Sunday, October 23, 2016

Steering Asia to stability

My review of Dr Monika Chansoria's book, Steering Asia to stability, China, Japan, and Senkaku Islands appeared in The Sunday Pioneer.

China, Japan, and Senkaku Islands:
Conflict in the East China Sea Amid and American Shadow 

by Dr Monika Chansoria
KW Publishers Pvt Ltd., New Delhi
ISB 978-93-83649-99-0
Price RS.980

This book is detailed, precise, legally well-researched. The author’s general principles can apply to any of China’s territorial claims. It’s perhaps high time for India to prepare such studies for its border with China from Ladakh to Arunachal, writes CLAUDE ARPI

This book, written by Dr Monika Chansoria, a Senior Fellow at the prestigious Centre for Land Warfare Studies, is timely for several reasons, but first and foremost because it describes the way Beijing conducts ‘diplomacy’ in its extended neighbourhood.

Chansoria writes: “Changing the territorial status quo has been the unfinished business of the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949, when it set out to forcibly absorb the sprawling Xinjiang and Tibetan plateau - actions that increased the landmass of China by 44 per cent.”
The scholarly author continues: “Underlining the fact that China does not apply the rule of law at home, its ingenious principle to covet neighbours' territories is: ‘what IS ours is ours and what is yours is negotiable’.”
India has been at the receiving end of China’s irredentism since Independence.
Chansoria quotes Maj Gen Zhang Zhaozhong of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), who mentions the ‘cabbabe’ strategy; it involves “asserting a claim, launching furtive incursions into the coveted territory, and erecting - one at a time - cabbage-style multiple layers of security around a contested area so as deny access to a rival.”
In other words, you grab what you want or what you need for your security, cover it with a few ‘security layers’ and then offer ‘friendly’ discussions to the opposite party.
The Chinese-speaking scholar continues: “The strategy bears all the hallmarks of modern Chinese brinkmanship, including reliance on stealth, surprise and a disregard for the risks of military escalation and seeks to ensure that the initiative remains with China.”
Similar tactics were used during the negotiations with India for the Panchsheel agreement in 1954; at that time China had just started building a road in the Aksai Chin.
This book is relevant because it is crucial for Indian strategists to understand the pattern used by Beijing, one could call it ‘grabbing with Chinese characteristics’: “construct a dispute, initiate a jurisdictional claim through periodic incursions, and then increase the frequency and duration of such intrusions, thereby establishing a military presence or pressuring a rival to cut a deal on China's terms.”
China is always one stage in advance on its opponent, which is often kept off balance. This is not only the story of the Senkaku Islands, but also the ‘rocks’ in the South China Sea, the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh or the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand (incursions are mildly called ‘transgressions’ by the shy Indian politicians). Beijing invariably follows the same pattern, if there is no resistance, no opposition, it continues to advance, till it is stopped by force at the risk of a conflict.
One could also cite the example of Tawang and other areas Arunachal Pradesh where historically the Tibetan ‘influence’ has never been more than ten percent of the landmass of the State, but which is today claimed by China as South Tibet in his entirity.
Unfortunately for Beijing, in the present case, the Japanese are not ready to be bullied.
Chansoria starts her study by the ‘Genesis of dispute in the East China Sea”. The fact that the author calls the Island in dispute as ‘Senkaku’, the Japanese name, shows which side of the dispute she stands.
China calls the Islands, Diaoyu (‘fishing platform’").
Chansoria however highlights the complexity of the issue: “The dispute over sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is structured around economic interests, domestic political compulsions, issues surrounding national identity and allegiance, requirements of international law and the long-standing baggage of historical grievances.”
The eight uninhabited islands, located in the East China Sea, northeast of Taiwan, east of the Chinese mainland and southwest of Japan's southernmost Okinawa prefecture, might be small, but are the object of a bitter quarrel which could explode anytime. The five volcanic islands and three rocky outcroppings have a total land area of only 6.32 sq km.
On January 14, 1895, the Japanese Cabinet had passed a formal Resolution incorporating the Senkaku Islands into its territory. Japan argued that before 1895, the islands were terra nullius (i.e. territory claimed by no nation). The Islands were placed under the jurisdiction of Okinawa Prefecture. This is the foundation of Japan’s legal basis for asserting its claim over the islands.
In May 1895, Japan and the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki ending the Sino-Japanese war. Under the agreement, (considered today by China an ‘unequal treaty’), China ceded Taiwan/Formosa to Japan “together with all the islets appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa.” The Treaty did not specifically mention the Senkakus.
Today Beijing and Taipei argue that after World War II, the Allied declarations at Cairo and Potsdam restored to China territories taken through military aggression by the Japanese, and thus the islets should have been returned to China.
In October 1945, Japan relinquished authority over all territories seized or occupied (such as Manchuria, Formosa and the Pescadores), but in no agreement were the Islands of Senkakus mentioned; by default it remained part of Okinawa prefecture. Of course, China does not agree to this reading.
Chansoria goes into depth into the International Law, Legal Provisions and Conventions; the Resurgence of National in China and Japan (an important factor of the dispute), but also the Oil, Gas and Economics of the Conflict, (which understandably exacerbate the lust of the opponent and harden the respective positions) and finally the China-Japan-America Triangle (which makes any peacemakers lose faith in any possible negotiated solution).
Her last Chapter is on ‘Reigniting a Quiescent Volcano’.
Her conclusion points to the need “to steer Asia towards a regional order that maintains stability in the power equilibrium, thereby challenging a visibly coercive Sino-centric vision of the future Asia, especially within the Indo-Pacific.”
It is easier said than done, but the Modi government has taken many steps in this direction by establishing closer links with Japan, Vietnam or Australia.
The work of Chansoria is detailed, precise, legally well-researched.
The general principles described by the author can apply to any of China’s territorial claims.
It is perhaps high time for India to prepare such studies for its border with China from Ladakh to Arunachal. It may one day be usueful.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Kashmir is Indian. Is Tibet really Chinese?

