Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Modernization of the People’s Liberation Army

A new book on China, more particularly on the People’s Liberation Army is always welcome: more so, when it is well researched like China — Military Modernisation and Strategy authored by Dr. Monika Chansoria (KW Publishers, New Delhi).
One still remembers that some years ago, George Fernandes, the then Defence Minister was fired at short range by his own NDA government for having dared to affirm that China is India's No 1 enemy (and not Pakistan).
Since then, the mindset in the Indian establishment has changed, mainly and paradoxically thanks to the tremendous progress made by the Chinese PLA in developing the military infrastructure in Tibet.
In the last 10 years, the perception of the Chinese Dragon in India has taken if not a U-turn, at least a sharp bend. For example, in 2009 the Ministry of Defence sanctioned two new divisions to strengthen the Indian borders in Arunachal. This change of mind is due to the stubbornness of Beijing’s leadership who continues to claim the North-Eastern State as South Tibet.
More recently, information has circulated that a new mountain strike corps, (40,000 more troops) may be permanently located in northeast India to retaliate against any Chinese offensive.
Ajai Shukla wrote in The Business Standard: “For decades after India’s humiliation at the hands of China in 1962, New Delhi shrank from a robust defence posture on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control, fearing it might provoke China. In the aftermath of 1962, through the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian Army stayed away from the border, remaining behind a self-imposed ‘Limit of Patrolling’. In the 1980s, the army returned to the LAC, but remained entirely defensive in outlook. The sanctioning of a strike corps, therefore, signals a dramatic new assertiveness in New Delhi.”
This is in response to the constant PLA nagging, whether on the Ladakh front or in Arunachal.
The latest example: some Chinese soldiers damaged a wall erected by the Indian troops near the border, north of Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh). The incident was termed "as the most important one along the Sino-Indian border this summer".
Indian troops eventually repaired the 200 metre long wind-breaker wall and lodged a complaint with the local Chinese military commander.
This type of relatively minor incident will only repeat itself and eventually escalate, if India does not show that its defence forces are ready for any eventuality.
This incident and hundreds of others explain why we should know more about China, its armed forces, its concept of war and planned strategy.
The lack of knowledge about China is probably the greatest tragedy of a modern India, obsessed with Pakistan. Too few scholars and think tanks have tried to understand the mindset and military culture of the Middle Kingdom.
Dr. Chansoria should therefore be complimented for her thorough research.
It is important to cite a couple of other exceptions. One is the book authored a few years ago by Lt Gen JS Bajwa, Modernisation of the PLA — Gauging its latent Future Potential (Lancers Publishers, New Delhi) who went in depth into the evolution of the PLA, its relations with the CCP, its military strategy, the nuclear doctrine and the future potential of the Chinese forces. Lt Gen Bajwa who is today Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, will hopefully put his theoretical experience into practice for a better preparation of the Indian defence forces in the Eastern sector.
Another is the research of Jagannath Panda, an IDSA scholar China’s Path to Power — Party, Military and Politics of State Transition (Pentagon Security Press, New Delhi) in which Dr Panda studies civil-military dynamics and the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) adopted by China a couple of decades ago.
India needs hundreds of Chansorias, Pandas and Bajwas to get to know the mindset of the Chinese Army. This lacuna predates the 1950’s, when the country plunged into the folly of the Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai policy and swore by non-violence as the Supreme Truth. The only China advisor of Jawaharlal Nehru was dreadful KM Pannikar who could only kowtow the Communist regime. The consequences were seen in October 1962; India has still not fully recovered psychologically from the trauma.
Chansoria begins her study by exploring the history of China's People's Liberation Army, “a journey of resolute struggle and grit directed towards triumph” and then follows the PLA “from a small Chinese Communist Party organ to a guerrilla force, comprising workers and peasants, to the PLA of today which has transformed into a tri-Service military force.”
Later the PLA went through several phases to finally become a regular military force. Chansoria reminds us of The Art of War written by Sun Tzu more than 2,000 years back: "War is a matter of vital importance to the State. It is mandatory that it be studied thoroughly;" (it is rarely done in India) or "For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill; to subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill;" or other principles such as:
•    war is based on deception
•    win through unexpected moves
•    gain victory by varying one's strategy and tactics according to the enemy's situation
•    use the soft and gentle to overcome the hard and strong
•    stay clear of the enemy's main force and strike at his weak point
•    make the devious route the most direct
•    fight back and gain the upper hand only after the enemy has initiated fighting
•    make a feint to the east but attack in the west
Though the times have changed and the CCP is going through constant RMA, these basic principles of war remain (whether or not they are explicitly mentioned or not in the White Papers on Defence regularly published by the Chinese government).
One word constantly appears in all the books on the PLA: ‘modernization’. It seems that it has been the leitmotiv of the CCP Central Military Commission especially after the return of Deng Xiaoping in 1978/79. In the last White Paper issued on March 21, 2011 by the State Council, an entire chapter is consecrated to ‘modernization’.
Chansoria extensively explores the principles of ‘active defence’, as well as ‘local wars under conditions of 'informationisation', both parts of the RMA.
Chansoria and earlier Bajwa have done a good job in showing these components of the ‘peaceful rise of China’.
One can regret that the lessons of the 1962 War with India have not been more detailed. Because there is always a gap between the theoretical strategy published in specialized websites or publications and the actual facts of an armed conflict.
A small detail (details are often telling for China watchers): when in July Vice-President Xi Jinping visited Bayi in Nyingtri Prefecture, north of Arunachal, General Chen Bingde, PLA Chief of General Staff did not accompany Xi. He headed, with some other members of the Beijing delegation, for Ngari (Western Tibet).
Bayi is a special place: it is a town run by the PLA, north of McMahon Line; ‘Bayi’ means 'Eight-one" or 'August 1' and refers to the anniversary of the Nanchang Uprising, considered to be the founding date of the People's Liberation Army. It is today one of the two main PLA bases in Tibet.
Xi Jinping, the future President of China (and future Chairman of the CMC) probably did not want to alarm India, by taking the Chief of Staff of the PLA with him. Sun Tzu would have probably agreed, “no use to worry the opponent in advance”.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Change of Guard in Tibet

According to his official biography, Chen Quanguo, 55, is a native of Pingyu County in Henan. He was deputy secretary of the CCP Henan Provincial Committee between April 2003 and November 2009, then he was 'elected' governor of Hebei Provincial People’s Government at the 3rd meeting of the 11th Provincial People's Congress on 16 January.
Chen is an alternate member of the 17th CCP Central Committee.

One question comes to my mind: how was he selected to serve for the tough and prestigious post in Tibet (twenty years ago President Hu Jintao also served as Party Secretary in the Tibet Autonomous Region).
One friend suggested 'by Russian roulette', Tibetans may think that 'Mo' (divination) was used (the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party seems to have recently become expert in the Golden Urn lottery!). 
His selection was probably more 'scientific', though Chen has apparently never been in contact with 'restive Tibetans' or other minorities before.
In Hebei, Chen replaced the rising star of the Communist Party, Hu Chunhua who was  transferred as Party secretary of Inner Mongolia in January. (Hu Chunhua earlier served in Tibet; he was one of the few Han cadres who could speak Tibetan).
One explanation for Chen's nomination is his contact with Li Keqiang, the future Premier of China. Chen and Li served together for several 5 years in Henan Province. Li has probably suggested Chen's name.
In an essay on the Sixth Generation of leaders (Changing of the Guard: Beijing grooms Sixth-Generation cadres for 2020's), Willy Lam speak of Li Yuanchao, the present Chief of the CCP Organization Department, responsible for the selection of the cadres:
When he was vice-party secretary and party secretary of Jiangsu Province from 2000 to 2007, Li Yuanchao made a name for himself for broadening ‘intra-party democracy’, especially the ‘scientific’ selection of cadres through means including popular assessment and recommendation.
After becoming Director of the CCP Organization Department in October 2007, however, Li has shifted his attention from ‘scientific’ human-resources theories to the time-honored, Confucianist preoccupation with recruiting virtuous cadres. While visiting Heilongjiang Province in late 2008, he told local officials that his first priority was to pick “people who are ambitious, who want to do good things, who are capable and who will not make a big mess [of the political situation].”
On another provincial outing at about the same time, Li said he was looking for cadres who could “uphold economic development, maintain people’s standard of living, preserve [socio-political] stability and ensure the implementation of the zhongyang’s [central authorities] policies.”
Li’s primary concern is that cadres being groomed for fast-track promotion “should pass muster in both de [morality] and competence, with priority given to de.” “Quite a number of cadres have gone astray not due to the question of professional competence but because of lapses in morality,” Li said.
Chen 'morality' is probably good, the point remains that he will have to deal Tibetan (and Han) cadres with 20 or 30 years experience in the region (like Raidi or Phagpala). 
How will he managed? It has to be seen.
Jampa Puntsog, presently No 2 in the TAR Party will probably retire soon (in China, it is not like in India where you can remain in politics till you die).
Padma Choling (alias Pema Trinley), the TAR Governor may then be elevated to the no 2 slot.
Interestingly, Padma Choling is service-wise several years 'senior' to Chen. 
One good point, Chen did not attack the Dalai Lama in his first speech consecrated to the 'development' of Tibet.

