indian troops had never been properly looked after and cared for; that the Indian Government showed no interest in the disposal of the dead bodies and the release of prisoners; that 'due to the goodwill and- friendship of the Chinese troops', the Indian troops were being taken good care of and were being sent home to be reunited with their families despite the Indian government's reluctance to help or assist in the matter; and that the departing troops had been expressing their thanks and gratitude to .China for her "magnanimous" attitude and treatment. Such propaganda was evident in the daily broadcasts on Peking radio, not only in Chinese - but also in Indian languages.
Another matter was concerned with the repatriation of about two thousand Chinese from India which was agreed to by India. Consequently, efforts were made for their transport mainly by boat, but the Chinese turned on their propaganda and compared the situation to Nazi concentration camps. Meanwhile, other attacks on India's news media continued and so did the protest notes.
By early spring in 1963, it was clear the three thousand nine hundred persons belonging to the Indian armed forces were prisoners in Chinese hands. Though a large number of our troops were eventually released after considerable effort by the Chinese to brainwash them with propaganda, an equally large number remained unaccounted for. In the last category were twenty-seven officers and I requested the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for information about them. This request was turned down and I was told that the Indian Red Cross should approach the Chinese Red Cross in the matter. While this was still pending, I was having dinner one evening at an East European embassy, when a newspaper reporter from another East European country, whom I knew well, asked me in private if I had heard about the captive Indian officers? I told him that I had no news and that my legitimate request for such information had been rejected by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. He then told me, in confidence, that according to the latest information, one of his colleagues had seen the Indian officers in Nanking and that they were being taken by bus and train to many large cities and, possibly, would soon be brought to Peking.
I thanked him sincerely.
The same evening I requested to see the Foreign Minister, Chen Yi.
The next day, I was given an appointment to see the Vice-Foreign Minister as Chen Yi was out of town, which in other words meant that the latter was not prepared to see me. When I met the Vice-Foreign Minister, I opened fire. I told him that the Chinese were continuing to violate international law and conventions such as the Geneva Convention, and this was unacceptable and regrettable. First the Chinese had refused to deal with the International Red Cross in matters of the dead and the release of Indian troops resulting in delay, harassment, humiliation and more suffering. At the•same time, the Chinese were engaged in constant and cheap propaganda about Indian troops being happy to be in Chinese prisons where they were loved. The Vice-Foreign Minister tried to interrupt me because the language and the tone I was using were not often applied in "diplomatic dialogue". He could•not stop me. I continued. I said I had information that the Indian officers in captivity had been separated from their troops. and were being paraded in public, in blatant violation of international law, international practice and international conventions, in particular the Geneva Convention, even though China was a signatory to these conventions. I demanded that this cruel circus must stop, that this kind of thing was unknown in the civilized world; and that the prisoners must be released.
The Vice-Foreign Minister was perspiring profusely and was visibly shaken. His•aide and interpreter fumbled while translating. Though my words were somewhat harsh, I kept my expression calm. I knew with conviction that the Chinese had made a serious blunder. He wanted to know my source of information. I told him that I was not prepared to disclose this but I was prepared to accept his assurance that the Indian officers were not being taken from city to city, in public places and in public view. He tried to avoid the tight corner I had placed him in by saying that they were not prisoners and were not being treated as such. They were visitors to a friendly country and had expressed their wish to see China before going home, which would hopefully be soon. Then I opened my second round of fire. I told him that I would enjoy Chinese fairy tales in other circumstances but not in such a serious matter.
Were they captives of the Chinese or not? If they had been captured, were they not prisoners? Then shouldn't they be governed by the Geneva Convention? If they were not prisoners, why had they been kept under guard for more than six months away from their homes, families and friends? I repeated my two demands, but I added that in case the Chinese failed to respond positively in the matter, India would be compelled to inform the world, in particular the Asian and African countries and the other one hundred signatories of the Geneva Convention, about China's flagrant violations. I thanked him for receiving me and got up to go. He was still shaken when I left.
I informed my Ministry about the latest developments and what action I had taken. When I told my colleagues in the embassy about my talk, they were rather pessimistic about the Chinese response. A few days later, our number two in the embassy, Damodaran, informed me that he had received a message from the Chinese Foreign Ministry that the Indian army officers were in Peking and that facilities would be given to me if I wanted to visit them. I called a meeting immediately of all our officers and placed the facts before them for their views. After some discussion, it was evident that they wanted me to visit them. I disagreed, I told them the officers were prisoners of the Chinese and were obviously kept under strict security.
Therefore they were in a Chinese prison, in law and-in fact. How could the Indian envoy visit a Chinese prison to see the Indian officers? My visit, at the Chinese behest, would legitimise the whole illegal and uncivilised Chinese policy in this regard. My colleagues pointed out that, in principle, I was right. But if the information leaked out that I had refused to visit the Chinese prisons or detention camps to see the Indian officers, there would be severe criticism in the Indian press and in Parliament. They were right. I decided on a compromise solution. Damodaran [No 2 in the embassy] would call back the Chinese official dealing with this matter and say that it would be inappropriate for the Indian envoy to visit the Indian officers. But if they were free and willing, they were invited to visit their own embassy and call on the envoy. If this proposal was not acceptable, we would fly out a representative of the Indian Red Cross to visit the Indian officers. This was communicated in due course. After a three days' wait, we received a message that the Indian officers - would visit the embassy.
The date and time were worked out on the clear understanding that no armed or unarmed guards would be permitted inside the embassy compound during the visit of the Indian officers. We were more than delighted that our gamble had won.

