Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Two-Twos @ Fifty

The Dalai Lama inspects the Tibetan Forces in 1972
The Special Frontier Forces, the Tibetan Army (also known as the 22s) is today celebrating the 50th anniversary of its formation.
Why to have fixed the formation of the Tibetan Army on October 14?
Probably B.N. Mullik, the then Director of the Intelligence Bureau wanted to please Nehru on his birthday by telling him that he 'had found a solution' to China's military superiority. 
I quote here some excerpts from The CIA's Secret War in Tibet by Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison
On 14 November, an Indian counterattack in NEFA was soundly routed. Three days later, the entire NEFA line collapsed, giving China virtual control over 64,000 square kilometers of territory.
By 19 November, leaders in New Delhi genuinely feared an attack on Calcutta, prompting Nehru to take the extraordinary step of sending two secret back-channel messages to Kennedy pleading for a pair of bomber squadrons flown by U.S. pilots.
India's infantrymen and Nehru's pride were not the only casualties of the conflict. Back on 28 October, America's bete noire, the discredited Krishna Menon, had tendered his resignation. With him out of the way and the situation on the frontier critical, Kennedy gathered some of his best and brightest on 19 November to discuss the war in the Himalayas. Among those present were secretary of Defense McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Averell Harriman. At seventy-two, Harriman was one of America's most respected diplomats and politicians. The former governor had worked closely with the Indians in the past, having appealed to Nehru the previous year to assist in formulating a negotiated end to the looming superpower rivalry in Laos. Significantly, too, throughout the summer of 1962, Harriman had been a lone senior voice in the State Department supporting the CIA's argument for ongoing paramilitary operations out of Mustang.
Discussed at the 19 November meeting was increased U.S. military assistance to India and options for a show of force in the region. Also mentioned was the possibility of using the CIA's Tibetan guerrillas. John McCone, a wealthy and opinionated Republican chosen by Kennedy to replace CIA Director Dulles after the Bay of Pigs, was on hand to brief the president on such covert matters. Joining McCone was Des FitzGerald, the Far East chief; James Critchfield, head of the Near East Division, was touring Beirut at the time. [24]
By meeting's end, it was decided that Harriman would lead a high-powered delegation to New Delhi to more fully assess India's needs. General Paul Adams, chief of the U.S. Strike Command, was to head the military component. From the CIA, Des FitzGerald won a seat on the mission, as did the head of the Tibet Task Force, Ken Knaus. Rendezvousing with them in India would be Critchfield, who received an emergency cable to depart Lebanon immediately for the subcontinent.
On 21 November, Harriman's entourage departed Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Although the Chinese declared a unilateral cease-fire while the group was en route, the situation was still tense when it reached New Delhi the following day. Without pause, Ambassador Galbraith ushered Harriman into the first of four meetings with Nehru. The end results of these discussions were plans for a major three-phase military aid package encompassing material support, help with domestic defense production, and possible assistance with air defenses.
As a covert aside to Harriman's talks, the CIA representatives on the delegation held their own sessions with Indian intelligence czar Mullik. This was a first, as Galbraith had previously taken great pains to downscale the agency's activities inside India to all but benign reporting functions. As recently as 5 November, he had objected to projected CIA plans due to the risk of exposure. But in a 13 November letter to Kennedy, the ambassador had a qualified change of heart, noting that Menon's departure was a turning point to begin working with the Indians on 'sensitive matters'. 
Both the CIA and the Intelligence Bureau were quick to seize the opportunity. "I went into a huddle with Mullik and Des," recalls Critchfield, "and we started coming up with all these schemes against the Chinese." Most of their ideas centered around use of the Tibetans. "The Indians were interested in the Tibet program because of its intelligence collection value," said station chief David Blee, who sat in on some of the meetings. "Mullik was particularly interested in paramilitary operations." There was good reason for this: following Menon's resignation, and Gyalo Thondup's stated preference, the Intelligence Bureau had been placed in charge of the 5,000 Tibetan guerrillas forming under Brigadier Uban.
Mullik was cautious as well. Although he was well connected to the Nehru family and had the prime minister's full approval to talk with the CIA, he knew that the Indian populace was fickle, and until recently, anti-Americanism had been a popular mantra. It was perhaps only a matter of time before the barometer would swing back and make open Indo-U.S. cooperation political suicide. To offer some protection against this, Mullik and one of his close deputies, M. I. Hooja, made a special request during a session with FitzGerald and Blee. "They made us promise that our involvement," said Blee, "would remain secret forever." 
