Thursday, April 26, 2018

The fate of a visionary diplomat

Sumul Sinha, second from left
My article A fate of a visionary diplomat appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Had Nehru followed the advice of Sumul Sinha, the Indian official who had warned him about the intentions of communist China, the destiny of the nation could have been different

One does not often pay homage to unknown diplomats: hade their advice been followed, the destiny of the nation could perhaps have different. This is the case of Sumul Sinha, the official in charge of the Indian Mission in Lhasa between 1950 and 1952.
Five months after forcing a 17-Point Agreement on Tibetan delegates (and forging the seals of the Lhasa government), the Chinese ‘Liberation Army’ (PLA) entered the Tibetan capital in September 1951. During the first months the Red generals were pure honey. Sinha witnessed their changing bheviour and reported to his bosses in Delhi.
The young Mandarin-speaking diplomat noted that the Tibetans had started to ‘shed their fears’ and they have again ‘acquired confidence for the future’. Though eleven months earlier, the PLA had brutally smashed an ill-prepared and disorganized Tibetan Army in Eastern Tibet, perhaps the Chinese were not so bad after all, believed many Tibetans.
Sinha explained to Delhi: “Credit is due to the Chinese [general] who with patience and delicacy are handling the problem of leading Tibet into the fold. They had struck terror into the hearts of Tibetans, when the offensive began, and it was then essential to pulverize resistance and gain victory. …The struggle has begun for the mind and soul of Tibet in ways that are subtle and hardly perceptible.” The Chinese largesse at that time was phenomenal.
This type of language deeply irritated the Indian Prime Minister; according to Nehru, Sinha could not grasp that the Chinese had come to help the Tibetans to abandon their medieval mindset and in any case, the destiny of India and China were forever bound together for the good of humanity.
“Mr Sinha needs to be enlightened”, he once wrote; poor Sinha was only trying to report, as faithfully as possible, the situation on the ground.
On October 7, 1950, the Chinese had walked into Eastern Tibet. While the population in Lhasa had started panicking, the Tibetan government reacted ‘cautiously’ to the invasion at the beginning; they did not want to ‘upset’ the Chinese.
India’s Tibet policy had recently been taken a radical change under the guidance of KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador in Beijing, who was suddenly promoted as Nehru’s chief advisor for Tibet affairs. Conflict with China had to be avoided at any cost, world peace was the only objective were the new mottos …and Tibet could be sacrificed in the process.
The situation rapidly soured between the Indian Representative in Tibet and the Prime Minister. On November 23, Nehru wrote to Sinha: “Government of India have noticed that certain communications from Lhasa and Sikkim regarding Tibet are dogmatic, disputatious and admonitory. We want of course our representatives to give us full information …[But] once a decision has been taken by Government [read to abandon Tibet to its fate], it should be accepted gracefully and followed faithfully; any insinuation that Government have been acting wrongly or improperly is objectionable.”
Sinha saw another angle to the dramatically-unfolding Tibetan issue; India was suddenly acquiring a new neighbour; the Indian borders could soon be endangered. But Sinha’s reports did not fit into Nehru’s ‘larger’ vision of the world. Further, for Delhi, Sinha expressed too much sympathy for the Tibetan people at a time when their nation was being erased from the world map.
Sincere and competent officers often suffered because of Nehru’s admonishing tendencies; the Prime Minister was particularly harsh on those who tried to warn him of the consequences of his ‘friendship at any cost’ policy with China.
The reaction to Sinha’s cable has to be understood against backdrop of the letter on Tibet sent on November 7 by the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel to Nehru.
In the same cable, the Prime Minister said that diplomats should: “avoid as far as possible strong language and condemnation …of nations which only increases international tension.” In other words, don’t call a spade, a spade, even in internal ‘top secret’ correspondence.
The cable continued eulogizing China’s revolution: “This may be factor for stability and peace of the world or danger to us and to world peace. For this reason we tried to cultivate friendly relations with China and we believe that this became a stabilizing factor when Korean war started.”
On November 27, 1950, Sinha cabled the Foreign Secretary (a young officer could not answer directly to the Prime Minister, though copies were marked for the PMO): “My short-coming is inexperience. I know however that I have striven to carry out Government of India’s policy to the letter. In my telegrams which had to be TERSE I tried to reflect faithfully the reactions of Tibetan Government to situation facing them in the belief Government of India would like to know.”
In the following years, Sinha would be blasted again and again for warning Nehru of the true intentions of Communist China. Sadly, he finished a dejected man.
Just before the end of his tenure in Lhasa in Summer 1952, Sinha did it again; he upset the Prime Minister. Sinha had the unfortunate idea to ask for a loan of Rs. 2 lakhs to help the forces fighting for Tibetan independence.
Nehru was furious. In a cable sent to the Mission in Lhasa, the Prime Minister told off Sinha; it would be “improper and unwise for our representative to get involved in Tibetan domestic affairs or intrigues.”
He added that India was naturally friendly towards Tibetans, but this should not give anyone the impression of possible interference or help. He concluded by telling his Representative: “We have to judge these matters from larger world point of view which probably our Tibetan friends have no means of appreciating.”
On March 5, 1953, Nehru again got irritated by a memo prepared by Sinha, who was now posted as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Ministry. Retrospectively, Sinha’ note was prophetic; it was titled “Chinese designs on the North-East Frontier of India.”
But one can imagine that the title was not to the Prime Minister’s liking.
The Prime Minister again criticized the approach of the former Indian Representative in Tibet. He noted: “I find Mr. Sinha’s approach to be coloured very much by certain ideas and conceptions which prevent him from taking an objective view of the situation. The note starts by reference to the lust for conquest of the Chinese and is throughout based on this.”
Nehru asserted that Sinha: “looks back with a certain nostalgia to the past when the British exercised a good deal of control over Tibet and he would have liked very much for India to take the place of the British of those days.”
Six years later, when the Chinese intruded in NEFA and Ladakh, the Prime Minister probably realized that Sinha had been was right, but it was too late.
Ever since, every summer, the Chinese cross the line and ‘transgress’ into Indian territory.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

China develops the Indian border

War Memorial for the Chinese soldiers who dies=d during the Battle of Walong
Che Dalha (alias Qizhala), the head of the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Government (and TAR’s Senior Deputy Secretary) visited Zhayul, north of the McMahon line in the Lohit Valley.
Walong, which witnessed the famous battle in November 1962 is located some 50 km south in the same valley.
It is in Walong that the 11th Infantry Brigade and in particular the 6 Kumaon of the Indian Army managed to stop the Chinese advances and paid a high price for it.
The Chinese too suffered heavy casualties.
There is an excellent account on Bharat Rakshak website
The end of the battle is thus described.
From three sides, the Chinese poured in artillery and MG fire. But the Kumaonis held till 11 a.m. till the situation became militarily futile and orders were given to withdraw. As Lt. Bikram Singh started extricating his men he was cut down. The Chinese suffered terrible casualties (almost 5 times). By midday all troops were asked to withdraw. Some managed to get back through the treacherous terrain. But many NEVER GOT THE ORDERS. They slugged it out to the last man, to the last bullet. As Brigadier N.C. Rawlley said, "6th Kumaon at Tri Junction fought and fought and fought till there was nothing left. After this there was eerie silence." Sikhs, Kumaonis, Gorkhas and Dogras fought shoulder-to-shoulder to the bitter end. Two months after the cease-fire when the Indians returned they found that the Chinese had marked the positions of the dead. Many of the bunkers showed the dead where they had last manned their weapons.

