Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tibet Boss: A Han Reserved Job

Wu Yingjie, Pema Choeling (Tib) , Lobsang Gyaltsen (Tib)
During the ‘enthronization’ ceremony in Lhasa, when Wu Yingjie took over as Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from Chen Quanguo, who is sent to ‘pacify’ Xinjiang (with probably a seat in the Politburo as a reward), it was interesting to see that a Han Chinese jumped over two Tibetans to make it to the top.

The order of precedence in the TAR Standing Committee was:
  1. Chen Quanguo (Han), Party Secretary
  2. Padma Choling (Tib), Deputy Secretary
  3. Lobsang Gyaltsen (Tib), Deputy Secretary
  4. Wu Yingjie (Han), Executive Deputy Secretary
  5. Deng Xiaogang (Han), Deputy Secretary
  6. Lt Gen Diao Guoxin (Han), Political Commissar, Tibet Military Command
  7. Gongpo Tashi (Tib), United Front Work Department
Though The China Daily says that Wu “won applause for saying people's livelihoods have been his top priority during his entire political life in the autonomous region,” his promotion over two Tibetan looks like racial discrimination.
Beijing will say that it is not, it is the Party prerogative.
But the fact remains that sixty-five years after the so-called Liberation of Tibet, Beijing still does not trust the Tibetans.
Small mercy, Wu served 40 years in Tibet; he knows Tibet well.
Towards the end of the Cultural Revolution, he was then 16 only, he came to Tibet where he worked for some 20 years in the education field.
As mentioned yesterday, later he served the Party in different capacities.
After Chen had finished his farewell speech, Wu spoke very emotionally: “Since I was young, I have lived, worked and grown up in Tibet. I was brought up by the Party, the people, the Tibetan Plateau and all the ethnic groups of Tibet.”
Wu added: “Tibet is my second home. I think of myself as a local Tibetan. I deeply love the land and the hardworking people here."
He also said: “In my new position, I will continue to serve the more than 3 million people of Tibet. I know it is a glorious mission, but I do not think it will be easy.”
For those who equate Kashmir to Tibet, can we imagine the State of J & K having outsiders as Chief Ministers? And what about Tamil Nadu having a Chief Minister from UP, not speaking Tamil?
And what about a Legislative Assembly in Srinagar with MLAs from Bihar, Kerala or Bengal?
It will bring a revolution, and rightly so.
China would like to project the image of a ‘normal’ State, but it is not the case.
It must be frustrating for people like Padma Choling or Lobsang Gyaltsen to be superseded, though I am sure they are aware of the rules of the game.

Here is the list of Han Party Secretaries in Tibet since the so-called Liberation 
  • Zhang Guohua     January 1950 - June 1951 (PLA background)
  • Fan Ming     June 1951 - December 1951 (PLA background)
  • Zhang Jingwu    March 1952 - August 1965 (PLA background)
  • Zhang Guohua    September 1965 – till Cultural Revolution
  • Ren Rong     August 1971 - March 1980 (PLA background)
  • Yin Fatang     March 1980 - June 1985 (PLA background)
  • Wu Jinghua     June 1985 - December 1988
  • Hu Jintao     December 1988 - November 1992 (later China's President)
  • Chen Kuiyuan     November 1992 - September 2000
  • Guo Jinlong     September 2000 - December 2004 (today Politburo member)
  • Yang Chuantang    December 2004 - November 2005 (today Transport Minister)
  • Zhang Qingli     November 2005 - August 2011
  • Chen Quanguo August 2011 - August 2106 (now Xinjiang Party Secretary)
Incidentally, Chen Quanguo was seen off by the Chinese Panchen Lama Gyatsen Norbu.

Gyaltsen Norbu behind Chen

Monday, August 29, 2016

A new boss for Tibet: Wu Yingjie

Wu Yingjie presents a thanka of Tara to a European politician in 2013
Between two swims at the beach resort of Beidaihe, the top Communist leadership undertook a first round of reshuffles in the provinces.
Tibet has now a new boss, Wu Yingjie, 59.
Wu is the longest serving Chinese officer on the Roof of the World. He has been around for more than 40 years. Till yesterday's he was deputy party secretary (a post that he has been occupying since 2011).
The interesting aspect of the reshufle is that Wu supersedes two Tibetans (Pema Choeling, Chairman of the Regional Congress and Lobsang Gyaltsen, the head of the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s government).
But let us remember that the Communist Party follows a very strict rule, no Tibetan for the top slot.
By appointed Wu, the leadership in Beihaide has obviously played it safe, as he is not a controversial figure and has a long experience in Tibet (mainly in education).
Wu’s predecessor, Chen Quanguo, 61, is expected to become Xinjiang’s party secretary replacing Zhang Chunxian, who according to The South China Morning Post "will be reassigned to a semi-retired role similar to that of his predecessor in Xinjiang, Wang Lequan."
The Hong Kong paper says that China’s leadership reshuffle “in line with Xi’s plan to promote reformists.”

Other changes
Hunan party chief Xu Shousheng, 63, has been replaced by his deputy and governor, Du Jiahao, 61. Vice-minister of industry Xu Dazhe was named as Hunan deputy party chief.
Yunnan governor Chen Hao, 62, was promoted to replace the province’s party chief, Li Jiheng, 59.
Another change, Li Xiaopeng, son of former Premier Li Peng, will succeed Yang Chuantang as the transport minister.
Li Xiaopeng was Shanxi provincial governor.
As mentioned earlier on this blog, Yang Chuantang, a member of the Central Committee is an old Tibet hand. A native of Yucheng, Shandong province, he started working in June 1972 and he joined the CPC in June 1976. In 1993, Yang was transferred to Tibet, where he held the position of administrative vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government. He was elected vice-governor of Qinghai province in 2003. In 2004, he became party secretary. Two years later, he was transferred to Beijing where from 2006 to 2011, he served as Vice-Chairman of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission.
No new posting (or ‘demoting’) has been announced for Yang so far.
After the next round of swim?
Passing the red baton: Chen (left) to Wu (right)

Wu Yingjie
Wu Yingjie (Chinese: 吴英杰) is born in December 1956 in Changyi County, Shandong province.
He arrived in Nyingchi, Tibet, in October 1974 at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
In 1977 he began working for a power generation station in the western suburbs of Lhasa.
In August 1983 he joined the TAR's department of education where he worked for the next two decades.
In 1987 he began overseeing elementary and secondary education.
In 1990, he was put in charge of accepting donations of educational resources from other parts of the country.
In 1994 he joined the Autonomous Region Education Commission, rising to deputy secretary in May 1998.
In March 2000 he was named deputy head of the education department, then promoted to head in 2000.
In January 2003, Wu was named Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region;
In June 2005 he took on the regional propaganda portfolio, and joined the regional party standing committee next month.
In November 2006 he became Executive Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
In November 2011 he was named deputy regional party chief.
In April 2013 he was named executive deputy party chief.
In August 2016, he became the Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

I repost here an old piece on Wu

The Most Amazing Photo of the Year
As 2013 ends, it is time to distribute awards for the past year.

The Award for the Most Amazing Photo (which was went unnoticed by the French and Western press) is a picture of the senior Chinese Han cadre, Wu Yingjie offering a Tibetan katha (ceremonial scarf) and a thanka (scrolled painting) of Goddess Dolma (Green Tara) to a gullible Member of the French Parliament.
Wu Yingjie was heading a 'Tibetan' Han delegation from China's National People's Congress to Spain and France.
Wu is also Vice Executive Secretary of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and has become famous for spending months (without any tangligle results) in the restive Nagchu Prefecture of the TAR.
The French parliamentarian, Alain Rodet is the deputy (and mayor) of Limoges from the Socialist Party. Rodet is also Vice-president of France-China Friendship Group in the French National Assembly.
The duo met in Paris on December 17.
China Tibet Online reported: "After briefing French friends [about] the religious policies and conservation status of Tibetan culture, Wu detailed them the great changes in Tibet since its peaceful liberation carried out and the life of local residents who have the biggest voice on the real Tibet.
Wu also wished more French friends could pay a visit to Tibet."
Mr. Wu just forgot to speak the situation in Nagchu. I often wrote about Mr. Wu's activities in Nagchu Prefecture on this blog.
I can bet that Monsieur Rodet has never heard of Nagchu and Driru.
But the good deputy will probably soon rewarded a free jaunt to the Middle Kingdom where he will be lavishly received. Having received Wu in the National Assembly should be reciprocated and not asking embarrassing questions to a foreign host too.
A hard core Han Communist cadre distributing a thanka of Tara, considered by all the Tibetans as the Mother of the Tibetan Nation, is a novelty.
This justifies the Award of the Most Amazing Photo of the Year.

