Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why China crossed the LAC in Ladakh

In an article in Asia Times, Francesco Sisci, a China watcher, made a fascinating analysis of Xi Jinping’s new concept, the Chinese Dream. Sisci argued that this Dream is not enough: “Both Chinese and Westerners have spent a lot of time and spilled much ink trying to explain the significance of the Chinese dream, yet Xi Jinping presented also another concept that is possibly even more important. He said the earth needs a ‘world dream’ (shijie meng).”
Does Xi have a World Dream?
In an interview with BRICS journalists before he left for his first foreign tour, Xi declared: “China being the world’s second largest economy, the China Dream also will bring opportunities to the world. …The China Dream will be realized through a road of peace.”
A few days later, addressing the Moscow Academy of International Relations, the Chinese President asserted: “The China Dream will bring blessings and goodness to not only the Chinese people but also people in other countries.” On April 10, commenting on Xi Jinping's speech at the Boao Forum in which he rebuked North Korea, The China Daily wrote: "This new concept of shared security is in stark contrast to the parochial approach, which tends to view security based on one's own interests and needs. Driven by such an undesirable approach, a country will always calculate its own gains first whenever there is a regional or global security crisis.”
Sisci rightly affirmed: "Despite the fact that the content of the Chinese dream is still vague and hazy, it is clear that the Chinese dream and the world dream must be consistent with one another. China should not clash with the rest of the world or with the incumbent powers, but should lead alongside them. China speaks of a dream of living a good life, free of need and hunger".
His conclusion was: "China's world view needs in fact to be consistent with the broad world view that has shaped and dominated the world for the past 500 years."
Now, considering Xi's dual Dreams (for China and for the World), how to explain the deep Chinese intrusions into Indian territory in Ladakh?
Is the Chinese Dream's aim grabbing more Indian territory?
Xi did not say so, he explained that “the China Dream will be realized through a road of peace".
What does President Xi really wants?
It is difficult to answer, but the Chinese actions in Ladakh, near the Karakoram pass, appeared to be the opposite of President Xi’s recent uttering.
Stepping into Sherlock Holmes’ shoes, I tried to speculate about another possibility. What about a senior local Commander or even a Central Military Commission (CMC) member, deciding on his own to show what the ‘Chinese Dream’ means to a weak Indian government while, at the same time, embarrassing Xi Jinping.
What would be the reason for some generals to embarrass the new President and CMC’s Chairman, Mr. Holmes?
I will tell you, Watson! Just read Xinhua’s report dated December 21, 2012: “The military [read Xi] declared that receptions for high-ranking officers will no longer feature liquor or luxury banquets. The receptions will also be free of welcome banners, red carpets, floral arrangements, formations of soldiers, performances and souvenirs, according to ten regulations drawn up by the Central Military Commission. The regulations also prohibit commission officials from staying in civilian hotels or military hotels specially equipped with luxury accommodation during inspection tours.”
The Chinese news agency further elaborates: “The ten regulations also require officials to cut both the number and length of inspection tours, overseas visits, meetings and reports. The regulations state that speakers at meetings should avoid empty talk, while commission officials will not be allowed to attend ribbon-cutting and cornerstone-laying ceremonies, celebrations or seminars unless they have received approval from the of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee or the Central Military Commission. The use of vehicles equipped with sirens will be rigorously controlled during official visits in order to prevent public disturbances.”
That is not all for the poor (or rich) generals, “officials are also required to discipline their spouses, children and subordinates and make sure they do not take bribes.” Impossible, Mr. Holmes!
More recently, The South China Morning Post reported that Xi, China’s Commander-in-Chief, issued an order, making the lives of the Chinese generals and senior officers, even tougher. Some of them will “have to serve as the lowest-ranking soldiers for at least two weeks per year”.
Apparently President Xi Jinping wants to ‘shake up the military and boost morale’.
To cancel the banquets, the bribes and then force the senior officers to live with jawans might be too much to swallow for certain generals.
The Hong Kong newspaper explains: “It dictates that officers with the rank of lieutenant-colonel or above must serve as privates - the lowest-ranking soldier - for not less than 15 days. Generals and officers will have to live, eat and serve with junior soldiers during the period. They need to provide for themselves and pay for their own food. They must not accept any banquet invitation, join any sight-seeing tours, accept gifts or interfere with local affairs.”
The periodicity of the ‘training’ for senior most officers is even detailed: “Leaders of regiment- and brigade-level units have to serve on the front line once every three years. Division- and army-level commanders must serve once every four years. Top leaders from army headquarters and military districts will do so once every five years.”
Further horror, all military vehicles must be given new car plates and blacklisted sedans include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lincoln, Cadillac, Bentley, Jaguar and Porsche and a few others. In other words, the Great Proletarian Revolution of the PLA!
One can imagine the resentment in the senior scale of the PLA; for some generals, it looks more like a Nightmare than a Dream.
Antony Wong Dong, a Macau-based veteran military expert told The South China Morning Post: “The lack of discipline, the rampant corruption and the gap between the officers and soldiers are so commonplace, it has compromised the battle-effectiveness of the PLA. Many generals and senior officers today have never experienced hardship. They are promoted to their position because of their connections or other reasons.”
Chairman Xi wants them to be ready for any situation. It is not the case today.
Don’t you think, Watson, that it is why some generals have tried to sabotage Xi’s Dream, being fully aware that India, a weakling country is far from being prepared.
But, there is more about the 'poor' Chinese generals, my dear Watson.
First, do you know why the Indian Prime Minister keeps speaking about ‘an isolated incident’?
Obviouly, it is ‘isolated’; the intrusion occurred only in a specific place along the LAC, not in Arunachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand (although they have happened in the past and they keep happening).
The Prime Minister probably just repeats what the Chinese told the MEA officials; it is ‘an isolated mishap’. For Beijing, ‘isolated’ just means that it does not have the blessings of the CMC. This would explain that the official website of the PLA (under the CMC, whose Chairman is Xi Jinping) while daily commenting on the conflict with Japan in the East China Sea, has never mentioned the Daulat Beg Oldi incident.
I guess, Watson that ‘isolated’ and frustrated generals have decided to teach India a lesson while sinking Xi’s ‘world dream’.
Take General Chang Wanquan; in October 2012, a few weeks before the 18th Congress, The South China Morning Post affirmed that he “appears to have the cards stacked in his favour.”
The Hong Kong newspaper added: “Aided by age, party tradition, strong connections and the right mix of work experience, General Chang Wanquan is widely considered a front runner to get a top military post at the Communist Party's congress. Already among the 12 men on the PLA's supreme Central Military Commission, Chang is tipped to claim one of the two vice-chairmanships of the body reserved for active members of the armed forces.”
Traditionally, the two vice-chairmanships are selected from officers who have already served in the CMC.
Though a protégé of former President Hu Jintao, General Chang did not make it; he was superseded by General Fan Changlong, the Commander of the Jinan Military Region (MR).
As compensation, General Chang was given the Defence Ministry, a honorific post which does not entitle him a place in the all-powerful Politburo. Interestingly, he had several postings in the Lanzhou MR (let us not forget that the Ladakh front depends of the Xinjiang Military District of Lanzhou MR.)
Just see, Watson! Several generals would not mind to open a new front, for a few yuans more!
Willy Lam in an article in the China Brief says: “Moreover, the PLA top brass seems keen on interpreting the China Dream in such a way as to justify its lobbying for more economic resources and a greater say in national affairs. In a recent editorial entitled, the PLA Daily indicated that the defense forces would “struggle hard for the fulfillment of the dream of a strong China and a strong army. …Only when national defense construction is up to scratch will there be a strong guarantee for economic construction.”
Some generals today propound the theory that “boosting national defense construction can only give a significant push to economic and social development.” A dangerous game, of course!
Let us hope that it is an ‘isolated’ incident.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

China’s dream is India’s nightmare

My article China's Deeam is India's Nightmare appeared in NitiCentral.com
Whatever will happen in future in Ladakh, India has already lost the battle. Even if the Chinese agree to withdraw, they will still claim that particular area near the Karakoram pass as theirs and this, forever.
Though the Chinese incursions or transgressions, as it is poetically termed by the MEA, occur regularly, this time it was much deeper than usual and while during ‘routine visits’, Chinese troops come and go (after leaving some ‘souvenirs’ of their visit, such as rock paintings in red colour), this time, they came with their tents and provisions. It is a big difference.
Postponing Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India next month could have been an option for India to show its displeasure. Unfortunately, the present leaders do not have the political will.