Captured Indian army officers visit the embassy

All the members of the embassy joined together and with great enthusiasm produced enormous quantities of excellent and varied food, delicacies from almost all parts of India. Rosha, one of our first secretaries, a dear friend and a fine officer, looked after the arrangements. The drinks included lassi (buttermilk), different fruit juices, tea, coffee and of course champagne, wines, scotch and cognac. The reception rooms were decorated with flowers and Indian flags. I called a meeting with all members of our embassy, both diplomatic and non-diplomatic. I explained to them that our officers had a very hard time as prisoners for almost six months, completely cut off from their families, friends and home, and even news from India. The Chinese had attempted to brainwash them. They inevitably had feelings of loss, defeat and humiliation, all for no fault of theirs. We then agreed on the following programme and arrangements:
  1. On their arrival, we would garland each officer;
  2. The national anthem would be played;
  3. I would say a few words of welcome, telling them how India was proud of them, of their courage and dedication, and that a great and warm welcome would await them in India;
  4. We would then take them inside and show them their places in six separate groups;
  5. Each group would have at least two members of the embassy as hosts, looking after them with warmth and affection, and helping them with food and drinks;
  6. It was expected that these groups would break up and regroup according to the inclinations of our guests;
  7. The military attaché Lt.-Colonel Khera and I would move freely from one group to another;
  8. While the embassy staff were playing host, they were not to show any curiosity and ask questions, but would reply if the officers asked them a question;
  9. Whatever was heard or whatever impressions were formed by the hosts would carefully be remembered, and reported to me later, after the officers’ departure.
The army officers duly arrived in buses, at the time fixed earlier. There were no Chinese guards either with them or outside in the street where the buses were parked. The officers cried and so did we, as we embraced them; the atmosphere was charged with emotion and affection. Some of the officers were in their military uniforms; they explained that this was because they were officially visiting their embassy. We took them inside to their seats, but very soon they started to regroup.
Food and drinks were offered. They were delighted to have such a variety of Indian delicacies after such a long time. They showed their appreciation by consuming large quantities of the food. It was wonderful to have them with us. The conversation in the different groups continued. We soon learned that because of the unrelenting Chinese propaganda which was based on distortion of statements, mainly made by the opposition parties in India, the officers were deeply worried about the future after their return to India. I kept assuring that they would be given the warmest welcome, a hero's welcome. Brigadier Dalvi however, was most worried; he was depressed, dejected and disappointed. He had a distinguished career behind him and he impressed me as an intelligent person. He had legitimate and serious complaints against the planning and implementation of India's defence policy. In his book Himalayan Blunder, he did not refer to his time in China or the visit to the Indian embassy in Peking. It is understandable, considering the unavoidable tensions and dissensions endured by these officers during the previous six months.
One of the most joyous moments of that reception was when Lt Colonel Khera called me to a corner and quietly pointed out an officer who had been declared dead in combat and whose wife had received from the President• of India a high decoration awarded posthumously, We had another round of champagne to celebrate.
The time came for them to leave. We did not know then where and when they would be released, nor did they.
After the army officers left, we sat down together to draft reports on our conversations and impressions. In the meantime, I also sent a top secret and most urgent telegram in code addressed to the Secretary-General of our Ministry, in which I described briefly the visit of the officers, their main worries and my assurances, and indicated that a detailed report on the information obtained and our impressions during three 'hours of conversation was being sent by special courier to New Deihi. 
I also suggested. that pending a serious study of my report, the government and if possible the opposition should desist from discussing matters relating to these twenty-seven officers;• that all of them should be given a hero's welcome but if later on, after careful and discreet observation, "bad eggs" were discovered, they should be removed without publicity because otherwise we would be strengthening China's pernicious propaganda about the Indian armed forces; and that we had as yet no information about when •or where the officers would be released. I also gave information about the officer who was presumed dead but was alive. By the time all the reports were coordinated, written or dictated and finally typed, it was well past midnight. Everyone was happy and we were teasing each other. My colleagues teased me too, saying that I was at my best after midnight because of my association with Chou En-lai. I will always remember with gratitude the warmth and affection of these colleagues during my time in China.

