Saturday, September 25, 2010

The PLA diplomacy

The author of this otherwise good article is wrong when he states that the PLA recently gained strength because it is: "only answerable to a divided civilian government with no clear leadership and decision-making structure, the PLA is afforded more leeway and discretion to make and execute foreign policy than it might otherwise have."
The PLA has never been answerable to the civilian government (which might be divided as the author points out). 
The People's Liberation Army is only answerable to the CCP. In the Middle Kingdom, the Army is the Party's Army, not the government's. It makes a big difference.
A lot of papers have been written on the Change of Guard in 2012 (7 out 9 Standing Committee of the Politburo's members will retire), but little is known about the changes in the Central Military Commission (CMC). We only know that Xi Jinping, the next Secretary General of the Party (and President of the PCR) was not able to make it to the CMC (last September) and will therefore not replace Hu Jiantao as Chairman in 2012. The future of China depends of the new CMC, which may remain under the Chairmanship of Hu until 2017. 
Even strategic issues such as the 'diversion' of the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra may ultimately be decided by the CMC.
Does the present President Hu fully control the generals? It is a difficult question to answer. Probably not, as the new 'core interests' demonstrate.  

The End of Smile Diplomacy?
The National Interest
September 23, 2010
John Lee
Recently praised for its deft statesmanship, Beijing has seemingly changed from pursuing 'smile diplomacy' to ham-fisted provocateur. Chinese diplomats remain as smooth as ever in spruiking 'win-win' relationships to an increasingly skeptical region. But beneath the façade of unity in Chinese decision-making is the gradual but inexorable fragmentation in the formulation of regional strategy and the conduct of foreign policy itself. In important areas, the People's Liberation Army is increasingly running the show. This means trouble for China's civilian leaders working overtime to sell the message of China's 'peaceful development', and for America and its wary allies in Asia.
Tensions in maritime Asia have been simmering beneath the surface for several decades. But the past few months have seen a major downturn in Asian harmony. In March, China raised regional eyebrows in East and Southeast Asia by referring to claims over the South China Sea as part of Chinese 'core interests' - elevating such claims to the same level as those over Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. In August, China's navy announced that it will stage live ammunition drills in the Yellow Sea, having condemned recent and planned US-South Korea naval exercises. And this week, Beijing has raised the diplomatic heat by declaring that Beijing will take 'strong countermeasures' in response to news that Japan is extending the detention of Zhan Qixiong, a Chinese fishing boat captain whose boat collided with Japanese coast vessels in disputed waters in the East China Sea over two weeks ago.
The formation and execution of Chinese foreign policy has always existed in a black-box. It still does but we now know that there are more elements inside the black-box than was once imagined. For example, a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute points to the rise of disparate groups all exerting considerable influence on Beijing: the business sector, think-tankers and academics, state-media, and the hundreds of thousands if not millions of 'netizens' voicing strong opinions on blog-sites. As the report, 'New Foreign Policy Actors in China,' argues, 'Only by persistently engaging a broad spectrum of Chinese foreign policy actors... and integrating them into engagement strategies can foreign policy makers succeed in securing China's cooperation.'Chinese foreign policy decision making is indeed fragmenting - but not into many segments of equal weight. When it comes to recent Chinese assertiveness in maritime Asia, there is one reemerging player exercising influence above all others and it is the PLA.
The common wisdom is that the role of the PLA in Chinese foreign policy has been substantially narrowed since the late 1990s. Evidence for such a conviction? The PLA has not secured a seat in the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) since 1997. While Chinese President Hu Jintao is the only member of the 11-person Central Military Commission which has supreme command over the country's armed forces, he is the Chairman. Moreover, PLA officials seemingly exercise little influence over important sub-groups such as the Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group which advises the PSC.
However, in the truth, the PLA's influence over Chinese foreign policy has been on the ascendance since the institutional reforms in the 1990s.
First, because the PLA is formally removed from the civilian decision-making processes, it is not hampered and constrained by the turf wars that frequently occur between Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials and agencies. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs vigorously competes with other entities such as the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Commerce in formulating Chinese foreign policy. Within the Politburo itself the obsessive emphasis on 'consensus decision-making' represents a mechanism to conceal disagreement between powerful individuals and factions rather than harmony and unanimity. Ironically, as it is only answerable to a divided civilian government with no clear leadership and decision-making structure, the PLA is afforded more leeway and discretion to make and execute foreign policy than it might otherwise have.
Second, while the civilian apparatus is weakened by backbiting and discord, the PLA remains the most cohesive, organized and effective organization in China with a relatively clear chain of command and decision-making. As Chinese strategic interests in the region expand from the Taiwan Straits to the Indian Ocean, the poorly organized and divided civilian leadership is finding the managing of China's extensive and complex foreign affairs increasingly difficult. Unencumbered by 'consensus decision-making' of Chinese domestic politics, the PLA is often the only organization capable of responding rapidly and decisively to regional developments, particularly when it comes to territorial and maritime disputes. In short time, this has emboldened the PLA to formulate and articulate important aspects of Chinese foreign policy - such as the naming Chinese claims in the South China Sea as amongst the country's 'core interests'.
Third, China's civilian institutional processes and the political will of its leaders to rein in military officers who step out of line are weak. In addition, the PLA tends to discipline wayward officers who violate military directives while going light on officers who violate civilian directives. Remember that in China's authoritarian system, political power still grows out of the barrel of a gun' as Mao Zedong once said - and the PLA ultimately has its hand on the trigger.
It is no surprise then that PLA officers led the public escalation of hostile words against Tokyo following the detention of Chinese fishing captain Zhan, with officials on Beijing only subsequently following suit. More seriously, PLA officers were describing Chinese claims in the South China Sea as part of the country's 'core interests' months before US National Security Council's Jeffrey Bader and the State Department's James Steinberg heard it from CCP officials in March. The Chinese vessels that came close to colliding with the US survey ship Impeccable in March 2009 was an action initiated by the Chinese navy (PLAN) with seemingly little consultation with civilian officials in Beijing.
In almost every instance where disputes have flared up between China and other countries in the East China Sea, Yellow Sea, South China Sea or Indian Ocean, the PLA initially called the shots both on the high seas and in the media; prompting civilian leaders to subsequently hold the line, or wrestle back control of the situation from the PLA without losing face in the process. Strategic tension with China is difficult enough to manage for the United States and Asian allies. The prospect of a PLA going rogue makes it that much harder.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Great Games of India