Let the Tibetan and Chinese flags fly over Lhasa
My article Kashmir is Indian. Is Tibet really Chinese? appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...
Comrades in the Middle Kingdom must learn from their history and be prepared. New Delhi can be ‘neutral' but also side with the Tibetans, especially if Beijing continues to side with Pakistan’s terrorist activities
In April 2015, President Xi Jinping paid his first State visit to Pakistan.
The friendship between the two nations was ‘higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel,” said the billboards in Chinese and English in Islamabad.
The Washington Post remarked: “Xi arrived in Islamabad bearing real gifts: an eye-popping $46 billion worth of planned energy and infrastructure investment to boost Pakistan's flagging economy.”
It sounded like a Chinese Dream for Islamabad!
Beijing had decided to open a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which would link up Xi’s pet project, the two New Silks Roads (also known as ‘One Belt, One Road’); through the Karakoram Highway, the Chinese-sponsored port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea would connect to the Xinjiang province in China’s Far West and Central Asia …and later Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The ‘corridor’ would have railways, roads, optical fiber cables, dams (to produce the necessary electricity), pipelines!
Pakistan was China’s perfect docile ‘partner’; it was geographically ideally positioned with an access to the sea in the South and to Central Asia in the North.
It was of course before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s August 15 speech. From the ramparts of the Red Fort, he asserted: “The people of Balochistan, the people of Gilgit, the people of POK have thanked me in such a manner, from places that I have never been and never had a chance to meet, they have sent wishes to the people of India and thanked us... I am grateful to them.”
During the previous weeks, Pakistan had been trying hard to bring the Kashmir issue on the world scene, by sponsoring an uprising in the Valley.
Now China realizes that their CPEC project might not go as smoothly as planned.
In less than a week, Beijing had twice to deny Islamabad’s claim that it backed Pakistan’s views on Kashmir. Beijing even asked India and Pakistan “to engage in dialogue to properly resolve disputes, including the Kashmir left over from history.”
The Pakistani press had earlier reported that Yu Boren, the Chinese Consul General in Lahore had said: “In case of any [foreign] aggression our country will extend its full support to Pakistan.” Yu had apparently stated that “the aspirations of the Kashmiris’ should be taken into account in resolving the Kashmir issue”.
Clearly, Beijing does not know how to react to the new situation.
Several Chinese experts claimed there was "no evidence to prove Pakistan is behind the Uri attack" and that “irrational decisions [from Delhi’s side] would complicate India's relations with Pakistan.”
When Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced that the 3,323 km Indo-Pakistan border would be completely sealed by December 2018, Hu Zhiyong, a scholar at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences told India Today: “[India’s] decision reflects its Cold War mentality, and would only cause deeper hatred among residents living in Indian and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.”
In the meantime, Beijing remains opposed to India’s entry in the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and is not moving an inch towards supporting Delhi on the listing of Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief as a ‘terrorist’ in the UN.
In these circumstances, it would be good to remind China of the case of Tibet. While Beijing regularly threatens Delhi that if the activities of the Tibetan refugees are not roped in by Delhi, despite its declared ‘neutral’ stance, China itself fully sides with Pakistan on Kashmir.
Delhi could also be ‘neutral’ but side with the Tibetans.
In 2012, when Beijing began issuing stapled visas for Kashmir residents, China wanted to make a point: Beijing does not recognize J&K as an integral part of India. A visa was denied to Lt Gen BS Jaswal, Northern Command boss, to attend a preplanned defense meeting in Beijing. The Chinese Embassy stated that the General was serving in the ‘sensitive location of Jammu and Kashmir’ and ‘people from this part of the world come with a different kind of visa’.
If Beijing continues to play with the ‘Kashmir’ issue, Delhi could easily play the Tibet card.
Four years ago, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha stated during the Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha that China has been carrying out the 'grossest' violations of human rights in Tibet over the last 60 years. The former External Affairs Minister said that Tibetans were disturbed by "excessive use of military force, religious restrictions, disappearances and detentions, removal of nomads and degradation of ecological system in the region under Chinese rule."
Take Article 370 of the Indian Constitution; India could ask for a similar clause to be applied to Tibet; the Tibetan issue, according to the aspiration of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, would be solved.
Article 370 mentions that except for Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Communications, the Indian Parliament needs the State Government's concurrence for applying most of the other laws.
Today a citizen of J&K lives under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights.
When the Dalai Lama asks for 'genuine' autonomy for Tibet, he does not ask for more than that. Can you imagine Tibet with its own Constitution?
J&K has its own flag, Tibet had its own flag too.
Dharamsala would be delighted.
Further in J&K, Indian citizens from other States cannot purchase land or property, can you imagine the consequences of a similar clause for Tibet?
If people from Han nationality were not allowed to acquire properties on the Roof of the World or start business ventures in Lhasa or other large cities (in Nyingchi prefecture, north of the McMahon Line in particular), tensions and resentment would immediately diminish greatly.
People of J&K have their own 'citizenship' in the form of a State-subjectship with its own privileges; for example, a non-State-subject can't study in a university in Kashmir.
Imagine Tibet with its own Legislative Assembly or local Parliament (not a fake one as today in Tibet, but an elected one) …and federal laws from Beijing would have to be ratified by elected legislators in Lhasa!
One need to remember however that there are basic differences between Tibet and Kashmir. Tibet has for centuries managed its own affairs, Tibet was an independent State before 1950 with Representatives of India, Nepal, Bhutan and China operating from Lhasa.
Kashmir has always been part of the Indian subcontinent and Kashmiriyat remains an important aspect of Indian civilization. It is not the case of Tibet, where the language, script, religion and culture have their own identity, entirely different from the Chinese.
The comrades in Beijing should learn their history and be prepared for Delhi raising sooner or later the Tibetan issue, especially if Beijing continues to side with the terrorist activities of its ‘all-weather friend’.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The most remote Indian village on the Indo-Tibet border

On the way to Taksing
I am posting below an telling email received from the most remote Indian village on the Indo-Tibet border.
I have repeatedly mentioned on this blog the difficulty to connect the last village of Taksing in Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of the country (see a Road to the Border).
Hiwak Chader, who lives in Taksing, explains the difficult situation:
It has been 69 years India attained her Independence, being a citizen of this great country I feel extremely proud to be an Indian. During these 69 years our country has made tremendous progress in the field of science and technologies ; we also joined the elite club of few selected country to be achieved a fate of sending the mission to mars which raise our stature in international level. On the other hand, people of Taksing Village under Upper Subansiri district is deprived of all those developmental activities, still local peoples have to resort tiresome and risky four day trek to reach nearest motorable road. Recently one young person Shri Talok Chader has lost his life in an unfortunate incident of landslide en route to Taksing causing great lose to bereave family member.
I don’t know whom to blame for premature death of young life, weather to the state government or to central government.
We have been sentinel of the country since time immortal but in return what we are get, underdevelopment and apathy attitude of the government (Union and state government).
It is pertinent to be mentioned that Taksing is a frontier village which locate at advance position than defence agencies near Indo-China border. When there is disruption in transportation, electricity and communication in capital complex for a single day, the people get irritate like anything, just think about the magnitude of hardship which dwellers of Taksing renders in a so called 21st century.
The well connected road will not only bring benefit to local populace but also bring immense relief to defence agencies particularly in the mobilization of its personnel and defence related equipment. The well connected road will also improve war preparedness in our side and also reduce high aerial transportation cost incurring by the defense agencies. Another aspect of well connect road will is that, rural people can sell their agriculture product in Daporijo town and in return can fetch good source of income.
Taksing has bumper production of different varieties of vegetable and fruits, which can easily feed entire population of Upper Subansiri district at least for one session. However in absence of road product perishes.
Despite of all those negligence from our popular representative government, we have hope, a hope that inspires us to dream to have well connected road, a dream of prosperity and a dream of better future.
Few point I would like to suggest to the government (both state and central) for early contraction of road to this frontier village:
  1. Establish one GREF camp at Dojbong area along with modern machines.
  2. Enhance the salary of labour who is working in these hostile environment.
Last but not least our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has made a promised that by 2019 all villages of the country will have well connected road. We are hoping that our village will not deprive of his promises.

It is difficult to put the entire blame on an individual, a particular agency or a government.
One of the factors was Jawaharlal Nehru’s romantic views on the border.
He believed in the ‘noble savage’ described by French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man.”
About the inhabitants of the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), the first Prime Minister of India wrote: “I am not at all sure which is the better way of living, the tribal or our own. In some respects I am quite certain theirs is better. Therefore, it is grossly presumptuous on our part to approach them with an air of superiority.”
Verrier Elwin, the British-naturalized anthropologist, who served as Tribal Advisor to the Governor of Assam, could only see the anthropological side of the issue, forgetting the strategic as well the economic aspects of the border development; it resulted in a huge development gap between the frontier areas and the rest of India, which became critical after Tibet’s invasion in 1950, more particularly when China attacked India in October 1962; as a result, the country was not ready to give Mao’s troops a befitting response.

