Thursday, March 29, 2018

China's inroads near the Indian borders

The Indian side of the border
On the way to Takshing...
My article China's inroads near the Indian borders appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

Relaxing PAP scheme is a good idea but as a modern state we must use electronic means to control visitors to India’s frontiers even as we promote border tourism

The Union Government is thinking of relaxing the Protected Area Permit (PAP) scheme to enable foreign tourists visit border areas. This is half good news. Why half? Simply because after the Government starts to ‘think’, results often takes months or years to materialise. Let us hope that it will be done soon.
Apparently, the move was triggered by requests from border States of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Nagaland and Manipur as well as the Union Tourism Ministry. It was announced by Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who, as an elected Lok Sabha member from Arunachal Pradesh, has long been aware of the issue. Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the ‘Inner line’ and the International Border of the state are considered to be a ‘Protected Area’.
Responding to a tweet by Pema Khandu, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Rijiju announced the decision about the PAP regime which will allow foreigners to visit the ‘paradise on earth’; he was referring to Shungetser lake north of Tawang, often known as ‘Madhuri Lake’, because the Bollywood actress shot Koyla, also staring Shah Rukh Khan, in the ‘idyllic’ spot.
It is a pity that the Government could not, at the same time, do away with the ‘Inner line’ permit system (for Indian nationals) once and for all. At a time when Artificial Intelligence (AI) has started permeating our lives, the Government is still attached to this 19th century-old scheme which has no place in a modern state. If required, the authorities could find other ‘electronic’ means to control visitors in the Indian frontiers. Hopefully, this would be the next bold decision.
‘Relaxing’ the PAP is nonetheless good for India; after all, these areas are part of the Indian territory and there is no reason why a discriminating ‘Philosophy of North-East Frontier Agency’ put in place by Nehru and his ‘tribal’ advisor Verrier Edwin, should remain in existence. During the 20th century, it has not often protected the local population, while more often alienated them from the main stream of Indian society.
It is also a positive development because happenings on the other side of the border show extremely worrying trends. China is fast developing its frontiers, trying to woo the Tibetan locals, often akin to the Indian populations on the other side of the border.

Yume, the Tibetan side of the border
A few weeks ago, The Tibet Daily asserted, “making the border villages prosperous and well-off is the top priority of the poverty alleviation campaign.” Beijing has, however, a second objective that is to build-up the border defenses against India. With tourism, it plans to kill two birds in one go.
During the recently-concluded National People’s Congress (NPC), Phurbu Dhondup, a deputy and Governor of Lhoka affirmed that there were 96 such border villages in Lhoka Prefecture alone; the prefecture is north of Bhutan and Tawang district.
Dhondup asserted that the Provinces of Hunan, Hubei and Anhui would help Lhoka “make the dramatic transition” from poor border villages to prosperous ones with electricity, first rate access roads, irrigation systems and potable water. The participation of the ‘rich’ Provinces of China in the scheme is an important factor.
Out of the 17-member Tibetan delegation at the NPC, four members were from the borders with India. One Kesang Dikyi, who comes from Metok, north of Tuting sector of Arunachal, which recently witnessed a border intrusion (with Chinese excavators), is a primary school teacher. During a Press conference in Beijing, she remarked: “Our school building was very poor; teachers and students had to pick grass to cover the roof. The grass was taller than we were, so when we were walking back we’d often trip, and we often had our hands cut. If we didn’t pick the grass, rainwater would leak into the classroom.” All this has changed in the recent past.
On March 4, Xinhua announced: “Tibet will strive to make highways reach all townships and administrative villages by 2020 in a bid to boost rural development. …By 2020, all townships which meet necessary conditions and 80 per cent of administrative villages would have access to bus service.”
This includes the border villages north of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Ladakh.
According to a senior transport official of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), “road construction will help the region reduce poverty and increase the income of farmers and herders.”
In 2018, the region will launch projects to make 13 townships and more than 1,000 villages connected by asphalt or cement roads; in other words, ‘an integrated transportation system’ reaching the border with India.
The New Helmsman, Xi Jinping has articulated the dual objective to combat poverty and protect the borders. An article in China Tibet Online noted: “Through accurate identification of those requiring help, the number of poverty-stricken people has reduced by more than 500,000 in the last four years. The TAR’s Poverty Alleviation Office has gradually established a targeted poverty alleviation system, whereby the causes of poverty are analysed.”
For Beijing, tourism is the best way to tackle poverty ...and to protect its borders (by buying the local population on China’s side).
A turning point was Yume. In October 2017, President Xi wrote a letter to two young Tibetans who had introduced to the Chinese President, Yume, their hamlet located north of the McMahon Line (Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh).
Soon after, The Global Times reported: “A sparsely populated township [Yume] has been connected to the state electricity grid, ending life without electricity for its 32 residents.”
The China Daily noted another development north of Arunachal: “After getting access to electricity and the construction of new roads, tea farmers and herdsmen in a village some 200 kilometers southwest of Lhasa in Tsona county founded a cooperative that provides skills training and job opportunities for villagers.” Tsona, an area now extensively developed, is the first small town in Tibet, north of Tawang district of Arunachal.
At the end of the NPC’s sessions, Beijing announced the complete withdrawal of “civilian-oriented, firefighting and frontier defence troops” from the control of the People’s Liberation Army.
What does it mean? The Global Times explained: “The withdrawal of armed police force units engaged in civilian affairs would disentangle the previous complicated chain of command.” It signifies that the PLA will only be given the responsibility of manning the border with India, without having to waste time in ‘fire-fighting’ and other tasks.
The former militia and ‘frontier forces’ will be put under the command of the local party bosses, in a way empowering the local population to man the borders.
With all these happenings on the other side of the India’s northern border, it was high time that India starts promoting border tourism, including for foreigners, and develops these areas, while keeping the environment as idyllic as possible. There is no harm in copying China once in a while.

Monday, March 26, 2018

China develops India's borders: one stone, many birds

Tsona village, north of Tawang district
A quick review at the Chinese press related to Tibet during the last few weeks shows an extremely worrying trend for India.
While the Indian media has been concentrating on Doklam, the happenings on the other side of the border, especially north of Arunachal Pradesh are disturbing.
A few weeks ago, an article in The Tibet Daily mentioned these new developments: “Making the border villages prosperous and well-off is the top priority of the poverty alleviation campaign."
China's second objective is to build-up the border defenses.
It says that some 628 border villages needed to be turned into prosperous and well off administrative villages.
But let us go through some of the articles/comments.

Border Representation at the National people’s Congress
During the recently-concluded National People's Congress (NPC), Phurbu Dhondup, a deputy and Governor of Lhoka, said there were 96 such border villages in Lhoka Prefecture alone.
He asserted that the provinces of Hunan, Hubei and Anhui would help Lhoka “make the dramatic transition" from poor border villages to prosperous ones with electricity, first rate access roads, irrigation systems and potable water.
The participation of the 'rich' provinces of China in the scheme is to be noted.
As earlier mentioned in this blog, Drokar (alias Choekar) has been in the news.
Other delegates from the borders with India are:
  1. Tashi Gyaltsen, a 29 year old Lhoba who worked in building village organization
  2. Mi-ma Guo-ji, (his Tibetan name is not clear), a young man who builds electricity transmission lines to villages.
  3. Kesang Dikyi who comes from Metok, north of Tuting sector of Arunachal, which recently witnessed a border intrusion (with Chinese excavators). She is a primary school teacher in a village near Metok.
    As mentioned earlier, Kelsang Dekyi was born in 1978, symbolically the beginning of an era which saw the Chinese people “relying on knowledge to change its destiny;” she grew up in Metok County “once a remote, poverty-stricken, and information-poor area.”
    Kelsang Dekyi told a press conference in Beijing: “Our school building was very poor; teachers and students had to pick grass to cover the roof. The grass was taller than we were, so when we were walking back we'd often trip, and we often had our hands cut. However, if we didn't pick the grass, we couldn't cover the roof, and rainwater would leak into the classroom."
The CPPCC’s TAR delegation has a member from the border area, a Loba lady from Tsari village, east of Yume.
Let us remember that the Tsari chu (river) enters India south of Migyitun which saw the first border incident between India and China in August 1959 (Longju).
The lady cadre is called by what seems a Chinese
name, Gong-jue Qu-zhen.

