Friday, September 26, 2014

Xi in India: a thorny route at home?

There are two ways to look at an event, especially a State visit by a foreign dignitary: it can be described as a resounding success, a game-changer, or it can be seen as a missed opportunity, a failure.
President Xi Jinping’s visit to India was a bit of both.
Before his arrival at Ahmedabad, the Chinese president Xi wrote an op-ed in The Hindu: “As the two engines of the Asian economy, we need to become cooperation partners spearheading growth. I believe that the combination of China’s energy plus India’s wisdom will release massive potential.”
Unfortunately, things did not go as scripted.
First an extraordinary event, (a real scoop not noticed by the India media) occurred a day before the President’s arrival: Wei Wei, the Chinese Ambassador to India was suddenly transferred. He was replaced by Le Yucheng, earlier posted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.
To change the ambassador a few days before his Head of State arrives in the country must be a first in diplomatic annals.
What was behind this abrupt move? We may never know, though it happened at a time when speculations are rife about the fate of the Chinese Ambassador to Iceland, who apparently was too close to the Japanese; he has ‘disappeared’ somewhere in China.
There is probably no link between the 2 issues, but Wei Wei’s sudden ‘departure’ is rather strange.
The second issue which did not go according to the planned program is the worsening of the situation in Southern Ladakh.
Everyone knows that there are different ‘perceptions’ about where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) lies, particularly in this area; but as Xi arrived in Ahmedabad, hundreds of Chinese troops from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force crossed the LAC and stood a few meters away from the Indian jawans.
Why this show of force when Xi Jinping, who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission was trying to do business in India? Was there a better way to sabotage the presidential visit?
Last year, at the time of the Depsang incident, I wrote that Chinese intrusions were probably due to the unfortunate initiatives of some local PLA commanders; I was then told: "It can't be. The PLA's generals are a disciplined lot and Chairman Xi is fully in command."
This came back to my mind when I read in The Business Standard, Shrikant Kondapalli, the JNU professor and expert on China affairs asserting: "this could be a message given by the Chinese troops to its President, Xi Jinping, that no fruitful discussion on the boundary issue be held with the Indian leadership during his official trip."
Were some very senior PLA generals unhappy about the thaw between India and China? Or perhaps disturbed about Xi’s fight against corruption?
What is strange is that Chumur, located north of Himachal Pradesh, has historically never been claimed by Tibet (and consequently, by China). It is a totally new claim with no serious basis. The intrusions in Chumur are pure land-grabbing by China; you can call it, ‘expansionism’.
Does it mean that Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) does not have full control over his generals?
An indication that everything may not be rosy for Xi is the recent visit of General Fan Changlong, the CMC’s Senior Vice Chairman to Tibet.
On August 17, Xinhua reported that General Fan, who had come “to inspect the forces stationed on the snow-covered plateau, the loyal soldiers defending the frontiers,” asked the troops “to thoroughly study and implement President Xi’s series of important speeches about the situation in the Party” (read the corruption cases against former security tsar Zhou Yongkang and others ‘tigers’).
The South China Morning Post later reported that: “proceedings [against Zhou] could start as early as next month. …These will pave the way for a possible public hearing for Zhou, who could become the highest-ranking party official to face trial.”
While in Lhasa, General Fang pointed out that combat training is an important task for the preparation for military struggle; it is the basic starting point. Interestingly, Chinese media reports did not mention which units he visited, how long he stayed in Tibet, where he went.
But it appears that he was accompanied by no less than three Military Region (MR) Commanders, Lt. Gen. Liu Yuejun, Lanzhou MR, Lt. Gen. Zhao Zongqi, Jinan MR and General Li Shiming, Chengdu MR.
What was the Commander of Jinan MR doing around is not clear, though having been earlier posted in Tibetan Military District, Zhao certainly understands the ground reality.
Xinhua reported that General Fan told the army to firmly obey the command of President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
Are they not always obeying Chairman Xi? This could be an indication that something is rotten in the Middle Kingdom.
A month earlier, China Military Online had reported that Xu Qiliang, the second CMC’s vice chairman had inspected some garrisons in Xinjiang and Tibet: " General Xu Qiliang visited the officers and men in frontier areas, and held talks with the leaders of the units garrisoning in Hotan [near the Aksai Chin],Ngari [near Demchok] and Lhasa areas.”
Xu Qiliang also paid a visit to Shenxianwan (north of the Karakoram Pass and the Depsang Plains) at the altitude of 5,380 meters and the Khurnak Fort (opposite the Indian troops posted on the Panggong tso) where he inspected a speed-boats squadron and inquired “about the soldiers’ work, study and life.”
What is the signification of these visits? It is difficult to give a definitive answer, except that the senior-most generals are aware of the situation on the Indian front.
But regarding the recurring intrusions, Narendra Modi has enunciated the response: “I also suggested that clarification of Line of Actual Control would greatly contribute to our efforts to maintain peace and tranquility and requested President Xi to resume the stalled process of clarifying the LAC. We should also seek an early settlement of the boundary question.”
In military jargon: 'let us exchange the bloody LAC maps'.
When he answered, Xi spoke of border agreement only, not about the LAC. It is telling.
‘Exchange of maps’ was not mentioned in the Joint Statement too.
As mentioned in a previous column, the choice of Nathu-la, located far from the Kailash-Mansarovar area, in place of Demchok in Ladakh, which is the natural port of entry for the pilgrimage, also demonstrates that the PLA/PAP are not keen to normalize the situation on the Ladakh border.
Apart from that, everything went smoothly and hopefully we shall soon travel at high speed in Chinese bullet trains (though I still think the French TGVs are safer and more comfortable).
Back in China, Xi might have some homework to do.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Research in China

My article Research in China has been published by Uday India.

