Sunday, July 29, 2018

More on Li's Visit to Tibet

"Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet,
and Chinese in the land of China" says the Treaty of 821
The Two Voices of China?
Remember after the Two Meetings in March, China decided to unify its Voice.
A document of the State Council released on March 21, announced that Beijing had decided to form the world’s largest media group called Voice of China.
It was to combine the existing China Central Television, China National Radio, and China Radio International under one unified umbrella and name.
The Publicity Department was to manage it with the responsibility to “promote the Party theory and guidelines, organize major publicity and coverage, guide social hot topics, strengthen international communication capabilities, and publish positive news on China.”
Voice of China was to produce the Party’s propaganda program, copying the model of stations in foreign countries working with government funding using limited amount of advertising.
The website Chinascope observed that “China Central Television has at least 10,000 employees with over 70 branch stations overseas. China National Radio has over 2,100 employees and China Radio International has over 2,000 employees and broadcasts in over 60 languages.”
Following the consolidation, Voice of China was to become world’s largest media.
Well, it is not yet in place.
China spoke with two voices on Premier Li Keqiang in Tibet.
The coverage of the visit was interesting in this respect.
While some local websites mentioned the visit to Nyingchi and next day to Lhasa (Jokhang), most of the main Chinese-language media has not covered the visit as yet.
But there is an exception, the website of the State Council (Li is the Premier of the State Council).
It looks like that while the media affiliated to the State Council have covered it and it is not the case of the Party media. Two Voices?
Does this have an implication on the stability of the Middle Kingdom?
Worth watching.

Another issue
Another topic that I partially discussed in my previous post, why was Li delegated to ‘inspect’ Tibet?
My guess is that President Xi needs to be released from some of his duties/burdens.
Too many are presently gunning for him (including President Trump).
He needs to share more with Li.
It might be an explanation.

Meeting the Defense Forces?
So far, the State Council has not published any pictures or reports of Premier Li with the PLA/PAP/Border Forces.
Customarily during such a visit, the leader from Beijing should ‘congratulate’ the Forces for their ‘excellent’ job, while giving a lecture on the importance to secure the borders and promoting the ‘fusion’ with the local population.
Why was it not done?
It is possible that Li was told that it was not his job. But that would be surprising.
We may know more in a few days, when the main media will cover the visit (once Li is back home).

The Importance of Environment
On the first day, Premier Li Keqiang spoke of the importance of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau which is ecologically fragile, but has important water resources, “so more efforts should be spent to make it an ecological model,” said Li.
He was inspecting the confluence of the Yarlung Tsangpo River and Nyang River, not far from Bayi, the main garrison near the Indian border.
The Nyang chu is the main tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo.
Li urged the local government to construct Tibet into a beautiful place.

Random Shopping
He also ‘randomly’ visited a local store in Nyingchi and did some shopping.
When the owner of the store explained to the Premier about local food, such as Tibetan butter tea and sweet tea, which are popular among both local Tibetans and Chinese tourists, Li took his wallet out and bought one box of butter tea and one box of sweet tea for 116 yuan (US $17), at the ‘displayed price’ said the article.
No discount for the Premier!!
Li said that he hoped that more Tibetan products could be sold across China and all over the world.

Visit to Jokhang Cathedral
The atheist Premier also went to the Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa.
An article observed: ‘Premier Li Keqiang visited Tibetan religious patriots at Jokhang Temple and extended his sincere greetings and best wishes on July 26.”
It added: “Built in ancient Tibetan times, Jokhang Temple was the holy hall of Tibetan Buddhism and a witness to the peacemaking marriage between Han and Tibetan ethnic groups and to the history of ethnic solidarity”.
Premier Li hoped that “Tibetan religious patriots could learn from the eminent monks in history, and devote themselves to maintaining the unity of the state, ethnic solidarity, a harmonious society and smooth religious affairs.”
He wished “religious patriots good health and good luck in everything.”
The Dalai Lama is obviously not included in the ‘patriots’.
While at Jokhang, Li affirmed that he  believed that "religious circles will continue to make contributions in safeguarding national unity and promoting ethnic solidarity as well as social harmony."

The Treaty of 821 AD
Another report mentioned the visit to the Stone Pillar ('doring’ in Tibetan, see picture above) near the Central Cathedral. Li cited this as a model for the unity between the Tibetans and the Chinese.
The Treaty of 821 AD is engraved on the famous Stone Pillar.
Li probably did not read the text of the Treaty (see my post on the subject, Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet and Chinese in the land of China?
Tibet and China shall abide by the frontiers of which they are now in occupation. All to the east is the country of Great China; and all to the west is, without question, the country of Great Tibet. Henceforth on neither side shall there be waging of war nor seizing of territory. If any person incurs suspicion he shall be arrested; his business shall be inquired into and he shall he escorted back.
…Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet, and Chinese in the land of China. Even the frontier guards shall have no anxiety, nor fear and shall enjoy land and bed at their ease.
Li visited a Hospital in Lhasa. He promised that Beijing would step up its support to hospitals and colleges of traditional Tibetan medicine, to meet the needs of local residents.
In Lhasa, Li also interacted with youngsters at a location dedicated to startups.
The Premier observed that entrepreneurship and innovation were important for a high-quality growth: "The country will create better environment to support the education of skilled workers and train more talented workers that are in high demand," he said.
At the Potala Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site, Li promised that the government's support for "research on precious documents and to push cultural inheritance and exchanges."
How this will translate concretely is not clear.

The Gang of Five
Incidentally, Li met with the Gang of Five, the hard core Old Guard (Raidi, Phakpala, Jampa Phuntsok, Legchok and Pasang). He praised the work that they have done in the past for the stability of Tibet.
The State Council website noted that on the afternoon of July 26, Premier Li Keqiang met with senior and retired Tibetan officials in Lhasa: “Premier Li affirmed the officials’ important contributions to the development and stability of Tibet, and extended greetings to them on behalf of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. He also wished them a happy and healthy life, and the long-term steady development of Tibet.”
Why did Li needed to meet them together?
Does Beijing want to return to the ‘Old Tibet Spirit’ of the first Communists?
Once again, no answer.
And there is no news of a meeting with the Chinese Panchen Lama, Gyatsen Norbu.

On the Roofs of the Jokhang
From the roofs of Jokhang

Meeting old officials
Meeting the monks in Jokhang
Inspecting the new Railway line Lhasa-Nyingchi
Spending 116 Yuans
Inspecting the railway work

Full moon night at the confluence
of the Yarlung Tangpo and the Nyang

Friday, July 27, 2018

Li Keqiang on The Roof of the World

Two big news today.
First, Premier Li Keqiang made an ‘inspection tour’ in Tibet.
And then Lt Gen Lui Xiaowu, a Deputy Commander of the Western Theater Command, who was recently in India, would have been put under ‘investigation’.
If confirmed, it is a serious news.