All townships in Tibet to be reached
On March 4, Xinhua announces ‘Highways to reach all townships in Tibet by 2020’.
 The article says: “Tibet will strive to make highways reach all townships and administrative villages by 2020 in a bid to boost rural development. …By 2020, all townships which meet necessary conditions and 80 percent of administrative villages would have access to bus service.”
This includes the border villages, north of Arunachal, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Ladakh.
According to a senior transport official of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), “road construction will help the region reduce poverty and increase the income of farmers and herders, according to the official.”
In 2018, the region will launch projects to make 13 townships and more than 1,000 villages connected by asphalt or cement roads. Rural road mileage in Tibet is currently 60,421 km, compared with 53,244 km in 2012.
In other words, 'an integrated transportation system'.

The Dual Mission

The objective is dual, poverty alleviation and ‘protection' of the border.
When the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Lhasa in September 1951, General Zhang Jingwu, the representative of the CPC’s Central Committee told Sumul Sinha, the head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa that the Chinese had come to Tibet for two reasons only (he spoke of ‘a dual mission’): to eliminate all imperialist influences and to improve the standard of living of the Tibetans.
Of course, there was no ‘imperialist influence’ on the Roof of the World, but poverty was there.
What is surprising is that, 66 years later, the Chinese government still speaks about fighting poverty on the Tibetan plateau.
It means a colossal failure for the Communist State.
The new Helmsman wants to rectify this.
An article in China Tibet Online recently noted: “Through the establishment of archives, and accurate identification of those requiring help, the number of poverty-stricken people has reduced by more than 500,000 in the last four years. The TAR's Poverty Alleviation Office has gradually established a targeted poverty alleviation system, whereby the causes of poverty are analyzed and the limited special funds are used on the poor people.”
Apart from the Targeted Poverty Alleviation, the article speaks of Industry Poverty Alleviation, Education Poverty Alleviation, Tourism Poverty Alleviation, Health Poverty Alleviation, while asserting: “Tibet explores the practice of ‘the rich helping the poorer to wealth’, and uses the capable people as one of the main driving forces of poverty alleviation.”
One Tsering, deputy director of the Lhasa Poverty Alleviation Office, told the website: "these capable people have experience, skills and the mind, and also have the ability to help the poor escape poverty. With some help they are running a series of projects, which can provide the poor families with an income salary as well as a bonus and other secure incomes. The results are clear to see.”
For Beijing, tourism is perhaps the best way to alleviate poverty ...and to protect the border (by buying the local population on China's side).
And provinces have been called to the rescue to 'invest'.
It is worrying, because there is no doubt that each investor will want a 'return'. What does it mean for Tibet is difficult to predict.

Infrastructure development
On March 23, writes ‘Tibet builds integrated transportation system.'
The website publishes a photo of the new roads, taken near Gongkar Lhasa Airport with the caption “expressway from Lhasa to Zedang (Tsetang in Tibetan) Township of Lhoka City.”
The article says: “In the past five years, China has been increasing the investment in infrastructure construction in Tibet Autonomous Region. An integrated transportation system based on highway, railway, aviation and pipeline has been built up to now, which provided a strong support for the economic development and prolonged stability of Tibet Autonomous Region.”
The repetition of the word ‘stability’ while speaking of the region, probably means that presently the TAR is not too ‘stable’.
How to stabilize Tibet?
By bringing millions of tourists who will bring good revenue to the local population.
How to stabilize the borders?
By bringing millions of tourists to the borders and develop the border villages
Another site mentions the 'New highway to link Chamdo with Tibet’s highest-altitude airport.'
It says that the construction of the Chamdo-Bamda Airport section of the National Highway 214, linking Tibet's highest-altitude airport at an elevation of 4,334 meters to Chamdo city has started. It will greatly help to develop tourism in Eastern Tibet.
The article asserts that the distance of 120 kilometers can be presently covered in two hours; once the new highway is completed, it will take just one hour: “The highway will also facilitate communication between east Tibet and the outside.”
Some technical details are given: “The first phase is to be completed within 24 months. 21 mega bridges, 11 medium bridges, 2 tunnels and 11 cross-river bridges will be built along the 26.9 kilometers highway with a design speed of 80km/h. Tibet has already opened seven high-level roads including the Lhasa-Nyingchi road, with a total length of 660 kilometers.”
Another site, China Tibet Online notes that  'Tibet on fast track to facilitate travelers'.
According to Wang Songping, head of the Tourism Development Committee of Tibet: “The increasingly improved transportation infrastructure has allowed travelers to spend less time on road as they tour in Tibet.
Wang said that highways, railways and airports have improved continuously to facilitate travelers' trips and meet their need to move fast on their way to scenic spots.
With most part of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway opened to traffic, “it will be more convenient for travelers to pay a visit to Nyingchi,” noted Wang.
All this infrastructure being built for 'dual use' (civil and military), means that ultimately, it will bring more pressure on the Indian border.

Extended tourist season
The season has been extended and winter is promoted as the best season to visit the Roof of the World.
Photos appeared on one website showing the scenery in Lhasa: “the Potala Palace is extremely beautiful after the strongest snowfall since last year's winter arrives in Lhasa, capital city of southwest China's Tibet.”
Note the Land of Snows, is always called ‘China’s Tibet’.
Would we write in India, ‘India’s Tamil Nadu or India’s Arunachal’?
Does it mean that China is not sure if Tibet is China's?
Beijing seems to have a serious problem here.
Other pictures show a Park in Lhasa, capital of China's Tibet, “after the strongest snowfall since last year's winter arrives in the evening of March 17, 2018;” another illustration pictures a child is playing in the snow.

Developing the Indian Borders
I often wrote about Yume, the hamlet north of the McMahon (Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh).
In October 2017, Chairman Xi Jinping had written a letter to two young Tibetan herders who had introduced their village to the Chinese President.
A letter from the Emperor always shows the trend in the Kingdom.
Yume village
The Global Times recently reported: "A sparsely populated township in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region has been connected to the state electricity grid, ending life without electricity for its 32 residents."
The village is Yume.
The Global Times' article quotes the contractor, a Xining-based electric power company who worked on the project: "The 15-kilometer 10-kilovolt power line, which took five months to complete, is connected to remote Yulmed [Yume] Township in Luntse [Luntse] county, Shannan [Lhoka], via 108 electric poles over a 5,000-meter-high mountain."
According to the tabloid, Yume (also spelt Yulmed) is located "at an average elevation of 3,650 meters above sea level and its population was once just a three-member household. Currently, it has nine households."
It is further explained that in 2008, the local government built a small hydropower station, but the project failed to meet the increasing power demands of the 32 residents: "Due to improved living standards and growing need for electricity of the residents, power outages were frequent."
But that is not all.