Click here to continue...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Perceptions, Perceptions

Would you call it intrusion, incursion, transgression or violation? Does not matter, as they are ‘perceptional’!
Let us look at facts: for centuries, the Great Himalayas were an incident-free customary natural border between Tibet and India; then in 1950, the Chinese invaded the Roof of the World. Progressively, the People’s Liberation Army spread over the Tibetan plateau, building roads, airstrips and setting up garrisons. The border became an LAC, a Line of Actual control.
Now, the LAC has become ‘perceptional’. This is an extremely convenient appellation for the Chinese side as they can at will enter the places they perceive as ‘theirs’, plant their tents or send their yaks grazing.
The Times of India reported that New Delhi “has recorded well over 600 ‘transgressions’ - the government's euphemism for cross-border intrusions - all along the unresolved 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) by the People's Liberation Army”. And this, over the last 3 years only!
The latest Chinese ‘perceptional’ land grabbing, marks a new leap forward; this time, the Chinese have gone much deeper into India’s territory and in a larger number.
According to media reports, a large group of Chinese soldiers set up a camp some 10 km inside the Indian territory in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector of Ladakh on April 15. To make things worse, two helicopters apparently provided logistic support to the Chinese troops.
India asserted its own ‘perception’ two days later, sending a battalion of Ladakh Scouts to camp some 500 metres from the Chinese position.
An officer told The Times of India: "Our soldiers are conducting 'banner drills' (waving banners and placards at the Chinese troops to show it is Indian territory) through the day."
Reuters quotes another official: “Ladakh in particular …is being targeted. Though Chinese troops usually go back after marking their presence, they are increasingly coming deeper and deeper into our territory with the aim to stake claim to disputed areas.”
The Indian government says one should not worry, many mechanisms are in place: “the two countries are in touch with each other to resolve the row.”
It is true that an Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs was signed on January 17, 2012, but it is clear that the Chinese use these mechanisms (including the 1993 and 1996 border agreements) to do what they please …as in any case there a ‘mechanism’!
A question should be asked, why is the LAC still not defined? What was the point for successive NSAs to meet 15 times since 2003 with their Chinese counterpart, if they are unable to define an ‘actual’ line? The blame is usually put on the ‘insincerity’ of the Chinese side which is not ready for the slightest compromise, but it is also a fact that instinctively the Indian leadership prefers to hide behind a ‘mechanism’, to not ‘hurt our Chinese neighbours’ feelings’ or ‘makes things worse’, especially when the Chinese Premier is expected in Delhi.
A telling incident is worth recalling. In September 1956, 20 Chinese crossed over the Shipki-la pass into Himachal Pradesh. A 27-member Border Security Force party met the Chinese the same day. The BSF were told by a Chinese officer that he was instructed to patrol right up to Hupsang Khad (4 miles south of Shipki La, the acknowledged border pass). The BSF were however advised "to avoid an armed clash but not yield to the Chinese troops."
Delhi did not know how to react. A few days later, Nehru wrote to the Foreign Secretary: "I agree with [your] suggestion …it would not be desirable for this question to be raised in the Lok Sabha at the present stage."
The Indians MPs being unpredictable, they may raise a hue and cry, better to keep it secret and eventually mention it 'informally' to Chinese officials, thought the Prime Minister.
Finally, the MEA told Beijing "The Government of India are pained and surprised at this conduct of the Chinese commanding officer."
This was fifty-six years ago. Is the situation different today?
The Chinese incursions continued in the 1950’s in Garwal (Barahoti), Himachal Pradesh (Shipkila) and then spread to Ladakh and NEFA. Mao’s regime could have only been encouraged by the Government of India’s feeble complaints. Hundreds of such protests have been recorded in the 15 Volumes of the White Papers published till 1965 by the Ministry of External Affairs. Read them, you will understand that nothing is new under the Himalayan Sun.
Delhi should have noticed earlier that Beijing did not want to settle the border. In March 1954, T.N. Kaul, the Joint Secretary negotiating the ‘born in sin’ Panchsheel Agreement with China thought he was being clever (‘self-assured to point of arrogance by birth’, says a Wikileaks cable), to name a few border passes in the accord, the bright Indian negotiator thought that it would be enough to automatically define the frontier. He was for a big surprise when the Chinese delegation presented a draft of the Agreement; an article said: "The Chinese Government agrees to open the following mountain passes in the Ari [Ngari] District of the Tibet Region of China for entry by traders and pilgrims of both parties: Shipki, Mana, Niti, Kungribingri, Darma and Lipu Lekh”.
China ‘permitted’ India to cross Indian border passes.
Though the Chinese later agree to rephrase the article: “Traders and pilgrims of both countries may travel by the following passes…” Beijing never agreed that the border had thus been demarcated. Kaul had foolishly been taken for a ride.
During the Sino-Indian border talks in Beijing in 1960, the Chinese reiterated “The negotiations and Agreement of 1954 did not involve at all the question of delimiting the boundary between the two countries.”
A few months earlier, the Chinese Premier Chou Enlai stated that the two sides had been able to settle all questions “ripe for settlement”.
Then, the Five Principles were incorporated in the Preamble of the Agreement. The Report of the 1960 border talks says: “Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity assumed clear and precise knowledge of the extent of each other's territory. Two states with a common boundary could promise such respect for territorial integrity and mutual non-aggression only if they had a well-recognized boundary.”
It was not the case; it is not the case 59 years later.
What can India do? One solution would be to postpone Premier Li Keqiang’s forthcoming visit. However Delhi will most probably prefer to ‘engage’ China: in which case, one possibility would be to ‘fix’ the borders by reopening several border passes to trade and pilgrimage.
On the occasion of the BRICS meet in Durban, President Xi Jinping told the Indian Prime Minister that he regards “ties with India as one of the most important bilateral relationships”. According to him, an important issue was “enhancing people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and broadening youth exchanges.”
The reopening of the Demchok route in Ladakh would not only ‘pin’ the border in this area, but also allow Indian pilgrims to reach the Kailash-Mansarovar area in relatively comfortable conditions.
Another border post which would make a difference, if reopened, is the old trade route via the Karakoram pass (DBO is located a few kilometers south of the pass). By building a border infrastructure, both sides would have to have to agree on an LAC, if not a proper border in the area; some gaps between the border posts may remain, they could be tackled in a later stage, though it is true that the ‘perceptional’ intrusions occurred mainly in the gaps.
To fix a few border posts would however go a long way to begin solving the border vexed dispute.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reopening of the Himalayas

