Monday, May 29, 2017

Relentless development of infrastructure in Tibet

China relentlessly continues to develop the infrastructure on the Roof of the World.
Last week, China Tibet News announced the reconstruction and an extension of Lhasa Kongkar Airport which is scheduled to start in July: “the land expropriation and demolition work of the reconstruction and extension project of Kongkar Airport has been nearly completed and construction is expected to start.”
Su Zhiqiang, member of the Tibet Civil Aviation Administration mentioned the budget of the new project: 3.9 billion yuan.
By 2025, the Kongkar Airport will yearly accommodate 9 million passenger and 80,000 tons of cargo. The Chinese website says that 88,000 square meters will be added to T3 terminal and a 56,000 square meters parking lot will be built. The Tibet Civil Aviation expects the passenger traffic to double by 2020 (compared to 2015).
China Tibet News notes: “The construction of new airport terminal area will further improve the comprehensive security capabilities of Kongkar Airport, meet people's travel demands, and effectively promote Tibet's economic and social development.”
The ‘defense’ is not mentioned.
But that is not all: the Highway between the Airport and Tsetang will be upgraded. The same website reports: “the subgrade earthwork, bridge project, and tunnel project have been basically completed.”
The length of the ‘upgraded’ highway is 90 km: “the running speed is designed to be 100 km/h. It is first-class highway with four lanes. There are 54 bridges, 1 tunnel, and 189 culverts along the highway. Besides, there are 9 separate interchanges and 6 interchanges.”
It is expected to be opened on June 30.

In Southeastern Tibet (Yunnan province), the Dechen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is planning to invest 13 billon yuan to build four 'secondary' roads.
According to Kangba TV, the first road will be the 62 km-long Xiangwei secondary road, starting from Yisong in Shangri-La City to end up in Cangjue Village in Wujing Township. The investment is estimated to be 3 billion yuan.
The second one is the 121 km-long Xiangxiang secondary road, starting from Junmachang also in Shangri-La City, it will end at Mt. Daxue pass; it will connect provincial way S209, Dongwang road and provincial way S416. It is estimated at more than 4 billion yuan.
The third is the 61km-long Weixi-Judian secondary road which will start from Lahezhu in Weixi County will end in Judian’s Xiaohekou in Lijiang City. It will connect provincial way S210 and Dongwang road: estimate is 2 billion yuan.
The fourth is the 148.91km-long Huzhong secondary road, from Hutiaoxia Township in Shangri-La City to Junmachang, connecting national G214 and provincial way S209. It will cost nearly 5 billion yuan.

What will this infrastructure used for?

A study recently published in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy and conducted by the Saïd Business School brings some light on the issue. It found out that “low-quality infrastructure investments pose significant risks to the Chinese and the global economy.” The authors of the study argued that over half of the infrastructure investments in China have destroyed rather than generated economic value.
The study authored by Atif Ansar, Bent Flyvbjerg, Alexander Budzier and Daniel Lunn is based on the large database, which analyzed 95 large Chinese road and rail transport projects, and 806 other transport projects.
Dr Ansar commented: “It is a myth that China grew thanks largely to heavy infrastructure investment. It grew due to bold economic liberalisation and institutional reforms, and this growth is now threatened by over-investment in low-grade infrastructure. The lesson for other markets is that policy makers should place their attention on software and deep institutional reforms, and exercise far greater caution in diverting scarce resources to large-scale physical infrastructure projects.”
The conclusion is that massive infrastructure investment programmes are not a viable development strategy for developing countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria or Brazil, which dream of using China’ model of economic development.
If not viable for Mainland China, can it be sustainable in Tibet?
Though the risks are the same, large scale tourism development in Tibet, i.e. The Disney Land of Snows, justifies heavy infrastructure and though not explicitly mentioned, the ‘defense’ of the borders needs is present in the minds of the planners in Beijing, which knows of the importance of 'dual use' of infrastructure on the plateau. See my previous posting.

New tourist packages
In a recent article, Kangba TV quoted Lhasa Transport Industry Group, Tibet's largest passenger road transport company, about the opening of direct routes/packages to scenic spots in Tibet on May 1.
According to the Group, nine regional and six inter-provincial tourist routes will be launched by the company in the next three years.
The list of the tours gives an indication where the infrastructure development will take place in the coming years.
(Note in Tour No 10, China is planning a Lhasa-Kashgar trip via Western Tibet and the Aksai Chin Road. Should not Delhi object to the flocks of tourists crossing the Indian territory?)
A quick glance at the tours itinerary shows that Western Tibet will be one of the focus of development in the years to come.
Interestingly, a promotion meeting, with the theme of 'Secret Area of Western Tibet, Ngari in Heaven”, was held in Beijing on May 24.
Xinhua reported: "Ngari Prefecture in Tibet Autonomous Region has long attracted myriad tourists coming from afar with its unique tourism resources. In recent years, according to the strategic deployment about building Gangdise international tourism cooperation zone, as well as the rapid development of self-driving travel in Tibet, Ngari has increasingly become a destination selection of self-driving travelers."
More infrastructure in the pipeline.
In fact, Plans 7, 8 10 will take the tourists close to the Indian borders of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh.
India should watch (and act).

The Fifteen Proposed Packages/Tours
  • The first one is the 500km-long one-day tour of Namtso (Lhasa-Yangbajain geothermal hot springs-Mt. Nyanchen Thanglha-Namtso-Lhasa).
  • The second one is the 220km-long one-day tour of Yamdrok Yumtso.
  • The third one is the 1,414 km-long circular tour of Lhasa, Nyingchi and Lhoka
  • The fourth one is the 336km-long one-day circular tour of Lhoka (Lhasa-Samye Monastery-Yumbulakang-Yarlung Tsangpo-Lhasa Kongkar Airport-Lhasa).
  • The fifth one is the 1,480km-long three-day tour of Mt. Chomolungma or Mt. Everest (lasting for four days and three nights).
  • The sixth one is the 442km-long one-day tour of Karu la Glacier (Lhasa-Yamdrok Yumtso-Nagartse County-Karo la Glacier-Lhasa).
  • The seventh one is the 3,276km-long Lhasa-Ruins of Guge Kingdom line (lasting for nine days and eight nights).
  • The eighth one is the 916km-long Kyirong-Purang line.
  • The ninth one is te 60km-long Dadong scenic spot line.
  • The tenth one is the 6,918km-long Lhasa-Kashgar line (lasting for seven days and six nights).
  • The 11th one is the 4,024km-long Lhasa-Xining line (through Xining-Golmud-Lhasa highway for five days and four nights).
  • The 12th one is the 5,380km-long Lhasa-Chengdu road in Sichuan province (through for 11 days and ten nights).
  • The 13th one is the 4,564km-long Lhasa-Xining line (from Xi’an to Lhasa, passing by Gansu and Qinghai provinces for five days and four nights).
  • The 14th one is the 4,804km-long Lhasa-Chengdu line (through Northern section of Sichuan-Tibet highway for eight days and seven nights).
  • The 15th one is the 3,514km long Lhasa-Lijiang line (through Yunnan-Tibet highway for six days and five nights).
The Lhasa Transport Industry Group concludes: “Direct routes to and in scenic spots around Lhasa will be gradually launched if the pilot operation goes well.”

