Saturday, April 29, 2017

Renaming won’t help China’s cause

Gorsam Stupa, Qoidengarbo for China
My article Renaming won’t help China’s cause appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

The Chinese media said that Beijing’s objective was to reaffirm China’s claim over Arunachal, “South Tibet” for the Chinese.

Tawang has been in the news in recent times.
According to an article in The China Daily, published at the end of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh: “Under India’s illegal rule, the residents of Southern Tibet live difficult lives, face various kinds of discrimination, and look forward to returning to China.”
The mouthpiece of the Communist Party says that the Dalai Lama “can’t wait to give away Tawang district… in exchange for India’s support for the survival of his separatist group.”
Calling the Dalai Lama a “troublemaker”, the daily further affirms: “Depending on India for a living, the Dalai Lama’s eagerness to please his master is understandable, but he is going too far by selling Southern Tibet in exchange for his master’s favour.”
A few days later, China Tibet Online, a website affiliated to Xinhua, referred to the Tibetan leader’s visit to “Southern Tibet”, particularly to “Dawang”, a pin yin transcription for Tawang.
Renaming names is however not new. It has been done by all colonisers. More than anybody, India is aware of this.
China has done it in a more systematic manner. After it invaded Tibet in 1950-51, Shigaste became Rìkazé or Xigatse, Sakya was Sa’gya, Metok, north of Arunachal’s Upper Siang district, Mutao or Medog.
Apart from the cases of pure pin yin-sation like the ones just mentioned, in many cases, names have been completely changed. Ngari province is now called Ali Prefecture (Chinese faulty pronunciation can’t probably pronounce “Ng” and “r”), Kyirong at the border with Nepal is now Jilong and worse, Barahoti in today’s Uttarakhand is called Wuje, while Demchok in Ladakh is termed Parigas.
Humans too are subjected to similar renaming: the Panchen Lama selected by China, Gyaltsen Norbu, is Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu.
All this shows that the recent announcement about the “official standardised names” for six places in Arunachal Pradesh is not a scoop; the only surprise is that it was not done earlier, which is simply because the claim itself on Tawang is an afterthought. In any case, today it looks like a childish reaction to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state earlier this month.
The Chinese media said that Beijing’s objective was to reaffirm China’s claim over Arunachal, “South Tibet” for the Chinese. The Global Times reported: “China’s ministry of civil affairs announced on April 14 that it had standardised in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of six places in ‘South Tibet’, which India calls ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, in accordance with the regulations of the central government.”
The official names of the six places (transcribed in Roman alphabet) are Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidengarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bumo La and Namkapub Ri. Let us have a look where these places are located.
Wo’gyainling is the new spelling for Urgyeling, the birthplace of Tsangyang Gyaltso, the sixth Dalai Lama, a few kilometers south of Tawang town. One understands the political reasons why China would be so attached to the place. Beijing is not ready to accept that a Dalai Lama could be born outside Tibet (China).
The second place is Mila Ri. It is a lake known as Mila Nagula situated near the famous “Madhuri” Lake, north of Tawang and South of the Indo-Tibet border. The place is mentioned in the 1962 war records, advancing PLA troops passed the lake on their way to Tawang. As “Ri” means “mountain” or “ridge” in Tibetan/Monpa, Mila Ri is probably one of the ridges above the lake.
The third place is Qoidengarbo Ri, for “Chorten Karpo” or “White Stupa”. It refers to Gorsam Chorten, the only large white stupa in the area (and the largest in Arunachal). It is not far from Zimithang, the tactical HQ of the 4 Infantry Division during the 1962 war. The name may refer to one of the ridges around the stupa.
Mainquka is Menchuka (or Mechuka, alternative Indian spelling) is a most strategic valley in West Siang district of Arunachal.
It is the only of one the six places outside Tawang district. China is not happy that India recently landed a C-17 Hercules transport aircraft in the area. Menchuka was also occupied by the Chinese in October-November 1962.
Bumo La is the border post of Bumla, 45 km north of Tawang, where the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA meet several times a year. “Bumo” means “girl” in Tibetan/Monpa.
Namkapub Ri is linked to Namkha Chu river, the theatre of the first Chinese attack in October 1962. “Ri” is for one of the ridges above the river (perhaps Hathungla).
By naming these six places, Beijing wants to remind India of the 1962 war and the fact that the Dalai Lama “belongs to China”.
As the ministry of external affairs stated, renaming places can’t change the fact that the territory south of the McMahon Line belongs to India.
What about the local population in Arunachal looking forward “to return” one day to China under the Communist banner?
During the Dalai Lama’s visit, not only did the entire local Monpa population (some 35,000 to 40,000, according to police sources) throng to have a glimpse of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, but also large flocks of Buddhist pilgrims from the remotest villages of Upper Subansiri, West Siang or Upper Siang districts, who travelled for days to have a once-in-a-lifetime darshan.
Why did the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang trigger so much violence from the Chinese propaganda machinery?
First and foremost, by allowing the Tibetan leader to visit Tawang, New Delhi has reasserted that the Land of Mon, as Tawang is known, is an integral part of India, whether China agrees or disagrees. This does not please Beijing, which lately has started adding Tawang to China’s “occupied territories”.
Moreover, if China is under the impression that Delhi’s policy is going to change, it is mistaken; Beijing has to reconcile and live with it.
The Chinese response is also a reaction to the Dalai Lama’s immense popularity in India’s border areas. This deeply irritates Beijing whose propaganda is unable to win over the “masses”, whether on the Tibetan side of the border or in the Indian Himalaya.
Beijing does not know how to react to such reverence for the Tibetan leader; given that the Chinese leadership has been unable to win over the hearts of the Tibetans, more than 60 years after their so-called liberation. In these circumstances, how could the Communist leadership convince the population of Arunachal Pradesh to join the authoritarian regime?
Another reason why Beijing has been so furious is that China has today become “bigger”; and it dislikes to be contradicted by “smaller” nations (like India).
Despite using batteries of “experts”, including a wanted Ulfa dissident, to bolster its claims, Beijing has been unable to project its case and ended up by resorting to insulting the revered Buddhist teacher and threatening India. It will lead Beijing nowhere in the long run

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Xinjiang takeover: China’s master-stroke

Aksu in Southern Xinjiang was one of the PLA's Headquarter
My article The Xinjiang takeover: China’s master-stroke appeared in the Edit age of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

By taking over Xinjiang, communist China controlled the western borders of the Middle Kingdom, access trade with Central Asia, block any possibility of Soviet advance, and come in contact with Indian frontiers