During a seminar on "Tibet's Relation with the Himalayas" organized by the Foundation for Non-Violent Alternatives and the Sikkim University in Gangtok, a debate took place: should the natural barrier between the Tibetan plateau and the Indian subcontinent be called ‘Himalayas’ or ‘Himalaya’.
The debate can continue amongst scholars and academicians, but the fact is that for centuries (or millennia) this formidable mountain range has not been a ‘barrier’, but a space of exchange; this is no longer the case today.
The Dalai Lama always surprises when he says that there is no such thing as ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, even less ‘Lamaism’. The so-called ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, was entirely borrowed from India, he says; more precisely from Nalanda. How?
Because, by a twist of fate, Tibetan monks and lamas, as well as abbots and pundits from the Indian viharas, criss-crossed the high mountain passes and transferred India’s knowledge to the Roof of the World.
Santarakshita, the Abbot of Nalanda, not only introduced the Buddha dharma to the Land of Snows, but also ordained the first monks.
For more than a thousand of years, the Himalayas witnessed a constant flow of knowledge, experiences, traditions and goods transiting up and down from far-away places in Central Asia, China or Mongolia to the entire subcontinent.
Then, China invaded Tibet and as the ‘Liberation Army’ began to occupy the high plateau, the passes were gradually closed.
Already in 1954, the infamous Panchsheel Agreement, which for the first time denied the existence of Tibet as a separate identity, designated only 6 passes (in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) as the sole Himalayan land ports; myriad other routes were hastily closed. The last stroke was the short border war between India and China in 1962. All bridges were then cut between the plateau and the Indian plains; the passes have been blocked ever since.
As I attended the seminar, a question came to me: how to soften the traditional borders again? Can the age-old relation between the Tibetan plateau and India be revived? The process has started, though it is extremely slow.
In 1991, a Memorandum on Resumption of Border Trade was signed by India and China; in a first phase, an overland trade route was reopened between the Tibet Autonomous Region and Lipukekh pass in the Pithoragarh district of (today’s) Uttarakhand; since then, a mart is annually permitted for a few months. In 1994, the same facilities were extended to Shipki pass in Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh and later to Nathu-la (‘la’ means pass in Tibetan) in Sikkim. A series of trade agreements between India and China allowed residents of Tibet and Indians from the border districts to export goods from a selected list of 29 items such as blankets, textiles, coffee, tea, vegetable oil or gur while raw silk, yak tails, goats or readymade garments, etc could be imported from China.
In 2006, India and China decided to resume the border trade through the historic Nathu-la, located 4,545 metres above sea level and 54 kilometers from Gantok; it had been closed for the past 44 years. With Jelep-la (via Kalimpong), the pass was traditionally the most important trade passage between Tibet, China and India.
The bilateral move had also a strategic implication as analysts believed that it signaled Beijing’s implicit recognition of Sikkim as part of India. This is debatable.
Incidentally, when I applied to visit the pass, I was told that I could not go due to my ‘foreign’ origin. This is typically foolish babu-thinking: to allow visitors from India or abroad to have a quick darshan of Chumbi valley on the Tibetan side, would be the best proof that the place is a part the Indian territory, under New Delhi’s control. Security checks should of course go alongside the permission. Babus are often unable to think in India’s interests.
In 2006, it was hoped that the border trade route would give a major boost to local economies and smoothen the bilateral relations between India and China. This has not really been the case for different reasons. The border trade remains rather small in volume, though smuggling of commodity goods is flourishing.
It is perhaps time to think to reopen the Himalayan passes without restrictions. Common men can only benefit from it.
After President Xi Jinping met the Indian Prime Minister on the occasion of the BRICS meet in Durban, the Chinese leader stated that he regarded “ties with India as one of the most important bilateral relationships”. According to him, an important issue was “enhancing people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and broadening youth exchanges.”
Why can’t both governments agree to remove the restrictions on border trade and later open the Himalayan passes to tourism?
Foremost in my mind is the Demchok route in Ladakh which would allow Indian pilgrims to reach the Kailash-Mansarovar area in a relatively short time and in fairly comfortable conditions. Is it not worth it?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nepal is the new Chinese colony

My article Nepal is the new Chinese colony appeared in niticentral.com.

Nepal is the new Chinese colony
Niti Central.com
April 20, 2013
The Chinese are slowly invading Nepal. Last month, AFP reported that ‘China eyes India trade by boosting spending in Nepal’. The news agency stated that China’s ambassador to Kathmandu was recently seen in a traditional Nepali cap and silk scarf, digging with a spade to symbolise the laying of the foundations of a new land port on the Tibet border.
China had just completed a 22-kilometre road connecting central Nepal with Kyirong district in Tibet. The new road is said to be the shortest motorable overland route between China and India.
Purna Basnet, a Nepalese political commentator told AFP that this will help China to export to India: “It will be easier for China to supply goods to India via Nepal. There is even talk of connecting Kathmandu with the rail network in Tibet. The Shigatse-Lhasa railway will be completed in a couple of years. From Shigatse, they have plans to connect Kathmandu through railways.”
In an op-ed article in The Republica in January 2013, Chinese ambassador Yang Houlan had propounded the same theory — Kathmandu could be a trade gateway to New Delhi: “From an economic viewpoint, Nepal links China (with 1.3 billion people) with South Asia (with 1.5 billion). The huge common market provides great opportunities for both China and South Asia.”
This argument however does not make sense. If India was so keen to trade with Tibet (and vice-versa), why is the trade through Nathu-la pass between Sikkim and Tibet faring so poorly?
A more plausible theory is that China’s investment in Nepal is part of a vital factor for controlling unrest in Tibet. Lekhnath Paudel, a Kathmandu-based strategic affairs analyst told AFP: “In Tibet, unrest has significantly increased, so Chinese investment in Nepal should be understood in the context of China’s integrity, which is very important for the giant nation.”
One still remembers that in the 1960’s the CIA-supported guerillas, based in Mustang in northern Nepal, valiantly fought against Communist China. The camps were closed in the early 1970’s when Kissinger decided to befriend China and take his boss, President Nixon to Beijing.
Recently, The New York Times affirmed: “These days, it is the Chinese who are showing up in this far tip of the Buddhist kingdom (Mustang)… Chinese officials are seeking to stem the flow of disaffected Tibetans fleeing to Nepal and to enlist the help of the Nepalese authorities in cracking down on the political activities of the 20,000 Tibetans already here.”
Beijing regularly sends military officials across the Tibetan border to ‘train’ the local Nepalese in ‘border security’.
The New York Times reported: “Their efforts across the country have borne fruit. The Nepalese police regularly detain Tibetans during anti-China protests in Katmandu, and they have even curbed celebrations of the birthday of the Dalai Lama”.
During the first eight months of 2012, the number of Tibetan refugees crossing from Tibet into Nepal was about 400, half as many as during the same period in 2011.
In August 2011, an unnoticed development took place in Nepal. Zhang Qingli, the then hardliner Party boss in Tibetm accompanied the Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang to Nepal. Zhou was the tough security czar of the Middle Kingdom at the time.
With a 60-member delegation, Zhou raised Beijing’s concern about Tibetans in Nepal and their supposed support for the Tibet autonomy movement. Strangely, an unexpected event poured some cold water over Zhou Yongkang’s visit: the Nepalese PM Jhala Nath Khanal suddenly resigned. During his stay, Zhou however stated, “China would like to see stability in Nepal.”
Though it was widely projected as the main agenda of the visit, Zhou did not mention a word regarding Tibet during the hour-long meeting with Khanal.
Zhou however implied that Nepal needed to improve its weak security arrangements along Nepal-China border; he said China wished to help Nepal in doing so.
Already in July 2010, a meeting termed ‘Nepal-China Border Security and Law Enforcement Talks’ was held in Kathmandu. Both sides had agreed to set up ‘focal points’ in the respective Home Ministries in Kathmandu and Beijing. A senior Nepali Government official told The Kathmandu Post: “The Chinese side assured full support to enhance capacity building, training of Nepali security personnel to be deployed across the northern border, seeking Nepal’s full commitment on information sharing on anti-China activities with effective law enforcement mechanism to contain the activities.”
A few months after Zhou Yongkang’s visit to the erstwhile Kingdom, Chen Zhimin, the Chinese Vice-Minister of Public Security led a delegation to Nepal. According to the official communique issued after the visit: “The two sides exchanged views on cooperation of police affairs and law enforcement and reached consensus on some issues.”
The Nepali Press reported: “The Chinese offered ‘logistic support’ worth $300,000 dollars in the form of laptops, searchlights or metal detectors.”
Chen Zhimin was very pleased with outcome of his stay in Nepal: “My visit is to find out ways to strengthen the bilateral relations between Nepal and China.”
It is in this context that one should look at President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Puspa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in Beijing this week. Xi told his visitor: “The China-Nepal friendship is not only in the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, but also conducive to stability and development in the region”.
All these ‘achievements’ have been bad news for the Tibetan refugees, but also for India. Nepal has become a Chinese colony.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A battery of rinpoches guns for China

Tsemonling Rinpoche
In an article for The Statesman, I mentioned that the atheist Communist Party of China (CCP) seems more and more interested in spiritual matters. 
For example, the Party has started promoting reincarnated Lamas, known in China as ‘Living Buddhas’, in a big way.
In my earlier posting, I had forgotten one lama: Tsemonling (or Tsemon Ling) Rinpoche.
He is one of the Four Lings who from time to time acted as regents of Tibet, (mainly during the periods of weakness of the Tibetan State, during the 19th century particularly). 
The Four Lings (Ling Shi) were Kundeling, Demoling, Tsemonling and Tsechokling. They had their estates in Lhasa and around Lhasa.
Like his colleagues Reting, Phagphala or Dorje Phagmo, Tsemonling Rinpoche guns from time to time for the Party.
It is why I believe that the 'tulku tradition', at least in the political field, is outdated.

Eminent Rinpoche talks about Chinese Dream
March 20, 2013    
Tsemon Ling Tenzin Trinley was born in 1950 in Lhasa. In 1955 he was identified as Tsemon Ling living Buddha, a high-ranking Buddha in Tibetan Buddhism. He has been a deputy from the 7th (1988) to the 12th (2013) National People’s Congress.