Difficult Terrain
It is a fact that the terrain is very difficult as mentioned in my earlier post.
Recently, the Director General Border Roads (DGBR) Lt Gen Suresh Sharma concluded a five day visit to Arunachal Pradesh; he visited Upper Subansiri district from September 28 to 30.
According to a press released: “[Gen Sharma] reviewed [the] progress on all important strategic roads in Tawang sector and in Subansari valley. He also inspected the Bailey Bridge at Genensiniak [near the confluence of the Tsari chu and Subansiri chu], which is an extremely difficult launch [sic] and the first single span Bailey Bridge over Subansari River. He informed all concerned that the Ministry of Defence is considering higher budget and special powers for construction of these strategic roads. BRO is working under extremely difficult constraints including terrain and weather.”
Another communiqué says: “Completion of these roads would not only facilitate in a tremendous improvement of defence preparedness, but also contribute immensely to the launch of large number of HEP [Hydropower Plant] projects planned over River Subansiri with huge financial outlay, which would ensure development, and prosperity of the state.”
These HEPs may not be a blessing for the area but this is another issue.
The Assam Sentinel also mentioned the visit: “Since the Project’s Area of Arunank [which covers Upper Subansiri, Lower Subansiri, Kurung Kumey, Kra Dadi and Papumpare districts] is very vast and roads are underdeveloped, all movements of the DGBR were planned by air. However, due to inclement weather conditions the aerial movements were adversely affected.”
Finally, the DGBR travelled by road from Naharlagun (HQ of the Arunank project) to Ziro, and then to Daporijo, the district HQ: “A small window of opportunity, supported by a quick response from the Air Force facilitated an air lift from Daporijo to Limeking on September 29.”

At Limeking, the official inspected the Bailey bridge “launched by BRO at Gelensiniak across the mighty Subansiri River.” The bridge is the first one constructed on the Subansiri: “After inspection of the bridge construction, the DGBR was driven up to TCC [Tame Chung Chung] where he was briefed about the critical roads from the vantage point which presented a clear view of both Subansiri as well as Tsari Chu valleys.”
The general spent the night at Limeking where “the remotest detachment of BRO is connected by road.”
Gen Sharma did not make it to Taksing, still 4 days away by road.
On September 30, as flights were cancelled due to bad weather, the DGBR had to undertake the journey from Limeking to Daporijo by road; it took seven hours. From Daporijo he could finally fly to Guwahati by choper.
This illustrates the difficulty of the terrain.
The Sentinel adds: “The morale of BRO personnel has indeed received a tremendous boost by DGBR’s visit which would definitely go a long way in timely achievement of the targets.”
What to say?
Let us not forget that 2016 is the Monkey-Fire Year in the Tibetan calendar.
For centuries, every twelve years the area witnessed the Tsari Pilgrimage during that year. In Tibet and on the borders, Tsari has always been synonymous of ‘sacred area’. With the Mount Kailash and the Amye Machen in eastern Tibet, the pilgrimage around the Dakpa Sheri, the ‘Pure Crystal Mountain’ has been one of the holiest of the Himalayan World.
Pilgrims used to cross into Indian territory at Migytun, walked down the Tsari chu (river) and then follow the Subansiri upstream till Taksing before re-entering into Tibet.
One can only hope that the Monkey-Fire Year will see good progresses for the road, first and foremost for the local population, but everything makes it difficult, the terrain, the weather, the rock, the environment, the government’s procedures…
It is however doubtful if the Prime Minister’s promise to collect each and every Indian village can be fulfill in this case.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Xi Jinping and the return of Mao

As President Xi Jinxing arrives in India for the BRICS Summit in Goa, weird information has recently come from China about the revival of the cult of Mao Zedong. It is usually linked to democracy and the role of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the Middle Kingdom.
For Beijing, democracy is not a good system.
Watching the US presidential campaign makes you wonder if the Communist leadership does not have a point.
In July 2014, an article published in The Qiushi, the organ of the CPC’s Central Committee, termed Western democracy as ‘chaotic’.
The article expounded: “The West, in particular the U.S., emerged as the triumphant side in the post-Cold War world and then promoted the so-called Third Wave of ‘Democratization’ in the world. Some twenty years later, the records of the democracies that the U.S. exported are totally lackluster.”
It quoted The Economist which asked, "What’s gone wrong with democracy?" The London’s publication provided the answer: "Democracy’s global advance has come to a halt, and may even have gone into reverse."
For The Qiushi, “in west democracy it has become a norm to canvass for votes through the use of illegal bribes. …The ultimate goal of political parties is to court votes. …To win more votes, they would do their best to cater to voters in elections, which lead to illegal bribes for votes as a norm.”
A second argument is added “as the U.S. Democratic and Republican Parties are tit-for-tat in the budget battle, resulting in delays in passing the budget act, and the federal government has to close down its non-core departments.”
The piece asserted that money is mother’s milk for ‘the game of democracy’: “The West has always preached that Western capitalist democracy is sacred and equal, and that the process is fair. In fact, money, business, media and vested interests groups often manipulate Western-style democracy.”
And it goes on like this.
Watching a debate between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton or listening to a speech of President Rodrigo Duterte makes one feel that the Chinese may be right about ‘democracy’.
But is the authoritarian Chinese system really better?
The answer is ‘no’, it is worse.
In China, the power struggle is more accentuated and there is no corrective remedy such as the next elections in the West (or India). Further, the so-called intraparty elections are not free from corruption.
Recently 45 deputies from Liaoning province were thrown out after several candidates were found to have paid a bribe to get elected in the local assembly (and then to the National People’s Congress).
The South China Morning Post reported: “The expulsion of dozens of National People’s Congress [NPC] deputies from Liaoning province was triggered by the lower-level, provincial legislature’s rejection three years ago of NPC candidates recommended by Beijing.”
The Hong Kong newspaper speaks of “unprecedented, large-scale vote rigging in the Liaoning People’s Congress in 2013 [which] saw NPC candidates favoured by the party leadership fail to win election,” it added: “The scale of the scandal, which saw the party’s preferred candidates lose out to ones backed by bribe-paying business chiefs, had alarmed the party leadership, and if not addressed had threatened to undermine party general secretary Xi Jinping’s game plan for the party’s national congress late next year.”
A pro-mainland Hong Kong newspaper Sing Pao published a surprising commentary implicating Zhang Dejiang, the NPC’s Chairman (and No 3 in the Party’s hierarchy) as responsible for the Liaoning election bribery case. The commentary pointed out that Zhang Dejiang, being under former President Jiang Zemin’s ‘protection umbrella’, does not have “to face the consequences for his failures.”
The Hong Kong media also reported that the combined wealth of China’s 70 richest NPC deputies is more than that of all 535 members of the United States Congress, plus the US president and members of his cabinet.
China can’t really throw stones at the West.
In this context it is interesting to looks at the revival of the Cult of Chairman Mao, which seems to attract the masses.
Early this year in Henan province, some overzealous villagers and businessmen erected a statue of Mao. It was over 36 meters tall, painted gold; The People’s Daily Online said that it cost nearly half a billion dollars (it must have been rich villagers!).
The statue was to commemorate the Great Helmsman’s life.
As often, the social media mocked the giant statue, especially as the Henan province was one of the worse sufferers during the Great Leap Forward during which tens of millions of Chinese died due to Mao’s follies.
A few weeks later, the statue of Mao Zedong was demolished, showing the contradictions within the Chinese society and the Party.
According to London-based The Daily Mail: “the rise and fall of the Mao monument in central China's rural Henan province highlights the political sensitivities in the country surrounding a historical figure alternatively revered and criticized by both the public and the government.”
The People's Daily bluntly noted that the statue “may have lacked approval from cultural management authorities, though it also cited an official as saying that did not appear to be the reason.”
Nobody was ready to comment further.
Earlier, The Global Times had mentioned the construction of the statue, but had commented: “Building Mao temples is not encouraged by the central government or local authorities"
The same Global Times reported that Mao worship is becoming increasingly common in rural China, and ardent Mao followers are pushing for December 26, his birthday, to become a public festival.
Amazingly, replicas of mangoes distributed by Mao are given as rewards to loyal workers: “they’re traded at a few hundred dollars. Original Mao badges are prized possessions of some collectors,” says The Daily Beast in a long piece on the former Chinese leader.
The New York-based publication gives another example, the melting of a 50-kilo solid gold Mao: “It was unveiled at a Shenzhen art exhibition in December 2013, meant to commemorate the man’s 120th birthday. Producing the piece required eight months of work by over 20 artists who shaped gold, carved jade, and set precious stones. In all, the statue cost over $15 million.”
The Wall Street Journal explains: “In the west, Mao is understood chiefly as China’s ‘Red Emperor’ — a vicious dictator who fostered an extreme personality cult, launched the disastrous Cultural Revolution and masterminded a ‘Great Leap Forward’ that resulted in the worst famine in history. Experts estimate that Mao was responsible for between 40 million and 70 million deaths in peacetime — more than Hitler and Stalin combined. While Hitler and Stalin were repudiated, it is not the case for Mao.