It was recently reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was extremely unhappy about the state of affairs at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
According to The Times of India, when he visited the DRDO headquarters on August 20, Modi “has asked the tardy organisation to shape-up in the face of competition from the private sector”.
Modi asked the defence minister to conduct a detailed review of the DRDO, and eventually come out with a white paper.
Modi also asked the officers to give up their ‘chalta hai’ (lackadaisical) attitude.
It appears that 15 top DRDO scientists, including Director General Avinash Chander are on extension; Chander holds three posts — Secretary (Defence) R&D, DG (DRDO) and Scientific Advisor to the defence minister.
A senior defence ministry official told The Times of India: "The PM was not happy about [this]. As per a department of personnel and training (DoPT) ruling, only the best scientists of international stature should be considered for extensions. He asked for all the details. He was told about the high attrition rate among the younger scientists."
The daily remarked: “DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta could not be contacted for a comment”; ‘Missing in Action’ in Army terms.
In the meantime, China takes giant strides to catch up with the US in the field of military innovations.
Xinhua reported that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would soon take delivery of a new generation’s aerial drone.
CCTV showed a test flight of the Rainbow 4 (CH-4), a hunter-killer drone, which successfully hit a target with a missile. The new CH-4 has been developed for reconnaissance and military strikes by the China Aerospace Science and Technology.
Li Pingkun, the head of the CH-4 project, told CCTV that the new drone could fly long-distance and hit a target with a error margin of less than 1.5 metres. Li explained that the precision was due to several new original ways to guide the missiles (or smart bombs) to their target.
The South China Morning Post, quoting some reports in the mainland, said: “The Rainbow 4 was developed as the PLA's answer to the MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer drone mainly used by the US military for reconnaissance and high-precision air strikes”.
The nine metres long CH-4 has an 18-metre wingspan. With its 40-hour autonomy, it can carry four missiles, while its ground control centre can be fitted on two trucks.
Can the CH-4 catch up with the US Reaper in terms of targeting precision, flight length and payloads? Certainly not as yet, though intense efforts are being put in the project by Chinese scientists.
If today the Reaper can fly at 740km/h, the Chinese drone’s maximum speed is 235km/h, but the Chinese project is progressing fast.
But that is not all.
Have you heard of 'supercavitation' technology?
During the cold war, Soviet scientists had developed a technology called ‘supercavitation’, by which a submerged vessel would proceed inside an air bubble to avoid water drag.
Theoretically, a supercavitating vessel could reach the speed of sound, and this underwater; it would reduce the time for a transatlantic underwater cruise to less than an hour and for a transpacific journey to about 100 minutes.
Today, it may be science-fiction, but the Chinese scientists are working hard to solve the many technical hurdles.
The South China Morning Post explains: “China has moved a step closer to creating a supersonic submarine that could travel from Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours.”
It is hard to believe, but a team of scientists at Harbin Institute of Technology's Complex Flow and Heat Transfer Lab has made some breakthrough which should help a submarine, or a torpedo, to travel at extremely high speeds underwater.
Li Fengchen, professor of fluid machinery and engineering, announced that the new technology “could create the complicated air ‘bubble’ required for rapid underwater travel.”
Well, it is not done, but China is working on it.
Li affirmed that his team has found innovative means of addressing some of the unresolved problems: “Our method is different from any other approach, such as vector propulsion, or thrust created by an engine. By combining liquid-membrane technology with supercavitation, we can significantly reduce the launch challenges and make cruising control easier.”
In future the supercavitation technology will not be limited to military use only; it could also be utilized for civilian projects.
Professor Wang Guoyu, of the Fluid Mechanics Laboratory at Beijing Institute of Technology admits huge scientific and engineering challenges: “The size of the bubble is difficult to control, and the vessel is almost impossible to steer. While cruising at high speed during supercavitation, a fin could be snapped off if it touched the water because of the liquid's far greater density.”
There is more. The Chinese press recently conducted the second flight test of a new, ultra-high-speed missile. Analysts believe that it is part of a global system of attack weapons capable of striking the United States with nuclear warheads.
The flight of the new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) or Wu-14 took place August 7 at a missile facility in western China.
The Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool stated: “We routinely monitor foreign defense activities, however we don’t comment on our intelligence or assessments of foreign weapons systems.”
He however confirmed a first test of the Wu-14 in January, though declined to provide a similar confirmation on the second test.
According to The South China Morning Post: “The first flight test of the Wu-14 took place January 9 and flew at speeds of around Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound—around 7,680 miles per hour. Hypersonic speeds pose severe guidance and control challenges for weapons engineers and produce extreme stress to metal and components.”
The US intelligence circles see this as an emerging hypersonic arms race.
The Chinese press did not mention the August 7 test, but reports about the presumed Wu-14 launch appeared on Internet which mentioned a missile launched from the Jiuquan satellite launch facility located in the Gobi Desert. Further, reports and photos posted online indicated that the booster rocket used in the test crash landed in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The booster crash is consistent with a hypersonic test.
Hypersonic glide vehicles travel in near space and thus the rocket that launched it may not have left the atmosphere.
The Pentagon has tested several hypersonic weapons platforms such as the X-37B Space Plane, the Lockheed Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 or the Boeing’s hypersonic craft known as the X-51 WaveRider.
What worries the US defence establishment are the sharp Pentagon budget cuts which may strike the funding for U.S. hypersonic craft.
In the meantime, President Xi Jinping (who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission) spoke a ‘new military revolution’: "The new military revolution has provided China with opportunities and challenges at the same time and we must have foresight to adapt to changes in warfare.”
He was addressing his 24 colleagues of the Political Bureau
Xi asked Communist Party members to devote more attention to military issues, national defense and military development and military preparedness, and to support national defense and military reforms. The message is clear. Further, according to Xinhua, Xi said: “The changes will include developing new military strategies, technologies, doctrines, combat forces and management models with military informatization being central to modern combat.
Xi also mentioned four principles of comprehensive planning for military ‘renovation’. The Party should formulate an overall strategy to enhance its military strength:
  • by developing a new mindset for the different military departments
  • by uniting under a coherent strategy,
  • by adopting a coordinated approach to innovation, and
  • by fostering independent innovation.
The CMC Chairman added: “The new military revolution is developing at a pace so fast and with its impact so broad and profound that has rarely been seen since the end of WWII. The Chinese military must make great leaps in development and innovation so as to close the gap with its better-developed peers in the world.
He further urged the integration of military and civilian innovation “so that the two can accommodate each other and develop together”.
It is time for DRDO (and HAL) to wake up from their slumber. The world is moving; China is progressing fast, India will be left behind.
A solution might be to split DRDO into several autonomous projects with orders to deliver the goods.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Xi Jinping must engage Dalai Lama on Tibet

Xi Jinping (then Vice-President) in Tibet in 2011
My article Xi Jinping must engage Dalai Lama on Tibet was published by NitiCentral on September 17.

The same publication also quoted me in another article.

Dalai Lama on Xi Jinping – Open-Minded and realistic

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are still discussing and writing the script for India-China ties ahead, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, hailing Xi Jinping as “open-minded” and “realistic”, advised him:
India is a vast country with a huge population. Different parts of the country speak different languages, yet there is a sense of oneness among Indians. Democracy is practised strongly in the country and there is a free media. The Chinese president should learn these values from Indians.
The 79-year-old Buddhist monk, who has been living in exile since 1959, further added:
Actually the Tibetan problem (is) also (a) problem of India. Before 1950, you see the whole northern border, really peaceful, no single soldier. So India’s problem.
Author of several books on Tibet and Sino-Indian relations, Claude Arpi, in his article ‘Xi Jinping must engage Dalai Lama on Tibet’, opines:
India can’t contemplate with indifference what is happening in Tibet. If the Tibet issue is not solved to the satisfaction of all, it is doubtful if the India-China relations can one day be normal. One solution could be that a senior trusted member of Xi’s entourage meets the Dalai Lama and starts earnest negotiations for a genuine autonomy of the Roof of the World.
Earlier this month, the 14th Dalai Lama told a German newspaper that he should be the last Tibetan spiritual leader, ending a centuries-old religious tradition from his Himalayan homeland. In conversation with Niti Central, Claude Arpi explains why Dalai Lama doesn’t want a successor:
Panchen Lama is the highest ranking Lama after the Dalai Lama. China asserts it is Gyancain Norbu, while the 14th Dalai Lama asserted it was Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. So, there are two Panchen Lama in Tibet. Dalai Lama is worried that China might do the same with the spiritual post of Dalai Lama and use it for their political interest in Tibet. So Dalai Lama wants to abdicate this tradition and instead wants democracy for the people of Tibet. This is a wise decision and it might put Chinese Government in a difficult situation because China doesn’t believe in democracy.
While China sees Dalai Lama as a separatist seeking an independent Tibet, the Dalai Lama says he only seeks more autonomy for Tibet.

Here is the article Xi Jinping must engage Dalai Lama on Tibet

Beijing is not ready to recognise the basic historical fact that Tibet was independent before its so-called liberation.