Tsemon Ling Tenzin Trinley, an eminent Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche, said that monks should obey Buddhist doctrines and behave themselves in the society on March 9, when the group discussion of the 12th National People’s Congress was wrapped up.
Buddhist monks should be patriotic and observe the law and monastic rules
Tsemon Ling Tenzin Trinley has been a deputy from the 7th (1988) to the 12th (2013) National People’s Congress. He said that he would grasp every opportunity to learn on each occasion. And this time, he got most impressed by Premier Wen’s Government Work Report. "It is inspiring and truth-reflecting."
"Over the past five years, China has encountered and overcome many difficulties and challenges, from harsh international situation to the devastating natural disaster. But the government behaved and honored its commission. Without stability, there will be no development and innovation,"said Tenzin Trinley Rinpoche.
Then he took Tibet as an example. "Social security system has become officially accessible for the monks and nuns in Tibetan monasteries since the beginning of 2012. With a comprehensive medical care and pension system guaranteed and life greatly improved, there is every reason for the monks to support the government's efforts."

Government funds cultural heritage protection
Thirty years ago, when Tsemon Ling Tenzin Trinley was vice President and general secretary of the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China, he began to undertake the project of re-carving the Kangyur, masterpiece of Tibetan Tripitaka with the permission of the 10th Panchen Lama.
Tenzin Trinley Rinpoche said that the government was very supportive.
"This project was launched in 1990 and officially started one year later with 0.5 mln special fund allocated by the government. So far, 180 have been finished out of the 225 volumes in total and in several years we will wrap up this project."
Then he added that the project was labor, money and time-consuming, as the special wood material had to be transported from Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Tibet in northwest Gansu Province. However, it was worthwhile and meaningful.
Kangyur is the part of the Tibetan Buddhist canon that contains the discourses attributed to Buddha Shakyamuni, and it contains a large number of original sutras and tantras translated from Indian sources. Thus it is a masterpiece of Tibetan Tripitaka.

Self-immolation is insane and violates Buddhist doctrine
Buddhism is a cultural and religious phenomenon as the society develops. Thus it should be compatible with the social system. Buddhists in religious field and followers therefore are expected to abide by the law, said Tenzin Trinley Rinpoche.
The Rinpoche sighed that the self-immolations in Tibetan inhabited areas were plotted and silly. "Torching oneself misreads the essence of Buddhism, and doesn't contribute to reincarnation."

"My Chinese Dream"

"Everyone bears a dream, but the point is how to realize it," said Tenzin Trinley Rinpoche.
The Rinpoche paid much attention to how to improve people’s livelihood, saying that it is closely related to everyone. He hoped for joint efforts on maintaining social stability, steady economy development and raised livelihood. "That is my Chinese dream."

Tsemon Ling is one of the four famous residing places of Rinpoche of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Defence White Paper on Tibet

PLA and PAPF in Eastern Tibet
The Information Office of the State Council has just published a white paper on China's armed forces entitled The Diversified Employment of China's Armed Forces.
It is the 8th Defence White Paper (WP) published during the past 15 years, by the State Council.
The new document states that the country faces ‘multiple and complicated’ security threats, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
But the Ministry of National Defence pledges to build a strong military "commensurate with China's international standing, and to meet the needs of its security and development interests".
It criticizes America's pivot in the Asia-Pacific region: "Some countries are strengthening their Asia-Pacific military alliances and expanding their military presence in the region, frequently making the situation there more tense.”
It notes that by adjusting its Asia-Pacific security strategy, the United States bring about ‘profound changes’ in the regional landscape.
The WP accuses Japan of being a trouble maker over the Diaoyu Islands located in the East China Sea: “On the issues concerning China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some neighbouring countries are taking actions that complicate or exacerbate the situation, and Japan is making trouble over the Diaoyu Islands issue."
At a press conference on the occasion of the WP’s release, Senior Colonel Wu Xihua, deputy director of the PLA general staff's crisis management office affirmed that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would retaliate if China's core interests were infringed: “We oppose wars and never hope to engage in them. But if someone imposes a war upon us, we should be determined to fight and win."
Though there is no special chapter on Tibet, the ‘T’ word is mentioned a few times, mainly in a section entitled: “Supporting key infrastructure projects”. It has implications for India as these ‘key projects’ are roads or dams located in border areas.
The WP admits that the Armed Forces (the PLA and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police Force or PAPF) are regularly involved in the construction of strategic roads and hydropower plants.
The WP says: “China's armed forces bring into full play the advantages of hydroelectric, transportation, engineering and cartographic units, and support national and local infrastructure construction related to national economy and people's livelihood in such areas as transportation, water conservancy, energy and communications. Since 2011, the PLA and PAPF have contributed more than 15 million work days and over 1.2 million motor vehicles and machines, and have been involved in more than 350 major province-level (and above) projects of building airports, highways, railways and water conservancy facilities. The PAPF hydroelectric units have partaken in the construction of 115 projects concerning water conservancy, hydropower, railways and gas pipelines in Nuozhadu (Yunnan), Jinping (Sichuan) and Pangduo (Tibet)."
The Nuozhadu project is a dam under construction on the Mekong River (known as Lancang in Chinese) in Yunnan Province. The dam will have a height of 261 m and a reservoir with a normal capacity of 21,749,000,000 m3. The objectives of the dam are to produce hydroelectric power as well to control floods. The project will have nine generators, each with a capacity of 650 MW (totally generating 5,850 MW). The project should be functional in 2015.
The Jinping-I Hydropower Station is also a large hydroelectric project on the ‘Jinping Bend’ of the Yalong River in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province. The construction began in 2005 and when complete, it will have a 3,600 MW capacity. This arch dam will be 305 m tall, it will be the tallest in the world. The project's objective is to supply energy for expanding industrialization and urbanization, improve flood protection, and prevent erosion. The reservoir began filling on 30 November 2012, but full electrical power capability is not expected before 2015.
The third project where the Chinese defence forces are namely involved is the Pangduo hydropower plant near Lhasa. According to Xinhua, the Pangduo project is “the largest water control project is now under construction in Tibet Autonomous Region. The first phase of construction has almost been completed, setting a world record of the deepest cutoff wall for as deep as 158 meters, according to the project management office.”
Kong Xiangsheng, chief engineer of the project management office told the Chinese news agency: “This wall is 22 meters deeper than the previously constructed one as Japan's Rainbow Bridge …The seepage-proof wall for Pangduo Project is considered as the largest, deepest and most difficult underground cutoff wall under construction in China."
The construction site is located at 4,100 meters above the sea level.
In terms of investment, the Pangduo Hydro Project is the largest ever undertaken in Tibet. The construction of Pangduo Project was launched on July 15, 2009, and expected to be completed in 2016.
The WP continues: “In addition, PAPF transportation units have undertaken the construction of 172 projects, including highways in the Tianshan Mountains in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the double-deck viaduct bridge over the Luotang River in Gansu Province and the Galungla Tunnel along the Medog Highway in the Tibet Autonomous Region, with a total length of 3,250 km.”
Yesterday, I mentioned that the Metok (or Medog) tunnel which has serious strategic implications for India, as it is located just north of the McMahon Line.
In a section entitled: “Promoting ecological progress and protecting the environment”, the WP informs us: “The PLA, militia and reserve organic troops are organized to help afforest barren hills, control desertification and preserve wetlands. Specifically, they have supported the construction of key national reserves and ecological engineering projects such as controlling the sources of sandstorms affecting Beijing and Tianjin, afforesting the periphery of the Taklimakan Desert, protecting the ecological environment of the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtse and Yellow rivers, and harnessing the Yarlung Zangbo, Lhasa and Nyangqu rivers in Tibet.”
‘Harnessing’ seems to indicate ‘damming’ these rivers. While the dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo (or Zangbo or Brahmaputra) are well documented, the ones on the Nyang River (Nyangqu in Chinese) are less.
The Nyang is the longest tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo River in south-west Tibet. It has a length of 307 km and originates at 5,000 meters above the sea level, west of the Mila Mountain. The river joins the Yarlung Tsangpo in Nyingchi prefecture. With a drop height of 2,273 meters, an average flow of 538 cubic meters per minute and a yearly flux of 22 billion cubic meters, the river boasts a hydropower capacity of 2.08 million kilowatts.
It is a sacred river for the people of Kongpo.
Its largest tributary is the Ba River. It flows past the town of Bayi where it is crossed by the Bayi Zanchen bridge.
The WP affirms: “Over the past two years, the PLA and PAPF have planted over 14 million trees, and afforested above three million mu of barren hills and beaches by large-scale planting and aerial seeding. Besides, technical units specializing in cartography, meteorology, and water supply provide such services as cartographic surveying, weather and hydrological forecasting, and water source exploration for local people."
Further, the WP affirms that the defence forces support “scientific and technological, educational, cultural and health undertakings”.
It quotes: “From 2011 to 2012, military academies, research institutions and specialized technical units undertook more than 200 research subjects including national major projects and key technology R&D programs; participated in 220 projects tackling key scientific and technological problems; and transferred 180 technologies. A total of 108 PLA and PAPF hospitals have paired up with 130 county-level hospitals in poverty-stricken areas in the western parts of the country, while medical and health units below the corps level have paired up with 1,283 clinics and health centers in towns and townships. From 2009 to 2012, the armed forces financed and built 57 "August 1" schools particularly in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities in the western parts of the country, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, providing schooling for over 30,000 children.”
There is no doubt the so-called ‘August 1’ (Bayi) school are mainly for the children of the troops posted in Tibet and Xinjiang.
‘August 1’ refers to the foundation of the People’s Liberation Army on August 1, 1927. The ‘Bayi’ franchise is exclusively reserved to the PLA.
The main Bayi town in Tibet is located in the Nyingchi prefecture, north of the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh.
It clearly shows that the PLA and the PAPF are not doing philanthropic work on the borders: their objective is “to win local wars under the conditions of informationization and expanding and intensifying military preparedness.”
The WP clearly explains: “China's armed forces firmly base their military preparedness on winning local wars under the conditions of informationization, make overall and coordinated plans to promote military preparedness in all strategic directions, intensify the joint employment of different services and arms, and enhance warfighting capabilities based on information systems.”
For the purpose: “They constantly bring forward new ideas for the strategies and tactics of people's war, advance integrated civilian-military development, and enhance the quality of national defense mobilization and reserve force building.”
The dams and the roads are part of China’s ‘preparedness’ to win a war.
Though Tibet is not namely mentioned, the PAPF plays an role in the restive region. The WP says: "as stipulated by law, perform their duties of maintaining national security and stability, steadfastly subduing subversive and sabotage attempts by hostile forces, cracking down on violent and terrorist activities, and accomplishing security-provision and guarding tasks."
These different headings keep the forces busy in Tibet.
PAPF near Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa
As the WP puts it: "The PAPF is the state's backbone and shock force in handling public emergencies and maintaining social stability. The Law of the People's Republic of China on the People's Armed Police Force, promulgated in August 2009, specifies the scope, measures and support of PAPF security missions. With mobile PAPF troops as the mainstay, supplemented by forces pooled from routine duty units, and supported by various police forces and PAPF academies, the PAPF has established a force structure for stability maintenance and emergency response. In addition, a counter-terrorism force structure has been set up, which consists of a counter-terrorism contingent, special-duty squadrons, special-duty platoons and emergency-response squads at state, province, municipality and county levels, respectively."
One understands that the PAPF's budget is larger than the PLA's!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Latest news on the Brahmaputra