Seen from abroad, it is sad that the Indian government is making a fool of itself. 
In fact, it is quite embarrassing when people get to know that you are coming from India; they immediately start asking questions about the Games; the first query being: “I did not know that the Commonwealth still existed” and then more upsetting questions such as the collapse of bridges, general filth, the price of the toilet paper, etc. It is certainly not good for India’s reputation. Such a shame!
f he is unable to give a lead when the nation is serious difficulty, Rahul Gandhi will never be a leader. He is just a politician like the others.
The tragedy is that today in India there is no opposition. Everywhere else in the world, the opposition would have asked the government to resign, here they are just busy with their Ayodhya 'verdict'.
In my opinion, the Games' organizers should be sent to the Siachen, not to Tihar.They are too corrupt; in Tihar they will probably manage to 'buy' the authorities to continue their 'business'.
Where Sheela Bhatt is wrong is to put the entire blame on the politicians. Who elected the politicians? India is a democracy and the people of India are electing the politicians.
And let us not forger that when some politicians tried to speak, (like Mani Shankar Aiyar) they were told to shut up.

Why the CWG has gone horribly wrong
Sheela Bhatt
September 22, 2010
In the current sordid saga, it is not the Indian people who have failed. It is India's  political leaders who have failed the people, unforgivably, says Sheela Bhatt.
For the past fortnight people living in South Delhi's  residential areas of Jangpura, Nizamuddin and in and around Jawaharlal Nehru  Stadium were fearful of passing under the foot over-bridge under construction to ferry athletes from the Games Village to the stadium.
This is a new low for India. A bridge is coming up and people distrust their local government, engineers and city planners so much that their heartbeats increase every time they pass under a just-raised-structure.
The Commonwealth Games  are not a national shame -- they are worse. It gives a lonely moment similar to a defeat in a war.
The reasons are many. The CWG was about life in new India. It was about urban planning and 'just' land allotment. It was about wisdom and ethics of spending of public money. It was about national spirit. It was about India's standing among former British colonies. It was about telling 71 countries how and why India counts. It was about sports and India's youth.
In the current sordid saga, it's important to distinguish between the Indian people and its leaders. India has not failed and it is unlikely to fail. It is India's political leaders who have failed people, unforgivably.
The CWG gloom is visible all over India. But, we must, quickly, add that it is not because a dozen westerners, including CWG federation CEO Mike Hooper, are saying few harsh things about the living arrangements. You can easily bet that those officers and athletes who will arrive in India from Thursday onwards will get royal treatment reminiscent of old, colourful, warm, feudal India. The warmth of young smart volunteers and poor workers and helpers will make them calm and safe.
But it is advisable for them to not watch television, which shows 42 times a day a small patch of ceiling falling somewhere. Obviously, Hooper and company's statements are not pure fact. Their facts are wrapped with their biases too. The sports authorities from western countries are rich and powerful in their respective societies and one has seen their pressure on the Chinese government. They raised a disproportionate alarm over Beijing's  air and noise pollution just before the Olympics .
But, internally, the issue is not about stray dogs roaming in and around the Games Village.
The negative publicity and whatever muck is being raised against the CWG is due to the lack of ethical political leadership in the country. Increasingly, Indian politicians are becoming careerists. That's the basic malaise behind the current gloom all over the Indian landscape. Indian leaders lack the courage to take up issues in the national interest. Take any issue -- Kashmir , Ayodhya, price rise or the Maoist insurgency. It's either failure of leadership or lack of governance or both.
The CWG caught the people's attention when the Organising Committee and its head Suresh Kalmadi  were named in a damaging report by the Comptroller Auditor General. The first thing that percolated to the people was that the CWG was a massive no-holds-barred money-making exercise.
You don't even need the CAG to tell you that CWG was synonymous with corruption. For upgradation of the JNS, Delhi, the government led by Sheila Dixit and the Jaipal Reddy-led Group of Ministers (who were overseeing the CWG planning and execution) approved spending Rs 900 crore. One understood that this was a vulgar show. Even this is not shocking news in India where corrupt people win in election after election. But inspite of huge corruption when people saw that delivery is absent, the frustration peaked.
Kalmadi became the face of what all that has gone wrong but one must mention Chief Minister Sheila Dixit who must face public scrutiny once the Games are over. A powerful Congress leader told, "Three years back, whenever we met Dixit she would tell us curtly she doesn't have time for anything else because she is solely focussing on the CWG. Where is the focus? What has she done?"
The issue that should be remembered while debating the scandals in construction and execution of CWG is that 30 months back, the government authorities and media had reviewed the progress and expressed apprehension that India may not be able to complete the venues on time.
Before the general election of 2009, Rahul Gandhi's  popularity was ascending. He was going to home of Kalawatis and other Dalits as well as many college campuses around India. He was rediscovering India and searching for suitable issues.
Then, had asked two senior members of the Congress Working Committee why Rahul Gandhi was not taking up the leadership of CWG as his father Rajiv Gandhi , who provided leadership to the Asian Games in 1982? It would have helped the country and would have helped Rahul launch himself as an efficient administrator.
The response for the two leaders was similar. They said that CWG was much behind schedule and in a mess. Kalamadi's control over the OC was total and he was difficult to replace. The senior leaders also said that "it's risky to jeopardise Rahul Gandhi's prestige by providing leadership to the CWG."
In the 21st century, top leaders, CEOs, and supreme authorities plan their leadership and evolvement on the basis of the formula of minimise the risks and maximise the profits. Karma starts only after a careful assessment of the end result. Passion is manufactured for the public cause on the basis of the probability of its success. This is the kind of approach by careerists that has left the nation without leadership. There are issues after issues, which are searching for saviours and leadership.
One doesn't know what Rahul Gandhi's views were then. He had a great opportunity to reenergise the CWG preparations, put it on track and showcase the success as a semi-final to his forays in providing leadership to country's bigger and more complex issues.
Three years back there was enough time and opportunity to repair things and save the event and enhance the country's prestige. But no leader from the Congress including Rahul Gandhi put his neck out to risk his or her prestige to save the country's pride.
On September 21, one of the top leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party  said in an off-the-record conversation with select media-persons that, "It's sad to see that in my party, the top leaders are not taking up issues if it doesn't fit into their personal career graphs. Party main sab apni career banane ke liye kaam karte hai. (people are working to enhance their careers). They are not working to provide leadership on issues."
Take any leader in the country. They don't give time, energy, attention, money or any resources to the issue that don't give votes, that don't consolidate their personal image.
The BJP leader was complaining about the highly-popular Sushma Swaraj  and Arun Jaitley  who pick and choose issues to provide leadership. The final success is more important in lending leadership not the seriousness or urgency of national issues.
Since the established leaders have their agenda which is quite different from that the nation is craving for, the result is dangerous.
How can one forget the widespread and old disease of the senior leadership failing in selecting right team leaders for the right jobs? The most common  trend is that one sees all over is of the wrong people encroaching the right places (think M S Gill and Kalmadi) and inefficient people providing leadership to important tasks (think Lalit Bhanot). It is a recipe for disaster.
The vital question is, three years back, why did Congress President Sonia Gandhi  and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh  remain silent spectators to what was happening or not happening to the CWG's Rs 25,000 crore mega plans under the leadership of Dixit?
Seen retrospectively, India leaders lacked the audacity of hope.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The plague is spreading