CheDalha's vist
Che, who is also director of the district border defense committee, inspected a Hero Memorial Park in Zhayul area. He told the villagers that the masses should deeply cherish the memory of the revolutionary martyrs.
He laid a wreath for 447 Revolutionary Martyrs' War Memorial.
The memorial is in the honour of the Chinese soldiers who died during the Walong battle as well as the 'heroes' who fought the Tibetan resistance in the late 1950s.
Che, a Tibetan from Yunnan province, is a member of the all-powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
According to The China Daily the memorial consists of a mausoleum, a monument, a memorial hall and a hero wall. It is said the memorial for the 447-revolutionary martyrs' memorial is nestled in a forest of pines and cypresses. There is an engraved plate reading ‘The Revolutionary Martyrs are immortal’.
According to the Daily, Che slowly walked around the mausoleum, visited the memorial hall, and paid homage to ‘loyal souls’.
With ‘emotion’, he is said to have declared: “a hopeful nation cannot be without a hero, and a nation that does not remember his heroes has no way out (future).”
He expressed the Party’s high respect for the martyrs, who will be remembered forever. It is necessary, he said, to keep them in mind, learn from them, and receive ideological education and spiritual baptism from them.
He concluded by saying that everyone should firmly consolidate the dream of the future, inherit the good Red genes, and not forget the martyrs.
He urged the villagers in Zhayul to watch for strangers or suspicious persons, whether men, women or children; they would have to cross-examine them and send a report to the PLA manning the Indian border.
Che then quoted President Xi “ideals and beliefs are the spiritual ‘bones’ of the party members. We must always strengthen our ideals and beliefs, and more and more closely unite around the party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core.”
And then he said: "we must stick to the Party’s spiritual ideals; have a firm position and convictions in the depths of our hearts. Strive for a bright future and use faith to create a bright future."
Nothing very new, except for the fact that this took place near the Indian border.

The border defense forces

Che also addressed the border defense forces.
He urged them to hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics in Xi Jinping’s new era; implement Xi Jinping’s strong military ideology and resolutely safeguard and implement the chairmanship responsibility system of the Central Military Commission.
The usual State’s propaganda.
He added that all actions must of the society resolutely follow Xi’s command and stand on the side of the Chinese motherland while strengthening the national defense education, supporting the PLA and the masses, promoting the deep integration of military and civilian and educating and guiding the cadres and masses of all ethnic groups to bloom like a Kalsang flower in the snow-covered lands, while conscientiously be a guardian of the sacred homeland and a builder of happiness at home.

Phurbu Dhondup
It is not only Che Dalha who visited the border areas.
Phurbu Dhondup, the Governor of Lhoka (Shannan), in other words the head the prefectural government, recently ‘inspected’ some border counties of Southern Tibet, particularly in Tsona area, north of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
While on ‘inspection tour’, he asked the three counties of Nagartse, Lhobrag and Lhuntse to seriously study and learn from their mistakes and “adhere to the government’s policies; adhere to the Party’s planning and guidance, highlighted decisions; adhere to an exemplary life; adhere to the Party’s policies and systematically promote these policies.”
What does it mean?
Some local leaders are not adhering to the Party line?
During the recently-concluded National People’s Congress (NPC), Phurbu Dhondup had affirmed that there were 96 border villages under the poverty line in Lhoka Prefecture alone; the prefecture is located 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.
Inspecting the construction of a new village near the Indian border (Xiaokang Village), Phurbu Dhondup emphasized that everyone must adhere to the 'two directions': the protection of China’s sacred territory and the construction of a happy homeland.
Same words than Che Dalha.
Phurbu mentioned about the fight for poverty alleviation which should include scientific planning and the respect for the will of the masses; it should a combination of government support and self-reliance.
This village, like many others, is a border village, being developed with tourism in mind.
The question remains: why so much interest for the Indian borders?
Post-Doklam, Beijing has probably realized the importance of the border populations in case of a conflict with India. And more than 60 years after the ‘liberation’, many of these areas still live in poverty.
The Communist leadership is banking on mass tourism to change this.
And roads will come to the Indian border...

Phurbu Dhondup

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

One more airport in Tibet: govern the borders by first stabilizing Tibet

Radio Free Asia (RFA) has reported that the Chinese authorities have seized some farmland near Lhatse in Central Tibet to build a new airport. The displaced Tibetan villagers would have been offered far less in compensation than the land is worth.
According to a plan announced by officials in the Shigatse prefecture and the regional authorities of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the airport will be built on land belonging to the Yushang village of Chusha municipality (Lhatse county of Shigatse Prefecture).
A source told RFA’s Tibetan Service: “For Tibetans in Chusha, farming has been their main source of livelihood for many years, and is a tradition handed down to them by their ancestors. The loss of so much land to Chinese development projects is having a negative impact on the daily life of the local people.”
He source added: “Now Chinese authorities are planning to build an airport on Chusha’s farmland, and local Tibetans are being compensated at rates less than the land’s market value.”
The Tibetans also complained that with “new airports and railway stations in all these areas, this will form a hub of activities for tourists and transportation links in all directions.”
But for Beijing, tourist development appears to be the main tool to get Tibet out of poverty.

Wu Yingjie’s interview
In a recent interview with China Tibet Online, Wu Yingjie, the TAR Party secretary was asked how he intended to solve the problem of poverty in Tibet, “alleviating poverty is an arduous task. How can Tibet overcome difficulties and help people of all ethnic groups get out of poverty?” was the question.
The Party Secretary answered: “Over the past two years, Tibet has brought 280,000 people out of poverty. Five counties and districts have been cleared out of poverty, and 25 counties and districts have reached the poverty-off line. The poverty rate has dropped to 7.9 percent. We will continue to focus on impoverished districts and concentrate on targeted-poverty alleviation. First, we must implement differentiated policies. Poverty alleviation for 10 deeply impoverished counties in Lhasa, Lhoka, Nyingchi, and Ngari prefectures should be the responsibility of their respective prefecture or municipality. Poverty alleviation for 34 deeply impoverished counties in Chamdo, Nagchu, and western Shigatse prefectures should be undertaken by the autonomous region via a concentration of resources.”
Lhatse falls under the last area.
If the TAR administration has to intervene, it means that there might be security issues and that the poverty is real a big issue in and around Lhatse.
Wu Yingjie explained his plans: “Second, we must strengthen our support of industry and employment to bring 323,000 people out of poverty. Third, on the basis of respecting the will of the people, we would steadily advance with relocation efforts.”
Whether the population is Lhatse has the power to impose their will is another issue.
Apparently not.
The tirade of the Party Secretary continued: “Fourth, we must increase aid and assistance for Tibet to ensure that 80 percent of Aid Tibet funds goes towards impoverished districts. Fifth, we must implement ecological poverty alleviation measures and integrate ecological funds so that impoverished people who are able to work can have stable jobs and salaries. Sixth, poverty alleviation should be promoted through Party building, with a focus on helping deeply impoverished counties and populations.”
This means that ‘poverty’ is really a problem in Tibet today.

