Friday, October 28, 2011

Why 1962 will not be repeated

My article on 1962 War was published yesterday in the DNA under the title Why 1962 will not be repeated. Click here to read.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1962: Could history repeat itself?

On October 20, very few in India remembered that 49 years ago, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army massively attacked India.
The brunt of the aggression occurred in Tawang district. Since then, the names, Thagla ridge and the Namkha Chu have become synonymous with defeat, humiliation and shame.
The Wiseman will say: ‘past is past’; but the question remains, could the debacle be repeated?
In recent months, the Indian press has been full of the amazing infrastructure development north of the LAC: new airports, four-way highroads, five-star hotels, and a railway line coming closer and closer.
Wanting to find out for myself, I travelled to Tawang. Though most of the border areas are still ‘restricted’ to ordinary citizens, after spending a few days in Tawang and listening to the local people (the taxi drivers are usually the most loquacious), one gets a fair idea of the situation.
The answer to my question is definitively, ‘No, 1962 will not be repeated”.
During the last decades, many things have changed in India. Just after independence, the principles of the administration of the Northeast were laid down by Verrier Erwin, the guru of soft integration of tribal areas: “we should avoid imposing anything on the local people".
It had disastrous consequences as far as infrastructure was concerned. In October 1962, when the Chinese entered Indian territory, north of Tawang, Nehru was forced to wake up from his romantic dreams.
In January 2008, during a visit to Itanagar and Tawang, the Prime Minister announced a Rs 24,000 crores package for the State. The priority was given to the roads (in particular, the construction of a Trans-Arunachal Highway).
With the road being enlarged between the plains of Assam and Tawang, one drives on the messiest imaginable construction site. It is the favorite topic of local jokes: some say that if the Chinese dare to come again, they will break their vehicles and their noses; others curse the Army’s Border Road Organization for having started to work on all the stretches simultaneously. The fact remains that the present state of the road is not propitious for an armed conflict.
There are other differences between 1962 and 2011: the then foolish leadership did not dare to use the Air Force, it will not be the case today; especially after a full squadron of Sukhoi-30 aircraft have been deployed at Tezpur air base in Assam (another squadron has been brought to Chabua in Upper Assam).
Further, the IAF is planning to open six Advanced Landing Grounds, as well as several helipads in areas close to the border.
If India was attacked today, it would not remain a localized conflict like in 1962; any Chinese misadventure would trigger an ‘all-out’ conflict. The Chinese are aware of this.
It has been in the public domain that two new infantry divisions (with their headquarters in Zakama in Nagaland and Missamari in Assam) have been raised and that the Government is looking for a place in the Northeast to set up the headquarters in of a Mountain Strike Corps.
Walking in the bazaar in Tawang, one has a feeling of a harmonious relation between the Army and the local population. This is a crucial factor which was not here fifty years ago. I was told that some villages fully supported the invading Chinese troops in 1962. This explains how the PLA was able to build a road from Bumla, the border pass, to Tawang in 18 days. One can imagine the amount of accurate intelligence required for this feat. This type of situation does not exist in Tibet where the alien PLA has to deal with a resentful local population.
Though it cannot be construed as a sign that nothing untoward could happen, today there is a relative peace and bonhomie on the border. Indian tourists can get a pass from the Deputy Commissioner’s Office for a darshan of Tibet at Bumla border post. I was told that on October 1, 300 Indian and Chinese visitors participated in a mela on the occasion of China’s Republic Day. The general comment was that Chinese noodles are not as good as Indian parathas and sabzis.
Lastly but most importantly: the local Monpa population is amongst the most patriotic in India. Though the Chinese propaganda calls this area ‘Southern Tibet’; this will never be accepted by the local population. Once, there was a demonstration of the local population chanting Dudh mangoge to kheer denyenge, Aruncahal mangoge to chir denyenge (you ask for milk, we give you kheer; you ask for Arunachal, we give you arrows).
If China wants again to ‘teach a lesson’ to India, it will be a Himalayan task, and in the process, the PLA may get a ‘bloody nose’, as they say in the Army.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Hidden and Blessed Land of Mon

‘Lama Geno’, in Monpa language could be translated as ‘The Lama knows’, or more freely, ‘here we are’. It is what Tsangyang Gyaltso, the young Sixth Dalai Lama, wrote in 1688 with his finger on a stone in Urgyeling, a village south of Tawang, the headquarters of the western-most district of Arunachal Pradesh.
A high delegation had just arrived from Lhasa looking for the reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama who had passed away a couple of years earlier in Tibet. The boy was waiting to be ‘taken back’ to his Potala Palace in Lhasa.
It is just one of the numerous stories or legends in Monyul, (the ‘low land’) as Tawang is known. The Monpas are obviously fond and proud of these legends.
Being located near the tri-junction between India, Tibet and Bhutan, south of the McMahon Line, Tawang is today one of the most strategic districts in the country. The Government has however opened it to visitors (an Inner Line Permit is required for Indians and a Protected Area Permit for foreigners).
Long ago, the British created an ‘inner line’, separating these ‘excluded tracks’ from the plains. Though for a long time considered ‘backward’, one soon discovers a culture dating back several centuries; a first darshan of the imposing Gompa (monastery) towering over the valley in all its majesty, will remove all doubts about this.
Tourism is becoming a key to the economic development and the integration of these border areas, and will ultimately a factor for the defence of the frontiers as it gives a tremendous boost to the infrastructure.
In October 1962, when the Chinese entered the Indian territory north of Tawang, the Indian Army was woefully unprepared and the infrastructure inexistent. It was a watershed in Indian history. To keep a part of the Indian territory ‘excluded’ proved to be fatal and humiliating for the nation.
In January 2008, during a visit to Itanagar and Tawang, the Prime Minister announced a Rs 24,000 crores package for the State. Priority was given to connectivity (in particular, the construction of a Trans-Arunachal Highway). 
As a result, the road between the plains of Assam and Tawang is the messiest construction site imaginable. The road has become the favorite joke of the local drivers, unstoppable on the subject; one can however take comfort in the fact that the work has finally started.
Reaching the Sela Pass, at 13,700 feet above sea level between Tawang and Bomdila (West Kameng District), you feel as if entering another world. But you are first reminded that the area was the theater of the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict. A Memorial dedicated to Jaswant Singh, the heroic rifleman who defended the pass and earned a Maha Vir Chakra in November 1962, is a sort of mandir in memory of the brave jawan. It is a compulsory stop for all Army personnel, as well as tourists (more than 95% of the visitors are presently from West Bengal). Looking at the old bunkers, one can imagine the incredible sufferings and bravery of the jawans and officers of the Indian Army, abandoned by an irresponsible leadership (a visit to the 1962 War Memorial in Tawang is also a must).