It was a strange experience. Last week, I was changing metro stations at the in Paris when suddenly 3 riot policemen ran by. A few seconds later, as I reached the platform, the same policemen asked the crowd to immediately leave the station. It was about 5:30 pm and the Opera station was crowded with people returning home after work. The police refused to give any explanation, the platform was just closed. Coming out in the open air, I decided to walk the last 2 km home, thinking that the exercise was good to eliminate some of the collaterals of French cuisine and beverages.
It is only a few days later that the French Home Minister announced that on that particular day, the French intelligence agencies had been expecting a terrorist attack in Paris. Since then, France has been blanketed under a Red Alert scheme code-named Plan Vigipirate which had been activated only a few times since its creation in 1991.
On the same day, terrorists struck a blow to France in the far-away African State of Niger. Five French nationals and two of their African colleagues were kidnapped. Two of the French worked for Areva, the French nuclear energy firm (which will soon operate two plants in Maharashtra) and the three others employed by Vinci, the French construction company. All were involved on the uranium mining site in North Niger in a place called Arlit. Areva gets most of its supply of uranium from the mines of Arlit and Imouraren in this country. Let us not forget that Niger is the world's sixth largest producer of uranium; radioactive heavy metal is its main export.
Already worried by the possibility of a terrorist attack in France, the French authorities immediately suspected the AQMI (Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb) previously known as the Safalist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French initials GSPC). This Islamist militia dreams to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic State. They are led by Abu Musab Abdel Wadud, the Bin Laden of the Maghreb who is accused of killing a British hostage last year and a 78-year-old Frenchman Michel Germaneau in July.
The Spanish government is said to have recently paid millions of Euros to release two of its nationals captured by AQIM in Mauritania.
The AQIM has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State and the European Union.
Its main objective is clearly to attack Algerian, Spanish, French, and American assets and personnel in the region.
Though Areva had engaged some private security agencies to protect its sites, it appears that the guards were unarmed and forced to leave the job to the Nigerian Army. According to an agreement with the Government in Niamey, 350 armed troops were to defend the site.
Soon after the kidnapping, the blame game started with the French company accusing the Nigerian authorities (apparently some ‘insiders’ helped the terrorists to reach the spot and whisk the hostages away), while Idi Ango Omar, the Nigerian Home Minister declared that it was Areva’s responsibility to protect its own nationals. The Minister also criticised the French company for using former Tuareg rebels to look after its interests.
Rumors circulated that the hostages had been taken to the nearby Mali, forcing Paris to decide to evacuate its nationals from the Saharian State. While Luc Chatel, the spokesperson of the Government stated “France will do everything to free its hostage”, he refused to answer the question about Paris contemplating a ‘military operation’. He however affirmed that the kidnapping had no link with an operation by French Special Forces who tried to liberate Michel Germaneau two months ago in Mali; it ended with the death of the hostage (though his body has not been recovered so far).
It appears now that in early September, Captain Seydou Oumanou, the Prefect of Arlit, informed the CEO of the companies working in the area (Somaïr, Cominak, Areva, NC Niger and Goviex) of "the seriousness of the security situation”. He mentioned the spotting of 8 Toyotas transporting armed groups near the mining site. Oumanou said that the Nigerian Forces had managed to repel the terrorists who had planned to take away “military equipment and French personnel.” He concluded: “You will understand that in these circumstances the AQMI threat should been taken seriously”.
Though Areva now affirms that it immediately acted on this communication of the local authorities by sending a senior official to meet the military authorities in Niamey, nothing could be concretely organised before the fateful day.
Since then, the AQIM has officially claimed the abduction of five French nationals "We claim responsibility for this blessed operation and tell the French government that the mujahideens will inform it with their legitimate demands at a later time."
In a voice message heard on al-Jazeera channel, AQIM spokesman Salah Abi Mohammed added: “We also warn [the French government] against any sort of stupidity." He probably referred to a possible military operation.
He continued: "Following the promise of our emir, Abou Moussab, a group of heroic mujahedeen last Wednesday, under the command of Sheikh Abou Zeid, succeeded in penetrating the French mining site at Arlit in Niger."
A specialized blog run by the daily French paper Liberation (Secret Defence) informs its readers that the Special Operation Command has already sent a few hundred troops to Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso’s capital. They will be positioned there to prepare an eventual military operation to free the hostages. Ouagadougou is perfectly located south of the desert of Mali and Niger. This force would have at its disposal 8 or 10 planes for ‘tactical transportation’ (Transall C-160 or Hercules C-130) as well as 2 helicopters.
Long-range Breguet Atlantique aircraft and a Mirage jet equipped with sophisticated monitoring equipment are also said to have been dispatched to Niger.
Soon after the AQIM announcement. the French Defence Council met at the Elysee Palace under the chairmanship of President Sarkozy. Nothing transpired from this high level meeting except that Brice Hortefeux, the French Home Minister left soon after for Niger.
The French intelligence agencies seem to have been able to track the terrorists and the hostages as they were heading towards Inabangaret, an important well in the desert later they would have later crossed into Mali.
All this may seem far-way from Delhi where the Great Games are soon going to be declared opened. It is however symptomatic of the spreading of the tentacles of terrorism in new continents.
Interestingly, the Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram will visit France in October to discuss terrorism and other matters of common interest.
It will be an important visit considering that both nations suffer from the same plague. Chidambaram’s visit will be followed by that of Jean-David Levitte, Diplomatic Advisor to the French President, to India. Sarkozy’s ‘sherpa’ (as he is known) will meet his counterpart Shivshankar Menon. Since a few years, both countries have decided to address the terrorist threat bilaterally and have formed for the purpose an India-France Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism whose objective is to strengthen ‘operational contacts’ in the face of common threats.
In France, the Red Alert is still on; nobody knows how long it will remain. In India, with the forthcoming Games, the security agencies are on tenterhooks.
Seen from abroad, it is sad that the Indian government is making a fool of itself. In fact, it is quite embarrassing when people get to know that you are coming from India; they immediately start asking questions about the Games; the first query being: “I did not know that the Commonwealth still existed” and then more upsetting questions such as the collapse of bridges, general filth, the price of the toilet paper, etc.
It is certainly not good for India’s reputation. In the meantime, terrorism continues to spread.

