Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: A turbulent and eventful year for Indo-China relations

My article 2019: A turbulent and eventful year for Indo-China relations appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

Even as China speaks of ‘early harvest’ in border negotiations, existing Confidence Building Measures need to be improved in 2020 for a good crop to both the countries

This has been a turbulent and eventful year for Sino-Indian relations. The informal summits between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, helped maintain a ‘sound momentum’ in 2019, reported PTI sounding an optimistic note.

Doval-Wang Yi meet
However, while preparing the balance sheet of 2019, it is not easy to objectively see the ‘sound momentum’. After the 22nd Meeting of the Special Representatives (SR) of India and China held in New Delhi on December 21, between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, an Indian communiqué mentioned: “The talks were constructive with focus on taking forward the India-China Closer Developmental Partnership as per the guidance provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at the 2nd Informal Summit at Chennai in October 2019.” The two spoke of “the importance of approaching the boundary question from the strategic perspective of India-China relations and agreed that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries.” This approach is not new.
During the meetings of the officials in 1960, while the negotiators of the two countries looked at the issue from a historic and juristic angle, in July 1961, China proposed a new ‘strategic’ approach. Zhang Wenji, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department met G Parthasarathy (GP), the Indian Chargé d’Affaires in Beijing. Zhang suggested that “each country presents a factual basis and, objectively compares them, looking to see whose information is relatively more logical, and finally parceling the land out to the country whose version is more beneficial to the two countries’ friendship.”
The Director further proposed that “if the two sides’ views differ greatly and it is impossible to bring them into line, each can keep to its own position and consider, from a political standpoint, what kind of resolution would be more beneficial.” “We can consider using the second method, with each side keeping its own views; depending on the facts of the situation, we will make some compromises and resolve the issues,” GP answered immediately. He added that the difficulty lay “in swaying popular opinion.” GP could not think of a way to overcome this political obstacle “other than making a big gesture.” He said that though it was his personal opinion, the first method, “is a very good method [examining the historical background], but I don’t know how much chance it has of succeeding.” He suggested making a “gesture that would do something to change the atmosphere… to stop conceiving of each other in a hostile way.”

‘Swap’ diplomacy?
The implications of Zhang’s proposals meant that India would keep NEFA (today Arunachal Pradesh) and China would continue to occupy the Aksai Chin, the ‘strategic’ artery between Xinjiang and Tibet, the two most restive provinces of the Middle Kingdom.
Beijing’s ‘solution’ had already been mentioned during Premier Zhou Enlai’s visit to Delhi in April 1960; for Beijing, it was ‘the most beneficial’. During the Doval-Wang meeting, Beijing went in the same direction, it agreed to “actively advance boundary negotiations in line with the Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question.” This was the agreement reached in 2005, which translated into keeping the status quo for inhabited areas like Tawang.
So, the recent talks are bringing us back to the 1961 formula, “let us go for a ‘swap’” and exchange areas administrated by India (Arunachal) against the ones occupied by China (Aksai Chin).

India, China status quo
Another major issue remains the Gilgit area, on which India has recently reiterated its claims by publishing new maps of the Ladakh Union Territory.
This is the fourth Sector of the boundary (along with the Eastern, Central and Western Sectors); it cannot be left to a hypothetical future accord, otherwise the ‘early harvest’ mentioned by China would be meaningless. Let us not forget that the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949 prove without a doubt that the Gilgit area was part of the erstwhile territory of the Maharaja of J&K and, therefore, Indian territory.
Another problem is China’s changing claims. In 1956, Zhou had agreed to a line on a map in the Western sector; in September 1959, following China’s advances in the Aksai Chin, another line became the de facto line of control and then post-1962 war, China’s claims indented further into India’s territory. Where will India draw the line in these circumstances?
Today, even if China speaks of ‘early harvest’, it is not clear who will benefit from the harvest. It is far more important to “maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas, pending final settlement of the boundary question,” as per the Indian communiqué. Existing Confidence Building Measures, i.e. Border Personnel Meeting points, trading landports, bilateral communications, etc., need to be enlarged and improved; if this is done in 2020, it could bring a good crop to both parties.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 in Tibet: The Year of Relocation