Two hours later, the first glimpses of the Tawang Gompa perched on one of the highest hills overlooking the Tawang Chu Valley (‘chu’ is ‘river’ in Tibetan/Monpa) are breathtaking.
For the past three centuries, life in Monyul has been centered around the Gompa, the fountainhead of the Buddha Dharma for some 30,000 Monpas and other Buddhist ethnic groups (like the Sherdukpens).
The history of the location of the Gompa is most interesting: a monk called Mera Lama, born in Kitpi village near Tawang, spent several years in Tibet before returning to his native place. Before leaving Lhasa, he met the Fifth Dalai Lama who asked him to propagate the Dharma in Monyul and establish a large monastery with the help of the local population.
The legend says it is Mera Lama's horse who found the location of the new monastery. It became known as Tawang Gompa: in Monpa dialect ‘ta’ means ‘horse’ and ‘wang’ ‘blessings’ (Tawang is ‘the place blessed by the horse’).
Today five hundred monks study in the Gompa, the largest Buddhist monastery in India under the dynamic leadership of a young Lama known as Guru Rinpoche.
The Buddhists believe in the concept of sacred places or pithas. During the 10th century, the great Indian yogi Tilopa said that pithas are to be found inside your own self, though “outer pithas are mentioned in the scriptures for the benefit of simple fools who wander about the country”.
As a tourist, you may be classified as ‘a simple fool’ by siddhas, but you will tremendously enjoy visiting some other ‘outer’ places empowered by the Sixth Dalai Lama, Mera Lama or Guru Padmasambhava.
Most of the tour operators will tell you visit the ‘Madhuri’ Lake. After Rakesh Roshan shot Koyla (starring Madhuri and Shah Rukh), jawans posted in the area began calling it, ‘Madhuri’ Lake; it was a grazing pasture before becoming a lake after the dreadful earthquake of August 1950. Locals say that it is its USP, as there are as many 108 lakes in the area, many of them larger and more stunning, some having been blessed by great tantric masters and yogis.
A few kilometers away is the Tagtsang Gompa (the ‘Tiger Lair’ monastery), perched at 13,500 feet. It is one of the four pithas that Guru Padmasambhava, the great Indian tantric master who helped establishing Buddhism in Tibet, Bhutan and the Himalayan belt visited. The Guru is said to have traversed Tagstang in the form of a Tiger and subdued some powerful local spirits hostile to Buddhism.
Another popular figure in Monyul is the great Mahasiddha Thangtong Gyalpo. Born in 1385 in Central Tibet, he traveled widely in the Himalayas. He is remembered in Buddhist history, not only for his teachings, but also for the iron bridges he constructed. He was a remarkable engineer and maybe the first Asian to understand the meaning of communication (seven centuries before it became the sign of our civilisation). His hagiography said he built 58 iron bridges and 118 boats to cross rivers. One of these bridges called Chaksam Bridge can be seen today across Tawang Chu near Kitpi village towards Mukto. The iron was of such high quality that it is still in use after 7 centuries. Thangtong Gyalpo is also the founder of the Tibetan Opera.
Another special place is the Gorsam Chorten (Stupa) which was built in the 18th century by a monk of Tsona monastery (located in Tibet). He wanted to make a replica of the Bodhnath Stupa in Kathmandu. He is said to have traveled to Nepal and made a perfect model carved in a radish that he managed to conserve and copy once back in Gorsam.

Another name of the Land of the Monpa is ‘Mon Payul Kyinochung’ which means the ‘hidden and blessed land’. This brings a familiar concept in the Himalayan literature: the esoteric concept of ‘Hidden Land’, an initiation is required to enter this region.
Till recently ‘hidden lands’ had a literal meaning in Tawang, but with the relaxation of the Inner Line Permit system, the region is today accessible to all (the initiation being the two-day journey on the road from Assam to Tawang).
The beauty and the sacredness of the sites, the serene atmosphere of the mountains, the luxuriant flora and the gentleness of the local population of Arunachal can make the most tense citywalla relax and take him to another dimension.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Is the Tibet Declaration of Independence illegal?

In Philadelphia, a group of American and British lawyers debated the legality of America's Declaration of Independence.
If one follows the American argument, Tibet is also an independent nation.
Read the Tibetan Declaration of Independence and the BBC article and decide.
The only difference, as the Thirteenth Dalai Lama often said, is that there are big insects and small insects.
Nobody argues or reject the arguments of 'big insects'; it is not the case with 'small insects'.
Tibet was and remains a small insect, while America is the most powerful one. 
In the world today, there are different laws for different types of insects.

Proclamation of Tibetan Independence by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama on the 8th Day of the First Month of the Water-Ox Year (1913)
I, the Dalai Lama, most omniscient possessor of the Buddhist faith, whose title was conferred by the Lord Buddha's command from the glorious land of India, speak to you as follows:
I am speaking to all classes of Tibetan people. Lord Buddha, from the glorious country of India, prophesied that the reincarnations of Avaloki tesvara, through successive rulers from the early religious kings to the present day, would look after the welfare of Tibet.
During the time of Genghis Khan and Altan Khan of the Mongols, the Ming dynasty of the Chinese, and the Qing Dynasty of the Manchus, Tibet and China cooperated on the basis of benefactor and priest relationship. A few years ago, the Chinese authorities in Szechuan and Yunnan endeavored to colonize our territory. They brought large numbers of troops into central Tibet on the pretext of policing the trade marts. I, therefore, left Lhasa with my ministers for the Indo-Tibetan border, hoping to clarify to the Manchu emperor by wire that the existing relationship between Tibet and China had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other. There was no other choice for me but to cross the border, because Chinese troops were following with the intention of taking me alive or dead.

On my arrival in India, I dispatched several telegrams to the Emperor; but his reply to my demands was delayed by corrupt officials at Peking. Meanwhile, the Manchu empire collapsed. The Tibetans were encouraged to expel the Chinese from central Tibet. I, too, returned safely to my rightful and sacred country, and I am now in the course of driving out the remnants of Chinese troops from DoKham in Eastern Tibet. Now, the Chinese intention of colonizing Tibet under the patron-priest relationship has faded like a rainbow in the sky. Having once again achieved for ourselves a period of happiness and peace, I have now allotted to all of you the following duties to be carried out without negligence:

1. Peace and happiness in this world can only be maintained by preserving the faith of Buddhism. It is, therefore, essential to preserve all Buddhist institutions in Tibet, such as the Jokhang temple and Ramoche in Lhasa, Samye, and Traduk in southern Tibet, and the three great monasteries, etc.

2. The various Buddhist sects in Tibet should be kept in a distinct and pure form. Buddhism should be taught, learned, and meditated upon properly. Except for special persons, the administrators of monasteries are forbidden to trade, loan money, deal in any kind of livestock, and/or subjugate another's subjects.

3. The Tibetan government's civil and military officials, when collecting taxes or dealing with their subject citizens, should carry out their duties with fair and honest judgment so as to benefit the government without hurting the interests of the subject citizens. Some of the central government officials posted at Ngari Korsum in western Tibet, and Do Kham in eastern Tibet, are coercing their subject citizens to purchase commercial goods at high prices and have imposed transportation rights exceeding the limit permitted by the government. Houses, properties and lands belonging to subject citizens have been confiscated on the pretext of minor breaches of the law. Furthermore, the amputation of citizens' limbs has been carried out as a form of punishment. Henceforth, such severe punishments are forbidden.

4. Tibet is a country with rich natural resources; but it is not scientifically advanced like other lands. We are a small, religious, and independent nation. To keep up with the rest of the world, we must defend our country. In view of past invasions by foreigners, our people may have to face certain difficulties, which they must disregard. To safeguard and maintain the independence of our country, one and all should voluntarily work hard. Our subject citizens residing near the borders should be alert and keep the government informed by special messenger of any suspicious develop ments. Our subjects must not create major clashes between two nations because of minor incidents.

5. Tibet, although thinly populated, is an extensive country. Some local officials and landholders are jealously obstructing other people from de veloping vacant lands, even though they are not doing so themselves. People with such intentions are enemies of the State and our progress. From now on, no one is allowed to obstruct anyone else from cultivating whatever vacant lands are available. Land taxes will not be collected until three years have passed; after that the land cultivator will have to pay taxes to the government and to the landlord every year, proportionate to the rent. The land will belong to the cultivator.

Your duties to the government and to the people will have been achieved when you have executed all that I have said here. This letter must be posted and proclaimed in every district of Tibet, and a copy kept in the records of the offices in every district.

From the Potala Palace.
(Seal of the Dalai Lama)

Is the US Declaration of Independence illegal?
BBC News Magazine
19 October 2011
By Matt Danzico and Kate Dailey
In Philadelphia, American and British lawyers have debated the legality of America's founding documents.
On Tuesday night, while Republican candidates in Nevada were debating such American issues as nuclear waste disposal and the immigration status of Mitt Romney's gardener, American and British lawyers in Philadelphia were taking on a far more fundamental topic.
Namely, just what did Thomas Jefferson think he was doing?
Some background: during the hot and sweltering summer of 1776, members of the second Continental Congress travelled to Philadelphia to discuss their frustration with royal rule.
By 4 July, America's founding fathers approved a simple document penned by Jefferson that enumerated their grievances and announced themselves a sovereign nation.
Called the Declaration of Independence, it was a blow for freedom, a call to war, and the founding of a new empire.
It was also totally illegitimate and illegal.
At least, that was what lawyers from the UK argued during a debate at Philadelphia's Ben Franklin Hall.