President Xi Jinping of China will land on Wednesday in Ahmedabad, the first leg of his stay in India. Both India and China take the visit seriously. The Modi Sarkar did its homework by sending India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval to Beijing.
Designated ‘Special Envoy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’, Doval briefly met the Chinese President who told him: “Our cooperation not only helps each other’s development but also benefits Asia and the world at large.”
A larger issue however remains unsolved between China and India — Tibet. Let us not forget that Tibet represents nearly 25 per cent of the land mass of the People’s Republic of China. For centuries, the Roof of the World has been a physical and political buffer between India and China.
It changed when Tibet was invaded (‘liberated’ according to Mao) in the Fall of 1950. India lost a good peaceful neighbour and thereafter has had to deal with an aggressive and ‘expansionist’ one — Communist China.
Over the years, Marxist dogmatism has slowly disappeared from the Middle Kingdom, though Beijing continues to be allergic to what it terms ‘Western values’, such as democracy or rule of law. But even in the new situation, Tibet remains a tangibly prickly issue between the two giant Asian nations.
It is visible when one looks at a map of the Himalayas: China still claims more than 80,000 square kilometres of Indian Territory in the North-East alone. Why this claim? Just because Beijing refuses to acknowledge the McMahon line which separates India and Tibet, and this, simply because the 1914 Agreement delineating the border was signed by the then Government of independent Tibet with India’s Foreign Secretary (Sir Henry McMahon). Beijing is not ready to recognise the basic historical fact that Tibet was independent before its so-called liberation.
Last month, a group of SAARC journalists, invited to Tibet, came back pleading Beijing’s cause. They argued that Beijing had started negotiating with the Dalai Lama for his future status. This was immediately denied by the Dalai Lama’s exiled administration, which clarified that the Tibetan leader was not interested to talk about his personal status, but was only preoccupied by the fate of 6 million of his countrymen.
Today, the situation in Tibet is very serious.
Wu Yingjie, the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s Deputy Secretary who received the Indian journalists in Lhasa, spent several months in Nagchu prefecture last year for a mass-line campaign, a scheme dear to Xi Jinping. ‘Mass-line’ means that senior cadres should spend months with the ‘masses’ and convince them of the greatness of the Party and its deep love for the masses.
Wu was however unable to convert the Tibetans.
Radio Free Asia (RFA), quoting a local source, recently reported:
“Chinese police have doubled the number of checkpoints on a road leading to Tibet’s restive Driru county—where residents have resisted forced displays of loyalty to Beijing for about a year—and are beating travelers who show annoyance at being stopped and searched.”
One of the measures put in place after Wu’s stay in Driru was an increase in the number of checkpoints (to 8) on the 270-km stretch between Driru town and Nagchu, the headquarters of prefecture.
RFA’s source said that this has slowed travel time and added to other hardships endured by local people:
“In the past, this distance could be covered in about four hours. Now it takes about seven hours to cover the same distance.”
So much for the mass-line!
At the same time, Orwellian ‘nets in the sky and traps on the ground’ have been set up in the TAR. All phone calls and Internet traffic are closely monitored.
Even more tragic, a few weeks ago, Chinese police opened fire to disperse hundreds of Tibetans protesting the detention of a respected village leader in Sichuan province, seriously wounding nearly a dozen people and killing five.
The New York Times reported:
“The accounts described a flaring of tensions in a mountainous area of Sichuan Province that has long been in turmoil over the Chinese government’s rule.”
On the ground, the Tibetan issue is far from settled.
With the presence in India of the Dalai Lama and more than one lakh of his followers, as well as the unresolved border dispute, Tibet reminds the major ‘unsettled’ bilateral issue. And this is not new.
At the time of the Colombo Conference in January 1950, Harishwar Dayal, the Political Officer in Sikkim responsible for Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan was asked by Nehru to give his opinion on the future relations between India and Tibet. His memorandum was in response to a note prepared by the Indian Ambassador in China, KM Panikkar’s (unfortunately for India, during the following years, a blind Nehru followed an even blinder Panikkar).
Panikkar stated:
i. China will invade Tibet. Invasion is not difficult. Tibet has no chance of successful resistance and will be overrun.
ii. We have no legal right to intervene.
iii. Political intervention would also be futile. To incite the Tibetans to resist would serve no useful purpose.
iv. The wisest course for us to take is to … be strictly neutral when the war comes and to resume diplomatic relations with China as soon as possible.
Harishwar Dayal did not agree with this position. The ICS officer explained the legal position:
“India has acted as if Tibet were a sovereign State to the extent of being capable of making treaties and entering into relations with other powers.”
He logically added:
“If, therefore, China is the unconditional suzerain of Tibet, then it follows that Tibet had no right to make treaties with India, at least without Chinese participation or consent and accordingly all our agreements with Tibet, including the Simla convention of 1914 which defined the boundary (the Mac Mahon line) are invalid.”
Dayal also explained that if there were no legal obligation on the part of India to defend Tibet, if Tibet was attacked, as there was no treaty of mutual defence, there is a moral angle to the issue.
Panikkar had also argued that India should cease to regard Tibet as a buffer State; to this, Dayal answered:
“A country is most secure when no other country can easily invade it. … But the advantages of insularity have been largely neutralized by the development of air power. The next most effective guarantee of safety is to have a belt of friendly small States between a country and its most powerful neighbours.”
His conclusion, written 10 months before the invasion of Tibet:
“The absorption of Tibet into Communist China is not, therefore, a matter which we can contemplate with indifference or even equanimity.”
Sixty-four years later, the situation remains the same. India can’t contemplate with indifference what is happening in Tibet. If the Tibet issue is not solved to the satisfaction of all, it is doubtful if the India-China relations can one day be normal.
One solution could be that a senior trusted member of Xi’s entourage meets the Dalai Lama and starts earnest negotiations for a genuine autonomy of the Roof of the World.
Can Narendra Modi suggest this approach to President Xi Jinping?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Was the local Chinese local Commander behind the Depsang incident?

Last year, when I wrote that the Depsang incident of April 2013 was perhaps due to the initiatives of some PLA's local commanders, I was told that "it can't be. the PLA's generals  are a disciplined lot and Chairman Xi is their Supreme Commander".
I later thought I might be wrong, if everybody thinks it is a foolish idea.
Yesterday, I was amused to read in The Business Standard that Shrikant Kondapalli, the JNU professor and expert on China affairs, expressed "his concern about the fresh Chinese incursion into Indian territory". He claimed that "this could be a message given by the Chinese troops to its President, Xi Jinping, that no fruitful discussion on the boundary issue be held with the Indian leadership during his official trip."
It clearly means that some very senior PLA generals were not happy about the thaw between India and China.
Kondapalli told ANI: "It is not clear exactly what is happening in the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) areas. If the reports about 5000 [500, not 5000, my comment] troops are correct then I think that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force are sending signal to the civilian leadership not to have any fruitful discussions on the border dispute while President Xi Jinping is speaking to Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi".
Kondapalli is also absolutely right when he says that the claim to Chumur was unheard of till a few years ago.
Chumur, located north of Himachal Pradesh, has never been historically  claimed by Tibet (and consequently, later by China). It is totally new claim with no historical basis.
Some other areas have been 'historically disputed' (these areas were discussed in detail, during the 5 months border talks in 1960), but Chumur is pure land grabbing by the People's Republic of China; 'expansionism' as Prime Minister Modi had put it during the legislative election campaign.
But, if my theory (and Kondapalli's) is true, it is a very serious issue as it means that Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission does not fully control his generals.
Is the sacking of Ambassador Wei Wei linked to this issue?
It is too early to say.
The solution for the 'intrusions' has been enunciated by the Indian Prime Minister; he stated yesterday:
I raised our serious concern over repeated incidents along the border. We agreed that peace and tranquility in the border region constitutes an essential foundation for mutual trust and confidence and for realizing the full potential of our relationship. This is an important understanding, which should be strictly observed. While our border related agreements and confidence building measures have worked well, I also suggested that clarification of Line of Actual Control would greatly contribute to our efforts to maintain peace and tranquility and requested President Xi to resume the stalled process of clarifying the LAC. We should also seek an early settlement of the boundary question.
In military jargon: 'let us exchange these bloody maps of the LAC'.

My post of November 4, 2013 

In May, in an article in, I had suggested that some Chinese PLA generals posted in Lanzhou Military Area Command were possibly responsible for the Depsang Plain incident; the PLA had then planted their tents between the Chinese and Indian 'perceived' LACs, creating a lot of tensions between India and China.
Many thought that this was far-fetched.
The sacking of General Peng Yong, reported by Reuters (see article below), seems to confirm my theory.
But who is General Peng Yong?
According to his biography, Peng Yong is a Han, born in 1954 in Lulong County, Hebei Province. In 1970, he entered the Party's work force; a year later, he joined the CCP; later graduated from Shijiazhuang Army Academy Long-Distance Education Program with a Bachelor Degree in 1998. 
From 2004 to 2011, he was Group Army (Corps) Commander of 47th Group Army of PLA. 
From 2011 till recently, he commanded the Xinjiang Military Region. In November 2012, he was promoted as a member of the CCP's Central Committee. 
Let us remember that the Xinjiang Military Region of the Lanzhou Military Area looks after the Indian border in Ladakh as well as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
General Peng Yong
Reuters says that he had been 'booted off' for the attack, presumably by Uygyur militants, on the Tiananmen Square.
Why should the PLA Xinjiang Commander (and Central Committee) be responsible for a problem of law and order (Tiananmen incident).
The PLA's job is the defence of China's borders and is concerned with external threats from abroad (in this case, India).
The internal threats are dealt with the People's Armed Police (PAP) and State
Security apparatus (Public Security Bureau or PSB).