Uplifting the border villages
The China Daily recently announced: "Investment in infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region is helping to lift 628 villages along the border out of poverty." It further asserted: "After getting access to electricity and the construction of new roads, tea farmers and herdsmen in a village some 200 kilometers southwest of Lhasa in Tsona county founded a cooperative that provides skills training and job opportunities for villagers."
Tsona is located north of Tawang district of Arunachal.
The area has been extensively developed.
In November 2016, I wrote The Chinese tourists arrive on the Indian border. It was about the village between Tsona and the Indian border. 
Now China admits: "Starting last year, more than 100 million yuan (15,263 million US dollars) has been invested in infrastructure in the village of less than 100 families as a part of a broader construction project to build model villages with moderate prosperity in the border area. The construction of well-off villages along the border is designed to advance the living and working conditions in surrounding villages." 
The China Daily estimated that the road access rate in the area will reach 100 percent and the per capita disposable income will double by the year of 2020.

Dances in Tsona
Tsona again in the news
On March 23, China Tibet News reports, “Tibet’s border villages speed up development of rural tourism.”
The short article is accompanied by a photo showing “the beautiful border village in Tsona: “the construction of Tibet's border moderately prosperous villages, tourism in border villages develops rapidly. Tsona County, Shannan City of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, makes great efforts to boost rural tourism, which also increases the income of local villagers.”
Again in China’s TAR!
Tsona is also been linked with Tsangyang Gyaltso, the Sixth Dalai Lama born in Urgyeling, near Tawang. He would have stayed in Tsona on his way to Lhasa to be enthroned. Every year, a Tsangyang Gyaltso Festival is being organized by the Communist authorities, who, when it is convenient, promote the Dalai Lamas.

Chumbi Valley
Danses in Yatung (Dromo)
On February 28, mentions that “Dromo County held sending culture and art to villagers activities”.
Though the title is not very clear, Dromo is the Tibetan name for the Chumbi Valley, east of Sikkim.
Probably due the vicinity of Dolkam, the activities were not only ‘cultural’, a photo showed officers from People’s Court of Dromo County handing out ‘basic legal knowledge’ leaflets to villagers.
What were these ‘legal leaflets’ about is not clear?
That the entire Chumbi Valley belongs to China?
Other illustrations shows Dromo County’s folk art troupe “performing wonderful song and dance programs.”
Nothing has been published in the railway line to Yatung in Chumbi Valley recently.
China is keeping quiet about it, since the Doklam episode.

Ngari, Western Tibet
According to, the prefecture of Ngari received over 660,000 visitors in 2017
The website says: "Ngari, an ancient prefecture located in West Tibet, received a total of more than 660,000 domestic and overseas visitors last year, with a year-on-year growth of 20 percent. The tourism revenue totaled about 750 million yuan, up by 10 percent over the same period last year.”
Ngari Tourism Bureau affirms “Hailed as ‘Roof of the Roof of the World’, Ngari, at an average elevation of 4,500 meters above, is the birthplace of the four major rivers in Asia. It’s the place where the Himalayas, the Gangdise, the Kunlun Mountains and Karakorum Mountains meet. …There are great mountains, beautiful lakes, vast grasslands and spectacular snow mountains in Ngari. Famous tourist landscapes, including Mapam Yumtso [Manasarovar], Kangrinpoche [Kailash], Guge Kingdom Relics [Tsaparang, Tholing], Piyang-Donggar Caves Relics, Zanda Clay Forest.”
According to Liu Qilin, deputy director of Ngari Tourism Development and Reform Commission: “In 2017, more than 12,000 farmers and herdsmen in Ngari participated in tourism industry, creating income of 153 million yuan, and promoting tourism development of 11 poor villages with tourism development conditions.”
Further, it is said that 12 new tourism projects were built in Ngari last year, with a total investment of about 11,62 million yuan, and a total of 96.6 million yuan budget was approved by the central government to invest 6 key tourism projects that were declared to the 13th Five-Year Plan.

The Pangong Lake
Pangong tso from the Indian side
The report also mentioned Pangong tso (lake), “inscribed in 50 awe-inspiring natural wonders by CNN.”
Part of the lake is in eastern Ladakh, part in Ngari: “This beautiful lake sits at an elevation of 4,350 meters. The lake and sky are both amazing shades of blue that make it become one of the must see scenes.”
The quick development of tourism in Western Tibet is bound to bring more pressure on the Indian border in Uttarakhand and Ladakh.
And this without mentioning, “the smooth progress towards the world's highest altitude gravitational wave telescopes in Tibet Autonomous Region to detect the faintest echoes resonating from the universe, a project insider disclosed.”
During the CPPCC’s 13th National Committee, Zhang Xinmin, chief scientist of the project said that the main part for the first stage of the ‘Ngari plan’, which was launched by China in March 2017 to eyeball the Big Bang cosmic waves at Ngari, is almost completed,
Zhang, a senior researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) observed that the project will start operations in 2020 and observation results will be available in 2022.
More tourists in view.

Tibet to limit visitors for 'high quality' tourism
On March 22, according to The Global Times, China's Tibet “vows to control the number of visitors in the region's scenic spots, including Mount Chomolangma, known as Mount Everest in the West.
This is what Qi Zhala (or Che Dralha), chairman of the TAR and a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress, told the China National Radio (CNR)
Tibet will develop ‘high quality’ tourism: “The number of tourists will be strictly restricted at some scenic spots. We introduced a cap of 5,000 visitors for the Patala [Potala] Palace in summer, and we will strictly control the number of tourists to Mount Chomolangma."
Che also admitted that “Tourism is the main channel for the opening-up of the region's economic development and the main force to improve residents' lives,” he added that “developing tourism must stick to the bottom line of environmental protection.”
With the winter tourism promotion scheme offers free admission to 115 major tourist attractions in the region, including the Potala Palace, from February 1 to April 30, plus discounted fares for hotels, local transport, flights and train services.

Some conclusions
In Tibet, China is pursuing a dual policy to tackle ‘poverty alleviation’ and ‘protect' its borders (with India).
Tourism is used in the grand scale to achieve these two objectives.
The support of the ‘rich’ provinces of China is also asked for.
To develop the borders means to ‘stabilize’ the borders.
By 'stabilizing' the border areas, Beijing protects its borders.
Extensive ‘dual use’ (civil and military) infrastructure is built for the purpose.
This creates a worrying scenario for India.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Last Days of Tibet

Guard of honour for the Dalai Lama (in the palanquin)
by a detachment of the Maratha Light Infantry (Gyantse, December 1950)
A review of my book Tibet: The Last Months of a Free Nation, India -Tibet Relations 1947-1962, Part 1 appeared in The Hindustan Times.
The review, titled The Last Days of Tibet (Two very different accounts of the end of an era make for fascinating reading), has been written by Thubten Samphel, the Director of the Tibet Policy Institute in Dharamsala.
The reviewer looks also at another book, Tibetan Caravans: Journeys from Leh to Lhasa, Abdul Wahid Radhu, Speaking Tiger publishers.
Incidentally, a few years ago, I wrote a chapter of a book on Abdul Wahid.
It was called The Life and Time of Abdul Wahid Radhu - A case of fusion of cultures
Click here to read...

Here is the link to the review...

Claude Arpi’s book and Abdul Wahid Radhu’s work share a common thread -- both are accounts of the last days of Tibet. While Arpi digs into the archives of the government of India to reconstruct the period, Radhu has witnessed the end of an era.