American experiment
The event, presented by the Temple American Inn of Court in conjunction with Gray's Inn, London, pitted British barristers against American lawyers to determine whether or not the American colonists had legal grounds to declare secession.
For American lawyers, the answer is simple: "The English had used their own Declaration of Rights to depose James II and these acts were deemed completely lawful and justified," they say in their summary.
To the British, however, secession isn't the legal or proper tool by which to settle internal disputes. "What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union? Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right," they argue in their brief.
A vote at the end of the debate reaffirmed the legality of Jefferson and company's insurrection, and the American experiment survived to see another day.
It was an unsurprising result, considering the venue - just a few blocks away from where the Declaration was drafted. But did they get it right? Below are some more of the arguments from both sides.

The American case for the Declaration

The Declaration is unquestionably "legal". Under basic principles of "Natural Law", government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny.
The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.

The British case against it
The Declaration of Independence was not only illegal, but actually treasonable. There is no legal principle then or now to allow a group of citizens to establish their own laws because they want to. What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union?
Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right. The Declaration of Independence itself, in the absence of any recognised legal basis, had to appeal to "natural law", an undefined concept, and to "self-evident truths", that is to say truths for which no evidence could be provided.
The grievances listed in the Declaration were too trivial to justify secession. The main one - no taxation without representation - was no more than a wish on the part of the colonists, to avoid paying for the expense of protecting them against the French during seven years of arduous war and conflict.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Forty-nine years ago...

Forty-nine years ago, the Chinese attacked India on the slopes of the Thagla ridge in NEFA.
It has remained a scar in the Indian psyche while the Chinese have come and gone and forgotten about it.
But they themselves have a deep scar, that is the Tibetan uprising of March 1959 and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India (through Khenzimane at the bottom of the same Thagla ridge).
In 1950-51, the Communist leadership thought that they 'liberated' Tibet, but nine years later, 'liberated' Tibetans revolted against their 'liberators'.
Today, though Beijing pretends to have brought 'economic development' and 'happiness' to the masses, monks and nuns are immolating themselves. The tragedy continues.Beijing has an immense problem to solve here.
As for India, as long as the culprits of 1962 are not publicly condemned, the scar will remain. 
The Himalayan Blunder, the book of Brig John Dalvi, commanding the 7 Infantry Division on the Namkha Chu in 1962 is a small step in this direction. The Henderson-Brooks report and other documents also need to be released, only then we will have a proper picture of the folly of the leadership of the time (political, intelligence and Army mainly). 
Forty-nine years is a long time and as Dalvi says in his book, quoting Antony Eden, this may "expose many wounds; by doing so it may help to heal them".
My earlier article, Why Mao attacked India in 1962 shows a different angle of the drama.

The Himalayan Blunder
Brig J.P. Dalvi 
Natraj Publishers (2009)

THIS BOOK was born in a Prisoner of War Camp in Tibet on a cold bleak night.
On the night of 21st November 1962, I was woken up by the Chinese Major in charge of my solitary confinement with shouts of 'good news - good news'. He told me that the Sino-Indian War was over and that the Chinese Government had decided to withdraw from all the areas which they had overrun, in their lightning campaign. When I asked the reason for this decision he gave me this Peking inspired answer: “India and China have been friends for thousands of years and have never fought before. China does not want war. It is the reactionary (sic) Indian Government that was bent on war. So the Chinese counterattacked in self-defence and liberated all our territories in NEFA and Ladakh, in just one month. Now we have decided to go back as we do not want to settle the border problem by force. We have proved that yon are no match for mighty China”. He concluded with this supercilious and patronising remark: “We hope that the Indian Government will now see sense and come to the conference table at once so that 1,200 million Chinese and Indians can get on with their national development plans and halt Western Imperialism”.
This kindergarten homily was, and remains, the most humiliating moment of my 7-month captivity and indeed of my life. That night I experienced a wave of bitter shame for my country. In my grief I took a solemn vow that one day I would tell the truth about how we let ourselves reach such a sorry pass. With time heavy on my hands, as I had no radio, newspapers or books, I brooded over India's humiliation and the fate of my commando I was repatriated, along with all the other officers of field rank, on 4th May 1963. We reached Barrackpore, the Military Airport at Calcutta at mid-day but could not land there and were diverted to Dum Dum.
We deplaned and were greeted with correct military protocol, tinged with a chill reserve. It was only later that I found out that we had to clear ourselves of the charge of having been brainwashed - a strange charge from a Government which had itself been brainwashed into championing China's cause for more than a decade without a doubt the prisoners had been declared outcasts. Apparently we should have atoned for the past national sins of omission and commission with our lives. Our repatriation was embarrassing as the national spotlight had again been focused on the Sino-Indian Conflict.
From the tarmac we were herded straight to the Customs enclosure where a sprightly team of appraisers had assembled to 'examine' our luggage. They had been told that some Indians had arrived from Hong Kong and were waiting to confiscate transistors and opium! I knew then that there had been no material change in India and we were in the same old groove.
After a cursory and stereotyped de-briefing at Ranchi, I was ordered- to meet the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. J.N. Chaudhuri at Delhi on 15th May. He asked me to write a report for the personal information of the Defence Minister and himself. The aim was, in Gen. Chaudhuri's words: "To teach ourselves how not to hand over a brigade on a plate to the Chinese in future". He added that we had become the laughing stock of even countries like …and … (I hesitate to name these countries!).
I welcomed the opportunity afforded by the Chief's instruction for a personal report as this would give me a chance to collect my thoughts. The basic facts had been branded into my memory. To make doubly sure, I had many sessions with Lt. Col. Rikh, Commanding Officer of 2 Rajputs and Lt. Col. B. S. Ahluwalia, Commanding Officer of the 1/9 Gorkhas, Major R.O. Kharbanda and Captain T. K. Gupta of my Staff.
We recounted, cross-checked and authenticated the facts which form the basis for this book. Rankling at our unfriendly reception and the many garbled versions I heard from friends, I wrote a forthright account which 1 handed over to the Chief personally. I do not know the fate of this report as I was never again asked to discuss or explain it. It may have touched some sensitive nerves.
It was soon apparent that the Army had become the centre of much controversy and that the blame for the 1962 fiasco had been cunningly shifted to its alleged 'shortcomings'. What was more alarming were the extravagant claims made by some senior Army Officers, who attained eminence only after the 1962 reshuffles, as to how brilliantly they would have handled the situation and defied the authority of Nehru, Menon and Kaul. This attitude made me despair of whether my countrymen and colleagues would ever learn any lessons from India's first attempt at conducting a modern war and strengthened my resolution to tell my story.
1962 was a National Failure of which every Indian is guilty. It was a failure in the Higher Direction of War, a failure of the Opposition, a failure of the General Staff (myself included); it was a failure of Responsible Public Opinion and the Press. For the Government of India, it was a Himalayan Blunder at all levels.
* * *