Return of Indian prisoners
In diplomatic circles in Peking, everyone soon came to know about the visit of our officers to our embassy. After a few days, Terence Garvey (later Sir Terence Garvey), my opposite number from the British Embassy came to see and tell me in confidence that, according to information he received from Hong Kong, the Chinese were planning to release our officers from the-border of China and Hong Kong. I told him that this could be to draw the attention of the international press; TV and radio representatives who would witness the release and handing over of the officers as a gesture of peace and magnanimity by the Chinese. I thanked him for this information and for being such a good friend. I reported to New Delhi immediately and requested them not to inform the press. I sought an interview with Marshal Chen Yi urgently. This time Chen Yi received me himself.' He asked me whether I was satisfied and happy to have seen and spent some time with our officers in our embassy. I had a feeling that both Chen Yi and Chou had received a report from their Vice-Minister about our "warm" discussions previously in this regard, Chen Yi said that the officers had, as they desired, seen a good part of China and her achievements, and that soon they would be going home. I referred• to my earlier discussions with his Vice-Minister and strongly affirmed our-view-that China had violated and continued to violate the Geneva Convention by parading them publicly.
Our officers were no more and no less than prisoners in Chinese hands. If China had any respect for international law and respect for humanitarian considerations, the officers should have been released months ago and reunited with their families.
Chen Yi got angry. He said he forthwith rejected my false and fabricated allegations against China. I should have been grateful and pleased that I had been I given the opportunity to see the officers. I said I was sorry to upset him but I had to tell him: the truth as warranted by the facts. I added that I had come to see him about another very serious aspect of the matter. I told him that according to my information, China was planning to release the officers on the border of China and Hong Kong. Chen Yi cut me short and asked me my source of information. I said I was- not prepared to disclose my source since it was not relevant. What was relevant was that if my information was wrong, I would withdraw it and offer my profound regrets, but if it were true, I would lodge a most serious protest in the strongest terms. Chen Yi was boiling in anger and I was enjoying it in calm satisfaction. He said that China was not answerable to anyone as to where and when the officers would be returned. I told him they were our officers, prisoners of war' who had to be returned to us, and therefore we would need advance information about the date, time and place of their release. If the Chinese authorities had decided to release them on the border of China and Hong Kong, a colonial territory, we would not need advance intimation of time and date as there would be no representative from India to take them over from the Chinese representative. Of course the Chinese representative could hand them over to the colonial representative of Hong Kong and might get an extra mileage of propaganda. Chen Yi was so upset he had to make an effort to calm himself before he could speak; but before he could do that I got up and thanked him for receiving me and said that I would leave him with my earnest request because the decision- was his in the matter. I returned to our embassy, informed New Delhi and briefed my colleagues. We were not very optimistic about the outcome from this last gambit.
At a National Day reception the next day, I saw Chou En-lai when he came to our table to clink glasses in a toast. I asked his permission to mention a matter of utmost urgency, He signalled me to continue. I told him very briefly that I had information that China was considering releasing our officers on the border of China and British colonial Hong-Kong. When China and India had two thousand miles of common frontier and a history of hundreds of years of friendship and cultural ties, why not release them anywhere on our common border or inside China? Why on colonial soil?
Despite the recent unfortunate relations between our two countries, both India and China had fought against colonial rule. So why now involve Hong Kong? Before I could continue, Chou looked at me and said in English, "I don't know anything about it and have nothing to do with it." He turned round and left for the next table. I felt at that moment that it was not much of a diplomatic success for me.
I reported my talk with Chou En-lai to New Delhi. Three days later, in the morning, Lt-Colonel Khera rushed into my room bubbling with excitement and radiant like a child, holding a piece of paper in his hand. He said, “We got it, we made it, it worked." I asked him if it was my transfer orders! He became serious. He said he had an urgent message from the Chinese Defence Ministry giving the date, time and place where the Indian officers would be handed over, and requesting the time, date and identification of the Indian aircraft which would fly the officers back to India. We were so relieved and happy. I informed New Delhi accordingly.
A few days later, I received a letter from General Chaudhuri, Chief of Staff of the armed forces of India. It said, "I join the armed forces in saluting you." His generous comment, obviously, was related to my recent telegrams and special report on our officers' visit to our embassy. I knew General Chaudhuri because for three generations our families had had connections: our grandfathers were friends, our fathers were colleagues and, much later, I had more occasions to see him.
The tensions continued on the border: The Colombo proposals had buried by the Chinese. The atmosphere was one of stalemate and uneasy calm. The protest notes continued to be fired by each side with regularity and rapidity. Having completed two years of my two-year assignment, I wrote MJ a personal letter, requesting a change to a calm, pleasant and easy capital. He wrote back that a change was not possible because the normal rules did not apply to me, and that he had obtained the approval of the Prime Minister in the matter. In fact, it was the Prime Minister's wish that I should continue for longer.

Lord Bertrand Russell's representatives in Peking
A few days later, in early July, a peculiar if not ominous event happened. -I was told by a friend in a foreign news agency that two men from Britain, representing Lord Bertrand Russell, were in Peking. They had brought a new offer from Mr. Nehru for Chou En-lai, Their names were Schoenman and Pottle. I was surprised that I had not even been informed by New Delhi about this. I consulted my British colleague, Terence Garvey, and he, knew nothing except that the two men were in Peking.
I sent a telegram to New Delhi asking for information and guidance. In the meantime, I was told in Peking that Mr. Nehru had made an offer to Chou En-lai that if China accepted twenty kilometers along the Western Sector of withdrawal as "no man's land", he would start negotiations with Chou En-lai without any other preconditions. I reported this to New Delhi and received a reply stating that
  1. Mr. Nehru had never made any such offer or proposals, and 
  2. The two men had come initially to discuss, on behalf of the Russell Peace Foundation, some matters with the Gandhi Peace Foundation. 
They were given an opportunity to meet Mr. Nehru when they discussed the possibility of starting a dialogue between China and India.
After a couple of days, the Chinese came out with a statement in the press concerning the discussions with the two representatives of Lord Russell, which made it clear that Mr. Nehru never made the proposals; the two Britishers had mentioned to Mr. Nehru that when in Peking they would make the proposals to the Chinese leaders, and Mr. Nehru raised no objection. What a fiasco, what a farce!
Later, when I inquired privately as to why Mr. Nehru had decided to see the two men and discuss matters of such vital national importance,-which ended in futile, unproductive and immature manoeuvring, I was told that Krishna Menon who was sometimes a visitor with Mr. Nehru, had recommended that Mr. Nehru should see them. No wonder, the whole episode reminded me of my earlier experiences during Krishna Menon's reign. He had been vanquished but had not yet vanished!