Arpi’s narrative reveals newly-independent India grappling with a deep diplomatic dilemma. Three years after India gained independence, Tibet lost hers. Indian policy-makers were divided into two camps on how to tackle the situation. The idealists, dominated by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s charismatic first prime minister, felt that accepting the fait accompli of Chinese occupation of Tibet was a small price to pay for a resurgent and united Asia after centuries of Western colonialism. The realists, led by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s deputy prime minister, argued that communist China was not working towards a resurgent, united Asia but towards an Asia dominated by a new China. Beijing’s invasion and occupation of Tibet was the first step towards fulfilling its expansionist goal.
Arpi has comprehensively documented this debate on China’s true intentions. Using the archives at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, he has pieced together India’s contradictory impulses in meeting China’s challenge in Tibet. On the one hand, India had deep sympathy for Tibet based on the ancient bonds of culture and a shared spiritual heritage. On the other, there was the sinking recognition that this sympathy could not be translated into military and political support because the changed geopolitical balance favoured China due to its military presence on the plateau.
Finely researched and passionately told, Claude Arpi’s new offering is the first detailed account of the internal policy debate that raged at the highest level of the new republic on formulating the most effective response to the occupation of Tibet. With the death of Sardar Patel, the idealists won the argument and Tibet’s fate was sealed when India signed the Panchsheel agreement with China, which recognized Tibet as an autonomous part of the People’s Republic.
India’s feeble response to Beijing’s occupation of Tibet was compounded by the mistakes Tibet made. Arpi recounts that instead of seeking cooperation and support from the new Indian republic, the Lhasa government in its first official communication with independent India demanded the return of Tawang. In his interview with Arpi, the Dalai Lama exclaimed in amazement,“What a wonderful government!” at Lhasa’s diplomatic ineptitude and ignorance of obligations imposed by treaties.
The issues that Arpi has explored in his massive book are ones that India will continue to grapple with in the years to come as New Delhi fine-tunes its policy towards China, that reaps the benefits of expanding trade but confronts Beijing’s political and military assertiveness.
If Tibet was isolated diplomatically, its engagement with its neighbours was active, robust and profitable. This was made so by a network of caravan trails that carried goods over vast distances infested by marauding brigands. One of these caravan routes was the one from Leh to Lhasa, a tributary of the ancient Silk Road that connected China with High Asia, Central Asia, and the West. This culture of caravanserai that radiated throughout Asia is wonderfully evoked in Tibetan Caravans, a leisurely travelogue rich in detail and sharp in observation. The travel diary was kept by the late Abdul Wahid Radhu, a cosmopolitan Ladakhi Muslim, a graduate of Aligarh University and who, in the course of his life, travelled to Tibet, China and all over northern India.
Radhu made his first caravan journey to Lhasa in 1942 when World War II engulfed Europe and the civil war in China between the Nationalist Chinese and communists was tilting in favour of Mao’s forces. Those forces would soon be in Tibet, disrupting the Radhu family’s profitable trade and with Abdul Wahid himself being caught up in the last ditch effort to salvage whatever was left of political Tibet.
Radhu begins his diary 76 years ago. “Today, 19 September 1942, the twentieth day of my life as a married man, I left my family, my wife, my aunt and sister. I left for Lhasa to learn the trade of being a merchant, supervised by my Uncle Abdul Aziz, head of the Lopchak caravan.” This was a part of the exchange of trade and courtesies between Leh and Lhasa.
Tibetan Caravans provides for the first time detailed information on the life of the Ladakhi Muslim trading community in Lhasa and the community’s interaction with Tibetans, both high and low, and the writer’s observation of the Tibetan character. Radhu observes, “Tibetans were a well-balanced people with common sense, happy, spontaneous, quick-witted, fun-loving… Certainly, Tibetans also had their faults, the most flagrant being their physical uncleanliness… also superstition, and in the upper classes, a taste for power and intrigue.”
Radhu is a nostalgic witness to the end of two eras: the way of life of the caravaneers and the demise of political Tibet.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What Emperor Xi can teach India

Metok, north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal
My article What Emperor Xi can teach India appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Xi Jinping made it. He can now retain his seat for life.
The South China Morning Post reported: “Under the watch of a confident and relaxed President Xi Jinping, nearly 3,000 Chinese lawmakers were nearly unanimous in their approval of changes to the state constitution that included removing the term limit on the presidency.”

Chinese Constitution
The Hong Kong newspaper said that Xi, who had maintained a poker face throughout the opening day of People’s National Congress (NPC), appeared ‘much more at ease after the vote’.
Only two of the 2,964 deputies voted against the constitutional revisions; the process was over in just one hour: no debate took place, no discussion and not even canvassing. Done!
While the international press mainly noted the Emperor-for-life aspect, there is more to the recent amendments of the Chinese Constitution.
The China Daily titled: ‘Xi leading the charge on reform’.
Perhaps more than a personal determination to emulate Mao, Xi seems to want to transform China into a great power; he calls it the ‘Chinese Dream’.
Will Xi leave place for others to exist in the process is a recurrent question.
On March 5, during an interaction with the deputies from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Xi elaborated his vision for the new era “a way to realize the people's aspiration to live a better life and push forward China's modernization.”
2018, which marks the 40th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's opening-up policy, will see a string of changes which should take China closer to ‘a moderately prosperous society in all respects’.
Xi pledged to continue deepening reform with ‘great political courage’; to move forward, the Chinese people were ready to ‘cut paths through mountains, and build bridges across rivers’, he said.
A day after Xi’s ‘promotion’, more than two dozen ministries and agencies were overhauled to give the Communist Party greater control …and more teeth.
The South China Morning remarked: “The sweeping institutional changes are part of Xi’s plan to improve the Communist Party’s governing efficiency by shaking up vested interests among agencies.”
It includes the merger of the banking and insurance regulators, a special ministry to oversee the status of military veterans and a new Discipline Commission with larger powers to tackle rampant corruption.
The nomination of a Vice-president, Xi’s friend and close collaborator, Wang Qishan, is another sign of change.
One of the not-often mentioned reforms stressed by Xi Jinping, is the deepening of the “military-civilian integration to provide impetus and support for realizing the Chinese dream and the goal to build a strong military.”
On the side of the NPC, Xi, who also Chairman of the all-powerful Central Ministry Commission (CMC) met the PLA delegation; he told them: “Implementing the strategy of military-civilian integration is a prerequisite for building integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities."
He urged the defence forces to “promote military development featuring higher quality, efficiency, and scientific and technological levels.”

Bordering Areas
Another aspect of the reform is the development of China’s land borders (with India in particular). Not only will the military-civilian integration translate into new infrastructure on India’s northern borders, but the development will be labeled ‘infrastructure for tourism’, while being used by the PLA to reinforce its position.
A ‘democratic’ touch is being given to the process.
Soon after the conclusion of the 19th Congress in November last year, President Xi Jinping sent an answer to two young Tibetan herders who had written to him introducing their village, Yume, north of Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Xi encouraged the sisters: “to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown. Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families."
Drolkar and Yangzom, the two sisters, had told Xi about their experience of living in a border area; their village, Yume is not far from the remote Indian village of Takshing.

Village Saga
A letter from the Emperor was enough for Drolkar to get a seat as a NPC deputy. Drolkar's sudden celebrity has helped her village to grow exponentially; many Tibetans from the nearby villages now want to move their homes to Yume. Villagers are building new guest accommodations to receive Han tourists, who have started pouring in. As a result the village will become wealthier ...and the border more stable.
That is precisely the Emperor's plan.
Another deputy to the NPC, Kelsang Dekyi comes from Metok, north of Tuting sector of Arunachal, which recently witnessed a border intrusion (with Chinese excavators).
Kelsang Dekyi was born in 1978, symbolically the beginning of an era which saw the Chinese people “relying on knowledge to change its destiny;” she grew up in Metok County “once a remote, poverty-stricken, and information-poor area.”
Kelsang Dekyi told a press conference in Beijing: “Our school building was very poor; teachers and students had to pick grass to cover the roof. The grass was taller than we were, so when we were walking back we'd often trip, and we often had our hands cut. However, if we didn't pick the grass, we couldn't cover the roof, and rainwater would leak into the classroom."
These two appointments show the importance that Xi attaches to the border with India.
Statistics show the 75% of the NPC’s deputies are new faces, with similar stories. Will it help China to build a better China? It is not certain, because many of these nominations are just for the show.
Incidentally, would a local girl from Takshing village on the Indian side of the border, write a letter to Delhi? One can bet that it would go unnoticed by the authorities; it may not even be delivered. Still India is a democratic nation.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Another Tibet hand who matters

Yang Xiaodu
In 2012, I wrote on this blog a piece The Chinese who matter in Tibetan Affairs.
It was a list of Chinese officials who had a say in Tibet affairs.
Either they had been, or still were associated with the Roof of the World.
I then wrote: “One can only hope that wisdom will prevail and that they will realize that it is in their (and China's) interest to find a decent solution to the Tibetan issue with the present Dalai Lama.”
Well, no progress in this front.
In fact, many of the officials that I then listed have since then been purged or investigated, others have retired.