The people of India want to know the truth but have been denied it on the dubious grounds of national security. The result has been an unhealthy amalgam of innuendo, mythology, conjecture, outright calumny and sustained efforts to confuse and conceal the truth. Even the truncated 'NEFA' Enquiry has been withheld except for a few paraphrased extracts read out to the Lok Sabha on 2nd September 1963. For some undisclosed reason, I was not asked to give evidence before this body nor (to the best of my knowledge) were my repatriated Commanding Officers.
It is thus vitally necessary to trace, without rancor and without malice, the overall causes which resulted in the reverses and which so seriously affected India's honour. Some of the things that happened in 1962 must never be allowed to happen again. There is a school of thought which advocates a moratorium on the NEFA Affair on the grounds that such 'patriotic reticence' is desirable in the context of the continuing Chinese (and Pakistani) military threats. I do not think that this theory is tenable. The main protagonists of this line played a part in the tragic drama, or belonged to the political party which provided the national leadership and their plea for silence does not spring entirely from a sense of patriotism.
There are others, mostly barren politicians, who use the Nehru legend to buttress their failures, or inveterate hero-worshippers who express irritation at any adverse reference to Mr. Nehru's long spell as the Prime Minister of India. As was said of Lord Chatham, the British Prime Minister, 'His country men were so conscious of what they owed him that they did not want to hear about his faults'. But it is impossible to narrate a failure, which historically marked the end of the Nehru saga, without critical, often harsh comments on the principle dramatis personae who held high office and who were revered by the people. The magnitude of our defeat could not have been wrought without Himalayan Blunders at all levels. But this is not a "J'accuse".
India has a near unbroken record of military failures through the ages. Our peasantry has always fought gallantly; but it is an indisputable fact that seldom has this bravery been utilised to win battle field victories and thus to attain our political objectives, due to inept political or military leadership, or both. Need we follow this tragic path interminably?
It had fallen to my lot to be associated with the China problem for over 8 years from 1954 to 1962. I was first connected with the Higher Direction of War, in a modest capacity, as a Lt.-Colonel in Military Operations Directorate. Later, as Brigadier-in-Charge of Administration of the troops on Ladakh, I saw, at first hand, what passed for 'logistic support'. Finally as Commander of the key sector of Towang, North-East Frontier Agency, I was involved in our so-called operation al planning to defend our borders. The years of higher responsibility were complementary and gave me a personal insight into our National Policy as well as our half-hearted military response to the Chinese challenge.
I have tried to tell the story as I saw it unfold, over the years, to add to our knowledge. I have included the politico-military background only because this had a direct bearing on our performance in the military field, in 1962.
This is a personal narrative - a narrative of what 7 Infantry Brigade was ordered to do and what happened when they attempted to carry out those orders. In all humility I can claim that only I am in a position to explain many nagging questions that need explaining, facts that are necessary.
The theme of the book is the steadfastness of the Indian soldier in the midst of political wavering and a military leadership which was influenced more by political than military considerations. The book records their val our, resolution and loyalty - qualities which are generally forgotten in the mass of political post-mortems which have been served up to the Indian people.
This is a record of the destruction of a Brigade without a formal declaration of war - another central fact that is often overlooked - and which coloured the actions of all the principal participants.
I have made every effort not to view things in a retrospective light or with the clarity of hindsight. I have recorded experiences, ideas and feelings as they appeared at the time. I have tried to give an objective account of all that happened, of the people involved  and of the decisions they took. My opinions as a participant in the climatic finale of September-October 1962 must be subjective. The main essential is to know how the principal participants thought and reacted.
As Lord Avon (Sir Anthony Eden) says in "the Preface to his Memoirs, The Full Circle: "This book will expose many wounds; by doing so it may help to heal them".
By this book I express my undying gratitude to my Commanding Officers for their trust and loyalty; to the men of all classes and from all units under my command for their selfless devotion to duty; and to my staff whose dedication sustained me in those harrowing days.
This book is the fulfillment of my promises to my friends, in all walks of life, to vindicate the reputation of the men I had the honour to commando I hope that I shall have discharged my responsibility to all those who gave their lives in the line of duty and whose sacrifice deserves a permanent, printed memorial.
John Dalvi

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tibet in Flame

Monks and nuns in Eastern Tibet are immolating themselves.
They do this because they are desperate. 
It is tragic.
After the unrest of March/April 2008, a Chinese scholar Zhang Boshu wrote an essay "The Way to Resolve the Tibet Issue". Born in Beijing in 1955, Zhang Boshu received an MA in economics from Zhongguo Renmin Daxue in 1982 and in 1985 passed the entrance examination for the Institute of Philosophy of the graduate school of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He later held a post in the Philosophy Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences from 1991.
He thus explained the deep resentment of the monks and nuns in Tibet:
The governing authorities operate a 'reverse elimination' selection system among the leaders of the monks. Any monk leader who insists on religious principles, refuses to be a tool of the authorities, will be subject to pressure and purging or even sentenced to prison as a warning to other clergy. Any monk with a relatively high traditional rank who keeps silent, doesn't cause trouble is a candidate for recruitment by the United Front Department. He will be given rewards but a club will be always be ready to intimidate them. Any monk willing to be personal advancement first, who is opportunistic, gives up religious principles, and willing to be a tool of the government will be given all sorts ofadvantages, membership in the National People's Congress, the National People's Consultative Congress or even higher government positions. The green light will be given for their activities, resources will be provided so that they will be a model who can draw in other leaders among the monks." In sum, therefore, although the Chinese Communists boast of religious freedom but their religious policy is aimed at the destruction of Buddhism, no less than it was in the days of Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong wanted to completely extirpate Buddhism. In Tibetan history there were eras when Buddhism was extirpated yet Buddhism still continued because the religion lived in the hearts of believers and so could not be destroyed by an external force. Today the Communist Party religious policy is aims at the degeneration of the monk stratum of Tibetan society. This is a mortal danger to Buddhism.
As a consequence of all this, although Tibet has made considerable economic progress over the past thirty years and the lives of ordinary Tibetans have improved, but Tibetans are still dissatisfied and 'events' occur over and over in the Tibetan regions. The Tibetan issue is still 'an issue' that is the focus of constant international attention. Ever since that have occurred since March are just new developments in the course of this ongoing transformation.
Can the Chinese authorities look at the situation and understand that repression has never (and will never) solve the Tibetan issue.

A Tibetan nun dies after self-immolation, Situation in Tibet spiraling out of controlPhayul
October 17, 2011
Sherab Woeser
DHARAMSHALA, October 17: Reports coming out of Tibet confirm the demise of yet another Tibetan, this time a nun, after she torched her body in an apparent protest against China’s continued occupation of Tibet.
Tenzin Wangmo, around 20 years of age, set herself on fire at around 1 pm local time in the Ngaba region of eastern Tibet today.
The exile base of Kirti Monastery, citing eyewitnesses, in a release today said that Tenzin Wangmo self immolated on a crossroad near her monastery, the Mamae Dechen Choekhorling Nunnery, about 3 kms away from Ngaba County.
“Tenzin Wangmo was engulfed in flames as she marched on the streets for nearly 7 to 8 minutes raising slogans calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and religious freedom in Tibet,” the release said.
Tenzin Wangmo died immediately.
According to the release, nuns from the Mamae nunnery carried Tenzin Wangmo’s body to the nunnery and despite repeated warnings from Chinese security personnel, refuse to give possession of the deceased’s body.
“The Chinese authorities have given the nuns an ultimatum to either hand over the deceased’s body or bury Tenzin Wangmo’s body by tonight,” the release said.
The situation around Mamae nunnery, which is the largest nunnery in the Ngaba region with over 350 nuns, is being described as tense.
This is the ninth incidence in this year alone when a Tibetan has been driven to the extreme sacrifice of burning one’s own body as a last resort of peaceful action against the Chinese government’s repressive policies in Tibet.
The first 17 days of October has already witnessed five self-immolations in Ngaba region.
Khaying, Choephel, and Tenzin Wangmo succumbed to their injuries while Kesang Wangchuk is being described in critical condition. There is no information as yet on the whereabouts of Norbu Damdul who was last seen being taken away by Chinese security personnel on October 15.
The Central Tibetan Administration in a release earlier today said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be presiding over the “grand prayer service to mourn the tragic self-immolations in Tibet” scheduled for October 19 in Dharamshala, north India.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chinese Soul Searching