Xinjiang, China’s western province, has often been in the news during the last few months, mainly due to instability of the region and the repressive measures taken by Beijing to curb ‘religious extremism’ and the rise of ‘terrorism and separatism’ amongst the Uyghur local population. It is interesting to look at how communist China annexed the ‘New Dominion’, as Xinjiang was known.
It was perhaps one of the greatest strategic feats in modern military annals. Mao Zedong’s words are telling about the mindset of the Chinese military leaders at that time (has it changed today?): “People may ask if there is contradiction to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle. This is to put the wrong question. Does one eat to no purpose simply because he relieves himself later? Does one sleep in vain because one wakes up and goes about? These are illusions born out of subjectivism and formalism and do not exist in real life.”
There was no question of Mao of losing territory in 1949; in fact, ‘real life’ meant controlling the periphery of the Middle Kingdom as fast as possible, starting by the ‘liberation’ of Xinjiang and Tibet.
On February 4, 1949, during a meeting with Soviet Foreign Trade Minister Anastas Mikoyan, Mao Zedong raised the issue of Xinjiang and pointed to the northwestern district of Ili (today’s Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture), where China had noted the presence of a Communist Party. Mikoyan said that he did not know about the existence of communists in the area, but he was aware of nationalist forces wanting independence: “This movement was triggered by the incorrect policy of the Chinese Government, which does not want to take into account the national specifics of these nationalities, does not permit the development of the national culture.”
The Russian Minister continued: “If the nationalities of Xinjiang were given autonomy, the soil for the independence movement would likely [disappear]. We do not stand for the movement of independence of the Xinjiang nationalities and do not have any claims on Xinjiang territory.” After Mao had been the green light he needed, he explained that China planned “giving Xinjiang autonomy, in the same manner as for Inner Mongolia, which is already an autonomous region”.
Interestingly, Mao enquired “whether there is a lot of oil in Xinjiang or a little”. He also suggested the construction of “a railroad connecting the Chinese railroads with the Soviet railroads through Xinjiang. This would have great significance for joint defence in case of a new war [with the West]”. Had he in mind a project similar to Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Road?
While the remnants of the nationalist forces were systematically annihilated in the mainland, in Xinjiang, Mao used a two-pronged ‘war’ tactic: First inducing the surrender of the nationalist forces and then sending a large number of troops in two different directions (north and south Xinjiang); the assurance of support received from the Soviets made things easier.
By swiftly taking over Xinjiang, the communists would control the western borders of the Middle Kingdom, access trade with Central Asia, block any possibility of Soviet advance in the region (in case the Soviet leaders changed their mind later) and come in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly in the Aksai Chin area. By the end of September 1949, a large contingent of communist troops started moving towards the New Dominion where a 70,000-strong nationalist force was still stationed.
Following the Hexi (Gansu) Corridor, the PLA advanced towards Urumqi, which was ruled by a coalition comprising the Nationalists (KMT) and representatives of the former Second East Turkistan Republic (ETR), supported by the Soviet Union. The ETR sympathisers were particularly strong in the three districts in northwestern Xinjiang, where they had retained some autonomy, while the KMT controlled most of southern Xinjiang. After having obtained the Soviet support, the second phase was marked by Chiang Kaishek’s Generals turning coat. On September 25, Tao Zhiyue, the Nationalist Commander-in-Chief of the Xinjiang garrison and Burhan Shahidi, the Political Commissar, announced the formal surrender of the nationalist forces to the Chinese communists. Several Kuomintang Generals joined the PLA and began serving the communists; those who refused to surrender fled to Taiwan or Turkey. A second victory for Mao …without fighting!
Later, the five ETR leaders who were to negotiate with the communists, died in an air crash in Soviet airspace over the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic; it was rumoured that they were murdered. The way was now open for Mao’s troops. Starting from Yumen, east of Jiuquan in Gansu Province, the communist troops went through indescribably harsh terrain, deep gorges, cold desert, and “they started a massive advance of forces towards Xinjiang along north and south of Tian mountain”, says the Chinese account.
The PLA 'advising' the Uyghurs
With poor communications, the advance of communist forces into Xinjiang was extremely ‘difficult and risky’; the distances were long, 1,253km from Jiuquan to Urumqi and 2,547km from Kashgar: “In order to overcome the communication and transportation difficulties, Soviet Union came for assistance with 40 transport planes so as to quickly transport soldiers from Jiuquan towards Urumqi”, notes the Chinese account.
On October 14, supported by a tank regiment, the main forces of 4 and 5 Division of the 2 Army reached Hami in Northern Xinjiang. They then took a southward turn and ten days later, the 4 Division ‘liberated’ Yanchi, where the troops stayed a couple of weeks to recover from the quick march. By that time, the 400 motor vehicles given by the Soviets had all collapsed… in any case there was no fuel anymore. To complete their advance towards Kashgar, the troops…to walk more than 1,000km in one month.
The Chinese records say: “The main force, in more than two months’ time, successively liberated each important town and city in the north and south of Xinjiang, pinned down uprising launched by reactionaries of Nationalist Party at many.” Marshal Peng Dehuai and Xi Zhongxun (Xi Jinping’s father) praised the troops in a telegram: “You have created an unprecedented record of the advance of forces.” Strategically, communist China was at the Gate of Tibet — and, of India. Soon, construction across Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area would start.
Nearly 70 years later, one understands the enormous importance of the annexation of Xinjiang with its natural resources such as oil, but also the trade routes such as the One Belt One Road initiative or the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. But in the process, Mao had forgotten his promises to give autonomy to Xinjiang; this probably explains China’s present difficulties.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

France has the Blues

Who will shift to the Elysée Palace in May?
My article France has the Blues appeared in

Here is the link...

'Who would have thought that Brexit would take place or Donald Trump would become US president or Kim Jong-un's madness could bring the prospect of nuclear war over Asia?'
'It is the time of the unexpected; the French elections should perhaps be seen in this perspective,' says Claude Arpi.