Peace Mission?

This Peace Mission may vow to 'safeguard peace', but in reality it is a war exercise. As a Chinese General put it: "Through many years of joint exercises, we have clearly understood that these (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) exercises could not only showcase power and deter the 'three evil forces (of terrorism, separatism and extremism)', but also serve as an important way to train our armed forces."
In other words, it was a training in long-distance bombing. 
But bombing who? It is another question. In any case, India is too busy with its Games to take notice of such small detail.

China Tries Long-distance Air Attack Mode in SCO Drill
Xu Leiying
Related: Forces in "Peace Mission" Drill Vow to Safeguard Peace
Six warplanes took off from within China and launched long-distance "sudden attacks" in neighboring Kazakhstan in the on-going anti-terror drill of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, said a Chinese general on Monday.
The simulated cross-border strikes were the first by the Chinese Air Force, according to Major General Meng Guoping, deputy commander of the Chinese military participating in the drill.
The six warplanes -- four H-6H bombers and two J-10 fighter jets -- were split into two missions. They were supported by an air early warning aircraft and were refueled by a flying tanker before they crossed the border into Kazakhstan, said the general.
Although the drill venue is within the range of both warplanes, they were refueled in the air to ensure a complete success of their missions, said General Meng.
Meng said by carrying out such a move in the war games, the Chinese Air Force is trying to build an integrated air battle group encompassing early warning, command, long-distance bombing, escort and air refueling.
He said the exercises are also taken as an opportunity to strengthen the air fight and support capabilities of the Chinese Air Force.
General Meng also summarized a number of new characteristics of the "Peace Mission 2010" drill, including information-based operations, field training exercises, coordinated command and control, combined actions, and diversified external support.
"Through many years of joint exercises, we have clearly understood that these (SCO) exercises could not only showcase power and deter the 'three evil forces (of terrorism, separatism and extremism)', but also serve as an important way to train our armed forces," said the general.
"Peace Mission 2010," the seventh joint drill of its kind, involved 5,000 troops from five of the six SCO member states -- China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan is not taking part in the drill, which runs between Sept. 9 and 25.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Water Quality in The Tibetan Plateau

A very important and interesting PhD thesis has been published by Xiang Huang on "Water Quality in The Tibetan Plateau — Chemical Evaluation of the Headwaters of Four Major Asian Rivers" for the University of Eastern Finland Faculty of Science and Forestry under the supervision of Professor Mika Sillanpää (
President Hu Jintao who likes to speak of Scientific Development of China should encourage more of such studies. Ideally, they should be undertaken jointly with neighouring States such as India, Bangladesh or the Mekong countries.
Delhi should push Beijing to work in this direction. Does not Tibet 'shares' its waters with the entire Asian continent?

Abstract of the PhD thesis of Xiang Huang:
Information on water quality of Asian major rivers draining Tibetan Plateau is limited, even though these rivers play a significant role in lives of more than one third of world’s population. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the knowledge of the chemical quality of these major rivers on the Plateau, to address major natural factors governing the spatial variation and to identify possible sources for contamination.
Water samples from a total of 159 sampling sites along the Yangtze River, Mekong River, Salween River, and Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) in the Plateau were collected during spring 2006, later summer 2007 and early autumn 2008. Included in this work are also a case study of the drinking‐water quality in Lhasa city and a study of influence of a natural heavy metal enriched subsurface water and mining activity on the surface water quality in the central Tibet. Samples were subjected to a total of 34 physicochemical quality parameters, including major cations, anions, trace elements, and nutrients.
The solutes in the Tibetan rivers were dominated by Ca2+ and HCO3 ‐and that the dissolved matter is on average the double of that of rivers in other parts of world. Elevated concentrations of Na+, Cl‐, and SO42‐, being largely influenced by evaporites and drainage from saline lakes/geothermal waters, are a significant contributor to these high concentrations of solutes. Oxidation of sulfides is in addition an important source for the high SO42‐in these waters. The spatial distributions of these major solutes in these waters are relatively homogenous. Multivariable analysis shows that geology and climate are the major factors governing the spatial variation. In spite of alkaline nature of these waters, the average levels of dissolved trace elements in the Tibetan rivers are high and their concentrations varied considerably. Nevertheless, the levels of Ag, Cd, Co, Cr, and Hg are negligible in all studied waters.
The headwaters of these Asian major rivers in the Plateau can be considered undisturbed. However, rapidly increased mining activities pose a high risk of heavy metal pollution for the local environment and a potential threat to the downstream water quality.