Do you believe in reincarnation?
In Beijing, the Marxists do.
The Dalai Lama had to recently issue a statement to explain to the Chinese leadership (and the general public) the meaning of ‘reincarnation’ in Tibetan Buddhism.
This should have set aside the CCP pretention of being able to decide about the wanderings of a Lama after his death and the location of his return.
It has not. Li Decheng, Director of the China Tibetology Research Center stated: “Generally speaking, there is nothing new in Dalai Lama's statement on reincarnation. He is just using his special identity and influence to deceive and throw the dust in the eyes of the public.” For Mr Li, the Dalai Lama dreams to “destroy the normal state of the Tibetan Buddhism”.
It is not worth commenting on.
The Dalai Lama used the occasion of a high-level conference of the heads of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism (as well as the Bon tradition), held in Dharamsala at the end of September to scholarly clarify the factual position. The Dalai Lama read a statement, later endorsed by the highest Buddhist gurus in exile.
Interestingly, he gave himself some 15 more years to 'decide': "When I am about ninety, I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not."
He explained: “We evolved a unique Tibetan tradition of recognizing the reincarnations of scholar-adepts that has been of immense help to both the Dharma and sentient beings, particularly to the monastic community.”
Though it was the Karmapas who first established a linage by reincarnation some 900 years ago; for 369 past years, the Dalai Lamas have ruled the Land of Snows using this method.
The recent introduction of democracy in Dharamsala will not stop the Dalai Lamas to carry on with their religious duties; future incarnations will continue to spiritually guide the people of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama clarified: “In order to accept reincarnation or the reality of Tulkus [reincarnated lamas], we need to accept the existence of past and future lives. Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death.”
It is here that the Chinese have a problem. Do they really believe in the existence of past and future lives? Did Marx ponder over the issue?
For a Buddhist, it is only once he is liberated from the cycle of existence by overcoming his karma that he may not need to reincarnate anymore.
Reincarnation is a world-wide phenomenon said the Dalai Lama: “There are people who can remember their immediate past life or even many past lives, as well as being able to recognize places and relatives from those lives.”
His statement gave details on how rebirth takes place, the meaning of Tulku, the recognition of reincarnations (a practice started from the Buddha’s time), the system of recognizing reincarnations in Tibet (which had its own characteristics) and the different ways of recognizing reincarnations.
Though rich in technical (and historical) details, it makes a fascinating reading. Amongst the traditional ways to find a reincarnation, the Dalai Lama cites the predecessor’s predictive letter and other instructions and indications. Some reincarnations can “reliably recount their previous life and speaking about it [or] identify possessions belonging to the predecessor and recognize people who had been close to him.”
Additional methods are available such as divination by realized spiritual masters, predictions by renowned oracles or visions which appear in sacred lakes (the Lhamoi Latso lake, south of Lhasa, in the case of the present Dalai Lama).
It is only when there is a doubt or too many candidates that the final decision is made by divination employing the dough-ball method [the so-called Golden Urn] before the statue of a special deity. This last method is relatively easy to manipulate, particularly for political or other purposes. The Chinese have mastered it.
The main objective of a reincarnation is to continue the predecessor’s unfinished work and serve the Dharma, insists the Tibetan leader. It is obviously not to serve a Party or a group of individuals.
For the Dalai Lama, the reincarnation business is personal one: “no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her.”
His request to the Chinese leadership is therefore to stop ‘brazen meddling’ in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas.
The Communist leaders are very much aware of the Dalai Lama’s clout over the masses not only in Tibet, but also in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal, Mongolia, and even parts of the Russian Federation.
Several years ago, Beijing has already thought of using reincarnations to control Tibet (the Chinese leaders always plan their moves well in advance!)
On December 8 1995, a Chinese candidate was imposed by the Communist Party and ‘officially’ enthroned as the Panchen Lama in the Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse, the second largest Tibetan town. The ceremony had been kept secret by the authorities until the last moment as they feared a backlash from a resentful Tibetan population.
The candidate, Gyaltsen Norbu had been chosen after a mock ‘Golden Urn’ ceremony organized earlier in the Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa by the dignitaries of the Communist Party. The parents of Gyaltsen Norbu were Communist Party members. The usual traditional joy expressed by the Tibetan crowds when one of its high incarnates (and specially the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama) has come back to this world, was absent.
This time curfew was imposed in Shigatse, Lhasa and Chamdo, the three largest cities in Tibet and the boy had to be isolated under protection in one of the estates of the previous Panchen Lama. The high lamas, officials and monks of the Tashi Lhunpo were informed only on the eve of the event and threatened with dire consequences if they feigned ill heath for not attending the enthronement.
More than 500 soldiers and members of the Public Security Bureau guarded the entrance of the monastery and screened the selected ‘invitees’.
At that time, the eminent scholar and former Prime Minister, Prof Samdhong Rinpoche quoted the previous Panchen Lama who had declared in 1988: “according to Tibetan history, the confirmation of either the Dalai or the Panchen Lama must be mutually recognized.” Four days before his mysterious death in 1989, the Panchen Lama again said: “In the past most of the reincarnates were confirmed by the Father and the Son Aryas (the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama).”
The Chinese leadership nevertheless decided to ignore the candidate recognized by the Dalai Lama and go ahead with its own ‘incarnation’.
At that time already a question was in the mind of all Tibetans: was the Panchen Lama’s ‘recognition’ and enthronement a rehearsal for the future ‘recognition’ of the Dalai Lama. The Chinese are known to create precedents to be able to quote them later as historical tradition.
Today, the Dalai Lama finds outrageous and disgraceful the Order No. Five issued by the rulers in Beijing for controlling the reincarnations of ‘Living Buddhas’.
In the meantime, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the true reincarnation of the Panchen Lama remains a prisoner in China. This is tragic.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Nepal-Tibet relationship

This document confirms that Tibet was an independent nation in 1949.
Interestingly, many historians questioned why did Lhasa not request Nepal for military help in October 1950 when the PLA's Second Army entered Chamdo, in Eastern Tibet.
An extraordinary coincidence occurred, on October 7, 19050, the day the Chinese forces crossed the Yangtze to advance towards Chamdo, there was a coup in Nepal.
Here is is what I wrote in my book, Tibet: The Lost Frontier:

Instead of trying to look in the history books, one should perhaps be looking at the stars. What was going on this 7th day of October of the Fateful Year?
Peng Dehuai was taking over the Chinese Army on the Korean front and leading the Chinese Dragon in one of the most devastating war.
Thousand of miles eastwards, Deng Xiaoping was invading a small peaceful country living in its Buddhist paradise and down South a revolution was brewing in another Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.
King Tribhuvan and his family had to ask asylum in the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. In Nehru words: “There has been a great deal of friction for sometime past between the King and the Prime Minister”.
Nepal had been administrated for the past two hundred years by the Rana family who were known as Maharaja and holding the post of Prime Minister of Nepal. The Kings who belonged to another family were just a figurehead.
But lately, King Tribhuvan had been trying to introduce popular reforms which had been resisted by the more traditional Maharaja Mohan Shamsher, a Rana.
A week before the ominous day, the tensions had grown worse between the King and his Prime Minister. The King had asked the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu if he and his family could be given protection as he was fearing for his life. The Rana Prime Minister was resenting more and more the reforms as a personal attack against his rule and as an interference of the democratic India at his door steps.
Nehru continued: “Efforts were made by the Prime Minister to get the King to abdicate, but the later refused to do so”.
At this point of time, CPN Singh, the Indian ambassador to Nepal convinced the Indian Prime Minister that the King should be given shelter and protection. Nehru agreed.
The Prime Minister’s son went to the embassy to try to pressurise the King to abdicate, but Tribhuvan sure of the Ambassador support reiterated that he was no question for him to abdicate.
On the same October 7, the Rana Prime Minister decided to crowned one of the King’s grand son (through Tribhuvan had not abdicated) and make him the next king of Nepal. In the midst of the Himalayan high drama, Delhi decided to act firm and refused to accept the new King and stand behind King Tribhuvan.
Was the coup in Kathmandu linked with the attack on Chamdo or the crossing of the 38th paralell? It is difficult to say, but though there are apparently no links, it is sure that infiltration of the Communist forces had begun in Himalayas.

Retrospectively, one understand that it was difficult for Nepal to intervene in Tibet, so legally the Himalayan Kingdom was bound to do so.

The Forgotten History of Tibet's Role in Nepal's 1949 UN Application
Tibetan Political Review
October 12, 2011
On September 23, 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally submitted Palestine’s application for United Nations membership to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. At a minimum, Palestine appears set for recognition by the General Assembly as a nonmember state, on par with sovereign Vatican City, which will be an important step forward for Palestine from its current observer status. This drama, which is playing out at the UN headquarters in New York, highlights the UN’s role as a main source of legitimacy in interstate relations and international affairs. It also leads us to recall Nepal’s application for membership to that body 62 years ago, which prominently cited Nepal’s “diplomatic relations” with Tibet as proof of its sovereignty.
At the time, Nepal explicitly recognized Tibet as an independent country, including in its official application to the United Nations. This fact, which we explore below, recalls the strong historical ties between the peoples of Nepal and Tibet. Although Nepal currently has a “one-China” policy that recognizes Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it is worth remembering that this is only recent history. The domineering presence of the PRC in Nepalese affairs is a relatively recent disruption that cannot erase from historical memory the enduring Nepali and Tibetan relations across the Himalayas.