The world is going through strange times.
Is it not odd that so many unexpected things keep happening?
Who would have thought a few years ago that Brexit would take place or Donald Trump would become the President of the United States of America or Kim Jong-un’s madness could bring the prospect of a nuclear war over Asia. Indeed, it is the time of the unexpected; the French elections should perhaps be seen in this perspective.
Though eleven candidates are fighting hard to reside for the next five years, in the Elysée Palace, only one of them will ultimately make it.
Most electors agree that the ‘times are difficult’ for the nation which gave the triple Mantra of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to the world (and too the Indian Constitution); today France has doubts about its future, ‘the blues’, one could say in Frenglish.
France is no longer in a revolutionary mood; during the last five years, a weak Presidency has demoralized the nation further. Francois Hollande, whose unpopularity popularity had beaten of the records, got the lowest rating any president of the 5th Republic; this is mainly due to his lack of charisma and some of his goof-ups (for example, getting caught by the paparazzis on a scooter visiting his girl friend).
General de Gaulle’s ‘grandeur de la France’ (France’s greatness) has long gone! Will France find a real leader to give again the nation a position in the world?
Another factor which is not limited to France, but has appeared elsewhere on the planet, is that the differentiation between the political ‘right’ and the ‘left’ does not mean much anymore. It is symbolic that the candidate, projected by the French media as the next president (Emmanuel Macron), refuses to carry a ‘rightist’ or ‘leftist’ label.
Regarding the opinion polls, there is today a quasi unanimity in the French public that they are manipulated either by the large ‘press groups’ or ‘influenced’ by powerful political parties; it is a fact the media today is unable to project what will happen on April 23.
I asked a mathematician friend of mine, who has worked on this issue, why the surveys were often ‘statistically’ wrong (Brexit, US elections, recent German by-elections, etc.); it was not the ‘fault’ of the theoricians, my friend said; but simply that the electors do not decide till the last minute for whom they are going to vote. A week before the first round, which will select the two candidates for a final round on May 7, 40% of French voters are still ‘undecided’. Further, the mathematician argues that in the recent elections, electors often change their preference at the last minute (this probably happens less in India).
One particularity of the present French presidential elections is that the ‘primaries’ were organized to select the candidates who will represent the ‘left’ and ‘centre/right’. On the socialist side, Benoit Hamon emerged as the winner, by defeating Hollande’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Unfortunately for Hamon, the two candidates from the ‘left’ who refused to participate in the primaries, are now far ahead in all polls.
First, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hard core Communist who believes that Xi Jinping and modern China are examples to follow for France; his popularity has seen a unexpected surge, primarily because he is a good orator and having never been in power, has not been caught in any financial scams. Some are now projecting him to reach the second round for ‘la lutte finale’ (the final struggle). His present surge is probably boosted by the lack of credible candidates.
Macron is other candidate who refused to stand in the primaries (in the French political system, anybody who manages to collect 500 signatures from locally or nationally elected representatives can register his candidature.
Macron, the 38-year-old former Economy Minister of Francois Hollande (who earlier worked as an investment banker for Rothschild), wants to ‘bring optimism’ to the country; his party ‘En Marche!’ (‘On the Move!) challenges the entire political system. Though a pure product of the establishment, having worked first with Sarkozy, then with Hollande, Macron projects himself the anti-establishment candidate. Will he be the next President?
Millions already see him in the Elysée Palace with his wife, 20-years older than him. Cleverly, he has managed to remain vague on his program, trying to please the ‘right’ and the ‘left’ at the same time. Macron is however a fervent ‘European’, contrary to several other candidates who argue for a ‘Frexit’ or at least surgical reforms for the European Union.
Macron’s candidature has created a lot of confusion for the already confused left; Defence Minister Le Drian recently joined him, hoping to get a job in May and President Hollande is also said to be inclined to vote ‘Macron’, though the latter ‘deserted’ his Cabinet last year and subsequently criticized his government.
Confusion at its best …in the Land of Cartesianism.
During the primaries of the ‘right’, François Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, defeated the ‘hyper’ former President and Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux, who had also served as Prime Minister in the past.
Each candidate has his own recipe to take the country out of the current depressing slump; the problem is, in France like in India or the US, will the candidate who makes it remember what he promised during the campaign? Doubtful. Macron is more honest; his promises are so vague that nobody can attack him later if he becomes president.
After the two ‘primaries’ most of the observers thought that it was ‘done’, Fillon would be the next President. His intentions of introducing drastic cuts in the bureaucracy to reduce the budgetary debts had made him rather popular, but…
But… the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé, published documents showing that for more than 30 years, Fillon’s wife, Penelope was employed by him as a Parliamentary Secretary ...while she was not working.
As the judiciary is looking into the accusations, Fillon has attributed it to a ‘Black Cabinet’ hosted in the Elysée. It is practically impossible for the former Prime Minister to come fully clean now; a small mercy for him, his direct opponent Marine Le Pen is facing the same accusations of having created ‘fictive’ jobs as a European parliamentarian. She has claimed parliamentary immunity and refused to appear before the judiciary. She also believes in a ‘Black Cabinet’ theory, which probably exists in a form or another (has any Indian leader in power snubbed the use of the IB or other agencies to promote their political purpose?).
While millions of voters apprehend the xenophobic policies of Marine Le Pen, many are attracted by her anti-migrants rhetoric, but can she expel all the illegal migrants or take France out of Europe?
The difficulties facing France in the volatile ‘banlieux’ (suburbs) and the wave of terrorist attacks in the name of Islam, not only in France, but also Germany and more recently Sweden, will get her votes in plenty.
Can she do it during Round 2 is the question that nobody can answer today.
It is why I say strange. There is even a candidate, François Asselineau, president of the Union populaire républicaine (Popular Republican Union) who speaks of Sri Aurobindo; unfortunately he does not seem to have grasped the integral philosophy of the Rishi; Asselineau has just one obsession …the Frexit.
Foreign policy has figured nowhere in the campaign.
If Fillon or Le Pen pass, there will certainly a rapprochement (a ‘rebalancing’ would be more correct) with theRussians. During Hollande’s presidency, Putin was made a demon. Fillon asserted that it was "ridiculous to portray Putin as a monster with hands full of blood". Filon and Le Pen would see Putin more as an ‘ally’ against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
What about India?
India figures nowhere in the French periscope, though the sale of 36 Rafales brought some cheer in the morose economic landscape, what is happening in the subcontinent is of no interest of the electorate.
After winning the first round of the primaries, Fillon spoke of completely changing France’s ‘software’, but the hardware needs to be updated too.
This will be the job for the next president.
It is not clear who can undertake this task.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Four Merits and Four Loves in full swing?

Swearing on the Four Merits and Four Loves
Communist China always loved slogans with numbers.
Remember ‘The Four Olds’ during the Cultural Revolution.
The term was coined by Chief Propagandist Chen Boda in an editorial of The People's Daily in June 1966.
In the article titled ‘Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons’, Chen asked the masses to reject the Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas which were anti-proletarian and had been in the past, "fostering the exploiting classes and poisoning the minds of the people for thousands of years.”
Today, the prolific Communist propaganda speaks about Four Merits and Four Loves. A campaign is said to be 'in full swing' in Dagzê Township of Nyingtri prefecture.
Dagzê, not far from Lhasa, is the seat of the Ganden monastery.
A website published a picture taken on April 13 showing “propagandists designated from various departments at all levels units of Dagzê County of Lhasa City, taking notes carefully.”
Dancing on the Four Merits and Four Loves
It says that the Propaganda Department of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has gone to the seven TAR prefectures/townships “to propagandize educational activity on the theme of Four Merits and Four Loves.
The Four Merits refers to being “Civilized, Polite, Moral and Dedicated” while the Four Loves are Love for the Motherland (China) and Hometown, Love for the parents, Love and Respect for the teachers and elders and finally Love for learning and working.
The website adds that the trained propagandists visited the different counties and towns of the TAR to propagate ‘in full swing’ the Four Merits and Four Loves.
Nyingtri is apparently the first area where the new scheme has been implemented.
All schools in Nyingtri had to attend a series of events such as speech contest, artistic performance, drama competition promoting the Four Merits and Four Loves: “students will study hard and contribute to the efforts to building a strong and prosperous motherland in the future,” says the website.

Another self-immolation
This sounds good, but in another corner of the plateau, self-immolations continue.
Radio Free Asia
(RFA) reported that a Tibetan committed self immolation in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
A video circulating on the Internet, showed a man in police uniform spraying a fire extinguisher on a smoky body lying on the ground while other policemen are running towards the scene and blocking shouting onlookers from approaching the body.
According to RFA sources: “the incident took place on Saturday at about 7.00 am local time at the main square in Kardze town, where large crowds are known to gather. Chinese police swiftly took the self-immolator away.”
There is a serious discrepancy between the Communist propaganda and the ground reality in Tibet today.
Is China ready to look into the root cause of the problem?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dual infrastructure in Tibet: a threatening scenario for India?

This text appeared as a chapter of China: Threat or Challenge? published by Lancer Publications.

The historic relations
The story started millions years ago when the Indian island collided with the Asian plate. Without this collision, life could have continued for eternity undisturbed on the Indian island, but it was neither the destiny of Tibet to remain a sea forever, nor the fate of India to be perpetually an island.
Thereafter, during the last two millennia, Tibet and India lived in close and harmonious contact.
During the period known as the First Propagation of the Buddha Dharma in Tibet (7th-8th century), many great Indian Masters such Padmasambhava and Sankarakshita visited the Land of Snows; Buddhism became the state religion. The Second Propagation (10th-11th century), considered as the Renaissance in Tibet, came from India. The temples and gompas (monasteries) of Tholing and Tsaparang in Western Tibet (as well as Alchi and Tabo in the Indian Himalayas) are the remnants of an extraordinary outbreak of Buddhist Art, Literature, Architecture and Spirituality.
Armies were unnecessary on both sides of the Himalayan slopes.
With the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959, the economic and political relations between India and the plateau took another turn and at the end of October 1962, the ancient links were abruptly discontinued with radical consequences for India’s borders.