If a head had to roll for the embarrassing (for Beijing) incident which happened in the heart of the Chinese capital, the Party Secretary (and Politburo member) Zhang Chunxian should have lost his job.
PAP and PSB should have also been sacked.
They did not. It means that Peng Yong was shown the door for other reasons, the Depsang incident is a strong probability.
Let us see what happens next.

Chinese Military Boss Booted Off Ruling Council Following Attack 
Jason Lee
China's ruling Communist Party announced on Sunday the removal of the military chief of restive Xinjiang from the region's governing council, following a car crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square blamed on Islamist militants from Xinjiang.

The official Xinjiang Daily said in a brief front page report that Peng Yong had been sacked as a member of Xinjiang's Communist Party Standing Committee, and would be replaced by Liu Lei, an army veteran with more than a decade's experience in the region.
The newspaper gave no reason for the move, but the party frequently removes top officials following such incidents as it seeks to apportion blame. The incident was especially embarrassing for the stability-obsessed party given the billions of dollars it spends every year on domestic security, not only in Xinjiang but across the country, and that the crash happened in the heart of Beijing.
Peng was appointed commander of the Xinjiang military region in July 2011. It is likely that he will also be relieved of his military duties.
Real power in China lies with party bodies rather than government ones, as that is where the key decisions are made.
The government has blamed Islamist extremists plotting holy war after a vehicle police said was laden with gasoline ploughed into bystanders outside the front entrance of the Forbidden City, on the north of Tiananmen Square.
The three people in the car died, as did two tourists. More than 40 were injured. Police have also detained five suspected accomplices. Security has been stepped up in Beijing and Xinjiang following the incident. Beijing party chief Guo Jinlong has urged the police to improve their capacity to collect intelligence and take precautions against further attacks, the city government-run Beijing Daily said on Sunday. Guo urged police and security forces to "look for vulnerable links" and "learn the lessons" from the incident, the report said.
Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, many of whom chafe at China's restrictions on their religion, culture and language, though the government says they are granted broad freedoms.
Xinjiang has been wracked by unrest in recent years, blamed by the government on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement which Beijing believes was also responsible for last week's incident.
Rights groups, exiles and some experts say, though, that there is little evidence of a cohesive extremist movement operating in Xinjiang.
In 2009, some 200 people died in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi during riots which pitted Uighurs against the majority Han Chinese.

(Reporting By Dominique Patton and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A statement of Zhou Enlai: sixty-four years ago

After several days of extensive talks between the Prime Minister of India (Jawaharlal Nehru) and the Premier of the State Council of China (Zhou Enlai), the latter held a press conference on April 15, 1960 at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Before the beginning of the press conference, Zhou Enlai read the following statement.
Sixty four years later, very little seems to have changed in the Sino-Indian relations.
I presume that President Xi Jinping could read a very similar statement on Friday evening before leaving for Beijing.
The scoop of the present visit of Presidnet Xi Jinping is the sudden transfer of the Chinese Ambassador to India (Mr. Wei Wei). A day before the arrival of his supreme boss, he has been replaced by Le Yucheng, earlier posted as Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Le Yucheng also served as Director-General of the Policy Planning Department for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Minister to the Embassy of PRC in the Russian Federation, and Counselor to Permanent Mission of the PRC to the United Nations.
To change an ambassador the day before a Head of a State arrives in a country, is really a first in diplomatic annals.

What is behind this sudden move?

Premier Chou En-lai’s written statement

At the invitation of Prime Minister Nehru, I have paid a friendly visit in India from April 19 to 25, 1960. I am pleased to have this opportunity to visit once again the great Republic of India and extend greetings to the great Indian people. During the visit, we have been accorded a cordial welcome and hospitality by the Indian Government and Prime Minister Nehru. For this, Vice-Premier Chen Yi and I, as well as my other colleagues, wish to express our hearty thanks.
The Chinese and Indian peoples are two great nations of Asia. From the remote past, there have always existed between the two peoples mutual friendship and mutual sympathy, but never mutual antagonism or aggression against each other. Since our two countries successively achieved independence, particularly since we jointly initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, the profound friendship between the two peoples has undergone further development on a new basis. There is no basic conflict of interests between our two countries. Our two countries have every reason to remain friendly to each other for thousands and tens of thousands of years to come. During the past one year or two, although disputes have arisen between the two countries on the boundary question left over by history, our two peoples have nonetheless consistently cherished the desire to be friendly to each other. We are convinced that it is entirely possible to achieve, through peaceful consultations, a fair and reasonable settlement of the boundary question between the two countries. It is precisely with this conviction that we have come here.
During the visit, Prime Minister Nehru and I have held many long discussions on matters of common interest, particularly the Sino-Indian boundary question. Our two sides expounded our respective stands and viewpoints on the boundary question as well as our respective propositions for a settlement of this question. I am of the opinion that such discussions are conducive to the enhancing of mutual understanding. Vice-Premier Chen Yi, Vice-Minister Chang Han-fu and. I have also met and held frank discussions separately with a number of cabinet ministers of the Indian Government. After seven days of talks, although, unlike what we expected, no agreement has been reached for the settlement of the boundary question, the two sides have unanimously agreed that the officers of the two sides should meet and examine, check and study the factual material relevant to the boundary question and submit report to the Governments of the two countries. Both sides have also agreed that while the officials of the two countries are holding meetings, all efforts should be made to avoid friction and clashes in the border areas. These agreements have been set forth in the Joint Communique of the two Prime Ministers. We hold that these agreements have a bearing on the maintenance of tranquility on the border and on the continued search for avenues to a reasonable settlement of the boundary question.
Through a frank exchange of views between us two Prime Ministers, I have found that the two sides not only share the common desire to maintain friendly relations between the two countries, but that, on the boundary question, too, it is not impossible for the two sides to find common points or points of proximity, which, in my view, can be broadly summarized into the following six points:
  1. There exist disputes with regard to the boundary between the two sides,
  2. There exists between the two countries a line of actual control up to which each side exercises administrative jurisdiction.
  3. In determining the boundary between the two countries, certain geographical principles, such as watersheds, river valleys and mountain passes, should be equally applicable to all sectors of the boundary.
  4. A settlement of the boundary question between the two countries should take into account the national feelings of the two peoples towards the Himalayas and the Karakoram Mountains.
  5. Pending a settlement of the boundary question between the two countries through discussions, both sides should keep to the line of actual control and should not put forward territorial claims as pre-conditions, but individual adjustments may be made.
  6. In order to ensure tranquility on the border so as to facilitate the discussions, both sides should continue to refrain from patrolling along all sectors of the boundary.
Yhere is now still a certain distance between us and the Indian Government with regard to the above six points.
However, I am of the opinion that as long as both sides continue consultations, it will not be difficult to narrow down and eliminate this distance. Once these common points are found, the two sides undoubtedly will have taken a big stride forward towards the reasonable settlement of the Sino-Indian boundary question.
The Chinese Government has consistently maintained that since the Sino-Indian boundary has never been formally delimited, both the Chinese and Indian sides should seek a reasonable settlement of the boundary question between the two countries through peaceful and friendly consultations, taking into consideration the historical background and the present actualities, acting on the Five Principles jointly initiated by the two countries and adopting an attitude of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation. Pending this, both sides should maintain the present state of the boundary and not change it by unilateral action, let alone by force. Regarding some of the disputes, provisional agreements can be reached through negotiations. The Chinese Government holds that Sino-Indian friendship is of extremely great significance both to the 1,000 million people of the two countries and to Asian and world peace. This friendship should not be, nor can it be jeopardized because of the temporary lack of a settlement of the Sino-Indian boundary question.
Tomorrow, we shall bid farewell to the state leaders of India and the great Indian People. On the eve of departure, I would like to state once again that the Chinese Government has unshakable confidence in a settlement of the Sino-Indian boundary question and the strengthening of the friendship between the two countries, and that it will exert unremitting efforts to this end.
In order to provide the Prime Ministers of the two countries with another opportunity for talks, in order to promote friendly relations between the two countries and reciprocate Prime Minister Nehru's kind hospitality, have invited Prime Minister Nehru to visit China at a time convenient to him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A New Airport In Lhasa ...and one in Amdo