Second Prize
A Second Prize to Le Louvre Museum for their knowledge of Tibetan painting.
The Chinese media announced that Han Shuli, 'a famous Tibetan artist' has earned rave reviews and won silver award in the 2013 Louvre International Art Exhibition with his work 'Foresight'.
Han Shuli, is the president of the Tibet Art Association.
The 2013 Louvre International Art Exhibition was held in the Louvre Museum in Paris between December 11 and 15.
Some 500 artists from over 10 countries participated in the contest.
The 'Tibetan' Han Shuli explained that his 'Foresight portrait' depicts "a goshawk perched high on the Marnyi stone".
One can presume that this 'Marnyi stone' is a sinization of 'Mani stone' on which the six-syllabled Tibetan mantra ' of Avalokiteshvara (Om mani padme hum) is engraved.
Han said that his black ink and wash painting has benefited from the Tibetan black thangka and the wall painting in the temples of Tibet, while 'integrating some representative elements of the central plain [Chinese] culture'.
For Han, his masterpiece 'Foresight' expresses blessing and rosy prospect for Tibet and the whole country.
Where is Tibet in Mr. Han's piece is not clear.
Anyway, Mr. Han is said to have brought fame to 'Tibet'.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A bad chess player: Wang Jianping arrested

Two years ago on this blog, I quoted General Wang Jianping, Commander of the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) as saying that “a good chess player always takes the initiative.”
While on a visit to Tibet in June 2014, he asked the PAPF to provide a strong support for “Tibet’s continuous stability, long term stability and comprehensive stability” (he borrowed these words from Xi Jinping).
While visiting the Potala Palace Square, Wang Jianping cordially “greeted the officers and men on duty, encouraged everybody to stand guard for the Party and the people and to be on alert.”
It was ominous.
Walking to the Potala Square’s Police Station, Wang Jianping said that the police should understand in detail the nature of the work in Tibet; for example, the duty of the Police Station, the range of service and  ...the dreadful the urban grid management.
According to The Tibet Daily, Gen Wang had come to Tibet to get a better understanding of the situation on the plateau, though he already knew Tibet well, having a few years earlier, commanded the local PAPF on the plateau,
The Chinese newspapers then reported that Wang Jianping acknowledged the success achieved by the Armed Police's Tibet Corps and the Armed Police Forces and asked the armed police officers and men to understand the serious and complicated situation facing Tibet.
He also told them to strengthen the police force for war preparation.

Wang Arrested
According to The South China Morning Post (SCMP), he has now been arrested “for violating party discipline, a euphemism for corruption.”
While he was on an inspection trip, he was taken away to Chengdu in Sichuan province, along with his wife and military secretary. The SCMP adds: “His former secretary Su Haihui, deputy director of the armed police’s training department, was also taken.”
The SCMP comments: “Wang is the first general still in active military service to be brought down since President Xi Jinping launched his massive crackdown against deep-rooted corruption in the military in 2013. He is the second top general to be arrested for corruption in recent weeks.”
Obviously Wang, the chess player, did the wrong move.
He chose a bad King, former Security Tsar and member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, himself behind the bars.

General Wang Jianping
Wang was born in Fushun, Liaoning province. He joined the military in 1969, and first served on the artillery force under the 40th Group Army.
In 1992, he became commander of the 120th Division of the 40th Group Army.
Thereafter he entered the People's Armed Police (PAP).
In 1996, he became head of the People's Armed Police contingent in Tibet.
In June 2009, he was promoted deputy commander of the PAPF and later in June 2012, PAPF commander.
In December 2014, he was transferred back to the PLA to become deputy chief of joint staff. It was obviously a demotion.
In January 2015, Wang became deputy head of a coordinating group on military training.
He was also a member of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Friday, August 26, 2016

It was billed as a victory, but non-Indians saw India's Rio Games as a defeat

My article It was billed as a victory, but non-Indians saw India's Rio Games as a defeat appeared in Mail Today.

Here is the link...

“2016 Olympics: the Indian giant, the Olympic dwarf” was the title of a recent article in the French daily Le Monde.
The daily writes: “The day, the time, the venue; each and every Indian journalist had ticked [in their agenda] Friday August 19. And too bad for the latecomers, they won’t find a place in the temporary structures of the Riocentro. That morning, India was playing for its first gold medal. Missed! Sindhu lost two sets to one, the final against the Spanish Carolina Marin.”
It is how a non-Indian saw Sindhu’s ‘historic’ defeat.
Back in India, everyone saw a great victory for India. Coach Gopichand and the player made the front pages of the press and despite getting ‘silver’, Sindhu became the “Golden Girl of India”.
In the euphoria of the ‘victory’, India’s pitiful overall results were forgotten!
At the end of the 19th century, Baron Pierre de Coubert decided to revive the old Olympics Spirit by emulating the ideals of Ancient Greece: body, mind and spirit should be developed simultaneously to produce complete beings. That was the purpose of education in ancient India too.
Coubertin's interpretation of the Olympic motto, Fortius, Citius, Altius, is fascinating. Fortius (stronger) referred to the body which had to be trained by repeated exercises to become healthier and stronger.
Citius (swifter) was connected with literary and scientific studies and the domain of the mind.
Altius (higher) had a deeper meaning connected with the sacred. All three levels had their importance; in common was the centrality of the 'effort' to reach the determined goal.
The mastery of oneself, generosity and respect for others are essential not only on the sports ground, but in life as well.
All this has totally been forgotten in modern India where education is just a mean to get a diploma and ultimately a lucrative babu’s job or a more creative one for the lucky ones.
It is not that Indians do not have the physical capacity to shine, Sakshi, Dipa or Sindhu and others have proved it.
While watching the Indian girls on TV, the story of Capt Bana Singh came to mind. On 26 June 1987, Bana Singh climbed the steep 457 m high wall of ice and despite the blizzard, the altitude and the freezing cold, he reached the ‘Quaid post’ (now ‘Bana Post’); located at a height of 6500 metres it is the highest peak on the Siachen Glacier. What an incredible physical feat! Who said that Indians are not physically fit and resistant?
Apart from the system of education which should be totally revamped, India should take an honest look at the octopus called cricket which is sucking most of the sports energies of the country. Can you imagine what could happen if even 50% of the funds available to cricket (not an Olympic sports) would be invested to create ‘sports academies’ like Pullela Gopichand as done for badminton in Hyderabad or Bishweswar Nandi in the NE for gymnastic.
A revolution in the mindset is however required if India does not want to be called a ‘dwarf’ anymore. Juvenal, the Roman poet spoke of ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ (‘a sound mind in a sound body’); it should be the new motto for education.
Indians (the media to start with) should not shout ‘victory’ when India fares so poorly, though the merit and the talent of all those who made it for the Games should be acknowledged as the Prime Minister did: “India is phenomenally proud of all our athletes in Rio & their hardwork that got them there. Victory & setbacks are all a part of life,” Modi tweeted.
There is no doubt that if medals were awarded ‘for merit’, India’s tally would be full. The fact remains India as a State is not doing enough, a tsunami of new sports initiatives/policies is necessary.
The Olympic motto may say: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part”, but it is also important to win.
One first step could be that politicians should be banned to run Indian sports federations. Only competent people, scrupulously honest and dedicated with a background in competition at the highest level, should look after sports affairs in India. Would India nominate as the head of a department of ISRO, someone without any knowledge in space sciences?
Has sycophancy helped a nation to get medals in the past?
All this will mean a long effort, a ‘marathon’.
Plans for the next 10, 20 or 40 years will need to be ‘scientifically’ prepared; financial support will be required not only from the Central and State governments but also from the private sector which has in the past, showed that with its dynamism it can make India a giant. Imagine if each large business house would sponsor a few sports academies of high excellence.
In 1920, in a letter to his brother Barin, Sri Aurobindo spoke of the strength of the Shakti “which has been swallowing up the [rest of the] world, like the tapaswins (ascetic) of our ancient times, by whose power even the gods of the world were terrified, held in suspense and subjection.”
India needs to recover that Shakti.
The Government of India decided to celebrate during the coming year, ‘Azadi 70’; what is required is a Second Azadi, in which India will not only be clean (swachh), but will not need to run to the West for its intellect to bloom; an India which will be a giant in sports, like it is today in economy.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

PLA Unit 77656 at India's Chumbi gate

My article PLA Unit 77656 at India's Chumbi gate appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

By honouring the PLA Unit closest to India's vulnerable Siliguri Corridor, Beijing has responded to Delhi's efforts to assert itself along the border through improved military presence and development of border areas