Friday, September 17, 2010

China going backward?

Despite Wen Jiabao recent speech in Shenzhen, China is definitively going backward. On September 15, the Ministry of Justice announced an 'increase' of its assistance: "to Tibet’s administrative work, including cadres and talent, science and technology, as well as other areas in the judicial system."
This is very ominous.
Let us remember that between May 22 and 31, 1980, General Secretary Hu Yaobang led a Working Group of the Party Central Committee (PCC) to Tibet. According to a collaborator of Hu: "This event was watched with great interest by those, both at home and abroad, who were concerned with Tibetan society, and it can be said that this event marked the beginning of a new era for the PCC's Tibet policy."
In Lhasa, Elder Hi gave a speech: "On May 29 Hu Yaobang made a very sincere and passionate political speech at a gathering of 5,000 cadres. The slogan put forward in the speech was 'Strive to build a united, prosperous and civilised new Tibet' ('Wei jianshe tuanjie fuyu wenmingde, xin Xizang xiang nuli douzheng'). In the speech Hu listed six tasks facing Tibet:
1. To exercise nationality autonomy in the region fully - that is to say, to let Tibetans really be the masters of their own lives.
2. A commitment by the Central Government to relieve and reduce burdens of the people, exempting the from agricultural and animal husbandry tax over the next three to five years in order to allow the Tibetan people a chance to recover.
3. To adopt a special policy to revive the Tibetan economy, including the adoption or a system of private economy in line with Tibetan circumstances. Nationwide this initiative was developed into the economic (household) responsibility system.
4. To make great efforts to develop agriculture and animal husbandry as well as the manufacture of consumer goods, in order to promote economic prosperity and enrich people's lives.
5. To make efforts to develop Tibetan science, culture and education, and to prepare for the establishing of the University of Tibet.
6. To implement the policy on minority nationality cadres correctly, to strengthen the unity between the Han and Tibetan cadres, and to transfer a large quantity of Chinese cadres who had worked in Tibet for many years back to the interior.
Today, we are witnessing a reverse situation, with Beijing sending more and more cadres and bureaucrats in Tibet "to maintain social stability; and promote patriotic and ethnic unity education in the communities, countryside, schools and temples.
" Frightening!

China to Send More Cadres in the Judicial System to Tibet     
Source: Xinhua, September, 15, 2010  
According to Xinhua news on September 15, the Ministry of Justice is to increase its assistance to Tibet’s administrative work, including cadres and talent, science and technology, as well as other areas in the judicial system. The proposal was made during the National Judicial Administrative System's Conference to Aid Tibet.
Wu Aiying, the Minister of Justice, said that [China] should assist Tibetan judicial administrative departments to maintain social stability; and promote patriotic and ethnic unity education in the communities, countryside, schools and temples. Regarding financial aid, Wu called for increasing the funding of Tibet’s judicial work, particularly the funding of prisons, reeducation through labor (detoxification), the financial-planning apparatus, law education and legal assistance. Regarding the assistance that includes cadres and talent, it was stressed in the conference to maximally solve the problem of the judicial administrative cadre and talent shortage, and to implement the training of directors of the judicial bureaus in all 73 Tibetan counties (and cities).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One more piece in the dams' puzzle

One more piece in the great puzzle of the damming of Tibet's rivers. 
A few weeks back, I wrote on this blog: "Considering that the Tibetan plateau has the greatest hydrological potential in the entire People's Republic (China's theoretical hydro-power resources have been estimated at 384 gigawatts), it is doubtful that this transmission line will be used to bring power from mainland to Tibet." 
Today, Beijing admits that Tibet can 'also' supply some power to the mainland. With the rapid construction of several dams on the Tibetan rivers, it is the Roof of the World which is bound to supply electricity to China and not the other way. It is also the best way to prepare a mega project on the Brahmaputra.