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What India can learn from Bali

My article What India can learn from Bali appeared in Mail Today.

Since my teenage years, Bali was a dream. I remember turning again and gain the pages of tiny photo book by Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famed French photographer and founder of Magnum Agency. The book titled ‘Les Danses à Bali’ (‘Dances in Bali’) was published soon after the photographer’s visit to the Island in 1949. With his exquisite art of catching expressions, Cartier-Bresson depicted the dancing schools of the island which enact some of the powerful scenes of the Ramayana, mostly portrayed by young tiny Balinese girls.
More than 65 years later, many things have changed on the island, but the peaceful spiritual atmosphere caught by the lens of Cartier-Bresson’s Leica remains … with a difference, the hundreds of thousands of tourists.
From Cartier-Bresson (1949)
I could myself witness these changes during a recent visit to the ‘paradise’ island of Indonesia.

The first ‘incredible’ experience is the arrival at Denpasar International Airport. Walking towards the Immigration’s counters, I could see hundreds of visitors of different nationalities, Westerners, but also Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese …and a few Indians, queuing for a visa. I thought to myself, “Oh no, it may take at least 2 hours before we get out of the airport.” It was a first pleasant surprise, less than 20 minutes later, we were through. Being used to the Indian system (which has improved in recent years), I could not believe the speed with which the immigration officers were issuing visas-on-arrival. They just scan your passport, stamped and that is it.
I recalled the cumbersome Inner Line Permit still in force in many States of India’s North-East. Why can’t the Government of India introduce such a system in India when visitors want to enter Arunachal Pradesh or Nagaland? The babus of India are unfortunately unable to understand simplicity and efficiency; their system has to be complicated so that they are able to keep some ‘control’.
It is not that Bali has not faced security issues. On October 12, 2002, 202 people (including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians) were killed in a suicide bomb attack. Another attack occurred three years later, killing four foreigners.
But while ‘security’ is taken care of, the visitors are welcomed with a smile and a thunderous ‘How are you, Sir/Mam”. India has certainly a lot to learn.

India’s North-East
A comparison with the North-East is interesting; like the Balinese, its inhabitants are fun-loving and smiling, they speak good English and are rather ‘relaxed’, further they are great hosts.
The Seven (or Eight) sisters could become the hub of domestic tourism if ‘Delhi’ could understand the potential of tourism for the economy and the integration of the North-East.
One evening, watching the Ramayana enacted by a large group of Balinese dancers and a choir ‘in trance’, I noticed how the Island has become cosmopolitan while still being anchored deeply in its Hindu tradition. Was the way the main characters of the epic perform their roles now different from the one witnessed by Cartier-Bresson in 1949? Probably not.
Sitting there, I was fascinated by the haunting chants of the choir, the battle between Good and Evil, with Sita prisoner of the evil Ravana and the Great Hanuman jumping through and interacting with the crowd, to the amusement of all. Perhaps even more interesting, I happened to be surrounded by vociferous Muslim ladies from Malaysia, fully participating in the high drama on the stage.
It was probably the magic of Hinduism to bring together such a motley crowd, vibrating in unison.

The Political Aspect
Another interesting aspect linked with the islands’ present situation is the arrival of waves of Chinese visitors, linked with the much-talked about One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative of President Xi Jinping.
Indonesia would like to participate in the ambitious Dream by attracting 10 million tourists from China by 2019. The latest data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) show that 1.43 million Chinese tourists visited Bali in 2016, representing a 25 percent annual increase over the previous year. The 10 million benchmark may be difficult to achieve for the Indonesian tourist industry, moreover, a survey recently revealed that the typical Chinese tourist to Bali spends only one quarter of what is spent by their European and Australian counterparts.
While for Indonesia tourism is a source of hefty revenue, for China, it means a presence in South-East Asia.

Tourism an economic weapon
The Agence France Press (AFP) recently spoke of China's new weapon in the economic war, i.e. tourism, explaining: “Slapping import bans on products like mangoes, coal and salmon has long been China's way of punishing countries that refuse to toe its political line. But Beijing has shown that it can also hurt others by cutting a lucrative Chinese export, tourism.”
The article quotes the example of South Korea over a US anti-missile shield and the ban on Chinese tour groups from visiting Korea. Similarly, tourism to Taiwan has also fallen sharply as relations across the strait worsened.
Countries submitting to China's demands are rewarded and those who do not ‘behave’ are punished.
Closer to us, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn earlier this month published the ‘hidden’ report on CPEC. One of the chapters speaks about the development of a ‘coastal tourism’ industry; a long belt of coastal enjoyment industry that includes yacht wharfs, cruise homeports, nightlife, city parks, public squares, theaters, golf courses and spas, hot spring hotels and water sports. The report adds: “for the development of coastal vacation products, Islamic culture, historical culture, folk culture and marine culture shall all be integrated.” Many see this as a new form of colonization; though thus is far from being the case in Bali as yet.
The point remains that India has still a lot to learn from the Island in terms of ‘hospitality’ …and cleanliness.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why was Fan shown the door?

Something rather unusual has happened in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).
An official called Fan Lingmin who had just been appointed Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the TAR’ People's Government, has been sacked.
He served less than a month before being shown the door.
Fang was born in May 1964 in Yuncheng County of Shandong Province.
In August 1983, he graduated from Shandong Normal University Department in Basic Mathematics. 
He was later transferred to Tibet and posted at the Tibet University in Lhasa, first as deputy director of the Academic Affairs Department.
In 2000, he became Vice President of the Party Committee of Tibet University and in 2003, Deputy Secretary of the University.
In 2009, he was promoted as Secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet University.
In May 2015, Fan became Vice-Chairman of the TAR Government, and Vice-Chancellor of Tibet University.
In February 2017, he was nominated Secretary-General of the Provincial Education Work Committee, in other words in charge of education in the TAR Government.
In April, he was promoted Secretary General of the TAR People's Government.
According to, on May 17, during the 32nd session of the Standing Committee of the TAR People's Congress, Zhang Yongze took over Fan’s seat, while another official, Zhu Qiang was promoted as Secretary General of the TAR Government.