Mao Bluffed India in 1962

Damshung, the first civilian airport, North of Lhasa (circa 1955)
My article Mao Bluffed India in 1962, appeared in Mail Today.

In the evening of November 19, 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru sent, in panic, a letter to Kennedy.
Early in the day, he had already written to the US President asking for help: “The situation that has developed is really desperate. We have to have more comprehensive assistance if the Chinese are to be prevented from taking over the whole of Eastern India,” said the second letter.
Nehru insisted on the importance of the Air Force to ‘save’ India; he wrote: “We have repeatedly felt the need of using air arm in support of our land forces, but have been unable to do so [due to] the present state of our air and radar equipment,” he wanted immediate help from the US to “strengthen our air arm sufficiently to stem the tide of Chinese advance.”
Like many in India, I believed this version of history; until I met Wing Commander Jag Mohan ‘Jaggi’ Nath a few months ago in Mumbai.
His mentor was Arjan Singh, the only Marshal of Air Force (India just celebrated his hundred years), who had code-named Jaggi, ‘Professor’.
Jaggi flew specially camera-fitted Canberras for 8 years under 106 Squadron, the most secretive unit of the Indian Air Force, which was tasked to photograph the Chinese deployment in Tibet; from 1960 to 1962 (before and during the war with China), flying every day in reconnaissance missions over the Aksai Chin and Tibet, the young pilot earned his first Maha Vir Chakra (MVC); the citation says: “Squadron Leader Jag Mohan Nath has fulfilled a number of hazardous operations tasks involving flying over difficult mountain terrain, both by day and by night, in adverse weather conditions and in complete disregard of his personal safety. He has displayed conspicuous gallantry, a very high sense of duty and a high degree of professional skill.”
His missions proved immensely useful to learn everything about the Chinese military build-up on the Tibetan plateau. Unfortunately, the political leadership refused to believe the hard evidence gathered during of his sorties. Jaggi’s conclusions were: China had NO Air Force worth its name on the Tibetan plateau in 1962.
The fate of the Sino-Indian War could have been totally different had India used its own Air Force, but the Government in Delhi chose to ignore the brave pilot findings and …and take the extreme step write to Kennedy.
 ‘Jaggi’ is still today fired-up by the events of 1962: “'If we had sent a few airplanes (into Tibet), we could have wiped the Chinese out. …And everything could have been different in the 1962 War. …They did not believe me there was no Chinese air force. …Can you imagine what would have happened if we had used the IAF at that time? …The Chinese would have never dared do anything down the line.”
According to a book published last year on Kindle, The 1959 Tibetan Uprising Documents: The Chinese Army Documents, the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) was extensively used in Eastern Tibet to ‘bomb’ the Khampa rebellion: “The Tibetan uprising was the only conflict in which the use of the Chinese Air Force was important. In any other armed conflict since 1949 the Chinese Air Force was not used nor did it have much influence on the outcome.”
The book published official statistics: “We can see how many bombs were dropped, how many bullets or shells from fighter aircraft and bombers were fired in the direction of members of the Tibetan resistance.”
But that was in 1957-1959.
Some of these sorties were ‘bombing’ missions (22 with 313 bombs of a weight of 100kg each were dropped). Some 120 tons of food and ammunition were also airdropped (as well as 150,000 propaganda leaflets to convince the recalcitrant Tibetans of the goodness of Mao’s regime).
Later the situation changed, on 10 February 1960, a report issued by the Tibet Military District spoke of “shortcomings and technical difficulties”.
The Tu-4 bombers (Soviet copy of the US B29) used by the PLAAF were stationed in Golmud at an altitude of 2,700 meters; although lower than Central Tibet, the range and bomb load was limited to about fifty percent of its normal capacity. In Tibet itself there was only one airport at Damshung, 120 kilometres north of Lhasa; it was practically not used.
A momentous event took place around that time; Mao decided that Nikita Khrushchev was a ‘revisionist’ and split with the Soviet Union. As a result, China had no spare parts for its Soviet-made fleet and most of the PLAAF airplanes were grounded.
Worse for the PLAAF, there was no fuel available in Tibet anymore.
While in 1960, 2,220 tons of fuel could be imported from outside China, probably courtesy Tursun Uljabayevich Uljabayev, the corrupt Party Secretary of Tajikistan (via Xinjiang and the Aksai Chin road), Uljabayev was sacked in 1960 and the amount of imported fuel fell to 95 tons in 1961 and 30 tons in 1962. There was clearly no question of running sorties on the Indian borders without spares and fuel.
Why was Nehru not informed of these facts? Or was he?
He was probably too much under the influence of his Defence Minister, VK Krishna Menon. In a secret report written as he was forced to resign in November 1962, the flamboyant and arrogant minister wrote: “China is reported to have the third largest Air Force in the world. This may well be true.” Menon was aware of the fuel issue: “[China] had inadequate capacity in fuel in terms of war requirements,” he was however told that Mao had some 2000 fighter bombers (and it was an underestimate according him).
The truth was that China had no aircrafts, no spares, no fuel; Mao had bluffed Nehru and it worked. That is today called IW (Information Warfare).