A miracle in road history
Soon after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Lhasa in September 1951, the Chinese started improving the infrastructure between China and Tibet and building new strategic roads on a war-footing.
Mao Zedong knew that the only way to consolidate and ‘unify’ China’s new colonies (Tibet and Xinjiang) was to construct a large network of roads . The work began immediately after the arrival of 18th Army in Lhasa in September 1951. Priority was given to motorable roads: the Sichuan-Tibet  and the Qinghai-Tibet  Highways. Surveying for the Tibet-Xinjiang Highway  cutting across Western Tibet (and the Indian territory in Ladakh) started at the end of 1951; construction began in 1953/54.
On 29 November 1954, Xinhua News Agency reported: “The two large armies of road builders from the eastern and western section of the Sikang-Tibet Highway joined hands on November 27. Sikang-Tibet Highway from Ya-an  to Lhasa is now basically completed.” The communiqué further mentioned that “gang builders and workers, including about 20,000 Tibetans, covered over 31,000 li on foot in the summer of 1953 and began construction of the 328 km of highway eastwards from Lhasa.” Three weeks later, another report stated that the Qinghai-Tibet Highway was now open to traffic.
The construction of one feeder road leading to Nathu-la, the border pass between Sikkim and Tibet had some strange consequences. India began feeding the Chinese road workers in Tibet, sending tons of rice through this route.
A year later, the first airport in Tibet, located in Damshung, north of Lhasa became functional.
Both the road network and the airports were to play a crucial role not only in what China calls the ‘Liberation of Tibet’, but also today in the so-called ‘stabilization’ of plateau, without forgetting the 1962 border conflict with India.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), China Tibet Online, a website affiliated to Xinhua said that the 1990s saw “a milestone of transportation development in Tibet. …Following the opening of the two crucial highways 60 years ago, Tibet has become better connected to the outside world.”
In a message for the occasion, President Xi Jinping called these projects, ‘a miracle in road history’. The Chinese President pleaded for further improvements in transport infrastructure in the TAR: “The two highways have played a vital role in Tibet's social system, economic and social development, as well as consolidating the southwest frontiers and promoting national unity.”
The next phase for an infrastructure boom on the Tibetan plateau, at an even faster pace, was the arrival of the Qinghai Tibet Railway in the Tibetan capital in July 2006.

The Tourist Boom
For the past 10 years, the infrastructure on the plateau has developed faster than during the past 1000 years. The railway has had incalculable consequences on what is left of the Tibetan identity, but also the development of ‘Western China’ in general as well as the defence of the borders (with India).
The opening of the railway line, first to Lhasa and later to Shigatse  has been followed by a deluge of Chinese tourists on the plateau.
In 2015, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) broke all records; it welcomed more than 20 million tourists. This was officially announced during the ‘Two Sessions’, i.e. the meeting of the Regional People’s Congress and the Consultative Political Conference held early February 2016 in Lhasa.
The tourism industry in the TAR generated 28 billion yuan (4.26 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015, nearly three times the figure of 2010.
Lhasa, Tibet’s capital alone saw its tourism revenue triple over the past five years to an estimated 15.49 billion yuan in 2015. The number of tourists visiting the capital rose to 11.79 million in 2015, a 23 percent increase compared to 2014.
China Tibet News reported that the passenger traffic on the Qinghai-Tibet railway hit 11.934 million in 2015, rising by 3.885 million passengers from 2014. The growth rate reached 48.3%, hitting a new record.
The Chinese website added: "In 2015, tourism in Qinghai and Tibet grows dramatically. Qinghai-Tibet railway company seized the new opportunity and took a series of effective measures to improve its passenger traffic capability. The company added 2,422 passenger trains, 2,992 additional coaches and 1.73 million seats."
Because the air is still pure, the sky still blue, the Kyi chu river still clean, millions of mainlanders are attracted to Tibet.
According to the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016 to 2020), Lhasa should receive 24 million Chinese tourists (an annual increase of 15 percent), as well as 300,000 international tourists (an annual increase of 20 percent).
The total revenue from tourism for the Tibetan capital alone is expected to exceed 30 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for more than 40 percent of Lhasa's GDP.
The real figures will probably exceed the plans.
For Beijing, the tourist boom is a win-win solution to solve all the problems of the plateau; the Chinese authorities have hence decided to accelerate the infrastructure construction and develop high-end tourism brands with:
  1. A new railway line Lhasa-Chengdu (in Sichuan); the western leg from Lhasa to Nyingchi to be completed by 2020 will reach the Indian border
  2. A railway line to Kyirong and Nepal, probably to be continued to Kathmandu and perhaps Lumbini
  3. A second international airport in Lhasa
  4. A new terminal for the Nyingchi airport
  5. A new airport in Nagchu
  6. A 4-lane highway between Lhasa and Nyingchi
  7. Improvement of National Highway 219 between Tibet and Xinjiang
All these projects have strategic implications for India, as ALL infrastructure built on the plateau has a dual use: civilian and military.

Dual Use of the Infrastructure
On April 25, 2016, Xinhua reported that during their bi-monthly session, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) discussed a new law on national defense transport. The legislation will cover the use of infrastructure for defense as well as civilian purposes.
According to the Chinese news agency: “The new law is expected to regulate the planning, construction, management and use of resources in transportation sectors such as railways, roads, waterways, aviation, pipelines and mail services, for national defense.”
The idea is to integrate military and civilian resources and make sure that the national defense transport network is compatible “with market and economic development.”
It is what General Zhao Keshi, head of the Logistical Support Department and member of the all-powerful Central Military Commission, told the legislators.
A national authority will be formed with the objective of “overseeing the national defense transport network,” announced the general.
The main players will be the local governments, military departments and more importantly, the newly-created Theater Commands
They will be jointly responsible to implement the new law.
Xinhua explains further: “A consultation mechanism will be established between local governments and military departments to disseminate and discuss information on construction plans, ongoing projects and demands.”
And when the needs occur, civilian transport vehicles and facilities will be pressed into service by the PLA.
The concept behind the new law is that national defense transport should consider the needs of both peace and war times, and vice-versa: when the civilian departments plan for new infrastructure, it should be usable by the PLA.
Interestingly, the national defense considerations will be included in any technical standards and codes for transport facilities and equipments.
Xinhua adds: “No organization or individual is allowed to undermine the proper use and safety of national defense transport projects and facilities.”
Beijing will be setting up “a strategic projection support force to facilitate efficient organization of long-distance and large-scale national defense transport”.
Though the draft law says that “the expenses for defense transportation missions should be borne by their users and the criteria should not be lower than the market price,” it is not clear who will pay the bill as both the PLA and the civilian administration are the ‘users’.
A Joint Command Organization for national defense transport will be set up in wartime or under special circumstances of peacetime, such as armed conflicts that endanger national sovereignty, says the draft.
The Joint Command will have large powers such as coordination of national or regional resources, organization transport operations, repairs and protection of transport infrastructure and facilities, etc.
With the creation of the Western Theater Command (WTC), regrouping all the units on the Tibetan Plateau (earlier the plateau depended on two Military Regions, namely Chengdu and Lanzhou) and in Xinjiang, the coordination and management of the infrastructure on the ‘Indian’ front will be far easier and more efficient.