NW China province to transmit power to Tibet
Experts approved a construction plan to transmit power from northwest China's Qinghai Province to Tibet by connecting Qinghai and Tibet's power grids on Wednesday.
China will spend 16 billion yuan (2.37 billion U.S. dollars) in connecting the grids during the next two years.
China's National Development and Reform Commission approved the construction of the grid on June 17. It will be completed and put into operation by the end of 2012.
Tibet's grid is not currently linked to any other grids. During the dry season, the region lacks power because about 80 percent of its power supply comes from hydro power stations, while in flood season, there is too much power.
After the grids are connected, the surplus power during the flood season will be transmitted to Qinghai or other parts of China through the Qinghai grid while power from elsewhere can be transmitted into Tibet during dry season, said Zhang Wenliang, head of China Electric Power Research Institute.
It will be a world class power transmission project with high safety, efficiency and environmentally-friendly standards, said Wen Weibing, deputy head of the Qinghai-Tibet grid connection construction headquarters, State Grid Corporation of China.
The project will be constructed in three phases
In the first phase, a 750 KV transmission line will be strung from Xining City, capital of Qinghai, to Golmud City in the center of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau;
Next, a 400 KV transmission line from Golmud to Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, will be hung;
Third, a 220 KV grid facilities within Tibet will be built.
The transmission line will run 1038 km from Golmud to Lhasa. About 900 km of the line will be built on lands that are at least 4,000 meters above sea level, making it the longest power transmission line ever constructed at such high altitudes.
Experts warn, however, that harsh conditions on the plateau might affect the workers' health along with their efficiency.
Currently, more than 4,500 workers are at the sites, involved in preparatory works. The number of workers is expected to reach 20,000 during its peak time, according to statistics from the construction headquarters.
The project has allocated 300 million yuan for medical care and environmental protection. First aid stations are being built every 25 to 30 km and clinics are to be set up every 100 km along the line. Workers will be trained in bases in Golmud and Lhasa to become accustomed to the environment before going to the work sites, said Fa Tao, head of the project's medical and life support department.
"Our goal is to ensure three zeroes - zero death, zero disability and zero permanent health damage for workers of the project," he said.
Another challenge for those involved in the project is to avoid affecting Qinghai-Tibet plateau's fragile ecology. "Whenever there is a conflict between construction and ecology, we will make way for environmental protection," said Yu Xinqiang, head of the construction headquarters.
The soil, along with the plants in it, will be taken away and preserved before a transmission tower is constructed. Then the soil and plants will be returned to its original site, according to the construction plan.
Workers are strictly prohibited from hunting or disturbing animals on the plateau. Also, transmission towers should be located away from animal habitats, according to the plan.
A section of 550 km of the transmission line will be built on frozen soil that could become unstable due to temperature changes. "Construction on frozen soil is difficult, but we have developed some technologies to ensure the project progresses as planned," said Ding Yansheng, head of the construction headquarters' technology department.
Experts note that with the experience of constructing the Qinghai-Tibet railway line, the world's highest and longest railway on a plateau, most of the project's challenges have previously learned solutions.

Chinese Panchen Lama

Though he is not recognized by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans, Beijing has begun to use 'their' Panchen Lama full swing. 
It is a way to prepare the 'succession' of the Dalai Lama. He will probably soon start to travel abroad in 'safe' countries.  It is sad that the Singaporean Foreign Minister accepted to play Beijing's small game.

11th Panchen Lama meets with Singapore FM
China Tibet Online

The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and vice president of Buddhist Association of China met with Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo at the West Yellow Temple in Beijing Tuesday afternoon.
The Panchen Lama expressed his warm welcome to Foreign Minister Yeo and the Buddhist delegation from Singapore.
Foreign Minister Yeo presented flowers and hada to the Panchen Lama to show his respect and express his thanks.
"China and Singapore enjoy a long history and close ties in Buddhist exchanges. Our meeting today is the development of the friendship between the 10th Panchen Lama and Singapore Buddhist circle, and is also a new step forward toward closer cooperation between the two sides," said the Panchen Lama.
He also spoke highly of the efforts and achievements made by the Buddhist circles in their participation in and promotion of social charity and harmony between diverse religions and ethnic groups of Singapore. Also he expressed his best wishes to the Buddhists and the masses in Singapore.
Foreign Minister Yeo conveyed his congratulations to the Panchen Lama's bhiksu ordination in June of 2009. He said, nowadays more and more Singaporeans go  to visit Tibet and are amazed with the rapid development there.
During the meeting, Yeo invited the 11th Panchen Lama to visit Singapore in his capacity of a CPPCC member, and the Buddhist community also welcome him for religious practice.
The Panchen Lama accepted the invitation happily.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Will the Arunachal dam be scrapped?

If it is confirmed it is a great news. Usually, the dam builders start the construction and later ask the environment assessment. As a result, the local population face a fait accompli.
This area witnessed the most powerful earthquake of the 20th century. It was on Independence Day of 1950; it measured 8.9 on the Richter scale. How can it be ignored?
If India abandon the project, she can certainly put more pressure on China to stop its own projects on the Brahmaputra, particularly the mega dam just north of the McMahon Line in Metok (the hydropower plant ave a capacity  of 38,000 megawatts, larger than the Three Gorges Dam -22,000 megawatts).

Arunachal dam should be scrapped, says Jairam
Hindustan Times
September 10, 2010
After vetoing Vedanta Group's bauxite mining project in Orissa last month, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has decided to bat for anti-dam activists in putting the brakes on mega hydel projects in the northeast.
The minister called for the halting construction work on the 115-metre-high Lower Subansiri dam in Arunachal Pradesh after an expert committee report in June said the dam was not environmentally feasible.
"The work on Lower Subansiri dam should not have continued after an expert committee on the project recommended a review and redesign of the dam," Ramesh said.
The 100-plus dam projects in the northeast have been debated over by environmentalists for quite sometime.

R50,000 cr loss

India has lost natural resources worth R50,000 crore since 1990, and the benefit of protecting the environment could be worth 10 to 50 times the damage, a report has said.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi raised this point at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, when she said protecting forests and the environment was important to sustain India's growth story.
The report, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, released by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday, said that on an average, one-third of Earth's habitats have been damaged by humans.
For instance, 85 per cent of the seas and oceans and 70 per cent of Mediterranean shrubland have been affected. "Functioning natural system is a prerequisite for our well-being," the report said.
"For local development, considering ecosystem services in policymaking can help save the future municipal costs, boost local economies, enhance quality of life and secure livelihoods," the report said, citing the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai that saved the city from a colossal flood in July 2005.
One such policy change is considering environment performance in allocation of money to state governments, it said.
(inputs from Chetan Chauhan)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Strategic Aspects of Climate Change

My article on the 'Strategic Aspects of Climate Change' is posted on my website.
Click here to read

Many defense strategists will laugh when they will hear in vogue expression ‘climate change’ associated with military affairs, but they will perhaps think twice when they realize that even the very serious Quadrennial Defense Review Report (QDR) of the US Department of Defence has consecrated several pages to the subject in its last issue.
The chapter titled Crafting a strategic approach to climate and energy states: “Climate change and energy will play significant roles in the future security environment. The Department is developing policies and plans to manage the effects of climate change on its operating environment, missions, and facilities.”

Chinese Spies in Dharamsala?