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Was Modi-Xi Chennai meet a ‘civilisational’ encounter?

My article Was Modi-Xi Chennai meet a ‘civilisational’ encounter? appeared in the Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

The Indian communiqué from the PMO said that the two leaders “evaluated the direction of bilateral relations in a positive light”.

Indian commentators have always been fond of the word ‘civilisational’, it was already so during the Nehruvian days, it continues today; it must be something anchored in Indian genes.
As I never really understood the meaning of the term, I finally looked it up in the dictionary: it is “the act or process of civilizing, as by bringing out of a savage, uneducated, or unrefined state, or of being civilized.”
Well this does not help much.
The two-day meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at a resort in Mamallapuram was another occasion to talk ‘civilizational’. A famous columnist recalled: “The Pallava prince from Kanchipuram renounced the throne, became a Buddhist monk, known as Bodhi Dharma in India and DaMo in China, almost like how prince Siddhartha became Buddha. His guru asked him to go to Zhen Dan - today’s China. Bodhi Dharma, who became India’s first spiritual ambassador to China, also emerged as its chief mentor. Regarded as Buddhaabdara (Buddha’s Avatar), he expounded Zen Buddhism and founded the famous Shaolin Temple in China’s Henan province,” and added “Modi is now reviving memories of Bodhi Dharma to position him as the icon of India’s civilisational outreach to China, which is integral to his overarching strategic civilisational diplomacy.”
My own take is completely different; I believe that when nations start speaking about their past, it is often because they prefer to avoid talking about the present. It may be what happened between India and China during the two-day encounter in Mamallapuram?
According to Xinhua News Agency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping “in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, held a candid and in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern,” (interestingly, I came across a Chinese report speaking of a ‘relatively relaxed atmosphere’).
Without denying the great past of the Chinese nation, one question was certainly not discussed at the sea resort: which type of civilization can China boast of today?
The day after his meeting with Modi, Xi Jinping, then in Nepal, warned that those not respecting the One China policy would be crushed: “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. And any external forces backing such attempts at dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming.”
According to China’s state media, Xi said this to the Nepali Prime Minister during his stay in Kathmandu; to state it mildly, it is rather unusual for a Head of State to use such words. One can imagine what would have happened to the Indian Prime Minister if he had uttered such statements, the Western media would have gone wild. But it is the prerogative of the Chinese president to be able to say such a thing, without being shot down.
The South China Morning Post commented: “While the immediate context would have been the Tibet issue, in light of the Nepal government’s crackdown on Tibetan independence activists protesting against Xi’s visit, China-watchers also saw it as a wider warning that applied to Hong Kong as well after more than four months of civil unrest and street violence.”
The Chinese proverb, ‘kill the chicken to warn the monkeys’ immediately comes to mind.
The Chinese ‘influence’ in India was experienced on a small scale by the Tibetan refugees who tried during Xi’s visit in Tamil Nadu, to protest against the happenings on the Roof of the World; many young refugees ended in police custody (mercifully the local police did not crush their bones). At the same time, the Dalai Lama declared in Una (Himachal Pradesh): “We enjoy freedom living in India, in one way I am a refugee, but I enjoy India’s freedom”. Everything is relative would have said the Buddha.
During the Mamallapuram summit, termed by the Indian Government as the ‘Chennai Connect’, the Chinese President observed: “Maintaining and developing good relations between the two countries is China's unwavering policy.”
Probably influenced by the cultural tour given by the Indian Prime Minister on the first day, Xi spoke of ‘national rejuvenation’ for India and China.
The reference is also ‘civilisational’ as the concept is linked to the Chinese Dream to see the Middle Kingdom becoming the most powerful nation in the world.
Though it is not known what went on for two and half hours during the one-to-one dinner composed of delicious dishes, very few concrete decisions seem to have been taken. The Indian communiqué from the PMO said that the two leaders “evaluated the direction of bilateral relations in a positive light.”
The leaders agreed that the international situation is witnessing significant readjustment: “India and China share the common objective of working for a peaceful, secure and prosperous world in which all countries can pursue their development within a rules-based international order.”
But is China following ‘rules-based’ policies, whether it is the South China Sea, Tibet or Xinjiang? The great fear of the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan is that Beijing-based rules will soon prevail.
The difficulty with ‘unofficial’ meets is that the talks are not minuted, no joint statement is issued and no joint press conference is held.
Everything remains ‘informal’; and the parties are not bound to the decisions taken (if any) as there is no signature on any agreements or minutes.
Can the age-old “commercial linkages and people-to-people contacts in the past two millennia,” in other words the civilisational links solve the current contentious issues such as Chinese claims over Ladakh? Certainly not; though it helped to relax the atmosphere which had been vitiated by Pakistan Prime Minister’s visit to China a few days earlier.
The Indian Foreign Secretary said that the K word was not pronounced, it is regrettable; it was an occasion to clarify the Indian position.
Xinhua said that President Xi made some proposals such as the dragon and the elephant dancing together being “the only correct choice for the two countries” or the two countries should “correctly view their differences, and never let the differences dim the overall situation of bilateral cooperation.”
One positive outcome is the decision to establish a High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue mechanism “with the objective of achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations, as well as to better balance the trade between the two countries.” This could hopefully help to rebalance the trade deficit, today in India’s disfavour.
Regarding the border dispute, both parties reiterated that efforts should be made to arrive at a mutually-agreed framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement; similar words have been used since 1960. However, the PMO communiqué speaks of the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles agreed by the two counties in 2005 and later rejected by China. Article VII stated that in reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas,” which meant that areas like Tawang would no longer be claimed by China. We should know if China really agreed to this when, hopefully in a not too distant future, the Special Representatives meet; otherwise the Meet would have been ‘civilisational’ only (though one very positive outcome was the cleaning up of the area around the resort).