New Party chief of Tibet pledges more efforts in boosting regional development
LHASA, Aug. 26 (Xinhua)
Tremendous efforts are needed to boost development in Tibet and the region's long-term stability, said Chen Quanguo, the new secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region, at a meeting here Thursday afternoon.
The CPC Central Committee announced Thursday that Zhang Qingli, the former Party Chief of Tibet, has been replaced by Chen.
At the meeting, Zhang Jinan, vice minister of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, said that Chen, who started at the grassroots level, gained experience through his work in various posts.
"He is familiar with the work of the Party as well as the economy, and is good at handling the overall situation," he said.
"The decision by the central authorities was out of consideration for the actual work needs, a spirit of cadre exchange, and the real leadership situation in Tibet," he said.
Chen noted that Tibet holds political significance and is an important strategic position.
"The Party and the central government have high requirements for the development of Tibet, and local cadres of all ethnic groups have great expectations," he said.
Chen Quanguo was born in 1955 in central China's Henan Province and later obtained a masters degree in economics.
A retired soldier, he started as a worker in an automobile factory in Zhumadian City of Henan.
After serving as a government leader at both the county and city levels, he was promoted to vice governor of Henan Province in 1998. In 2003, he became the province's vice Party chief.
He was relocated to neighboring Hebei Province in 2009, where he served as vice Party chief of the Province, and governor from 2010.
In regards to Chen's predecessor, Zhang Qingli, Zhang Jinan said that the government "fully recognized" his work in Tibet.
He said that Zhang Qingli will move into another position, but did not elaborate.
Editor: Yang Lina

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why Mao attacked India in 1962

An angle of the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict has been insufficiently studied.
What were Beijing’s motivations to go to war? Why did China suddenly decide to slap Nehru? Who decided to inflict the worse possible humiliation to India?
The historical sources are still sparse, but going through some available documents, one can get a fairly good idea of the Chinese motivations or more exactly the ‘political’ compulsions which pushed the Great Helmsman into this win-win venture.

Mao temporary leaves the stage
It is fashionable to speak of crimes against humanity. One of the greatest, known as the 'Great Leap Forward', began in China in February 1958 and resulted in the largest man-made starvation in human history. By initiating his Leap Forward, Mao Zedong's objective was to surpass Great Britain in industrial production within 15 years. For the purpose, every Chinese had to start producing steel at home, with a backyard furnace. In agriculture, Mao thought that very large communes would cater for a many-fold increase in the cereal production to make China into a heaven of abundance. Introduced and managed with frantic fanaticism, it did not take much time before the program collapsed. However, the more the plan failed the more the party cadres provided inflated production figures to Mao and more people died of starvation.
One man tried to raise his voice against the general madness and sycophancy. This was Peng Denhai, Defence Minister and old companion of Mao during the Long March. Marshal Peng, who was a simple, honest and straightforward soldier wrote a long personal letter to Mao on what he had seen in the countryside and the misery of the people. Mao immediately distributed his friend's critics to all the Party cadres and 'purged' old Peng. The Great Leap Forward was to continue till 1961/1962 and it is today estimated that between 40-50 million died of hunger in China during these three years.
At the beginning of 1962, while tension was increasing on the Indian border, did Nehru realize that China was a starving nation? No, very few grasped what was going on in China at that time.
How many knew that, by the end of 1961 Mao was practically out of power? Dr Zhisui Li, Mao's personal physician recounts how in 1961 Mao was: "…depressed over the agricultural crisis and angry with the party elite, upon whom he was less able now to work his will, Mao was in temporary eclipse, spending most his time in bed."
A year later, at the beginning of the fateful 1962, Mao's situation had not improved, Dr Li noted: "1962 was a political turning point for Mao. In January, when he convened another expanded Central Committee work conference to discuss the continuing disaster, his support within the party was at its lowest."
During the Conference, known as the 7,000 Cadres' Conference, Lui Shaoqi declared: "…man-made disasters strike the whole country." He was targeting Mao. After a month, as the meeting could not conclude, Mao decided that it was enough: he would temporarily retire to stage a comeback against 'left adventurism' and the 'capitalist roaders' later.
By the Fall of 1962, Mao would return with a bang. The conflict with India will be closely linked with his comeback.

Read on...http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/maos-return-to-power-passed-through-india/

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dams and the Civil Society

Interestingly, China seems to becoming more open than India as far as dam construction and safety is concerned.
For example the minutes of  Report of the Technical Expert Group on Brahmaputra Water Diversion (2009) prepared by the Government of India are still classified despite members of the civil society asking for it under RTI. 
Who is this civil society anyway, will ask the Government? But it is another issue.
The Times of India recently reported that the Arunachal Pradesh government and Neepco, the project authority of the 405-MW Ranganadi Hydro Electric Project (RHEP), were accused of robbing the livelihood of indigenous tribals living in the downstream areas of the Ranganadi by depriving them of the water of the river. 
The Lichi Cher Ranganadi Project Affected Area Management Committee (LCRPAAMC) asserted: "The affected people are now feeling that their traditional right over natural resources has been completely snatched with 100 per cent diversion of the waters of the Ranganadi on which the livelihood of many indigenous tribals was entirely dependent. ...The law-abiding citizens of downstream areas wholeheartedly welcomed the project commissioned in 2002 keeping in mind the economic interest of backward and younger states like ours. In the beginning, it was expected that the problems being faced by the downstream people like heavy siltation, complete extinction of aquatic lives and floods due to construction of the dam would be addressed by the stakeholders. But nothing has happened till today."
The petition continue in this vein.
The LCRPAAMC, at a meeting on August 18 asked that Neepco authorities to release 50 % of the Ranganadi in the downstream areas to revive aquatic life.
Unless they start a fast at the Ramlila Maidan, who will listen to them?

Dams safety is of course another issue, but it is high time that it is looked into. 
Is not the responsibility of any Government to take care of its citizens?

Dams gone wrong: Is danger lurking in China’s dams?
(August 24, 2011)
One of China’s premier investigative news agencies reveals China’s dams “are like ticking time bombs”: beset by disaster, flaws, poor construction, neglect, and fraud.

Chinese officials are beginning to admit to problems at the country’s showcase Three Gorges dam, but little has been said about the safety of Three Gorges and China’s 87,000 other dams. Now, a report from Southern Weekend (one of China’s premier investigative news agencies) reveals shocking details about dam collapses and other safety concerns presented to a meeting of the Chinese National Committee on Large Dams. Never before have such details of dams gone wrong been revealed to the public. Even Southern Weekend’s seasoned investigative journalists were taken aback to learn of the spillway tunnels that have been destroyed by flood waters, of flood discharge channels ripped apart as if by a bomb, and the collapse of one dam after only 13 hours in operation. Cracks have appeared in the shiplock of the Three Gorges dam — some 733 of them with a total length of 4,688 metres. Meanwhile, the Danjiangkou dam, which is slated to divert water to Beijing as a part of China’s South-North Water Diversion project also has cracks. In all, 3,481 dam collapse incidents have occurred in the 50 years from 1954 to 2003. Officials are now scrambling to shore up a host of poorly constructed and neglected dams, and to raise the standards for the very tall dams China is building in seismically active areas of the country.
Read Probe International’s translation of Southern Weekend’s original article below, published by Southern Weekend (Nanfang zhoumo) on July 07, 2011
By Lu Zongshu and Shen Nianzu
China has built over 87,000 hydro dams, more than any other country in the world. Hydro dams and reservoirs perform many functions including flood control, power generation, irrigation, and water supply and so forth, but the issue of dam safety has always been treated as a sensitive subject. Now, incidents at a number of dams and reservoirs have cast doubt on the quality of these projects, but they are rarely reported to the general public.