Will Mao return?
However, Mao may not stage a comeback on China’s political stage for one reason.
Xi Jinping has not forgotten the fate of his father, China’s Vice-Premier Xi Zhongxun.
In the Fall of 1962, during the Tenth Plenum of the 8th Party’s Congress, Mao violently attacked Xi Sr, accusing him of supporting the rehabilitation of Gao Gang, a Communist Party leader who has been purged in 1949. Machiavellian Kang Sheng led the charge; he announced that Xi Sr. had been investigated for his ‘anti-party activities’.
Dr. Li Zhuixi, Mao’s personal physician later wrote: “Kang Sheng's investigations implicated more than three hundred cadres from the party, government, and military.” This included Xi Zhongxun.
Dr. Li continued: “I knew Xi Zhongxun well, and the charges against him and his supporters were fabricated. But Kang Sheng's job was to depose and destroy his fellow party members, and his continuing ‘investigations’ of ranking party leaders in the early 1960s laid the groundwork for the attacks of the Cultural Revolution to come.”
Subsequently, Xi Jinping’s father disappeared from public view for 16 years. When Xi Sr. was ignominiously purged, the future President was just 9 year old. Such a trauma for a kid!
Xi Jr. knows that his father’s main ‘crime’ was to have been associated with Marshal Peng Dehuai, the courageous solitary critic of Mao during the Great Leap Forward.
Xi may today use some of the Great Helmsman’s slogans, but will never rehabilitate him. The return of Mao’s cult is nevertheless rather worrying at a time China is struggling to become a ‘normal’ State. It simply shows that China is searching for a role model, which the Party is unable to provide.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The future of Ladakh

Already they wanted a special status (Bakula Rinpoche on the right)
My article The future of Ladakh appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle.

Here is the link...

Making Ladakh a Union Territory would not only help ‘localise’ the Kashmir issue to the Valley, it would also provide a better administration to the mountainous region, streamline the security and send a message to China: ‘India cares for Ladakh’.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh paid a belated two-day visit to Ladakh after last month’s much-publicised all-party delegation’s trip to Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakh had been forgotten in that programme.
While in Srinagar in September, Mr Singh remarked that the delegation’s talks with the various sections in J&K have been fruitful. Various sections but minus Ladakhis! The neglect of Ladakh is not new.
In April 1952, Sonam Wangyal, a resident of Leh wrote to the Indian Prime Minister: “When Kargil fell to Pakistan, (in 1947) the Muslims of Padam (Zanskar) anticipating the entry of an Indian force from Lahoul made it their first business to invite Pakistan troops from Kargil. In this they succeeded… the Buddhist suffered during the occupation of their land by Pakistan, how their Gumpas (monasteries) were looted and desecrated, their women outraged, their men slaughtered and their houses rifted is common knowledge.”
Hundreds of Ladakhis eventually fled to Kulu, “large percentage of them perished during their fugitive wanderings.”
At that time, some elements in the local police are said to have sided with the invaders. Wangyal’s letter requested Nehru to send some relief to the suffering population through Kushok Bakola, Ladakh’s head lama: “May we hope that the excesses of the police will be duly inquired into and that this force will, in any case be withdrawn and replaced, if necessary by an Indian military picket.”
On April 29, 1952, Bakula himself wrote to Nehru about Ladakh “associating itself more closely with India”; the Prime Minister answered that “it is not feasible for a variety of reasons among them being the fact that the whole question of Kashmir is before the United Nations.”
That was 64 years ago.
Nehru’s secretary later wrote: “Prime Minister asked me to inform you that there is no reason for any apprehension on your part in regard to Ladakh or Kashmir as a whole.”
When he visited Leh, Mr Singh was presented with a unanimous demand: Provide Ladakh with Union Territory status; the home minister could only say that he had listened to the people, but a decision would only be taken on the basis of consensus.
In other words, it will never happen.
The answer had already come; the PDP, an ally of the BJP, had expelled Tashi Gyalson, its Leh district chief, from its basic membership for signing a memorandum demanding Union Territory status. The PDP said that under no circumstances would it endorse a move aimed at dividing the state. Full stop.
The trifurcation of Jammu, Ladakh and the Valley could certainly help make Ladakh more self-reliant.
A resolution passed earlier by the All Religious Joint Action Committee (ARJAC) of Ladakh remarks that since Independence, the mountainous region has always kept a special strong bond with the Union of India.
The ARJAC memorandum explains that Ladakh was once independent: “(It) 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 notes: “Ladakh is fundamentally different from Kashmir in all respects — culturally, ethnically and linguistically… 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 to conquer our land in 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars.”
The memorandum concludes: “Our humble submission is that we are neither the problem nor part of any problem involving the state. Rather we are the solution…Our commitment to patriotism is firm and unequivocal… We shall never fail the nation.”
The 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, India’s largest district, has “disputed” borders with two belligerent neighbours, it is administrated by a very junior officer.
The present District Commissioner (DC) 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 with a chief secretary rank officer 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 some 38 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 Centre 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.
Making Ladakh a Union Territory would not only help “localise” the Kashmir issue to the Valley, but it would provide a better administration to the mountainous region, streamline the security of the area and send a strong message to China: “India cares for Ladakh”.
One of the main problems is the lack of knowledge about the region, particularly the issues faced by defence forces in the region.
Steps have been taken by the Northern Command to remedy this.
A media workshop for journalists was recently conducted by the Fire & Fury Corps (14 Corps) at Leh; according to a press release: “The aim of the workshop was to expose the media persons to the dynamics of military operations in Ladakh to enable objective reporting by them.”
Lt. Gen. P.J.S. Pannu, who commands 14 Corps, highlighted the importance of Ladakh region and hoped that the training workshop would enable the media persons to develop a better understanding of the difficulties faced by the soldiers. It is crucial.
To be fair, the Modi government has recently started to work on an ambitious plan to link Leh-Ladakh with a railway network.
The government has handed over the responsibility of the survey work for Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh railway line to the Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES). Delhi has already released `40 crore out of the total `157 crore allotted for the survey work). The cost of construction of the 498-km railway line has been estimated at `50,000 crore.
The government is also planning to connect Leh with Srinagar. The railway line should cross the Zoji La pass (in a tunnel) and reach Kargil before heading towards Leh.
This is a first step, but unless the administration is upgraded to a much higher level, resentment among the local population will remain, which is not healthy.