Li Keqian on The Roof of the World
China Tibet Online reported that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Southern Tibet on July 25. Apparently Li went directly to Nyingchi (Nyingtri) prefecture (City) bordering Arunachal Pradesh. He visited a village (Shiga village) in Mailing County in Nyingchi City; it is a new village inhabited by Monpas. According to the press release, the inhabitants of this ‘Monpa’ village have been relocated from 'impoverished areas'.
The ‘impoverished’ region is located next door is Metok Dzong (County).

Poverty alleviation
The Premier went to the new house of a Tibetan named Kunsang.
He sat with the ‘migrant’ family and talked to the six members of the household about their daily life.
He would have asked:
What is the main source of income?
How much could you make in a year?
What about your health care and children’s education?
What kind of difficulties do you still have now?
It is said that the Premier Li listened patiently.
Kunsang told Li that his family moved from Metok County, where “road travel is fairly difficult”.
This is rather surprising considering that since 2013, when a tunnel was opened, the Chinese propaganda has been insisting on the ‘changes’ in Metok, principally mentioning better communications. Read my post, Metok and the Tourist Boom
The question is why to move people to a nearby County, if the situation had improved so much in the first place?
Kunsang explained to the Premier that his family has now an income of 150,000 yuan a year (US $ 2,400), thanks to farming and tourism. Further, the State “ensured health care service and children’s education program.”
We are told that there are a total of 72 households in the new village and 90% of families have similar income.
Li was said to have been really pleased “to see that the villagers have cast off poverty, though the relocation program and lived a prosperous life.”
The Premier wished the family an even more prosperous life in the future.
It is difficult to understand why this family was shifted from Metok to Mainling County.
Were they creating problems for the Chinese government in Metok, near the Indian border?
It is possible.
Metok, like several other places on the border (Yumed, Tsona, Lepo, Marmang, Rima, etc) has been the focus of very generous investments from the Central Government, the local government as well as different Provincial Governments.
So, it is doubtful if ‘poverty alleviation’ is the only reason.

Li Keqiang spoke to Kunsang’s daughter, the six-year-old Yeshe Drolma, and asked her if she was going to going to school.
The answer was obvious as the Party would have not selected an 'illiterate' family to receive the Premier.
The little Yeshe Drolma, dressed in Monpa costume, said that she was in the senior class of the kindergarten.
Li asked her to write a few words (all this must have been scripted in detail before).
Yeshe wrote her name both in Chinese and Tibetan on a paper and showed it to Li who said, “Wish you could learn hard and grow to be as intelligent and beautiful as your name says”.
According to the Chinese website Yeshe Drolma means ‘Intelligent Fairy’.
In fact, Drolma is Tara, the Mother of the Tibetans.

Reallocation of restive populations
This ‘reallocation’ of population reminded me an article published on July 6 in The People's Daily.
It speaks of the situation in Xinjiang and said that Beijing has relocated “461,000 poverty-ridden residents to work in other parts of the region during the first quarter of the year.”
An ‘expert’ explained to the mouthpiece of the Party that it is a bid to ‘improve social stability and alleviate poverty’. The report asserted that the Xinjiang government planned to further transfer 100,000 residents from southern Hotan and Kashgar prefectures by 2019, to get employed somewhere else.
Yu Shaoxiang, another ‘expert’ at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, admitted to The Global Times: “poverty alleviation in Xinjiang is more difficult compared to other places because, aside from poverty, Xinjiang also faces ethnic issues.”
Yu further commented: “Organizing people to work away from home would help them better integrate with the rest of China, and take their advanced skills back to Xinjiang later. The relocation also helps maintain regional security.”
Xinhua News Agency said that in 2017, ‘occupational education programs’ covered 1.26 million people in Kashgar and Hotan, where 47,000 poor people found jobs while 317,400 individuals and 331 villages were lifted out of poverty. It is obviously a pretext in an area which is the hub the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
It is clear that reallocation is linked with ‘ethnic issue’.
It is rather worrying knowing that the visit of the Premier to Tibet takes place just before the yearly summer retreat of the Party’s top bosses in Beidaihe, which is always the occasion to discuss ‘new’ policies.
Will reallocation of Tibetans withing Tibet from border areas be discussed?
A new Chen's Policy adapted to Tibet?
There is no doubt that the Mainling Country is less strategic than the Metok area, though Bayi, the PLA garrison is not located far away (it is the neighbouring County in Nyingchi).

A remark
It is usually the Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (Yu Zhengsheng and now Wang Yang) who is responsible for 'looking after' Tibet. 
The head of the United Front Work Department (Sun Chunlan for example) also regularly 'inspects' the Roof of the World.
It is usually not the job/responsibility of the Chinese Premier to look into Tibet affairs.
One more reason why this visit is very special. 

First visit of a Premier
Another consideration, Li Keqiang, No 2 in the all-powerful in the Standing Committee of the Politburo, is the seventh Premier of China.
Before him, Zhou Enlai (1949–1976), Hua Guofeng (1976–1980), Zhao Ziyang (1980–1988), Li Peng (1988–1998), Zhu Rongji (1998–2003) and Wen Jiabao (2003–2013), served as Premiers.
None of them visited Tibet.
Why to send the Premier if there was not something big cooking?
We will have to wait a few days (or months) to know more.
The other 'important' visit to Tibet were:
But relocations of recalcitrant Tibetans would be dreadful scheme and not a good signed for the health of the People’s Republic, which appears more and more nervous.

A few questions
  • Since when is the Chinese Premier looking after Tibetan affairs?
  • Will Li meet the Chinese Panchen Lama Gyatsen Norbu while in Tibet?
  • Will he visit Bayi, the Chinese garrison in Nyingchi City and meet the border troops?
  • Will he visits other Prefectures/Cities in the Autonomous Region?
(Gen Liu with the Vice-Chief of the Indian Army)
Gen Lui Xiaowu
The second news is that according to The Epoch Times, Lt Gen Lui Xiaowu, who headed a PLA delegation in India earlier this month, would be under investigation.
To be followed…

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

We can't ignore Tibetan turmoil

Waiting for the Dalai Lama
My article We can't ignore Tibetan turmoil appeared in Mail Today/Daily O