The issue of defense
To bring the other issue, security and defense, the reporter quoted Xi Jinping’s doctrine for Tibet, "govern the nation by governing the borders, govern the borders by first stabilizing Tibet, ensure social harmony and stability in Tibet, and strengthen the development of border regions.”
The Party Secretary admitted that Tibet was an important border area and ethnic region of China “with its border more than 4,000 kilometers long. It is the front line in the struggle against separatism and has the glorious mission to safeguard stability and promote harmony, which must always be our top priority.”
The new airport in Lhatse, apart from creating resentment among the Tibetans, has clearly two purposes. One is to defend China’s border, the other one is to bring tourism in the area to further develop this area and Western Tibet (Ngari region).
The trade with Nepal, south of Lhatse will be an important bonus.
Incidentally, the railway line on its way to Kyirong (and the Nepal border) should soon be arriving in Lhastse.
By bringing more Han tourists in the area, can China increase the happiness to the local population?
It is not sure at all.

PS: The new airport will also give a boost to the campaign “Winter tours in Tibet-enjoy the world's third pole”.
A Tibetan website asserted that Tibet has recently started promoting an initiative called "Winter tours in Tibet-Enjoy the world's third pole”. It affirmed that some preferential policies will "cover administration, transportation and tourist attractions."
As a result, an increasing number of tourists travel to Tibet even in off-peak season.”

Monday, April 16, 2018

When the snows melt

My article When the snows melt appeared in The Mail Today and in DailyO

Here is the link...

Every year during the months of May and June, the high passes of Himalayas witness activity as the Chinese cross over and intrude on Indian territory.

The Himalayan snows will soon start melting. Every year during the months of May and June, the high passes witness activities not in consonance with the majestic peace-conducive surrounding peaks. This year again, the Chinese will cross over and intrude on the Indian territory, or to put it nicely like the spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs does, “in what we perceived our side of the border”.


The fact is there are today two Lines of Actual Control (LAC) on the 3,488km-long frontier: the LAC "perceived" by India and the Chinese one. It is said that there are as many as 23 spots where there are differences of "perception" from Ladakh to the east of Arunachal state; at most of these places, "transgressions" are bound to happen.
A year after the Doklam episode, is India ready to tackle the situation? China is undoubtedly prepared, far more than last year when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) got surprised by India’s decision to defend Bhutan and not permit a road on the latter’s territory.
During the last few weeks, the Chinese media is full of the news about exercises conducted by the PLA on the Tibetan plateau. And it is not only the ground forces which are practising; the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) often joins in.
On April 10, The Global Times reported that a PLAAF brigade, belonging to the Eastern Theatre Command, “successfully hit all targets with four rocket-propelled grenades after it conducted its first live-fire drill on a plateau (read Tibet), a move hailed by experts as a significant progress on the military’s capability in cross-regional missions”.
The PLA Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese forces, added: “In order to make the exercise more challenging, the unnamed brigade chose a target that was only one-tenth the size of a simulated target.” Song Zhongping, a military expert, explained to The Global Times:
“Ballistic trajectories are different on high plateaus as the air is thinner at altitude, which demands greater ability from pilots to project and adjust the firing. The oxygen deficit on plateaus is also physically challenging for pilots.”
You may say that it is just a PR exercise to impress Indian forces on the other side of the Himalayas. The Communist tabloid recently announced that the PLA “has strengthened its power and management in border defence by developing new types of equipment that can be used in all environments, including those with extremes of temperature and topography.” Though no particular border is specified, it is clearly a message to India.
The Beijing Evening News gave a long list of new gadgets to defend China’s borders: “A satellite early-warning monitoring system is planned in some border areas… difficult to enter and patrol.” It clearly points to some remote places in Arunachal Pradesh, still considered by Beijing as part of Chinese territory.

The newspaper also speaks of a surveillance camera network built in border regions, “the density of coverage is set to increase to cover blind spots”. Add to this, a far greater informatisation and mechanisation of an entire range of equipment to provide an early warning. The level of automation of the PLA’s equipment is also said to have greatly increased; it includes the usage drones and setting up of unmanned monitoring systems.
The Pangong Lake, located an altitude of 4,250m, which shares shores with India and Tibet is specifically mentioned; the PLA will be using new patrol boats made of non-metallic materials: “The craft has a top speed of 40km per hour and can resist ice collisions.”
And of course a BeiDou enhanced satellite navigation with a real-time communication system. As a bonus, scout vehicles have water filters, a kitchen and a toilet and… a new type of hot water bottle that can keep water hot for 24 hours.
In the meantime, PTI has reported a new incident in Arunachal Pradesh; for once, it is China that lodged a protest against the Indian Army for "transgressing" in Asaphila, a strategic border area in Upper Subansiri district.
When the Chinese raised the issue during a "Border Personnel Meeting" (BPM) on March 15, the Indian Army had to explain that the area belongs to India and it regularly carries out patrols there.

Model village
It appears that Asaphila has been specifically mentioned by the Chinese because it lies south of the village of Yume, adopted by Xi Jinping, the PLA’s Helmsman, during the 19th Congress in November 2017.
Since then, the 34-inhabitants hamlet has become a "model" village for entire China and one of the sisters, who originally received a missive from Xi, has already become a deputy to the National People’s Congress. For India, Beijing’s’ message is: “Please don’t come close to a village adopted by the Emperor!” And is India ready? Not really.
A few days ago, Lt gen PG Kamath, a former commandant of the Army War College in Mhow wrote a strongly-worded article about India’s "Hard Power Deficit": “India’s passive acceptance of China’s dominance is proof of our ‘hard power deficit’ and acceptance of a country of a tributary status to the Middle Kingdom.”
Though perhaps an exaggeration, Kamath quoted the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence which was "a proof of our inability to stand up to China." He particularly complained about “a meagre defence budget that is inadequate even to foot the committed liabilities, let alone modernisation.” This is, unfortunately, a fact.
Will China force India to wake-up? Not sure, the elephant is always thick-skinned and slow; the dragon is definitively swifter.
It does not augur well.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Brahmaputra Diversion and the Tsinghai Clique

The Diversion Scheme
Some fifteen years ago, a Chinese engineer Li Ling and a retired PLA General Gao Kai, seriously worked on a scheme for the diversion of the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra. Li Ling published a book called Tibet's Waters will Save China in which he detailed the diversion project, also known as Shuomatan Canal (from Suma Tan in Central Tibet to Tanjing in China).
At that time, 'experts' denounced the plans of Li Ling and Gao Kai.
Beijing also decided to cool down India’s legitimate worries.
In 2006, the Chinese Water Resources Minister Wang Shucheng, a hydraulic engineer, affirmed that the proposal was "unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific. There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects."
He however admitted that there a plan in the drawers, but "the project involves major financial and technical difficulties".
Wang further explained: “For example, we must keep an eye on possible floods when the Yellow River has 58 billion cubic metres of water. If another 50 billion cubic metres, not to mention 200 billion, is poured in, I am sure all the dams and protection embankments will be destroyed immediately.”
He added: “the cost of diverting water from the Yarlung Zangbo would be much more expensive than any of the current water projects.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao also confirmed: “The Chinese government has no plans to build a dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River (the China part of the Brahmaputra) to divert water to the Yellow River.”
Qin Hui, a professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tsinghua University declared: “We have to take the international response into consideration. It is undoubted that the lower reaches of Yarlung Tsangpo River are within India's Assam Province, where it is a lifeline for local agriculture and backbone of the economy, just as it is further downstream in Bangladesh.”
The Chinese media also criticized Li Ling's book Tibet's water will Save China.
Nobody took the project too seriously.