Why was Fang sacked after hardly a month in the job?
It is a mystery.
The answer can perhaps be found in an article published on May 1 in The Global Times, which alleges: ‘Some CPC members funding Dalai Lama’.
The mouthpiece of the Party says: “A senior discipline inspection official has lambasted some Party officials for allegedly donating money to the 14th Dalai Lama, saying such behavior severely undermines the Party's fight against separatism.”
Wang Yongjun, head of the TAR’s Central Commission of Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said that some Party officials have neglected important political issues and China's anti-separatist struggle: “Some have even donated to the 14th Dalai Lama clique, joined illegal underground organizations and provided intelligence to overseas organizations.”
Wang added that a few Party officials are failing to "uphold political integrity" and are "completely ignoring political discipline. Such behavior has affected CPC coherence and its ability to fight separatism.”
This was serious allegations, though no names were cited.
Qizhala (Che Dralha), the Tibetan heading the TAR government had declared in March: “Tibet is firmly against separatism and cracked down on secession and sabotage activities by the Dalai Lama clique in 2016.”
On May 17, the China News Service further reported that a 2016 report issued by TAR's CCDI “linked 15 Party officials to alleged illegal overseas separatist organizations in 2014 who provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama clique and funded secessionist activities.”
Was Fang one of them?
It is possible.

Che Dralha and his predecessor Lobsang Gyaltsen
A Yunnan Clique?
In the meantime, Fan has been replaced by Zhang Yongze, a 48-year-old Han Chinese from Yunnan Province Che Dralha his boss.
Are we witnessing the emergence of 'Yunnan clique' like there was a 'Nagchu clique' in the past?
Interestingly, Zhang has a Doctor's Degree in hydraulics and river dynamics.
Will he be responsible for damming the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra?
It is not certain because Fan, his predecessor looked after education.
Zhang started to work in 1997 and joined the Communist Party of China in March of the same year. In 1998, he was transferred to Tibet and assigned to the Environmental Protection Bureau before moving to the Shannan (Lhoka) prefecture.
In 2015, he was appointed as Party Secretary of Shannan Municipal Committee.
Not much is known of Zhu Qian.
Interesting developments on the Roof of the World.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Avian Intrusions over the Red Line

'Civilian' pigeon?
According to The Asian Age, “Pigeons with Chinese tags lead to a stir in Arunachal Pradesh.”
The reporter mentioned that villagers caught some tagged pigeons in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh.
The tags being written in Chinese created anxious moments for the villagers in the Lohit Valley.
The Anjaw district is strategically  located south of the McMahon Line
The Asian Age said: “The villagers who spotted the pigeons reported the issue to the local police and handed over the pigeons trapped by them. While it is not known if the pigeons were fitted with transmitters or spying equipment, security sources told this newspaper it had come to their notice and they are examining the tags. The sources didn’t rule out the possibility of China using these pigeons for surveillance of frontier areas and townships.”
Only after inquiry, we should know.

Chinese Markings
The Chinese markings seem to indicate that the origin of the pigeons was Rima, the first small town in Tibet, north of the McMahon (Kibithu is the last Indian village in the area).
It often happens that pigeons ‘loose’ their way, but it is strange that it has happened to so many on the same day.
Incidentally, at the same time, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired the first-ever review meeting of Sino-Indian border infrastructure in Sikkim. It was attended by the Chief Ministers and representatives of five Himalayan states bordering Tibet.
Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who was present, raised serious concern over the migration of people away from border areas due to lack of basic facilities. It is not clear if he was aware of the avian ‘intrusion’ at that time.

An old posting
More than five years ago, I mentioned on this blog the use of pigeons for military purpose.
At that time, a Member of the French Parliament suggested boosting the use of military pigeons for the French Army. In a written question, Jean-Pierre Decool, a MP from the UMP (now Les Republicains) majority (from Northern France) asked for the return of the military pigeon as a weapon.
He forcefully spoke of "the usefulness of the pigeon in the event of armed conflict. In 2011, the Chinese army has decided to 'recruit' some 10,000 pigeons, in addition to the existing 200. Indeed, if during an armed conflict, a generalized failure of communication networks may occur. Consequently, the pigeon will remain one of the only communication tools capable of transporting messages," Decool said in the Parliament.
In his response, the French Minister of Defence stated: "historically, the pigeon presented a certain interest for military communications. Safe and reliable, it has often helped to get rid of the insecurity of the other lines of communication. The French Army has the last pigeon dovecote in Europe on the site of Mont-Valerian, near Paris. In addition, France has identified nearly 20,000 pigeon lovers, who could provide valuable assistance in case of strong 'weakening' of telecommunication networks."
In 2011, the Time Magazine spoke of "China's Most Secret Weapon: The Messenger Pigeon". The article asserted: "These military pigeons will be primarily called upon to conduct special military missions between troops stationed at our land borders or ocean borders," air force military expert Chen Hong told China Central Television after the announcement. According to reports at that time, the birds could be dispersed to communications bases across China's remote and mountainous southwestern region, particularly around the Himalayan foothills. The pigeons, flying at speeds of up to 75 miles (120 km) per hour, will be trained to carry loads of up to 3.5 oz. (100 g).

India should remain vigilant and learn from China the tricks of the Art of War.