Shocking dam incidents
A nation-wide survey focusing on key dams and reservoirs in China will be carried out, but the authorities have yet to disclose details. Given the recent debates about whether dams and reservoirs have caused droughts and floods, this idea is interesting and significant.
The announcement that the survey will be carried out was made at the 2011 Annual Conference of the Chinese National Committee on Large Dams (CNCLD). Zhang Rushi, Deputy Director of the Work Safety Department of the Ministry of Water Resources made the announcement and stated that, through surveys and field investigations, the study aims to discover the true situation with China’s hydro dams.
On June 18, 2011, about three hundred leading experts in China’s water resources and hydropower industry gathered in Yichang, Hubei Province, to attend the Annual Conference held by the CNCLD. The participants included Wang Shucheng, former Minister of Water Resources and current chairman of the CNCLD, and Lu Youmei, member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and former general manager of the Three Gorges Corporation.
“Dam safety” was among the most oft-mentioned words by the experts at the conference. “Safety comes first,” insisted Wang Shucheng. “Dam safety should always be put first in the construction of hydro dams. We should not be the people who are condemned by history, feeling ashamed and regretful for what we have done to the motherland and to our people.”
During his presentation at the CNCLD meeting, Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of the China Hydropower Engineering Consulting Group, showed the audience about ten photos of different dam accidents. These images, never before disclosed, shocked the general audience, but especially reporters from the media. Afterwards, reporters from Southern Weekend did a great deal of research, but could find little detail about the incidents on the Internet.
The first picture was about the Ertan Hydropower Station built on the Yalong River (a tributary of the Yangtze, in Sichuan Province), whose spillway tunnel was completely destroyed by flood waters. For the general, non-technical audience, like us, it was especially difficult to imagine how such a solid reinforced concrete structure could be washed away and broken into pieces like a heap of loose sand. As the speaker, Zhou Jianping said, it was very fortunate that they found the problem in time and fixed it, or the Ertan dam would have been seriously threatened.
Another photo caused a buzz in the audience: the flood spillway of the Sanbanxi dam in Jinping County, in southeast Guizhou Province, was totally destroyed on July 26, 2007, after only 13 hours of operation. Apparently, there was a problem with the quality of construction, causing as much as 13,000 cubic meters of concrete and rock to wash away, leaving a pit as deep as 11 meters, or the equivalent of a three-story high building. According to Zhou Jianping, the consequences could have been disastrous if floods had occurred at the same time and the operators were unable to close the sluice gates.
At the Jinghong dam, built on the Lancang-Mekong River and lauded as one of the most important hydro dams in Yunnan Province, the flood discharge channel twice suffered serious damage from floods, once in 2008 and then again in 2009. As the picture illustrated, the channel was torn open like a big mouth as if blown up by a bomb, with steel bars hanging around like withered plants.
Another of the incidents resulted in casualties: as Zhou Jianping explained, the road leading to the site of the Jishixia dam on the Yellow River in Qinghai Province suddenly collapsed one evening as a result of silt being discharged. Drivers of two vehicles unknowingly drove along the damaged road, crashing into the Yellow River. At least eight people are still missing.
In his speech to the conference, Zhou Jianping concluded that the accidents were the result of low standards, including inadequately prepared surveys, unscientific design and construction plans, mismanaged construction, absence of quality control and supervision, and even fraud in building materials. All of these factors have contributed to the poor quality of dam projects and compromised the safety of dams.

Regulations lag behind reality
Pan Jiazheng, one of the founders of China’s hydropower industry and an expert in water resources, often warned that any errors and oversights in dam design and construction would compromise the quality of the projects. Dealing with the aftermath of these problems would be more costly, he said, including the loss of innocent lives.
For example, on August 27, 1993, the dyke in the Gouhou reservoir in Qinghai Province burst, killing 288 people (the dam’s height is 71 m). Back in August 1975, two large reservoirs, Banqiao and Shimantan, together with two other medium reservoirs and 58 small reservoirs in the Zhumadian area of Henan Province, collapsed one after another, in just a few hours.[i] Ten counties and towns in Zhumadian were flooded by as much as 5.7 billion cubic meters of water, and 26,000 people died as a result.
Dams under construction are also encountering problems. The Xiluodu hydropower station, for instance, China’s second largest hydropower dam on the Jinsha River, has been experiencing construction problems going back to 2010. Engineers and workers on the construction site found that, after pouring hundreds of cubic meters of concrete, the template was incorrectly positioned. A person familiar with the situation said that the financial cost of the mistake was not big, but the time lost to removing the concrete (which had already solidified), and re-pouring it, seriously affected the project’s schedule.
According to a 2009 report by the Sinohydro Engineering Bureau 3 Company Limited, entitled, “A summary report on technological research dealing with problems at hydraulic structures,” problems have occurred at a number of dams: cracks were discovered in section 6 of the Danjiangkou dam (on the Han River, a tributary of the Yangtze [ii]; leaks occurred in the Shiban hydrodam structure in Fuling (formerly in Sichuan Province and currently a District of Chongqing Municipality[iii]; leaks also occurred in the Tianshengqiao tunnel of the Erlangba hydrodam in Shaanxi Province; and concrete defects have been found in the shiplock of the Three Gorges dam project. In fact, according to a 2006 survey of Three Gorges, 733 cracks, with a total length of 4,688 meters, on both the eastbound and westbound channels of the shiplock, have leaked water. But, the survey said, these cracks were subsequently repaired in order to meet the design requirements “through professional treatment.”
As the Chinese media put it ironically, China’s hydropower construction has entered a “Great Leap Forward,” with the giant power companies divvying up watersheds and rushing to construct hydropower projects. According to recent news, the Three Gorges Group is accelerating its construction of four giant hydro dams on the Jinsha River that will generate twice the power output of Three Gorges if all the projects go into operation.
This situation worries the older generation of hydropower experts. As Wang Shucheng explained, it used to take years to prepare surveys and investigations before construction of a dam began. Now the job is usually done in a hurry, he added. Especially worrying, many large projects are being built in southwest China where the geological conditions are complicated and the area is seismically active. For that reason, it will be particularly dangerous to build dams without a sound plan and without implementing it stringently, Mr. Wang warned.
According to information provided by CNCLD, as of 2009, China had built and was constructing 5,443 hydro dams with a height greater than 30 meters. Thirteen of those are higher than 200 meters. But the “Dam Safety Regulations,” which are meant to govern dam construction in China, were issued in 1991 and apply only to dams up to a maximum height of 200 meters.
“The problem is that the regulations lag behind the reality,” Zhang Rushi, Deputy Director of the Work Safety Department of the Ministry of Water Resources told the 2011 CNCLD conference. Because the regulations are inadequate when it comes to meeting current needs for dam safety, it is a high priority that they be revised.
China’s poorly constructed dams and those that have become dangerous after years of neglect are like ticking time bombs. According to an earlier report about dam incidents entitled “Statistics and Preliminary Analysis of Incidents with Dams and Reservoirs in China,” more than half of China’s reservoirs were built between 1950 and 1980, most under conditions known as “building while investigating, and building while designing.” These circumstances led to low standards and poor quality construction. To make matters worse, most are today in a dangerous state of ill-repair after decades of operation (see charts below).