In Tibet, 2019 should be declared "The Year of Relocation".
On December 24, China Daily announced that in 2019 in China, more than 10 million people were expected to be lifted from poverty; some 340 counties would no longer be labeled as 'impoverished'. This was stated by Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development in Beijing.
Liu particularly mentioned the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), as well as the four provinces where ethnic Tibetan people live (particularly in three prefectures in Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan), the southern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is clubbed with these areas: “Officials commonly refer to these regions as the Three Areas and Three Prefectures, the deeply impoverished areas.”
Liu’s report added: “In the renewed effort to combat poverty, local authorities were barred from merely handing out State benefits to farmers. Instead, they were required to adopt targeted measures in developing local industries and creating jobs that would help the poor attain sustainable incomes.”
This obviously raises the question, why these areas 'liberated' nearly 70 years ago, have remained so poor. The Communist Party has a lot to answer.
How can poverty be eliminated now?

Relocation of Population
‘Relocation’ has been one of the main tools for poverty alleviation in the TAR and Xinjiang.
According to en.tibetol.cn, all the 74 counties and county-level districts in TAR have been lifted out poverty in 2019, “which means the whole region has got rid of absolute impoverishment”.
On December 9, Tibet’s Poverty Alleviation Office published a notice saying that the last batch of 19 counties and county-level districts had finally been shaken off poverty: “Tibet was a tough nut to crack in China’s poverty relief campaign due to its harsh natural conditions and complicated historical reasons. In 2015, the occurrence rate of poverty in Tibet was as high as 25.32%," said the Chinese website.
The article takes the example of a Tibetan family who moved to a new house from Rongma Township in Nyima County of Nagchu Prefecture to Lhasa in 2018 (Nagchu is located at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters).
The website said that it was the first high-altitude exemplary site of ecological relocation in Tibet: “From June 10 to 18 in 2018, 571 herdsmen moved in two batches to Lhasa which is over 1,000 miles away.”
It is just an example.

The Xiaogang Villages
More worrying for New Delhi are the relocations through the Xiaogang villages, often mentioned on this blog, which are located on India's borders.
I have often written about Yume (north of Upper Subansiri), Tsona (north of Tawang), Rima (north of Kibithu in the Lohit Valley) or Chiakang (not far from Demchok in Ladakh) as well as some more populated areas like Yatung in Chumbi Valley (near Sikkim) or Purang, close to the trijunction between Tibet, Nepal and India.
On September 30, Xinhua said that 250,000 Tibetans had been relocated to new homes in anti-poverty fight: “Nearly 250,000 people in Tibet have moved into 910 new settlements as part of poverty alleviation efforts by August 2019.”
The official News Agency noted that China had planned to invest 19.78 billion yuan (US$ 2.8 billion) in a relocation program to build 60,931 houses in around 970 settlements for 266,000 poverty-stricken citizens in the TAR.
It was said that by the end of August, 93.6 percent of the investment fund had been used and 56,000 houses had been completed: “Tibet seeks to lift 266,000 residents out of poverty by relocating them from harsh living conditions and ecologically fragile areas, of whom 3,359 from 939 families originally lived at an altitude of over 4,800 meters.”
Again according to Xinhua: “Tibet has been using relocation as a means of poverty reduction. By offering job opportunities in industrial parks and cities, the relocated residents are ensured ways to make a better living.”
Though 'industrial parks and cities' are mentioned, the relocation are often done in new villages.
Where the 'industrial parks' in these villages?

Relocation in Pictures
On Christmas Day, Xinhua published a photo feature.
A series of photos (see below) taken two days earlier on the south bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River (the Siang and Brahmaputra in India) showing new houses built for herders migrating from Shuanghu County (known as Tsonyi in Tibetan) in Nagchu: “A total of 2,900 residents from three villages of Shuanghu County, have recently left their hometown with an average altitude of 5,000 meters above sea level and travelled nearly 1,000 kilometers to resettle in Gongkar County, which, at a relatively low altitude, is located to the south bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River in southern Tibet,” said the caption.
Gongkar (29°07′48″N 92°12′15″E) is located in Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture, north of Bhutan.
A propaganda photo shows local people 'welcoming' the new arrivants.
What would happen if one day the Government of India decided to ‘relocate’ thousands of people of Jharkhand or Bihar in Ladakh?
It is better not to think about it.