In 1910, Chinese had 'walked' as far south as Menilkrai, near Walong
for what the British called a 'promenade'


Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Case of Demchok

Radar on the ‘Chinese side’ of Demchok
On August 14, 1939, as he camped near Gartok, one of the three British (Indian) Trade Agencies in Tibet, Rai Bahadur Dr Kanshi Ram, the British Trade Agent (BTA) in Western Tibet, found finally time to write to the Political Agent of the Punjab Hill States in Simla: “I have the honour to submit herewith the following report of my journey from Simla to Gartok via Srinagar and Leh, Kashmir,” Ram started.
He had left Simla on May 20 to reach Srinagar on May 27; after a week-long stay in the Valley, he began his journey to the Tibetan border. He was accompanied by the Wazir Wazarat of Ladakh; both were to meet the Garpon or Governor of Western Tibet  for a tripartite inquiry into the alleged murder of a Tibetan, Champa Skaldan by Zaildar, a Ladakhi of Rupchu. The crime had been committed in Ladakh a few years earlier.
After a week-halt in Leh, they started for Demchok, the last Ladakhi village before the Tibetan border. They reached Demchok on July 17, 1939, where they were to meet the Senior and Junior Garpons; the inquiry started three days later.
Dr Kanshi Ram, in his report to Simla, notes: “On the night of July 21 the stream by the side of which we were camping suddenly rose to higher level and began to flow over our camping ground at midnight. We were abed as alarm was raised and we then got up and took our luggage and other belongings to a place of safety, and had to keep awake throughout the night. The rain which began to pour down since morning was still continuing. The next morning we crossed the stream and camped on the Tibetan border at a place of safety. The Wazir also renewed his camp some yards away from the stream amongst the boulders. This stream forms a natural boundary between Tibet and Kashmir at Demchok.”
This is interesting because it shows that before Independence, the Indo-Tibet border in Ladakh was well defined and agreed upon by the government of British India (represented by the BTA), the State of J&K (the Wazir) and the Tibetan Government (the Garpons).
It is not true anymore; since the end of the 1950s, a very large area around Demchok is claimed by Beijing though no Chinese had ever been seen in the area. The fact is that soon after invading the Tibetan plateau, the Communist regime in Beijing started claiming more and more of India’s territory in the Himalaya.
We shall look at the case of Demchok which is a case study of Chinese ‘advances’ which resulted in what today is called a ‘difference of perceptions’ on the LAC.

The building of the Aksai Chin road
The Chinese ‘advances’ in the Demchok sector began with the objective to protect a new road linking Tibet to Xinjiang in the Aksai Chin area.
Though the issue would only become public through a debate in the Lok Sabha in August 1959, in the early 1950s already, Delhi was aware that China was building a road, but South Block was not ready to acknowledge it.
The Official Report of the 1962 War published by the MoD states: “The preliminary survey work on the planned Tibet-Sinkiang road having been completed by the mid-1950’s, China started constructing motorable road in summer 1955. The highway ran over 160 km across the Aksai Chin region of north-east Ladakh. It was completed in the second half of 1957. Arterial roads connecting the highway with Tibet were also laid. On 6 October 1957, the Sinkiang-Tibet road was formally opened with a ceremony in Gartok and twelve trucks on a trial run from Yarkand reached Gartok. In January 1958, the China News Agency reported that the Sinkiang-Tibet highway had been opened two months earlier and the road was being fully utilised.”

In his book The Saga of Ladakh,  Maj Gen Jagjit Singh mentions that in 1956, the Indian Military Attaché in Beijing, Brig Mallik received information that China had started building a highway through Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area. Mallik had reported the matter to Army Headquarters in New Delhi which passed the report to South Block.
Other examples could be given , but the fact that the road lies close to Demchok, triggered the Chinese claims on the area.

The Panchsheel negotiations
In 1953-1954, long negotiations preceded the signature on the "Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India", known as the Panchsheel Agreement for its famous preamble, on April 29, 1954.
The negotiations ended with India giving away all its rights in Tibet (telegraph lines, post offices, dak bungalows, military escort in Gyantse and Yatung, etc.), while getting no assurance on the border demarcation from the Chinese government in return, on the contrary.
The talks were held in Beijing between Zhang Hanfu, China’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, N. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador to China and T.N. Kaul, his Chargé d’Affaires and Chen Chai-Kang, a Director. They lasted from December 1953 till end of April 1954.
On February 21, N. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador in China informs R.K. Nehru, the Foreign Secretary, that Kaul had met Chen the previous day.
Amongst other issues, the ‘trade marts’ were discussed: “Chen agreed regarding Tashigong and said we could also have Demchok.”
The move was clever: Chen was offering a Tibetan mart …on India’s territory.

The Demchok-Tashigang route
Kaul objected, Demchok was in India, he told Chen who answered that India’s border was further on the West of the Indus. On Kaul’s insistence Chen said “There can be no doubt about actual physical possession which can be verified on spot but to avoid any dispute we may omit mention of Demchok”. Though Kaul repeated Demchok was on India’s side, the Chinese did not budge.
In the same discussion, Chen also mentioned that Rudok and Rawang were not acceptable as trade marts to China. When Kaul insisted, Chen promised to put up the suggestion regarding Rutok again before his delegation, but he added “I know it is impossible as our Government has decided not to open Rudok.”
The Aksai Chin road was passing via Rutok and Rawang .
On April 22, after more than four months of ‘talks’, Raghavan cables the Foreign Secretary that Zhang even ‘virulently’ objected to inclusion of Tashigong in Agreement.
Ragahvan explains: “Tibet talks resumed at plenary sitting to-day... Chinese produced new drafts of both Agreement and Letter partly based on our draft and partly covering new points. …Four main points still at issue are: Inclusion of route from Indian border to Tashigong along Indus. Chang Han-Fu [Zhang Hanfu] vigorously objected inclusion of route in Agreement or Letter. Conceded that traders customarily using this route might continue such use but said an oral understanding to that effect between two delegations would suffice. We strongly contended inclusion of route in Agreement. Our view is Chinese might not concede. If so shall try to get it included by separate letter.”
It did not occur to the Indian negotiators to ask why?
For centuries, the trade and pilgrimage route for the Kailash-Manasarovar region followed the course of the Indus, passed Demchok the last Ladakhi village and then crossed the border to reach the first Tibetan hamlet, Tashigong, some 15 miles inside Tibet.
Not only did the Chinese refuse to mention Demchok in the Agreement, but bargained for nearly 5 months not to cite the Tashigong route.
In retrospect, one can find two main reasons for the Chinese dragging their feet. One, as already mentioned, is the proximity of the ‘Aksai Chin Road’ ; preliminary work on the road had just started at the time of the Panchsheel negotiations.
In 1954, Indian border forces visiting Demchok could have noticed that a road was clandestinely being built; Beijing did not want to take a risk.
The second reason is as grave and presently relevant.
After months of infructuous exchanges, Zhang Hanfu conceded that “traders customarily using this route might continue such use but an oral understanding to that effect between two delegations would suffice, [China] would not like in writing, even by implication, to have any reference to Ladakh.”
It means that China considered Ladakh a ‘disputed area’.
Kaul informed Delhi: “We have taken [the] position that Ladakh is Indian territory and route should be mentioned as its omission would be invidious.”
But China did not accept the Indian contention and “after considerable argument [Zhang] agreed, but subsequently withdrew [his agreement]. [He] suggests we would consider exchange of letters which will not form part of Agreement...”
India had finally to concur to the Chinese formulation. Demchok was mentioned nowhere, though Article IV of the Agreement says: “Also, the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus River may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom.”
China made no concession to India, while India had given up all its assets in Tibet.
Incidentally, a report sent from the Indian Consulate in Lhasa in February 1953 states: “Information as to Western Tibet relatively scanty unfortunately. In 1950 the Chinese advanced towards Rudok and Taklakot with about 500 troops. The present strength could NOT have been increased beyond 2 to 3 thousand due to difficulty in obtaining supplies. They are reported to be at Rudok, Gyanima (north of Uttarakhand), Gargunsa (Ngari), Taklakot and Khojernath (near Mt. Kailash) and Tashigong.”
The Tashigong PLA outpost was located some 20 kilometers east of Demchok.