Lord Curzon was a man in a hurry. In 1904, he decided to march to Lhasa to open negotiations with the Tibetan Government which had stubbornly refused to talk to the British Crown’s representatives. A year earlier, Colonel Francis Younghusband, accompanied by 500 troops had been dispatched to Khamba Dzong, which commanded the entry into Chumbi, the first valley in Tibet (bordering India’s Sikkim State and Bhutan).
The Tibetan Government tried to stop the young colonel near the border with Sikkim, but the small British Army continued to advance toward Khamba Dzong. Lhasa was living in the ‘white clouds’; wishful thinking, rhetoric andmantras weren’t enough to counter-balance imperial power. Lhasa had to ultimately listen to the British.
Khamba Dzong was again in the news this week when Xinhua announced that President Xi Jinping, Central Military Commission’s Chairman, presented honorary titles to two military units for their outstanding services.  One is Unit 77656, a ‘model plateau battalion’, which was awarded for its performance “in safeguarding borders, ensuring stability and helping disaster relief” (The other award-winner is the PLA Navy Submarine Unit 372 posted in the South China Sea). Xi said that the “whole Armed Forces should learn from both examples.”
The Press Trust of India commented that Xi had “conferred special honours on the PLA battalion posted near Arunachal Pradesh.” The news agency got it wrong. Khamba Dzong (Gangba County for the Chinese) is not located close to Arunachal Pradesh, which is bordered by the Prefectures of Shannan and Nyingchi, but near the strategic Chumbi Valley — and the Siliguri Corridor. China knows that the corridor is one of the weakest points for Indian defence, at least until such time as the 17 Mountain Strike Corps is fully raised.
Beijing’s move to honour Unit 77656 may also have been prompted by other developments on India’s side, which have raised alarm bells in Beijing. Equating the Chumbi Valley (and India’s Achilles heel, ie the Siliguri Corridor) with the South China Sea is a message to New Delhi about the importance that China gives to the area. The award to the PLA’s crack Unit 77656 should be read in this context.
Why would China want to send a strong message to India? Not only has Delhi decided to raise the 17 Corps (though facing serious financial difficulties, it will have a strength of 90,274 additional troops ‘dedicated’ to China), but, importantly, it has also finally started developing its border areas.
Additionally, on August 19, a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) landed at the Pasigath Advance Landing Ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh. The ALG’s reactivation comes a few weeks after the Indian Army’s Northern Command publicised the deployment of some 100 T-72 battle tanks in Ladakh.
At a time that China continues to claim the entire State of Arunachal Pradesh, the Pasighat ALG, located only 100km from the McMahon Line, has vital strategic significance. The ALG inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, along with Air Marshal C Hari Kumar, commanding the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command, is one of eight ALGs to be opened in Arunachal Pradesh at a cost of some Rs1,000 crore.
The other ALGs are at Menchuka, Ziro, Aalo and Walong; they have already been activated this year. Tuting is expected to be ready by the year-end, and Tawang and Vijaynagar will hopefully follow. This will be a game changer and China is obviously uneasy.
But that is not all. Remember in August 2013, the IAF landed a C-130J Super Hercules transport plane at the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) airstrip in Ladakh near the Line of Actual Control (LAC); DBO is the highest ALG in the world. The IAF said: “The achievement will enable the armed forces to use the heavy-lift aircraft to induct troops, supplies, improve communication network and also serve as a morale booster for maintenance of troops positioned there.” It added that the plane “touched down the DBO airstrip located at 16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area.”
In May this year, the Jammu & Kashmir Government approved construction of a 150km-long Chushul-Demchok road; Demchok is the last inhabited Ladakhi village area en route to Western Tibet — and Kailash. Once the National Board for Wildlife gives the final clearance, the road will be constructed by the Border Roads Organisation.
In June, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that the Government hopes to complete the construction of a new all-weather road to the Tibetan border in Uttarakhand by next year (“to make it easy for people to visit the abode of Lord Shiva”, said Gadkari). The Minister added: “We want to enhance tourism including religious tourism. We are cutting rocks through Himalayas to make a new alignment of highways through Uttarakhand for going to Mansarovar.” Whether China agrees to open the border to Indian pilgrims on a large scale is a separate matter, but for strategic purposes, the opening of the 75km route from Ghatiabagarh to Lipulekh is vital.
Back in the east, on August 6, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has given its nod for the Arunachal Frontier Highway, a 2,000km road which will mostly run parallel to the McMahon Line. Whether it is feasible or not, has to be seen, especially in an area where all the ranges stretch from east to west and the rivers flow from north to south.
Rijiju had apparently taken up the issue with MOD, but the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) had understandably raised serious objections. It appears now that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, after considering different alternatives, secured the agreement of the DGMO, which suggested a few changes in the alignment in some areas. Parrikar told Lok Sabha: “Based on the operational requirements of the Army, the proposal for the construction of the Tawang-to-Vijaynagar highway has been endorsed.”
And then there is the deployment of the intermediate-range ballistic Agni-III missiles with a range of 3,500 km-5,000 km; in December 2013, the missile was successfully tested by the Strategic Forces Command. They are now being inducted. Also, the indigenously-developed supersonic surface-to-air missile Akash, capable of targeting enemy aircraft, helicopters and UAVs from a distance of 25km, and six squadrons should be deployed in the North-East. The BrahMos cruise missiles based in Arunachal Pradesh are also a strong deterrent that’s irritating China, and China has said so in The PLA Daily.
And then let’s not forget there will be a few Rafale jets in a couple of years.
In these circumstances, one can understand that despite the massive infrastructure development on the Tibetan plateau, Beijing is deeply unhappy about India’s moves. The posting of the best troops in the Middle Kingdom at Sikkim’s door, so close to India’s weakest point, is China’s warning.
Younghusband, the great ‘imperial’ strategist who knew so well the terrain, must be watching from his grave these new formidable developments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

China scared of 17 Mountain Strike Corps?

Khamba Dzong (Chinese Gangba), next to Chumbi Valley
Yesterday Xinhua announced that Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, presented honorary titles to two military units for their outstanding services.
One is Unit 77656, which is termed a ‘model plateau battalion’, was awarded for its outstanding performance “in safeguarding borders, ensuring stability and helping disaster relief”.
The other award winner is the PLA Navy Submarine Unit 372 which was honored as a ‘model submarine for performing marine missions with excellence’.
Xi said that the “whole armed forces should learn from both examples.”
Xi also awarded ‘merit citations’ to four military units and 15 persons for outstanding services.
Troop 66114 was given a first-class merit citation for its outstanding contribution to completing tasks, and units 91515, 94669 and 96261 were given second-class merit citations for their outstanding performance in strengthening fighting capacity.
PTI, with its poor knowledge of geography, commented that Xi Jinping “conferred special honours on PLA battalion posted near Arunachal.”
The PTI piece says: “Chinese President Xi Jinping bestowed special honours on a PLA battalion posted in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh for its “outstanding performance in safeguarding borders”, adding that: “While the news report has not identified the battalion, Indian defence officials and strategic think-tanks have said it is Gangba 2nd Independent Battalion.”
PTI further elaborated: “It is based in Shigatse City, Gangba County in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh and is one of the six battalions functioning under the Tibet Military Area Command.”
Well, Gangba County (Khamba Dzong in Tibetan) is located north of Sikkim, west of the strategic Chumbi Valley, where for decades an Indian Trade Agent was posted (in Yatung).
The move to honour Unit 77656 is probably due to Beijing’s nervousness; remember that Delhi has decided to raise a Mountain Strike Corps in the area (17 Corps).
While India is aware of the difficulty of defending the Siliguri Corridor, China knows that the Chumbi Valley is one of their weakest points on the plateau.
This probably explains the award to Unit 77656.
India should take note that the PLA's crack unit is posted at the gate of Chumbi Valley ...and India.
Incidentally, Khamba Dzong entered in the history in 1903, when Col Francis Youngbushand attempted to negotiate a treaty with the Tibetans.
Only after talks failed, the 1904 Tibet operation was mounted.
I am posting here extracts of my book, The Fate of Tibet.
Khamba Dzong