Another Tibet hand promoted
Now a new name should be added: Yang Xiaodu.
Yang, the second-ranking graft-buster (deputy chief of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection or CCDI), has been appointed head of the country’s new sweeping anti-corruption body, the National Supervisory Commission
“A surprise move that effectively asserts the party’s ultimate authority above the powerful state agency”, says The South China Morning Post.
The Hong Kong newspaper added: “The controversial new body will extend the powers of the party’s internal disciplinary watchdog to oversee a vast number of state and public-sector employees, including managers of state-run schools, hospitals, media organisations and companies – even if they are not party members.”
Yang, 64, worked with President Xi Jinping in Shanghai, but also for more than years in Tibet.
The Nikkei from Japan, said that Yang “spent over two decades working in Tibet, rising from section chief of a state pharmaceutical company to vice chairman of the region's government. The Shanghai native was one of thousands of ethnic Han settlers dispatched by Beijing to oversee administration and keep a lid on protests in Tibet,” adding the fight against corruption has been a key feature of the Xi regime since his ascendance to the presidency in 2013.
He promised to catch the ‘tigers and swatting flies’.
Yang will second him.

Here is Yang's biography
Yang was born in Shanghai in 1953. In 1970, during the Cultural Revolution, he was sent-down youth performing manual labour in Taihe County, Anhui province.
In September 1973, he began studying at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
He graduated in 1976 and then began working in Nagchu Prefecture, Tibet for a drug company. In 1984, he was named party chief of Nagchu Hospital.
In September 1986, Yang was named deputy commissioner (vice mayor equivalent) of Nagchu. In December 1992, he was named deputy party chief of Chamdo Prefecture.
In 1995, he was named head of the finance department of Tibet Autonomous Region.
In May 1998, he became Vice-Chairman of Tibet Autonomous Region, ascending to sub-provincial rank for the first time. In 2001, he returned to his native Shanghai and became vice mayor.
He studied legal theory at the Central Party School while holding a job in Tibet.
In October 2006, he was named a member of the municipal Party Standing Committee of Shanghai and head of the municipal United Front Department; in May 2012, he was named head of the Shanghai Discipline Inspection Commission.
In November 2013, having reached retirement age for sub-provincial level officials, he was named head of the 3rd Inspection Team, in charge of anti-corruption work at the Ministry of Land and Resources. In January 2014, he was elected Deputy Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
On December 25, 2016, Yang was named Minister of Supervision, the eighth and oldest person to serve in the position since the founding of the People's Republic.
Yang is a member of the 19th Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

What happened to the 'Chinese who matter in Tibetan Affairs’, mentioned in my post in 2012.
  • Yu Zhengsheng, former member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo has retired.
  • Hu Chunhua, a member of the Politburo of the 19th Central Committee, has been promoted as one of the four vice premiers in the State Council
  • Sun Chunlan, head of the United Front Work Department, is a vice premier too.
  • Liu Yandong, former member of the Politburo and Vice-Premier, State Council has retired
  • Wang Huning, member, Politburo has been elevated to the Standing Committee of the Politburo
  • Meng Jianzhu, member, Politburo has retired
  • Guo Jinlong, member, Politburo has retired
  • Ling Jihua, former head of the United Front Work Department is in jail
  • Yang Chuantang former Minister of Transport got a  'semi retired' job as Vice-Chairman of the CPPCC
  • Li Liguo, former Minister of Civil Affairs is investigated
  • Du Qinglin, former head of the United Front Work Department has retired
  • Wang Jianping, former Commander of the People's Armed Police Force is in jail
  • Chen Quanguo, former Party Secretary in Tibet, now Party Secretary in Xinjiang, has been promoted in the Politburo
  • Lt Gen Yang Jinshan, former Commander of the Tibet Military Area is in jail
  • Lt Gen Xu Yong is still commanding the Tibet Military Area (he was during the Doklam episode)
  • Hao Peng, a former Deputy Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional has now been promoted to the 19th Central Committee. He presently is the Party Secretary of the Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), after serving as the Governor of Qinghai between 2013 and 2016
  • Qin Yizhi, former head of the Chinese Communist Party’s youth league has been demoted
  • Zhang Qingli, former Party boss in Tibet remains CPPCC's vice-chairman
  • Wang Zhengwei, former Chairman of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission between 2013 and 2016, and Governor of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region between 2007 and 2013 is like Zhang Qingli and Yang Chuantang, a vice-chairman of the CPPCC

    Sunday, March 18, 2018

    When Nehru meets the Dalai Lama

    A circular of the Cabinet Secretary asking Indian ministers and officials not to attend a function for the Dalai Lama in Delhi, has been in the news.
    While the controversy (and the MEA's kowtowing to China) continues to rage, it is interesting to look at the transcript of a talk between the Dalai Lama and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister on India.
    The encounter took place on April 16, 1961.
    KL Mehta, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs took the notes.
    A couple of weeks later (May 2), in a debate in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister was asked:
    (a) whether the Dalai Lama visited New Delhi on the 15th April, this year for having some discussions with him; and
    (b) if so, what were the subjects discussed?
    During the course of the debate, Nehru stated:
    It is the normal practice that when asylum is granted, it is done so subject to any condition that the country may think it necessary. The condition is that the soil of their country should not be used for any purposes opposed to them, which might get the country into trouble. It is a normal practice.
    This is still valid today, though there are ways and ways to put this in practice.

    Here is the transcript of the talks as published in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (Volume 68, Series II). The subtitles are mine.

    When Nehru meets the Dalai Lama

    The Prime Minister received His Holiness the Dalai Lama at P.M.'s House on Sunday April 16 and the talks lasted for over 90 minutes.
    The Secretary General [RK Nehru ] was present.
    Having thanked [the] P.M. for inviting him to Delhi, the Dalai Lama said that he had come to the conclusion that the only hope of preservation of Tibetan culture and religion now lies in those Tibetans especially children who have come to India.
    The object of his visit to Delhi, therefore, was to discuss with the Prime Minister the various important problems dealing with the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees with special reference to the drawing up a suitable programme for the education of young people, both boys and girls below 16 years in age.
    The Dalai Lama added that as for the rest, broadly speaking, only two schemes have so far been finalised which cater for the rehabilitation of refugees as agriculturists.
    One of these was being implemented in Mysore and the other in NEFA.