Monday, October 10, 2016

China loves Tibet: an unacknowledged victory for the Dalai Lama?

There was a time when the Chinese considered Tibet the most backward, uncultured part of the Middle Kingdom, mainly inhabited by barbarians.
This is not the case anymore and this has important implications for the Tibetan ‘freedom struggle’.
China Tibet News published today some statistics: “during the seven-day National Day holiday, Tibet received 1.03 million tourists, up 18 percent from the previous year. The visitors brought 490 million yuan (about 73.28 million U.S. dollars) in tourism revenue, a year-on-year increase of 20.7 percent.”
The website affiliated to Xinhua remarks: “Traveling to Tibet is a dream for many people. Picturesque scenery and rich human landscape in Tibet attract a large number of tourists every year. Since the beginning of 2016, thanks to the improvement of tourism service standardization, tourism service covering eating, accommodation, traffic, traveling, shopping and entertainment has been enhanced. It provides a comfortable traveling environment for tourists from both home and abroad.”
The old soldiers of the 18th Army who entered (invaded) Central Tibet in the Fall of 1951 would not believe their ears (and eyes).
China Tibet Online adds: “According to tourism authorities, in addition to traditional group tour, one-day tour in Lhasa, one-day tour in suburbs and other excursions are also very popular among tourists. Self-driving tour and cycling tour are highlights in Tibet's tourism market during the National Day holiday. Most tourists having made a travel plan ahead of time intend to enjoy the entertainment with distinctive culture and buy unique tourism products.”
Tibet a 'unique' product.

Are the figures right?
Incidentally, The Washington Post does not believe these figures. Its correspondent met with some tourism officials in Tibet who told him: “The numbers actually reflect the number of person/visits. In other words, if someone visits three places in Tibet, such as Lhasa, Shigatse and Nyingchi, they will be counted three times.”
Wang Songping, a deputy director in the Tibet Tourism Development Commission admitted that all the places that a tourist went and spent money are being counted.
Some officials explained the trick (it was later denied), they multiply the number of arrivals to Lhasa by a factor of 2.7 or 2.8, calculating ‘an average probability’ to account for the fact that most people visit two or three places.
It was how the bumper harvest was 'counted' during the Great Leap Forward, when tens of millions died of starvation.

China is crazy of Tibet
Whatever the correct number of visitors is, the fact remains that Tibet has becoming a craze for the Hans of the Mainland …and this relatively new.
This could have important implications for the future of Tibet.
According to an oped in The China Daily: “Tibetan culture has always been a dazzling pearl in the treasure trove of world civilization. Profound and extensive, it mirrors the characteristics of the ethnic groups, traces the Tibetans' pursuit of modern civilization and reflects the fact that the Tibet autonomous region is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”
No barbarians any longer.
The Communist newspaper asks to give a definition for Tibetan culture and immediately answers: “For most, Tibetan culture can be simplified to some familiar scenarios - monasteries and temples, Buddhist monks and nuns, the Living Buddha of legendary stories and lyrical nomadic life on the pasture.”

Tibet's culture is far richer
The unnamed writer (who is said the director of the Modern Institute of China Tibetology Research Center) argues that Tibetan culture: “is far richer than that Tibetan architecture and arts such as sculpture, painting, decoration and handicrafts, as well as music, dance, drama, spoken and written language, literature in written form, folk literature, medicine and pharmacology, astronomy and the calendar have all been enriched and reached very high levels.”
The author gives a historical background: “Tibetan culture, derived from its ethnic groups and regional cultures, is both traditional and modern, religious and worldly, indigenous and exotic. It is vibrant and living, outlining the changes and development of Tibet from ancient to modern times.”
He notes: “During the reign of Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century, Buddhism was introduced to the Tubo [Tibetan] people from the Central Plain of China, India and Nepal, and gradually developed into Tibetan Buddhism with its distinctive characteristics. At the same time, the Indian and Nepalese cultures of South Asia, the Persian and Arabic cultures of West Asia and especially the Han Chinese culture of the Central Plain had considerable influence on the development of Tibetan culture.”
He admits: “For a long time, some people have turned a deaf ear to these facts and have considered Tibetan culture immutable and frozen. They have equated Tibetan Buddhism with Tibetan culture and labelled Tibet an isolated place, primitive and backward, where people live a hard, weird life. Arguably, Tibetans of different ethnicities are the creators, inheritors and developers as well as major protectors of Tibetan culture."
Could have any Tibetans dreamed that the Chinese propaganda could speak that way about Tibet a few years ago.

Follow the Party Line
Of course, the author's conclusions follow the Party line: “Tibet is an internal affair of China and foreigners should not interfere.”
My only point is that even 20 years ago, one could not have imagined such writings which are ‘normal’ today.
It is perhaps a hidden unacknowledged victory for the Dalai Lama, who, for decades, has been promoting ‘Tibetan Culture’ across the world.
Is the live of the Tibetans better?
It is another issue that needs to be looked into.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Looking for a reincarnation?

Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese Panchen Lama near a high altitude lake in Tibet:
Looking for a reincarnation?
My article China ups the ante on Dalai Lama to avoid backlash of angry Tibetans appeared in The Daily Mail

Here is the link...

Soon after the 10th Panchen Lama passed away in Shigatse in January 1989, the Dalai Lama started performing pujas in order to locate the genuine reincarnation of the diseased Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
He clandestinely got in touch with the Chinese-appointed head of the Search Committee, Chatrel Rimpoche, who had twice consulted the Lhamoi Lhatso, the Lake of Vision in which signs are seen indicating the path to follow to discover the spirit of a departed lama.