Tibetan Buddhism is in turmoil.
Take the case of Sogyal Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama who wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (and sold three million copies); he guided an organisation called Rigpa, which has more than 100 centres in 40 countries around the world. Lerab Ling, in the Hérault department of France, was the jewel on his crown; it was visited by VIPs and stars including Carla Bruni Sarkozy and French ministers.
For years, rumours had been circulating about Sogyal’s (mis)behaviour, but last year, his ‘Crazy Wisdom’ caught up with the Buddhist teacher, particularly the way he used women for his pleasure, as well as his eccentric food habits; he had ultimately to retire from Rigpa’s leadership and go into ‘retreat’.
The Telegraph, in a long piece on the murky situation in Lerab Ling, explained the background: “Largely thanks to the benign, smiling example of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism has grown enormously in popularity in the West over the past thirty years, largely escaping the scandal that has dogged other religious institutions.”
Earlier this month, a similar story came from the US about Mipham Rinpoche, the leader of the Shambhala Buddhist Sangha – an organisation with more than 200 meditation centres.
It was alleged that the leader sexually assaulted women when drunk and used his personal staff ‘to procure women students for his own sexual gratification’. He would also have been using hard drugs.
The Dalai Lama remains a rock of serenity, virtues and stability in the chaotic world of Tibetan Buddhism.
Another case is the Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorjee, who escaped from Tibet and reached Dharamsala in 2000.
In a recent speech he explained to his disciples: “One reason I came to India was to study and to receive the Dharma lineages, that is why I came.” But due to suspicions surrounding his escape, he could not meet his teachers: “I had no one to guide me. So when we first began discussions with the Indian government. …They said that I was sent by the Chinese or that I was a Chinese spy,” he asserted.
The Lama, who at one time was said to be the Dalai Lama’s successor (mostly by journalists), left for America in May 2017; it is now rumoured that he may never come back. The Tribute quoting intelligence sources in Dharamsala said: “he may extend his stay indefinitely or even seek asylum in the US.” Apparently, he had gone to the US for ‘medical reasons’ and was scheduled to return India before June 30.
This leaves not much leadership for the Tibetan movement in the future (incidentally, there are two Karmapas, the other one who lives in Delhi was recognized by a Regent of the previous Karmapa).
The situation is also messy in the Dalai Lama’s own Yellow School.
In Tibet, the Panchen Lamas were the second most prominent religious figures. Following the passing away of the 10th Panchen Lama in January 1989, the Dalai Lama formally proclaimed a six-year-old boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as his reincarnation on May 14, 1995. Three days later, the Chinese government arrested him; he was never seen again.
Another boy, Gyalsten Norbu, sponsored by the Communist regime presently seats on the throne in Tibet (in fact mostly in Beijing). Recently, the Dalai Lama said that “according to reliable source, [Gedhun] is alive and carrying normal education.” He has also said that the existence of two 11th Panchen Lamas may not be all that unusual in Tibetan Buddhism; he was citing historical instances for this. Not easy to understand for common men; two Karmapas, two Panchen Lamas!
But nobody wants two Dalai Lamas in the future.
The Dalai Lama’s strong presence in India is crucial, especially for the border areas like Ladakh, where he is presently preaching during his summer tour.
But the Tibetan leader is getting older; false rumours about his poor health were recently circulated in an Indian media always keen on scoops; it was denied by his personal physician as well as by facts: someone ‘dying’ does not have the busy schedule the Dalai Lama has …with scribes and cameras following him all-over.
It remains important for Delhi to think of the post-Dalai Lama period.
Would it not be the best thing, if he announces that he will ‘return’ as the 15th Dalai Lama from Ladakh or alternatively another Himalayan region?
Tibet can be discarded as a place of birth; the Communist authorities have already planned his ‘return’ through Communist Party’s Regulations promulgated in 2007; the 15th Dalai Lama would have to be a Communist first and then a religious leader.
This leaves little alternative to the Tibetan leader, as it is doubtful that he would take birth in the West where he would be far away from the majority of his Tibetan and Himalayan devotees.
Ladakh would be an interesting alternative as it would also be a political statement. The fact that Beijing keeps the border between Tibet and Ladakh closed since 1962, despite Beijing’s great love for old trade routes, is telling. Why has Beijing never permitted the reopening of the traditional route to Kailash Manasarovar via Demchok in Ladakh? Simply because China never officially accepted the J&K State’s accession to India in 1947. Parcels of the J&K territory was even ‘offered’ by Pakistan to China in 1963, a proof of a collusion between the two; acknowledging Demchok as a border would be a proof that Ladakh ‘belongs’ to India.
In the present turmoil, while wishing the Tibetan leader a long life, one can hope for a ‘return’ of the Tibetan leader in the Indian Himalaya. It is vital for Tibetan Buddhism but for India’s borders too.

Monday, July 23, 2018

China attempting to square the circle

My article China attempting to square the circle appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

Xi Jinping’s desire to make China a global power may land him in trouble as the Communist Party can’t rule without creating resentment. This will bring China to a dead-end

China is a big country, a powerful state, but a nervous nation. Beijing is today able to rule far beyond its borders; a seemingly-insignificant incident: During the World Cup semifinal between France and Belgium in Moscow, a French man shared his photos holding a Tibetan flag. Hugues Picon, the activist, was immediately arrested and kept in police custody and barred from entering the stadium for the final. He was probably unaware of the length of Beijing’s arm. However, China’s extended power is bound to create more and more problems for President Xi Jinping in the future. The Communist Party in Beijing can’t rule the world without creating resentment all-over. A commentator in The South China Morning Post pointed to a serious issue confronting the Middle Kingdom: “China needs to heed overseas unease as it moves to global centre-stage.”
Observers are concerned over the growth of Chinese nationalist pride and influence abroad. The Hong Kong paper remarked: “China must be wary of nationalist pride and its visions of taking global centre-stage triggering unease among its neighbours.” In a new book, China’s Change: The Greatest Show On Earth, Hugh Peyman, an old China watcher, questions: Has China got it right? Ultimately, Peyman believes that Deng Xiaoping’s approach will continue to serve the country well, and ‘as long as China keeps changing, it will find its way’. That is probably where the fate of China will be decided.
But can China change and become a state accepting the global rules of behaviour?  Unfortunately during the past five years, China has changed but for the worse, ignoring or antagonising its own periphery (Tibet, Xinjiang, et al), as well as its neighbourhood. The recent campaign to forcibly assimilate ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang in order to erase nationalist sentiment and create an Islam with socialist characteristics is a case in point. James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, wrote that the move is bound to fail because it “ignores lessons learnt not only from recent Chinese history but also the experience of others.”
Referring to the Belt and Road Initiative, Dorsey added: “In what amounts to an attempt to square a circle, China is trying to reconcile the free flow of ideas inherent to open borders, trade and travel with an effort to fully control the hearts and minds of its population.” At the same time, inside censorship shows that not all is under control.
The South China Morning Post observed: “China’s censors are scrambling to control the narrative about the trade war with the US by giving the media a list of dos and don’ts when reporting on the topic.”
Knowledgeable sources in the Chinese media told the newspaper that they had been told “not to over-report the trade war with US and be extremely careful about linking the trade war to stock market falls, the depreciation of the yuan or economic weakness to avoid spreading panic.” Is it possible to tightly manage everything and everyone? But presently control is extremely well-organised. According to Chinascope, a first batch of graduate students recently received Master’s degrees in United Front (UF) studies at the Central Institute of Socialism in Shandong University, the Chinese Communist Party’s training and education facility for its cadres. Chinascope said: “Since its launch in 2015, the program has recruited 38 doctoral and 50 masters degree students.” The UF is an organisation to carry out the party’s revolutionary and political campaigns not only in places like Tibet, Xinjiang or Taiwan, but also abroad.
The UF was introduced during the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution as the soft hand of the party. According to the Jamestown Foundation: “The United Front Work Department is the department of the CCP charged with consolidating support for Party policies among non-CCP members, including among individuals of Chinese descent overseas. It is has long been a key, albeit well concealed, element of the CCP’s foreign policy.” The last issue of the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation takes the case of Mongolia: “Sinified religion has a role to play in Xi’s elevation of the UF into a foreign policy tool.”
It studied the case of the Jebtsundamba Hutugtu’s succession process: “It is perceived as a challenge the CCP’s neo-imperial reincarnation management system, which will undergo a major test when it comes to the selection of the next Dalai Lama reincarnation.” The Jebtsundamba is the equivalent of the Dalai Lama in Mongolia. The study shows that some unreported events in Mongolia “reveal attempts to cultivate senior lamas and exploit internal divisions to counter Dharamsala’s influence and earn global Buddhist ‘discourse power’.” Chinese organisations would like to compete with India for the lead of the Buddhist movement worldwide. The UF has considerably extended its influence under Xi, particularly by absorbing into the UF Department, the State Administration of Religious Affairs, a Government organisation which implements China’s religious policy. At the same time, Internet surveillance has tremendously expanded overseas, thanks to a host of new technologies.
Chinascope reported that Zhongkedianji Beijing Technology, a big data firm in Beijing, admitted to have developed a software called ‘junquanyuqun’; it is capable of detecting more than 8,000 ‘sensitive’ websites in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan: “In addition, it has established 18,000 information outlets in China which can monitor news, forums, blogs, microblogs, pictures, and videos. It can even collect information in 53 languages including English, French, Spanish, and the languages of ethnic minorities in China.” The company’s website said that the surveillance system can “carry out public opinion analyses, information warnings, and hot spot analyses. It can collect negative public opinion, public opinion trends, briefings, analyses, forwarded information, and do statistical analyses for the Government. It can monitor news, forums, blogs, Weibo, pictures, videos.”