Another Example
Another article in China Tibet News speaks of the happy life brought by the relocation: “Being different from the habit of transliteration of traditional Tibetan villages' names, the name of ‘Gongkang Village’ originates from the slogan of Thanks to the Communist Party, and construct a well-off society together.”
The story says: “Starting eastward from Shannan (Lhoka) City (or prefecture) after a three-hour driving, one can arrive at Gongkang Village (29°05′17″N 92°38′40″E in Lingda Town of Gyatsa County, with an average elevation of 3,269 metres.”
Incidentally, the village is not far from the site of a new dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo.
Will the new settlers be engaged in dam construction? Probably.
In August, 2016, this place was designated as the targeted poverty alleviation relocation centre: “At present, there are 369 households and 1,269 people in Gongkang Village. The project of advancing relocation covers an area of 472,000 m², and its total investment reaches 210 million yuan (US$ 34 million),” said Xinhua.
Some 1,121 people relocated villagers (in 333 households) come from Chosam County (28°43′05″N 93°03′08″E in Lhoka )while 102 people (in 25 households) are originally from Tsomey County: “They have their new home at Gongkang Village now” said the Chinese media, adding: “In 2017, all the impoverished people of this village have been lifted out of poverty. In 2018, the village's per capital annual income has reached 7,016 yuan (US$ 1140) and the poverty incidence dropped to zero.”

Social Benefits for All
All the villagers are said to benefit from a medical insurance, while the children enjoy favorable policies “at the stages of compulsory education and senior high school” and college students receive regional subsidies.
The enrollment rate of the village's school-age children is 100%.
The description of the ‘paradise’ continues: “To ensure income of villagers, the village subsidies the disabled with disability allowance, ensures basic supply for the most vulnerable groups, provides employment training for those who have the force, and increases the income of those work at ecological positions.”
The article cites 168 people who have been trained, 401 ecological positions created and 218 impoverished people who have been provided with jobs: “With the help of county, town and village, Gongkang Village Industrial Development Co., Ltd has been established. The company has five mutual-aid teams, namely ecological breeding team, agricultural and animal products processing team, labor-force exporting team and agricultural machinery promoting team. All 574 workers have been arranged for each mutual-aid team, realizing the goal that everyone has a platform, everyone has things to do and everyone has income.”
It sounds like the propaganda during the Great Leap Forward in China.
The list of benefits goes on, before the article concludes: “Nowadays, a harmonious and socialist new countryside has been built beside the Yarlung Tsangpo River under the Party's policy of benefiting people and Gongkang villagers.”

Miracles in TAR
On October 13, Xinhua had already announced that “Miracles have been made in TAR; the number of people living in poverty has fallen from 800,000 in 2013 to 150,000 last year. This year, the region aims to eliminate absolute poverty that has been looming over the region for thousands of years.”
Yet another article explains: “In Tibet, the special geographical environment is one of the main causes of poverty in many areas. Extremely high altitudes, snow-capped mountains and barren land are standing in the way of people's efforts to shake off poverty. Some places are almost naturally isolated from the outside world. Relocation has been a major measure for the region to alleviate poverty.”
Is it also a miracle for the local population who are forced to 'welcome' thousands of migrants in their villages? This is another question.

Happiness for All
Rinchen a 38-year old herdsman from Nagchu, who has been relocated near Lhasa told the News Agency: “Life is so much better now. We have tap water, stable electricity supply and home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. This was unimaginable in the past," and his five children now enjoy better access to education and hospitals.
According to Xinhua, China plans to invest 19.78 billion yuan (2.79 billion U.S. dollars) in a relocation program to build 60,931 houses in around 970 settlements for 266,000 poverty-stricken residents in Tibet.
The examples could be multiplied, particularly with the villages on the Indian border.