Chen Quanguo and Padma Thinley opening the Metok Tunnel
Several times on this blog, I mentioned the string of 5 or 6 dams planned by China on the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra).
According to the 9th report of the Inter-Ministerial Expert Group: "Jiacha could be the next hydroelectric project on the mainstream of Brahmaputra River. It may be followed by hydroelectric projects at Lengda, Zhongda, Langzhen, where dam related peripheral infrastructural activity (including 4 new bridges) has gathered speed. Dagu and Jiexu projects, which are also on the main course of Brahmaputra River, along with Nangxian project may see considerable development activity in future."
The report also apparently mentions that no instance of water diversion activities is discerned on the main course of the river and its tributaries.
This is obvious because if a diversion is ever undertaken, it will be 200 or 300 km upstream. Further a project of such pharahonic dimension, will take 2 or 3 decades to be completed and will have to be incorporated in a Five-Year Plan. It is not the case today.
The fact that "China is carrying out series of cascading ROR projects in the· middle reaches of Brahmaputra, the same may be replicated in the Great Bend Area as a viable alternative to a single mega project", is an interesting hypothesis, which makes sense, technically and strategically.
More than 2 years ago, I wrote about opening of the tunnel to Metok (Motuo in Chinese) as the turning point of the proposed mega project(s).
In an earlier posting, I also mentioned an interview of Dorji Wangdark, the deputy head of Metok County, a delegate to the Regional People's Congress. He thus described his native village: "Metok County has a typical sub-tropical climate, which brings plenty of rainfall and spring-like days all year round, thus, it’s suitable for agriculture and animal husbandry. Metok abounds with rice, millet, bananas and many other grains and fruits, all of which, especially bananas, can be processed and pushed to market.”
Dorji Wangdark also praised Beijing for having brought a road to his border village: "great chances have been brought to Metok since the highway linking Bomi County and Metok opened. But part of the highway, about five kilometers in high altitude, is easy to get snowed up in winter, so the traffic will be held up then." 

Wangdark's proposal to the Congress was to improve the maintenance of Metok highway "to accelerate economic development of Metok County".
A cascade of large dams will certainly 'accelerate' the 'development of the area. The tunnel was the key; the gate is now opened.

Latest meeting of Committee of Secretaries: Govt of India pushes enviable hydro projects in North East Without due process
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People 
April 11, 2013
In a recently held meeting, the Committee of Secretaries have pushed for large hydro power projects in Arunachal Pradesh. As the agitation against the under construction 2000 MW Subansiri Lower HEP on Arunchal Pradesh border has shown any such move, without credible, independent and comprehensive options assessment, social and environmental impact assessment at project and basin level in a transparent and democratic way would prove to be disastrous not just from social and environment point of view, but also from economic aspects. Hurrying through such projects in the name of establishing prior use rights in the name of Chinese projects in Brahmaputra basin would not be helpful. The fact that the river and its ecology are in use by the people of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, other North East and east India states, Bhutan and Bangladesh should be sufficient if prior use was indeed a tenable argument in international context.
Some new facts that have come to light from the CoS meet include:

Latest updates on this issue from http://www.energylineindia.com/

The observations of the 9th report of the Inter-Ministerial Expert Group (IMEG), were discussed during the course of the meeting. There has been an increase of three project sites on the mighty river since IMEG’s last report, prepared a few months earlier. A total of 39 Rune of the River projects/sites are now present on Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
Dam related peripheral infrastructural activity has gathered speed at Lengda, Zhongda and Langzhen, which are on the main course of Siang or Yarlung Tsangpo as it is called in Tibet. The Bome-Medog road which passes through the Great Bend Area is also being upgraded. The Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs said that keeping in mind China’s bad track record to resolve water disputes, he was of the opinion that India should cooperate with other countries facing similar issues with China.
This report suggests that no instance of water diversion activities is discerned on the main course of the river and its tributaries.
Jiacha could be the next hydroelectric project on the mainstream of Brahmaputra River. It may be followed by hydroelectric projects at Lengda, Zhongda, Langzhen, where dam related peripheral infrastructural activity (including 4 new bridges) has gathered speed.
Dagu and Jiexu projects, which are also on the main course of Brahmaputra River, along with Nangxian project may see considerable development activity in future.
The China is carrying out series of cascading ROR projects in the· middle reaches of Brahmaputra, the same may be replicated in the Great Bend Area as a viable alternative to a single mega project and this needs further monitoring.
The CoS has directed the Technical Expert Group (TEG) to submit its action plan for establishing India’s user right within a month’s time. Cabinet Secretary directed TEG to submit a blueprint for action with indicative time lines within a month. CoS has recommended Additional Secretary, Ministry of Power to chair the TEG. Notably, the TEG along with other standing groups like IMEG, will continue to submit their six monthly reports.
Unfortunately, none of the reports of the TEG or IMEG are in public domain, nor are they available under RTI Act. The people of north east are kept in complete darkness about the decisions these officials take.
About the projects in the NE India, the CoS meeting noted:
Special Secretary, Water Resources, stated that 92 HEPs (above 25 MW) with aggregate capacity of 36,272.5 MW have been allotted of which about 20 are at some progressive stage of development.
While for 11 HEPs, aggregate capacity of 8,510 MW, the detail project reports (DPRs) have been submitted to CEA for examination, 9 projects worth 10,570 MW have been concurred by CEA.
In the case of Pashighat (2700MW) project, Techno Economic Clearance has been received and public hearing is scheduled next month.
Indeed as SANDRP analysis of functioning of EAC shows, the Expert Approval Committee has said yes to the largest of projects from Arunachal Pradesh.
An important agenda of the CoS meeting was to assess the progress of the measures suggested by the committee in its 4th meeting held on April 26, 2011. The committee had directed a Joint Steering Committee consisting of representatives from NHPC and Assam government to end the long standing deadlock at the 2,000 MW Subansiri HEP. Notably, the Joint Steering Committee has submitted its report in July 2012. In response to the CoS decision that Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) should firm up views on the modalities of initiating a more informed public debate on the issue of the Brahmaputra water diversion, MEA and MoWR have formed a joint mechanism to pursue the same. An FAQ has also been prepared on the subject to disseminate awareness. Apart from this, MoWR has initiated action on the decision of the CoS to hold informal discussion between concerned ministries for constructing multipurpose projects in Arunachal Pradesh. An inter-ministerial informal discussion was held in October 2011. An outcome of the meeting was that discussion of rehabilitation, an issue hampering many projects, should be project specific. Further, the Planning Commission has formed an Expert Panel to take up the sub-basin wise Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study under the chair of Chairman CWC which will submit its report this month.
Many of these actions of CoS and other related bodies clearly lack credibility. The Central Water Commission itself largely acts like a lobby for big dams in India and it is never known to have taken any credible steps for environment or EIA. Under the circumstances, the sub basin wise study that is expected from CWC would not have any credibility.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mining Sacred Places