Surveillance also applies to the Chinese expats. Bilahari Kausikan, Singapore’s former permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs, recently told a forum in Singapore: “In plain language, what this means is that overseas Chinese should be persuaded, induced, or in extremis, coerced, into accepting allegiance to China as at least part of their identity.” It is quite frightening. But ultimately, this will bring China to a dead-end. Too many foes will be unmanageable, even for a big power. Will Xi get the message before it is too late?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Yumemania continues

Yume weather station
I often mentioned Yume (or Yumai or Yumed) the tiny hamlet, north of the McMahon Line (Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh), on this blog.
Since it was adopted by President Xi Jinping through a letter to two sisters living in Yume, yuans have been pouring. In fact, it is deluge.
Roads have come up, electricity and water supply are no more a problem, new houses have been built, not only for the 32 ‘original’ inhabitants, but also for the tourists who will soon arrive in the border village.
The Global Times (GT) reported earlier this week that China has built an unmanned ‘automatic’ weather station in Yume.
According to the tabloid, Beijing has set up a new observation station “to provide meteorological support to national defense.”
It is clear that the new station is not only for forecasting the weather for the tourists wanting to experience the life in the model village.
The GT explains: “The station in Yumai township under Lhunze [Lhuntse] county of Shannan [Lhoka] Prefecture in Tibet will eliminate a blind area of meteorological services.”
A ‘blind’ meteorological corner, located so close to the Indian border?!
Quoting a statement the Tibet Weather Bureau, the newspaper candidly admits: “It will also provide strong meteorological support for national defense and further promote border development as well as military-civilian integration.”
The idea to support ‘national defense’ and promote ‘military-civilian integration’ (sometimes called 'fusion') seems the main objectives of the project. The latter scheme, so dear to Xi, translates into dual-use of all infrastructure assets on the plateau, whether airports, roads, highways, OFC links, etc.
Tashi Norbu, a technician in charge of the station, told the mouthpiece of the Party: “The station can observe six factors, including air temperature, air pressure, wind speed, wind direction, humidity and precipitation, with more accuracy than before.”
All this does not have direct military applications, though meteorological data are always helpful when an airport is planned not faraway (in Lhuntse in this case).
Norbu frankly added: “Yumai is at the border. The station could provide data to help with transportation and communication in national defense. It could also offer support during regional live-fire conflicts.”
Therefore, it is not only for the nine households and 32 residents that the new infrastructure has come up.

Yume Township
The ‘New Era demo village for comfortable living on China’s border’, as Yume is known, is already bustling, commented the GT a few weeks ago.
The village has even a new Party chief, Dawa who looks after the public services (including water drainage, power, communications, roads, county government, medical clinic, schools,) and the new construction sites.
According to the GT, the project with a total investment of some 17.2 million US dollars, will take place on 440.98 square mu (72.65 acre) and a total construction area will be 17,254 sqm: " In addition, there will be a central park and six plazas. The project is estimated to complete by October of 2018.” There is no doubt that the schedule will be kept.
The tabloid explained further that every year, Yume “has 260 days of snow and rain. Due to the extended rainfall period, highland barley is impossible to grow locally and the natural environment is challenging. Before the end of 2017, the township was snow-bound almost six months of the year. With snowy and narrow mountain roads, it took more than a dozen hours to cross Mt. Relha, and another eight kilometers to reach car transport. Every year, as it got closer to winter, the locals’ priority was always to store supplies for the season, and residents always had to store an entire winter’s worth of food and resources.”
Even before the weather station was publicized, Dawa had announced: “We are now receiving accurate information sent by meteorological departments every day. The station is necessary as it fills the gaps in meteorological and hydrological information, which could support our development."
He then added that it would help a lot for the local pastures and for the road construction, before concluding: “more weather stations will be set up when the road is completed.”
He is talking of a new road to the border (Asaphila)?
Some articles speak of the Chuyul highway.
Song Zhongping, a military expert told the GT that weather is “an important factor that could influence the take-off and landing of aircraft and the launch of missiles during a battle. The small weather observation station could provide such information,” adding that “grasping accurate weather information could help seize good opportunities in the battles.”
According to Dawa: “Residents will enjoy better meteorological services to better safeguard every blade of grass and tree on the territory of the motherland.”
The set up of the station is definitively not innocent.

The case of Nagchu
Another place is also building weather stations on the plateau.
It is Nagchu (also written Nagqu). Here, the projected purpose is tourism development …and an airport.
In June, China Tibet News reported: “In recent years, Nagqu City has been vigorously implementing the government-led tourism development strategy. It aims to develop tourism into an economic leading industry and significant results have been made.”
The government website elaborated: “During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, combining the actual situation of local tourism development and with a total investment of 80 million yuan, Nagqu has declared 10 projects including 4 key tourism infrastructure projects and 6 rural tourism infrastructure construction projects. Nagqu vigorously promotes tourism propaganda,” adding “In addition, leading group for the evaluation of star hotels and star scenic spots and leading group for the creation of boutique scenic spots are established in Nagqu. Safety inspection work in the tourism industry is carried out and no travel safety accidents occur.”
Before starting these projects, weather stations were built.
The objective was clearly for getting data for the construction of the airport.