The Role of Tourism
One important angle is admitted by the Chinese authorities: “Tourism has also been a major poverty-alleviation measure.”
Huang Yongqing, head of the regional tourism development department told Xinhua: “The regional government has encouraged rural residents and herdsmen to open family inns. The average annual income of the total of 570 family inns surpassed 100,000 yuan (US$ 16,000), and some even reached 300,000 yuan (US$ 48,000).”
It was observed that the number of tourists to visit Tibet reached 33.7 million, up 31.5 percent year on year; while income from tourism increased by 29.2 percent to 49 billion yuan (US$ 8 billion): “The region helped 32,000 people rise out of poverty by developing rural tourism last year. It plans to help another 100,000 farmers and herdsmen gain employment through rural tourism in 2019”.
Of course, these figures always need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but still there is no doubt that Tibet receives millions of Han visitors and their number is increasing.
The ‘relocation’ will probably continue on a war-footing in 2020, bringing along millions of Han Chinese …and Happiness to the Party.
For India, the change of demography on her borders is a serious issue.
Moreover, the new settlers are not only Tibetans, Hans too are brought to the borders to take the lead in the implementation of the Party policies, such as poverty alleviation.
"Do Not forget the Original Intention; Keep the Mission in Mind" says Chairman Xi.



Friday, December 27, 2019

End the Culture of Silence

Indian Dak Bungalow in Tibet
My article End the Culture of Silence appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

It is surprising that successive Indian Governments preferred to remain mum even as China kept on making advances towards the border. If this continues, a new disaster may unfold

Recently, Sun Weidong, the Chinese Ambassador to India, declared that the positive effects of the second informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were gradually showing. He further said that China was keen to promote defence and security cooperation with India for regional peace and stability. This declaration, however, does not tally with the facts. Though he asserted that China’s position on Kashmir was “consistent and clear”, Beijing is planning to raise the Kashmir issue when the Special Representatives (SRs) of India and China meet to discuss the boundary issue on December 21.
It is doubtful if any progress can be made during these talks between Ajit Doval, the Indian SR and Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, especially after China requested the UN Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the situation in the Valley again. According to Reuters, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “China would like to echo the request of Pakistan and request a briefing of the Council ...on the situation of Jammu & Kashmir.” (On France’s insistence, the move was, however, dropped later).
In these circumstances, it is not only difficult to believe that the effects of the Chennai Connect are positive but to trust its hurtful actions such as internationalising an internal issue of India. Unfortunately, successive Indian Governments have not articulated a proper response to this doublespeak.
Take Tibet with its centuries-old relationship with the Himalayan belt, which faded away at the end of 1950s for no fault of India. It brought unbelievable hardship to the local Indian frontier population. In the years preceding the arrival of the Dalai Lama in March 1959, traditional trade as well as cultural and religious contacts between Tibet and India gradually collapsed due to the harsh Chinese occupation of Tibet. By early 1962, the situation was so bad that India had to refuse to prolong the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India”, infamously known as the Panchsheel Agreement. The principles of the lofty Preamble have never been respected by China. Recently, I came across a telling “Monthly Report from Tibet for October 1960” sent by Apa Pant, the Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. At that time, the Chinese were fast consolidating their presence on the plateau and Indian interests were dismissed. The report says, “The programme of mass settlement of Chinese in Tibet has started. There are rumours in Lhasa that about two-and-a-half lakh Chinese civilians will be brought in and settled in Tibet in the near future. At the moment, the Chinese population, both in Lhasa and Gyantse, has increased considerably.”
While traditional trade with India was progressively stopped, infrastructure along the Indian borders was built on a war-footing (probably to prepare for the border war, which erupted two years later). Though New Delhi pretended to have been taken “by surprise”, reading Pant’s report, one realises that the Indian Government had all the necessary information to see the writing on the wall.
In the report, Pant notes that Chinese cadres continued to pour into Tibet in increasing numbers. Slowly, the demography of the plateau changed and put India and the world in front of a fait accompli. Tibet was Chinese.
Women cadres were also brought in from the mainland: “Lhasa now looks like a Chinese city where Tibetans form only an insignificant minority. The lamas have been taken out of the monasteries and put to work as labourers and the monasteries are being used as public offices by the Chinese.”
If this was the situation in October 1960, one can imagine how the Tibetan capital resembles today. The report continues,  “The Ramoche Monastery in Lhasa is now the headquarters of the traffic police, while the Kundeling Monastery, which had been damaged in the March 1959 struggle (at the time of the uprising against the Chinese occupation), is being utilised to house the Chinese cadres after repairs. The houses vacated by the Kashmiri Muslims have also been occupied by the Chinese cadres.”
Pant asserts that the Chinese “now appear to be in complete control of the administration.” The members of the former Tibetan nobility “are in concentration camps, except for those who had cast their lot with the Chinese Communists prior to the March 1959 conflagration. The latter have been given official positions and can be seen moving about in motor vehicles in Lhasa.” It was a luxury at that time.
What is surprising is that New Delhi kept quiet all these years, trying to negotiate with China an elusive agreement on the border, (still elusive 59 years later). In 1960, the Tibetans in Lhasa were made to adopt the Chinese dress, “the close collar coat and trousers, while the traditional Baku is being discarded… sartorial reforms were being ushered on grounds that they are more economical on clothing material.”
Tibetan children above the age of 12 were sent “in large numbers for education and training to China, which is to last for a period between three and five years… these Tibetan children would be systematically indoctrinated.”
The border trade, formerly carried out by Indian and Nepalese traders, was gradually taken over by the Chinese through restrictive policies and heavy taxation. The Kashmiri Muslims were particularly targetted: “A large number of Kashmiri Muslims have already left Tibet or are on the way out to India,” writes Pant but New Delhi remained silent.
At the same time, troops kept arriving from China: “About 60 vehicles ply each way daily between Lhasa and the Chinese mainland. There are reports of considerable movement of troops on the new Lhasa-Gyantse road. All these troops appear to be fresh arrivals from the mainland. About 10,000 of them have passed through Gyantse during the course of a few days. It is suspected that this movement is towards Bhutan.” Many of the new roads led to Tawang in the North-East Frontier Agency (today Arunachal), says Pant. China was advancing towards the border but probably not to hurt the Chinese feelings, India was keeping mum. When today China continues to hurt Indian interests and feelings, should it continue to keep silent?
It can only lead to a new disaster.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Fate of the Kaches: was Ladakh a part of China?