    Nehru Speaks
    The Prime Minister said that he wanted the Tibetans to grow up as an integrated community with due safeguards for the maintenance of their tradition, culture and religion.
    He added that in order to make a proper assessment of the problem of rehabilitation, it was necessary to consider it in two or more parts.
    He was himself specially interested in the education of the young people, and this, therefore, must assume topmost priority.
    The Prime Minister wanted to make it clear that the Government of India had the responsibility to provide education to every Tibetan child of school-going age. The programme of education did not include just primary education, but also secondary education, and for those who would benefit from it, University education.
    He had no doubt that the future of the Tibetans in India depended on the quality of education given to them, and it would be entirely artificial to lay down an upper limit in regard to the number of young people to the educated.
    The Prime Minister emphasised that the education should be good, with due regard to the traditional background of Tibetans, and at the same time modem.
    It was important to realise that whereas separate schools will be provided for primary education, and also at the secondary stage, the syllabus would have to be designed in such a way as to enable the students to join Indian polytechnics, and those likely to benefit from it also Indian Universities.
    We could not obviously provide separate polytechnics and separate Universities for Tibetan children only.
    Indeed having completed their secondary stage, it would not even be right for the Tibetan children to remain cut off from the rest of India.
    The Prime Minister added that arrangements to provide religious instruction to Tibetan boys even at the University stage could be made separately, if the Dalai Lama so wished.
    It must be understood, however, that the educational programme for Tibetans should be drawn up to ensure development of the Tibetan children along the lines of their genius, and also to ensure that the actual education given was fully modem in the sense that it equipped the boys and girls to join Indian Universities and Polytechnics in due course.

    The Dalai Lama speaks
    The Dalai Lama said that he was in full agreement with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister. He added that there were 3,000 Tibetan refugee children below the age of 16 in India at the moment. Arrangements have so far been made to provide education to only some 500 amongst them. He added that the help of the State Governments concerned such as Mysore, UP and Punjab would be necessary in running the schools, but at the same time it was essential that there should be a common approach in running all the Tibetan schools irrespective of where they happened to be situated.
    After some discussion and after taking note of the fact that the Nursery School [started by Tsering Dolma, the Dalai Lama’s sister] at Dharamsala is now running on the whole satisfactorily, and that the UK ‘Save the Children Fund’ Project, recently discussed in Delhi by Lady Alexandra Metcalfe [daughter of Lord Curzon, former Governor-General of India] is to be started shortly, the Prime Minister felt that the entire question of drawing up of a programme of education for Tibetan children including the opening of schools, the drawing of syllabus, the production of text books and other such details, should be made the responsibility of a Committee to be set up in New Delhi.
    The membership of the Committee would consist of a representative each from the Ministries of External Affairs and Education, and representative of the Dalai Lama.
    To these, representatives of the State Governments concerned, viz. Mysore, UP, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, NEFA and J&K would be invited as may be necessary from time to time.
    This Committee will make policy, have a wide discretion, and take necessary steps to ensure that the decisions of the Government of India in such matters as the opening of schools, the training of teachers are being carried out according to the approved programme.
    The Committee will have a Special Officer on a whole-time basis as its Secretary. This officer will go round looking after the schools, liaising with the Dalai Lama, and the State Governments concerned, and generally to assist the Committee in seeing that the decisions are being carried out.

    The discussion
    The Dalai Lama expressed himself wholly willing to give his fullest co-operation to the Committee and to nominate his representative on it.
    The Prime Minister directed me [KL Mehta] to call on the Education Minister to inform him with the list of discussion that had taken place and also to seek his advice in regard to the constitution of the proposed Committee.
    The Prime Minister emphasised that this policy Committee will consider the problem as a whole. The Committee will also consider that what to do with Tibetan refugees in the age group of 16-20 to which the Dalai Lama made a special reference. It might for example be possible to train them as technicians while others may be found jobs in factories and elsewhere.

    To create a trust
    In this connection, a reference was made to the Dalai Lama's offer to make available a sum of Rs 20 lakhs for being spent on the education of Tibetan refugees during the next 4 years.
    The Prime Minister asked the Dalai Lama to consider whether he should not create a trust fund for the education of Tibetan refugees and generally towards the rehabilitation of these people. This would ensure that the funds are properly invested, and incidentally, this would also mean that the profits would be free from income-tax.
    The Dalai Lama promised to consider this advice and added that as soon as this 4-year period was over, he hoped to earmark the profits of a pipe making factory in Bihar, which he has already started in Bihar, in co-operation with Indian businessmen and on the advice of an expert from Chicago.
    [A question was asked in the Rajya Sabha on May 1, 1961: “The Government understands that the Dalai Lama has invested some money in a Cast Iron Spun Pipe factory but have no knowledge of the extent of the investment.”
    The Prime Minister gave an oral answer: “It is quite possible that unscrupulous people will try to take advantage of any position like that. But I have no particular knowledge of any particular set of unscrupulous persons doing that. The Government have given him general advice suggesting that he should invest his savings or whatever he has in reliable undertakings. That is all the Government has done. But, as has been said, the Dalai Lama has started a cast iron pipe concern for producing cast iron pipes somewhere in the Hazaribagh district in Bihar and he has invested some money in it.]
    The Dalai Lama expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Prime Minister for his views on the education of Tibetan refugees and expressed himself in whole-hearted agreement with the PM's views.

    Settlement of the refugees

    The Prime Minister then touched upon the question of settlement of refugees, who would not be covered by the education programme.
    He said that we should go ahead with the settlement of 3,000 refugees in Mysore, and when this has been completed take up with the Mysore Government the question of settling another 2,000 if not more refugees in the forest areas nearby.
    The Prime Minister gave his approval to the suggestion that a few more schemes on the lines of the Bhalukpung Scheme [A forest settlement for 500 Tibetan refugees about 40 miles from Tezpur] should be drawn up and implemented in other parts of NEFA. Similarly, we should re-double our efforts in settling refugees in Ladakh away from the border.
    A reference was made to a recent suggestion from the Sikkim Durbar that they would rehabilitate 1,000 to 1,500 as agriculturists and tea-growers in Western Sikkim.
    The Prime Minister enquired whether the promised scheme had been received from Sikkim.
    The Prime Minister approved the suggestion that efforts should be made with the Government of Bhutan to settle refugees already in Bhutan and necessary financial and administrative help given to the Government of Bhutan.
    [KL Mehta intervened] Rukmini Devi [Arundale, Rajya Sabha MP] told me some time ago that the Government of Madras would like to help in the task of rehabilitating Tibetan refugees. Enquiries may be made from that Government whether they are in a position to make land available for the settlement of Tibetan refugees.

    Look after ourselves
    Finally the Dalai Lama made a reference to the old and the infirm who do not depend on anyone and who should be looked after.
    The Prime Minister felt that statistics of such people should be obtained and steps taken urgently to provide a home for them. This should be progressed further in consultation with the Dalai Lama.
    The Prime Minister concluded by saying that it would greatly help in the understanding and solution of the question of rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees if the entire number, viz. 28,000 to 30,000 now in India are divided in various categories to determine how many amongst them would be absorbed in schools, in handicraft centres, as agriculturists, as workers on our road programme (and for how long) etc.
    The lamas amongst the 28,000 to 30,000 refugees number 5,000.
    The Dalai Lama said that of them 1,700 are already being looked after by Government. I mentioned that the required information under various head was available and that this would be further checked up and brought up- to-date in consultation with the Dalai Lama.
    Separately the Prime Minister told me [KL Mehta] that he was dissatisfied with the progress achieved in implementing the programme of education for Tibetan children. He added that he attached the utmost importance to this question and wanted it to be known that the education to be given must be of good quality.