The new scheme
Today the situation is different, Prof Wang Hao mentioned in my article is the main proponent the new diversion scheme; he is Chairman of the Expert Group on Dialogue for the ‘Red Flag River Issue’.
Wang is a respected academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and honorary director of the Water Resources Institute of the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research. He is also Vice President for China of the Global Water Partnership; Deputy-Director, Academic Commission of China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (IWHR) and a member of the Science & Technology Committee of the Ministry of Water Resources.
He is an alumnus of the famous Tsinghua University.
He did his B.Sc. on Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, from the Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University (April 1978-July 1982) and his M.Sc. on Hydrology and Water Resources from the Department of Hydraulic Engineering, (August 1982-March 1985).
Later he earned his PhD in System Engineering from the Institute of Economics and Management of the same Tsinghua University.

Tsinghua University
For more on Tsinghua University, let us have a look at Wikipedia:
When the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, many university students walked out of the classrooms, and some went on to be part of the Red Guards, resulting in the complete shutdown of the university. It was not until 1978, after the Cultural Revolution had ended, that the university began to take in students again. Even so, Tsinghua University remained in the top tier of schools in China.
Wikipedia further explains:
Since the 1980s, the university has incorporated a multidisciplinary system. As a result, several schools were re-incorporated. These included the School of Sciences, the School of Economics and Management, the School of Life Sciences, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Tsinghua Law School, the School of Public Policy and Management, and the Academy of Arts and Design.
Chen Xi
Who was seating on the same benches than Wang Hao when the University reopened after the Cultural Revolution?
One Chen Xi was there.
Chen is today member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China. Chen is also Secretary of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, and President of the Central Party School.
From 2002 to 2008, Chen served as the party chief of the University. Later he was vice-minister of education and Vice Chairman of the China Association for Science and Technology.
Wang and Chen know each other from the 1970s.
Wikipedia says:
“Chen was recommended to attend the prestigious Tsinghua University as a ‘Worker-Peasant-Soldier student’, where he earned a bachelor's degree. At Tsinghua he was friends with Xi Jinping, who was also attending Tsinghua at the time.
Chen had joined the Communist Party in November 1978. After graduating from Tsinghua he returned to Fuzhou University to become a lecturer. In September 1979 he headed back to Tsinghua where he completed a Masters of Science degree. He stayed at Tsinghua to work for the Communist Party and its affiliated Youth League as a political organizer.”
Incidentally, Chen was born in September 1953, Prof Wang is a month younger.

Another well-known Tsinghua Graduate

Another famous alumnus from Tsinghai University is born in 1953 (June).
His name is Xi Jinping.
His closeness with Chen from their student’s days explains the latter's quick promotion to the politburo.  Let us quote Wikipedia again:
Xi Jinping
From 1975 to 1979, Xi studied chemical engineering at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University as a ‘Worker-Peasant-Soldier student’, where engineering majors spent about one-fifth of their time studying Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong thought, doing farm work and "learning from the People's Liberation Army".
The present diversion scheme
That is why the present diversion scheme is far more serious than the previous one(s); he may have the backing of many in the academic world and the Party.
The scheme, presented by Wang Hao and his group of scientists, should not be dismissed like the previous one prepared by two old nationalist fools (Li Ling-Gao Kai Plan).
Further, as mentioned in yesterday’s article. China has tremendously progressed in the technological field, making it easier to realize on the project ground.
The problem is the project economically feasible?
Certainly not, but if big shots are behind...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

China’s craving for mad old dreams

New scheme to divert the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra)
My article China’s craving for mad old dreams appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Chinese scientists continue to work on grandiose dam projects which are bound to do more harm than good. But these megaprojects may not quench the locals' thirst for freedom

China is thirsty. What can the Middle Kingdom do to quench its thirst? Simple, have said the Chinese experts for decades, divert the rivers from Tibet to the Mainland and to Xinjiang.
On March 29, the Chinese magazine The Southern Weekend carried an interview of Wang Hao, the Chairman of the Expert Group on Dialogue for the ‘Red Flag River Issue’, a group of ‘scientists’ discussing regularly these issues, in particular the diversion of the Yarlung Tsangpo River.
Wang is also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and honorary director of the Water Resources Institute of the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research.
Though plans to divert Yarlung Tsangpo (which becomes the Siang as it enters in India and then the Brahmaputra) are known for decades, the Expert Group is working on a new scheme known as the ‘Red Flag River’, which apparently has already been turned down by the Government.
The Southern Weekend admitted that despite the participation of a number of academicians and experts, the project raises a lot of questions. How is this scheme different from the previous plans? The Brahmaputra Valley is known for its rich ecosystem; it is also an area witnessing frequent geological disasters. What would be the environmental consequences of such a project?
Wang admitted that though a large number of ecological and environmental impact studies have been carried out, “the environmental impact assessment has not yet been completed”.
However, for the Chinese scientist, the ecological issue not the basic one, the real difficulty is political; each Province on the route is bound to create problems for handing over the required lands, prices will rise and competition between local interests will create more hurdles.
Wang Hao however argued: “These people (the scientists planning the diversion) are not crazy…they have a sense of responsibility.” He pointed out what he called the main issue: “There is no water in the southwest and in the northwest. (If the project is realised), the entire country will change, and future generations will be better off.”
It is true that there is a difference with previous plans; in the past, China did not possess “hard rock tunneling machine and only drill and blast method was used”. Wang observed that China is today the world leader in drilling technology: “Our longest tunnel is 55 kilometers. Considering that the hard rock boring machine also needs a proper access, we have selected a (new) alignment, where it is relatively easier.”