On May 13, 1995, after performing a last divination, the Dalai Lama confirmed that a boy called Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was the correct incarnation; this was announced to the world the next day.
In January 1989, the Dalai Lama started performing pujas in order to locate genuine reincarnation of the diseased Panchen Lama
The worst thing for the Chinese psyche is to publicly lose face, and after the Dalai Lama’s announcement they definitively had.
The matter was immediately taken up at the highest level, with President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng personally taking charge of the ‘recognition’.
In no time, the party announced its candidate. Gyaltsen Norbu was chosen after a mock ‘Golden Urn’ ceremony organised by senior Communist Party cadres at Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa on November 29, 1995.
On December 8, Gyaltsen Norbu was ‘officially’ enthroned in the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse.
The ceremony had been kept secret by the party until the last moment for fear of a backlash from an angry Tibetan population.
Curfew was imposed in Shigatse, Lhasa and Chamdo, the three largest cities in Tibet while the boy was kept under protection.
Around the same time, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the Dalai Lama’s choice, was taken into custody.
He is still under house arrest, though the Chinese propaganda says that he is “growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed.”
China always thinks ahead. By imposing its candidate, Beijing knew it was preparing the future, i.e. the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama.
For the past 21 years, the Communist Party has assiduously been planning for this time.
On September 14, 2016, Gyaltsen Norbu visited a lake similar to the Lhamoi Lhatso.
The young lama walked around the Rinbung Yumtso lake “worshiping the sacred lake in Degyiling Township”, said Xinhua.
Gyaltsen Norbu, vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China and member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, has recently been propelled into a greater political role by Beijing.
In July, he performed the Kalachakra puja in Shigatse “attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees.”
The atheist Communist Party, which has apparently acquired a great knowledge in religious matters, asserted: “The Panchen Lama has become an accomplished Buddhist leader, who has given head-touching blessings to 1.5 million Buddhists.
Tibetan Buddhism devotees believe a Kalachakra initiation by a senior guru can extricate them from pains through the cycle of life."
Xinhua also noted: 'No such service has been done in Tibet in the past 50 years.'

The Global Times speculated that “these actions have been encouraged to counter the influence of the Dalai Lama and prepare for a post-Dalai Lama era.”
Xu Zhitao, a deputy director of the Party’s United Front Work Department, said Panchen Lama will progressively increase his public exposure: “As he grows up and shoulders more social positions, in addition to political and religious titles, he will get involved in more activities and generate more media coverage.”
As another sign of his growing political importance, Gyaltsen Norbu was in Lhasa to bid farewell to Chen Quanguo, the Tibet Communist Party boss, when the latter left for his new assignment in Xinjiang.
Later he spent two weeks in Nagchu as well as in Nyingchgi Prefecture “talking with officials and monks, and visiting temples, schools and a hospital.”

The Global Times compared the young lama to the Dalai Lama: “The 26- year-old 11th Panchen Lama has significantly increased his role in religious assemblies and social activities in past year."
"As the 81-year-old 14th Dalai Lama becomes less active on the world stage, the Panchen Lama is garnering greater popularity and building up his credibility among Buddhist believers.”
It is what Beijing hopes for.

Will he rebel?
But even in a unique party system, things are not simple. Rumors started that Gyalsten Norbu could rebel against the Communist leadership as his predecessor did in 1962.
In June 2015, Xinhua announced that President Xi Jinping ‘accepted an audience’ with Gyaltsen Norbu at Zhongnanhai in Beijing; the ‘audience’ seemed more a summon-cum-lecture.
“Why did Xi Jinping meet with the Panchen Lama just now?” asked a Chinese website. For Xinhua, the meeting was ‘very appropriate’ as it shows that the Party “has consistently given a high level of attention to Tibet.”
It also indicates, according to the news agency, “the great importance that the Central Committee attaches to the religious work.”
The Xi-Panchen encounter was attended by three other members of the Politburo (Yu Zhengsheng, Sun Chunlan and Li Zhanshu).
Why such a rare lineup?
Apparently Gyaltsen Norbu needed to be briefed.
Xi did most of the talking: “The Party has to be reassured that those who are supposed to represent the Party understand properly the stand of the Party.”
There is no doubt that in Beijing’s game plan, Gyaltsen Norbu is destined to play a central role, but will it be accepted by the Tibetans is another question and more importantly, will the young lama rebel against the Chinese yoke?
In the meantime, the Chinese propaganda machine plays fully the Gyaltsen Norbu card.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

To save CPEC, China must act on terrorism

My article To save CPEC, China must act on terrorism appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

For the time being, China has stood by Islamabad. But for how long can it do so? Can Beijing support terrorist activities of non-state actors in Pakistan? It cannot afford it. The price would be too high
China teaches its defence forces that, apart from conventional fighting, there are three warfares — psychological, legal and public opinion warfares, which needs to be judiciously used. Beijing has recently extensively used ‘public opinion’ to scare India.
For example, the Indian Press reported: “China has blocked the flow of an important tributary of Brahmaputra river to construct its most expensive dam in Tibet at a location very close to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.”
Though the announcement was linked to India’s decision to review the use of water under the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan, the proposed dam is far away from Arunachal Pradesh. An Indian agency admitted: “Xinhua article might be intended to only give India a scare…as diversion of Brahmaputra waters remains an emotive, volatile issue in India’s North-East.”
The fact that the Lalho project is located near Shigatse, several hundred kilometers from the border in Arunachal Pradesh and that the power station will have a relatively low generation capacity of 42 megawatts only, was ignored. On the environmental website, The Third Pole, a vigilant journalist rectified the Chinese ‘scare propaganda’; Joydeep Gupta wrote: “The unease in India is due to the fear that the project will reduce the flow of water in the Brahmaputra. …The far bigger problem with the Lalho project is that it will more or less dry up a long stretch of the Shiabu chu (river) in an area that is already suffering from rapid desertification.”
In other words, Tibet/China will suffer first. Another propaganda coup which worked was the appearance of China’s first stealth fighter, the J-20, in Daocheng Yading Airport in Gartse Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture; at 4,411 m above sea level, it is the world’s highest civilian airport.
The Indian Press reported, “China’s top secret stealth fighter spotted in Tibet days after it warned India”. The airport is not in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as stated by the Indian media, but in Sichuan Province.
The image of the stealth fighter, which appeared on Twitter and some Chinese defence websites a few days after India deployed the supersonic BrahMos missiles in the Himalaya, was a warning for India, though the image of the J-20 which shows the fighter covered with a tarpaulin, is not a proof that the plane can operate at such altitude. In any case, it can’t carry armament on the plateau. That was not the purpose, China just wanted to warn the Indian ‘public opinion’. It worked.
Apart from this, the Chinese reactions to Uri attack and India’s surgical strikes inside Pakistan have been rather cautious, though according to The Dawn: “China has assured Pakistan of its support in the event of any foreign aggression and also supported Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir dispute.”
The message was apparently conveyed during a meeting between with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and a senior Chinese diplomat. The Chinese Consul General of China in Lahore Yu Boren stated: “In case of any foreign aggression our country will extend its full support to Pakistan. We are and will be siding with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. There is no justification for atrocities on unarmed Kashmiris in India-held-Kashmir and the Kashmir dispute should be solved in accordance with aspirations of the Kashmiris.”
It is ironic that a nation which has never accepted a democratic process, can speak of the aspirations of the people. After the surgical strikes, Beijing has remained rather mum.
Let us remember for a moment the mega China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crucial element of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), the Chinese dream which could be a game-changer … if it happens.
The architects of CPEC plan to build a 2,700-kilometre corridor stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar, which will link Central Asia (via Xinjiang) to Europe and Africa (via the maritime route). Unfortunately, for China, the corridor crosses Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a plaque tournante for controlling Central Asia and Middle East. Observers marvelled at Beijing kindness (and wealth), though Chinese generosity may first and foremost benefit Beijing!
Now, suppose the project becomes ‘unstable’ due to terrorism (presently localised in Pakistan, but which can be easily exported to Xinjiang)? Add to this India’s military options, such as the recent Indian strikes, and the cost of the project will tremendously shoot up.  This does not amuse Beijing.
On August 28, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asserted that the CPEC is a ‘game-changer’ for Pakistan; it would help bring prosperity to the entire region.
According to Pakistan Today, Sharif affirmed: “The CPEC is not merely a strategic decision but the culmination of 10 years of brotherhood and cooperation between China and Pakistan” before concluding: “Our relations with China are of the utmost importance.”
For the time being, China bravely stands by Islamabad, but for how long? Beijing recently extended its veto on India’s move to blacklist Masood Azhar at the UN. The Chinese Government announced that “Its technical hold on India’s move to get Pakistan-based  Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar designated a terrorist by the UN has been extended.”
But can Beijing support terrorist activities of non-state actors in Pakistan? The answer is ‘no’, Beijing can’t afford it. The price would be high. Xinhua may repeat the argument of the Pakistan Army that India’s strikes were mirages; it may quote the Pakistani Army’s spokesman: “The notion of surgical strikes linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects”; the fact remains that the Chinese are no fools; they are aware of the situation in Pakistan and the danger for their workers involved in CPEC and the possibility of terror spreading in Xinjiang. An important element has, however, been missed by the Indian Press. On September 27, Indian and China held their first dialogue on counter-terrorism and security.
Xinhua said: “The two sides exchanged opinions on the international and regional security situation and their respective anti-terrorism systems, mechanisms and legislation. They also reached consensus on measures to strengthen cooperation and to jointly deal with security threats, according to a document issued after the meeting.”
The dialogue was jointly chaired by Wang Yongqing, secretary-general of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs and RN  Ravi, chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee. Ravi also held talks with Meng Jianzhu, a key member of the Politburo and ‘security star’ who stepped into the shoes of the disgraced Zhou Yongkang, China’s most powerful man before his fall.
According to Xinhua, Meng told Ravi, “Terrorism is a common enemy of the global community”, adding that “strengthened counter-terrorism cooperation between China and India was conducive to the interests of the people of both countries”. Let’s hope that China understands it may lose its stakes in the CPEC, should it decide to continue playing the card of its all-weather friend. Meanwhile, ‘public opinion’ warfare will continue.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