Haixi Huatugou Airport in Amdo (Qinghai)
On August 30, I quoted Xinhua, announcing that Sichuan Province will soon have its fourth high-altitude airfield, “which local officials hope will boost tourism in the heavily Tibetan-populated region.”
The new Hongyuan Airport is located in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture at an altitude of 3,535 meters. The Prefecture is situated in northwestern Sichuan, at the border of Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
Less than two weeks later, Xinhua now reports that Qinghai Province 'located on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau' will be home to another airport.
The Huatugou aviation airport, presently under-construction, is being built in the Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Haixi.
The Qinghai Airport Company said the airport will cover an area of 180 hectares and it will cost 114 million U.S. dollars.
It is a big investment for a Prefecture which, according the 2010 census, has 489,338 inhabitants only.
The airport will have a 3,600 meters runway and a terminal covering an area of some 3,000 square meters, which is relatively small.
The airport is expected to be completed within a year.
Why an airport in this area?
Xinhua gives one of rationales: "the airport is located in China's major production base for petroleum and potash fertilizer. It is expected to support local development."
Probably, the ‘local development’ with Chinese characteristics, in other words, 'Chinese economy at large'!
In 2011, a Chinese article gave a hint of the Chinese intentions: "The region is an important base for the production of crude oil; the surrounding is rich in oil, asbestos, potash and other scarce resources. The asbestos reserves rank first in the country; reserves of petroleum prospects are estimated at 1.1 billion tons. Though Qinghai is an important base for the production of crude oil, due to the remoteness, the limited transport conditions, the growth of the local economic and social development is restricted."
With connections to Xining, Delinkha, Golmud, Dunhuang, Gansu and Xinjiang, the new airport is expected to have an annual turn-over of 90,000 passengers and 100 tons of goods by 2020.
One understands better why it is a worthwhile investment.
Hongyuan Airport under construction

Further, the new airport is located close to the Xining-Golmund-Lhasa railway line and the China National Highway 315 (G315) which runs from Xining, the capital of Qinghai to Kashgar in Xinjiang. The 3,063 kilometres long highway passed in Delinkha. The new infrastructure will be used to link the restive province of Xinjiang with the Tibetan plateau. It can be useful in case of ‘disturbances’.
But there is more.
In 2010, I mentioned on this blog that DF-21C missiles were deployed in the same area. After The Times of India had ‘broken the news’ that Chinese missiles were deployed near the Indian border, Hans M. Kristensen of the FAS Strategic Security Blog had clarified: “The latest Pentagon report on Chinese military forces recently triggered sensational headlines in the Indian news media that China had deployed new nuclear missiles close to the Indian border. The news reports got it wrong, but new commercial satellite images reveal that launch units for the new DF-21C missile have deployed to central-western China.”
The area mentioned by the US report is not far from the new Hongyuan ‘civil’ airport.
In the meantime, in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the authorities are actively planning to open a second airport for Lhasa.
On September 7, it was reported that the Lhasa Party’s Secretary Qizha La (or Choedrak in Tibetan) went for an inspection tour on the site of the new airport.
The Tibet Daily said that preliminary planning and design work were carried out. Choedrak asked the people to fully understand the practical significance of the construction of this new airport.
The Township of Lhasa attaches “great importance to further strengthening the organization by building a first-class international airport,” he said.
The objective of his visit was to accelerate the planning, design and other preparatory work for the project which should be implemented as soon as possible, according to the mouthpiece of the Party.

Choedrak, mayor of Lhasa on the site
Choedrak gave the usual speech: “the construction of the new airport in Lhasa will promote leapfrog development and long-term stability; it will strengthen national defense modernization; and will give full play to the role of Lhasa, the capital city [of Tibet]”.
It will also accelerate the overall well-being of the society: “All relevant departments should fully understand the important practical significance and far-reaching historical significance of the construction of a new airport in Lhasa; they should unify their thinking, attention, and effectively do all the pre-planning study for the new airport.”
On the long-term, the authorities want to "build a first-class international airport". For the purpose, “it is necessary to scientifically research, to keep high standards in the construction for this first-class airport in Tibet”, said Choedrak, a Tibetan cadre who added that builders should focus on all aspects of the construction of the new airport, i.e. water, electricity, road networks and other works in order to promote economic and social development.
Though Choedrak used the usual Communist jargon, the fact remains that Lhasa will have soon a second ‘first-class international’.
What does it mean for the Tibetan culture?
Probably something like the Reservations in the West of the United States!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tibet had a Dream too

54th Mechanized Brigade near Lhasa
President Xi Jinping's China seems to be doing efforts at transparency.
Of course, this remains relative, though last week, Xinhua reported that the foreign military attaches based in Beijing, had been invited for a group visit to Tibet: "China's Ministry of National Defense has invited foreign military attache couples for a tour of Tibet."
As you can see, spouses are also in the party.
The official news agency says: "A total of 96 military attaches and their spouses from 46 countries are taking the trip and will visit the cities of Xining, Lhasa and Chongqing. The visitors will be briefed about military construction in Tibet and shown around a military brigade with the Tibet Military command and the Logistical Engineering University of the PLA."
Further, according to the Chinese ministry, the attaches will visit a Tibetan pharmaceutical factory, the homes of Tibetans and local scenic spots.
The objective of the arranged tour was "to enhance the attaches' knowledge and understanding of the lives of the people of Tibet and promote cooperation between Chinese and foreign militaries."
Around the same time, a Joint Tactical Battlegroup drill was organized somewhere on the Tibetan Plateau (in Tibet Military District of Chengdu Military Area Command) with the participation of the 2nd armor battalion of the 54th Mechanized Brigade.
Some 20 tanks and dozens of Armored Fighting Vehicles took part in the maneuvers 'against fixed fortifications'.
The Military Attaches will certainly not be invited to watch these exercises.

While President Xi promotes his Dream of a rejuvenated China, Tibet too had a Dream. 
On September 21, 1987, the Dalai Lama proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan.
This peace plan contains five parts:
  1. Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace;
  2. Abandonment of China's population transfer policy which threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people;
  3. Respect for the Tibetan people's fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms;
  4. Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste;
  5. Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples. 
Twenty seven years later, this is still a Dream, a far-away Dream.
At that time the Dalai Lama explained:
I propose that the whole of Tibet, including the eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo, be transformed into a zone of 'Ahimsa', a Hindi term used to mean a state of peace and non-violence.
The establishment of such a peace zone would be in keeping with Tibet's historical role as a peaceful and neutral Buddhist nation and buffer state separating the continent's great powers.  It would also be in keeping with Nepal's proposal to proclaim Nepal a peace zone and with China's declared support for such a proclamation.  The peace zone proposed by Nepal would have a much greater impact if it were to include Tibet and neighbouring areas.
The establishment of a peace zone in Tibet would require withdrawal of Chinese troops and military installations from the country, which would enable India also to withdraw troops and military installations from the Himalayan regions bordering Tibet.  This would be achieved under an international agreement which would satisfy China's legitimate security needs and build trust among the Tibetan, Indian, Chinese and other peoples of the region. 
This is in everyone's best interest, particularly that of China and India, as it would enhance their security, while reducing the economic burden of maintaining high troop concentrations on the disputed Himalayan border.
Historically, relations between China and India were never strained.  It was only when Chinese armies marched into Tibet, creating for the first time a common border, that tensions arose between these two powers, ultimately leading to the 1962 war.  Since then numerous dangerous incidents have continued to occur.  A restoration of good relations between the world's two most populous countries would be greatly facilitated if they were separated - as they were throughout history - by a large and friendly buffer region.
To improve relations between the Tibetan people and the Chinese, the first requirement is the creation of trust.  After the holocaust of the last decades in which over one million Tibetans - one sixth of the population - lost their lives and at least as many lingered in prison camps because of their religious beliefs and love of freedom, only a withdrawal of Chinese troops could start a genuine process of reconcilitation.  The vast occupation force in Tibet is a daily reminder to the Tibetans of the oppression and suffering they have all experienced.  A troop withdrawal would be an essential signal that in future a meaningful relationship might be established with the Chinese, based on friendship and trust.  
Like Xi Jinping like to tell the World of the Chinese Dream, but the World should not forget that Tibet too has a Dream.
Pictures of the military exercises on the plateau:


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Confusing our frenemy with a genuine friend

The top Communist leadership in Tibet visited India in July 2006
to 'inaugurate' the Nathu-la border post
Beijing is again betting on Nathu-la
My article Confusing our frenemy with a genuine friend appeared on Thursday in the Edit page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to open the Nathu la route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is hardly a goodwill gesture. It offers few benefits to Indian pilgrims and only furthers Beijing’s expansionist plans

New Delhi is getting ready to receive Chinese President Xi Jinping on his maiden trip to India. It will, no doubt, be a significant visit, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi journeyed to Japan and met with old friend Shinzo Abe. Many looked at the Tokyo trip as a preparation for the Chinese President’s Delhi visit. The Global Times even threatened that India was getting close to Japan “at its own peril”. But ultimately, both India and China, keeping their own interests in mind, will probably find a consensus on economic and other issues, while some confidence building measures may be taken by the two neighbours.
The Press Trust of India has already reported about a ‘political gesture’ from Beijing. It said that the Chinese President may announce the opening of a new route, via Nathu la in Sikkim, for Indian pilgrims to go on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. The question is: Will this be a boon or a bane for India? According to PTI, the proposal has been under serious consideration in Beijing since Mr Modi, during his first meeting with President Xi in Brazil in July, asked Beijing to propose an alternative to the Lipulekh pass (in Pittoragarh district of Uttarakhand) for the yatra. Either Demchok in Ladakh or Shipki-la in Himachal Pradesh was expected to be the new port. It made sense in terms of access and comfort.
The present Ministry of External Affairs’ yatra through the Lipulekh-Purang route, also one of the traditional trade routes to Tibet, is often damaged by floods and subsequently the pilgrimage has to be canceled. Depending on the weather, every year the scheme accommodates a maximum of 1,000 pilgrims in 18 batches (selected through a lottery system); the pilgrimage involves a 22-day arduous journey. It appears that the Chinese have now decided to open Nathu la border point in Sikkim. PTI says: “The new route, though longer, takes pilgrims from Nathu La to Shigatse… [and] from there the pilgrims could comfortably travel to Mansarovar and Kailash using well laid out highway.”
It is obviously Beijing’s rationale, not New Delhi’s interest, though PTI adds: “It would be part of the big gesture of friendship not only to strike chord with Mr Modi but also the people at large, specially the Hindus and Buddhists considering its religious importance.” But is it a gesture of friendship or a decision driven by self-interest?
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that lodging and boarding facilities for pilgrims have been improved with new hotels and additional beds with additional investments; Beijing further asserts: “Indians pilgrimage to Tibet is an important content of bilateral relations.” There is no doubt that China is interested in Sikkim (and Nathu-la), though despite the great hopes generated in 2006, when Nathu la was opened to petty trade between Yatung and Gangtok, business has been stagnating (partly due to the restricted list of items allowed to be traded).
More recently, on the occasion of the opening of the new railway sector Lhasa-Shigatse, Mr Yang Yulin, deputy director of Tibet’s railway office, announced that during the 13th Five Year Plan (2016 to 2020), the construction of a railway connecting Shigatse with Kyirong in northern Nepal and with Yatung, in the Chumbi Valley (near Nathu la) will start. Kyirong is obviously the logical extension of the line as China has extensively invested in this landport to make it the main link between Tibet and Kathmandu, (and economically invade Nepal). But why Yatung, near the Nathu la pass? Has Beijing consulted New Delhi on this or is it a unilateral decision? China is now going a step further. It is ready to let the yatris use Nathu la, as a second port of entry into Tibet.
A few months ago, Mr Wang Chunhuan, a professor at the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences in Lhasa told The Global Times that the railway network in Tibet will play the role of a continental bridge in South Asia and promote economic and cultural exchanges with the subcontinent. For China, the Yatung-Nathu la-Gangtok route could become a trade gate to South Asia. But why should pilgrims take this extremely long route to visit the holy sites of western Tibet? One has just to look at a map to see it does not make much sense.
But there is more to the new railway development; the train has indeed another purpose. Beijing hopes that it will boost President Xi’s pet project, the New Silk Road, which he is bound to bring on the table with Mr Modi.
In September 2013 already, during a visit to Kazakhstan, the Chinese President spoke of the New Silk Road. A month later, during the Association of South East Asian Nations meet, he added a 21st century Maritime Silk Road plan. For Beijing, there are various ideological and economic reasons for re-opening these terrestrial and maritime routes. According to Xinhua, President Xi’s proposal of ‘one belt and one road’ brought “a new connotation for the old Silk Road, and new vibrancy for the cooperation among pan-Asia, Asia and Europe.” Beijing believes that the new strategy will help reproduce the spirit of the old route while promoting economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and friendly relationships. It may not be fully true, though it will certainly boost China’s energy prospects in Central Asia.
In New Delhi, Mr Xi is bound to play on India’s cultural fibre: Ages ago, Buddhism transited through this route. But while Beijing speaks of a link between the New Silk Road and South Asia, the Chinese leadership has systematically refused to re-open the old Tibet trade routes, such as Demchok in Ladakh, Kibithoo and Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh and the Mana pass in Uttarakhand. During Mr Modi’s recent visit to Jammu & Kashmir, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council presented a memorandum to him, requesting the re-opening of the Demchok road as an alternative route to the Kailash  Mansarovar: “Demchok in Ladakh provides the easiest and the safest access to Kailash Mansarovar. From here, pilgrims can approach the holy mountain and the sacred lake in two days. This would also give the much needed fillip to the local economy.”
But it appears that Beijing has once again vetoed the project. Why then try to entice India into a New Silk Road project, when all the passes to Tibet and Xinjiang (the main traditional pass was the Karakoram pass, near the disputed Depsang plains) remain closed?
The logical step should be to progressively re-open the Himalayan passes to trade and human exchanges (and, why not to tourism?). Once the Himalayan belt has recovered its vitality, India may think of participating in projects such as the New Silk Road. For the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, opening Shipki-la (already opened for petty trade) or Demchok will be a much shorter route and the pilgrims will travel in far greater comfort.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

India-China relations can't be normal till Tibet issue is resolved

My article 'India-China relations can't be normal till Tibet issue is resolved' appeared on

'Tibet remains a prickly issue between the giant Asian nations. China still claims more than 80,000 sq kilometres of Indian territory in the Northeast. Why?'
'Just because Beijing refuses to acknowledge the McMahon line which separates India and Tibet, and this, simply because the 1914 Agreement delineating the border was signed by the then government of independent Tibet with India's then foreign secretary (Sir Henry McMahon),' says Claude Arpi.

President Xi Jinping of China will be in New Delhi next week; both India and China take the visit seriously. The Modi Sarkar did its homework by sending National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to Beijing.
For the occasion, Doval was designated 'Special Envoy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi'; this allowed the NSA to briefly meet the Chinese president.
According to Xinhua, Doval told Xi that India believes Xi's State visit will 'deepen the two countries' understanding, friendship and trust, and inject new vitality to bilateral cooperation.'
The Chinese news agency affirmed that Xi told Doval that the latter's visit showed the importance that Modi and the Indian government attached to the Chinese president's trip which could send a positive signal to the world: 'Our cooperation not only helps each other's development, but also benefits Asia and the world at large,' Xi said.
However, there is a (geographically and strategically) larger issue which remains unsolved between China and India: that is Tibet and the Dalai Lama. This seems logical as Tibet represents nearly 25 per cent of the land mass of the People's Republic of China and for centuries, the Roof of the World has been a physical and political buffer between India and China.
It changed when Tibet was invaded ('liberated,' according to Mao Zedong) in the Fall of 1950. India lost a good peaceful neighbour and thereafter has had to deal with an aggressive and 'expansionist' one, Communist China.
Over the years, Marxist dogmatism has slowly disappeared from the Middle Kingdom, though Beijing continues to be allergic to what it terms 'Western values', such as democracy or rule of law.
But even in the new situation, Tibet remains a tangible prickly issue between the giant Asian nations.
It is visible when one looks at a map of the Himalayas: China still claims more than 80,000 sq kilometres of Indian territory in the Northeast. Why this claim? Just because Beijing refuses to acknowledge the McMahon line which separates India and Tibet, and this, simply because the 1914 Agreement delineating the border was signed by the then government of independent Tibet with India's then foreign secretary (Sir Henry McMahon).
Beijing is not ready to recognise the basic historical fact that Tibet was independent before its so-called liberation.