Another project
Already in August 2017, The Global Times had reported that some 20 scholars had met in Urumqi in Xinjiang to discuss the “feasibility of diverting water from the heights of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to Xinjiang’s lowland plains”. The tabloid wrote: “Experts want the Government to reconsider diverting water from Tibet to parched northern regions. They claim the project will help stimulate the world economy and create a ‘second China’ in the region’s arid plains. Disagreements remain strong due to the huge cost and possible environmental damage.”
For the downstream neighbours, the small mercy lies in these disagreements. Ren Qun Luo, professor at the Xinjiang University of Finance and Economics, told the party’s mouthpiece: “Water from (Tibetan) rivers can help turn the vast deserts and arid lands into oasis and farmlands, alleviate population pressure in the east, as well as reduce flood risks.”
It is not clear if these ‘scientists’ are a part of the group headed by Wang; however Ren was quoted as saying: “Xinjiang has 1.1 million square kilometers of plains, equal in size to all the plains in the country’s east. But less than 70,000 square kilometers are arable due to a shortage of water...If all these plains are greened, another China will have been created.”
The Global Times admitted the dream of massive water diversions, from soaking-wet Southwest China to the thirsty north, has been on the minds of engineers and scholars for decades: “Some say this dream could be a nightmare of environmental damage, and these concerns mean the plateau-to-plain project has never been approved.”
One wonders if the Indian mandarins in South Block will dare to question their Chinese counterparts about these crazy schemes. If they do, it will probably immediately be denied by Beijing.
When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India in November 2006, Wang Shucheng, his Minister for Water Resources, stated that the scheme of diverting the Yarlung Tsangpo was “unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific” and it had no government backing. The China Daily quoted him as saying: “There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects.”
But nothing can stop Chinese ‘scientists’ who love these so-called impossible projects. It probably evokes for them the Great Wall or the Grand Canal.

Changing the weather
Take another example. A few weeks ago, The South China Morning Post reported: “Vast system of chambers on Tibetan plateau could send enough particles into the atmosphere to allow extensive clouds to form.” The Hong Kong newspaper added: “China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve.”
There is an obsession with Tibet’s waters and environment among some of the members the scientific community in China; the The South China Morning Post explained: “The system, which involves an enormous network of fuel-burning chambers installed high up on the Tibetan mountains, could increase rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year — about seven per cent of China’s total water consumption. Tens of thousands of chambers will be built at selected locations across the Tibetan plateau to produce rainfall over a total area of about 1.6 million square.”
Ma Weiqiang from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research observed that a cloud-seeding experiment on such a scale could help answer many intriguing scientific questions; he was however quick to add that it could affect the weather in the region: “(It) might not work as perfectly in real life, as intercepting the moisture in the skies over Tibet could have a knock-on effect and reduce rainfall in other Chinese regions.”

What about India?
The point is that Chinese scientists continue to work on these grandiose schemes which are bound to bring more harm than good to China …and also to the neighbours who are never consulted anyway. The question remains: Why are Chinese ‘experts’ putting so much time and energy to materialise old mad dreams?
In the meantime, Beijing has decided to spend $300 million to improve the irrigation systems “in the heavily ethnic Uygur part of the violence-prone region of Xinjiang,” announced Xinhua which added: “The Government has increasingly turned its focus to development in southern Xinjiang in recent years, in an implicit recognition of the economic causes of some of the unrest there.”
Will more water help in solving the restive Province’s issue? Can these megaprojects quench the locals’ thirst for freedom? Certainly not.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Tibetan Factor in 1962: The importance of stable operation base

This article The Tibetan Factor in 1962: The importance of stable operation base was written at the end of last year and published in a defense Journal.
As the 19th Congress approaches, the Chinese authorities have banned foreigners to travel to the Tibetan plateau from October 18 to 28. During this period, the Congress, which is expected to the nominate a new leadership, will be held in Beijing.
On September 22, Radio Free Asia (RFA) asserted: “The ban was announced by telephone about ten days ago”. A Tibetan working in a travel agency in Xining (in Qinghai province) told the radio’s Tibetan Service: “During this period, it is not just foreigners but also Tibetans living in the Amdo region of Qinghai who are not allowed to travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).”
Usually, foreign visitors and Tibetans living in the Chinese western provinces are not allowed to visit Tibet in March, at the time of the Two Meetings  and the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising on March 10.
Why is China so nervous about its ‘border areas’?

The Stability of the Operational Base
To understand this, it is important to look at the Tibet factor in the 1962 China-India war; it is indeed an angle which has been insufficiently studied.
We have a fairly good idea why China suddenly decided to inflict the worst possible humiliation on the Nehru’s government, as well as the ‘political’ compulsions which pushed the Great Helmsman into this win-win venture for China; all this however does not explain why the conflict was so short.
The internal struggle within the Chinese Communist Party between 1959 and 1962 and Mao Zedong’s declining power after 1959, due to the man-made famine triggered by the Great Leap Forward, give some indication of Mao’s drive which ended in an armed conflict in October-November 1962. But why did Beijing decide to suddenly put a halt to the conflict hardly after a month, at a time China was winning on all fronts? One obvious reason is the forthcoming winter, but the political instability on the plateau is an issue which played a non-considerable role.

Mao’s ideological position

In his Origin of the Cultural Revolution, MacFarquhar remarked: “behind Mao's tactical devices in a relatively brief speech , one can detect elements of the thinking which would lead eventually to his decision to launch the Cultural Revolution: the degeneration of the Soviet revolution, the danger of China becoming infected, the need for class struggle to prevent that, the shortcomings of Chinese senior cadres, their failure to deliver the goods.”
Mao’s attack against the Soviet Union was also directed at India, considered as a ‘lackey of Moscow’.
During the Tenth Plenum of the Party's Eighth Central Committee which followed the Beidaihe Meet, Mao's theoretical argument continued: “China was facing a danger of capitalist restoration that had to be fought through relentless class struggle”.
Marshal Peng Dehuai, who had submitted an appeal for his political return , was further accused of different crimes such as colluding with the Soviet Union and other ‘reactionary forces of the world’. This still does not explain the unilateral cease-fire suddenly announced by China.

The Poisonous Arrow
During the same speech at Beidaihe in August, Mao delivered a diatribe against the Panchen Lama and his critics about the Communist actions in Tibet. The young Lama, who had been made Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) when the Dalai Lama left for India in 1959, had dared to criticize the policies of the Party in Tibet.
Dr Li Zhisui, author of The Secret Life of Chairman Mao, recounts: “Then [Mao] turned his opprobrium against the Panchen Lama of Tibet, denouncing him as ‘an enemy of our class’. [After the 1959] crackdown, the Panchen Lama, ordinarily subservient to Beijing, was now arguing that Beijing's so-called ‘democratic reforms’ had moved too far to the left. He hoped that the ultraleftist trend in Tibet could be corrected.”
The Tibetan factor, influencing the weakness of the supply lines to the Indian front was a major issue for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); at the end of 1962, this impeded longer military operations against India as discontent was brewing on the Roof of the World.
This appears unmistakably in the 70,000-character petition sent by the Panchen Lama to Zhou Enlai and Xi Zhongxun  in April 1962. The Chinese Premier requested Xi Sr., Li Weihan , General Zhang Jingwu , General Zhang Guohua  to read and study the Panchen Lama's petition. 
The Panchen Lama listed several problems such the ‘suppression of the Rebellion’ in March/April 1959. Each time, after agreeing with the official line, the young Lama criticized it: “The rebellion in Tibet 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. However, when these points were implemented…” And then he mentioned the grievances of the Tibetan population.
Then he took on the ‘Democratic Reform’, the ‘Production in Agriculture and Animal Herding’, ‘Livelihood of the People’, the United Front policy for the ‘nationalities’, ‘Democratic Centralism’, the Dictatorship of the Party and finally the most important for him, the freedom of religion. Each time, he used the same pattern. The Panchen Lama paid a heavy price for having dared to write what everyone knew.  But his letter was termed a ‘poisonous arrow’ by Mao.
It should be pointed out that a longer war would have been very difficult to sustain in the atmosphere of 'rebellion' prevalent on the Roof of World.
It is crucial to understand Tibet’s instability to fully comprehend the ‘short’ Sino-Indian border war.
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 minorities.