Kache Lingka, the Kashmiri Mosque in Lhasa
The Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim responsible for Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim used to write a Monthly Report to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi to inform his bosses in South Block of the happenings on the Tibetan plateau.
In his Report for September 1960, Apa Pant, the PO, mentioned the discrimination against the Kashmiri traders, known as 'Kaches’, who lived in Tibet.
After the Tibetan uprising of March 1959 and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India, the Kaches tried to leave Lhasa and return to Kashmir, as they had no future in occupied Tibet.
The new Marxist religion was not as compassionate as Buddhism.
Unfortunately, the Chinese authorities in Lhasa, argued that they all were Chinese citizens.
After more than a year of negotiations, the Communist authorities in Lhasa finally authorized them to leave the Roof of the World and return to India.
Pant however raises a question: “Why the Chinese suddenly allowed all these Kashmiri Muslims to leave Lhasa? Was it because they felt that the Kashmiri Muslims would be a misfit in the new communist pattern of life that the Chinese want to establish immediately in Tibet or was it because they thought that once these Kashmri Muslims were out of the way they could bring about the changes that they desired more quickly? Only time would show why the Chinese suddenly changed their attitude.”

Was Ladakh a part of China?
About the fate of the Indian Muslim population in Tibet, it is interesting to note that that during various meetings in Chusul, it was stated that:
Ladakh belonged to China in the past but it had been snatched away.
Mohammad Umar Nyangroo, a Kashmiri Muslim, who had been arrested for refusing to attend the area-wise meetings organised by the Communists has reported that the detenus in jail were given education in principles of Communism and that an Officer who was in charge of the Taring prison had during the course of a talk to the detenus stated that India was an expansionist country and had illegally occupied Tawang, that the Macmahon Line was not the boundary accepted by Chinese, and that Bhutan, Sikkim and Ladakh were Chinese territories and China one day may have to fight with India for these.
The 1962 border war was in the horizon, but who could read the writing on the wall; certainly not VK Krishna Menon, the Indian Defence Minister or his Prime Minister, who were too preoccupied to bring Peace to the World.