Note: The data in Chart 2 comes from statistics gathered between 1954 and 2003. Dams in Chongqing Municipality are included in Sichuan Province’s statistics because Chongqing Municipality did not exist at the time, but came under the jurisdiction of Sichuan Province. Source: “Statistics and Preliminary Analysis of Incidents with Dams and Reservoirs in China,” by He Xiaoyan, Wang Zhaoyin and Huang Jinchi, and Ding Liuqian. (Charts by Li Bogen).
Based on the statistics provided by He Xiaoyan (one of the authors of “Statistics and Preliminary Analysis of Incidents with Dams and Reservoirs in China,” who is now working in the Department of Flood-Control and Disaster Reduction of the China Institute for Water Resources and Hydropower Research), there were a total of 3,481 dam collapse incidents in the 50 years from 1954 to 2003 (excluding Taiwan). He Xiaoyan points out that:
“Inadequate flood-discharging capacity and problems with project quality were the main causes of dam failure and collapse; 96.4% of the reservoirs where these incidents occurred were small ones.”
China has become increasingly concerned about dam safety and has repaired and reinforced 9,225 poorly constructed and dangerous reservoirs in the past ten years. In the last three years alone, 64.5 billion yuan RMB has been spent. In the next five years, 41,000 reservoirs are set to be repaired, requiring large financial commitments from state budgets.
As Zhang Rushi said, the preparatory work for the nationwide survey of big dams and reservoirs has already been done. The investigation will now be carried out by the Ministry of Water Resources, together with the State Administration of Work Safety, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Ministry of Water Resources, together with the State Administration of Work Safety, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Click here to read the original article published in the Southern Weekend.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A new boss for Tibet

Zhang Qingli, the Party boss in the Tibetan Autonomous Region has been transferred to an unknown position.
Is this move connected with the recent visit of Vice-President Xi Jinping's visit to Tibet?
Difficult to say!
In his first speech as Party Secretary, Chen Quanguo cited five times Hu Jintao and not a word of Xi Jinping.
Does it mean that Chen will follow the hardline policies put in place by Hu Jintao when he was Tibet Party Secretary at the end of the 1980's (till 1992).
One worrying sign has been that the hardliner Tibetan cadre Raidi has been seen everywhere in the Tibetan region since Xi Jinping’s visit (the Vice-President visited his house in Lhasa).
He presided at the annual summer pastoral festival in his home prefecture of Nagchu.Poor nomads had to wave Red Flags.
A knowledgeable friend pointed out “when the Chinese media would go into overdrive about the wonderful benefits of this or that policy, it meant that that policy probably existed nowhere in the country and officials not only were bickering among themselves about it but more importantly were having trouble getting the masses to even think about it. I suspect all this national flag business falls roughly into the same category.”
Raidi also participated in other official meetings in Nagchu and Lhasa.

He sat prominently on the stage during Third Meeting of the China Tibet Cultural Preservation and Development Forum next to Zhang Qingli, the then Party Secretary and read the Work Report for the Forum.
All this means that the hardliners are not far. It is difficult to expect radical changes in the months to come.

China replaces Tibet's hard-line party boss
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press – 14 hours ago
BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday replaced Tibet's hard-line Communist Party boss under whom bloody rioting broke out in the Himalayan region three years ago.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Zhang Qingli, the region's highest-ranking official, is being moved to another position which it did not identify. It said he will be replaced by Chen Quanguo, a longtime party official in the eastern province of Henan who last served as governor of Hebei province surrounding Beijing.
Like all of Tibet's party chiefs, Chen is not Tibetan but a member of China's majority Han ethnic group.
No reason was given for the move, although Zhang has served five years in the position, roughly the standard term for provincial officials.
China's policies for Tibet are set at the highest levels in Beijing and there is no reason to believe the move heralds any major change.
Zhang, a former top official in Xinjiang, another ethnically troubled region, took over as Tibet party secretary in 2006 during a relatively quiet period.
Two years later, deadly anti-government rioting broke out among Tibetans in the capital, Lhasa, spreading quickly to Tibetan areas of western China in the most severe and sustained unrest in decades.
Security forces poured in and a massive crackdown ensued, with China closing Tibet to foreign tourists for a year. Foreign journalists remain barred from Tibet except on rare, tightly scripted government-organized trips.
During his term, Zhang saved his harshest rhetoric for Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, calling the 76-year-old cleric a "wolf in monk's robes" and the "scum of Buddhism."
Beijing considers Chinese sovereignty over Tibet unquestionable and inviolable. It says Tibet has been its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were essentially an independent nation until Communist forces invaded in 1950.
The Dalai Lama recently shifted his political responsibilities to the prime minister of the self-proclaimed India-based Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard legal scholar who grew up a refugee.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

China's shadow over Nepal

My article China's shadow over Nepal was published in today's Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Beijing is strengthening its grip over Kathmandu as in the long run it wants to control Nepal for political and strategic reasons.
The situation in Nepal is rapidly spinning out of control, though the recent resignation of Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal had some unexpected effects. Even if Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai does not become the 35th Prime Minister of Nepal, dark clouds are gathering over the erstwhile Himalayan kingdom.
Mr Zhou Yongkang, a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, one of the nine bosses of the Middle Kingdom, arrived in Kathmandu on August 16. The ‘unexpected’ outcome of the Prime Minister’s resignation was that the visit had to be postponed by a day: China’s security chief was supposed to land on India’s Independence Day.
With the increasingly all-pervasive Chinese presence in Nepal, resentment against India is growing deeper, mainly fuelled by pro-China elements. The popular news portal, Telegraph Nepal suggested that instead of “making fresh commitments for physical packages, India needs to change its behaviour towards its smaller neighbour. Nepal just needs the good will”. Before his arrival, reports mentioned that Mr Zhou Yongkang had a “secret gift package” in his luggage; a Nepali daily reported: “The contents of the package have been kept a guarded secret.”
The visit of the former Minister of Public Security and presently Chairman of the Central Political and Legislative Committee was anyway significant because Mr Zhou Yongkang is responsible for law and order and intelligence in the Politburo. The importance of the visit was visible by the size of the 60-member delegation accompanying Mr Zhou Yongkang, who is the senior-most Chinese official to visit Nepal after the end of the monarchy.

Read on ...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Strike Corps for Arunachal

Some years ago, when George Fernandes, the then Defence Minister dared saying that China is India's No 1 enemy (and not Pakistan), he was told to keep quiet by his own NDA government. 
The mindset in the Indian establishment has radically changed since then, mainly thanks to the tremendous progress made by the Chinese PLA on the infrastructure development in Tibet.
The creation of a strike Corps to strengthen Indian defences is therefore a welcome development.
The Times of India recently reported that the Chinese soldiers damaged a wall erected by India north of Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh). The incident was termed "as the most important one along the Sino-Indian border this summer".
Apparently the Chinese soldiers came across to a place where India has a 200 metres long wind-breaker wall and damaged it. The wall, said to be a few feet tall is an old structure. 

Indian troops eventually repaired the wall, and a complaint was lodged with the local Chinese military commander.
This is a relatively minor incident, but it can only repeat itself and escalate, if India does not show its is prepared for any eventuality.
The creation of a strike Corps will go a long way to cool down the ardours of the People's Liberation Army.
As already mentioned on this blog, General Chen Bingde, Chief of General Staff of the PLA (and a senior member of the Central Military Commission) did not accompany Vice-President Xi Jinping to Bayi in Nyingtri Prefecture, north of Arunachal. He headed for Ngari (Western Tibet) with some other members of the delegation from Beijing.
'Bayi' is a People’s Liberation Army town. Bayi means 'Eight-one" or 'August 1'. It refers to the anniversary of the Nanchang Uprising, considered to be the founding date of the People's Liberation Army. 
The town of Bayi was established soon after the invasion of Tibet by the 18th Army (part of the Second Field Army based in Sichuan) in the early 1950s. It is today one of the two main PLA bases in Tibet.
Ngari in Western Tibet (North of Ladakh) comes under Xinjiang Military District, itself under Lanzhou Military Region. 