The situation in Tibet
Some new historical documents concerning the 70,000-character petition sent by the Panchen Lama to Zhou Enlai and Xi Zhongxun have recently been translated into English. The Panchen Lama bitterly describes the situation 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, Nehru and India are several times cited.
In one discussion, Xi Zhongxun intervenes: “…It is possible that you have a few [opposite] opinions about each other, this is quite natural. …This is a beginning [to solve the issues in Tibet]. …If you are angry, let it out. If you have disagreement, speak out. Problems should be solved through consultation and discussion.”
Two years later, the Panchen Lama’s ‘anger’ would cause him to suffer 14 years in jail. The issue of the Dalai Lama’s flight to India also came in the discussion. Xi Zhongxun explains: “Comrades in Tibet should be clear of the fact that through a big struggle, the reactionary Dalai clique had split off. Through suppressing rebellion and implementing reform, we have laid an initial foundation for our work in Tibet, which is the foundation for development and prosperity within the big family of motherland.”
‘Implementing reform’ meant forcing on the Tibetans an unwanted ideology. This obviously created a great resentment amongst the masses.
It has to be noted that according to Chinese figures 87,000 died in the first week of the ‘suppression’. For Communist China, ‘anti-rebellion work’ was the ‘base’ of the so-called ‘Liberation’.
Xi admits: “we must strengthen our unity, and unite every person that can be united. If this work is not done well, Dalai will laugh at us, and Nehru will laugh at us too. Don’t give them a chance to amuse themselves by our failure.” The 1962 conflict was a way for Mao to ‘reunite’ the leadership, though Xi Zhongxun himself was purged a couple of weeks later; one of his crimes: he had probably not spoken strongly enough against the Panchen Lama. Tibet however remained in turmoil and in these circumstances, it would have been dangerous to plan longer operations against India in 1962.

Tibet’s Stability today
A question can be asked, has the situation improved during the last decades. The answer seems to be ‘no’.
In 2015, Tibet celebrated the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) with great pomp. All was well in the Middle Kingdom?
But to analyze the situation on the Roof of the World, one has to look beyond the glamourous function in front of the Potala Palace and look at the program (and speeches) of Yu Zhengsheng, the chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC); Yu, a member of the Standing Committee of the CCP is the official responsible for the ‘minorities’.
Side-visits often speak more than grandiose parades.
Yu Zhengsheng met the representatives from the PLA and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) posted in Tibet.
On September 7, Yu urged the army and the police: “to crack down on separatist forces and be ready to fight a protracted battle against the 14th Dalai clique.”
Yu also asked the defence forces “to improve their abilities of governing Tibet according to law [sic], specifically cracking down on the separatist forces, strengthening social management and protecting the people's rights.”
The defence forces should uphold the correct ‘political direction’ and exert a larger role for safeguarding border stability and ethnic solidarity.
‘Border stability’ comes back again and again in the discourse. Addressing through video conference the defence staff posted in the seven prefectures across the plateau region, Yu repeated the message, while praising the army’s and police’s contribution to Tibet's stability and development
Stability seemed to be the new Mantra of the Land of Snows.
Even in the monasteries, the Sutra of Stability is recited, Nirvana can wait!
The recent banning of foreign visitors demonstrates that the situation has not improved over the last two years.

The instability of the borders

In February 2017, at the end of the first round of the strategic dialogue between India and China co-chaired by Zhang Yesui, the Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister and S. Jaishankar, the Indian Foreign Secretary, The Global Times commented in a paternalistic tone: “One lesson India may learn from China is to be honest with oneself. Asymmetry in economic and geopolitical power is natural for any bilateral relations.”
While the ‘asymmetry’ may be in China’s favour in many fields, there is one domain where India is far in advance on the Middle Kingdom; it is the people’s participation in the State’s governance through fair and open elections. Though Indians elections may look ‘chaotic’ from Beijing, the process brings an obvious stability to India. This is absent in China, which is fast becoming a police State.

The explosive situation in Xinjiang
In August 2016, at the end of the annual closed-door meeting held at the beach resort of Beidaihe, an official statement announced that Zhang Chunxian would be replaced by Chen Quanguo as party secretary of the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Chen was then serving as party boss in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), where he had shown his skills to forcefully ‘pacify’ the restive Tibetans.
More than a year after his appointment in Xinjiang, Chen is using the ‘Tibetan recipe’, a good dose of repression mixed with an opening to ‘tourism’, to bring some wealth to the local population.
The situation however remains extremely unstable.
In January 2017, the Chinese media reported that eight people had been killed in a violent attack in Pishan county of Hotan Prefecture in Southern Xinjiang. According to the local Government, three knife-wielding men attacked and stabbed several people. Subsequently, the police shot dead the three attackers and ten others were injured.
A few days earlier, Radio Free Asia (RFA) had reported that Uyghurs had been called to several meetings to confess their 'crimes'. This was part of a campaign called ‘Revealing Errors’; the meetings were held in Aksu Prefecture "to uncover behavior considered politically destabilizing. …Residents are called to a podium one by one to confess these errors after they have listed them on a 39-question form. They are also told they will face legal consequences if they attempt to cover up their own or anyone else’s anti-state activities.” 
The fast development of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) may bring more trouble for Xinjiang as the State-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan is bound to percolate north.
The situation in Xinjiang is so tense that the Chinese authorities have ordered all motor vehicles in Bayingol Prefecture to have mandatory satellite tracking devices installed.
On February 27, more than 10,000 Peoples’ Armed Police (PAP) paraded in the streets of Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. The authorities spoke of a rapid-response system to quell unrest. During the rally, helicopters hovered around the city, while armored vehicles threateningly patrolled the streets of the capital. It was the fourth such massive display in one year. On the occasion, Xinjiang's Party Secretary Chen Quanguo told the PAP that they must realize the ‘grim conditions’ facing the region.
Chen also dispatched 1,500 PAP to the ‘frontlines’ in Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu, not far from the Indian border.
The fact is that today the Middle Kingdom’s periphery is unstable and Beijing does not know how to handle the situation (except by increasing the repression and offering a few economic carrots). But, more repression automatically brings more resentment; a vicious circle!
In October 2017, it was even reported that Koran and prayer mats have been confiscated in some districts.
It should be noted that the most restive areas are located close to the Indian border north of the Aksai Chin; recent large military parades in Hotan and Kashgar were synchronised with the one in the capital, Urumqi.
At a time when Beijing has decided to demobilize several Group Armies (corps), the XUAR is recruiting. The Jamestown Foundation noted that the party “has built a multi-tiered security state with, among other components, the recruitment of nearly 90,000 new police officers and a 356 per cent increase in the public security budget.”
Part of the ‘recipe’ is a new wave of infrastructure spending. But will it work?