Click here to continue reading...

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Chinese arrive in Lhasa...

As the 1500th post on this blog, I am publishing today an exceptional historical document.
It is the 'Monthly Report' of the Officer-in-Charge of the Indian  Mission in Lhasa (for the month ending September 15, 1951).
The Chinese had just arrived in the Tibetan capital preceded by General Zhang Jingwu, the Representative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
A few weeks earlier (on August 17), the Dalai Lama had returned from his exile, near the Indian border (in the Chumbi Valley near Yatung). General Zhang had visited the Dalai Lama in Yatung to convince him to come back to Lhasa.
Sumul Sinha, the Indian IFS officer posted in Lhasa, reports the happenings of August-September in a tragicomic way.
For example, the 'return' to Lhasa from Ngabo Ngawang Jigme (Ngapho in the text), who had 'signed' the 17-Point Agreement with the Communist Party in Beijing in May, is being given a amusing touch. In Beijing, Ngabo had cut his hair to please the Chinese and look 'modern'. Now, he had to wait outside Lhasa for his braid to grow, (as per the Tibetan tradition, a minister had to wear braided hair). Fortunately for Ngabo, he got a special derogation (probably under Chinese pressure) and could enter the Tibetan capital (under Chinese military escort as he was not very popular amongst the Tibetans).
The description of General Zhang Jingwu is also funny; he is compared to Friar Tuck, Robin Hood's companion. 
Sumul Sinha also describes the poster war on the walls of the capital.
And unfortunately, the 'Ladakhi' cinema halls had to soon close to give place to the propaganda movies of the Communist Party.
The report is addressed to Sinha's direct boss, Harishwar Dayal, the ICS officer posted as Political Officer in Sikkim. Usually copies were sent to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Prime Minister's Office, etc.
A great read!


From: The Officer in Charge,
Indian Mission, Lhasa.

To: The Political Officer in Sikkim,
Memorandum No. 3(10)-L/51.
Dated, Lhasa, Tibet, the 15th September, 1951.

Monthly Report of the Indian Mission, Lhasa for the period ending 15th September, 1951


(a)    Sino-Tibetan Relations:
(i)  The Chinese in Lhasa are making determined efforts to adjust themselves to their new environment. Their immediate pre-occupation is with the problem of settling down in the weird and unfamiliar surroundings of Lhasa. So far they have not interfered with Tibetan administration. In fact no serious effort has been made on either side to establish more than formal relations.

(ii)  General Chang [General Zhang Jingwu, Representative of the CPC’s Central Committee] continued to receive during the period under review a number of Tibetan visitors of high official standing, most of whom called on him, as is customary, with gifts befitting his exalted status. Being suspicious by nature, Chang is highly critical of this much honoured Tibetan custom. He dislikes receiving presents, and hardly conceals his disapproval when visitors unsuspectingly arrive at his door with servants laden with gifts. Besides he is not armed with presents which he could send in return for those he is receiving. One unfortunate visitor, Dzasa Tsarong, who called on Chang with 9 human-loads of presents was singled out for harsh treatment. Tsarong’s gifts were returned, and he was warned not to tempt the Chinese with bribes.

(iii) Chang Ching-wu is not even returning calls made on him. Sometimes, his gaunt assistant, Alo Phutang [a Communist cadre also know as Le Yuhong], pays a return call, but not Chang. The only person on whom Chang deigned to call was His Holiness. They met at Chang’s request on 22nd August in a room near the barracks of Norbu Lingka where some years back late Sir Charles Bell used to meet the XIII Dalai Lama. One important result of this meeting seems to be that Chang has temporarily acquiesced in the retention by the Dalai Lama of his body-guard of 4,000 odd men.

(iv) A rather comic feature of the Chinese in Lhasa is their air of boredom, not unmingled with a trace of disappointment in it at finding the Tibetans, unexpectedly as it were, so much below par. The austere Tibetans, and their barren mountains, have little to offer to the Chinese in the way of amusements, cuisine and sophisticated company. But already the Chinese have been quick to revive their national game of Mah-jongg, and have expressed some impatience for a dance and theatre hall, which in the form of a request has already been conveyed to the Tibetan Government for an early decision.

(v) The Chinese are entering Lhasa as if they were groups of migrant-colonists and not invaders, but this, though a matter of convenience to them, has had a soothing effect on Tibetan nerves for the latter would have gravely alarmed had the Chinese marched into Lhasa in overwhelming force. The occupation of Tibet by Chinese troops is being wisely stretched out over a period allowing the Tibetans enough time to get used to the change.

(vi) On 7th September an advance party of Chinese troops, a dozen in number, arrived in Lhasa. On 8th September 9 Chinese technicians arrived with their equipment by way of India. On the following day (9th September), a larger party of 573 men and women, headed by General Wang Ching-ming [Wang Qimei, commanding the advance troops of the Eighteenth Army Corps], entered Lhasa with the flourish of trumpets and the beat of drums. The party included a dozen women who are reported to be stage artists, and officials who will man the administrative and military committee to be set-up under the terms of the Peking agreement.
General Wang is short, rotund and merry, almost like Friar Tuck of fictional fame, and indeed is said to bear a certain resemblance to a bouncing ball.

(vii)    To house the new Chinese in Lhasa, the Tibetan Government had to remove their wireless station from Maga Sapa [New Army Camp]. The duty of clearing, renovating and furnishing the main-building and attached barracks of Maga Sapa fell on the Commander-in-Chief, Dzasa Kusangtse, and the Foreign Secretary, Dzasa Liushar, who we learn did a praise-worthy job of it. On arrival, Wang Ching-ming and his party were taken Maga Sapa where they are now living as guests of the Tibetan Government. They lost no time in putting up a telephone line between Trimon House (where General Chang is staying) and Maga Sapa.

(viii) In addition to finding accommodation for the Chinese, the Tibetan Government have been favoured with a complementary request to provide food and rations for two months for the entire Chinese party, as Chinese rations will be long in reaching Lhasa. These concessions having been gained, the Chinese went on to sound the Tibetan Government whether they would have any objections if Chinese planes from Kantse air-dropped supplies in Lhasa. To this they added for propaganda effect that Chinese planes from Kantse could do the round trip to and from Lhasa in about 5 hours. Tibetan Governement are not likely to refuse the request which will transfer the burden of feeding Chinese troops, whose numbers are expected to increase, to the Chinese themselves. Indeed, the Chinese pressed home their advantage by informing the Tibetan Government that more Chinese troops are shortly expected in Lhasa from Kham. According to Tibetan sources a few Chinese commissariat officers have already been posted at Nagchuka to arrange transport and supplies for troops moving towards Lhasa via Nagchuka (the Northern route). On the main Southern route the Chinese have left garrisons at all important centers like Pemba Go, Lhariguo and Giamda. At Giamda there are at present 350 Chinese soldiers, and some of these may later drift into Lhasa.

(ix) The Chinese are taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety of roads leading from Chamdo to Lhasa. They are stationing troops in batches of 30 at all important stages on Riwoche-Nagchuka route with the avowed intention of protecting caravans bringing rations from Kham. That route has for long been infested by brigadans of the wild Golok tribes. The total number of troops being thus deployed on the Northern route is said to be 700.

(x) Meanwhile, there appears to be a concentration of about 10,000 Chinese troops in the Chamdo area. They seem to be supervising mainly the construction and repair of roads to Chamdo, and in particular they are said to be extending a cart road from Derge Gonchen to Chamdo. While communications in Kham are being rapidly improved, those in Sikang are said to be in a state of disrepair.