A strange case
The Nagchu Dagring Airport was announced in 2010.
It was supposed to be completed by 2014; it was to be the highest airport in the world at 4,436 m (14,554 ft), surpassing Chamdo Bangda Airport as the highest. Though the construction was said to have started in 2011, the airport was never built. This is a rare case of an announced project which has been temporarily abandoned.
The new weather stations in Nagchu are probably linked to the second coming of the airport.

Wang Yang, today CPPCC's Chairman
Incidentally, Wang Yang, then a Vice Premier (now member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo) visited a meteorological station in Nagchu in 2015.
China Meteorological News Press said that Wang Yang investigated "relevant work including poverty alleviation and development, husbandry, tourist industry and meteorological services. He visited a meteorological station from Nagqu Prefecture located in a plateau region and extended regards to meteorological workers. He expressed respect to those who work in the remote areas, high mountain regions and islands and contribute to meteorological undertaking persistently, and extensive basic-level meteorological staffs."
The article said: "The hardworking and plain-living spirit of plateau meteorological members also touched Vice Premier Wang Yang. Tibet took pride in advancements and achievements of meteorological cause, which impressed as well as inspired us."
Wang would have declared: "The meteorological observation data of Tibet are crucial to weather forecasts and climate prediction for downstream regions since it lies on the upstream of weather system. As a result, to ramp up the research of meteorological science and technology along with climate change on the basis of Tibet’ own edges carries a significant implication.”

Why was the airport stopped in the first place?
One of the reasons was the serious law and order problems faced by Nagchu a few years ago; they have eased now, making the City more conducive to take up large infrastructure projects.
Another reason was that Nagchu was well-served by the train (it is the main hub, for military purpose too, of the railway line between Xining and Lhasa).
And finally, it was announced in 2015, “In a bid to tighten the safety of its airports, China will stop building airports higher than 4,411 meters above sea level in the next two years, as it is yet to work out a set of technology standards to build such airports.”
Li Jian, a deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) told the media three years ago, “Super-high plateau airports, namely those no less than 2,438 meters above sea level, face stricter safety challenges than their low altitude counterparts. There are no international technology standards for super-high plateau airports and it will take China two or three years to work out a set of standards. Before this, no plans will be approved.”
Not only altitude was a problem, but the weather too.
Three years have passed and the Nagchu airport will probably see the light in the coming years.

A Landing Ground in Yume?

One of the reasons for setting up a sophisticated weather station in Yume is probably the construction of an Advanced Landing Ground which would serve the border, particularly Asaphila, a border pass which is disputed by China and which has witnessed regular PLA’s intrusions in the past.
In 2014, Indian troops blocked PLA’s attempts to construct a road in the Asaphila area.
The Hindu then commented that “the incident, however, did not lead to a prolonged military face-off but it is a clear indication of the continuation of ongoing aggression between the two sides along the 4,057 km long LAC.”
More recently in April, it was reported that China lodged a strong protest against the Indian Army for transgression into Asaphila. India rejected the complaint.
According to PTI, “the Chinese raised the issue at a ‘Border Personnel Meeting’ (BPM) on March 15 here but the Indian Army dismissed it, saying that the area in the upper Subansiri region of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to India and it has regularly been carrying out patrols there.”
When the Chinese called India’s patrolling in the area a 'transgression', the Indian Army objected to the terminology.
Yume is not very far away. Weather station or more infrastructure means a reinforcement of the border in this area and probably more Chinese transgressions or intrusions.
There is no doubt that China wants to put more pressure in Asaphila-Takshing area, before the road from Limeking to Takshing is fully serviceable.

A few more weather stations near the border of Arunachal Pradesh.

In Zhayul County, north of Kibithu
In Lunang, Nyingchi County
In Nyingchi County

Could the Thai rescue have happened in India?

My article Could the Thai rescue have happened in India? appeared last week in

Here is the link...