When Nepal applied to join the United Nations, it was required to submit proof that it was a sovereign state with the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Tibet Justice Center has made available a copy of Nepal’s application package of July 22, 1949. (You can download the copy at application clearly shows that Nepal considered Tibet a sovereign state.
On page 9, the application describes Nepal’s “Diplomatic Relations”. It states:
The Diplomatic Relations of Nepal with the United Kingdom have already been described in paragraph 4(e) above. In addition, Nepal has established diplomatic relations with the following countries:
(a) Tibet. In 1856 Nepal established a Legation at Lhasa, maintained representatives at Gyangtse, Kuti and Kerung.
(b) France….
(c) United States of America …
(d) India…
(e) Burma …

Nepal apparently considered its relations with the “country” of Tibet to be second in significance only to its relations with Britain, and even more significant than its relations with the USA or India.
Nepal’s UN application also included a copy of the text of the 1856 peace treaty between Nepal and Tibet, as additional proof of Nepal’s foreign relations with other countries. Incidentally, this treaty committed Nepal to aid in Tibet’s defense. (Article 2: “[S]hould troops of any other Raja invade Tibet in future, [Nepal] will afford such assistance as it can.”)
Based on the sufficiency of this application, the United Nations admitted Nepal as a member state on January 14, 1955.


China subsequently tried to cover up this inconvenient historical truth. On September 20, 1956, China and Nepal signed an “Agreement to Maintain the Friendly Relations Between China and Nepal and on Trade and Intercourse Between the Tibet Region of China and Nepal”. Article 3 of this agreement stated that “All treaties and documents which existed in the past between China and Nepal including those between the Tibet Region of China and Nepal are hereby abrogated.”
This provision was an attempt by China to cover its legal bases by getting Nepal to annul its prior treaty commitments with Tibet, including the defense obligation of the 1856 Nepal-Tibet treaty. As a practical and political matter, this cover-up worked. Subsequent Nepalese governments have restated their position that Tibet is part of the PRC.
As a legal matter, however, the 1956 treaty is shaky. Its purported abrogation begs the question because Nepal’s Tibetan treaty obligations were with the “country” of Tibet. There were no treaties between Nepal and the “Tibet Region of China” to be abrogated, because Nepal did not recognize such an entity to have existed until 1956. This legal argument will not have much practical effect now, but it might be revived at an opportune time in the future.

Obviously, Tibetans will care about the historical fact that Nepal explicitly recognized Tibet as independent as recently as 1949, and indeed relied on its relations with Tibet to gain admission to the UN. But this fact is also a part of Nepal’s national history. Nepal’s relationship with Tibet deeply affects the social, political, cultural, and religious history of the Nepalese people themselves. It is a question of national dignity for both Nepalis and Tibetans.
For the Chinese government to try to change or cover over this history is an affront to the Nepalese people, and an act of historical imperialism. Because the justification for China’s occupation of Tibet depends on a historical fiction, China has sought to get others to play along with its revisionism. Yet despite China’s current success in bullying the Nepalese people into sometimes abrogating their own sovereignty and national history over the issue of Tibet, nothing can erase the documented fact that Nepal once recognized Tibet as an independent state at the United Nations in front of the global stage. The Nepalese people should not be bullied into denying their own national history.
Nepal has demonstrated some willingness to reject China’s interference in its affairs. On September 22, 2011 (the day before the Palestinian U.N. application), the Government of Nepal released a group of 23 mostly-teenaged Tibetan refugees into the care of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. What made this act particularly notable was it was done despite the tremendous pressure China exerted on tiny Nepal. China wanted Nepal to return these refugees to Chinese-occupied Tibet, contrary to Nepal’s “Gentleman’s Agreement” concerning Tibetan refugees and the fundamental international law forbidding such refoulement.
Much has been written about how the Palestinian quest for statehood is in part a reaction to the indignities of life under occupation. In another more subtle sense, the Chinese attempt to dictate Nepal’s refugee policy was a matter of national dignity for Nepal. This was a Chinese intrusion into Nepal’s sovereignty, which Nepal repulsed. If we were Nepalese -- even if we cared nothing about the 23 Tibetans -- we would be happy that our government stood up for the dignity of its people and refused to be dictated to by Beijing.
Tibetans will continue to cross over the mountains in search of freedom from occupied Tibet. The next time another group of Tibetan refugees lands in Nepalese custody, we hope that Nepalese leaders will recall without fear or embarrassment that Nepal enjoys UN membership today based on a document in which it prominently highlighted its relations with the then-independent country of Tibet. Moreover, just as the Palestinian people are set to have their statehood finally recognized by the U.N., given the irrepressible desire of all peoples to be free, one day the Tibetan people may reach the same place.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A tragedy to come

My article on dams in the Northeast A tragedy to come Development Must Respect Nature has been published in The Statesman. Click here to read.

No Diversion of the Yarlung-Tsangpo!

"Considering the technical difficulties, the actual need of diversion and the possible impact on the environment and state-to-state relations, the Chinese government has no plan to conduct any diversification project in this river," thus spoke the Chinese Vice-Minister for the  Water Resources.
Good, it is a reiteration of the declarations of his predecessor in November 2006.
Though it is a step forward, it does not solve the issue of large power projects (to produce electricity) on the Yarlung-Tsangpo/Brahmaputra.

Relief for India as China says no Brahmaputra diversion
Indrani Bagchi,
Times of India
Oct 14, 2011
NEW DELHI: In a rare admission which will be welcomed in India, China has stated that it will not divert the Brahmaputra river.
Jiao Yong, vice minister at China's ministry of water resources, told a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday that although there is a demand among Chinese to make greater use of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra), "considering the technical difficulties, the actual need of diversion and the possible impact on the environment and state-to-state relations, the Chinese government has no plan to conduct any diversification project in this river".
This is the first time that China has acknowledged that anything that spoils relations with India over the Brahmaputra does not serve any interests.
The official clarification will be a relief to the Indian government, which has repeatedly harangued the Chinese side on the proposed diversification project. Returning from the UN General Assembly on September 27, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists, "I have myself raised this issue with both the President as well as the Prime Minister of China on a number of occasions. They have assured us that they are not doing anything which will be detrimental to the interests of India."
Indian and Chinese experts discussed the fate of trans-border rivers as recently as May 2011 in Beijing. The Chinese statement will go a fair distance in removing a growing irritant between India and China. India has been very edgy ever since reports that China meant to divert the waters of this mighty river towards the parched provinces in the north-east, or even Xinjiang in the north-west.
The idea was first raised in a provocatively titled book, 'Tibet's water will save China', by two retired PLA commanders, Gao Kai and Li Ling.
Independent hydro-experts have also suggested that it would be an almost impossible technical feat to divert the Brahmaputra. After alleged misadventures on the Three Gorges Dam and Mekong river in southeast Asia, there is less of an appetite to venture into a project that could prove to be very risky.
However, the diversification project is distinct from the dams that China has started to build on the Brahmaputra. While there is some consternation on that in India, China has clarified that these are run-of-the-river projects. India is not protesting too much here because these are the kind of dam projects India is building on the Indus rivers that India shares with Pakistan. China is believed be building six dams -- Lengda, Zhongda, Langzhen, Jiexu, Jiacha and Zangmu.
In November 2006, on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India, Chinese water resources Wang Shucheng was quoted as saying that the diversion proposal was "unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific. There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects." But that did not assuage Indian concerns.
China expert Claude Arpi says, "If a river water treaty could be signed between India and Pakistan in the early sixties, why can't a similar agreement be made between China, India and Bangladesh?"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

About the Return of the Dalai Lama

During my 'French leave', an important  statement was issued by the Dalai Lama on the subject of reincarnation (and particular about his own). 
It should set aside the pretensions of the Communist Party of China to be able to decide about the wanderings of a Lama after his death and the location of his return.
The Dalai Lama used the occasion of the 11th high-level conference (the first one was held in 1963) of senior Lamas held in Dharamsala at the end of September.
The Dalai Lama presided over the meeting on the second day of the conference in which the heads and representatives of the four major schools and sub-schools of Tibetan Buddhism as well as of the Bon tradition took part.
The Dalai Lama's statement was endorsed by all the senior most Tibetans religious leaders of Tibet.
Interestingly, he gave himself some 15 more years to 'decide': "When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust."
It will be interesting to see how the Chinese will react. They will probably say the Dalai Lama knows nothing about reincarnation, only they know!