Curzon was a man in a hurry and he had decided to act.
In June 1903, Colonel Younghusband was dispatched with some troops to Khamba Dzong, inside Tibetan territory. This small British army consisted of five officers and 500 troops. On hearing news of the approaching British army, the Tibetan Government immediately sent two negotiators with the brief to stop the advancing army and to hold talks at a border post called Giagong. A Tibetan-speaking British officer, Captain O’Connor advanced to Giagong to be told by the Tibetan representatives that talks should be held on the spot.
This was refused by the British who continued to advance toward Khamba Dzong arguing that they had permission from the Manchus in Beijing to hold negotiations. The Tibetan Representatives tried in vain to block their path.
In the meantime the Tsongdu, alerted by the ominous news from the border, sent an urgent message to their representatives on the border, instructing them not to allow a single British soldier or civilian into Tibetan territory.
It sounds just like the Indian Parliament instructing the Indian Army, some 58 years later, not to let an inch of Indian territory be occupied by the Chinese in the high Himalayas. History sometimes repeats itself and the debacles in Khamba Dzong or in NEFA prove that one has to be militarily prepared for it when one decides that “not an inch of our territory should be occupied.” In 1904, Tibet was no match for a marching modern army.
But the Tibetan National Assembly was living in the ‘white clouds’ of the Roof of the World. Wishful thinking, rhetoric and Mantras were not enough to balance the woefully poor preparedness of the Tibetan troops. More was needed to block the decisiveness of the Viceroy and his young Colonel who had decided to force the Tibetans to sit at the negotiating table.
The stubbornness and intransigence of the Tibetan Assembly in refusing any contact with the ‘foreigners with yellow eyes’ did not help the matters to unfold smoothly.
When more knowledgeable elements, such as Kalon Shatra, tried to make the Kashag aware of the power of the British in the world and the consequences that refusing to deal with them, even to open their letters might have, he was accused of being a spy for the Crown and of having received some bribes from his ‘masters’ when he was the Resident Representative in Darjeeling.
To be fair to the Tibetans, one should recall their blissful ignorance of the world outside.
At this crucial time, the Tsongdu took over the decision-making power from the Kashag, which was considered to be pro-British; the Great Monasteries were convinced that the British were the enemy of Buddhism and only interested in extending their empire. This may not have been totally untrue.
Once in Khamba Dzong, representatives of the three great monasteries as well as senior Tibetan officers came to meet the British officers. However they immediately got stuck as both parties could not agree on a place where the negotiations could take place. The Chinese Representative in Shigatse also appeared on the stage but he turned back when he was told by the Tibetans and the British that his presence was not necessary.
The British troops were also visited by the Panchen Lama’s representative and the Abbots of the Tashi Lhunpo who unsuccessfully tried to mediate.
Many visitors dropped by, mainly out of mere curiosity.
Younghusband had arrived at Khamba Dzong, but the negotiations remained at a standstill with the Tibetans still refusing to discuss commercial or any other agreements.
Younghusband began to feel that he was being taken for a ride.
When he asked for the Ambans to be witness to the discussions, the Tibetans retorted that the Ambans had nothing to do with commercial matters.
The ‘negotiations’ on the location of the negotiations went on for a couple of months. The British troops had, in the meantime, started enjoying the countryside: “The British passed their time carrying out impressive military exercises, taking photographs, hiking in the hills, mapping the surrounding countries, botanizing, and geologizing.”
Finally after three months the British troops received orders to return to India. The advent of the winter was the main reason for this temporary retreat.
In Lhasa, the power struggle between the conservative forces in the Tsongdu and some of the more liberal (at least better informed) ministers intensified. As a result, four Kalons ended up in jail, accused of supporting the British. One even committed suicide. The Tsongdu was more determined than ever to stop any advance by ‘British devils’ into Tibet.

Smashing an Egg on the Rock
But Curzon had decided to return. In December 1903, Claude White, the Political Officer in Gangtok sent a letter to the Tibetan Government informing them that Younghusband would be proceeding towards Gyantse to open the negotiations; the Tibetans were requested to send their representatives
The first days of 1904 saw a British expedition led by Col. Francis Younghusband and Claude White with five thousand Sikh and Gurkha soldiers begin their march to Gyantse. They had brought with them rifles, machine guns and artillery.
When the troops reached Tuna, between Phari and Guru, some negotiations started again without much success. The Bhutanese Raja, known as the Tongsa Penlop also tried to mediate at Phari and suggested that talks should start in Gyantse, but he was unable to convince the Lhasa authorities.
The Choegyal of Sikkim, a relative of the Tibetan General who was the military commander in Yarlung valley, advised the latter to negotiate with the British. Dapon Lhading was already aware of the strong reinforcements stationed in Sikkim as support for the troops of Younghusband: “For the Tibetan army to challenge the British was like throwing an egg against the rock - the egg could only be smashed,” wrote the Choegyal. But the Tibetans were not ready to listen.
In the meantime, the Tibetan troops entrenched themselves behind a five-foot wall at Chumik Shinko between Tuna and Guru. 
In Asia, one does not start a war before having tea; Younghusband paid a visit to the Tibetan camp at Guru and later received Dapon Lhading at his camp in Tuna; but despite the courtesy calls and offering of scarves, tea and refreshment, the stalemate continued.
The tea parties could have gone on too, but Younghusband was a young man in a hurry; during the course of his final visit to the Tibetan camp, he informed the Tibetan General that he would be advancing towards Gyantse the next day.
An Englishman later wrote: “In 1903 the position of Britain and Tibet, was like that of a big boy at school who is tormented by an impertinent youngster. He bears it for sometime, but at last is compelled to administer chastisement.”

The rest is history…

Sunday, August 21, 2016

UT Status for Ladakh?

1842 Treaty with Tibet
Violence has again erupted in Kashmir.
More than ever, Islamabad seems determined to create problems for India in the Valley. And it is not covert anymore!
On the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day (August 14), the Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit declared: “Struggle for independence will continue till Kashmir gets freedom; sacrifice of the people of Kashmir will not go in vain."
He openly said: “We dedicate this year's Independence day to struggle of Kashmir.”
A day later, in a speech from the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi counter-attacked and referred to Pakistan's human rights abuses in Balochistan as well as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Modi hinted that if Pakistan continues to instigate demonstrations and strikes in the Kashmir Valley, India will be compelled to expose Islamabad elsewhere.
Let us be clear, as long as Pakistan exists, the situation will not stabilize and violence is bound to erupt from time to time.
Though not a final solution, a step could help localize the abscess: trifurcate J&K State into 3 parts, namely Jammu, Ladakh and the Valley.
It has been a long standing demand of the people of Ladakh (and Jammu as well) who do not want to have anything to do with the anti-India movement in the Valley.
A resolution passed by the All Religious Joint Action Committee (ARJAC) of Ladakh goes a long way in this direction.
The ARJAC leaders, including Tsewang Thinles, president, Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), Ashraf Ali Barcha, president, Anjuman Imamia and Sheikh Saif-ud-Din, president, Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam, demanded during a press conference, the Union Territory (UT) status for Ladakh. They remarked that since Independence, the mountainous region has always kept a special strong bond with the Union of India.
In a memorandum to the Prime Minister, the ARJAC explained that Ladakh was once an independent Himalayan kingdom: “The political history of Ladakh dates back to 930 A.D. when several small, sovereign principalities outlying the Western Himalayas were integrated and given a unified polity by Lha-Chen-Palgigon.”
The memorandum continues: “Ladakh as an independent kingdom gained political status during 15th–16th century when the Namgyal dynasty came into power;” this lasted until 1842 when General Zorawar Singh integrated Ladakh into the Dogra Empire. In October 1947, Ladakh acceded to India after Maharaj Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession for his State.
The ARJAC further points out that Ladakh has been linked to the Dogras (and Kashmir) for hardly 105 years: “Ladakh is fundamentally different from Kashmir in all respects – culturally, ethnically and linguistically. Over the years the successive governments of the State have adopted a policy of discrimination and subversion towards the region with the sole objective of stifling its people and marginalising its historical, religious and cultural identity.”
The ARJAC notes with some bitterness: “In the modern times, when the whole subcontinent has passed through the process of decolonisation to enjoy the fruits of national independence, we, the people of Ladakh, and our land still continue to suffer under the old concept of colonial administrative structure, which suited the imperial interests and feudal rulers under the name of the pseudo-State of Jammu & Kashmir.”
The ARJAC strongly affirms: “Nationalism remained a dominant ideological creed and became a rallying force among the Ladakhis to fight back the Pakistanis and the Chinese who made frequent bids of conquer our land in 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars. The jawans of Ladakh Scouts played an exemplary role in decisively foiling the enemy’s misadventures,” before concluding: “Our humble submission is that we are neither the problem nor part of any problem involving the state. Rather we are the solution. We firmly believe that all of us live only if India lives. Our commitment to patriotism is firm and unequivocal. Our people and soldiers have never hesitated to make supreme sacrifices in the discharge of their duties towards the country. We shall never fail the nation.”
The bifurcation (or trifurcation) would have other advantages not mentioned in the memorandum.
Today the Ladakh region has two districts, Leh and Kargil and two Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Ladakh (LAHDC ) and Kargil.
Though Ladakh is India’s largest district, with ‘disputed’ borders and two belligerent neighbours, it is administrated by a very junior officer.
The present District Commissioner (DC) Prasanna Ramaswamy is a young IAS officer from the 2010 batch. Without doubting his personal competence, such a border district with large numbers of Army and ITBP personnel posted in the area, makes it one of the most sensitive districts of the country.
Further, can only one officer visit the 19 blocks of Ladakh, some of the extremely remote? He can’t. As a result, some blocks have often been neglected.
Ladakh needs a special status; a Joint-Secretary rank officer or above should be posted in the district. Just think that the Army 14 Corps Commander responsible for Ladakh’s defence, is headed by an officer of Lieutenant General rank, with nearly 40 years of experience in the Indian Army. He deals with someone (the DC) who would be ranked a captain, or a major at the most, in the Army. Incidentally, the DC is also the Chief Executive Officer of the LAHDC, which makes the situation even more ridiculous.
The granting of Union Territory Status would solve many of these anomalies: a Lieutenant Governor representing the Center would sit in Leh (or Kargil) and a Chief Secretary would head the administration. Further, the elected MLAs and Ministers would not depend on the mood of Srinagar to develop the Union Territory.
Last but not least, it will probably force China to clarify its position vis-à-vis Ladakh.
Beijing has always been ambiguous on Kashmir and Ladakh.
In July 2016, Beijing called for a “proper settlement of Kashmir clashes”, Under the pretence of neutrality, China’s position on Kashmir has indeed conveniently remained extremely hazy.
Defence analyst Monika Chansoria recently pointed out: “Nothing could be further from the truth than this duplicitous and outrageous statement [about neutrality]. In fact, Beijing has shifted its position on Kashmir, gradually, yet firmly, with each passing decade. Recall China’s response during the 1999 Kargil conflict with its commitment to a policy of neutrality, which compelled the Nawaz Sharif government, who was already under immense international pressure, to look for an honourable retreat from Kargil.”
Remember the issue of stapled visas for the J&K’s State subjects?
Another issue is Beijing’s refusal to reopen the Demchok-Tashigong road to Kailash-Manasarovar. It is the fastest and easiest route for pilgrims wanting to visit the Holy Mountain. Beijing does not want the route to be reopened, because they would not be ‘neutral’ anymore and would have to recognize the fact that Ladakh is part of India (by setting up a custom house at the border for example).
Already back in 1954, when India and China were negotiating the Panchsheel Agreement, China adamantly refused to acknowledge, let alone reopen the Demchok route, simply because it considered and probably considers Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’.
The reopening of the ancient pilgrim route would be a great Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and China, but perhaps Beijing is not ready to give up the ‘disputed territory’ label for Ladakh.
Making Ladakh a Union Territory would (peacefully) kill many birds with one stone; it would help localized the so-called Kashmir issue in the Valley; it would provide a better administration to the mountainous region, streamline the security of the area and force China to drop its ‘neutrality’ stance.
But where is the political will?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It's time to stand up to China over Ladakh