It is Football’s Season.
While the great quadrennial fiesta was making the front pages of the world press in Russia and the last qualified teams were struggling in their quest for the Graal, another football saga was taking place in Asia, which has not yet graduated in soccer’s world elite.
Thailand is not usually known for its football skills, but after young football players (the ‘Wild Boar’), aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered a cave at the Tham Luang in northern Thailand on a team-bonding session on June 23, they became the subject of world attention. That day, they had just completed a football practice, and they decided to experiment a new adventure. In the evening they were reported missing.
Immediately, local officials realized that the kids were trapped by heavy rains which had cut them off from the main entrance of a cave.
With the mounting level of water due to the monsoon, the team had to take shelter deeper and deeper in the caves, ending up nearly 5 km from the entrance.
Their 18-day adventure has been a series of miracles and human determination, meticulous organization using the best available skills on the planet.
After their successful rescue, Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation declared: “Today Thai people, team Thailand, achieved mission impossible.”
The first miracle was that on July 2, after nine days in the cave, they were found alive, though emaciated and hungry, by a highly-skilled diver. The ledge, where they had taken refuge was also threatened by encroaching floodwaters.
It was a first relief for the boys, their coach, their families and the Thai people. The starving boys could finally receive some food, medicine and counseling from a doctor who joined them.
It was the beginning of a long story which will certainly end up on our cinema screens once Hollywood realizes that there is some money to make on what could have turned into a great tragedy.
One interesting question, would such a ‘mission impossible’ have been possible in India?
It is of course a very hypothetical subject and one can only pray that similar circumstances do not occur anywhere in the world.
A first remark, the Thai junta who immediately took control of the operations in a military manner, took the decision to involve the best world professionals for the rescue.
This made a huge difference. It is highly probable that in India, the authorities would have said, “We have the expertise, we don’t need foreign aid”.
On June 27, a team of more than 30 American military personnel from the US Pacific Command, including pararescue and survival specialists, arrived on the site; they were joined by three British diving experts. The involvement of the best world specialists changed the scenario.
An Australian doctor was also rushed from his holidays to join the rescue team; Dr Richard Harris, an anesthetist from Adelaide, Australia went into the cave; he would be of immense service for the stricken boys and their coach in medically assessing the 12 boys and their coach. Dr Harris has a long expertise in rescue mission and dangerous cave diving missions.
Incidentally, Dr Harris was the last member to leave the Thai cave after the boys had been saved; he emerged to discover that his father had died just as the operation was coming to an end. What a sad fate!
The Thai authorities also requested Flood Pumps of Kirloskar Co. of India to come and provide their knowledge; Prasad Kulkarni, Chief Designer at Kirloskar and his team reached soon to help (partially) pumping millions of gallons obstructing the tunnels in the cave.
The Indian government would have probably not had the wisdom to call ‘foreigners’ to help.
Another issue: would the Indian government have had the courage to ban the local and international media from the proximity of the site of the cave. Here again it is a hypothetical question, but one can very well envisage some of the ‘famous’ Indian reporters standing in the cave with water till their knees, screaming into their mike to inform ‘the People’. And for sure, endless and futile debates would have taken place in the TV studios, all featuring great ‘experts’ giving their opinions on how to dig a hole in the mountain or use ‘vedic’ meditation to save the children. It would only have confused the issue.
The junta might not be democratically inclined, but they acted decisively and professionally for the good of the kids and their coach.
And they acted under a unified command, speaking with a unified voice.
In India, several ministries would have probably tried to take the control of the ‘operations’ claiming their ‘expertise’.
Another frightening thought, in India the debate would have surely been immediately politicized; the opposition taking the opportunity to settle scores on the safety of the public places or the lack of coordination in the government circles and the government showing off its ‘great organizational skills’.
Then, who could have stopped the country’s VIPs flocking to the site for sharing a ‘bite’ with the media and telling their electors of their ‘personal’ directives to the divers. It would have created utter chaos, and we know who would have been the sufferers.
In the present case, the Thai prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha delayed a planned visit to the site so as not to disrupt the rescue operations. He remained at nearby Chiang Rai, the town in Northern Thailand where the rescued boys were being taken by helicopter to a hospital; the PM was briefed about the conduct the on-going efforts, without disturbing the operations.
Would have this been possible in India?
On the second day of the main rescue operation, AP news agency complained about the difficulty of getting officials to go on the record about the details of the rescue operations: “Thai authorities are being tight-lipped about who was inside an ambulance seen leaving the site, as they were the night before when four of the 13 people trapped inside the underground complex were rescued.”
The correspondent added: “Multiple calls to senior government officials and military personnel leading the operation to rescue the members of the youth soccer team rang unanswered.”
But retrospectively, it was wise to give only a few details of the on-going operations (in particular the names of the kids rescued was not publicized).
The safety of the children, their coach and the divers was the only priority.
Narongsak Osatanaskorn, the former governor, who coordinated the efforts to save the lives of the young football players, spoke a few times, with just what was necessary to be known.
It is only after the 18-day marathon to evacuate the boys was over that he declared: “I never imagined this could happen – but we did it. We completed mission impossible.”
Glenn McEwan, the Australian Federal Police’s Asia manager who participated in the rescue, asserted: “It is amazing what the human being can do. There are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. …We are humbled to have been a part of it. Returning the Wild Boar soccer team safely into the arms of their loved ones is the good news of the year.”
Osatanaskorn also said the rescue effort would serve as a ‘lesson to the world’. India too should study the operation and learn some lessons.
Then the nation could chant ‘hooyah, hooyah, hooyah’, the rallying sign the Thai Navy Seals, who played an extraordinary role in the three-day operation, along with their colleagues from around the world.
Each time a boy came out, the Seals’ Facebook page would post a ‘Hooyah’.
They completed their impossible mission in 60 hours during a round-the-clock operation with seasonal monsoon rains threatening to trap the boys and their coach further inside the cave.
Only one regret, the kids and their coach will not be able to attend the final of the World Cup in Moscow, where they were invited. The doctors want to keep them under observation for some time; one understands this after such traumatic experience.
‘Hooyah’ anyway.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Empire and its nervous periphery

My article An Empire and its nervous periphery appeared last week in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

China has been expanding its boundaries to fulfil its dream of becoming the world’s most powerful nation. But the picture is not rosy. Resentment among the best of China’s friends is growing

Since the new Emperor sat on the throne in Beijing in 2012, the Middle Kingdom has steadily extended its influence in the periphery of the Empire. The CPC proclaims today: “The great rejuvenation of Chinese nation is an unstoppable historical trend that won’t be diverted by the will of any individual country or person.” The CPC has a dream: For its 100 years in 2049, it wants China to be the most powerful nation in the world. But if one looks at the Empire’s neighbourhood, all is not rosy and resentment has been created everywhere, even amongst China’s best ‘friends’.
Take Pakistan, whose friendship is deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey; according to The Tribune, the border trade with China through Khunjerab Pass resumed last week after a three month gap.  The reason? A traders’ strike against a Web-Based One Customs system newly introduced at the Pakistan-Xinjiang border. The newspaper explained: “The decision to end the strike took place during a meeting held in Gilgit under the supervision of the Army. Traders had blocked the strategic Karakoram Highway which is a part of the multibillion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.” It is obvious that not everyone is delighted by the largesse of the all-weather sponsor, particularly  inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan.
A similar phenomenon is happening elsewhere. Last month, The Washington Post published a long investigative piece on Sihanoukville, a new city of 90,000 inhabitants, which has been developed by China in Cambodia. The number of Chinese tourists doubled in a year to 120,000 in 2017, according to The Post: “Restaurants, banks, landlords, pawnshops, duty-free stores, supermarkets and hotels all display signs in Chinese. The Cambodian government has allowed extraordinary levels of Chinese investment...Thirty casinos have already been built, and 70 more are under construction.” The Blue Bay casino promotes itself as “one of the iconic projects of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.” The smallest studios start at $143,000, while the most prized apartments cost more than $500,000. The Post continued: “With the exception of those working in the hotels and casinos, most Cambodians, whose average income is $1,100 a year, are seeing little benefit from this investment. And resentment is mounting.” It is the pet project of Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister, who has been ruling for the past 34 years, “his willingness to be embraced by China is most evident,” said the US newspaper.
As a result, serious tensions have appeared between the new landlords and the locals. As The Financial Times put it: “Cambodia is not alone in weighing the mixed blessings of Chinese investment, which elsewhere has been welcomed for its scale and relative lack of conditions attached. What is unusual about Sihanoukville’s transformation is that tension in the town has coalesced into a public backlash — unusual in a country where personal freedoms are fading.”
Vietnam, too, is caught between the generous Chinese investments and the nationalists’ demands to not bow to Beijing. The South China Morning Post reported: “Earlier this month...more than 1,000 workers went on strike at a Taiwanese shoe factory in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, blocking a highway.” The workers were singing: “We don’t want to give any of our land away to China, not even for one day.” They protested against their own Government’s plan to set up three new special economic zones where foreign companies (read China) would be granted decades-long leases. Later the protests swept across Vietnam.
The Hong Kong paper said: “Police shut down protests in urban centres, and at times clashed with demonstrators, including in Binh Thuan province near Ho Chi Minh City, where protesters burned police vehicles and defaced Government buildings.…Production stopped at multiple Chinese — and Taiwanese — owned factories across the south of the country.” Hundreds of demonstrators had gathered, holding up banners shouting: “I love my fatherland — don’t let China lease our land.”
Already last year, Forbes titled a report as  “Violent Protests Against Chinese ‘Colony’ In Sri Lanka Rage On.” In January 2017, as the first brick of a Southern Industrial Zone was laid in Hambantota, violent protests erupted in the new port. It left more than 10 people hospitalised and many others were sent to jail. According to an  economic newspaper: “A group of demonstrators led by Buddhist monks from nearby Amabalantota took to the streets as the opening ceremony of the industrial zone took place. However, these protesters were met by mobs of Government supporters, who reputedly attacked them with clubs and fists. The monk-led demonstrators fought back by throwing rocks. The police, meanwhile, found themselves in the middle of the fray, using water cannons and tear gas.”
The reason for the protests was the handing over of the port to the Chinese; “the perceived loss of autonomy to a foreign power as well as the potential land grab that could be necessary to build the 15,000-acre industrial zone.” One can wonder if Nepal has thought of this aspect of the Chinese ‘generosity’. Last month, Prime Minister KP Oli visited Beijing and told Xinhua that Nepal attached great value to its relationship with China “which has always respected its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”. During the visit, it was announced that China would build a railway connecting Tibet with Nepal. It was one of several bilateral deals signed during the Nepali Prime Minister’s visit. The rail link will connect the Tibetan city of Shigatse to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, via the border port of Kyirong. According to a Chinese official website, the two sides further signed 10 other agreements involving technology, transportation, infrastructure and political cooperation.
Nepal has also inked a $2.5 billion deal with China’s state-owned Gezhouba Group to build a hydropower facility in the west of the country. The China Daily quoted Li Keqiang, the Chinese Premier, saying: “China would also like to work with Nepal to build a ‘cross-Himalayan connectivity network’ through aviation, trading ports, highways and telecommunications.”
It sounds good, especially in Kathmandu,  but as I was finishing writing this piece, a Twitter message came in saying, “A Chinese rubber factory in Talgar, Kazakhstan, burned by locals today.” Talgar is located some 20 km from Almaty, the Kazakh capital. Here too resentment is growing. The moral of the story: There is no free meal and a nation like Nepal will sooner or later realise this, even if the Chinese dishes are appetising to start with; in fact the Indian food may be less tasty, but it definitively leaves less hangovers.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Follow the Party: but where are the Tibetans' allegiance?