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What went unsaid between Modi and Xi

My article What went unsaid between Modi and Xi appeared in Mail Today and DailyO

Here is the link...

Everything that happened at Mamallapuram remains 'informal', including the decisions taken (if any).

When nations start speaking about their past, it is often because they prefer to avoid talking about the present. It could be the case with India and China in Mamallapuram, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping "in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, held a candid and in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern," according to Xinhua News Agency.

Nothing contentious

Incidentally, a Chinese report speaks of a 'relatively' relaxed atmosphere only. "Maintaining and developing good relations between the two countries is China's unwavering policy. Under the current international circumstances, the two countries shoulder increasingly important responsibilities in safeguarding global stability and promoting development," observed President Xi. This was probably an indirect jibe at the US President.
Interestingly, Xi spoke of 'national rejuvenation' for India and China, a term usually linked to the 'Chinese dream' to see the Middle Kingdom become the most powerful nation in the world. After the cultural tour given by PM Modi on the first day, China has perhaps realised that India too has a glorious past. Can the age-old "commercial linkages and people-to-people contacts in the past two millennia," solve the current contentious issues? Probably not; though it may help relax the atmosphere vitiated by the Pakistan Prime Minister's visit to China a few days earlier.
The Indian communiqué from the PMO said that the two leaders "evaluated the direction of bilateral relations in a positive light and discussed how India-China... interaction can be deepened to reflect the growing role of both countries on the global stage."
'XiMo', as observers termed the two leaders, agreed that the international situation is witnessing significant readjustment: "India and China share the common objective of working for a peaceful, secure and prosperous world in which all countries can pursue their development within a rules-based international order." Whether China always follows a 'rules-based' order in the South China Sea, trade or cyberspace is another issue.
The alphabets T, X, HK or even K or L (Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Kashmir, Ladakh) were apparently not on the table, though scores of Tibetans were 'preventively' arrested outside, as they planned to protest against the way China treats their countrymen.

Bilateral ties
The problem with 'unofficial' meets is that the talks are not minuted (hopefully they are recorded), no joint statement is issued, no joint press conference held and no memorandum of understanding signed. Everything remains 'informal', including the decisions taken (if any). The parties are not really bound by their words. This is the drawback.
The advantage is that things which could normally not be said during a state visit can be frankly stated, though without an official trace. How will historians be able to reconstitute the 'Chennai Connect' as the meet was termed, in 30 years? President Xi made some proposals, according to Xinhua. First, "China and India should be good neighbours who live in harmony and work together as good partners;" for him, the dragon and the elephant dancing together is "the only correct choice for the two countries". Then the two countries should "correctly view their differences, and never let the differences dim the overall situation of bilateral cooperation". China and India need to have a timely and effective strategic communication, enhance mutual understanding and cooperation. Xi also proposed that the two countries should improve their cultural and people-to-people exchanges and finally both nations should strengthen cooperation in international and regional affairs.
But while Xi speaks of the international system "with the United Nations as its core", Beijing still opposes India's entry in the UN Security Council. At the end, it was said, "The relevant departments of both sides [should] implement the results of the meeting so as to open up new prospects of China-India cooperation."

Delicate balance

Of course, both sides agreed that terrorism continues to pose a common threat to humanity, but this at a time the Chinese press praised Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose only objective in life is to 'retake' Kashmir from India.
One positive outcome is the decision to establish a high-level economic and trade dialogue mechanism "with the objective of achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations, as well as to better balance the trade between the two countries". This could hopefully help rebalance the trade deficit, today in India's disfavour; a manufacturing partnership was even suggested.
Regarding the border dispute, both parties reiterated that efforts should be made to arrive at a mutually agreed framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement; nothing new. However, the Indian communiqué speaks of the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles agreed by the two counties in 2005 and later rejected by China. Article VII stated that in reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas, which meant that areas like Tawang would no longer be claimed by China. Did Xi really agree to that?
The future only will tell us.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

China’s weak spot

My article China’s weak spot appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.


Here is the link...