My artcile It's time to stand up to China over Ladakh appeared in Mail Today.

Here is the link...

Does Beijing still consider Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’. If not, why not open Demchok? Pictured: Chinese president Xi Jinping
As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in Delhi for his second visit to India, it is interesting to recall one of the most unknown episodes of the history of modern India.
Let's recall the negotiations which, in 1953-54, preceded the signature on the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India”, known as the Panchsheel Agreement for its lofty preamble.

The negotiations ended with India giving away all its rights in Tibet (telegraph lines, post offices, dak bungalows, military escort in Gyantse and Yatung, etc), while getting no assurance on the border demarcation from the Chinese government.
The talks were held in Beijing among Zhang Hanfu, China’s Vice- Minister of Foreign Affairs, N. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador to China, and TN Kaul, his Chargé d’Affaires.
It lasted from December 1953 till April 1954.
Why so long? One reason appears in a cable sent by Raghavan to Delhi in which he informs the Foreign Secretary that Zhang was “virulently objecting to inclusion of Tashigong in Agreement.”
For centuries, the trade and pilgrimage route for the Kailash-Manasarovar region (and then onward to Lhasa) followed the course of the Indus, passed Demchok, the last Ladakhi village, and then crossed the border to reach the first Tibetan hamlet, Tashigong, some 15 miles inside Tibet.
Not only did Zhang refuse to mention Demchok in the agreement, but also bargained for nearly five months to not cite Tashigong.
Retrospectively, one can find two main reasons for the Chinese dragging their feet.
One was the proximity of the National Highway 219, later known as the ‘Aksai Chin Road’, cutting across the Indian territory in northern Ladakh. Though China had started constructing the highway, Delhi was to discover its existence only four years later.
In 1954, Indian border forces visiting Demchok could have noticed what was clandestinely being built; though the road was not within firing range for the Indian artillery, Beijing did not want to take a risk.
It did not occur to the Indian negotiators that something momentous was happening on the other side of the range.
The second reason is also grave and presently very relevant. After months of infructuous exchanges, Zhang Hanfu conceded that “traders customarily using this route might continue such use but an oral understanding to that effect between two delegations would suffice, (China) would not like in writing, even by implication, to have any reference to Ladakh.”
But why to not name this ancient route in the agreement, as it was done for the passes elsewhere? The answer is that China considered Ladakh a ‘disputed area’.
Kaul told Delhi: “We have taken (the) position that Ladakh is Indian territory and route should be mentioned as its omission would be invidious.”
But China did not accept the Indian contention and “after considerable argument (Zhang) agreed, but subsequently withdrew (his agreement). (He) suggests we would consider exchange of letters which will not form part of Agreement...”
Bargaining continued. India had finally to concur to the Chinese formulation. Demchok was mentioned nowhere, but article IV of the agreement says: “Traders and pilgrims of both countries may travel by the following passes and route: (1) Shipki La pass, (2) Mana pass, (3) Niti pass, (4) Kungri Bingri pass, (5) Darma pass, and (6) Lipu Lekh pass. … Also, the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus river may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom.”

You may think that it is past history, but it is not. China today continues to adamantly refuse to reopen the Demchok-Tashigong route to the abode of Lord Shiva, while insisting on a long and tortuous route via Nathu-la in Sikkim.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj should definitely raise this question with her Chinese counterpart when they meet.
The people of Ladakh have for years asked for the reopening of the ancient route.
Why is Beijing so reluctant to let people and goods flow again over the Himalaya?
Why can’t China allow the devotees wanting to visit Kailash-Manasarovar to use the easiest route, i.e. via Demchok?

It is not that there are no ‘exchanges’ along the Line of Actual Control.
Not far from Demchok, a place called Dumchule witnesses a good deal of smuggling happening between Tibet and Ladakh.
Local herders visit a Tibetan mart on the other side of the range, bringing back Chinese goods to Ladakh. If while visiting the bazaar in Leh, you wonder how there are so many Chinese bowls or other cheap stuff, the answer is Dumchule.
But the situation is not healthy; apart from the fact that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can gather intelligence on what is happening on the Indian side, (that is why they close their eyes on the traffic) and worse, Indian pilgrims are not allowed to cross into Tibet and proceed to Mt Kailash.
To officially reopen the Demchok-Tashigong road would be the best confidence building measure (CBM) between India and China.
After all under its One Belt, One Road scheme, China constantly speaks of opening new routes or corridors.
Does Beijing restrict these projects to its ‘friends’ only (i.e. Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or Nepal in Zham and Kyirong)?
Let us hope that Wang will understand that it is in China’s interests to regularise the situation in Ladakh.
He should also clearly spell out China’s position: does Beijing still consider Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’.
If not, why not open Demchok?

Friday, August 12, 2016

China’s border tactics unchanged

Indian patrol in the Barahoti Plain in the 1950s
My article China’s border tactics unchanged appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to New Delhi on Saturday will not change anything in the mindset of the leadership in Beijing, and the intrusions (transgressions?) will continue. It is important, therefore, that the Indian public is aware about the history of our borders.