Why this frenzy of infrastructure development on the plateau?
At least three issues explain the infrastructure frenzy on the plateau: (in)stability of the restive region, mega-boom of tourism and as importantly, ‘guarding’ the border with India. Though it is rarely mentioned in the Chinese media, one could add the exploitation of the natural resources of the plateau (like water and minerals).
(i)    Tibet: a Paradise for Tourists
The main pretext for rapidly developing infrastructure has been tourism. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, in April 2015, Lhasa was one of the cities with the best air quality in China. The ministry compiled air quality data from 74 major cities. Seven of them, including Lhasa, have met the national standards for best air quality for five main pollutants.
The China Daily recently advertized the Roof of the World thus: “Tibet with its mystery is the spiritual Garden of Eden and is longed by travelers home and abroad. Only by stepping on the snowy plateau, can one be baptized by its splendor, culture, folklore, life, snow-mountains, saint mountains, sacred lakes, residences with local characteristics and charming landscape.”
Why would China spend so much time and energy on Tibet if there was not a quick return? Tourism brings tremendous revenues to the regional government and helps in tackling the two other issues.
(ii)    ‘Stability’ of the Plateau
In the wake of the 2008 unrest in Tibet, Beijing still seems nervous. On September 7, 2015, soon after the grandiose parade, Yu Zhengsheng, CPPCC chairman, who was the chief guest, met a large number of representatives from the PLA and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) posted in Tibet.
Yu urged the army, the police and the judicial staff “to crack down on separatist forces and be ready to fight a protracted battle against the 14th Dalai clique.”
Yu also asked the defence forces “to improve their abilities of governing Tibet according to law [sic], specifically cracking down on the separatist forces, strengthening social management and protecting the people's rights.” He also mentioned the stability of the border areas, a leitmotiv of the Chinese leadership’s discourse. For all this, infrastructure is crucial.
An article in China Tibet Online entitled ‘Iron and Steel road pierces into plateau tourism’ says: “These world class locations are like pearls embedded along the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, and now because of extensions of the Qinghai-Tibet railroad they are all linked up.” It notes that according to the TAR’s Tourist Bureau there were more than 100,000 Tibetans engaged in tourist services in Tibet in 2015., with their annual incomes are over 10,000 yuans.
By providing a decent income to the local Tibetans, China believes it can keep the restive populations relatively happy; in addition, it ‘stabilizes’ the plateau.
(iii)    Defending the Border
Last but not the least, the defence of the borders are often mentioned in the Chinese media, during the Tibet Work Forum, Xi reiterated his theory about the ‘border areas’; he said that “a series of strategies have been in effect during the 60-plus years of governing Tibet," and then cited the theory that "governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilizing Tibet is a priority for governing border areas. ”
This speaks for itself.

The train to the borders
The railway is will soon reach the Nepal Border (Kyirong) and the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh and possibly the Chumbi Valley adjacent to Sikkim.
Here too tourism is used as the stone which kills several birds. Mainland’s travel agencies promote packages such as “Three-day tour to Nyingchi for enjoying peach blossoms”. The promotions tell the tourists that they will not only “enjoy beautiful scenery but also visit local families and taste unique Tibetan delicacies.”
Let us not forget the main town in Nyingchi prefecture is Bayi.
Bayi, which stands at India’s doors, translates by ‘8-1’, meaning that the area belongs to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) whose anniversary falls on 8-1 or August 1).
Bayi’s Tourism Bureau announced that the district received more than 174,000 tourists from January to March in 2016, up by 53.23 percent.
The Chinese government promotes "Pure Land, Beautiful Nyingchi" or the “The Switzerland of Tibet” or the gorges of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra).
Beijing says that the area “enjoys unique ethnic culture, biological culture and beautiful scenery. Bayi District has developed rural tourism, folk custom tourism and other forms of tourism.”
While the train will be reaching Nyingchi in 2020, a four-lane highway may be reaching soon. On May 23, China Tibet Online mentioned the ‘World's most beautiful highway, Lhasa-Nyingchi Super Highway’  which should be completed in 2017.
A spectacular picture of the road leading to the Indian border is captioned. “Ecology corridor, green gallery, landscape avenue ...stunning scenery of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Super Highway attracts lots of people.”
While the Indian Government sticks to its archaic mindset where an antiquated ‘Inner Line Permit’ dating from the Raj still prevails, China is developing its borders at a rapid pace.
Why can’t India emulate Beijing in this field?

The Case of Metok
Located north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, Metok is small county with a population of hardly 11,000 inhabitants. Before the opening of a tunnel in October 2013, Metok was ‘the last county in China not accessible by a highway’.
Metok is situated south of the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra). Xinhua describes the place thus: “The ‘Land of the Hidden Lotus’ lies at an altitude of 1,200 meters. Due to the regional Himalaya fragment belt and the Metok fragment belt, there is frequent geologic movement making it an area often witnessing numerous earthquakes, avalanches, landslides and mudslides. With a humid climate with much rainfall adding to all of this, Metok ended up becoming the last county in China to be connected by road.”
Can you believe it: two years later, the county received over 70,000 visitors?
China Tibet Online noted that since a highway reached the village of Metok in 2013, “tourism industry has seen rapid development”.
The propaganda invites the Chinese tourists to see the Galongla Waterfall, the wonder of Swallow Pond, the Metok Waterfalls, the Menba suspended tower and other scenic sites, “as well as ‘plant fossil’ spinulosa trees and other such thousands of kinds of plants and animals.”
How many Indian tourists are allowed to visit Tuting/Geling in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, located north of Metok, on the banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo river ? A handful at the most!
Would it not be the best way for the Government of India to demonstrate on the ground that Arunachal is part of India?
Xinhua noted that following the opening of the Metok road, the local population has “quickly started moving forward towards a better-off life.”
With one stone, many birds are killed. Since 2013, the length of public road the Metok County has reached 270 kilometers .
It is worth noting that it is in the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo that a mega Three Gorges Dam, is purported to be planned.
The opening of roads, the improvement of communication infrastructures as well as the rapid development of the tourist industry could one day facilitate the construction of the dam.
Needless to say that these developments located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line should be a deeply worrying development for India.

The railway line between Lhasa-Chengdu
The new railway between Chengdu and Lhasa is the next mega project for China. The Economist remarked: “Plans for a new railway line into Tibet pose a huge technological challenge—and a political one.”
The London-based publication noted: “A COLOSSAL roller-coaster is how a senior engineer described it. He was talking about the railway that China plans to build from the lowlands of the south-west, across some of the world’s most forbidding terrain, into Tibet. Of all the country’s railway-building feats in recent years, this will be the most remarkable: a 1,600-kilometre track that will pass through snow-capped mountains in a region racked by earthquakes, with nearly half of it running through tunnels or over bridges. It will also be dogged all the way by controversy.”
Though half as long as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway (QTR), but may take thrice the time to build. The cost is estimated at 105 billion yuan ($16 billion).
The Economist remarks that while Lhasa is about 3,200 metres higher than Chengdu, “yet by the time the track goes up and down on the way there—crossing 14 mountains, two of them higher than Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain — the cumulative ascent will be 14,000 metres.”
It does not seem to pose a problem for the Chinese planners.
Once the railway is functional, the entire plateau will be economically and strategically integrated into the Mainland and 100 million Chinese tourists will pour into the Roof of the World every year.