On July 4, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee, called on the CPC members to implement “the Party's organizational line for the new era and make the Party stronger.”
Efforts were required to break new ground in "the great new project of Party building,” he said.
Xi added: “In order to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, our party must have the courage to carry out self-reform to make the Party stronger."
The Chairman of the Central Military Commission spoke of the importance of fostering competent officials who are loyal to the Party, have moral integrity, and demonstrate a keen sense of responsibility: “all measures should be taken to attract excellent, patriotic, and devoted people.”
Xi insisted on the principle of “selecting officials on the basis of both integrity and ability, with priority given to integrity.”
‘Integrity’ means, "follow the Party line".

Taking oath to follow the Party for life
In this context, ‘oath taking’ ceremonies were organized all over Tibet on occcasion of the 97th Anniversary of the Communist Party’s Foundation.
The CPC was founded in 1921, chiefly by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. The party grew quickly, and by 1949 after driving the nationalist forces, the Kuomintang (KMT) from mainland, Mao established the People's Republic of China.
Let us remember that the world's largest armed forces, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) which has among other tasks to man the Indian border, is the Army of the Party.
During the recent ceremonies, the stress was put on education, including ‘patriotic’ education for the masses (known as the ‘Four Standards and Four Loves’).

In Ngari
All-over Tibet
In Ngari Prefecture, the People's Armed People (PAP) conducted a 'One-Week Oath Taking' program. A opening function was organized to mark the occasion.
The First Division of TAR’s PAP took oath to put their life (till death) at the Service of the Party.
In other places, oath-taking ceremonies/functions were organized too.
In Purang, near the Nepal-Tibet-India trijunction, the Border Security and Inspection Forces took the oath of Service to Party.
In Lhasa, the Military leadership sang Revolutionary songs in front of Potala Palace.
The 11th Committee of the China's Steel Road Construction Company Office retook Oath of Service to Party in Chusur county (of Lhasa City) on June 29.
In Chongye
In Nyingtri (Nyingchi) City, the Party organized various program of songs and dances ‘praising the graciousness of Party’ and urging people to follow the Party line.
In Ratoe village in Nyethang town, Chusur County in Lhasa City, Party cadres and Party officials also took the Oath of Service to Party.
The Gyatza county of Lhoka Prefecture also celebrated the ‘One Week’ program. Newly resettled Tibetans from other areas (an euphemism for displaced nomads) were welcome.
Group songs were presented by county Gyatza county Artist Association.
In Chongye in Lhoka Prefecture, the Publicity (Propaganda) Bureau’s officials marked the 97th CPC’s Anniversary by retaking Oath of Service to Party.
An audience of farmers and nomads were explained by Publicity Bureau’s officials, the meaning of the ceremony.

In Tsona
Near Indian Border
Even near the Indian border in Tsona (north of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh), Wang Kaibing, a member of the Standing Committee of the County Party Committee and other officials went to a grazing point near the border “to carry out the theme of the Party”, i.e. the villagers are “sacred land keepers and the builders of happy homes”.
Officials were accompanied by the Armed Police personnel stationed on the border.
All party members faced the Party flag and retook the Party's Oath.
One Pema Tsering urged the participants to first remember their identity as Party members, to be loyal to the Party, to work actively and fight for Communism for the rest of their life.
All party members spoke of jointly studying the spirit of the 19th Party Congress and promoting the ‘Four Standards and Four Loves’.
Pema Tsering, who belongs to the Border Temporary Party Branch, gave a report on the development on the border.
Wang Kaibing spoke highly of the work done by the Temporary Party Branch and urged to strengthen the political leadership in the border areas: “We will strengthen the education of the ideals and convictions of the farmers and herdsmen in the border areas, educate and guide the farmers and herdsmen to strengthen their ideals and convictions, and actively maintain a high degree of unity in the ideological and political actions with the Party's Central Committee, and resolutely safeguard the authority of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core.”
He spoke of:
  • Standardizing the life of the Party's organization
  • Strengthening the awareness of 'serving the people'
  • Strengthen the construction of Party by listening to the stories of the old party members about their ‘counterattacks’ (against India in 1962):
  • Knowing the Party, Listening to the Party, Following the Party, and Establishing a sense of pride as a Chinese citizen.