In July 1952, the Intelligence Bureau sent New Delhi a worrying report about the Garhwal-Tibet border; after explaining that the border in this area could “only be crossed through Mana and Niti Valleys, where there are open places and habitation, the rest of the border area consists of snow-covered mountains studded with glaciers,” it mentioned one area, Hoti, used by Indian traders going to Tibet during the warm season.
The report warned that at the end of the 19th century, the Tibetans had once established a customs post in Hoti Plain: “To stop this practice, the British government had to send out a detachment of Gurkhas along with Dharmanand Joshi, deputy collector, in 1890. This had a salutary effect and the Tibetans removed their post,” the IB report noted.
But once the Chinese appeared on the scene and occupied the plateau in 1950-51, the Tibetans became bolder: “It appears the Tibetans have again established a police-cum-customs post at Hoti during the trading season,” the 1952 IB report said. It added: “It’s quite possible that if the Tibetans aren’t stopped from establishing their post at Hoti Plain, they might eventually claim it to be their own territory. Since there is no habitation or cultivation in this area, the Garhwal authorities hardly ever visit the area or take action to denote that it lies within their jurisdiction.”
For centuries, the dzongpon (commissioner) of Daba in Tibet had sent serjis (messengers) to Hoti Plain in Indian territory to announce that the trading season had begun. As Indian traders went to Tibet, there were charged some “hospitality” taxes corresponding to the facilities they got from the Tibetan authorities (fodder for animals, etc).
In 1952, the Tibetans again shifted their “customs” camp to Barahoti. The IB then suggested sending a detachment of the Garhwal Rifles and local armed police to hoist the Indian tricolour in Barahoti “to stop the Tibetans from establishing their customs post”.
That is how the Barahoti “dispute” started. It took a nastier turn two years later, when China had established its presence in western Tibet.
It’s important to remember that the Indian and Chinese governments had signed the “historic” Panchsheel Agreement on trade and pilgrimage in Tibet in April 1954. India gave away all its rights in the Land of Snows (telegraph lines, post offices, dak bungalows, military escorts in Gyantse and Yatung), but got no assurances on the border demarcation from Beijing.
In the negotiations, Indian diplomats clearly showed that the traditional and customary boundary followed the watershed range; the passes of Mana, Niti, Tun Jun La, Balcha Dhura, Kungri Bingri, Darma and Lipulekh marked the border in the area. China agreed to name five of them in the agreement, but flatly refused to mention Tsang Chok La, Tun Jun La and Balcha Dhura.
Why? Simply because Tun Jun La is north of Barahoti in Garhwal and Balcha Dhura north of Sangchamalla and Lapthal in Almora district. Not naming these passes allowed China to later claim that these areas were located south of the watershed. The Indian negotiators were fooled... but then China, at that time, was a great friend!
The ink barely dried on the Panchsheel that China started making claims on the Indian territories. On August 13, 1954, a note from the Chinese embassy in New Delhi complained: “Over 30 Indian troops armed with rifles crossed the Niti Pass on June 29, 1954, and intruded into Wu-Je (Chinese name for Barahoti).” Beijing pretended to be shocked, saying “this not in conformity with the principles of non-aggression and friendly co-existence between China and India.” So while China had entered Indian territory, it was now blaming India!
Beijing later protested that on July 17, a 33-person unit had entered its territory... in Barahoti: “The unit was under the command of an officer called Nathauja (Chinese pronunciation), a deputy commander, the district magistrate of Walzanjapur district as well as a doctor, a radio operator and soldiers, all living in 17 tents.”
After investigations, India replied on August 27 that it was found “the allegation is entirely incorrect. A party of our Border Security Force is encamped in Hoti Plain, which is southeast of Niti Pass and in Indian territory. None of our troops or personnel have crossed north of Niti Pass.”
It is how the saga of incursions in the central sector of the Indo-Tibet (now Sino-Indian) border began.
A new terminology has been found by bureaucrats in New Delhi. It is called a “transgression”, but it doesn’t change the historical fact: Barahoti is south of the Himalayan watershed marking the border.
In 1958, New Delhi decided to try to negotiate a settlement with Beijing. Fu Hao, Chinese counsellor in New Delhi, met a MEA joint secretary several times. The Chinese suggested a joint local inquiry. Foreign secretary Subimal Dutt sent a note to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: “Our case is that Barahoti is an area of about one and a half square miles. We have given the exact position with reference to its latitude and longitude. The Chinese have not defined which area they mean by Wu-Je... an area south of Tun Jun La.” Dutt then added: “If the Chinese claims are conceded, the international boundary would lie south in what is undoubtedly Indian territory.”
The foreign secretary said: “The Chinese are apparently keen on a local inquiry because they will thereby be in a position to define the exact borders of the area which they are claiming.” But Beijing didn’t know where Wu-Je or Barahoti was located.
Subimal Dutt then concluded: “We should emphatically refuse to take any oral evidence locally. Barahoti is more easily approachable from the Tibet side than from our side. The Chinese would be able to produce any number of Tibetans to say what they (want) these people to say.”
He went on: “The Chinese government is not prepared to accept our northern border as shown on our maps, as these maps are supposed to have been prepared by British colonialists surreptitiously. They are also not prepared to accept passes mentioned in the 1954 agreement as border passes... thereby indirectly repudiating the principle of watershed as marking the international boundary.”
All this shows that the Chinese still use the same tactics (whether in the South China Sea today or earlier in Aksai Chin or Barahoti); they occupy a territory that they deem important for their own interests and later emphatically declare it has always been “Chinese territory”, which is sacred and will be defended by force if necessary.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to New Delhi on Saturday will not change anything in the mindset of the leadership in Beijing, and the intrusions (transgressions?) will continue. It is important, therefore, that the Indian public is aware about the history of our borders.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

India should talk tough to the Middle Kingdom

My article India should talk tough to the Middle Kingdom appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Wang Yi, who will visit India, to discuss serious issues, must clarify to the people of Ladakh (and India) if China still considers Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’. It is also hoped that Sushma Swaraj will dare ask a few questions

Soon after the Modi sarkar’s swearing ceremony two years ago, Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, rushed to Delhi. Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan Sykiong (Prime Minister) had been seen on TV screens during the function: Beijing was not amused. Wang wanted Delhi to ‘clarify’ its position. This time Wang comes again to discuss ‘serious’ issues with Sushma Swaraj, his Indian counterpart.
A statement of South Block says: “During the visit, the two sides will discuss various issues of mutual interest including the upcoming multilateral meetings viz, G-20 Summit being held in China and Brics Summit being held in India.”
Not a word about the Chinese stand on India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group or the intrusions, sorry ‘transgressions’, in the Central Sector of the Sino-Indian boundary. The Chinese ‘visits’ in the Barahoti plain of Chamoli district (Uttarakhand) should certainly be discussed. Some historical facts about the Himalayan border should not be forgotten.
Barahoti was the site of the first Chinese intrusions in June 3, 1954, hardly three months after India and China signed the ‘glorious’ Panchsheel Agreement. Since then, every year in June/July, India sends revenue officers accompanied by local herders and unarmed jawans to ‘mark’ the place as Indian territory. Though the area is located south of the Tunjun-la pass, the watershed which delimits the border with Tibet, China also sends patrols. This time the Chinese intrusion on Indian territory was different; according to media reports, the Chinese border forces were carrying arms and a helicopter is said to have done some recce before the arrival of the People’s Liberation Army.
The Chinese have always used similar tactics, whether in the South China Sea today or a few decades ago in Ladakh and elsewhere: They claim an area which they judge important for their own interests, if possible occupy it (without Delhi noticing it for the Aksai Chin), then they categorically state that it has always been ‘Chinese territory’, which is sacred for them and will be defended by force if necessary.
Swaraj should not only raise this question, but also ask Wang: Why is Beijing so reluctant to let people and goods flow again over the Himalaya? Why can’t China allow the devotees wanting to visit the abode of lord Shiva in Tibet use the easiest routes, ie Demchok in Ladakh or Shipki-la in Himachal instead of the a long and tortuous route road via Nathu-la in Sikkim?
Demchok in south Ladakh had no historical connection with China; for time immemorial it was part of the kingdom of Ladakh; nobody ever disputed this fact.
According to The Ladakh Chronicles, as early as the 10th century, the boundary of Ladakh was already demarcated. It lay along the Indus river, south of Rudok, the main center in western Tibet. The border was clearly defined ‘south of Lde-mchog-dkar-po (‘White Demchok’)’; the present boundary alignment in this sector remains the same, except for the fact that sometime at the end of 1959, Beijing decided to change its maps and started showing Demchok within China.
In the Chronicles, there is also reference to the Ladakh-Tibet war which took place between 1681 and 1683; the Treaty signed a year later confirmed that “the boundary shall be fixed at the Lha-ri stream of Lde-mchok.” A hill above the village is still called Lhari Karpo.
The frontier was never discussed or disputed till the end of the 1959, when the Chinese produced a new map showing Demchok in China. Interestingly, during the 1962 war, Chinese troops occupied the area around Demchok to later withdraw behind the traditional frontier defined by the watershed, east of the Indus.
Why did the Chinese decide to advance the border and claim Demchok at the end of 1950s? One of the reasons could be the proximity of the National Highway 219, known as the ‘Aksai Chin Road’, cutting across the Indian territory in northern Ladakh: China was not keen to see Indians troops at a firing distance (15 miles) of the road.
In the course of the several rounds of boundary negotiations between India and China, Beijing stubbornly refused to even provide maps of its perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Ambassador RS Kalha who participated in some of these talks in the 1990s recalls in his excellent book (India-China Boundary Issues: Quest for Settlement), “Having committed to Jaswant Singh that they (China) would initiate a process for the clarification and determination of the LAC in all sectors of the boundary, a meeting took place in March 2000, where maps of the middle sector were exchanged. On 17 June, 2002, both sides met again and maps of the Western sector were seen by both sides for about 20 minutes. Soon enough, the maps were hastily returned by both sides since these maps represented the maximalist positions which were clearly unpalatable.” This explains why Delhi speaks today of ‘perceived LACs’.
The main areas under dispute remain Samar Lungpa in the north, Depsang plain (where a serious incident occurred in April 2013), Demchok and Chumar (where the PLA trespassed in September 2014 as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in India).
As the result of these ‘differences of perception’, the border between Ladakh and Tibet remains closed to trade and pilgrimage today. The irony is that at the same time China speaks of ‘Tibet as hub of Himalaya’. The China Daily recently published an article affirming: “Tibet could become the cultural, economic and humanitarian hub of the Himalayas and so build a peaceful, cooperative relationship with its South Asian neighbors.”
If China wants to transform Tibet as a hub, why is Beijing so reticent to accede to the demand of the people in Ladakh to reopen the old caravan road? After all, for centuries it has been the main (and the easiest) route to the holy mountain.
China practices double-speak; it is ready to open new routes or corridors, but with friends only Pakistan, (ie the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and Nepal (in Zham and Kyirong).
Not only is China adamant to not open Demchok, but the routes via Shipki-la (Himachal) and Mana-la (Uttarakhand) remain close to pilgrims too. For Demchok, there is another reason, more serious, on which Wang should clearly spell out China’s position: For Beijing, Demchok is part of Jammu & Kashmir State and, therefore, a ‘disputed territory’.
China’s position on Kashmir has always been ambiguous, but from the time of the negotiations for the Panchsheel Agreement in 1954, Beijing has systematically refused to acknowledge Demchok as the traditional landport between Ladakh and Tibet. Why? Beijing did not want to hurt the sentiments of its already good friend, Pakistan.
Wang should tell the people of Ladakh (and India) if China still considers Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’? Let us hope that Swaraj will dare ask a few questions.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The sorry state of affairs in Arunachal - A deadly cocktail