By the end of the Harriman mission, the CIA and Intelligence Bureau had arrived at a rough division of labor. The Indians, with CIA support from the Near East Division, would work together in developing Uban's 5,000-strong tactical guerrilla force. The CIA's Far East Division, meantime, would unilaterally create a strategic long-range resistance movement inside Tibet. The Mustang contingent would also remain under the CIA's unilateral control.
I post below an article I wrote for on January 08, 2003 on the 'The Phantoms of Chittagong', the Special Frontier Forces of Maj. Gen. SS  Uban, based at Chakrata in Uttarakhand. 
The context of my article was a personal attack on the Dalai Lama, while he was preaching the Buddha's gospel in Bodh-Gaya.
I had earlier published on this blog, an excellent article of Manas Paul (Phantom Warriors of 1971: Unsung Tibetan Guerrillas).

Bihar is a strange state. Some 2,500 years ago, Gautama Buddha wandered there for more than 80 years, propounding the gospel of love and Ahimsa. At that time, it was the most culturally and politically advanced province of India.
Today, Bihar has become synonymous with backwardness, corruption, illiteracy and more than anything else, dirty politics. What has happened to the state?
One can only conclude that this ‘politics' has destroyed the dharmic fabric of the region.
Nobody is exempt. The Dalai Lama was recently the object of a personal attack by a few so-called ‘neo-Buddhist monks.'
Bodh Gaya, where after meditating under a pipal tree the Buddha achieved enlightenment, is gearing up for the Kalachakra sermon. More than 300,000 devotees are expected to attend. While preparations are underway for the Dalai Lama's discourse, which will be followed by a public initiation, some followers of Dr B R Ambedkar (who may not have recognized them as his disciples) have violently assailed the Tibetan leader. They went so far as to ask for his expulsion from India.
The neo-Buddhist monks distributed a pamphlet in Hindi, Bharat ki bhoomi par gair desh ki sarkar (An alien government on the Indian soil) questioning the logic of the Dalai Lama running a government-in-exile in India. But they are wrong: India has never recognized the Dalai Lama's administration as a government-in-exile. Only once has the Indian government thought of according official status. After the 1965 war with Pakistan, Lal Bahadur Shastri informed a representative of the Dalai Lama that after he returned from Tashkent he would take this decisive step. Unfortunately for the Tibetans (and for India), the prime minister never returned from Tashkent.
The Dalai Lama's organization in Dharamsala, known as the Central Tibetan Administration, is a set up suggested by Nehru during his first meetings with the Dalai Lama in 1959. The then Indian prime minister, while reviewing the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees, made it clear to the Dalai Lama that the only role India could play was in educating Tibetan children. Since then, education, health and preservation of religious traditions have been the CTA's main objectives. All donations, including $2.25 million from the US Congress, received through official channels are used for these objectives.
Whoever has gone to Dharamsala will acknowledge that the education of the refugee children is a success story.
Another ludicrous allegation made by the monks is that as 'the Dalai Lama heavily depends on security guards for being alive, he can not be accorded divinity.'
I have never read anywhere that the Tibetan leader pretends to be ‘divine' (in any case, it is not a very Buddhist term). On the contrary, he has always emphasized he is an ‘ordinary Buddhist monk.' The fact he is protected has no connection with his religious belief or spiritual attainment.
India is a ‘secular' State, at least in the sense that ‘divinity' is nothing to do with a threat perception as perceived by intelligence agencies.
The rest of the pamphlet is not worth quoting, mainly saying the Dalai Lama wants to take over Sikkim with Chinese support. It is too harebrained to be taken seriously.
This vilification campaign raises a more important aspect of the Tibetan presence in India and their role in supporting India in its hours of difficulties. Not only have the Dalai Lama and his people never schemed against this nation, they have always been at the forefront of India's struggle for its integrity.
It is a pity certain facts are not well known, if not completely ignored by the media and Indian public.
Do many in India know that not only did Tibetans participate in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, they were instrumental in the fall of Chittagong?
Some American archives, pertaining to the 1971 war, were declassified recently. These documents (as well as some earlier transcripts of Henry Kissinger's secret negotiations with the Chinese) give a fairly good idea of Kissinger and his boss President Nixon's dirty tricks against the Bengalis and India. But who ever speaks about the role of the unsung Tibetan heroes of the Special Frontier Forces?