The Closure of the Kashgar Consulate
At that time, very few Indian diplomats could see beyond the Chinese rhetoric and Zhou’s assurance of friendship. How many noticed the ominous signs on the horizon?
Another warning was the closure of the Indian Consulate in Kashgar in 1953.
Nehru readily agreed to the Chinese decision without taking any retaliatory measures or even protesting. India’s interests were lost to the ‘revolutionary changes’ happening in China. He declared in the Parliament: “Some major changes have taken place there [Kashgar]. …But when these changes, revolutionary changes took place there, it is perfectly true that the Chinese Government, when they came to Tibet, told us that they intended that they wanted to treat Sinkiang as a closed area. They told other State Government, too. …The result was, our Consul remained there for some time, till recently… but there is now no work to be done. So we advised him to come away and he did come away.
During the following years, trade and pilgrimage practically stopped via Demchok. You may think that it is past history, but it is not.
China today continues to adamantly refuse to reopen the Demchok-Tashigong route to Kailash/Manasarovar, while insisting on a long and tortuous route via Nathu-la in Sikkim. Probably, China would have to acknowledge that Demchok is in India.

Demchok engulfed in Chinese maps
Soon after the escape of the Dalai Lama to India  and the first border clashes in Longju (NEFA, today Arunachal Pradesh) and Kong-ka Pass (Ladakh), Beijing decided to redraw its border.
Maps had to match the new claims.
In the 1960s, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs published a collection of maps  explaining Beijing’s tactics.
One of the maps shows three lines: “The first line shows the disposition of Chinese posts in Ladakh in November 1959. It will be seen that at that time there was strictly speaking no ‘Line of control’ but only a series of Chinese posts on Indian territory. The November 1959 'line' would be one that joined the then Chinese posts.”
Then the second line describes the position between Indian and Chinese forces immediately prior to September 8, while the third line depicts the limits of the areas occupied by Chinese forces during the 1962 War: “The area between the September 7, 1962, line and the line of actual control of 1959 as falsely claimed by China represents the further aggrandisement of Indian territory by China as a result of its latest aggression.”
By the end of 1959, China distributed the new maps of the Western Sector in Ladakh, Demchok and the area around was now fully Chinese territory.
The next step for Beijing was to occupy some of these places.
According to retired diplomat R.S. Kalha, in his well-document book : “After the failure of the Nehru-Zhou talks in April 1960, Zhou wrote to Mao on 6 May, 1960, that “as no agreement had been reached was imperative to strengthen China's military presence in the Western sector.” Zhou suggested that Chinese forces should seize the opportunity and favourable weather conditions to establish additional posts inside China's claim line. Mao approved the proposal and Deng Xiaoping was entrusted with the responsibility for its implementation.”
The former ambassador who participated in the boundary talks in the 1990s continues: “Acting on Mao's instructions, by the summer of 1961, the Chinese had advanced in the Western sector nearly 112 kilometres South-West of the positions they held in 1958 and began to set up several forward check posts backed by strong bases in the rear.”
In September 1961, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) prepared a paper on Chinese activities in the border areas and predicted that the “Chinese would like to come up to their claim line of 1960, wherever we are not in occupation.” The IB recommended that “posts be opened in unoccupied areas of Ladakh.”
This marked the beginning of the ‘forward policy’.
On 28 November, 1961 Nehru told the Lok Sabha that the Chinese had advanced even beyond their 1956 (and 1959) claim line in Ladakh and have established new bases. Nehru termed this as Chinese new “aggressive activities”.
Demchok was now in China.
The Report of the Officials of China and India interestingly says: “The Chinese side brought forward remarkably little evidence to substantiate their own claim that the alignment shown by them was a traditional and customary one.” It further added: “In the Demchok area they cited material specifying that the traditional alignment lay along Lhari Karpo. This was very near the traditional Indian alignment, and very far from the line now claimed by China. The Indian side, therefore, welcomed this statement and saw no reason to discuss this further. There was only one Lhari in the area, and that was the stream joining the Indus near Demchok.”
Lhari Karpo is the sacred hill above the village.

The attack on Demchok
In October 1962, the Demchok sub-sector was held by the 7 J&K Militia. The PLA launched an attack on October 22.
According to the book, A View from Other Side of the Hill , which used Chinese sources: “The attack was in the form of two pincers aimed to meet at Kariguo , thus cutting off the route of withdrawal from Shiquan  River Valley. The 3 B/11 R Group  carried out a wide outflanking move on Night 27/28 Oct from Jiagong  southwards to Zhaxigang  and then turned northwest towards Kariguo behind Demchok. …This was the northern inner pincer. The outer pincer in the North was provided by 3rd Cavalry Regiment and the 4th Division Reconnaissance Company. Since the southern outflanking move by the 3 B/11 R Group was delayed, the trap could not be closed fully. Indian troops were able to withdraw during the Night 27/28 Oct to Koyul and Dungti in fairly good order.”
The Chinese narrative mentions that on October 28: “the Chinese troops had achieved their objectives and had occupied the Kailash Range that dominated the eastern bank of the Indus Valley. All the seven Indian strongholds in this sub-sector were removed and New Demchok itself was captured.”
The PLA eventually withdrew, but occupied the southern part of Demchok .
The Indian media often speaks of ‘difference of perceptions’ between India and China on the LAC’; it is the consequence of Chinese advances in Ladakh in the early 1960s as well as during the 1962 War.