    A letter to KN Katju, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
    On April 24, Nehru wrote to KN Katju: “There was one matter I wanted to talk to you about, but forgot to do so."
    The Dalai Lama was here for a number of days discussing with us the question of rehabilitating the Tibetan refugees in India. There is no chance, as far as one can see, of their being able to return, to Tibet. I am particularly interested in the boys and girls receiving good education. Probably in the future these Tibetans who are now in India will be the only real Tibetans left.
    We are making special arrangements for the education of those boys and girls. So far as the Lamas are concerned, they are being settled in two or three places near monasteries and the like.
    The Dalai Lama has been anxious to have agricultural colonies of Tibetans. With the help of the Mysore Government, we have got a good place on the uplands near Coorg, about 3,000 feet high, for such a colony of 3,000 persons. Over a thousand have moved there already; others will go as soon as arrangements have been made. Possibly we might be able to increase this number to 5,000 in Mysore. I think this is likely to be a good colony.
    But this does not exhaust the Tibetan agriculturists, and something more has to be done for them in the shape of colonies. The Dalai Lama particularly mentioned to me the possibility of some of them going to Madhya Pradesh. I told him that I would enquire
    I want to know from you if there is any possibility of this.
    It has to be remembered, however that they cannot be settled anywhere and everywhere. They cannot stand the great heat of our plains. They must, therefore, go to a place at a fair altitude where the heat is not very great. Mysore has suited them more or less because it is 3,000 feet high. Also it is no good sending very small numbers of them anywhere. The minimum number for some kind of a community life in a colony would be about 250 families, making a total of approximately 1,000 persons.
    I should like to know if you think this is at all feasible anywhere in Madhya Pradesh where these two conditions can be satisfied. So far as the expenditure on such a project is concerned, that will be set entirely by the Central Government.

    Friday, March 16, 2018

    The Tale of Three Zhaos

    Many of us have been introduced to Tibet by the famous cartoon The Adventures of Tintin.
    One can’t forget the two detectives, Thomson and Thompson (in French, Dupond et Dupont). Though they are rather poor detectives (like Inspector Jacques Clouseau), they provide so comic relief to the reader..
    These characters, who look like identical twins (despite their different, though sounding-same surnames), came back to mind, when I saw the picture of China’s two main detectives, Zhao Leji and Zhao Kezhi attending a session with the Tibetan delegates at the 13th National People Congress (NPC).
    Zhao Leji is the Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, (CCDI) the party's top anti-corruption body. He is also a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.
    Zhao Kezhi is Minister and Party Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security; in other words, he is responsible for the security in the Middle Kingdom. As mentioned earlier on this blog is also a centrally-nominated delegate from Tibet to the NPC.
    Let us not forget that the CCDI has the power to summon and detain without charge any member it suspects of breaching party rules and regulations. Suspects are barred from seeing a lawyer while they are detained.
    Zhao Leji (center), Zhao Khezi (left) and Wu Yingje (right)
    Zhao and Zhao do not bring comic relief to anyone in the Kingdom.
    The South China Morning Post noted: “A new supervision law detailing how the new super agency will operate is to be put to a vote on March 20, the last day of the legislative meeting.”
    According to the Hong Kong newspaper, the new agency will be a merger of several government and prosecutorial anti-graft departments: “A  whole chapter in the amended constitution is dedicated to the new agency. Its chairperson will be appointed by the National People’s Congress, which is the only body overseeing the commission. The legislature also has the power to dismiss the agency’s chairperson.”
    Zhao Leji will be chairman of the new Commission.
    The fact that China’s two supreme detectives attended the meeting of the Tibet delegation does not augur well for the aspirations of the Tibetans.
    A website site mentioned in an earlier post said: “The TAR spends around three to five times more on domestic security than the average of all provinces and regions. Likewise, Xinjiang’s spending between 2014 and 2016 has been double that of the national regional average, and over triple in 2017. While domestic security spending across all provinces and regions rose by 215 percent between 2007 and 2016, Xinjiang’s grew by 411 percent, the TAR’s by 404 percent, and Qinghai Province’s by 316 percent (Qinghai’s population is 25 percent Tibetan). Spending in Sichuan Province increased by 234 percent, but spending in Sichuan’s two Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures, Ganzi and Aba, which have seen numerous self-immolations since 2008, grew by 295 percent.”
    The same website remarked: “Incredibly, the TAR and Xinjiang are beginning to rival the per capita domestic security expenditures of the United States. This is despite the fact that Chinese human resource and local security technology costs are far lower than in the West.”

    Meeting the Tibetan delegates
    While President Xi Jinping met with the NPC’s deputies from the Chongqing municipality to urge them to follow a ‘clean and upright political ecology’, Zhao Leji told the Tibetan delegation that “the campaign against the mentality and action of privilege seeking should be continued.”
    According to Xinhua, he called “for actions against formalities for formalities' sake, bureaucratism and various kinds of misconduct, so as to keep the pressure on conduct problems.”
    It is at least what was reported...

    Drolkar alias Choekar

    Stability of the borders with India
    In the meantime the propaganda about the Indian borders continues.
    Drolkar (earlier spelt Choekar), the deputy of Yume, north of the McMahon Line, said that she wants to build her hometown as beautiful as kalsang flower (a reference to the letter that she received from Xi Jinping).
    "Great changes have been seen in my hometown," she affirmed.
    She added: "We have highways, we have power, and new homes are being built as well. We also have stores, restaurants, and family inns right in the village. You even don't need cash when shopping, for everything can be paid via your cellphone,"
    Border people are happy in China according to Drolkar with their “more and more convenient life in hometown.”
    Drolkar said she will continue to safeguard the border region in future.
    For half a century, her family grazes their sheep and cattle there to safeguard the border area, asserted Drolkar.
    Xinhua commented that her story has deeply touched the heart of people across the country.
    So, where is the need of the two top detectives of the Kingdom, Zhao and Zhao, monitoring Tibet affairs, is people are so happy?
    And one should not forget the Third Zhao, General Zhao Zhongqi, the commander of the Western Theater Command, who looks after the Indian borders and is said to have started the conflict in Doklam last year.
    The Tale of the Three Zhao is a sad story.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2018

    How to be elected to the People's National Congress

    Xi Jinping made it.
    He can remain in his seat for life.
    The voting process was completed in record time and the constitutional revisions got the highest approval since 1999.
    The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported: “Under the watch of a confident and relaxed President Xi Jinping, nearly 3,000 Chinese lawmakers were nearly unanimous in their approval of changes to the state constitution that included removing the term limit on the presidency.”
    The Hong Kong newspaper said that Xi, who had maintained a poker face throughout the opening day of People’s National Congress (NPC), appeared much more at ease after the vote: “He even smiled when Wang Cheng, the vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress, announced the final result of the voting. Only two of the 2,964 deputies voted against the constitutional revisions, three others abstained and one ballot was declared invalid.”
    That is not much opposition for a so-called democratic process.
    In 2004, when China's constitution was last amended, it had taken two hours.
    This time the process was over in just one hour: no debate took place, no discussion and not even canvassing.
    SCMP remarked: “The whole event was meticulously managed to the last detail. All the deputies gathered at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing at 3pm sharp. Each received a pink ballot paper the size of an A4 sheet. They were given a short briefing on how to use a specially designed pen to tick the box of their choice before putting the completed ballot papers in 28 red, electronic ballot boxes designed to immediately scan and record the results.”
    Xi can remain as long as he wants ...or as long as his health permits.

    Data on the NPC
    Before the vote, a website published data about the NPC; the figures are derived from the raw data provided on the NPC’s site: "The 2,980 delegates—roughly three-quarters of whom have never held such a position—are set to vote on the draft constitutional amendment in just a few hours. … But who exactly are these delegates, allegedly ‘hand-picked’ by President Xi Jinping and poised to reward him with indefinite tenure? "
    Three quarters at least owe their jobs to Xi.
    The analysis about the NPC's ethnicity is particularly interesting : « There are 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities in China. Collectively, they are apportioned 14.7% of the seats in the 13th NPC—a percentage both higher than their proportion in the Chinese population and than the guideline value set by the 12th NPC a year ago ('approximately 12%').  The figure shows the ten ethnic minorities with the most seats in the 13th NPC. Except the Manchu, they are also the ten largest minorities in China, according to the 2010 national census (though the order is different). While all 56 ethnic groups are represented in the 13th NPC, half (28) are each represented by only one delegate. Han delegates are on average almost five years older than non-Han delegates, more likely to be CPC members, and significantly (not in the statistical sense) likely to be male."