Other developments
Apart from the protects already mentioned, such as the railway line to Kyirong and Nepal, the second international airport in Lhasa, the new airport in Nagchu, and in parallel, the new Lhasa-Chengdu railway line, smaller projects are presently going on.
For example, the Gonggar Railway Station at the Lhasa Airport is now under construction. Xinhua reported: “At present, station projects of Gonggar Railway Station in Tibet Autonomous Region is stepping up its construction, and expected to be completed by the end of 2016.”
The news agency adds that the new station will be adjacent to 101 Provincial Highway, 15 km distance from Gonggar-Lhasa Airport, “It will provide convenience for many domestic and overseas tourists in and out of Tibet after the completion of the railway station.”
The setting up of a sophisticated electricity grid is progressing at fast pace. According to China Tibet Online: “Key western development projects—the Qinghai-Tibet networking project has been in operation for 5 years, withstanding the cold, low atmospheric pressure, high winds and sand, and other harsh environmental tests. Operations have remained safe and stable, bringing benefits to the people along the ‘bright, heavenly road’ in Qinghai and Tibet.”
The National Grid Qinghai Electric Power Company provided some data: since its inception, the Qinghai-Tibet networking project has already conveyed 3.3billion kW/h to Tibet, equivalent to 416,900 tons of standard coal transport, which is a reduction in carbon emissions of 1.03 million tons.
More interestingly: “The Qinghai-Tibet D.C. power system successfully carried out reverse-carry loads. The Tibet power grid achieved 332 million kW/h of hydropower delivery during the high water level periods, all of which was consumed within Qinghai Province.”
It means that once a few dams, now under construction, are operational (particularly on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra), Tibet will be able to supply China with electricity. The Chinese website further describes the project: “The Qinghai-Tibet networking project is a key western development project. It is also the world’s highest D.C. electricity transmission project and the longest transmission line across frozen ground. Located mostly in a low atmospheric pressure area with a lack of oxygen, cold, high winds, and radioactive hot spots, at an average elevation of 4,500 meters high, the highest elevation point is at 5,300 meters high. More than 900 kilometers of the line are located in areas above 4,000 meters high.”
All this has important strategic implications for India.

The Aksai Chin to Xinjiang
Another large project is renovation of the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, known in China as National Highway 219 and in India by his infamous name ‘the Aksai Chin road’: infamous because the Nehru government took more than 5 years to discover that the PLA had built a road on Indian territory.
In an article titled ‘Across China: Heavenly road brings the high life to Tibetan Plateau’, Xinhua remarks: “It is the melon season in neighboring Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, fresh fruit is stacked up at the roadside, waiting to be ferried through the Kunlun Mountains and up to the plateau along the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway.”
This road has not only linked the two most strategic (and restive) provinces of China (Tibet and Xinjiang) but also helped to tremendously cut the cost for the occupation of Western China by the PLA.
Xinhua takes an example: “Less than a decade ago, a kilogram of melon could sell for 60 yuan (about 10 U.S. dollars) on the plateau.”
It then quotes Zhang Lei, head of an armed police transport detachment stationed in Ritu County along the highway: “Last year the price was just a little over 10 yuan.”
National Highway 219 is built at an average altitude of over 4,500 meters and is the world's highest motorable road.
The Chinese news agency gives the historic background: “Originally covered by gravel in 1950s, the 2,340-kilometer highway was almost fully paved by 2013, slashing the travel time between Yecheng County in southern Xinjiang and Ngari Prefecture in Tibet from 15 days to just one day, with another day to reach Lhasa. Accidents and fatalities also decreased dramatically.”
The article concludes: “The highway today looks to me like an airport runway -- wide, flat and smooth - a heavenly road, indeed.”
It is certainly a great boon for the PLA and China’s border management in general.
Xinhua explains: “With a safe, modern highway, transportation costs from Yecheng to Ngari have fallen by 55 percent, leading to cuts of about 40 percent in the price of commodities in the Tibetan town. Better yet, the number of tourists in Ngari has surged five-fold.”
In other words, the PLA’s ‘Indian front’ will get its supplies faster and cheaper.

China is indeed far, far ahead of India in terms of border management and development.
Though it may not be a threat in itself, the tremendous progress made by China on the Tibetan plateau shows that in peace time, it is working hard to prepare for war time.
The time has perhaps come for Delhi to wake up and study the happenings on the other side of the LAC. It is particularly important at a time the two former Military Regions of Chengdu and Lanzhou have been merged into one Western Theater Command, greatly improving the management of China’s borders with India.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Bridge over the River Dadu

The crossing of the Dadu River in Luding, in today’s Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Sichuan province) was vital to the Red Army during the Long March in 1935.
The soldiers of the Fourth Regiment of the Chinese Workers and Peasants' Army eventually crossed the bridge located some 80 kilometers west of the city of Ya'an.
According to Wikipedia: “Fleeing from pursuing Chinese Nationalist forces, the communists found that there were not enough boats to cross the Dadu River. Thus, they were forced to use Luding Bridge, a Qing dynasty suspension bridge built in 1701. The bridge consisted of thirteen heavy iron chains with a span of some 100 yards. Thick wooden boards lashed over the chains provided the roadway across the bridge.”
The online encyclopedia continues: “On the morning of May 30, 1935 the 4th regiment of [later Marshal] Lin Biao's 2nd division, 1st Corps of the Chinese Red Army received an urgent order from general headquarters: Luding Bridge must be captured on May 29, 1935, one day ahead of the original schedule.”
The history of the Long March says that the 4th regiment had to march 120 km in less than 24 hours: “Along the way, they engaged and defeated numerous nationalist forces which blocked their path. On the dawn of May 29, 1935, Lin Biao's troops reached the bridge, only to discover that local warlords allied with the ruling Kuomintang had removed most of the planks on the bridge.”
To cut a long story short, the Reds finally crossed the bridge on the Dadu; it was a resounding for Lin Biao’s (and Mao’s) troops.

The New Luding Bridge
The bridge has come again in the news.
According to China News Network, the new Yakang (Ya’an to Kangding) Expressway will cross the Dadu River at Luding on the Xingkang Bridge.
The high-altitude area is a “high seismic intensity zone, with complex wind environment,” says the Chinese website.
Crossing a wide reservoir from a downstream dam just north of Luding city, the giant Dadu He suspension bridge will be the largest structure on the Yakang expressway.
The Kanding route is especially difficult to construct with an amazing 82% of the road on bridges or in tunnels. Located at kilometer 99, the alignment chosen for the Dadu He Bridge resulted in an unusual design for the east end where the anchorages had to be placed high up inside the steep mountain slope. To avoid compromising the strength of the deep underground anchorage, the engineers split the east-west lanes apart into tunnels separated by more then 100 meters, keeping the alignment off to the sides of the cable anchorage. The deck of the Dadu He Bridge is approximately 235 meters above the full lake level or 280 meters to the original level of the Dadu River.

Luding is one of the most famous cities in Western China for its legendary chain bridge of 100 meters that ranked among the longest suspension bridges in the world since its completion in 1701.
Several historic battles have taken place at or near the chain bridge due to its strategic importance, we just mentioned the one during the Long March.
The Dadu He Bridge at Luding is one of at least a dozen major suspension bridges that have been constructed in China since 2009 that have span lengths of approximately a kilometer or longer and deck heights of 200 to 500 meters.
The length of the Luding Bridge is 1,411 meters. It uses prefabricated parallel steel wire unit; each cable has a length of 1754 meters; a single main cable weight 5234.6 tons; the design bearing capacity of 15,000 tons.
China News Network says: “The the construction of the lower part of the 'two towers and two anchors' of the Xingkang Bridge was completed at the end of 2016.
The entire structure is expected to be completed by the end of August 2018 while by the end of 2017, the Ya'an to Luding section of the 98 km Expressway will be opened to traffic.
One more step in connecting the plateau to the mainland, while India dreams of a trains to Tawang or Ladakh.
The Long March 1935
The old bridge
The new bridge

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Monk in the midst of muck

My article Monk in the midst of muck is the Cover Page in the Agenda of The Sunday Pioneer

Here is the link...

China speaks big and loud, but it has not been able to win the hearts of the Tibetans 60 years after their so-called liberation. How can the Communist leadership convince the people of Arunachal to join the authoritarian regime?