The Chinese attack on Demchok in 1962
The two ‘perceptions’ create a dangerous situation with two de facto Lines of Actual Control (LAC). It is not only in Demchok, but in 11 other places, also that India’s and China’s views differ. From north to south, they are: Samar Lungpa north of the Karakoram pass, Trig Heights, Depsang Plain (which saw a serious incident in April 2013), Pt 6556, Chanlung nalla, Kongka La, the ‘fingers’ at Siri Jap near the Pangong Tso, the Spanggur Gap, Mt. Sajun, Dumchele, Demchok and Chumar (which witnessed a massive incursion as President Xi Jinping arrived in India in September 2014).
Dumchele: a Security Risk
Though since 1962, the border is closed, it does not mean that there are no ‘exchanges’ along the LAC.
Not far from Demchok, a place called Dumchele witnesses a good deal of smuggling between Tibet and Ladakh. Local herders visit the shops in Dumchele, which gets its supplies from a Tibetan mart on the other side of the range; the Chinese goods are later clandestinely brought to Leh. While visiting the bazaar in the capital of Ladakh, if you wonder how there are so many Chinese bowls or other cheap stuff, the answer is Dumchele.
An author  describes the place thus: “The right bank, just as is the left bank of the Indus, is dotted with scrub and tsama with many grazing grounds. Directly to the east of this lake and just about 4 km away is the large Chinese market of twenty shops of Dumchele, which is actually in Indian territory. About 6 km behind it is the large and spacious shelf of the Chang La (5,300 m) through which the Chinese have built a truckable road to Dumchele.”
Smuggling happens when the Indus freezes in winter. The ‘trade’ has been going on for years on a rather large scale (some say more than 100 crores annually).
In a paper for Research and Information System , Dr Siddiq Wahid writes: “Dumchele has for some years now been a trading post between residents on this side of the LAC and the Chinese side. The PLA has set up a military post at its edge near a hillock and apparently encourages this trade. This is done with some intensity for a few days in late November or early December. I asked Mr. Zangpo [a resident of Nyoma] if he had ever come to the grazing fields of Dumchele during the winter market fair. He replied that he had, although not very regularly. He then told us about some of the items, other than the usual consumer goods, that were traded (smuggled?) at Dumchele during this market festival. He mentioned tiger bones, tiger skins, rhino horns and sandalwood. He said that the Chinese buy these items enthusiastically from the ‘Tibetans’ who bring them there. Mr. Zangpo knew that this was an illegal activity as he was aware that the Ladakh police have been of late very active in stemming this trade and had made several arrests.”
A mart has been opened by the Chinese at a place called Kakzhung; this is regularly supplied by trucks coming from Tibet. From Kakzhung, goods are sent to Dumchele.
From a military point of view, the situation is far from healthy: the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can gather intelligence on what is happening on the Indian side; that is why China closes its eyes (or actively encourages) goods trafficking.

Reopening Demchok
What could be a solution?
Considering the ‘Nathu-la’ effect, reopening Demchok route could be an excellent Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and China.
Remember the skirmishes in Sikkim before the Nathu-la pass was officially reopened to trade in July 2006. It had the effect to fix the border, drastically reducing the tensions in the area.
For years, the people of Ladakh have also asked for the reopening of the ancient route. Why is Beijing so reluctant to let people and goods flow again over the Himalaya? Why can’t China allow the devotees wanting to visit Kailash-Manasarovar to use the easiest route, i.e. via Demchok?
It would an additional benefit; it would stop the smuggling between China and Ladakh, which poses serious security risks of infiltration for India.
The Indian External Affairs Minister should definitely raise this question with her Chinese counterpart when they meet.

Young President with many old challenges

President Macron En Marche?
My article Young President with many old challenges appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

It’s difficult to label Emmanuel Marcon as a Rightist or a Leftist. He himself would not wish to be categorised as it will hobble his functioning. India, meanwhile, has every reason to look forward to enhanced bilateral ties

France has decided. By default, some will say. After winning the most unexpected presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron is the new President of the French Republic. The 39-year-old former investment banker defeated Marine Le Pen of the National Front with more than 66 per cent of valid votes.
It is an extraordinary rise for Macron, France’s youngest-ever leader since Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte who was elected President in December 1848, at the age of 40. The leader of the En Marche! (‘On the Move!’) movement will also be the youngest among the G-20 leaders, before Justin Trudeau, who turned 45. By ‘default’, because the voters had not really a choice.
During the second round of the presidential election, more than 4.2 million electors (nearly 10 per cent of the 47.6 millions voters) who went to the booths, deposited a ‘white’ (blank) or ‘nul’ (invalid) ballot. A record!
On Sunday, just before 11 pm, Macron met his supporters near the glass pyramid of the world-famous courtyard of Le Louvre Palace in Paris. “Tonight, France won”, he solemnly declared. He told the jubilant crowd: “Merci mes amis!” (Thank you, my friends). He continued: “I want to thank those who voted for the defence of the Republic.” Then he addressed those who voted for Marine Le Pen, his unsuccessful rival: “I know our disagreements, I will respect them. You have expressed anger, disarray, sometimes conviction. I respect this.” Accepting her defeat, Marine Le Pen proposed a profound transformation of her xenophobic party, which will now have a new name.
In retrospect, it was the strangest French election campaign for decades. First novelty, primaries for the Left and the Central/Right were organised. Macron’s master-stroke was perhaps to have avoided the primaries… and a possible defeat against his former Socialist Party colleagues.
His political fate took a new turn in August 2015, while serving as the Minister for Economy and Industry in François Hollande’s Government, when he stated that he was no longer a member of the Socialist Party (PS).
On April 6, 2016, in Amiens in Northern France, he founded an independent political movement, En Marche!. He was then officially reprimanded by President Hollande (though some rumours say that the entire operation to get him elected may have been piloted from the Elysee Palace).
On August 30, 2016, Macron resigned from the Government, and on November 16 he formally declared his candidacy for the French presidency. He then promised to ‘unblock France’. Very few doubt that France needs to be ‘unblocked’. Despite the post-election euphoria, difficult times are awaiting the nation which invented the French Revolution.
Interestingly, this election saw the fading of the differentiation between the political Right and the Left. Symbolically, Macron the candidate, refuses to carry a label.  Though Macron’s party wants to challenge the entire political system, it might not be easy, knowing that he himself is a pure product of the establishment, having worked with Nicolas Sarkozy and Hollande.
Macron has been described a fervent European; in fact his victory gave an immediate boost to the Euro and the European stock exchanges. But which Europe?
Without being carried away like Le Pen who threatened to walk out of the Common Currency or even spoke of a ‘Frexit’, Macron will have to deal with a Europe needing more than a facelift. There is no doubt however that Macron’s victory created a sigh of relief in Europe; particularly the other side of the River Rhein. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was proably the first to call Macron to congratulate him.
It will be symbolic that at the time of Macron’s investiture in Paris, in a suburb of Beijing, China will be hosting a Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation attended by hosts of foreign heads of states and Governments. Chinese President Xi Jinping will preside over the summit in Huairou district’s Yanqi Lake area from May 14 to 15.  Though India may not be officially represented, Xi’s mega dream shows that the times have changed and dynamism has today shifted to the East.
Is there a place for Europe in the New Deal? Can a young President like Macron change the tide? But before this, he will have cross many hurdles.
The first one will be the nomination of a Prime Minister who has to be acceptable to a large political spectrum; then, soon after, a government will be announced. June might be the turning point with the holding of the legislative elections.
With its strange semi-presidential system, France may witness a ‘cohabitation’ when the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of Parliament. The President has to name a Prime Minister acceptable to the parliamentary majority — in some cases, opposed to his policies. The Prime Minister must be acceptable both to the President and to the legislature. It is not an easy endeavour. This has happened a few times since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, making governance difficult, to say the least.
At Le Louvre, Macron admitted that the future may be thorny: “I am aware that the task will not be easy, but I will tell you the truth … [but] I want the unity of our people, the unity of our country.”
Two days before the vote, hundreds of thousands of emails and documents stolen from Macron during his campaign were dumped online and then spread by WikiLeaks. How will the new President deal with this?
Through foreign policy had not been much discussed during the campaign, Macron will need to choose a path.
During Hollande’s presidency, the Russian President was made a demon. This absurd policy took such proportions that two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, which had been ordered (and paid for) by Moscow, were never delivered to the Russian Navy. There were finally sold to Egypt… with Saudi money.
Will Macron look at this afresh, or will his horizon be limited to Syria and Russia, with small incursions in Africa, like with his his predecessor?
And what about India? Soon after the result of the election, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron for an emphatic victory in the French presidential election. I look forward to working closely with [him] to further strengthen India-France ties.”
Now, much depends on the alchemy between Modi and the new French President. In any case, the strong strategic partnership between France and India will remain in place and several files such as those on Rafale and its offsets, the Scorpene, collaboration with a few smart cities or the Solar Alliance, are on track. Can it go beyond this, it is a million Euro question?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What do we know so far about the French presidential elections