New strike corps for China border
Ajai Shukla
New Delhi August 24, 2011,
In 2009, New Delhi acted decisively in sanctioning two new army divisions, about 35,000 troops, to strengthen Indian defences in Arunachal, which China claims as a part of Tibet. It can now be revealed that New Delhi has also sanctioned a new mountain strike corps,  of an additional 40,000 soldiers, to be permanently located in bases in northeast India. The new corps is to retaliate against any major Chinese ingress into India by launching an offensive into Tibet.
For decades after India’s humiliation at the hands of China in 1962, New Delhi shrank from a robust defence posture on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC), fearing  it might provoke China. In the aftermath of 1962, through the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian Army stayed away from the border, remaining behind a self-imposed ‘Limit of Patrolling (LoP)’. In the 1980s, the army returned to the LAC, but remained entirely defensive in outlook. The sanctioning of a strike corps, therefore, signals a dramatic new assertiveness in New Delhi.
Business Standard has been aware of this development since 2009, but has refrained from reporting on it after requests from top Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials. Now, with the outlines of this development emerging in the media, Business Standard no longer feels bound by confidentiality.
The new mountain strike corps will control two divisions, trained and equipped for an attack into Tibet. If China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captures any Indian territory, by quickly concentrating an attacking force over Tibet’s impressive road network, the Indian Army would not be forced into bloody, Kargil-style counterattacks to recapture that territory.
Instead, the new strike corps would launch its own riposte, advancing into Tibet and capturing a vulnerable chunk of Chinese territory, e.g. the Chumbi Valley that projects into Sikkim and Bhutan. Several such objectives would be identified in advance and detailed preparations made for the offensives. The new strike corps will have its own mountain artillery, combat engineers, anti-aircraft guns and radio equipment. It would also be supported by Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters, operating from newly renovated bases in northeastern India. On July 26, the then IAF chief confirmed that Sukhoi-30 fighters had already been posted to air bases at Tezpur and Chhabua.
On June 25, he told NDTV that Jorhat, Guwahati, Mohanbari, Bagdogra and Hashimara were also being developed as air bases. The IAF is also modernising eight ALGs (Advanced Landing Grounds), essential for quickly building up and resupplying a strike corps. These bases would also be crucial for airborne operations, especially heli-lifting forces to key objectives behind the enemy frontlines.
The proposal to raise two additional divisions for the defence of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as a strike corps, dates back to 2007. It began as a decision of the China Study Group, a secretive government body that considers all strategic issues relating to China. Thereafter, the army’s Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) prepared a cabinet note. The decision to raise the additional divisions was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on May 14, 2009.
This was the last major decision taken by the UPA government before the elections of 2009. It was rushed through because top UPA leaders felt if the UPA were not re-elected, the new government would begin the decision-making process afresh, losing another two years. To manage the expenses, it was decided the two defensive mountain divisions would first be raised during the 11th army plan (2007-2012). Next, the strike corps, including its two mountain divisions, would be raised during the 12th Defence Plan (2012-2017). The cost of raising a new Indian Army mountain division is estimated to be Rs 700 crore.
The 4,057-km LAC consists of three sectors. In the western sector in Ladakh, which India’s 14 Corps defends, the PLA already controls most of the area that China claims. The central sector, at the UP-Tibet border, which India’s 6 Mountain Division defends, is relatively insignificant. The most contentious is the eastern sector, which includes Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims 90,000 sq km of territory that India occupies. It is here, driven by fear of Chinese aggression, that India is strengthening its capabilities by raising new formations.
A mountain strike corps will provide India with strategic capabilities that were badly missed when Mao Zedong marched the PLA into Tibet in 1950. While considering its responses, the Indian government asked the army chief of that time, General (later Field Marshal) K M Cariappa, what resources he had to intervene on behalf of Tibet. Cariappa could spare just one battalion (800 soldiers). And, so, New Delhi watched as Tibet was subjugated and the China border advanced all the way to the Himalayas.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Château Lafite for Dinner?

According to this article between 80 to 90 percent of Château Lafite wine sold in China is fake.
In less than ten years, the price of Château Lafitte has risen 857%!!!
A few months back, as I visited some of the Châteaux in the Médoc where Château Lafite is located, I noticed several mini-buses loaded with Chinese visitors/tourists. 
I wondered, 'what are they doing here?'. 
I was later told that they are the Châteaux' best customers since 'Europeans are broke'.
I then realized that the newly-found love of the Chinese people for Bordeaux 'grand crus' was serious business.
The Chinese are well-known for their prowess in retro-engineering, but it is probably easier to duplicate a Russian fighter plane than a "Première Côte de Bordeaux".  
In this case, only the labels can be copied easily. But, this serves the purpose of the 'nouveaux riches'.

PCWorld reported a few weeks ago that Chinese authorities have found 22 more fake Apple Stores just in the city of Kunming (Yunnan). A month earlier, five fake stores had been discovered in the capital of the Yunnan province, two of which had been ordered to close.
The Rothschild family, the owner of famous vintage since the 19th century can find a consolation, no Chateau Lafitte stores will be open soon in China, though the fake red wine will probably continue to abundantly flow for the 'nouveaux riches' of the Middle Kingdom.

The Brand Name Château Lafite Rothschild at Chinese Officials' Dinner Table
Source: news.163.com, August 15, 2011
Lafite is a trademark not registered in Mainland China. Château Lafite Rothschild, a wine estate in France, produces 15,000 to 25,000 cases of wine annually, or about 200,000 bottles. China's annual quota of Lafite wine imported from France is only 50,000 bottles. However, the annual sale of Lafite in China exceeds 3 million bottles, meaning 80 to 90 percent of Lafite sold in China is fake. In less than 10 years, the price of Lafite has risen 857%.
Over time, Lafite in China has gradually lost its original nature and now serves a social function. It is used to judge someone’s economic situation. To show off their status, people dare not to comment on Lafite. Even if they have bought fake Lafite, they silently accept it, fearing ridicule for not being able to recognize true Lafite. Lafite’s high price and the reputation of the wine of kings satisfies the proclivity of government officials, who, at a party, must drink the best wine. The rising demand has resulted in a higher price for Lafite, which, in turn, makes Lafite more popular among government officials and elite groups. “Lafite,” a symbol of status, has become the “official wine.” The taste and color are no longer important. A businessman observed, “I cannot take the risk of not providing Lafite at the dinner table.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mega Chinese project in Lumbini?

The Economist said that the Nepalese media speculated about the status of the "Asia Pacific Exchange and Co-operation Foundation" wanting to invest billions in Lumbini.
Was this mysterious organization a front for either the Indian or the Chinese intelligence service? 
It concluded "The truth seems even stranger".
One could ask: why should an organization, based in Hong-Kong with China's backing, be representing the interests of India.
Strange speculations!
It is however surprising that UNIDO, a UN organization can decide to invest $3 billion in Lumbini (isn't it a big amount of money) without referring the issue to the stakeholders (India is one of them).
Let us not forget that Lumbini is located a few kilometers of the Indian border  and India can't certainly remain silent, if huge infrastructure development is planned at her doorstep.
The Himalayan News Service reported that "The resignation of PM Jhala Nath Khanal has poured cold water over Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang’s much awaited visit to Nepal". 
Zhou had planned to raise Beijing's concerns about the activities Tibetans in Nepal (the reviewing Nepal-China Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1960 was also expected to be on the delegation’s agenda). 
It did not happen. Apparently, Zhou did not mention "a single word regarding Tibetan issue during the hour-long meeting with Khanal, though it was widely projected as the main agenda of the visit."
According to a senior Nepali official: "the PM’s resignation was the reason behind their mind change," adding: "They might have thought that it was not the right time to raise serious issues as the government had become a caretaker one.”
in his meetings with Khanal, Maoist Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal, NC President Sushil Koirala and Former PM Madhav Kumar Nepal, Zhou expressed 'awkwardness' about the PM’s resignation on the eve of his visit. He added that China would like to see stability in Nepal.
In his meeting with Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Zhou implied that Nepal needs to improve its weak security arrangements along Nepal-China border and Beijing wished to help Kathmandu in this.

A bizarre project in Nepal
At Buddha’s birthplace
A Chinese development proposal causes disbelief

The Economist
Aug 20th 2011
AFTER Prachanda, the leader of Nepal’s Maoists, stepped down as prime minister in 2009 he several times met representatives of the “Asia Pacific Exchange and Co-operation Foundation”. The Nepalese media speculated that this mysterious organisation was a front for either the Indian or the Chinese intelligence services, the two giant neighbours often accused of meddling in Nepal’s politics. The truth seems even stranger.
In July Chinese media reported that the Hong-Kong-based foundation—which is widely thought to have China’s backing—had signed an agreement with UNIDO, the UN’s industrial-development organisation, to invest $3 billion in Lumbini, a village in southern Nepal. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha, which the project aimed to make a “Mecca for Buddhists”, with train links, an international airport, hotels and a Buddhist university.
The news caused uproar in Nepal. Neither the central government nor the local authorities responsible for Lumbini said they had been consulted about, or even heard of, the project. UNIDO’s officers say they will not comment on the affair while they try to discover how the organisation got involved. If this was an exercise in Chinese “soft power”, it was a disaster.
India is highly sensitive to Chinese activities in Nepal. It regards Nepal as part of the Indian sphere of influence, and it is easily Nepal’s biggest trading partner and source of investment. Nepal pegs its currency to the Indian rupee. Through close cultural and linguistic ties, and the machinations of its diplomats and spies, India has long exercised a strong influence on Nepal’s politics. It is widely believed that India helped topple Prachanda (whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal) as prime minister in 2009 partly because he was thought to be too close to China.
Now the role of Nepal’s other giant neighbour is becoming more visible. Chinese interests were once limited to demanding support for their policies in Tibet. To that can now be added burgeoning commercial interests in hydro-electricity, construction and telecoms. This week China’s top security man, Zhou Yongkang, became the latest in a series of senior Chinese officials to visit Nepal, bearing loans and aid packages. Chinese diplomats have begun discreetly treating Nepalese journalists to whisky-fuelled dinners and offering them visits to China—blandishments that were once the preserve of India. Chinese hotels, restaurants and brothels have multiplied in Kathmandu.
How to interpret it all? Observers agree that security remains China’s top priority in Tibet, though it is undoubtedly looking to expand its economic influence, too. For Nepal, balancing India’s influence by engaging more with China is attractive. One of the poorest countries in Asia, Nepal should benefit greatly from improving economic ties with its booming neighbours. As for Lumbini, the Buddha scheme has been shot down, but attempts to revive it are already under way. If the would-be investors handle it better next time, such a huge project may prove irresistible.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zhang Qingli in Nepal