Buddhists believe in the concept of sacred places or peethas. During the 10th century, the great Indian yogi Tilopa said that peethas are to be found inside your own self, though “outer peethas are mentioned in the scriptures for the benefit of simple fools who wander about”.
Peetha or not, Tawang is undoubtedly a special spot, a place of power. Is that why the ‘Hidden and Blessed Land of Mon’ is so coveted by China?
Located near the tri-junction between India, Tibet, and Bhutan, south of the McMahon Line, Tawang is today perhaps one of the most strategic districts in the country. Though before October 1962, no Chinese had ever set foot in the area, Beijing still dreams of controlling it. In the recent weeks, China has vociferously and threateningly reasserted its claim, but despite the noise in the Chinese media (and the protest of the Chinese spokesperson), the Narendra Modi Government saw no reason to not go ahead with the visit of the most honoured guest of India, the Dalai Lama.

‘Lama Geno’, in Monpa language could be translated as ‘the Lama knows’. It is what Tsangyang Gyatso, the young Sixth Dalai Lama, wrote with his finger on a stone in Urgyeling, his native village south of Tawang, in 1688. A high delegation had just arrived from Lhasa looking for the reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama who had passed away a couple of years earlier in Tibet. The boy ‘knew’ that the Lamas had come to ‘take him back’ to Tibet.
It is just one of the numerous stories or legends in Mon Tawang; the Monpas are fond and proud of these legends. Today, Beijing tries to use the fact the Tsangyang Gyatso is born in a village south of Tawang to prove that the area belongs to China; but given the fact that Shiva resides in the Kailash, would that make the area around the sacred mountain part of India? Moreover, suppose the 15th Dalai Lama is reborn in Ladakh or Kinnaur, would it make J&K or Himachal Pradesh part of the Middle Kingdom? Chinese logic serves its own interests.

History caught up with Tawang in 1913 when two intrepid British ‘explorers’, Capts Frederick Bailey and Henry Morshead, of the Survey of India scouted the Tibetan side of the ‘snow line’ in search of a northern border for India. Their experience and notes would be invaluable for Henry McMahon, India’s Foreign Secretary during the Simla Conference in 1914 during which Lonchen Shatra, the Tibetan Plenipotentiary, sat on equal footing with McMahon and Ivan Chen, the Chinese representative. On their first day in Simla, the three plenipotentiaries had verified their respective credentials whose bona fide was accepted by all. Today, China denies this, but it is a historical recorded fact. The Convention signed by India and Tibet (and only initialed by China) did not solve the tricky Tibet-China frontier issue, but the border between India and Tibet was fixed in the form of a thick red line on a double-page map — that was the McMahon Line.
After the Chinese troops of Zhao Erfeng, the warlord of Sichuan, entered Lhasa in 1910 and tried to capture the Dalai Lama, London thought that it would be better for India and Tibet to have a demarcated border, though for centuries, trade, cultural, and religious exchanges had been going on between the Land of Snows and the subcontinent without hindrance or formal guarded border posts. Between good neighbours, a fence is not required.
In the early 1930s, though the Buddhist neighbour in the north remained friendly and peaceful, Sir Olaf Caroe, the far-sighted Foreign Secretary, thought it was time to assert the Red Line as India’s border with Tibet; as a result, the first Indian expedition went to Tawang in 1938.

Life continued for a few years; India became independent, the Tricolour flag continued to float over Dekyi Linka, the Indian Mission, but soon clouds started accumulating in the roof of the world’s blue sky. Without warning, in October 1950, Communist China invaded Tibet.
A dying Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel got the ball rolling to protect India’s borders. With Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs, he took the initiative to set up a North and North-East Border Defence Committee under Maj Gen Himatsinghji, the then Deputy Defence Minister. The Committee’s first decision was to take over the administration of all Indian territories south of the McMahon Line. The experience of Kashmir, where India reacted too late, was not to be repeated.
Assam Governor Jairamdas Daulatram (NEFA was then part of Assam) ordered a young but highly decorated Naga officer, Maj Bob Khathing, to march to Tawang. On January 17, 1951, Bob, accompanied by 200 troops of Assam Rifles and 600 porters, left the foothills for the historic mission. During the following weeks, the young officer showed his toughness, but also diplomatic skills. In the process, the Monpas were delighted to get, for the first time, a proper administration.

Eight years later, Tawang made news when a fleeing Dalai Lama crossed the border at Khenzimane, north of Tawang, and took refuge in India. A few days earlier, the young Lama had sent a telegram from Lhuntse Dzong in Southern Tibet to Jawaharlal Nehru: “Ever since Tibet went under the control of Red China and the Tibetan Government lost its powers in 1951... the Chinese Government has been gradually subduing the Tibetan Government.” He asked the Prime Minister: “I hope that you will please make necessary arrangements for us in the Indian territory.”
According to Har Mander Singh, the Political Officer posted in Bomdila, a junior Tibetan officer reached the border post on March 29 and informed the Assam Rifles that the main party consisting of the Dalai Lama, his family, ministers, and tutors would be entering India on March 31.
On the appointed day, the Dalai Lama and his party reached Khenzimane. “His Holiness was riding a yak and was received by the Assistant Political Officer, Tawang. They proceeded to the checkpost without halting at the frontier,” wrote the Political Officer. On April 3, 1959, Nehru answered the Dalai Lama: “My colleagues and I welcome you and send you greetings on your safe arrival in India. We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities for you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India who hold you in great veneration will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your person.”
After resting a few days first in Tawang and then in Bomdila, on April 17, the Dalai Lama reached Tezpur in Assam from where he issued a statement denouncing China’s occupation of Tibet. The rest is history. Beijing never digested the fact that India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. Incidentally, when the Dalai Lama crossed the border in 1959, China did not claim the area south of the McMahon line. Several articles appeared in the Chinese media about the so-called ‘Tibetan rebellion’ which had started on March 10, and the subsequent flight of the young monk to India, but in the Communist literature in April/May 1959, there is not a single word about Tawang being part of China.
But as a mark of their displeasure, the Chinese entered the Indian territory north of Tawang in October 1962, using the same tracks that the Dalai Lama passed through three years earlier. The Indian Army was woefully unprepared and the infrastructure non-existent. It was a watershed in Indian history.

Since then, the Dalai Lama visited Arunachal Pradesh six times between 1983 and 2009. The Tibetan leader’s first trip was in 1983, when he toured some of the Tibetan settlements in the State, as well as Bomdila, Tawang, and Dirang. In December 1996, he came back to Itanagar, and in October the next year, he was again in Tawang. In May 2003, the spiritual leader travelled to Tawang before visiting Itanagar in December. The last trip was in November 2009 when he was received in Tawang by the late Chief Minister (and father of the present CM) Dorjee Khandu. Each time China protested, but not as vociferously as during the present trip.


Why did China react so mildly the previous times? Probably, China has today become ‘bigger’; it refuses to be contradicted by ‘smaller’ nations. Beijing also knows that the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang means a reassertion of India’s border in the area.
Beijing used batteries of ‘experts’, including a wanted ULFA dissident, to project its case. Lian Xiangmin, a ‘Tibetologist’ at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing, warned India: “These are sensitive areas. Such a visit by the Dalai Lama touches sensitive issues and will undoubtedly negatively affect China-India relations.”
Lian used ‘Chinese’ logic to make his point: “One of the three major temples of Tibet is Drepung monastery near Lhasa, and Tawang was a subsidiary of Drepung, and in history, Tawang’s monks went to Drepung to study sutras. Tawang under Drepung also made contributions to the local Government. So Tawang is part of Tibet and Tibet is part of China, so Tawang is part of China. So this is not much of a question.”
For centuries, the Buddhist Himalayan belt had close connections with Tibet; most of the monasteries in Ladakh were affiliated to monasteries in Western Tibet; similarly for Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul or Sikkim, which were linked with other religious centres in Tibet. According to the logic of Lian, should all these areas also become Chinese?