The problem might not be with 'Chinese spies' who can relatively easily be spotted in Dharamsala, but with Tibetans on the payroll of the Chinese Government (either for money or other reasons). 
They are plenty of such people in Tibet and it is not difficult to ex-filtrate them to India. In any case, the Chinese embassy is keeping a close tab on the Dalai Lama's activities in India and it is difficult to stop this.
What about the security of the Dalai Lama when he goes outside Dharamsala? It is handled by the respective State Governments with the help of the central agencies, but once again the main threat could come from Tibetans, not Chinese, particularly in the large monasteries in South India.

Tibetan government in exile fears Chinese infiltrations
Hindustan Times
Gaurav Bisht,
September 08, 2010
While Tibet's exiled spiritual the Dalai Lama's security remains the centre of concern, the Tibetan-government-in-exile fears "infiltration" of Chinese undercover agents in the hill town that has been nerve centre of Tibetan movement. 
Fearing China could unleash its band of army trained undercover agents in the town, the security wing of Tibetan - government- in- exile cautioned the Indian security and intelligence agencies. Security department in its communication to Crime Investigation Department of state police anticipated Chinese infiltration in Tibetan settlements clustered across India in the garb of monks.
"Necessary steps are being taken in wake of anticipation of Tibetan administration Senior Superintendent of Police, Dr Atul Fulzele confirmed to Hindustan Times, while adding that effective steps have been taken to upgrade security of Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Police has asked Ministry of External Affairs to provide funds for installing chemical detector at Dalai Lama's palace. Dalai Lama's has three tier security manned by Himachal Police. Internal security is looked after close protection group of Tibetans.  More than 150 men are deployed for round the clock security of Dalai Lama's palace. 
Tibetan government fears come two months after a Chinese woman was arrested in Mcleodganj for staying without valid travel document.  Chai Sha Hung, convicted for violating foreigners act, was deported back to her home town last month, the police suspected her of being a spy but claims could not be established. 
Sources in Tibetan government-in-exile maintains Chinese intelligence agencies was keeping track about the activities of Tibetan government and Non Government Organization that are at fore front of campaign to secure freedom for China administered Tibet. "Chinese government has become more wary of the Tibetans after protest scattered across Tibet ahead of Beijing Olympics" felt, senior official of Tibetan security.  China had blamed Dalai Lama and his "clique" for orchestrating protest in Tibet that turned violent killing more than 150 people. On being tipped by intelligence agencie, local police arrested a Chinese man in 2008. Intelligence gathering confirmed that arrested Chinese man Liu Xia  had served  Peoples Liberation Army.   Information gathered by Indian intelligence revealed that Liu had visited Dharamsala twice before protest spread in Tibet. 
What came to the surprise of Intelligence agencies was Liu mobile phone details which confirmed that he was in touch with high ranking military official in Lhasa. Xia has reportedly revealed that he had come by road from Lhasa, and later reached Delhi after traveling through Nepal illegally. In the wake of renewed qualms of Tibetan government, local police has stepped up vigil on  Tibetan escapees, although their numbers have decreased drastically  ever since China tightened security on its borders.  According to Tibetan security agencies on and average 2000- 3000 Tibetans crossed into India from Nepal but this year only 200 have arrived in Dharamsala so far. 
"We have sent an advisory to all the Tibetan welfare officer asking them to educate Tibetans about the possible infiltration of Chinese monks " said a Tibetan security official requesting anonymity.  Police have advised Dalai Lama to maintain a particular distance while meeting the new entrants at his palace.  The Dalai Lama routinely meets the Tibetan exiles in his palace. Tibetans government has warned the exiles to remain cautious about the activities being undertaken by followers of Dorje Shugden. Dalai Lama had banned worship of Dorje Shugden. The Dalai Lama identifies Dorje Shugden as a "spirit", and claims that tradition of propitiation associated with Shugden elevates this spirit to being equal or superior to the Buddha. He states that encouraging the worship of Dorje Shugden could contribute to reducing Tibetan Buddhism to a form of superstitious spirit worship. Tibetans exiles say that China was using Shugdens for prpoganda against Dalai Lama.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Indian Cartoonists on Tibet

A few years ago, I wrote the text for an exhibition of famous cartoonists on Tibet.
During the next few days you can see the exhibition in Kochi.  
Like this cartoon of Shankar (Nehrus' split personality over the Tibet issue), some are truly great.  
Don't miss the exhibition.

In solidarity with Tibet
New India Express
September 2, 2010
K Surekha
KOCHI: Tranquility twinkles in their eye and stands out even in their rugged features. The people of the country which leads a pilgrimage to the core of their inner being to understand the truths of life cannot be otherwise. Tibetans in India have been leading a peaceful existence but with the pain of displacement. Communists who hardly know the meaning of meditation or awakening would never understand.
It is this collective spirit passed on for about 2000 years that stand them in good stead even in their darkest hours. It’s a never ending struggle for their right for independence. Friends of Tibet (India) has organised an exhibition of cartoons on the Tibetan issue, currency, coins, passport, post office and the history of Tibet that take you to its independent  existence.
The introduction of the show by Claude Arpi starts with the words of His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama, “My religion is simple, my religion is kindness. The exhibition is a stark reminder of turbulent times of the Lama’s lost state, Tibet, the roof of the world, flanked by India and China.
Facts have been rendered with a punch in the cartoons done between 1950 and 2005. The land ruled by  Dalai Lamas since 1642 was invaded by China in 1949. After a decade Dalai Lama was forced to seek asylum in India.
R K Laxman brings out the character of the Lama through his caricature  done in 2000. His words introduce this great man. The Dalai Lama was born on July 6, 1935 in a hamlet in Amdo province. Recognised as the reincarnation of Lama 13 at the age of two he was later enthroned in Lhasa. Each frame brings out the history of the land and the reactions of powers that be and its neighbours to the issue in a humorous vein.
Shankar’s piece dated November 5, 1950 published in Shankar’s Weekly shows Nehru with his hands on a fence looking at the Chinese invading Tibet (October 7, 1950) and US president Truman and secretary of state Acheson with their backs to him laughing away with the words, “we told him so.” India didn’t take a stand against Beijing’s though it was extremely disappointed with the action. Shankar has sketched Nehru with a suitcase labelled Peking marching on his maiden trip to Beijing even as world leaders look on with myriad expressions. US secretary of state Dulles is depicted with a bomb, Pakistan PM with a knife, Churchill and Melenkov with a frown and many other with arms and negative expressions. Shankar’s ‘Pen Friends’ in which he plays on ‘Panch Sheel’ and Indo-China agreements is layered with meaning. The days of Nehru is no different from the present era where we see Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi with a placard saying Indi Cheeni Bhaayi Bhaayi.
O V Vijayan has potrayed the politics of early 70s as we see Leonid Brezhnev and Mao looking in opposite directions at the time of the Communist splits, the caption saying, ‘the revolution is ours’.