    How are these delegates elected?
    Take the case of a Tibetan delegate Choekar (or Dolkar).
    Choekar (left)
    As mentioned in this blog in November, soon after the conclusion of the 19th Congress, President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to two young Tibetan herders who had written to him introducing their village, Yume, north of Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.
    Xinhua then reported that Xi “encouraged a herding family in Lhunze [Lhuntse] County, near the Himalayas in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown.”
    Xi acknowledged “the family's efforts to safeguard the territory and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area. Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families," he wrote.
    The two Tibetan girls, Choekar and Yangzom had told Xi about their “experiences in safeguarding the border area and the development of their township over the years.”
    Choekar's village, Yume (or Yumai or Yulmed) is located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line, not far from the remote Indian village of Takshing.
    Choekar (center)
    It was enough for getting appointed a NPC delegate
    It appears that many Tibetans from the nearby villages now want to move their homes to Yume. Choekar's sudden celebrity will certainly help  her village to grow exponentially ...and the border to be better protected.
    Han tourists have already started pouring.
    Villagers will build new guest accommodations and the border village will become wealthier  ...and the border will become more stable.
    That is the Emperor's plan.
    Of course, the Government of India is unable to think in this manner (in fact, can the Government think?)
    Should a local girl from Takshing village on the Indian side of the border, write a letter to Delhi, it would go unnoticed by the authorities; it may not even be delivered.
    Choekar had written about the importance for the border population to protect the sovereignty of the Motherland: by developing the border economy, poverty could be reduced.
    Choekar, before her elevation was officially Village Affairs Oversight Committee Director, but now she is more, she is one of the 2,964 Chinese who took part in the historic vote; they ‘elected’ the new emperor.
    The story does not say what has happened to the two who voted against the amendment of the Constitution.
    Probably, the lenient ruler can allow this much dissidence.
    It does not mean that the task will be easy for Chairman Xi; his new promotion may not help him to solve the immense problems facing the Middle Kingdom.
    But this is another story.

    Saturday, March 10, 2018

    Macron in India: Ties that keep growing

    My article Macron in India: Ties that keep growing appeared before the visit in The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle.

    Here is the link...

    Indian and France are celebrating twenty years of partnership.
    The accord signed in 1998 by President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister AB Vajpayee is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, ‘strategic partnership’.
    It was inked during the French President’s visit to India: “Both countries share a perspective that the new world order has to be a genuine multi-polar world order. Our bilateral relationship is poised to grow in the coming months in a multi-faceted manner,” declared Chirac.
    Over the last two decades, the partnership has steadily grown; no major political difference has darkened the sky between Paris and Delhi. France has constantly been supportive of India, particularly for a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council and has shown comprehension for India’s nuclear policy. Though in recent years the term ‘strategic partnership’ has been devalued by the multiplication of such accords, in the Indo-French case, the 1998 momentum has been regularly sustained by new initiatives.
    One is of course the Rs 59,000 crore deal for 36 Rafale fighters in September 2016; it will soon prove to be a game changer, partly due the offset clauses forcing the French to reinvest in India 50% of the total deal’s amount, but also for India’s western and northern fronts. China realizes this, its recent efforts to reinforce its air defence of the Western Theater Command, particularly on the Tibetan plateau, is definitily linked to the arrival of the Rafale in 2019.
    As she arrived in India in October 2017, French defence minister Florence Parly stated in an interview to The Times of India that India was France’s‘major strategic partner in Asia’. She noted that the relationship was “the fruit of a long, shared history, grounded in an unshakable trust. We have always worked alongside India, in good times but also at difficult moments,” adding “our partnership is continuing to develop even more, including in very sensitive areas.”
    These ‘sensitive’ areas make the difference.
    Delhi knows that it needs to diversify its diplomatic relations if it wants to play a major role in the world. An example: for India’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, France could also be a crucial partner.
    In an article for Carnagie India, C. Raja Mohan and Darshana Baruah wrote about Deepening the India-France Maritime Partnership: “Faced with growing geopolitical turbulence and more aggressive maritime maneuvering, India and France are eager to expand their strategic engagement in the Indo-Pacific.”
    The authors elaborated: “As maritime security acquires greater salience in India’s foreign policy, New Delhi is increasingly looking to leverage its strategic partnerships, particularly with Paris. Although India and France have joined forces on a number of issues since 1998, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific has never risen to the top of the agenda. However, this may be about to change.”
    The study cited a series of high-level discussions between New Delhi and Paris which focused on the prospects of a stronger maritime security partnership: “Central to the recent discussions has been the creation of a framework for strategic coordination in the Indo-Pacific. …As they explore their bilateral cooperation on regional security, the Indo-Pacific offers ample potential for such an enterprise.”
    A highpoint of Macron’s visit could be a logistics accord allowing India access to the strategically important French base in the Reunion Islands near Madagascar. Another possibility is the opening of the French facilities in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where India’s rival China has already a military base. This is part of India’s new maritime strategy.
    Interestingly, another author, Emanuele Scimia wrote in The Asian Times about a new alliance emerging in the region. He cited the French Jeanne d’Arc’s naval task force, heading for East Asia and the South Pacific to practice with the British Royal Navy.
    Though the objective of the five-month deployment is the improvement of the maritime cooperation between their navies, in reality, said Scimia, “it can be read as a new initiative by the two European countries to support the United States in its freedom of navigation operations in the region against China’s military activism.”
    The task group consists of the Mistral-class helicopter assault ship Dixmude and the La Fayette-class frigate Surcouf.
    Scimia further commented: “It is worth noting that the French-led task force will dock in countries at odds with China. Indeed Indonesia, Australia and Vietnam question Beijing’s claims to the South,” before concluding: “the prospective Quadrilateral (Quad) alliance among the United States, India, Japan and Australia to counter China’s military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific space could be extended to France and Britain.”
    Does it mean a Quad + Two? India and France will probably prefer the bilateral way to start with.
    Incidentally, in December 1954, a previous avatar of the Dixmude, arrived in Mumbai to deliver 20 aircrafts with ammunitions: “Dixmude will stop at Bombay only for 5 days. In view of large quantities on board and short time available for off loading French air Ministry has requested for facilities as special case to unload explosives at Jetty instead of at anchor outside harbor,” wrote the then Indian ambassador in Paris.
    Four years later, 22 Mystere and 13 Ouragan (‘Toofanis’) would be again delivered by the same Dixmude.
    Another important development: during the forthcoming presidential visit, a deal could also be signed between India and Safran (one of the partners of Dasault in the Rafale deal) to develop a M88 engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.
    A report in The Tribune recently hinted that “the M88 engine would be used as the base engine to adapt it for the LCA program or it would be an altogether new development using Safran technology to create a new engine from the ground upwards.” The LCA Tejas, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is presently equipped with a General Electric F404 IN20 engine. India is obviously keen to resurrect the Kaveri engine project which was originally started in the 1990s to develop an indigenous jet engine. Safran has now offered to collaborate on the Kaveri engine program as part of the 50% offsets for the Rafale deal.
    Following Florence Parly’s visit, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian came to India in November; in Delhi he mentioned common bilateral interests such as “combating terrorism, maritime security, cooperation in the Indian Ocean – where France and India are two countries belonging to the Indian Ocean Rim – we have a complete commonality of views, which calls for the strengthening of our partnership.”
    Macron’s visit was delayed for a few months due to the importance of an important joint initiative, the International Solar Alliance (ISA). Launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015, the ISA wants to create a coalition of solar resource rich countries and address each participant’s special energy needs.
    Finally, twenty years after Chirac’s visit, it would make economic and strategic sense for India to partner with France in more futuristic research projects such as a fifth-generation combat plane or an armed drone.
    Modi and Macron need to prepare the future.