Statement of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, on the Issue of His Reincarnation
September 24th 2011
(Translated from the Tibetan)

My fellow Tibetans, both in and outside Tibet, all those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and everyone who has a connection to Tibet and Tibetans: due to the foresight of our ancient kings, ministers and scholar-adepts, the complete teaching of the Buddha, comprising the scriptural and experiential teachings of the Three Vehicles and the Four Sets of Tantra and their related subjects and disciplines flourished widely in the Land of Snow. Tibet has served as a source of Buddhist and related cultural traditions for the world. In particular, it has contributed significantly to the happiness of countless beings in Asia, including those in China, Tibet and Mongolia.
In the course of upholding the Buddhist tradition in Tibet, we evolved a unique Tibetan tradition of recognizing the reincarnations of scholar-adepts that has been of immense help to both the Dharma and sentient beings, particularly to the monastic community.
Since the omniscient Gedun Gyatso was recognized and confirmed as the reincarnation of Gedun Drub in the fifteenth century and the Gaden Phodrang Labrang (the Dalai Lama’s institution) was established, successive reincarnations have been recognized. The third in the line, Sonam Gyatso, was given the title of the Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, established the Gaden Phodrang Government in 1642, becoming the spiritual and political head of Tibet. For more than 600 years since Gedun Drub, a series of unmistaken reincarnations has been recognised in the lineage of the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lamas have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders of Tibet for 369 years since 1642. I have now voluntarily brought this to an end, proud and satisfied that we can pursue the kind of democratic system of government flourishing elsewhere in the world. In fact, as far back as 1969, I made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda. Therefore, while I remain physically and mentally fit, it seems important to me that we draw up clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception. For these guidelines to be fully comprehensible, it is essential to understand the system of Tulku recognition and the basic concepts behind it. Therefore, I shall briefly explain them below.

Past and future lives
In order to accept reincarnation or the reality of Tulkus, we need to accept the existence of past and future lives. Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death. This kind of continuous rebirth is accepted by all the ancient Indian spiritual traditions and schools of philosophy, except the Charvakas, who were a materialist movement. Some modern thinkers deny past and future lives on the premise that we cannot see them. Others do not draw such clear cut conclusions on this basis.
Although many religious traditions accept rebirth, they differ in their views of what it is that is reborn, how it is reborn, and how it passes through the transitional period between two lives. Some religious traditions accept the prospect of future life, but reject the idea of past lives.
Generally, Buddhists believe that there is no beginning to birth and that once we achieve liberation from the cycle of existence by overcoming our karma and destructive emotions, we will not be reborn under the sway of these conditions. Therefore, Buddhists believe that there is an end to being reborn as a result of karma and destructive emotions, but most Buddhist philosophical schools do not accept that the mind-stream comes to an end. To reject past and future rebirth would contradict the Buddhist concept of the ground, path and result, which must be explained on the basis of the disciplined or undisciplined mind. If we accept this argument, logically, we would also have to accept that the world and its inhabitants come about without causes and conditions. Therefore, as long as you are a Buddhist, it is necessary to accept past and future rebirth.
For those who remember their past lives, rebirth is a clear experience. However, most ordinary beings forget their past lives as they go through the process of death, intermediate state and rebirth. As past and future rebirths are slightly obscure to them, we need to use evidence-based logic to prove past and future rebirths to them.
There are many different logical arguments given in the words of the Buddha and subsequent commentaries to prove the existence of past and future lives. In brief, they come down to four points: the logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past, and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.
Ultimately all these arguments are based on the idea that the nature of the mind, its clarity and awareness, must have clarity and awareness as its substantial cause. It cannot have any other entity such as an inanimate object as its substantial cause. This is self-evident. Through logical analysis we infer that a new stream of clarity and awareness cannot come about without causes or from unrelated causes. While we observe that mind cannot be produced in a laboratory, we also infer that nothing can eliminate the continuity of subtle clarity and awareness.
As far as I know, no modern psychologist, physicist, or neuroscientist has been able to observe or predict the production of mind either from matter or without cause.
There are people who can remember their immediate past life or even many past lives, as well as being able to recognise places and relatives from those lives. This is not just something that happened in the past. Even today there are many people in the East and West, who can recall incidents and experiences from their past lives. Denying this is not an honest and impartial way of doing research, because it runs counter to this evidence. The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnations is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.

How rebirth takes place
There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarise themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence. On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.

The meaning of Tulku
It seems the Tibetan custom of applying the epithet ‘Tulku’ (Buddha’s Emanation Body) to recognized reincarnations began when devotees used it as an honorary title, but it has since become a common expression. In general, the term Tulku refers to a particular aspect of the Buddha, one of the three or four described in the Sutra Vehicle. According to this explanation of these aspects of the Buddha, a person who is totally bound by destructive emotions and karma has the potential to achieve the Truth Body (Dharmakaya), comprising the Wisdom Truth Body and Nature Truth Body. The former refers to the enlightened mind of a Buddha, which sees everything directly and precisely, as it is, in an instant. It has been cleared of all destructive emotions, as well as their imprints, through the accumulation of merit and wisdom over a long period of time. The latter, the Nature Truth Body, refers to the empty nature of that all-knowing enlightened mind. These two together are aspects of the Buddhas for themselves. However, as they are not directly accessible to others, but only amongst the Buddhas themselves, it is imperative that the Buddhas manifest in physical forms that are accessible to sentient beings in order to help them. Hence, the ultimate physical aspect of a Buddha is the Body of Complete Enjoyment (Sambhogakaya), which is accessible to superior Bodhisattvas, and has five definite qualifications such as residing in the Akanishta Heaven. And from the Body of Complete Enjoyment are manifested the myriad Emanation Bodies or Tulkus (Nirmanakaya), of the Buddhas, which appear as gods or humans and are accessible even to ordinary beings. These two physical aspects of the Buddha are termed Form Bodies, which are meant for others.
The Emanation Body is three-fold: a) the Supreme Emanation Body like Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, who manifested the twelve deeds of a Buddha such as being born in the place he chose and so forth; b) the Artistic Emanation Body which serves others by appearing as craftsmen, artists and so on; and c) the Incarnate Emanation Body, according to which Buddhas appear in various forms such as human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, and trees to help sentient beings. Of these three types of Emanation Body, the reincarnations of spiritual masters recognized and known as ‘Tulkus’ in Tibet come under the third category. Among these Tulkus there may be many who are truly qualified Incarnate Emanation Bodies of the Buddhas, but this does not necessarily apply to all of them. Amongst the Tulkus of Tibet there may be those who are reincarnations of superior Bodhisattvas, Bodhisattvas on the paths of accumulation and preparation, as well as masters who are evidently yet to enter these Bodhisattva paths. Therefore, the title of Tulku is given to reincarnate Lamas either on the grounds of their resembling enlightened beings or through their connection to certain qualities of enlightened beings.
As Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said:
“Reincarnation is what happens when someone takes rebirth after the predecessor’s passing away; emanation is when manifestations take place without the source’s passing away.”

Recognition of Reincarnations
The practice of recognizing who is who by identifying someone’s previous life occurred even when Shakyamuni Buddha himself was alive. Many accounts are found in the four Agama Sections of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Jataka Stories, the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, the Sutra of One Hundred Karmas and so on, in which the Tathagata revealed the workings of karma, recounting innumerable stories about how the effects of certain karmas created in a past life are experienced by a person in his or her present life. Also, in the life stories of Indian masters, who lived after the Buddha, many reveal their previous places of birth. There are many such stories, but the system of recognizing and numbering their reincarnations did not occur in India.