The ethnic representation in the PLA
Another issue is ethnic representation in the PLA. Though Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, has recently undertaken a complete overhaul of the defence forces and new faces have appeared on the scene, very few ethnic faces can be seen.
Ethnicity still plays a negative role in PLA promotions; though there is a slight rise in the number of ‘ethnic’ delegates at the 19th Congress (six per cent of the delegates are ethnic minority officers, from 4.6 per cent in 2012), their number is relatively small and they don't occupy important posts.
The Manchus and the Tibetans will send three delegates each, while the Uyghur, Hui and Tujia will each put forward two. Many consider this as the PLA’s Achilles’ heel.
Two Tibetan ladies, Kalsang and Sonam Dolma made it in the list though their qualification or designation is unknown. Their presence in the Congress will probably be for ‘ethnic’ representation only.

A Tibetan Major General: Thubten Thinley

It is, however, worth noting that the list contains a Tibetan Major General, Thupten Trinley serving as a deputy commander of the Tibet Military Region.
Thubten Thinley  is born in December in Lhasa in 1961. In July 1987, after spending three years in the lower ranks of the PLA, he was admitted to the Communist Party.
Prior to joining the military, he completed a four year university course and gradually climbed the PLA echelons in the departments of political propaganda, military recruitment and the promotion of military-civilian relations. Between January 2001 and March 2003, he attended training classes at the Central Party School in Beijing and in April 2005; this probably helped him to become responsible for preparing for the induction and assignment of new troops in the Tibet Military District (TMD).
Between January 2006 and September 2008, he attended again some courses in the Graduate School of the Central Party School.
In March 2013, he was promoted to PLA Deputy Political Commissar in the TMD before becoming in June 2014, Deputy Commander of the TMD.
His main job is probably the recruitment of Tibetans in the PLA.
What does it mean?
That China is conscious of this endemic weakness and one way to solve it would be to recruit more and more Tibetans in the PLA. Will it work is another issue.

The situation in India
India has a different ‘population’ problem, with large scale migration away from the border areas, but Delhi is conscious of the importance of the ‘local population factor’
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during a recent forward area tour to the border areas in Uttarakhand, told PTI that a group will be soon constituted to conduct a study on various aspects of the border areas which need improvement.
The Centre is planning to set up a study group to analyse the security and development issues along the China border, with a special focus on involving the frontier population in the mainstream of the country. The group will also look at ways to further expedite the work of completing border roads in these states.
He called the border population as ‘strategic assets’ for the country who need to be given due importance, while urging the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and others guarding the border “to ensure that the locals living in these areas do not migrate.”
A senior official of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) further elaborated on the new views of the government: “The local populations are the eyes and ears of the country and its security mechanism.”
This realization and later an implementation of new policies would go a long way to get a strategic advantage on China, which is far from getting the local populations in Tibet and Xinjiang on its side.
In case of a long conflict, this could make the decisive difference.

Friday, April 6, 2018

How Tibet lost its independence and India its gentle neighbour

Sumul Sinha (second from left), Head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa
Extracts of my book The Last Months of a Free Nation — India Tibet Relations (1947-1962) appeared in The Asian Age

Here is the link...

It relates to the sequence of events and the role of KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador in China, during the weeks after the invasion of Tibet.

Claude Arpi, holding the Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence from the United Service Institution of India (USI), for his research on the Indian Presence in Tibet 1947-1962 (in 4 volumes), has extensively worked in the National Archives of India and well the Nehru Library (on the Nehru Papers) on the history of Tibet, the Indian frontiers and particularly the Indian Frontier Administrative Service.

The Last Months of a Free Nation — India Tibet Relations (1947-1962) is the first volume of the series, using never-accessed-before Indian archival material. Though Tibet’s system of governance had serious lacunas, the Land of Snows was a free and independent nation till October 1950, when Mao decided to “liberate”it. But “liberate” from what, was the question on many diplomats' and politicians' lips in India; they realised that it would soon be a tragedy for India too; Delhi would have to live with a new neighbor, whose ideology was the opposite of Tibet’s Buddhist values; the border would not be safe anymore.

The narrative starts soon after Independence and ends with the signing, under duress, of the 17-Point Agreement in Beijing in May 1951, whose first article says: “The Tibetan people shall unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet; the Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the Motherland-the People’s Republic of China.”  Tibet had lost its Independence …and India, a gentle neighbour.

Reproduced below are extracts from a chapter The View from the South Block.

It relates to the sequence of events and the role of KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador in China, during the weeks after the invasion of Tibet.

It is usually assumed that Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister wrote his “prophetic” letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister, detailing the grave implications for India of Tibet’s invasion. In fact, he used a draft sent to him by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth.

On November 7, 1950, just a month after the entry of the People’s Liberation Army in Tibet, Patel sent Bajpai’s note to Nehru under his own signature  Bajpai, the top-most Indian diplomat, was deeply upset by the turn of events; he also shared his note with President Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari and others. Nehru ignored Patel’s letter and the views of his colleagues.

Bajpai, deeply upset by the turn of events, had also sent his note to President Rajendra Prasad and C Raja-gopalachari.

Girja Shankar Bajpai’s Note of October 31
Bajpai first noted that on July 15, 1950, the Governor of Assam had informed Delhi that, according to information received by the local Intelligence Bureau, Chinese troops, “in unknown strength, had been moving towards Tibet from three directions, namely the north, north-east and south-east.” The same day, the Indian Embassy in China reported that rumours in Beijing had been widely “prevalent during the last two days that military action against Tibet has already begun.” Though Panikkar was unable to get any confirmation, he virtually justified Beijing’s military action by writing: “in view of frustration in regard to Formosa, Tibetan move was not unlikely.”  A few days later], Bajpai remarked that the Ambassador [Panikkar] had answered [Delhi] that he did not consider the time suitable for making a representation to the Chinese Foreign Office.  Bajpai is more and more frustrated with Panikkar's surrender to Chinese interests and perhaps also by the support that the ambassador gets from the Prime Minister. The Secretary General is clearly in a difficult position. Already on July 20, Panikkar’s attention had been drawn by South Block to the fact that Beijing’s argument that the “Tibetans had been stalling the talks,” was wrong.  Panikkar had been informed by Delhi that the Tibetan Delegation should not be blamed for something they are not responsible for…

Panikkar brings in philosophical issues
India [Panikkar] attempted to change the Communist regime’s decision to “liberate” Tibet, by bringing a philosophical angle to the issue: “In the present dangerous world situation, a military move can only bring a world nearer [to a conflict], and any Government making such a move incurs the risk of accelerating the drift towards that catastrophe.”

Mao was not in the least bothered about such niceties.

Another Aide-Memoire
Delhi again repeats its “philosophical” position: it would be bad for Beijing to invade Tibet: “The Government of India would desire to point out that a military action at the present time against Tibet will give those countries in the world which are unfriendly to China a handle for anti-Chinese propaganda at a crucial and delicate juncture in inter-national affairs.” Delhi is convinced that “the position of China will be weakened” by a (Chinese) military solution.

The Chinese plans are clear
The objective of Mao and the Southwestern Bureau in Chengdu is to occupy Chamdo, it is therefore clear that the PLA is preparing to enter “Tibet proper”. …The objective remains the fall of Chamdo before the winter, ambassador or no ambassador, negotiation or no negotiations.