On March 29, China’s State media reported that 83 miners had presumably died following a major landslide at the site of a gold mine in Gyama Valley, near the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. A few days later, 66 miners were confirmed dead and 17 were declared missing despite massive rescue efforts.
Reports from Tibet further stated that the miners (only two of them were Tibetans) were asleep in their tents when the tragedy occurred. They were buried by a 3-kilometre wide and 30 metres deep mass of rocks and debris.
An ignorant former French PM, Jean-Pierre Rafarin, a great friend of Communist China, recently told a Chinese journalist at the Boao Forum: “I have never been to Tibet. It is a region with high altitude.” But there is more than the altitude; in many ways, Tibet is a special place.
Beijing based writer and dissident Tsering Woeser, brings out another dimension of the tragedy in her blog: “I mention Songtsen Gampo often, always in the hope that those greedy cadres and companies would show some mercy.”
The Gyama Valley is one of the most sacred places in Tibet; it is the birth place of Songtsen Gompo, the founder of the Tibetan empire in the 7th century, the largest empire in Asia at that time. Till recently, several historical places such as the Gyelpo Khangkar, containing an image of the King and his two Chinese and Nepalese queens, were by visited large crowds of Tibetans pilgrims.
Woeser reminds her countrymen: “In Han Chinese culture, the birthplace of all former dynasties’ emperors is considered to be the treasured place of ‘fengshui’, referred to as ‘dragon’s pulse’. Gyama, with its many sacred and beautiful places, is where the ‘dragon’s pulse’ exists in Tibet and it should never have to endure such disemboweling hardship as it does today.”
Unfortunately, Chinese cadres are unaware of the ‘Tibetan pulse’. For Woeser, who visited the place in 2005, the landslide is: “not a natural, but a man-made disaster. Locals say loud and clear how crazy the mining has become there.” The mining project just shows “the lack of empathy by Chinese government towards Tibetan Culture and sentiment”, she bitterly complained.
Ironically, Xinhua had reported in June 2012: “A multi-metal mine in the birthplace of Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo has the potential to be among the world's 50 biggest mines of its kind by deposits and may generate an annual product value of 712 million US $ by the end of 2015.”
Jiang Liangyou, Party Secretary of the mine’s owner, Tibet Huatailong Mining Development (under the state-owned National Gold Group Corporation or CNGG), had then promised: “The prospecting results are subject to independent third-party verification overseas”.
It appears now that the foreign advices were not followed, triggering the tragedy.
As late as June 2012, Jiang had boasted: "Phenomenal changes will be brought to Tibet's economic and social development, because, after the expansion, Gyama Mine may generate tax revenue equivalent to one-sixth of the current fiscal revenue of the government of Tibet Autonomous Region.”
Xinhua however admitted: “Before the mining area was taken over by Huatailong in late 2009, a dozen private miners were caught up in a rat race for the rich ore supplies, ignoring their responsibilities to the local community and environment.”
Sun Zhaoxue, general manager of CNGG had publicly announced that Huatailong would honor its social responsibility and “bring local residents long-lasting benefits through environmental protection and community-building efforts.”
That was last year. He had then affirmed: “The answer, in our mind, is to build Jiama into a large, environmentally-friendly mine equipped with leading technologies.”
Ironically, the mine has been projected as the ‘Gyama Model’ by the Ministry of Land and Resources in Beijing, and many Chinese mine managers regularly visited the place ‘to learn from Huatailong's experiences’.
Nine months ago, another manager Teng proudly asserted:"The golden rule we have been following here is to always be responsibility-aware and harmony-aware.”
Today, a report prepared by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) based in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, believes that China's large-scale exploitation of mineral resources in Tibet caused the recent disaster.
Tenzin Norbu, the Head of the CTA’s Environment Desk says: "Tibet's rich mineral deposits have become a resource curse for the local residents and ecosystem. Since the late '60s, these mineral deposits have been exploited in various scales, mostly under poor environmental norms and regulations. …The minerals extracted, copper, chromium, gold, lead, iron and zinc are the minerals of greatest interest to Chinese and other foreign miners operating in Tibet."
Interestingly, the President Xi Jinping (then visiting Africa), Premier Li Keqiang as well as the entire Standing Committee of the Politburo personally expressed their grief over the tragedy and “gave important instructions for the rescue work”. The Party seems shaken by the incident; it seems to have become a prestige issue for Beijing. But will the new leadership be able to take the ‘yak’s pulse’? One can doubt in view of the precedents in Tibet.
One collateral: when the China National Gold Group Corporation acquired the rights from the previous owners in 2009, one of them was Rapid Results Investment based in …the British Virgin Island! Some 590 million US $ was paid to this company. The news came soon after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began leaking the details of 2 million emails and other documents on the famous fiscal paradises. Just a coincidence!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

At Nalanda, science first met spirituality

My article At Nalanda, science first met spirituality appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer today.

Today, any project that invokes the traditions of that hallowed ancient university must be based on the principles of the ‘science of the mind’, not on religion or political expediencies