The system of recognizing reincarnations in Tibet
Past and future lives were asserted in the indigenous Tibetan Bon tradition before the arrival of Buddhism. And since the spread of Buddhism in Tibet, virtually all Tibetans have believed in past and future lives. Investigating the reincarnations of many spiritual masters who upheld the Dharma, as well as the custom of praying devotedly to them, flourished everywhere in Tibet. Many authentic scriptures, indigenous Tibetan books such as the Mani Kabum and the Fivefold Kathang Teachings and others like the The Books of Kadam Disciples and the Jewel Garland: Responses to Queries, which were recounted by the glorious, incomparable Indian master Dipankara Atisha in the 11th century in Tibet, tell stories of the reincarnations of Arya Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. However, the present tradition of formally recognizing the reincarnations of masters first began in the early 13th century with the recognition of Karmapa Pagshi as the reincarnation of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa by his disciples in accordance with his prediction. Since then, there have been seventeen Karmapa incarnations over more than nine hundred years. Similarly, since the recognition of Kunga Sangmo as the reincarnation of Khandro Choekyi Dronme in the 15th century there have been more than ten incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo. So, among the Tulkus recognized in Tibet there are monastics and lay tantric practitioners, male and female. This system of recognizing the reincarnations gradually spread to other Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and Bon, in Tibet. Today, there are recognized Tulkus in all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu and Nyingma, as well as Jonang and Bodong, who serve the Dharma. It is also evident that amongst these Tulkus some are a disgrace.
The omniscient Gedun Drub, who was a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founded Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tsang and took care of his students. He passed away in 1474 at the age of 84. Although initially no efforts were made to identify his reincarnation, people were obliged to recognize a child named Sangye Chophel, who had been born in Tanak, Tsang (1476), because of what he had to say about his amazing and flawless recollections of his past life. Since then, a tradition began of searching for and recognizing the successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas by the Gaden Phodrang Labrang and later the Gaden Phodrang Government.

The ways of recognizing reincarnations
After the system of recognizing Tulkus came into being, various procedures for going about it began to develop and grow. Among these some of the most important involve the predecessor’s predictive letter and other instructions and indications that might occur; the reincarnation’s reliably recounting his previous life and speaking about it; identifying possessions belonging to the predecessor and recognizing people who had been close to him. Apart from these, additional methods include asking reliable spiritual masters for their divination as well as seeking the predictions of mundane oracles, who appear through mediums in trance, and observing the visions that manifest in sacred lakes of protectors like Lhamoi Latso, a sacred lake south of Lhasa.
When there happens to be more than one prospective candidate for recognition as a Tulku, and it becomes difficult to decide, there is a practice of making the final decision by divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak) before a sacred image while calling upon the power of truth.
Emanation before the passing away of the predecessor (ma-dhey tulku)
Usually a reincarnation has to be someone’s taking rebirth as a human being after previously passing away. Ordinary sentient beings generally cannot manifest an emanation before death (ma-dhey tulku), but superior Bodhisattvas, who can manifest themselves in hundreds or thousands of bodies simultaneously, can manifest an emanation before death. Within the Tibetan system of recognizing Tulkus there are emanations who belong to the same mind-stream as the predecessor, emanations who are connected to others through the power of karma and prayers, and emanations who come as a result of blessings and appointment.
The main purpose of the appearance of a reincarnation is to continue the predecessor’s unfinished work to serve Dharma and beings. In the case of a Lama who is an ordinary being, instead of having a reincarnation belonging to the same mind-stream, someone else with connections to that Lama through pure karma and prayers may be recognized as his or her emanation. Alternatively it is possible for the Lama to appoint a successor who is either his disciple or someone young who is to be recognized as his emanation. Since these options are possible in the case of an ordinary being, an emanation before death that is not of the same mind-stream is feasible. In some cases one high Lama may have several reincarnations simultaneously, such as incarnations of body, speech and mind and so on. In recent times, there have been well-known emanations before death such as Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje and Chogye Trichen Ngawang Khyenrab.

Using the Golden Urn
As the degenerate age gets worse, and as more reincarnations of high Lamas are being recognized, some of them for political motives, increasing numbers have been recognized through inappropriate and questionable means, as a result of which huge damage has been done to the Dharma.
During the conflict between Tibet and the Gurkhas (1791-93) the Tibetan Government had to call on Manchu military support. Consequently the Gurkha military was expelled from Tibet, but afterwards Manchu officials made a 29-point proposal on the pretext of making the Tibetan Government’s administration more efficient. This proposal included the suggestion of picking lots from a Golden Urn to decide on the recognition of the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Hutuktus, a Mongolian title given to high Lamas. Therefore, this procedure was followed in the case of recognizing some reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and other high Lamas. The ritual to be followed was written by the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso.  Even after such a system had been introduced, this procedure was dispensed with for the Ninth, Thirteenth and myself, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
Even in the case of the Tenth Dalai Lama, the authentic reincarnation had already been found and in reality this procedure was not followed, but in order to humour the Manchus it was merely announced that this procedure had been observed.
The Golden Urn system was actually used only in the cases of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dalai Lamas. However, the Twelfth Dalai Lama had already been recognized before the procedure was employed. Therefore, there has only been one occasion when a Dalai Lama was recognized by using this method. Likewise, among the reincarnations of the Panchen Lama, apart from the Eighth and the Ninth, there have been no instances of this method being employed. This system was imposed by the Manchus, but Tibetans had no faith in it because it lacked any spiritual quality. However, if it were to be used honestly, it seems that we could consider it as similar to the manner of divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak).
In 1880, during the recognition of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Twelfth, traces of the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and the Manchus still existed. He was recognized as the unmistaken reincarnation by the Eighth Panchen Lama, the predictions of the Nechung and Samye oracles and by observing visions that appeared in Lhamoi Latso, therefore the Golden Urn procedure was not followed. This can be clearly understood from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s final testament of the Water-Monkey Year (1933) in which he states:
“As you all know, I was selected not in the customary way of picking lots from the golden urn, but my selection was foretold and divined. In accordance with these divinations and prophecies I was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and enthroned.”
When I was recognized as the Fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama in 1939, the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and China had already come to an end. Therefore, there was no question of any need to confirm the reincarnation by employing the Golden Urn. It is well-known that the then Regent of Tibet and the Tibetan National Assembly had followed the procedure for recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation taking account of the predictions of high Lamas, oracles and the visions seen in Lhamoi Latso; the Chinese had no involvement in it whatever. Nevertheless, some concerned officials of the Guomintang later cunningly spread lies in the newspapers claiming that they had agreed to forego the use of the Golden Urn and that Wu Chung-tsin presided over my enthronement, and so on. This lie  was exposed by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who the People’s Republic of China considered to be a most progressive person, at the Second Session of the Fifth People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region (31st July 1989). This is clear, when, at the end of his speech, in which he gave a detailed explanation of events and presented documentary evidence, he demanded:
“What need is there for the Communist Party to follow suit and continue the lies of the Guomintang?”

Deceptive strategy and false hopes
In the recent past, there have been cases of irresponsible managers of wealthy Lama-estates who indulged in improper methods to recognize reincarnations, which have undermined the Dharma, the monastic community and our society. Moreover, since the Manchu era Chinese political authorities repeatedly engaged in various deceitful means using Buddhism, Buddhist masters and Tulkus as tools to fulfil their political ends as they involved themselves in Tibetan and Mongolian affairs. Today, the authoritarian rulers of the People’s Republic of China, who as communists reject religion, but still involve themselves in religious affairs, have imposed a so-called re-education campaign and declared the so-called Order No. Five, concerning the control and recognition of reincarnations, which came into force on 1st September 2007. This is outrageous and disgraceful. The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be ifficult to repair.
Moreover, they say they are waiting for my death and will recognize a Fifteenth Dalai Lama of their choice. It is clear from their recent rules and regulations and subsequent declarations that they have a detailed strategy to deceive Tibetans, followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the world community. Therefore, as I have a responsibility to protect the Dharma and sentient beings and counter such detrimental schemes, I make the following declaration.

The next incarnation of the Dalai Lama
As I mentioned earlier, reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas. Such brazen meddling contradicts their own political ideology and reveals their double standards. Should this situation continue in the future, it will be impossible for Tibetans and those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to acknowledge or accept it.
When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

The Dalai Lama
September 24, 2011