Sunday, January 2, 2022

What about Patia-la?

Did Beijing ask the local population if they want to be part of China?

Since 1984, the Chinese and Bhutanese officials have been meeting to discuss their common border. 

The Bhutanese negotiators are usually bullied by the big ‘Northern Neighbour’ (the Bhutanese prefer to call China thus).
A few years ago, in the course of a 'discussion', the Chinese side gave a long presentation about the names of the places which, according to them, proved that Bhutan occupied some Chinese territory at several locations. 

They started arguing the ‘la’ was a Chinese word (it means ‘pass’ in Tibetan and Bhutanese, not in Chinese).  Even after the Bhutanese negotiators told their Chinese counterparts that it was not a Chinese name, the latter continued to insist.
It is then that a senior smart Bhutanese official interrupted the Chinese argument and asked: “What at Patia-la? Is it a Chinese place?”
The Chinese were so much taken by surprise that they kept quiet …at least for some time.
This anecdote came to mind when I read that Beijing had released the second batch of ‘new’ names for places in Arunachal Pradesh.
On December 30, the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing announced that it had “standardized in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of 15 places in Zangnan [they now call thus the southern part of Xizang or Tibet], in accordance with regulations on geographical names issued by the State Council, China's cabinet.”
'Zangnan' is probably an abbreviation of (Xi)Zang = Tibet and 'Nan' (south in Mandarin).
China has never used this term before.
Why Beijing has used a Chinese abbreviation for the area and Tibetan names for the 15 locations is not clear.

The 15 Places
According to The Global Times, among the official names of the 15 places, which were given with precise coordinates, eight were residential areas, four were mountains, two were rivers and one is a mountain pass (Sela).
It was the second batch of so-called standardized names of places published by the ministry; the first batch of the so-called standardized names of six places in was released in 2017 (see article below).
Contrary to what the Indian media wrongly mentioned, the names are not ‘invented’ names; they are transcription of the Tibetan names for these 15 areas.
It is far more serious than ‘invented names’ as by ‘proving’ that these places had Tibetan names, China can come to the easy conclusion that they have been Tibetan places and therefore Chinese.
The argument is tenuous, as it is often the case, but it does not stop China from using it.
It however gives a clear message to India: whatever has been Tibetan (or even have a Tibetan name) belongs to China.
One day, places in Ladakh, Sikkim or Kinnaur will thus be claimed.
Lian Xiangmin, from the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing, explained to The Global Times that “it is part of a national effort to standardize the management of place names. The places have existed for hundreds of years.”
Interestingly, as mentioned earlier on this blog, the claim on NEFA as being part of the Chinese territory dates only from the end of 1930s, when the newly-created Xikang Province engulfed some these areas of the North-East.
Lian said: “It is a legitimate move and China's sovereign right to give them standardized names. More standardized place names in the region will be announced in the future.”
Another so-called expert, Zhang Yongpan, from the Institute of Chinese Borderland Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that these areas were named by the central and local (Tibetan) governments “throughout history, as well as ethnic groups such as the Tibetan, Lhoba, and Monba who have long lived in the region.”
Historically, it is again entirely wrong.
The move is apparently part of the implementation of the new the Land Border Law, which has come into effect on January 1, 2022.
The Global Times explained: “The eight residential places in the second batch are Sêngkêzong [Senge Dzong] and Daglungzong [Taklung Dzong] in Cona [Tsona] County of Shannan [Lhoka] Prefecture, Mani'gang [Manigong], Duding [Tuting]and Migpain [Migpan] in Medog [Metok] County of Nyingchi [Nyingtri], Goling, Damba [Tampa] in Zayu [Zayul] County of Nyingchi, and Mêjag [Mechag or Maja] in Lhunze [Lhuntse] County of Shannan Prefecture. ‘The four mountains are Wamo Ri, Dêu [Deu] Ri, Lhünzhub [Lhungrup] Ri and Kunmingxingzê [Guming Shingtse] Feng. The two rivers are Xênyogmo He [Syiom] and Dulain [Tulan] He, and the mountain pass is named Sê La [Sela], in Cona [Tsona] County.”
This chart shows that the ‘new’ names derive from Tibetan names (click to enlarge).

Why this mixture of different places is not clear.
But what is worrying is that Maja, south of Longju, where China built a new village on Indian territory a few months is included.
So is Tuting (Duding) in the Upper Siang district is also mentioned.
The time has perhaps come for India to reassert its claim on Minsar, the Indian principality near Mt Kailash.

My 2017 article...

China has announced 'official standardised' names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh.
It is 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.
A few days earlier, Beijing had started naming ‘Tawang’ as ‘Dawang’, according to its pin yin spelling.
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 reasons why China is 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.
Mila Ri is one of the ridges above the lake.
‘Ri’ means ‘mountain’ or ‘ridge’ in Tibetan/Monpa.
It is situated near the famous 'Madhuri' Lake, north of Tawang and South of Bumla. The place is mentioned in the 1962 War records.

The third place is Qoidengarbo Ri, for 'Chorten Karpo’ or ‘White Stupa’.
It probably refers to Gorsam Chorten, the only large white stupa in the area (and the largest in Arunachal).
It is not far from Ziminthang, 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 in West Siang.
China is not happy that India recently landed a C17 Hercules transport aircraft in the area. Watch the video.
I have often written on Menchuka (or Mechuka, alternative spelling) on this blog.
Menchuka was occupied by the Chinese in October/November 1962.

Bumo La is the border post of Bumla where the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA meet several times a year.
Incidentally 'bumo' means 'girl' in Tibetan/Monpa.

Namkapub Ri is probably link to Namkha chu river, the theater of the first Chinese attack in 1962.
It is one of the ridges above the river (Hathungla?).

By naming these six places, Beijing probably wants to remind India of the 1962 War and the fact that the Dalai Lama ‘belongs to China’.
But renaming names is not new.
It has been done by all colonizers.
In this case, it will be difficult for China to convince the local populations to join them under the Communist banner.

Below a map showing the Chinese advances toward Tawang on October 23-24 1962 (courtesy: Maj Gen PJS Sandhu, retd) from the book 1962: A view from the Other Side of the Hill published by United Service Institution of India.
One can see Milakteng (Mila Ri) and Bumla. The stupa is not marked on the map.
Map by Brig John Dalvi, 7 Infantry Brigade commander in October 1962
The Gorsam Chorten (Stupa) and the Namkha Chu are shown.

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