An interesting development, Zhang Qingli, the Party boss in Tibet is accompanying the Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yonkang in Nepal.
Zhang is seen on the left of the picture.
Though the Tibet issue may have not been officially discussed, the trans-boundary issues are bound to have come on the table.
Zhang was certainly not here just to enjoy the warmer air of the Kathmandu valley.
According to Phayul.com before the Chinese delegation’s arrival, some Nepali officials called upon the Dalai Lama's Representative (Voluntary Co-ordinator of Tibetan Welfare Office), Thinlay Lama to make sure that there would be no Tibetan protest during the visit.
Later, the Nepal Police arrested five Tibetans in Kathmandu. The Boudha Police Station confirmed that the five are being kept under preventive detention.

Khanal's Exit Clouds Zhou Visit
KATHMANDU: The resignation of PM Jhala Nath Khanal has poured cold water over Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang’s much awaited visit to Nepal, sources said today. Zhou and his 60-member delegation, including half a dozen ministers and vice-ministers were widely expected to raise Beijing’s long standing concern about Tibetans in Nepal and their support for free-Tibet movement. The issue of reviewing Nepal-China Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1960 was also expected to figure during delegation’s meetings with Nepali leaders, according to official sources.
“PM’s resignation was the reason behind their mind change,” said a senior official.
“They might have thought that it was not the right time to raise serious issues as the government had become a caretaker one,” he added.
Zhou, the ninth ranking member of powerful Politburo Standing Committee and Chief of Politics and Law of Communist Party of China, expressed “awkwardness” of PM’s resignation during his visit in his meetings with Khanal, Maoist Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal, NC President Sushil Koirala and Former PM Madhav Kumar Nepal. “He said China would like to see stability here,” said PM’s foreign affairs adviser Milan Raj Tuladhar, who was present during the meeting at PM’s office today.
Zhou and his team did not mention a single word regarding Tibetan issue during the hour-long meeting with Khanal, though it was widely projected as the main agenda of the visit. Nevertheless, Khanal reiterated Nepal’s long-standing ‘One China’ policy and commitment to act against anti-China activities. In his meeting with Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Zhou, however, implied that Nepal needs to improve its weak security arrangements along Nepal-China border and wished to help Nepal government to this effect.
Zhou’s delegation also called on President Dr Ram Baran Yadav at his office and expressed China’s wish for smooth transition. In the evening, he hosted a dinner at Solti Hotel for senior leaders of political parties and government officials.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

India isn't just about Gandhi

 A book review for The Pioneer

India isn't just about Gandhi
The Pioneer
Book Review
August 13, 2011  
Windows into the Past
Author: Judith M Brown
Publisher: Oxford
Price: Rs 295
Brown speaks of life stories as a new and more illuminating source of history, though she can be blamed for confining her studies to Gandhi and Nehru alone, says Claude Arpi

Judith Brown, one of the foremost experts on the 19th and 20th century South Asian history and politics, writes in her book, Windows into the Past: Life Histories of the Historian of South Asia: “History is perhaps more than almost any other discipline a contentious business, and inevitably political, because it deals with the past of women and men in society, and so has profound consequences for how people as individuals and groups interpret their pasts and presents, and draw on their pasts to try to fashion their futures.”
Nobody can argue against this, though in post-Independence India politicians or Governments have rarely looked into their past to shape their future. As a result, history has inherently got reserved for ‘specialists’ or ‘eminent’ historians, often out of touch with the reality of life.
This is, however, not the case in countries like China, where leaders like Mao Tse-tung were great students of history and would often refer to significant past events before taking crucial decisions. Interestingly, at a meeting called to decide the ways to “teach India a lesson” in October 1962, Mao opened the discussion by recounting the circumstances of the “one-and-a-half” Sino-Indian wars. “The first war took place in 648 AD when a Tang dynasty emperor dispatched troops to assist a legal claimant to the throne of a subcontinental kingdom. The Chinese force defeated the usurper, who was captured and sent to Tang capital Changan (Xian), where he lived for the rest of his life,” said Mao.
Then Mao spoke of the ‘half war’ that took place in 1398 when Timurlane attacked India. “This was a great victory, but was followed by the slaughter of over 100,000 prisoners and looting of all precious metals and gems across the land”, he said. It was a ‘half war’ because Timur was from Mongolia, then a part of China, making this attack half-Chinese.
However, Brown’s remarks that history is inevitably ‘political’ are true, particularly for relatively recent events of the subcontinent like Partition, described by her as “a deeply emotive historical event, playing a crucial but very different part in the national histories of India and Pakistan”.
Brown’s argument is that South Asian history has been “dominated by the themes of state and nation, as scholars sought to understand the nature of the imperial state with its institutional structures” from different perspectives. She rightly believes that “individual lives” have a tendency to be neglected. “Lives are also a significant source, particularly in the case of many of those who were prominent in the politics of nationalism and kept their papers for posterity in a conscious attempt to be part of the making of their nation’s history,” she says.
One can only agree with the author on this point. The history of a nation cannot depend on archival materials only, if one wants to understand the deeper sense of history and the role played by the men who changed the fate of a nation. Brown speaks of these life stories as “new and more illuminating sources”, though she admits that only recently “the history of the subcontinent has begun to be seen within the matrix of insights that are known loosely as ‘global history’... a complex global networks of trade, investment, migration, education, religion and ideology”.
Interest in personal lives is important, though one can find fault in Brown restricting the object of her studies to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Why not Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Sri Aurobindo, among others, who participated in the ‘global’ history of the subcontinent, with their capacities, limitations and aspirations.
But there is a more serious problem in India. Just to take the case of the first Prime Minister, the ‘Nehru Papers’ are locked in almirahs in the Jawaharlal Nehru Library while the keys are kept by the descendants of the first (and only) dynasty of independent India. It is the same thing with the files of the Ministry of External Affairs that are closed not only to the general public, but also genuine historians.
India is one of the few countries in the world that refuses to declassify archival material and this despite the fact that the Right to Information Act was passed by Parliament in 2005. Unfortunately, the RTI helps those who do not want India’s history to come out of the almirahs. Article 8(1)(a) says: “There shall be no obligation to give any citizen, (a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence.” This paragraph is enough to make all the files of the Ministry of External Affairs, Defence and Home inaccessible to the public.
One of the most glaring (and foolish) examples of this outdated policy is the Henderson Brooke report. Hiding behind this clause, the Government forbids the people to know about the 1962 India-China War. One can understand why Nehru did not make the report public, as he might have had to take responsibility for the unpreparedness of the Army. But the report, classified as ‘Top Secret’ in 1963, continues to remain so today. Is it not distressing that 48 years after the event, the Government still gives a free hand to China to propagate its version of history?
The PMO has recently admitted that it has 28,685 secret files but has not declassified any in recent times. Though the Government officially swears by the rule to make files public after every 20-25 years, the policy remains unimplemented. The babus say they are holding on to the files to protect ‘national interests’!
These babus (and the politicians) have obviously never read Nehru’s works. On August 27, 1957, in a ‘Note’ to his Principal Private Secretary, the first Prime Minister commented about some persons having been refused access to the National Archives of India: “The papers required are very old, probably over 30-year-old. No question of secrecy should apply to such papers, unless there is some very extraordinary reason in regard to a particular document. In fact, they should be considered, more or less, public papers.” Ironically, the UPA Government is not ready to listen to Nehru.
Brown makes a valid point about ‘life stories’, but unless archives are opened to the people, a crucial element will remain missing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Civil Society in China

Things are moving fast in China, faster than in India, at least on the environment front.
The civil society is becoming more and more vociferous about the quality of the environment. 
In the case related by Jonathan Watts, the government had ultimately to bend.
One wishes that similar movements could happen in India where till recently the Government argued that they was no proof that endosulfan could be dangerous for the public. 
Fortunately, on May 13 the Supreme Court ordered a countrywide ban on manufacture, sale and use of the cheap and popular pesticide. 
The Court said that the endosulfan had toxic effects on humans and environment. 
Last week, the Supreme Court refused to relax countrywide ban.
The court said right to life was above all other interests and considerations and it could not 'take on its head' a single child getting affected by the pesticide during the period when the Centre-appointed expert committee conducted tests to determine endosulfan's toxicity.
The Court was wise because it may take decades for the government to prove the toxicity of the pesticide (certain lobbies are very influential!!). 
The question is: where is the Indian civil society in the story?