My article What do we know so far about the French presidential elections appeared in DailyO.

Here is the link...

It was indeed the strangest French election campaign for decades. First the novelty: primaries for the Left and the Centre/Right were organised. After Francois Fillon, who served as President Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, emerged as the winner on the Right side of the checker board, many thought that the former would be the next president.
Fillon’s intentions of introducing drastic cuts in the bureaucracy to reduce the budgetary debts had made him popular. But the satirical weekly, Le Canard Enchainé, published documents showing that for more than 30 years, Fillon’s wife Penelope was paid by him as a parliamentary secretary while she was not working.

Though his direct opponent, Marine Le Pen, faced the same accusations of having created "fictive" jobs as the European Union parliamentarian, she claimed parliamentary immunity, thus refusing to appear before the judiciary. On the socialist side, Benoit Hamon emerged as the winner by defeating Francois Hollande’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Unfortunately for Hamon, two "leftist" candidates refused to participate in the primaries and they eventually scored much better than Hamon during Round 1.
First, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hardcore communist who believes that Xi Jinping and modern China are examples to follow for France; his popularity has seen an unexpected surge, primarily because he is a good orator and having never been in power he has not been caught in any financial scams. His surge was probably boosted by the lack of credible candidates.
Emmanuel 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). In Round 1, in which the first two qualify for Round 2, the race was extremely tight between four of the eleven candidates.
Ultimately, Macron emerged the winner (24 per cent) and made it for Round 2 on May 7 with Marine Le Pen, second with 21.3 per cent. Fillon came third with 20 per cent, while Mélenchon scored 19.6 per cent. The socialist Hamon was far behind with 6.3 per cent.
Retrospectively, one could question the usage of the "primaries"? Though electors voted en masse (77 per cent), times are difficult for the nation which gave the triple mantra of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to the world.
During the last five years, a weak presidency has demoralised the nation further. Hollande’s unpopularity had beaten all records, mainly due to his lack of charisma and many goof-ups. General Charles de Gaulle’s "grandeur de la France" (France’s greatness) has long gone.
One factor is the fading of the differentiation between the political "Right" and the "Left". It is symbolic that the candidate projected by the French media as the next president (Macron), refuses to carry a "rightist" or "leftist" label. A Kejriwal-isation of French politics?

While millions of voters apprehend the xenophobic policies of Le Pen, many are attracted by her anti-migrants rhetoric. But the question is: can she expel all the illegal migrants or take France out of Europe?
Lately, it appears that she has not been too sure about fulfiling her promises. Like Donald Trump, who spoke big about building a wall with Mexico or denouncing the Chinese as currency manipulators, but once elected, the electoral promises are faced with hard real-politics — or as the French say, “Mettre de l’eau dans son vin (dilute your wine with water).”
In any case, it is doubtful whether she can gather enough support between the two rounds to win on May 7. During her May 1 rally, she gave a speech which appeared to have been lifted from one of Fillon’s speeches. But the difficulties before France in the volatile "banlieux" (suburbs) and the wave of terrorist attacks in the name of Islam may get her votes in plenty.