China: Perfecting Tibet railway network

New line in blue. Note that China appropriates Arunachal in its maps
Grim news for India: according to Xinhua, the preliminary work on the Yunnan-Tibet Railway is being carried out.
On September 20, the Chinese news agency announced the beginning of the work on the Yunnan-Tibet Railway which will run through Shangri-La and Dechen County of Yunnan Province and Markam and Dzogang Counties in the Chamdo Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
In Bamda, a small township of Nyingchi Prefecture, the line will connect with the Sichuan-Tibet railway presently under construction.
The railway line will have a total length of 415 kilometers, with 265-kilometer railway in Tibet Autonomous Region, the rest in Yunnan.
The total investment is evaluated to be 43.6 billion yuan (some 7 billion US dollars), out of which the Tibet section's comes to 27.8 billion yuan.
The preliminary work which includes surveys and line alignment, has started.
Xinhua says that the Tibet's railway department “will accelerate relative work and strive to start its construction work during the 14th Five-Year Plan period [2020-2025].”
According to China Tibet Online: “The Tibet's railway network is gradually approaching perfect [sic] along with the operation of Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Lhasa-Shigatse Railway as well as the construction of Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway.”
The website adds: “Since the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is put into operation, Tibet's freight transportation has increased rapidly and it has become the main freight channel.”

Though it is not mentioned, China probably plans to extend the Lhasa-Shigatse-Kyirong line towards Western Tibet and one day (not too far) to Xinjiang (by following the route of the Highway 219 through the Aksai Chin).
About the Yunnan-Tibet railway, China Tibet Online notes: “Compared to highway's season limit and airplane's climate limit, the construction of Yunnan-Tibet Railway will bring more convenient transportation conditions for the passenger and cargo circulation between Tibet Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province. The rapid development of traffic can reduce transportation cost and then promote the economic development of manufacturing industry.”
As mentioned earlier on this blog, all infrastructure development in China needs to follow a dual use (civilian and military) norms. It is probably at what the website hints when it says: “In addition, Yunnan-Tibet Railway is a critical part of China Western Development, which is meaningful for the leapfrog development and long-term peace and order of Tibet.”
‘Peace on the border’ means reinforcement of the infrastructure opposite Eastern Arunachal Pradesh.
In the meantime, India is not fully asleep.
According to The Business Standard:  “The Indian Air Force is ready to fully operationalise seven Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh. After over two years of repair and reconstruction work, the ALGs will be brought into use and are intended to give a major boost to the country's operational capability. The rupees 700-crore project got an impetus in 2009.”
The Tawang ALG, far from being completed, will allow one day the landing of C-130J Super Hercules, the latest IAF’s transport aircraft.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Did Xi Jinping acknowledge the McMahon Line?

Yume village becoming a town
Soon after the conclusion of the 19th Congress, President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to two young Tibetan herders who had written to him introducing their village, Yume, north of Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.
According to Xinhua, Xi “encouraged a herding family in Lhunze [Lhuntse] County, near the Himalayas in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown.”
Xi acknowledged “the family's efforts to safeguard the territory, and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area. Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families," he wrote.
The two Tibetan girls, Choekar and Yangzom had told the CCP’s Secretary General about their “experiences in safeguarding the border area and the development of their township over the years.”
Interestingly, the girls’ village, Yume (or Yumai or Yulmed) is located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line, not far from the remote Indian village of Takshing.
Can this letter from Xi Jinping be considered as an acknowledgment of the McMahon Line, as the Indo-Tibet border? Xi clearly thanks the two herders for 'guarding' the border?
From the reporting of Xinhua, it seems so.
Xi further hoped that the girls’ family could “motivate more herders to set down roots in the border area ‘like galsang flowers’, and become guardians of the Chinese territory and constructors of a happy hometown.”
Galsang or Kelsang Flower
The report also xplained that Yume is China's smallest town in terms of population.

Yume on this blog
I had mentioned Yume several times on this blog, mainly because Yume Gompa was the last stage of the Tsari pilgrimage (see map below).
Already in November 2016, China Tibet Online spoke of Yume ‘town’ on the southern slope of the Himalayas as the border area of China and India: "If driving, you had to go south 400 km from Lhasa to Luntse of Lhoka (Shannan) City, then there was another 200 km of muddy mountain roads before you reached Yulmed.”
The Chinese site then asserted that “It is the least populous administrative town in China. With an area of 1976 square km, Yulmed has one subsidiary village, and only nine households with a total of 32 people. Yulmed has very few residents, but it is not impoverished nor backward.”
It added: “For a long time, there was only one family in Yulmed. After the Tibet Autonomous Region government dispatched officials and doctors, built the roads, and added a power station and a medical clinic, Yulmed became more and more lively. In 2015, the annual average per capita disposable income in Yulmed was 26,000 yuan.”

Four conclusions
By Xi Jinping admitting that Yume is a 'border' village, can it be concluded that Xi has acknowledged the McMahon Line? Probably not, but he has admitted that it was the present border (Line of Actual Control).
Another issue that I already brought up earlier on this blog: why not reopen the Tsari Pilgrimage and use it as a Confidence Building Measure between India and China?
Another conclusion is that China will develop very fast the 'border' areas in the years to come, I have often mentioned Metok County, but also Lepo village, north of Khenzimane on the McMahon Line.
Finally, it looks like the Communist Party has started to more and more use Tibetans in border areas and elsewhere yo defend the Middle Kingdom’s borders.
Delhi should be worried!