The nation is mighty but also fragile because it has not been able to take the masses and the world along. Xi’s dream of a new era will remain if people are not granted some freedoms

China is a mighty country. We have seen it on October 1 on Tiananmen Square.
On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), President Xi Jinping was on the same wavelength as his predecessor Mao Zedong 70 years ago, when he announced the foundation of the PRC; the morale of the parade was ‘power comes from the barrel of the gun’: “No force can ever undermine China's status, or stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward,” said President Xi Jinping from the rostrum of Tiananmen Square.
Xi reminded that those who watched the function that “seventy years ago, Comrade Mao Zedong solemnly declared to the world that the PRC was founded and the Chinese people had stood up. This great event completely reversed China's miserable fate born from poverty and weakness and being bullied and humiliated."
The Chinese State media was ecstatic as “China had reaffirmed its commitment to global peace and development”, and added: “we will continue to work with people from all countries to push for jointly building a community with a shared future for humanity.”
Many doubted as they watched in awe the DF-17 hypersonic ballistic missile (a hypersonic glide vehicle that can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads) or the new-generation road-mobile DF-41, which made their debut in an official parade.
Some 15,000 troops from 59 units, 47 belonging to the ground forces and a dozen airborne squadrons, participated in the display. Xi inspected 580 new weapon systems, almost all of them were ‘made in China’, proving that Beijing’s military industry is truly becoming self-sufficient. It is a lesson that India has hopefully noted a few days before the visit of the Chinese President in Mahabalipuram.
However a backlash to China’s might has started to manifest.
A few days before the parade in Beijing, a telling incident took place in France; it showed that it is not only China’s neighbours and the United States which have difficulties to accept China’s so-called peaceful rise.
It looked innocuous but at the start of French Ligue One’s football match between Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and Nantes, an entire wing of the Gerland stadium in Lyon displayed a tifo, a gigantic graphic display organized by thousands (or tifosis).
A Tibetan flag? Why? Simply because China is the club’s second shareholder and the OL management had decided to rescheduled the match to 13:30 hrs …for a broadcast in China (matches usually take place at 17:30 or 21:00 hrs). China is simply mighty.
The supporters, known as the ‘Bad Gones’ (‘Gones’ is the OL supporters’ nickname) wrote on their Facebook page: “At the kick-off, we deployed a tifo representing the Tibetan flag accompanied by a Free Tibet banner. Beyond the crypto-politic aspect of this tifo, our objective was to remind everyone that the spectators and supporters are also actors of the match and respect is due to them, as much as to a few hundred thousand viewers at the other end of the planet.” The message to Beijing continued: “these Tibetan flags can piss off the League and its new shareholders which are under the control of the Chinese State, but we will be delighted to renew the experience…”
It is perhaps a sign of what the Financial Review calls a dangerous decade ahead ‘as China's rise falters’: “Economists, defence planners and security strategists have begun testing the consensus around China's inevitable rise and have come up with some surprising predictions.”
ANI said it in different words: “China exhibits Cold War mentality with huge military parade”, adding: “China regularly likes to point the finger at the US for harbouring a ‘Cold War mentality’, but nothing speaks of militaristic ambitions and martial glory as a large military parade. And no military spectacle comes close to the size of the event held in Tiananmen Square on October 1.”
It is not only the Gaulish tribes which are revolting against the Chinese hegemonic mindset, in Hong Kong, lakhs of young people refused to slip under the yoke of Beijing. The former British colony has witnessed defiant protesters for several weeks; interestingly, the Hong Kongers took their campaign against Beijing to their Stadium, booing the Chinese national anthem before the city's soccer team lost to Iran in its first home qualifier for the 2022 World Cup.
The EU recently issued a statement: “The escalation of violence and continuing unrest in Hong Kong, including the use of live ammunition, resulting in critical injuries to at least one person, are deeply troubling. The European Union maintains its position that restraint, de-escalation and dialogue are the only way forward,” it further observed: “Fundamental freedoms, including the right of assembly of Hong Kongers must continue to be upheld and the possibility to hold peaceful demonstrations must be ensured. These rights must be exercised peacefully.”
It is clear that the World will not accept another Tiananmen massacre.
Though the regime in Beijing praised “Foreign officials and experts [who] applauded a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, as Beijing reaffirmed its commitment to world peace and development,” one can’t forget that Communism killed millions of its own citizens during the past 70 years.
A French book (‘The Black Book of Communism’) calculated that more than 94 million were killed by the different Communist governments around the world since 1917. The statistics of victims include deaths through executions, man-made hunger, famine, war, deportations and forced labour. In China alone, 65 millions died, while the Soviet Union accounted for 20 millions in Cambodia and North Korea for 2 million each. The list is long.
In the meantime, the propaganda machine of the Communist regime in Beijing works full steam. Beijing published a White Paper entitled ‘Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China’.
One of the chapters is on the “Splendid History of China’s Human Rights Protection.”
The restive population of the Western Muslim province of Xinjiang or the Tibetans, whose religious freedom has been ruthlessly stifled, will tell you another story.
All this should be kept in mind when President Xi Jinping arrives in South India to ‘informally’ meet Prime Minister Modi; China is mighty and innovative, but China is fragile, simply because it is unable to take the masses and the world along. Xi’s Dream of a new era will remain a dream, as long as the Middle Kingdom does not allow a minimum freedom to its own people.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Prez Xi's Love for Guns & Glory

My article Prez Xi's Love for Guns & Glory appeared in Mail Today.