China speaks big and loud, but the regime in Beijing has not been able to win the hearts of the Tibetans more than 60 years after their so-called liberation. In these circumstances, how could the Communist leadership convince the population of Arunachal Pradesh to join the authoritarian regime?
Beijing should take note of the Dalai Lama’s immense popularity in Arunachal. Despite the short notice, tens of thousands came to get the Lama’s blessings. Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who accompanied the Tibetan leader on his journey to Bomdila, remarked: “We are humbled and will remain ever grateful to His Holiness. He has fulfilled the prayers of thousands of devotees who have waited eight long years to hear and see him in person.”
The entire State and district administrations, as well as local lamas and politicians were seen as the Dalai Lama arrived in Bomdila. His immense popularity deeply irritates Beijing whose propaganda is unable to win the ‘masses’, whether on the Tibetan side of the border or in the Indian Himalaya.
In Tawang, not only the entire local Monpa population will throng to have a glimpse of the Bodhisattva of compassion, but large flocks of Bhutanese, too, who have trekked from the neighbouring districts of Tashigang and Tashiyangtse, and Buddhist pilgrims from the remotest village of Upper Subansiri, West Siang or Upper Siang districts, who would have travelled for days to have a once-in-a-lifetime darshan.
Beijing does not know how to react to such popularity and reverence for the Tibetan leader. It is probably inconceivable for an atheist mind.
The Modi sarkar has taken the right decision by letting the visit happen; it is not only a question of religious freedom, but Delhi has also reasserted its border with China. If China is under the impression that Delhi’s policy is going to change, it is mistaken; Beijing has to reconcile and live with it.
It is perhaps time for China to hold serious discussions with the Dalai Lama; he is the only one who can unlock the vexed Tibetan issue. But before that, the Chinese leadership has to learn samata or equanimity from India.

A few photos of the event in Tawang (courtesy Mon Tawang Vigilance and CM's website)


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Chinese and their Bogus Tall Assertions

Waiting for the Dalai Lama
My article The Chinese and their Bogus Tall Assertions appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Listening to Chinese diplomats like Ma, who warned of consequences for India, it would seem as if Tawang and Arunachal have always belonged to China. The fact is that such claims had been an after-thought

Here is the link...

Chinese diplomats seem to become more and more ‘undiplomatic’, not to say ‘uncivilized’.
Take Ma Zhanwu, the Chinese Consul General in Kolkata; he threatened India of dire consequences, would Delhi refuse to cancel the Dalai Lama's trip to Arunachal Pradesh.
During a press conference, he said: “Tawang is disputed territory between India and China and the Dalai should be kept away from the place if an amicable solution to the border dispute is sought.”
In fact, there is no dispute about Tawang, especially after China and India signed an agreement in 2005 on the “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question” which stipulates “the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas.”
In other words, there is no question of changing the status of Tawang.
In this context, Mr. Ma’s threateningly tone is surprising: “…if the visit happens, China will be forced to take measures against India and that will affect co-operation and ties between us.”
Though diplomats like Ma have little knowledge about history, Beijing has done some home work to propagate its version of the story.
Last month, a briefing was organized in the Chinese capital to explain to the Indian and foreign journalists what happened in 1959. Lian Xiangmin, Director of Institute of Contemporary Tibetan Studies reiterated China's claims over Tawang. "One of the three major temples of Tibet is Drepung monastery near Lhasa, and Tawang was a subsidiary of Drepung and in history, Tawang's monks went to Drepung to study sutras. Tawang under Drepung also made contributions to the local government. So Tawang is part of Tibet and Tibet is part of China, so Tawang is part of China. So this is not much of a question."
For centuries however, the Buddhist Himalayan belt had closed connections with Tibet; in Ladakh for example, most of the monasteries were affiliated to monasteries in Western Tibet; ditto for Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul or Sikkim, linked with other religious centers in Tibet.
According to the logic of Mr Lian, all these areas should become Chinese?
But if Mr Lian had gone a bit deeper in history, he would have realized that there is no such a thing as ‘Tibetan Buddhist’, the entire ‘Tibetan’ tradition comes from Nalanda and it is Shantarakshita, the Abbot of the great vihara who ordained the first Tibetan monks in the Land of Snows. Following further Mr Lian’s theory, the entire Tibet should belong to India?
It is interesting to look at the first days of the Dalai Lama in India.
On March 26, 1959, the Tibetan leader, then camping in a border village called Lhuntse Dzong, wrote to the Indian Prime Minster: “Ever since Tibet went under the control of Red China …the Chinese Government has been gradually subduing the Tibetan Government.” He announced that on March 31, he would be crossing the Indian border: “In this critical situation we are entering India via Tsona. I hope that you will please make necessary arrangements for us in the Indian territory.”
At the appointed date and time, the Tibetan leader and his entourage reached the Assam Rifles post in Chuthangmu, north of Tawang.
On April 3, Nehru answered Dalai Lama’s telegram through the Government of Assam: “We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities for you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India who hold you in great veneration will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your person.”
It is worth noting that since that day, the Dalai Lama has been considered as an honoured guest by all successive Indian governments. Beijing has to live with this fact; this is not going to change.
Regarding Tawang, when the Dalai Lama crossed the border, China did not claim the area south of the McMahon line. If it was China’s territory, Chinese troops would have followed him, no?
In 1959, a lot appeared in the Chinese media about the so-called ‘Tibetan rebellion’ which started on March 10, and the subsequent flight of the young monk to India, but in the Communist literature in April/May 1959, there is not a single word about Tawang being part of China.
On May 6, The People’s Daily (PD) carried a nasty article ‘The Revolution in Tibet and Nehru's Philosophy’, insulting the Indian Prime Minister for having granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. The mouthpiece of the Communist Party said: “The war of rebellion unleashed by the handful of traitors in Tibet has in the main been quelled. With the ignominious defeat of the rebels, the sanguinary conflict they created has ended over the overwhelming portion of Tibet.”
The fact that 87,000 unarmed Tibetans died during the days following the uprising is not mentioned while the Communist paper conveniently forgot that it was the ‘masses’ who revolted against the Chinese occupation, the PD continued: “May we ask all those vociferous self-styled sympathizers of the Tibetan people, just who are the ‘Tibetan people you sympathize with? …Whose defeat is the defeat of the rebellion in Tibet which you weep and mourn over?” …When the big serf- owners in Tibet gouge out the eyes and hearts of the serfs, these specialists in sympathy did not feel it a tragedy and did not demand of these serf-owners moderation and humanitarianism.”
Nehru, though personally accused, remained calm in the Lok Sabha; he declared: “there are many articles in the world press with which we are not in agreement; some are even very censorious of India or Indian policy;” he did not want to reply the wild accusations, though he spoke of a cold war technique: “we have recently had some experience of that regard to India. …We did not like it. The question arises whether we should adopt that technique or not.”
On September 11, 1959, Premier Zhou Enlai addressed the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the Sino-Indian boundary question. Again, he did not mention Tawang, though he said that there was no reason for Beijing “to accept the Indian Government's unilateral claims concerning the Sino-Indian boundary. The so-called McMahon Line was a product of British imperialist aggression against Tibet. It had never been recognized by any Central Government of China and thus had absolutely no validity in law.”
All this changed, after the Kongka Pass incident in October 1959 which resulted in the death of 9 Indian soldiers. Beijing realized that India was ‘now’ claiming the Aksai Chin and questioning their road through the area.
Thereafter, Beijing’s stand was more aggressive and NEFA became China’s territory as a bargain against its occupation of the Aksai Chin.
Today, listen to Mr Ma and his colleagues, it sounds as if Tawang and Arunachal have always belonged to them, but the claim was clearly an after-thought.