Under the cover of the Mukti Bahini, Tibetans infiltrated East Pakistan (soon to be Bangladesh) a few weeks before the beginning of the war. They conducted raids to destroy bridges and communication lines deep inside Pakistan's eastern province. The operation was so secret that most generals of the Indian Army's Eastern Command in Calcutta did not know about the activities of 3,000 Tibetans jawans commanded by a Tibetan Dapon (the equivalent of a brigadier of the Indian Army) who helped the Indian Army advance.
From the day of its inception in November 1962, the Force had been placed under the Cabinet Secretary, which in fact meant the Indian prime minister. In 1971, the founder of the Research and Analysis Wing, RN Kao, by-passing the army, directly sent orders from Delhi to the Tibetan force. It is unfortunate that Kao recently passed away, taking with him his secrets.
So did Major General SS Uban, the Indian general who founded the SFF (his designation was inspector general). Though he wrote his memoir The Phantoms of Chittagong, he only obliquely refers to his troops as Tibetans. In another book on the 1971 operations, the present governor of Punjab, Lieutenant General J F R Jacob, then chief of staff, Eastern Command, does not say anything about the Tibetan prowess.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the Tibetan Dapon responsible for the operation, but he was unwilling to speak except in general terms.
An Indian web site [Bharat Rakshak] provides more information on the SFF's achievements in Bangladesh: 'With war right around the corner, the SFF was given several mission plans, including the destruction of the Kaptai Dam and other bridges. The Inspector General urged that the SFF be used to capture Chittagong, but this was found not favourable, since SFF members did not have artillery or airlift support to conduct a mission of that magnitude. After three weeks of border fighting, the SFF divided its six battalions into three columns and moved into East Pakistan on 03 December 1971.'
By the time Pakistan surrendered, the SFF had lost 56 men -- nearly 190 were wounded -- but they blocked a potential escape route for East Pakistani forces into Burma. They also halted members of Pakistan's 97 Independent Brigade and 2 Commando Battalion in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
As they did not exist officially for the Government of India, nobody could be decorated. However, some brave Tibetan commandos were awarded cash prizes by the Indian government.
It is strange the bona fides of the Tibetan refugees and their dedication to their country of adoption is now being questioned.
I will not mention all those who lost their lives on the Siachen Glacier and during the Kargil conflict in 1999. Though the SFF have been replaced in many high altitude battlefields by the Ladakh Scouts and other local troops who can acclimatize easily for high altitude warfare, they are ready to fight and defend India's frontiers.
When the Indian public gets to know these genuine facts, people are always deeply touched. I witnessed this recently when some young Tibetan students from Chennai gave a public performance. At the end they sang a poem written in Hindi by a Tibetan SFF jawan who had participated in the Kargil operations. The poet-jawan had written this song of joy, sorrow and emotion to express his gratitude to his second motherland and to the people of India who had given refuge, protection and education to his countrymen. Though Hindi is not the forte of the people of the South, when the students finished singing many in the audience were crying.
The Dalai Lama is perhaps today the most renowned world leader practicing compassion and Ahimsa. In 1989, he was rightly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his three-decade use of non-violence to solve the Tibetan issue. While actively practicing the Buddha's teachings, he has always stood by India, even when it went against his very principles. Is this not the highest token of his love for his adopted country?
The most well known case is the Pokhran nuclear tests. While the US and other world powers ordered immediate sanctions against India, the Dalai Lama declared: 'I think nuclear weapons are too dangerous. Therefore, we have to make every effort for the elimination of nuclear weapons. However, the assumption of the concept that few nations are OK to possess nuclear weapons and the rest of the world should not -- that's undemocratic... India should not be pressured by developed nations to get rid of its nuclear weapons.'
That the Dalai Lama understood India's point of view when the rest of the world condemned it, even when this stand was diametrically opposite to his deeper beliefs, proves the caliber of the man who has always termed India 'Aryabhumi' and declared that Tibet is a child of India.
Is it not time for India to recognize his genuine contribution to world peace, universal responsibility and the defense of the highest Indian spiritual values and confer on him the Bharat Ratna?
That he can today be accused of anti-national sentiment is proof of the rock bottom level that adharmic politics has reached. Let us hope the prayers for world peace by devotees in Bodh Gaya will balance this tendency.

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