It also appeared in DailyO under the title 'Message for India in President Xi Jinping's love for guns and glory'
 
China is clearly getting ready in case of another showdown with India
 
“Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership,” such were the words of Deng Xiaoping, China’s Supreme Leader at the end of the 1970s.

Mao back in Vogue
Today’s People’s Leader, as President Xi Jinping calls himself, does not believe in these virtues; he thinks that ‘in the new era’, it is necessary to show the Middle Kingdom’s muscles …and more.
On the occasion of the 70th National Day of the People’s Republic of China, Xi returned to the ‘power coming from the barrel of the gun’ theory of his predecessor, Mao Zedong.
“No force can ever undermine China's status, or stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward,” solemnly declared President Xi Jinping from the rostrum of Tiananmen Square.
Xi reminded the privileged who attended the function that “seventy years ago, Comrade Mao Zedong solemnly declared to the world that the PRC was founded and the Chinese people had stood up. This great event completely reversed China's miserable fate born from poverty and weakness and being bullied and humiliated over more than 100 years since the advent of modern times."
The Chinese State media was ecstatic as “China had reaffirmed its commitment to global peace and development”, and added: “we will continue to work with people from all countries to push for jointly building a community with a shared future for humanity.”
Neighbours, Japan, Korea and even India do not see it that way.
They witnessed 23 new weapons displayed, some of them seeming uncontrollable by the missile defence installed by Japan, South Korea or even the US.
Many watched in awe the DF-17 hypersonic ballistic missile (a hypersonic glide vehicle that can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads) or the new-generation road-mobile DF-41, which made their debut in an official parade. Though one analyst said that it was “the ultimate show of insecurity and cold war thinking”, The South China Morning Post (SCMP) wrote: “For China it is a show of how its armed forces have been modernised.” The Hong Kong newspaper further pointed out: “Among them, the Dongfeng, or ‘East Wind’, series of missile systems drew the most attention,” it included not only the DF-17 and the DF-41, but also the DF-16 and DF-26 medium-range missiles.
Some 15,000 troops from 59 units, 47 belonging to the ground forces and a dozen airborne squadrons, participated in the display. Xi inspected 580 new weapon systems, almost all of them were ‘made in China’, proving that Beijing’s military industry is truly becoming self-sufficient. It is a lesson that India has hopefully noted a few days before the visit of the Chinese President in Mamalapuram.
Interestingly, the Jane’s Review mentioned that the parade showcased “a number of new land platforms that reflect growing needs within the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) for improved mountain warfare capabilities;” the reputed publication noted that the show comes two years after Doklam: “Analysis conducted by Jane’s indicates that the PLA has since attempted to revise its military positions in the region to improve its readiness, while India has maintained a robust presence,”
further observing that China has built a number of all-weather roads through Tibet “but its primary armour assets capable of influencing the totality of the battlefield, such as the Type 99A2 and Type 96 main battle tanks, are too heavy to deploy and sustain in mountainous regions.”

Firepower in Show
A similar restriction applies to the PLA’s heavy artillery platforms, said Jane’s “this situation points to the need for lighter armoured vehicles that can provide direct and indirect fire support to PLAGF units operating in mountainous regions.”
ZTQ-15 lightweight tanks and the PLC-181 SPH vehicle-mounted howitzer, were paraded on Tiananmen Square: “The weight of those vehicles, which is not thought to exceed 35 tonnes for the ZTQ-15, means that these vehicles can be rapidly relocated using air or rail assets, if required.”
The ZTQ-105, a 105 mm gun and a 155 mm L52 gun for the PLC-181, have already been spotted in Tibet, they are “sufficient to counter all vehicles and forces that the Indian Army can currently deploy to the disputed territories at short notice.”
Incidentally, the PLA’s five theatre commanders appeared for the first time at the parade. General Zhao Zongqi, Western Theatre Command who looks after the Chinese forces facing India was present.

Notes for PM Modi
 China is clearly getting ready in case of another showdown with India.
Something else is not auguring well for the Mamalapuram meet: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Beijing a few days before Xi arrives in South India, to brief the Chinese President about Kashmir and deliver a speech at the China-Pakistan business forum to try to ‘revive’ the stalled China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
In the meantime in Nepal the security in Kathmandu has greatly increased, partly to control the Tibetan refugees during the grand show on Tiananmen, but also in view of Xi’s probable visit later this month.

In these circumstances, one shouldn’t expect too much from the ‘informal’ Modi-Xi talks. The status of Gilgit-Baltistan will no doubt be at the center of the dialogue; it has implications for the border issue, the Shaksgam Valley ‘offered’ by Pakistan to China in 1963 and today occupied by China, entirely depends on the future status of the area.
Opening a couple of more Border Personnel Meeting (BPMs) in the Himalaya and possibly, a new landport between India and Tibet, could be positive advances.
Prime Minister Modi should not to be influenced by the show of might displayed on the Tiananmen Square, but should take a leaf from Deng’s moto, ‘observe calmly, bide your time…’.
It will be wiser for India than to show its muscles.