China orders petrochemical plant shutdown after protests
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent
14 August 2011
Chinese authorities have ordered a petrochemical plant to shut down immediately after tens of thousands of protesters marched through the streets of a nearby city, demanding the factory be relocated.
The demonstration in Dalian – one of the biggest in a series of recent Nimby rallies against potential polluters in China – was sparked by the news last week that a protective dike around the Fujia factory, in the Jinzhou industrial complex, had been breached by rain and high waves as typhoon Muifa approached.
In a rare concession the local Communist party chief, Tang Jun, and Dalian's mayor, Li Wancai, promised to move the project out of the city, Xinhua reported.
The protesters demanded a clear timetable for moving the plant, with some refusing to leave until a plan was in place, the state-run news agency said.
Minor scuffles were reported at the demonstration, but the ranks of riot police mostly looked on as the largely peaceful and white-collar crowd – variously estimated at 10,000 to 70,000 – assembled without a permit in People's Square.
Some chanted old revolutionary songs, and others held banners spelling out local concerns about the factory, which produces paraxylene (PX), a benzene-based chemical widely used in plastic bottles and polyester clothing.
Mobile phone photographs of the protest have circulated rapidly on the internet. Slogans included "PX Out!", "Refuse PX", "PX out of Dalian". Some protesters wore gas masks; others stood on top of a police car.
The gathering was organised through websites such as Sina Weibo and Renren, despite the efforts of censors to remove comments calling for action. David Gao, a local student, said the demonstration grew so large that it expanded beyond the concrete square outside the city government office and into local streets.
"We need to kick the PX factory out of Dalian to protect our environment," he said. "If something as serious as the storm happens again, it will be a disaster.
No poisons are thought to have leaked during last week's storm, but thousands of local residents were evacuated. Some said they did not trust official reports. "Even if there was contamination, the government would restrict the news," said Cindy Xin, who was taking part in a demonstration for the first time.
Concerns about the safety of the plant were heightened by reports that Chinese reporters who went to investigate were denied access and beaten by security guards.
PX plants are far from being the most dangerous of China's chemical facilities, but they have proved politically toxic. In 2007, tens of thousands of people in the southern city of Xiamen went on a protest walk against a PX plant, prompting the local government to move the facility out of its jurisdiction.
Several of the online notices about the Dalian protests referred to the Xiamen case, to a large oil spill in Dalian last year and to recent leaks from an oil field in the nearby Bohai Sea that went unreported for a month.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 1947 in Pondicherry

What prompted me to post the text below is a recently declassified letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to Lakshmi Menon, Deputy Minister in the Ministry of External Affairs. 
It is dated August 27, 1958.
Nehru shockingly wrote that the Sri Aurobindo Ashram "has been very anti-Indian in the past". 
Nehru was clearly not aware of Sri Aurobindo's role in India's Freedom struggle.
Here is Nehru's letter.

My dear Lakshmi,
Your note about your visit to Pondicherry.
I do not think it is desirable for us to issue an ultimatum to the French Government about the date for de jure transfer.  That kind of thing will do us little good and may do us much harm. It will not, in fact, make much difference to Pondicherry. It is true that there is some uncertainty about the future and this comes in the way of certain political aspects of the question. But nobody is at all certain about Pondicherry continuing in India.
We made it quite clear that Pondicherry will not be absorbed in Madras State or interfered with in any other way unless the people themselves so wish.
The Aurobindo Ashram  there has certainly done some good work. They have very large resources to which they are continuously adding. Nevertheless, I do not consider the atmosphere generated in that Ashram as very desirable. No doubt they are pro-Indian now but they have been very anti-Indian in the past.  However, there is no reason why we should take advantage of what they have done.
About the other matters you have written to me, I am sending your note to the Foreign Secretary.
Yours sincerely,
Jawaharlal Nehru
A few years ago, I wrote a small book "Pondicherry: The last months before India's Independence — Perspectives of a British Consul General ".
The background of this research was the correspondence between the British Consul General in Pondicherry, Colonel Fletcher and officials in the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth in Delhi.
I reproduce here the chapter about August 15, 1947 in Pondicherry.

The book is downloadable from my website.
I have posted the original footnotes between [ ].

[Extracts from Pondicherry: The last months before India's Independence]
A momentous change occurred on the sub-continent between the fifth letter in the series under study and the next. India became independent. Nehru as the first Prime Minister pronounced these words which have remained famous in history:
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
For our Consul General, the stroke of midnight did not change anything. Though technically he was not supposed to have direct relations with the Government of India anymore, he continued to write to the Indian officials in Delhi. His correspondence was not even renumbered. His Secret Letter dated August 17, 1947 bears the reference D.O. No. 176-II/14. It is in fact only the continuation of the previous letter (dated August 14, 1947) under reference D.O. No. 175-II/14.
In a strange diplomatic twist, he remained the Agent of British India which did not exist any more. Fletcher’s letter contains a translation of an ‘official précis’ of the speech of Governor Baron delivered on the August 15, 1947 to the heads of departments of the French India Administration as well as leading notables and leaders of political parties. During his speech, Baron pledged on behalf of his Government to respect the wishes of the people on two conditions: first that the Union of India should have its own Constitution and that it be a fully sovereign State.
On the 15th evening, the British Consul General held a reception at his Consulate to which more than a hundred people were invited. Amongst these were Baron, French officials and the leading political leaders as well as members of the British and Indian communities. Fletcher made a short speech; he proposed a toast to “the happiness and prosperity of the Union of India and Pakistan and to their peoples and their continued friendship with Britain”.
Fletcher took the opportunity to quote Lord Mountbatten’s speech at Karachi on the August 14 [Pakistan had become independent on August 14].
The Governor-General had referred to “two new sovereign States” becoming members of the Commonwealth. The Consul General to counter Baron explained to his audience that the Commonwealth was an association of free sovereign states. They were only linked together “by common interests with the Crown as a symbol.” He clarified that each Member State of the Commonwealth was entirely independent and sovereign; it was free to sign its own treaties; a Member State was not bound to declare war to a third nation, should Britain do so; and it was free to frame its own fiscal and economic policies. He also added that any Commonwealth State was at any moment completely free to leave the Commonwealth, if it wished so. This was the most important point to be remembered, he emphasized. What the British had offered India and Pakistan was complete independence.
He regretted that India should now be divided, though he hoped that the two parts would come together ‘before long’. Finally he reaffirmed that the British policy’s goal had always been India’s complete autonomy. The only disagreement between London and the Indian leaders had been over the rate of progress towards that goal. He concluded that on that day no one could any longer doubt the sincere intentions of the British.
Fletcher said that he had purposely made these remarks on sovereignty to contradict Baron’s morning speech and “to remove any misapprehension Barons’s remarks might have created”. He still believed that the French were playing for time and wanted to remain in India: “Why else should they spend so much money on a territory which has only a sentimental value for them?”
The same question could have been asked to the British who fought against India’s freedom movement for several decades before accepting to leave the sub-continent.
Fletcher reiterated that Paris feared repercussions for its other colonies (it was certainly true) and was keeping a foothold in India in case troubles developed. This question was: if these Settlements were only of sentimental value for France, why should they spend so much energy and resources to stay on?
The point so often repeated by Fletcher, that Baron believed in a disintegration of India, never appears in the French archives. In fact, since 1946 Baron had always pleaded with Paris to give French India, the largest possible autonomy.
Fletcher’s conclusions were that only merger with India could satisfy the local population and that they “will not be put off by quibbling about constitution and sovereignty.”
The British Consul remarked that the Archbishop of Pondicherry told him that he wished France was capable of making a gesture similar to the one made by the British. Another French official, Raboul who accompanied Baron to Paris, described by Fletcher as an intelligent and sensible young man, also thought that French India should merge with the Union of India. Raboul is supposed to have added that it was however unfortunate that the other departments including the Colonial Ministry, did not see the things in this light.
The Consul believed that most of the French were thinking that way. He added: “The French are a proud race and the average Frenchman would rather that his country left in a dignified manner than be compelled to go.”
There is a lot of underlying bitterness in Fletcher’s words. The British were leaving (or had left) and the French were hanging on.
He informed Delhi that he had been told that the loges [small enclaves or 'factories' inside the British India's (then India's) territory] would be retroceded on the September 1. He ironically commented: “The graciousness of the gesture is somewhat impaired by the fact that the French are really giving back something over which their claims to sovereignty have never been recognized.”
The day after the Independence several private functions were held in Pondicherry. Fletcher reported the details to Delhi.
One amusing fact was that the French Government flew the flags of the Union of India and Pakistan.
That day, the public buildings and the government House were illuminated.
The British Consul said that he himself “put a good display of flags on the well illuminated Consulate.” It probably means that the Pakistan flag was also hoisted.