Recently, I had the chance to listen to a long talk by the Dalai Lama. I was surprised as he repeatedly said that there is no such thing as ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, even less ‘Lamaism’. The so-called ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, he said, has entirely been borrowed from India, more precisely from Nalanda.
In recent times, the name of the ancient university has been in the news for the wrong reasons; we heard that a new institution carrying the name of the famed university and ‘mentored’ by Amartya Sen had shifted its operations from Bihar to Delhi. Why? Nobody seems to know. The strange move was, in any case, not explained to the Indian public; the project holders probably considering the masses too stupid to grasp the subtleties of the Nalanda project.
Further, though accusations of financial improprieties have circulated about the grandiose project, they have never really been dispelled. Why should the university be directly run by an already poorly-staffed Union Ministry of External Affairs? Why did the Ministry need to plunge into an educational venture?
But let us forget the politics for now and take a look at the depth and vastness of the philosophical background of the ancient institution. From the fifth century CE to 1193 CE, the Buddhist vihara was one of the greatest centres of higher learning of all times. Nalanda flourished under the patronage of not only Buddhist emperors like Harsha and later the Pala dynasty, but also received the support of the Hindu Gupta rulers. Before it was destroyed by the Turkish hordes of Bakhtiyar Khilji, Nalanda was spread over a large area near the village of Baragaon, 10 km north of Rajgir in Bihar. It hosted scholars, monks and scientists from the world over who flocked to the vihara, the largest knowledge centre of its time.
The Nalanda University library was so large that it is said to have been ablaze for over three months after the invaders set it on fire. It was the secular and spiritual knowledge of India which was ransacked and destroyed. However, by a twist of fate (or good karma), Tibetan monks and lamas along with some abbots of the vihara had transferred Nalanda’s knowledge to cold storage on the Roof of the World where it was preserved.
The great monastic university had come into prominence when learned sages such as Nagarjuna or Arya Deva decided to set up a vihara in Nalanda. The history of Nalanda is known thanks to Chinese pilgrims as well as Taranatha, the great Tibetan historian who lived in the 16th century and wrote the History of Buddhism in India. It is said that Arya Deva once invited Nagarjuna for a discussion on Buddhist philosophy; when the former tried to argue with Nagarjuna, he failed to grasp his reasoning. Arya Deva then understood that he had found his master; Nagarjuna later initiated him into the mysteries of the science of mind.
The Dalai Lama likes to quotes Nagarjuna who never accepted any philosophical concept without testing it. He did not even accept the Buddha’s sayings until he was able to check their veracity, using his profound mind as a tool. He never believed in blind faith. This testing mind is the foundation stone of the Nalanda tradition. The Dalai Lama, who does not hide his admiration for Nagarjuna, also quotes ‘his boss’, the Buddha himself: “My followers should not accept my teachings out of faith and devotion, but after investigation and experimentation.'”
It is surprising that Mr Amartya Sen, the chairman of the Nalanda Mentor Group, does not grasp what has been the hallmark of the Indian mind for millennia. When asked about the omission of the Dalai Lama’s name from the international project, Mr Sen stated that “religious studies could be imparted without involvement of religious leaders.” The Dalai Lama may not need to be involved in the project, but the spirit of Nalanda has to be insufflated in the project. The Dalai Lama explains: “During the eighth century, the Tibetan emperor (Trisong Detsen) invited a great master of Nalanda; his name was Santarakshita. He was a famous, a well-known scholar and master of Nalanda. He went to Tibet and spent the rest of his life there. He introduced Buddhism in Tibet. That is why I consider Tibetan Buddhism is the authentic tradition of Nalanda.”
Mahapandits such as Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti, Shantideva, Shantarakshita, Kamalashila, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dharmakirti or Atisha wrote extensive commentaries on the Sutra, still used in Tibetan monasteries today. Santarakshita, the Abbot of Nalanda, not only introduced the Buddha dharma to the Land of Snows, but also ordained the first monks. Since then, the lamas of Tibet have faithfully followed their Nalanda teachers.
The ‘Nalanda path’ prevailed in Tibet after a long debate — the famous Samye Debate which was held in Samye monastery between the Chinese and Nalanda schools of Buddhism. The debate took two years (792-794 CE) to reach its conclusion. Hoshang, a Chinese monk, was defeated by Kamalashila, who defended the Indian view. At the end, the Tibetan king issued a proclamation naming the ‘Indian path’ (from Nalanda) as the orthodox faith for Tibet.
Nalanda tradition is not a ‘religion’, it is a ‘science of the mind’. The Dalai Lama once recounted the story of Raja Ramanna, the nuclear physicist, who told him that he was surprised to find the concept of quantum physics and relativity in one of Nagarjuna’s texts. The Dalai Lama said: “The West discovered these concepts at the end of the 19th century or beginning of the 20th century. Some Indian sages like Nagarjuna knew it nearly 2,000 years ago.” Nagarjuna’s concept of Madhyamaka (the Middle Way between extremes) was very much part of the Nalanda curriculum. The Tibetan leader clearly differentiates between this ‘science of mind’ originating from Nalanda, Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist religion: “When we say ‘Buddhist science’, we mean ‘science of the mind’; it is something universal; it is not a religion. Buddhist religion is not universal, it is only for Buddhists.”
The Nalanda project should be based on the ‘science of the mind’, not on religion or political expediencies. Since his retirement, the Dalai Lama has spent most of his time exploring the convergence between science and spirituality. For the past three decades, he has had a dialogue with modern scientists. His Mind & Life Institute based in the US spearheads this research. Its objective is to test if the effects of meditative practices can be corroborated by modern science.
The ‘testing’ process may not be important for the practitioners themselves; the Dalai Lama recounted the story of yogis living in caves who were not at all interested in being covered by electrodes to ‘test’ their siddhis or meditative prowess. He, however, believes that it is important for the rest of humanity to realise that exercises such as yoga or meditation can bring peace of mind and ultimately a better life. He sees it as a gift from India and Tibet to the world.
Research into the confluence of science and spirituality should definitively be included in the curriculum of an institute calling itself ‘Nalanda’. The project’s ‘mentors’ must keep in mind the glorious history of the vihara. This does not seem to be the case today.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Return of Du Qinglin in Tibetan affairs

Du Qinglin in Garze
In September 2012, the appointment of Ling Jihua as the boss of the CCP's United Front Work Department was reported by the Chinese press.
Ling then replaced Du Qinglin.
My reading of this move was that after retirement, President Hu Jintao wanted to keep his fingers in the Tibetan pie through his protégé, Ling.
The interesting part of it is that though Ling replaced Du Qinglin, the latter now seats in his place in the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
That is a hot seat.
Who is Du Qinglin?
Born in November 1946 in Jilin Province, Du joined the CPC in March 1966. He graduated from the School of Economics and Management at Jilin University with a major in national economic planning and management. He received a postgraduate education while in service and was awarded the degree of Master of Economics.
Apart from his important job in the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, Du is also vice chairman of the 12th CPPCC National Committee.
Du is a truly important man in the Party.
Du recently visited the Tibetan-inhabited areas of Sichuan and Yunnan.
What was the purpose to the visit?
Probably, the Standing Committee of the Politburo wanted his views on the prevailing situation in these regions. 
According to Xinhua: "Du urged them to serve local people with emotion and responsibility. He called for the cultivation of a number of capable and passionate cadres to enhance the Party's public support."
He may not be able to find many 'passionate' cadres to impose more repression around, but this another issue. 
Du would have said: "Unity and democracy are the two great themes of the CPPCC. The CPPCC is a patriotic united front organization of the Chinese people, serving as a key mechanism for multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and a major symbol of socialist democracy."
It is still not clear to me what 'socialist democracy' is.

Official stresses Party-people ties in Tibetan-inhabited area
April 1, 2013 
BEIJING, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Senior political advisor Du Qinglin has stressed forging closer Party-people ties and hardening local residents' common understanding of safeguarding ethnic solidarity and national unity in Tibetan-inhabited regions.
Du made the remarks during an inspection tour to the Tibetan autonomous prefectures of Ganzi and Diqing, in southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces respectively, between March 29 and April 1.
According to an official statement Xinhua obtained Monday, Du visited farmers' households, schools and monasteries where he held face-to-face talks with Party cadres, farmers and herdsmen, and people from religious circles.
Du, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a member of the secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, called for greater efforts to consolidate the foundation of CPC-people ties.
He encouraged authorities to explore ways for local economic and social development that match local conditions, with an aim to increase people's income and make them become better off.
"Greater strength should be exerted to solve the problems of healthcare, education and employment, which are among the people's top concerns," he said, stressing that efforts to win people's support and to improve their well-being should be combined.
Extending greetings to grassroots-level cadres and CPC members, Du urged them to serve local people with emotion and responsibility. He called for the cultivation of a number of capable and passionate cadres to enhance the Party's public support.
He also urged efforts to step up administration of religious affairs in accordance with the law, and bring the positive role of religious personages and believers in facilitating economic and social development into play.