The smell of blood nauseates as you read Ravi Shankar’s work. The atrocities shown to Tibet loom large as you move from frame to frame. Cartoons of Yesudasan, Mario Miranda, Rajinder Puri, Prriya Raj, Nanda Soobben, Abe Gowda, Kaak, Madhu Omalloor, Balu, Thommy, Ponnappa, Morparia throw light on the issue with double meanings.
Prakash Shetty shows the Lama’s optimism with words, ‘never give up’. The culture of Tibet comes alive in the posters describing their simple way of life, sans violence and thoughts of war, arms or army and the history of the land. A transistor made by Zenith Royal for Lama, an avid listener of BBC is also on
The exhibition will run through September 3 and an exhibition will be held at Gateway Hotel on September 4, the day the Lama is expected in the city.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Serious news from America

Frankly, India is an incredible country. 
Only if an American writes something about India's security matters, she gets worried.
When an old journalist (posted in India in the 1960's) affirms that: "reports from a variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists and Pakistani human rights workers reveal two important new developments in Gilgit-Baltistan: a simmering rebellion against Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army," then the Government in Delhi wakes up and gets really nervous.
It is true that the communal tensions in Gilgit area were underreported in the Indian press, busy with the wedding of Shashi Tharoor or other hot topics, but why should the Cabinet Committee on Security, the highest body dealing with security matters meet only after Selig Harrison (the US journalist) writes an Op-Ed in The New York Times informing India that there are many Chinese in Gilgit-Baltistan area. 
India does not have her own intelligence agencies? How come Delhi did not know that Chinese were working on roads, hydropower plants or a railway line in this strategic area?
Harrison says: "China wants a grip on the region to assure unfettered road and rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan. It takes 16 to 25 days for Chinese oil tankers to reach the Gulf. When high-speed rail and road links through Gilgit and Baltistan are completed, China will be able to transport cargo from Eastern China to the new Chinese-built Pakistani naval bases at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara, just east of the Gulf, within 48 hours. Many of the P.L.A. soldiers entering Gilgit-Baltistan are expected to work on the railroad. Some are extending the Karakoram Highway, built to link China’s Sinkiang Province with Pakistan. Others are working on dams, expressways and other projects."
Don't tell me that it was not known in India.
And what about the roads that the Chinese are building in Tibet?
Xinhua reported yesterday: "Highway construction progress smoothly in Tibet". It says: "Up to date, altogether 24.26 billion yuan has been invested in the highway construction in Tibet Autonomous Region, with the accumulated investment hitting around 20.76 billion yuan.
The highway construction has totaled 28,419 kilometers in length, with the key highway construction extending 3,236 kilometers.
In Tibet Autonomous Region, 668 townships and 4,222 villages have access to highways s, covering 97.95% of the total townships and 80.25% of the villages respectively."

Will it need an American journalist to write about it, for the CCS to meet again. 
And what about, the dams being built on the tributaries of the Brahmaputra?
Mr. Harrison should perhaps be informed about these developments, so that he writes about them, then the senior ministers will meet to discuss the matter and order the intelligence agencies to verify the information (which they have certainly already given). 
Strange obsession with the United States!
By the way, Selig Harrison had interviewed Nehru in December 1962 for The Washington Post. In 1971, he wrote an interesting article on his encounter with the Indian Prime Minister and the latter's vision of the Kashmir issue in The Republic. Worth reading.

PM meets cabinet panel to discuss China chill
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to discuss the chill in relations with China, triggered by issues related to Jammu & Kashmir.
New Delhi had put on hold defence exchanges, barring the border personal meeting, country following Beijing's refusal to allow a visit by a senior Indian army officer.
The 90-minute meeting was also attended by India's Ambassador to China S.Jaishankar who briefed the CCS about the developments in the past few weeks. National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon also present at the meeting.
The consultations by the Prime Minister also come in the wake of reports of China posting about 11,000 troops in the  Gilgit-Baltistan region of Jammu and Kashmir which has been held by Pakistan. New Delhi has been watching keenly on Chinese position on J& K that includes issuing stapled visa to the state residents, and Beijing helping PoK projects, reaching a flashpoint with Gen Lt Gen Jaswal being refused permission to visit China.
Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yang was called in by the MEA and Chinese defence ministry issued a statement, stating they haven’t stopped defence exchange with India.
Earlier in the day, Defence Minister A.K. Antony reviewed the security scenario in the wake of reports suggesting the  presence of Chinese soldiers in parts of Jammu and Kashmir held by Pakistan and deployment of missiles along India's eastern borders.
The meeting reviewed the preparedness of the armed forces after reports emerged about Chinese military posturing along Indian borders and presence of more than 11,000 Chinese troops in Gilgit and Baltistan in the PoK.

China has got it all wrong

My Article on the Dalai Lama and the Indian PMs appeared in The Pioneer. The title is China has got it all wrong. You can read by clicking here.

Why the gypsies hate Sarkozy

My article on the Romas and President Sarkozy has been published under the title Why the gypsies hate Sarkozy by Click here to read,