[This did not amuse the Indian government for long: the Indian Consul General would soon complain to the Centre about what he perceived as a mischievous action. He wrote to Delhi: “Since August 15, it is the practice of the French to fly the Tricolor together with the flags of the Indian Union and of Pakistan on all government buildings every day.
In my opinion this practice has certain objectionable features. In the first place, the impression created on the public is that India has been divided into two new Dominions. I believe this practice is carried out in order deliberately to create this impression since the French are very happy over the communal situation according to my information from Lt.-Col. Fletcher, Mr. Marsland, some inmates of the Ashram and others.
The relations between India and Pakistan are the same as the relations between India and Australia, Canada or any other Dominion and if the French fly the Pakistan flag they might as well fly the other Dominion flags as well. But to fly the Pakistan flag alone together with the Indian flag is, I believe, mischievous and intended to confuse.
I also object to the flying of the Indian Flag even by itself beside the Tricolor. This practice is to give force to the “dual nationality” theory under which the French hope to remain in India.”
The French propaganda line and policy is apparently to give the local population the impression that for all intents and purposes Pondicherry is already a part of India and the small vestige of French sovereignty is not worth bothering about. Thus they hope to lull the public into inaction and acceptance of the present situation.”]

For this he received the help of the Electrical Engineer of the French Public Works Department, who participated “whole-heartedly into the arrangements”.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram also participated. They provided flour and bread free of cost for the refreshments “as there is a famine of these commodities here”.
Later, Fletcher wrote officially to the Ashram to thank them and say that he considered it “a gift to the Union of India”.
It is necessary to clarify here the position of Sri Aurobindo and his Ashram. Sri Aurobindo, who had been the first Indian leader to advocate purna swaraj (or complete independence) from the British in the early years of the 20th Century, had taken refuge in Pondicherry for his personal sadhana. However, he kept in close touch with the political development of India’s political struggle. The best proof is his intervention when Sir Stafford Cripps visited India in 1942 with a proposal to give Dominion status to India. Sri Aurobindo thought it should immediately be accepted by the Congress leaders. Unfortunately, it was not to be so!
Sri Aurobindo always believed that Pondicherry was to return to the fold of Mother India, though he hoped the French could leave behind them a cultural institution such as a university to manifest “the window of French culture” mentioned by Nehru in 1946. We have already seen the stiff British opposition to the scheme who politized the issue to serve their personal agenda.
August 15 was also Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. On the occasion, he published a message about five dreams he had for Mother India:
The first of these dreams was a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India. India today is free but she has not achieved unity...
Another dream was for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation...
The third dream was a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind...
Another dream, the spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure....
The final dream was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society.
It has often been alleged that the Mother was a ‘colonialist’ for the simple reason that her brother Matheo Alfassa was a senior official in the Ministry of Colonies [he was at one point in time, the Governor of Congo], but nothing is further from the truth. When in early 1948, P.A. Menon, the Joint Secretary in-charge of Pondicherry [and boss of Rahman]  came on a fact-finding mission, he had a long interview with the Mother who first refused to speak about ‘politics’. Finally, when she was pressed to give her opinion, Menon was quite flabbergasted to hear that she thought that the French should leave ALL their colonies, including Vietnam. He had been receiving erroneous reports (most of the time bazar gossip) from his officials (particularly the first Indian Consul General) to the contrary.

[On June 14, 1949, a few days before the Referendum in Chandernagore, Nolini Kanta Gupta told a an A.P.I. (Associated Press of India) correspondent: “Sri Aurobindo feels certain and has expressed it more than once that the different parts of India, whoever may be their present rulers, are bound to join the mother country and that India, free and united, will become a dynamic spiritual force bringing peace and harmony to the war-scarred and suffering humanity in general.”
When asked if this meant that Sri Aurobindo desired Chandernagore, Pondicherry and the other settlements in India to join India, Nolini said: “Certainly so. He has prophesied that these small foreign pockets in India would sooner or later become one with India and India would become the spiritual leader of the world.”]

To come back to the Independence celebrations, Fletcher informed Delhi that many flags of the Union of India were flown in the town. Morning and evening processions were organised. In the evening, a demonstration jointly organized by the Congress and Communist parties counted a large number of women; the participants sang Indian patriotic songs and shouted slogans in honour of Nehru and other leaders. Some banners called the French “Imperialists” and asked them to leave India: “White man, get out”.
Fletcher reported that he had heard “rumours of a clash between the Socialists and some passers-by and that some of the Ashram buildings were stoned.”

[The person who was murdered was a man called Mulshankar. He had come to the Ashram in the thirties and was also one of the attendants of Sri Aurobindo. Apparently that day, Mulshankar was stabbed in the neck, though no one actually witnessed the stabbing. He was bleeding profusely when he reached the Ashram main door, and he could not be saved.]

He even said that one unconfirmed report mentioned that one member of the Ashram had died as a result of injury inflicted by a stone.

[The recently-posted Indian Consul General, Rashid Ali Baig reported to Delhi: “The hostile demonstrations, culminating in the murder of an inmate, that took place on August 15 at the gates of the Ashram were directed against her [The Mother] and not against Shri Aurobindo whom everybody seems to respect but pities for being ‘hen-pecked’ without the benefit of the matrimony.” Nothing was further from the truth, but Baig’s reports continued to feed the gossip mill. This was one of the first in a series of outrageous reports which Baig poured on Delhi. Finally he was reprimanded more than once by Nehru himself who had to remind him that he was the Consul General of India.]

We have seen that Roux had informed Nehru of the decision of the French Government to hand over the loges on September 1. A letter to this effect was sent by the French Prime Minister (Président du Conseil) to his Indian counterpart on August 12. For some reason, the letter of George Bidault  was misplaced and received by Nehru only on September 22. This delay is rather strange in view of the importance of the content.
The French said later that they had misplaced the letter; in any case the fate of the French Settlements was not the No. 1 priority of Delhi when North India was burning.
Nehru answered Bidault on 30 September 1947: “The Government of India welcome and accept the decision of the Government of the French Republic regarding the renunciation of the historic rights which France has exercised in the areas known as the French loges in India, in favour of the Dominion of India. Owing to the late receipt of your letter, it was not possible for the ceremony of the transfer to be held on the date you proposed. I am, however, arranging with your Embassy here for a convenient date in the immediate future.”
Nehru, who had asked Paris for this first gesture of goodwill as early as April, expressed “on behalf of the Government of India my sincere appreciation of this friendly gesture which will help to strengthen the cordial relations existing between the Governments of the French Republic and India.”
Finally, the loges were formally ceded to the Indian Union on 6 October 1947.
It has to be pointed out that this cession was not entirely according to the French law by which the Government could not take such a decision without the assent of the Parliament. But as we have seen, it was more a symbolic gesture to put the relations between the two countries on a firmer base.