The Five-Point Peace Plan
In 1987, the Dalai Lama presented his Five-Point Peace Plan to the US Congress.
His third Point spoke of the “fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms must be respected in Tibet. The Tibetan people must once again be free to develop culturally, intellectually, economically and spiritually and to exercise basic democratic freedoms. …While Tibetans in exile exercise their democratic rights under a constitution promulgated by me in 1963, thousands of our countrymen suffer in prisons and labour camps in Tibet for their religious or political convictions.”
The democratic freedoms mentioned by the Dalai Lama seem so far today.
Under Xi Jinping's leadership, China has greatly intensified the Rule of the Party.
Even populations on the Indian borders have to take oath to serve the Party ...for life.
But can it last forever?
Are the people ‘following’ the Party on their free will?
One test would be to allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet for a short visit.
We could probably see the real allegiance of the Masses.
China will not take this risk, they know too well where are the ‘Loves’ of the Tibetans people.
In Nyingtri
In Lhasa

The Gyatsa county
Gyatza county
In Chusur county

In Nyingtri

In Purang
In Ngari

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Dalai Lama: the Difficult Years

The Dalai Lama turns 83 today.
He will be celebrating his birthday in Ladakh at the Shiwatsel Phodrang, the teaching ground at the outskirts of Leh.
Yesterday the Dalai Lama told the press: “I am very happy to be here once more. I seem to be physically fit and if that continues I hope to spend some time here, avoiding the monsoon on the plains. The warm weather here will probably help relieve my joint pain. You people of Ladakh have a special bond with me based on your faith and loving-kindness, of which I am very appreciative.”
Is he preparing for his ‘return’ in the mountainous region?
Only he knows.
But it is certainly one of the possibilities.
In the meantime, he is in good heath (except for the knees) and continues to guide his people.
From 10 to 12 July, he will teach Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisatva’s Way of Life.
He will also participate in the Yarcho Chenmo - the ‘Summer Buddhist Council’ of philosophical debate and discussion – from July 18 to 20 at Samstanling Gonpa Sumoor in Nubra Valley.
On the occasion of his 83rd Birthday, I post the transcript of a meeting between the Tibetan leader and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India in March 1962.
It was hardly three years after he took refuge in India ...and seven months before the conflict with China.
The rehabilitation of the Tibetans was going on full swing.
It was a difficult time.
Thousands of monks were still living in poor conditions in camps in Buxa in Assam and thousands of lay refugees were working on high-altitude Himalayan roads.
The first priority for Nehru and the Dalai Lama was education of the children.
The ‘Mysore scheme’ refers to the resettlement of the refugees in camps (Mundgod, Bylakuppe, Hunsur) near Mysore in Karnataka.

The notes have been taken by the Prime Minister’s Office.
(Extracts from Volume 76 of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, (Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund)

Talk with The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama called on the Prime Minister the 25th March, 1962, at 11 a.m. and again on the following evening at 6.30 p.m. on his way back from Mysore, where he had recently visited the Tibetan Refugee Settlement.
In reply to PM's enquiry, the Dalai Lama said that the Mysore Scheme was going ‘excellently’.
He added, however, that the Tibetans would have to put in hard work in order to make the Scheme fully successful. The Dalai Lama expressed his gratefulness to PM for all that was being done to rehabilitate Tibetan refugees in India.

    2. The Dalai Lama also spoke about the general question of settling Tibetan refugees on land as a long term measure: the programme for the education of Tibetan youths; the future of refugee Lamas in India; and his book, which he hoped to publish shortly. PM gave His Holiness a sympathetic hearing and passed necessary orders on points discussed on the above mentioned subject, which are summarised below:

Settlement of Tibetan refugees as agriculturists as long-term aim

3. The Mysore Scheme should serve as a prototype, and finalised as soon as possible. Measures should be taken urgently to provide adequate water supply, and medical cover. There is little point in opening primary schools unless teaching staff has been provided. As and when the time comes there should be a middle school and later a high school.

4. The important thing was to realise the long term aim to rehabilitate all Tibetan refugees on land. It should be realised that the Tibetan refugees working on road etc. were doing so only as a temporary expedient, and there should be no hesitation in pulling them out from being so employed as and when land becomes available to rehabilitate them.

    5. The Scheme already approved administratively for Madhya Pradesh should be pushed forward, and early arrangements made to inspect one other site offered by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.

    6. PM would mention to the Chief Minister of Orissa  [Biju Patnaik] or if necessary, write to him, to suggest alternative sites suitable to settle 5,000 Tibetan refugees; the sites so far offered having been found unsuitable.

    7. PM felt that it should be possible to rehabilitate on land some 10,000 refugees in NEFA. The scope of the present Scheme should be expanded to make this possible.

    8. PM offered to speak to the new Chief Minister of Mysore  [SR Kanthi] to take some 2,000 more Tibetan refugees as soon as the first lot of 3,000 have reached Mysore for settlement.

    9. At the request of His Holiness, PM offered to write to the Chief Minister of Punjab [Partap Singh Kairon] and the Lt-Governor of Himachal Pradesh  [Bajrang Singh Bhadri] to provide some suitable land to rehabilitate Tibetan refugees.

    10. JS(E) [Joint Secretary - East in the MEA] was directed to put up a note to PM as and when any of the Chief Ministers mentioned above came to Delhi to call on him.

    11. Refugees who worked towards the implementation of such Schemes in reclaiming land etc. should be given a wage at the normal rate applicable in the area.

    12. P.M. ordered that "we must take up these matters and finish quickly as well as we can - Mysore and others".

Education of Tibetan Youths
    13. PM ordered that there should be residential schools for all Tibetan youths - boys and girls - of school-going age except in regard to children who formed part of an agricultural settlement and for whom good day schools can be provided, as for example in Mysore.

    14. It would not be fair to expect that children would receive proper education in the so-called roadside schools. The requests from parents to send their children to residential schools should be complied with. It was pointed out by the Dalai Lama that this decision of the Prime Minister would meet the case of children living with their parents and going to roadside schools in such places as Narkanda.

    15. PM felt that we should make proper arrangements for the running of the residential schools. PM also ordered that additional schools should be opened beyond the three functioning at Simla, Mussorie and Darjeeling at the moment, to meet the demands of all school going Tibetan youths wishing to receive education at such schools. In particular, arrangements should be made urgently to provide education to some 400 Tibetan youths who are at present in Sikkim. The best way to do it might be to set up a residential school in Gangtok itself on the lines of one of the three existing schools.

    16. Prime Minister has also ordered that the nursery school at Dharamsala should become the responsibility of the Government of India. It was not desirable that a school of this type should depend on charity, mostly received from foreign sources.

    17. The definition of students eligible to receive education under this programme should be widened to include those who came to India even before 31.3.59, but who were prevented from returning to Tibet because of political developments which took place since then. The only proviso would be that parents of such children, who are well to do should be asked to contribute towards the expenditure incurred on the education of their children.

    18. Children of refugee parents who are in Nepal and who for various reasons cross over to India should be given the same facilities for their education as admissible to Tibetan children whose refugee parents are in India.

    19. PM mentioned several times that he would like highest priority to be given to the proper running of schools for Tibetan children.

    20. PM enquired about the UK Save the Children Fund school in Simla and advised the Dalai Lama to suggest to the Principal, Lieut-Col. Young, not to try and run the venture as a British Public School.

Tibetan Lamas in India
21. The Dalai Lama mentioned that there were at least 7,000 Tibetan Lamas in India of whom only some 2,500 were being kept as such at Baxa [Buxa in Assam] and at Dalhousie. The remaining 4,500 are working on roads and it could not, therefore, be said that all the Lamas were being maintained by the Government of India without doing any work. The Dalai Lama explained that the number of genuine Lamas would not be much less than those who are being maintained at Baxa and Dalhousie and requested the Government of India to ensure that nothing was done to come in the way of their following their religious pursuits-meditation etc.
The Prime Minister agreed.