As Tibet is invaded, Sir Girja’s narrative continues:
On October 17, the Indian Ambassador receives the full details of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. South Block confirms that Tibet has been invaded, it was “brought to our notice at the request of the Tibetan Government in a message sent through our Mission in Lhasa,” says a cable from Delhi. The next day, Panikkar continues to argue against the invasion having happened; he says that out of the incidents to which Lhasa has drawn Delhi’s attention, only one appears to be new.

Bajpai more upset
Sir Girja Bajai is further upset when Panikkar argues: “Further I should like to emphasise that the Chinese firmly hold that Tibet is purely an internal problem and that while they are prepared in deference to our wishes to settle question peacefully they are NOT prepared to postpone matters indefinitely.”
This is written by the Ambassador of India.

[On October 22], Nehru cables the Ambassador in Beijing: “I confess I am completely unable to understand urgency behind Chinese desire to ‘liberate’ when delay CANNOT possibly change situation to her disadvantage.”

Finally on October 24, the Ambassador presents an aide-memoire to the Chinese Foreign Office. Bajpai notes “The contrast between the tone and content of the instructions sent to the Ambassador, and his feeble and apologetic ‘note’ deserves notice.” This raises a question, how could the ambassador present an aide-memoire without its content being vetted by South Block? It is a mystery.

Bajpai could only conclude that “from the foregoing narrative which I have been at some pains to document, that ever since the middle of July, at least, Peking’s objective has been to settle the problem of its relations by force.” From Mao’s cables, [one can see that] the invasion (or “liberation” for the Chinese side) did not at all depend on “negotiations” or “talks” with Tibetans. The army action had been decided since months.

Though Bajpai says that he is not interested to find “scapegoats”, he finally blames his ambassador to China: “The search for scapegoats is neither pleasant nor fruitful, and I have no desire to indulge in any such pastime. …however, I feel it my duty to observe that, in handling the Tibetan issue with the Chinese Government, our Ambassador has allowed himself to be influenced more by the Chinese point of view, by Chinese claims, by Chinese maps and by regard for Chinese susceptibilities than by his instructions or by India’s interests.” This is a strong, though late indictment of Panikkar.

Patel replies to Bajpai
…When on October 31, Sardar Patel wrote back to Bajpai: “The Chinese advance into Tibet upsets all our security calculations. …I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.” A few days later, Bajpai would write a note for Patel who sent it to Nehru, who did not even acknowledge it…  Patel passed away five weeks later.

The rest is history.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Trumpisation of Indian Foreign Policy

My article The Trumpisation of Indian Foreign Policy appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Are we witnessing a Trumpisation of the Indian Foreign policy?
Some signs tend to show that, like the US president, Delhi is too often changing its stance, principally in its relations with China; though ‘destabilization’ of the opponent might not be the prime Indian motivation, as in the American case.

Leaked Missive
Take the program ‘Thank you India’, planned by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala.
On February 22, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale wrote to Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, advising Indian government officials, including ministers, to skip the events organized by Dharamsala.
Sinha obliged and ministries were informed to stay away from a function to celebrate the 59th anniversary of the arrival of the Dalai Lama in India.
The Indian and foreign press abundantly commented on Sinha’s ‘leaked’ missive. The MEA apparently said that it was not supposed to have been ‘leaked’, but India is an open society, such things are bound to happen.
Now, despite the missive, two government representatives attended the function which had in the meantime been shifted to Dharamsala.
Indrani Bagchi, the diplomatic editor of The Times of India wrote: “After a stunning volte face on its China policy that made it seem like India was suddenly kowtowing to China, India is trying recalibrate its approach.”
Union Minister for Culture Mahesh Sharma and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav participated in the Dalai Lama’s ‘Thank you India’ programme.
Gokhale had personally met the Dalai Lama and Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan ‘president’ to ask them to move the celebrations outside Delhi.
In order not to rock the boat with China, the government had earlier refused permission to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), funded by the Ministry of Defence, to have a conference on India-China relations in its premises in Delhi. A global parliamentarians’ conference on Tibet scheduled for April, was also not permitted.
Apart from the latest summersault, which does not give a mature image to the Indian diplomacy, a question remains: why did Gokhale and Sinha need to put their warning in writing?
China was certainly delighted by the circular, even though it has not incited Beijing to be ‘nicer’ to India or accept compromises on any of the contentious issues between the two nations. For the last 60 years and more, each time India has kowtowed, China has given nothing in exchange.
The best example has been the Panchsheel agreement; during the four-month negotiations in 1954, India surrendered one by one all its rights in Tibet, and hardly one month after the signature of the accord, the People’s Liberation Army started intruding in Barahoti, in today’s Uttarakhand, while a road was being built on Indian territory, in the Aksai Chin area.

Logical Approach
Has any lesson been learnt?
An article in Bloomberg commented: “That the letter was leaked a day before the foreign secretary was visiting Beijing suggests that a message was also being sent to China – that India would not allow the Dalai Lama to agitate the Tibet issue in India publicly.”
There is no doubt that the high profile Tibetan event in Delhi would have irritated China, but why could the government have not discreetly informed the Office of the Dalai Lama and the CTA, that important visits were due in the coming months (Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Prime Minster will soon pay visits to China) and that Delhi did not want any provocation which could trigger a new Doklam when the snows melt.
South Block has a Liaison Office, with a senior officer posted in Dharamsala to communicate with the Dalai Lama and the CTA. The logical approach was to send a message to the Tibetans explaining the situation.
Some have suggested that the objective was to slight the CTA. This is possible and though not verified, it was rumoured that the CTA had gone ahead without coordinating with the Ministry; if true, it would be a slip.

Serious Issues
It has also been said that the November 2017 clandestine visit to China of former Tibetan Prime Minister Prof Samdhong Rinpoche, had irritated South Block. The Chinese government would like the Dalai Lama to accept that Tibet has always been a part of China. That would create serious problems for India as it would mean that the McMahon Line, agreed to by independent Tibet and British India on the side of the Simla Conference in 1914, would have no legal worth. It is however doubtful if the Dalai Lama will ever concede something which is blatantly untrue.
It is also true that the CTA has not always been sensitive to India’s problems. When during the Doklam standoff, Lobsang Sangay unfurled the Tibetan flag on the shores of the Pangong Lake, bordering Tibet in Ladakh, it was not of very helpful to cool the tempers at the trijunction.
In the meantime, deep reforms are taking place in China. For example, the United Front Work Department which deals, amongst other things with Tibet, has been given an increased importance, taking-over the State Council Overseas Office, the National Ethnic Affairs Commission and the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Observers expect that it will translate into a tighter control over religion and ethnic issues, in particular in Tibet and Xinjiang. This has implications for India.
These are serious issues which should be taken as priority by South Block while India’s Tibet policy should discreetly be fine-tuned in coordination with Dharamsala; one party should not embarrass the other.
As for the ‘Thank you India’ program, one way for the Tibetans to ‘thank’ India would be to reassert the Indo-Tibet borders in places such as Demchok, Chumar or Barahoti.
In the meantime, ‘Trumpisation’ will not help anybody …except China.