Two months ago, I wrote on this blog "The sorry state of affairs in Tawang - A deadly cocktail".
Today, I changed the title "The sorry state of affairs in Arunachal - A deadly cocktail."
The news just came in that Kalikho Pul, former Arunachal Chief Minister, was found dead at his residence in Itanagar.
It is a tragedy for the border State.
It is a tragedy for India,
One should not forget that the entire State of Arunachal Pradesh is today claimed by China.
Though Beijing claims part of Ladakh (J&K), Himachal Pradesh (near Shipki-la), Uttarakhand (Barahoti, etc), in the case of Arunachal, it is the entire State which is called 'Southern Tibet' by Beijing.
Dirty politics is happening everywhere, but when it happens in Arunachal, it has more serious implications for India.
In February, Pul had led a group of dissident MLAs from Congress against Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and after President’s Rule was revoked on February 19, Pul was sworn in as Chief Minister.
On July 13, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court quashed Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa's decision to advance the Assembly session from January 14, 2016 to December 16, 2015, a move which had culminated in the declaration of President's rule on January 26. 
Subsequently, Pul had to resign as Chief Minister.

My article of June 2016
In March 2014, Arunachal Pradesh could have entered the Guinness Book of Records: eleven Congress candidates, including the chief Minister Nabam Tuki, were elected unopposed to the local 60-member Assembly.
Even some local BJP leaders ‘paved’ the way for the Congress candidates; for example Chief Minister Nabam Tuki was left without a rival in the Sagalee seat after his lone BJP rival Nabam Tade withdrew his nomination.
Among other Congress candidates elected unopposed were Rural Development Minister Tanga Byaling (Nacho) Tourism Minister Pema Khandu (Mukto in Tawang district), Parliamentary Secretary Nabam Rebia (Doimukh), former Minister Lombo Tayeng (Mebo), sitting MLAs Phurpa Tsering (Dirang), Punji Mara (Taliha), Bamang Felix (Nyapin) and Takam Pario (Palin), besides first-timer Mama Natung from Seppa West.
Was it a coincidence that ten out of eleven of these assembly seats were located in Arunachal West parliamentary constituency?
When one knows that the State is still claimed by China, this created quite an extraordinary situation, a deeply worrying one.
At that time, two words were whispered in the social media circles: ‘Dam Money’.
This came back to mind when early last month, two people, including a Buddhist monk, were killed after the police opened fire in Tawang district of Arunachal. Officially, the police fired at some anti-dam activists trying to barge into a police station demanding the release of a monk who had spearheaded the anti-dam campaign.
A few days later, Chief Minister Kalikho Pul rushed to Delhi to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to tell him that the situation had returned to normal after a peace committee was formed.
Very few believed him.
A few weeks before the tragedy, Kalikho Pul had been making a case for fast-tracking environmental clearances for hydropower projects.
He had spoken at the conference ‘Hydro power at crossroads – tapping the untapped’, organized by Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM), stating that hydropower would be developed in an optimal manner with the environmental impact and human displacement would be reduced to the absolute minimal.
He said that the 156 dams being planned would generate over 50,000 mega watts of power; he however admitted that “almost all projects are still in the planning stages and most are awaiting environmental clearances.”
While environmentalists and local communities argued that these dams would damage the environment, Pul affirmed that hydropower is “the only viable source for the resource strapped state which could provide sustainable means of livelihood.”
Many believe that it would only create ‘sustainable means of livelihood’ for the politicians …to be elected unopposed during the next elections.
Pul however promised that the opinion of the stakeholders would be taken into consideration.

Government to reconsider policies
The killing of the two persons forced the government to reconsider some of its policies; the first to pay the bill were the Tawang district’s Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police who “failed to assess the situation.” They were suspended, along with the officer in-charge of Tawang police station.
They were made scapegoats.
Deputy Chief Minister Kameng Dolo announced that the officers had not only failed to assess the situation but also did not to take any preventive measures to diffuse the situation: “Prompt action has been initiated in order to defuse the situation, instill confidence among the people and restore normalcy in Tawang,” Dolo said in Itanagar.
But the situation in the border district, closely watched by the Chinese, is not that simple.

Other aspects of the issue
In an article Beneath the fissures, Jarpum Gamlin, the Editor of a local newspaper (and younger brother of former Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin) wrote: “The agitations in Tawang are not merely a tussle between pro- and anti-dam campaigners. A closer look reveals a power play in the monastery”.
Gamlin explains that the district administration erred by detaining the monk-turned-activist Lama Lobsang Gyatso, general secretary of Save Mon Region Forum (SMRF) under a non-bailable section for the second time within 48 hours.
Gyatso had earlier led a protest against the six-megawatt Mukto Shakangchu hydel project; on April 28, he said to have done worse: he would have defamed Guru Rinpoche, the abbot of Tawang monastery. He was arrested on this charge.
Gamlin commented: “Amid the hullabaloo, word is out that three of the five secretaries at Tawang monastery are seeking the ouster of Guru Rinpoche; the two who support him are Lama Ngawang Tsering and Lama Dorjee Namgey. It is alleged that the rebel monks — Lama Lobsang Phuntsok, Lama Lobsang Thapkey and Lama Sang Leta — have been aiding Lama Lobsang’s campaign against the political and religious establishments.”
Another rumour was that Pema Khandu, son of former Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, his brother Tsering Tashi and cousin Jambey Tashi who represent the three legislative assembly segments in Tawang district were deeply upset with the SMRF after it won a favourable verdict from the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The April 7’s NGT decision probably precipitated the  events during the following weeks.
The NGT suspended the environment clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest for the Nyamjang chu hydropower project in Tawang’s Zemingthang area (the village is located close to the McMahon Line).
The permission to build the 780 MW hydroelectric plant was withdrawn due to the presence black-necked cranes, wintering in a 3-km stretch along the Nyamjang Chhu.
For over four years, the presence of the birds nearby the project area had been debated before the NGT. It appears that it is the first time that a single species has led to the suspension of such a project.
The black-necked crane is a five-foot tall bird, classified 'vulnerable', with only a decreasing world population of 11,000. While it breeds in the Tibetan plateau, it spends its winters in Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Monpas consider the crane an incarnation of Tsangyang Gyatso, the poet-Sixth Dalai Lama, who was born in Tawang.
It is said the Seventh Dalai Lama was found by following the flight of a white crane after Tsangyang Gyatso passed away (‘White crane lend me your wings. I will not fly far. From Lithang I shall return’, wrote the poet).
Incidentally, the Nyamjang chu flows near the Thagla ridge which was the main bone of contention between India and China and the pretext for the Chinese treacherous attack on India in October 1962.

Dams plus religious rivalry, a deadly cocktail

A section of monks, followers of Lama Lobsang Gyatso, blamed Guru Rinpoche for the deadly firing incident and demanded his resignation.
The Indian Express quoted Lobsang Thapke, the secretary of the monastery saying: “A majority of the lamas (monks) in the monastery has demanded the resignation of Guru Tulku Rinpoche because they feel that he was equally responsible along with the police for the death of two persons.”
Thapke alleged that the abbot could have easily averted the tragedy had the latter asked the police to release Lama Gyatso.
Soon after, Guru Rinpoche resigned following ‘recent turns of events’ in Tawang. The Rinpoche said that he was so deeply hurt and shocked by the recent happening that he had to send his resignation to the Dalai Lama for acceptance “since he solely wishes to dedicate his time for peace, prayers and education of Buddhism and be fully devoted to the people of Mon region.”
To the surprise of all, the Dalai Lama recused himself from appointing a new Abbot for the Tawang Monastery.
In a letter circulated on the social media, the Tibetan leader addressed the Administration and the monks of Tawang Monastery: “I have appointed several Abbots to the Tawang Monastery,” he wrote.
The Dalai Lama continued: “The present Abbot, Guru Rinpoche, at the very young age studied at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Dharamsala. After that he worked and served in my Office. I have selected a well-qualified person as the Abbot of Tawang Monastery. Yet, if there are people who are not satisfied with the Abbot's activities then I shall no longer appoint the Abbot to Tawang Monastery. Instead the Abbot will be directly appointed by the Sera Je Monastery."
It must have been quite a shock for the Monpa population. It is said that it is for the first time in the history of Tawang Monastery, since its inception in 17th Century, that the Abbot will not be appointed by the Dalai Lama.
Does this put the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang later this year in jeopardy?
Probably as the Tibetan leader would not like his presence used by the local politicians and clergy.