On Sunday night, Macron, the 38-year-old former economy minister of Hollande (who earlier worked as an investment banker for Rothschild), may became a president by default. Though his party, "En Marche!" (On the Move!) wants to challenge the entire political system, it might not be easy knowing that he is a product of the establishment, having worked first with Sarkozy, and then with Hollande.
But cleverly, he has managed to remain vague on his programmes, trying to please the "Right" and the "Left" at the same time. Macron is, however, a fervent European.
With the legislative elections due in June, there are good chances that the French semi-presidential system could witness a "cohabitation" which is specific to the French system. When the president is from a different political party than the majority of the members of Parliament, he has to name a prime minister acceptable to the parliamentary majority. The prime minister must be acceptable both to the president and to the legislature.
It is not an easy endeavour. This has happened a few times since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, making governance difficult, if not unmanageable. Interestingly, foreign policy has figured nowhere in the presidential campaign and India is even less 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 to the French electorate.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Chinese adventurism and the Tibet factor

Xi Zhongxun (President Xi's father) and the Panchen Lama (ca 1951)
My article Chinese adventurism and the Tibet factor appeared in The Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Had China extended the 1962 war against India, it would have had to battle it out at various fronts simultaneously. The situation in Tibet was grim and a power tussle was on within the ruling party

The Dalai Lama, Beijing’s bête noire, was recently awarded the Professor ML Sondhi Prize for International Politics 2016. Sondhi, a renowned academic, a Jan Sangh politician as well as a visionary diplomat, was probably the first to advocate normal relations with Israel, at a time when India was still living in a dream-world of non-alignment with the Hebrew state.
During the function, the Tibetan spiritual leader, in a veiled threat to Beijing, stated that China will have to think of Tibet in case of a conflict with India, as handling both simultaneously (India and Tibet) would not be an ‘easy’ task for Beijing. At the same time, the Dalai Lama played down the possibility of a military conflict.
He, however, added that since India has become a military power, the only option for China was ‘compromise’: “India is not a small country. It is gaining military power. So the only thing is compromise. The Chinese have to think about the situation inside Tibet when it comes to conflict with India.”
This raises an important issue: The significance of the ‘Tibet factor’ in the history of the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict; the highly-unstable situation on the plateau in the months which preceded the Chinese attack in the NEFA and Ladakh played a restraining role for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in October 19622 — particularly the 70,000-character petition of the Panchen Lama addressed to Premier Zhou Enlai and another high official, Xi Zhongxun, President Xi Jinping’s father.

The Panchen Lama in Tashilhunpo before 'dying'
At the beginning of the 1960s, resentment was at its peak in Tibet. In January 1962, during a speech at an important party forum, Mao Zedong brought up the issue of the Panchen Lama and the situation in Tibet. The young Tibetan Lama, who had been made Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region when the Dalai Lama left for India in 1959, had started to criticise the Communist Party’s policy in Tibet.
The Tibetan issue was to became a crucial factor which impeded longer military operations against India at the end of 1962. In the 70,000-character petition, (dubbed by Mao as a “poisonous arrow”), the Panchen Lama listed several problems on the plateau.
In the summer of 1962, when the PLA started to work on the details of the military operations, it soon realised that the campaign could not be sustained for a long time. It was, therefore, decided to terminate the war ‘with a unilateral Chinese halt, ceasefire, and withdrawal’. Historian Shi Bo believes that in view of “practical difficulties associated with China’s domestic situation”, the PLA, after achieving its military objectives, had to “quickly disengage and end the fighting as quickly as possible”. China’s ‘domestic situation’ is referring to the power struggle within the Party (Xi Zhongxun would be purged in July) and the situation in Tibet. With discontent brewing on the Roof of the World, the supply lines to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been greatly weakened.
Tibet’s instability appears clearly in the 70,000-character petition sent by the Panchen Lama to Zhou Enlai who requested Xi Zhongxun and Li Weihan, responsible of the United Front Work Department dealing with ‘minorities’, General Zhang Jingwu, the Representative of the Central Committee in Tibet and General Zhang Guohua, the Commander of the Chinese forces during the 1962 war, to read and study the Panchen Lama’s petition.
Interestingly, when the Panchen Lama died in 1989, Xi Zhongxun wrote in The People’s Daily that the Tibet experts found “most of the comments and suggestions [of the Panchen Lama were] good; they could be implemented, but some had gone too far”. Indeed, he had gone ‘too far’ for the communist leadership.
He had criticised the handling of the 1959 ‘rebellion’ (‘uprising’ for the Tibetans). Xi Sr commented: “[It] was counter-revolutionary in nature, being against the party, the motherland, the people, democracy and socialism. Its crimes were very grave. Thus, it was entirely correct, essential, necessary and appropriate for the party to adopt the policy of suppressing the rebellion.”
In separate chapters entitled, ‘Democratic Reforms’; ‘Production in Agriculture and Animal Herding’; ‘Surviving of the People’; ‘Nationalities’ Policy’; ‘Dictatorship of the Party’; and finally, ‘Freedom of Religion’, the Panchen had mentioned the deep grievances of the Tibetan population. He paid a heavy price for having dared to write what everyone knew; he spent the years from 1964 to 1978 in solitary confinement and rehabilitation camps.
Few analysts have pointed out that a longer war would have been difficult to sustain in the atmosphere of ‘rebellion’ prevalent on the Roof of the World at that time. Though openly siding with the ‘reformists’ camp led by Lui Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, the Panchen Lama was also warning the communist leadership of the resentment of the so-called nationalities.
Some new historical documents regarding the 70,000 characters’ letter have recently appeared in English on a blog, War in Tibet. The transcripts make fascinating reading. In the Summary of a Meeting between Comrade Xi Zhongxun, Comrade Li Weihan and Panchen held on June 21, 1962, in The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Jaazharlal Nehru and India are several times mentioned. At one point, Xi Zhongxun intervenes and recalls his encounters with the ‘Master’, the Panchen Lama: “We held several meetings here just for you to vent your anger and figure out ways to solve problems.... if you are angry, let it out. If you have disagreement, speak out. Problems should be solved through consultation and discussion.” But the Panchen Lama’s anger venting would take him to jail for 14 years.
About the restive situation in Tibet, Xi speaks of Nehru: “This requires that we do our work better under the leadership of the [Tibet] Work Committee [implementing the ‘reforms’], and construct our motherland better. Nehru is laughing now, but don’t let him have the last laugh."
At another point, during the three-day discussions, Xi Zhongxun mentions other implications of the Panchen Lama’s letter: “Tibet is the front line of national defence, and there is struggle against enemies as well.” He adds: “This is the joint work of Nehru and Dalai. If they messed up Nepal, how can they not want to mess up Tibet? What’s their purpose? They just want to overthrow the current leadership in Tibet and restore the old order. …Things are difficult in Tibet, but solutions and hope do exist, and our future is bright.”
Though the situation is relatively stable in Tibet today (it is not the case in Xinjiang), it would certainly be an important factor in case of Chinese adventurism. Indian planners should take note of this crucial strategic issue and in-depth studies should be undertaken on the situation in Tibet in the eventuality of a Sino-Indian conflict.
Ngabo, Xi Sr., the Panchen Lama (ca 1986)
Xi Sr., the Panchen Lama (ca 1951)
Xi Sr., the Panchen Lama (ca 1951)