The Future Lost Rivers

The lost Sarasvati river
It is now fashionable to talk about climate change and its implications on our future lives. A couple of years ago, French-born and Indian naturalized scholar, Michel Danino published a book, The Lost River: on the Trail of the Sarasvati, a mind-opener on the fate of the mythic Sarasvati river. Taking into account the latest research in fields as different as satellite imagery, archeology, linguistics, paleontology or mythology, Danino says: “The Indian subcontinent was the scene of dramatic upheavals a few thousand years ago. The Northwest region entered an arid phase, and erosion coupled with tectonic events played havoc with river course. One of them disappeared.”
He further explains: “It has been accepted that the loss of the Sarasvati played a role in the dissolution of the Harappan city states. Why did this remarkable civilisation with its excellent town planning, standardised writing and weight system suddenly collapse?”
One can of course think that this ‘Sarasvati’ was a myth and that one should live in today’s reality. However, this reality tells us something.
On March 30, 2013, The Australian published an article asserting: “About 28,000 rivers have disappeared from China's state maps, an absence seized upon by environmentalists as evidence of the irreversible natural cost of developmental excesses.”
Can you believe that more than half the rivers surveyed a few decades ago, no longer exist. It is what discovered some 800,000 surveyors who compiled the first national water census in China.
Beijing is “fumbling to explain the cause”, says The Australian.
The three-year study conducted by the Ministry of Water Resources and the National Bureau of Statistics discovered that out of some 50,000 rivers catalogued in the 1990s, only 22,909 rivers still exist today.
The Chinese officials immediately put the blame on the climate change, arguing that it has caused waterways to vanish; they also say that the difference was also probably due to ‘mistakes’ by previous surveyors.
Environmental experts do not agree; for them it is the direct consequence of the ill-conceived and wild development prevalent in the Middle Kingdom.
Ma Jun, the outspoken water expert heading the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing, believes the missing rivers are a cause for ‘great concern’.
He explained: “One of the major reasons is the over-exploitation of the underground water reserves, while environmental destruction is another reason, because desertification of forests has caused a rain shortage in the mountain areas.” He added: “Large hydroelectric projects such as the Three Gorges Dam, which diverted trillions of litres of water to drier regions, were likely to have played a role.”
Surprisingly, a few months back, Beijing announced that it had decided to go ahead with the massive controversial plans to dam the Salween (Nu) River in Yunnan province. Eight years ago, Premier Wen Jiabao had suspended the plans out of environmental concerns.
According to The South China Morning Post (SCMP): "Some environmentalists were stunned by the plan's revival, which is part of an effort by the government to promote hydroelectricity as a cleaner alternative to coal. Opponents said the decision marks a long-awaited victory for the country's mighty state-owned power companies and local governments that have been lobbying top leaders to promote the building of mega dams."
The lifting of the ban means an extra capacity of 120 gigawatts with the construction of 54 hydropower plants termed as 'key construction projects'; it may also mean that more rivers will disappear.
I was recently in Garhwal and I could witness the immediate consequences of building cascades of dams for short-term pecuniary benefits.
Local officials argue that, if the Centre does not want dams to generate power, then Rs 10,000 to 15,000 crore would have to be annually released as Central assistance. The Center wants power and the State, hard cash; it superficially looks as win-win situation, except for the rivers which have started disappearing at some places.
I was told that the projects currently underway should increase the hydropower capacity to 12,235 MW. A total of 95 hydropower projects are being built or planned on different rivers converging in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basin of Uttarakhand.
Srinagar (Garhwal)
Environmentalists like former IIT professor, Dr. G D Agrawal (his sannyasi name is Swami Gyan Swarop Sanand) and before him Sunderlal Bahuguna have opposed this wild contagion of new concrete infrastructures, but with little results, though it is a fact that since 2005, when the Tehri Dam’s reservoir was filled up, the flow of Bhagirathi reduced drastically.
In the years to come, global warming will radically change the face of the planet; inconsiderate human activities can only accelerate these changes for the worse. Worldwide, it will create tens of millions of ‘environmental migrants’.
The process is bound to happen in the Indian Himalayas because once the dams are built, there will no more rivers to worship and no more jobs for the local population. They will have to migrate to the cities, with other negative consequences.
Many more new ‘lost Sarasvatis’ is the making!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Arunachal and Bangladesh discuss the Brahmaputra dams

After my article China’s water war on India appeared in nitycentral.com on April 5, PTI released an interesting piece of news: "Arunachal, Bangladesh discuss management of Brahmaputra".
It appears that Arunachal Pradesh and Bangladesh have discussed several measures for a better management of the Brahmaputra basin.

The talks include the question of the dams being built by China on the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) in Tibet.
According to PTI, Arunachal Pradesh Water Resources Development Minister Newlai Tingkhatra met the Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tariq A. Khan in Itanagar and discussed ways "to tackle the problem of siltation through river dredging and building embankments so that proper water depth was developed for inland water transportation."
Mr. Khan would have said that Bangladesh was equally concerned and apprehensive over diversion of Brahmaputra’s water in China.

It is the first time, to my knowledge, that this has been articulated by Bangladesh.
PTI says that Bangladesh Commerce Minister Md. Habibur Rahman Khan was also present.

The High Commissioner told the Arunachal Pradesh officials: "Arunachal Pradesh is the source of water for Brahmaputra basin and thus the primary stakeholder in all respects in the management of Brahmaputra in terms of hydropower generation and navigation."
The Bangladesh delegation also called on the Governor, General (Retd) J J Singh at Raj Bhawan to discuss "various matters including inland waterways, Brahmaputra River project and areas of prospective trade and commercial activities."
The Governor mentioned the mutual benefits of cooperation in energy (hydropower) sharing and the importance of people to people contact and opening up of more avenues for economic opportunities.

China’s water war on India
As ‘emergent’ leaders returned from the BRICS meeting in South Africa, PTI reported that Manmohan Singh had ventured to ask the new Chinese President Xi Jinping to set up a joint mechanism for the dams being built on the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet (known downstream as Siang and Brahmaputra).
According to PTI: “Notwithstanding pledges to take the bilateral relationship to a new level, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first meeting with new Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought a joint mechanism to assess the construction work on dams on Brahmaputra river in Tibet.” That sounds good, but is it enough?
Talking to the journalists traveling with him in the plane, the Prime Minister explained, “I took the opportunity to raise the issue of trans-border river systems. I requested the Chinese Government to provide a joint mechanism to enable us to assess the type of construction activity that is going on in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.”
Apparently, President Xi assured Dr Singh that China was quite conscious of its responsibilities as well as of the interest of the lower riparian countries.
The report further added: “As regards the specific mechanism that he had asked, the Chinese President told him that they would further look into it.”
One could ask, why just a ‘joint mechanism’ and not a treaty on the lines of the Indus Waters Treaty signed with Pakistan in 1960?
The Prime Minister seemed to have been rather reticent to even bring the topic on the table: “As of now, [India’s] assessment is that whatever activity that is taking place on the Brahmaputra region in Tibet, it is essentially run-of-the-river projects and therefore there is no cause of worry on our part.”
But what about the Sutlej and the Indus?
On August 4, 2000, The Tribune reported a strange event in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh: flash floods washed away most of the bridges on the Sutlej, killing many in the process.
The Chandigarh daily explained: “Even three days after the disaster, the mystery of the flashfloods in the Sutlej which wrecked havoc along its 200 kilometres in length in the State, remains unresolved,” adding: “Experts are at a loss to understand where the huge mass of water came from.”
Imagine a 50 feet high wall of water descending into the gorges of Kinnaur!
In a few hours, more than 100 persons died, 120 kilometres of a strategic highway (Chini sector) was washed away and 98 bridges destroyed. While traveling to the Spiti valley a few days after the incident, I witnessed the extent of the damage.
Oddly, the details of the mishap were similar to others which had occurred in Arunachal Pradesh a week earlier.
A detailed study carried out a few months later by Indian remote sensing agencies confirmed that the release of excess water accumulated in the Sutlej and the Yarlung Tsangpo basins in Tibet had led to the flooding.
On June 25, 2001, nearly a year later, the weekly India Today published an article entitled ‘Made in China’: “While the satellite images remain classified, officials of the Ministry of Water Resources indicate that these pictures show the presence of huge water bodies or lakes upstream in Sutlej and Siang [Brahmaputra] river basins before the flash floods took place. However, these lakes disappeared soon after the disaster struck Indian territory. This probably means that the Chinese had breached these water bodies as a result of which lakhs of cusecs of water were released into the Sutlej and Siang river basins.”
It is not difficult to imagine what could ‘naturally’ (or less naturally) happen if a large structure is constructed north of the McMahon line during a time of conflict.
The only solution lies in bringing the matter to the negotiating table. India and China should reach a bilateral water agreement. If a river-water treaty has been signed between India and Pakistan, why can’t a similar accord be found between China and India (and why not Bangladesh), in order to assure a decent life to all in the region
Further there is a Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses adopted by the UN in 1997 (though not yet an international law, because it was not ratified by enough nations); it could serve as a model for bilateral or multilateral treaties/conventions with China and others.
Beijing does not usually like to be ‘constrained’ in the straitjacket of an international agreement, but the new leadership will have to decide if China wants to be a ‘normal’ State, fully assuming responsibility as a neighbour or a rogue State like North Korea.
According to Xinhua, the Indian Prime Minister would have said that India, which “adheres to an independent foreign policy, will not be used by the Tibetan (refugees) as a tool to contain China.” This is fine, but there should be some reciprocity.
The PM would have added that India is willing to make concerted efforts with China to show the world that they are cooperative partners instead of rivals. A water bilateral agreement would a first step.
In any case, the fruition of the projected mega projects such the diversion of the Brahmaputra will entirely depend on the new leadership in China. If he is wise (and let us hope for the best), Xi Jinping will take into account the negative environment and strategic impact of the mega-dams for the Indo-Chinese relations.
A formal agreement/treaty, whether in line with the 1997 UN Water Convention or any other formal agreement, is the only solution which can give some guarantees to the lower riparian States.
India should not be hesitant to demand what it is entitled to.