(xi) General Chang has also evinced a certain philanthropic interest in the beggars and monks of Lhasa. He has asked the Tibetan Government to supply him with statistics of vagrants (including monks) in Lhasa with the laudable intention of distributing alms to them. Tibetans suspect him, however, of harbouring other intentions not so laudable.

(xii) The Ladhaki proprietors of the local cinema house have been warned not to exhibit films without having them first censored by the Chinese. The purpose obviously is to make sure that there is no competitive propaganda.

(xiii) The Chinese have already made known their intentions of showing their own films and of staging dramas in Lhasa for the benefit of the Tibetans. Their intention appears to be to stage these performances first in Norbu Lingka as it is imperative that the education of His Holiness should precede that of His followers.

(xiv) The arrival of a large Chinese party under Wang Ching-ming coincided with a poster campaign in Lhasa. The city walls were pasted with bilingual (Tibetan and Chinese) propaganda leaflets and posters on 9th September. These posters which bear the red seal of the People’s Republic of China announce the terms of the Peking agreement and call on all races allied to Chinese to rise up and stand united.

(xv)    The appeal is racial, ideological and in part an assurance to the Tibetans. It assures Tibetans that the men of the liberation army will conduct themselves in a manner beyond reproach and will cause no inconvenience to the people. The liberation army had entered Tibet with the noble mission of wiping out imperialist influence, and of affording protection to Tibet against rapacious imperialists. It goes on to promise respect for Tibetan institutions and way of life. Forced labour will be abolished, and people’s regime established in Tibet.
Some posters feature pictures of Mao Tse-tung and General Chu Teh, the architects of the Chinese revolution.

(xvi) One poster is exclusively devoted to a tirade against Anglo-American-KMT imperialists and their arch-agent Robert Ford, whose picture appears on the poster wherein his guilt is revealed. The poster accuses him of having disrupted Sino-Tibetan amity, of having worked for British imperialists while in the pay of Tibetan Government, and of having poisoned great Lama Getak of Kham.

(xvii) While the Chinese assiduosly paste these posters on the walls of Lhasa, the Tibetans with intrepid zeal continue to remove them as fast as they go up. the posters appear and disappear with amazing rapidity. In this battle of posters, the Tibetan Government have no part, and they show an air of supreme unconcern and disinterestedness. Why, they say, should they interfere when the Chinese did not even consult them before putting up the posters? Why should they preserve them unasked from the claws of the riff-raff? Meanwhile the disconsolate Chinese have asked their compatriots in the bazaar to keep an eye on the posters and to stop people from removing them.

(xviii) To sum-up, the Chinese have no cause yet for exultation. They have contend with an unconvinced populace about their rights to rule over Tibet. Their officers move in Lhasa protected by armed guards. A few Chinese soldiers maintain a daily patrol in Lhasa.
General Zhang Jingwu
(i) In the midst of great popular rejoicing, the Dalai Lama returned to His capital on 17th August after an absence of nearly 8 months. Large enthusiastic crowds thronged the route from Norbu Lingka to far beyond Drepung for a glimpse of the yellow-silk draped dandy which bore away His august person. To the fore and rear of the dandy rode his ministers and other high dignitaries of the land. A reception was held at Kentse Lubting where officials of Lhasa had fore-gathered to pay their homage. From there, His Holiness was carried in a palanquin draped in gold by attendants dressed in the imperial yellow of the Manchus. The Dalai Lama’s return to Lhasa is not without significance; it has put heart into his staunch and unflinching followers who almost despaired of his return. Even those disgruntled sections who were consorting with the Chinese felt the nearness of His presence and became wary, if not less active in the dangerous and highly dubious cause they have chosen for themselves. But the Dalai Lama is not the same man who left his capital hastily for refuge in Yatung: his authority is much shorn. He went to Yatung with the hope of increasing his bargaining power against the Chinese; he returned with much of his authority gone.

(ii)  There is much cause for regret and despair, little for hope. The problem that he is facing, young and inexperienced as he is, is not an easy one even for those of riper years. Doubtless, he shares the disappointment of many of his followers in the Government of India, of whom they expected guidance and supporting verging on the miraculous during the critical days of their exile, and in their negotiations in Peking. They went to Yatung, they say, to be near India; but at Yatung they found themselves further away from India than when they were in Lhasa.

(iii) Hope, however has not been abandoned, and it is centered on Ngapho Shape [Ngabo Ngawang Jigme] whose popularity with the Chinese is beyond dispute. Ngapho wrote from Giamda with customary humility asking for three months leave to grow his hair the full ceremonial length before he ventured to enter Lhasa. But with great show of indulgence, the Tibetan Government assured him that he could enter Lhasa sans the ornamental braid.

(iv) And so Ngapho entered Lhasa on 12th September with an armed escort and his assistants. He was received by Tibetan officials of and below the rank of Dzasa and by Wang Ching-ming and Alo Phutang. Chinese troops provided a guard of honour, and there were other Chinese who carried red banners welcoming the hero back to Lhasa and hailing him as the deliverer of Tibet. 12 Chinese women provided music for the occasion with drums and cymbals, and danced to the tune. Thus the Chinese contributed in making Ngapho’s entry into Lhasa a dramatic and musical event.

(v) Howbeit, the fact remains that Ngapho allowed Chinese troops under Wang Ching-ming to precede him to Lhasa, thereby suggesting that he is not without some fear of possible attempts on his life. Nor is he quite certain that he will be free of censure for his achievement in Peking. His colleagues at the Peking talks have disowned all responsibility for the signing of the agreement against the express orders of their Government. That responsibility is squarely laid on Ngapho’s shoulders.

(vi) Tibetans seem to realise that mutual recrimination at this stage will not help their cause. Their task is to enlist Ngapho’s help and through him seek to revise some of the unpleasant provisions in the Agreement, particularly those relating to the setting-up of an administrative and military committee and the stationing of Chinese troops in Tibet. With naive confidence, the Tibetan Government hope to reopen talks on these matters with the Chinese through Ngapho’s intercession, and have some of the obnoxious provisions of the Agreement revised. Their hope is built on Ngapho’s prestige with the Chinese.

(vii) Despite their many distractions, the Tibetan Government continue to function and observe their annual routine as though nothing had happened to disturb their peace. The Shoton [yogurt festival] dance festival was held on the lawns of Norbu Lingka for 5 days from the 2nd to the 6th September. The Chinese were invited on the 3rd September, and were represented at the festival by Alo Phutang. We were invited on the 4th September and were asked to lunch by the Chikyap Khempo. The seating arrangements were the same for the Chinese, and for members of our Mission.

(i) In the first week of September the rate of exchange went up to 4 Sangs and 3 Shokangs to the rupee. In the 2nd week of September, the rate was 4 Sangs and 4 Shokangs to the rupee. This appreciation in the value of the rupee is largely due to the rapid fall in the wool price.

(ii) A certain amount of Chinese gold has entered Lhasa market. These are being brought by traders from Sikang, Chinghai and Kham, and are sold in bars weighing 13.5 tolas each at Rs. 115/- a tola. Chinese silver dollars are being sold in Lhasa at 15 Sangs each.

(iii) Ngapho’s trading instincts are no less than those of his colleagues in the Tibetan Government. He sold 2000 Khes of grain to the Chinese from his estate at ‘Ngapho’, and charged 45 Sangs per Khe.

(iv) Dzasa Tsarong’s latest passion is to promote Sino-Tibetan trade, and have a fair share of the trade in his hands. All is fish that comes to his net. He is trying to rope in through devious methods Chinese officials in Lhasa into his trade plans.

The following officials were entertained at the Mission during the month:
Dzasa Lobzang Samten (Dalai Lama’s elder brother).
Sholkhang Jetung Kusho.
Kazi Tse Ten Tashi.
Dzasa Liushar and Sampho Dzasa.
We made our annual pilgramge to Drepung on 11th September and handed over Rs. 1057/- to the Abbots for distribution to the monks. The Abbots thanked us for the generous donation, reminded us that it was a long standing practice, and expressed the hope that the Government of India would not allow it to fall into disuse.

I was unwell throughout the month and had to cancel several of my engagements.

(S. Sinha)
Officer in Charge.