The Case of Tsona Rinpoche
Another issue is the mysterious death of Tsona Gontse Rinpoche (alias TGR or TG Rinpoche during his 'political' life). The Lama, who passed away in May 2014, had also taken an anti-dam posture.
At that time, The Times of India reported: “A 47-year-old Buddhist monk from Arunachal Pradesh allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan at his sister's house in Vasant Kunj in South Delhi.” The body of Rinpoche was found hanging from the ceiling fan by his sister.
Apparently a suicide note was found from a diary in the room. Rinpoche would have mentioned that he had committed too many sins and that even God would not forgive him.
The police suspected that he was depressed over the defeat of a cousin (another Rinpoche) in the 2014 Assembly elections.
I don’t know about the presumed sins of Rinpoche, but each time I met him, I found in Rinpoche one of the most dynamic young lamas of his generation.
He always wanted to give the Dharma a concrete shape. For him, Buddhism was not a mere philosophy; the Buddha’s teachings had to materialize in the present world.
Whenever I encountered him, Rinpoche had always a new project in mind and he had a capacity to concretely realize his plans.
Some twenty years ago, he organized a kar seva for the Gorsam Stupa, near the Thagla ridge close to the Indo-Tibet border, north of Tawang. He probably thought that the renovated stupa would have the inner power to stop another attack on India. It is indeed impressive.
Then he built a large monastery in Bomdila (where his body will be kept for a week). He also started a Buddhist University, funded by the Ministry of Culture in a lovely environment near Tenga in Arunachal Pradesh.
He was building a huge statue of Tara in Lumla (also north of Tawang), near the Bhutanese border where he had a monastery.
The last time I met him in Delhi, Rinpoche planned to bring the ‘relics’ of the Buddha to Tawang. He had just met the Indian Minister of Culture who had promised to help him. I think that eventually succeeded.
He gave me a lecture on his new ‘baby’, the Sherab Sangpo Society and the concept of ‘Noble Wisdom’.
Rinpoche had become a great defender of the environment (after looking himself after hydropower issues as a minister in the Government of Arunachal).
I could not figure out is why he took the ultimate step. Suicide does not figure anywhere in Buddhist culture; the concept of sin neither.
Tsona, Rinpoche's main monastery is located in Southern Tibet, north of the McMahon line. Rinpoche always remained a strong Indian nationalist. His demise is indeed a great loss for the Monpa people of Tawang and for the Buddhist world.
The Chinese would certainly be delighted to find his reincarnation first. For Beijing, it would be a formidable card to claim Tawang again.

Beijing's interests
Beijing is indeed interested by the messy situation in Tawang.
The 16th ‘Meet in Beijing Arts Festival’ saw the launch of the dance drama "Tsangyang Gyatso," written by Li Cangsang, a Chinese composer who wrote the music for the drama.
As already mentioned, the Sixth Dalai Lama was born in Tawang.
China Tibet News quotes Li saying: “He was a real person yearning for an ordinary life. The combination of the characters of the Buddha, of the ordinary people and Tibetan music, was the most difficult part of my work."
The drama performed at the National Center for the Performing Art in Beijing is based on Tsangyang’s poems and life story.
Even if Beijing is not interested to talk to the Fourteenth, the Communist government is clearly keen to keep the legacy of the Sixth Dalai Lama alive; it is a way to reinforce their claim on Tawang.
The latest happenings in the border district are indeed worrisome.
Today Beijing is gleefully watching the situation deteriorate, waiting to ‘recognize’ not only the next Tsona Rinpoche, but also Tsangyang Gyaltso’s reincarnation.
Delhi should not play with fire by pushing for unwanted hydropower plants so close to the border knowing that it will stir local quarrels further?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mr Wang, Reopen Demchok

In my previous post, I mentioned the railway lines which will soon reach Purang/Taklakot, north of Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand and Yatung in the Chumbi Valley, sandwiched between Sikkim and Bhutan.
In this connection, The China Daily published a couple of days ago, an intriguing article entitled Tibet envisioned as hub of Himalayas.
What does it mean?
Is China unilaterally planning to open/reopen the Himalayan passes which were closed in 1962, without informing India?
Today, only three passes have been reopened for trade: Shipki-la in Himachal Pradesh, Lipulekh-la in Uttarakhand, and Nathu-la in Sikkim.
According to The China Daily: “Tibet could become the cultural, economic and humanitarian hub of the Himalayas and so build a peaceful, cooperative relationship with its South Asian neighbors.”
It conveniently quotes some ‘experts’ who attended the Sixth International Forum on Tibetan Studies in Beijing.
Note that it has never been difficult for Beijing to find ‘experts’.
The article explains:
Sandwiched between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Tibet plays a significant role in connecting both initiatives, making it an ideal place for cultures to meet.
This surprising statement comes at a time when not only the Chinese ‘transgress’ into Indian territory in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, but also adamantly refuse to reopen the main traditional route leading to the Kailash-Manasarovar, namely the Demchok-Tashigang route between Ladakh and Tibet.
Blissfully ignorant ‘experts’ like Lai Shanglong, chief economic commissioner of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs affirms:
With its beautiful thangka (Buddhist-themed paintings on cloth) and unique clothing, Tibetan culture is very attractive in the Himalayan region. Its influence can radiate through mountains and connect with other South Asian countries.
The Buddhist culture did not wait for Mr Lai to radiate in the Indian side of the Himalaya.
Mr Lai should visit the Tawang monastery, village gompas in Ladakh, Spiti or Kinnaur? Or Sikkim and Bhutan. He will realize the Buddhist culture flourishes on the Southern slopes of the Himalaya too.
The China Daily article remarks that in June [2015], “China opened a new land route along Himalayan Nathu La Pass for Indian pilgrims to visit the holy sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in Tibet, considered sacred by Hindus and Buddhists. The initiative was universally hailed.”
It may have been universally hailed in China, but not in India: the Nathu-la route is several times longer than the traditional route in Ladakh (via Demchok).
Why are the Chinese so quiet about the demand from the people in Ladakh to reopen the old caravan road?
It is a mystery.
After all, for centuries it has been the main (and the easiest) route to the Holy Mountain.
One of the reasons could be the proximity of the National Highway 219, infamously known as the Aksai Chin road, cutting across the Indian territory in Northern Ladakh.
Mr Lai, with his poor knowledge of the region, amazingly argues:
if China expanded its humanitarian aid projects in Tibet to other South Asian countries - providing practical services such as teaching, repairing buildings and medical treatment - that initiative would also earn praise. …This would strengthen goodwill toward China in South Asian communities, improve China's image and increase support from neighboring countries.
He does not mention Demchok nor Shipki-la or Mana-la (Uttarakhand) routes?
Let us not forget that when the government of Himachal Pradesh appealed to Delhi to make Shipki-la one of the routes to the Kailash, it was immediately blocked by China.
Liu Zhifu, director of the South Asia Research Institute at Xizang Minzu University told the Beijing Forum that “trade routes have facilitated economic and cultural interaction for centuries”.
It is true, but just look at the map of the scheme One Belt One Road.
One notices that China is ready to open new routes or corridors, but only with its friends (Pakistan, i.e. the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Nepal in Zham and Kyirong).
Liu Zhifu added that the Belt and Road Initiative “is breathing new life into Purang (trijunction Tibet-Nepal-India), Kyirong, Zham and other ports.”
This 'new life' will only help accelerate the process of the integration of Nepal in the Middle Kingdom.
Di Fangyao, executive deputy director of the Institute commented: “It's high time that Tibet increase its exports of locally produced goods”; he complained that the trade market in Yatung opens only for only six months “before the harsh winter sets in”.
It is perhaps true, but China is not sincere in its approach.
It should first reopen Demchok.
Let us hope that Ms Swaraj will ask her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, when he visits Delhi Next week: why are you so adamant to let the people and goods flow again over the Himalaya. Let the devotees wanting to visit the abode of Lord Shiva use the easiest road: Demchok or Shipki-la.
Pilgrims and traders, instead of using a long and tortuous route, could take the Ladakh or Shipki-la routes as it was done for centuries.
Incidentally, China still claims Demchok as theirs.
It would be interesting to refer the case of Demchok to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
What right does have Beijing to claim Demchok?
For centuries it has been part of the kingdom of Ladakh and remains so after the Himalayan region was integrated  into the Dogra State during the 19th century.
China was nowhere to be seen.
Like in the South China Sea and other places at the periphery of the Middle Kingdom, it is an invented claim without historical basis.
Is it this that Beijing does not want to admit?
Otherwise, why this double speak?