(Old Post of October 2016)

Visit Wu Jingje in Yume
Earlier in April 2016, I had mentioned the visit of TAR’s Party Secretary Wu Jingje

According to The China Daily, Wu Yingjie, the Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, visited Yümé (or Yumai) ‘the most sparsely populated town in China’ on October 12.
The village (termed as a 'township' by China) is located north of the McMahon Line (and the Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal).
It is a border village with India.
The China Daily reported that Wu met frontier troops in the remote area: “[Wu] conducted a field survey on how to promote development and stabilization of the border region, people's livelihood, grass-root-level Party building and poverty alleviation.”
The Chinese publication adds: “Setting out from Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, you must drive 400km to reach Lhunze [Lhuntse] county, Shannan city [in Lhoka] and another 200km muddy mountain road to reach the township.” The ‘township’ covers an area of 1,976 square kilometers and has one village comprising nine families …and 32 people.
Wu Yingjie told the local residents: "You defend the border areas of our country and protect our country from being nibbled or divided. I salute you."
A flag raising ceremony was held in Yümé on the occasion of the Party boss.
The China Daily notes: “Frontier soldiers and local residents patrol in the township. Every resident of the township has a strong awareness of border defense and make it part of their life,” adding  “Though far away and less populated, Yumai township is not under-developed. It once had only one family. Then cadres and doctors were dispatched there by the government and the road, power station and health center were built to make it more suitable for living. By 2015, the residents' per capita disposable income reached 26,000 yuan ($3,838).”
Who is to verify this?
On October 28, (two weeks after the visit to the border), Wu Yingjie presided over a meeting 'to deliver the spirit' of the just-held Sixth Plenum.
After calling everyone to closely unit 'around Comrade Xi Jinping as the core', Wu noted that the Central Committee was "very concerned about Tibet Autonomous Region and its people of all ethnical groups".
He mentioned "the important strategic thought: governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilizing Tibet is a priority for governing border areas". Later, he gave "important instruction for enhancing ethnic unity, building a beautiful Tibet”.
The Yümé's visit should be seen as a pre-Plenum inspection tour.         
Interestingly, Yümé is located in the vicinity of Lo Mikyimdun or Mygytun, the place where the first clash between the People’s Liberation Army and the Indian troops took place in August 1959.

In a Note given to the Ambassador of India on September 1, 1959, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China blamed India for the clash:

Extract from White Paper II on China: 

According to verified investigation conducted by the Chinese Government it is confirmed without any doubt that the armed clash between Chinese and Indian troops which occurred on August 25 1959 in the southern part of Migyitun in the Tibet Region of China was solely caused by Indian troops unlawful intrusion into the Migyitun area and their unwarranted provocative attack on Chinese troops. The facts pointed out in the Note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed over to the Embassy on August 27 were true and established.
The Indian troops must bear full responsibility for this serious border incident. The actual fact was as follows: Around 06-00 hours on August 25, when Chinese troops were patrolling in the southern part of Migyitun, a group of Indian troops which had intruded into that area suddenly opened fire on the Chinese troops without giving any warning, discharging dozens of rounds of machine-gun and rifle shots. Only after the Chinese troops under compulsion fired back in self defense, did the Indian troops withdraw from the area of clash. The Chinese troops then neither arrested any Indian soldiers, nor out-flanked any out-post of the Indian troops at Longju. But in the morning of the next day, that is, August 26, the Indian troops at the Longju out-post went further in carrying out new provocations, once again launching a violent attack on the Chinese troops in Migyitun discharging as many as several hundreds of rounds of rifle sten-gun and light and heavy machine-gun shots. On the same day, Indian aircraft many times violated China's air space over this area. At the time the Chinese troops merely held their own posts; they did not strike back against the Indian troops' provocation, not to speak of so-called encircling Indian troops’ outpost at Longju.”
This is of course, the Chinese version.
The area was also part of the Tsari Pilgrimage often mentioned on this blog.
Toni Huber in his The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain — Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet described the ‘Administration and Community Structure’ of the area before the Chinese invasion.
During the 1950s the Tsari District had an estimated population of five to six hundred persons. It was grouped predominantly within extended family household units in four main village communities (Yümé, Chosam, Chikchar, and Lo Mikyimdun) and three minor settlements (Domtsen, Yarab, and Phodzo Sumdo). There were also small monastic and retreat communities at Yümé and Chikchar and a nunnery near Lo Mikyimdun. Various other localities around the mountain were only seasonally occupied or used by resthouse keepers, meditators, pilgrims, or local pastoralists.
Although the district was small in total area and population compared to many others in Tibet, it came under a complex civil and religious administration. Tsari fell within the area of Central Tibet (Ü), being located right at its southern margins.
It was subject to the authority of the Lhasa government by way of the system of regional Dzong, or administrative centers, several of which were located in neighboring districts. At the district level there were three divisions: Tsari Nub, or ‘Western Tsari’; Tsari Shar, or ‘Eastern Tsari’; and the Lo Mikyimdun-Tsar Tsokar area. Each division had different administrative regimes. In relation to the central government, all three fell under the overall control of Kurab Namgyel Dzong, located in the Drulung valley of Dakpo to the north.
The Dzong had interests in collecting taxes; control of access to grazing land; law enforcement and defense; the transmission of various government decrees from Lhasa; and their execution in the districts, for example, the policing of religious environmental restrictions. Tsari Nub also fell under the religious administration of the Drigung sect, who had some historical rights over certain religious sites and lands in the area. Tsari Shar and Lo Mikyimdun fell under the religious administration of the Sangnag Choling Drukpa of Char, who maintained the temple and retreat center at Chikchar, oversaw affairs at Tsari Tsokar, and enjoyed some rights over certain lands and persons. Accordingly, many of the people in these districts identified themselves as either Drigung or Drukpa. In addition, the area of Lo Mikyimdun had another level of government control, mainly involving certain tax obligations, imposed on it through Kyemdong Dzong located not far to the north at the Kongpo-Dakpo border.
The interface between central government interests at Tsari and each community was maintained via the village headman. This person communicated with the Dzong and the monasteries when needed, as well as acting as intermediary between them and the local households. He (for they were always men) represented the interests of all the main village households, as well as those of the Dzong, by ensuring that taxation dues were paid; that festivals, religious ceremonies, and service duties were conducted as per tradition or contract; that government decrees were communicated and observed, and that disputes were referred to higher authorities. In return for these services he received a modest annual payment of grain from the Dzong. The local headmen were either called chimi (‘leader’) or thumi (literally ‘representative’),and their ‘deputies’ were called thuntsob; the terminology reflected the fact that they were usually elected by each village rather than appointed from outside.
In principle, such positions were supposed to change every two to three years, and candidacy depended on one's reputation for being a strong man, someone who could organize and direct people to do things when need be, and work effectively with external officials. There were variations in this system. For example, in the 1950s Lo Mikyimdun rotated the position of headman every few years among its even main tax-paying households, and at Chikchar the Sangnag Choling Drukpa, who often cooperated with Lhasa in running affairs at Tsari, assigned the job to the senior cleric at their retreat center there on the sudden death of the former representative.
All the senior heads of the main full member status households worked closely with the headman as a group or council for decision-making and organization at the level of the village as a whole.