Extracts for Apa Pant’s report dated October 5, 1960

1. On 2nd September the Kashmiri Muslims of Lhasa were told by the Chinese that as they were Chinese nationals they would have to make a formal application for changing their Chinese nationality to Indian and then only would they be allowed to proceed to India. They were further told that this option to apply for the change of nationality could be exercised only in September.
Consistent with our stand that the Kashmiri Muslims were Indian nationals Consul-General Lhasa advised the Kashmiri Muslims to apply for the change of nationality in the following terms: “We consider ourselves as Indian nationals but since the Chinese Government considers us Chinese nationals we hereby renounce Chinese nationality and may be given permission to proceed to India”.
But the Chinese authorities refused to accept this declaration and insisted that the only declaration they would accept would be “I wish to change my Chinese nationality and return to India”.
In view of the fact that the Kashmiri Muslims feared that in case they did not avail of the opportunity now offered they might be permanently debarred from coming into India and also keeping in view the hardships they had already undergone they decided to give a declaration in the form the Chinese authorities wanted.
Even those Kashmiri Muslims who had hitherto given the impression that they had accepted Chinese nationality approached the Chinese authorities for change of nationality with a view to proceeding to India.
This included also the half-caste Kashmiri Muslims of Lhasa. A total of about 200 Kashmiri Muslim families consisting of about 1000 men, women and children are expected to come to India.
Chinese have also informed the Kashmiri Muslims that the wives of Kashmiri Muslims either or both of whose parents were Tibetan or Chinese and husbands of Kashmiri Muslim girls either or both of whose parents were Tibetan or Chinese would also be allowed to proceed to India on Chinese Passports wherein they would be shown as traders, the validity of these passports however would be one year.
The Government of India have authorized the Consul-General, Lhasa, to permit at his discretion such foreign wives of Kashmiri Muslims to enter into India but this facility is not to be accorded to Chinese/Tibetan husbands of Kashmiri ladies.
Kashmiri Muslims have been allowed by the Chinese authorities to carry with them to India their valuables and cash as also their unsold merchandise.

2. Kashmiri Muslims who had been arrested earlier for claiming Indian nationality continue to be under detention. When the Consul-General, Lhasa took up the case with the Vice-Director of Foreign Bureau he was informed that they were Chinese nationals and would be dealt with as such according to Chinese laws.

3. Transport for the Kashmiri Muslims on payment has been provided by the Chinese authorities. Some of the poor among them have even been transported free. The first batch of 38 Kashmiri Muslims reached Gangtok during September 29/30.

4. The question arises as to why the Chinese suddenly allowed all these Kashmiri Muslims to leave Lhasa? Was it because they felt that the Kashmiri Muslims would be a misfit in the new communist pattern of life that the Chinese want to establish immediately in Tibet or was it because they thought that once these Kashmri Muslims were out of the way they could bring about the changes that they desired more quickly? Only time would show why the Chinese suddenly changed their attitude.

6. A great deal of publicity has been given in the Tibet Daily published from Lhasa to the bumper harvest of crops this year. But these reports appear to be highly exaggerated since reports continue to come in to the effect that there have been several starvation deaths in Lhasa itself and it is because of shortage of food in the rural areas that the villagers are reported to flocking to the towns in the hope that they may get food there. The Chinese authorities have, however, warned them not to flock to the towns. The Chinese have not opened any ration shops in the rural areas so far.

7. The Chinese have indicated that they would pay compensation for the properties which they have taken over but for determining the question of compensation they have evolved a novel procedure. The erstwhile owners of these properties are put on public trials (Thamzin). If the people speak well of them compensation is paid to them but if it is alleged that they have acquired property dishonestly the owners are put into jail. Some beggars and erstwhile landless labourers have been won over by the Chinese authorities by being treated leniently, these have been lodged in the dwellings of the erstwhile landlords and are well looked after and it is these men who are utilised at public trials to denounce the erstwhile property holders and as such these property holders rather than claim compensation for the property from which they have been expropriated have fled away in fear.

8. To shorten the travelling time between Lhasa and Yatung Chinese are reported to be constructing a road via Nagartse Dzong and Peda Dzong. The Gyantse-Lhasa road and Lhasa-Gartok road which are reported to be complete were, it was reported, likely to be formally opened on the 1st October. The bridge over the Brahmaputra on the Lhasa-Gartok road has yet to be completed.

9. The Panchen Lama’s father is no longer under detention and has recently been seen in a Chinese uniform and according to the Tibet Daily, has been appointed Vice-Chairman of the People’s Consultative Conference. It is further reported that he had accompanied the Panchen Lama in his visit to the new Steel Factory at Lhasa.

10. The strength of the Chinese Civilian Cadres in Lhasa is reported to have increased recently and is now estimated at 15,000. The present estimated strength of the P.L.A. is about 10,000. It is reported that the P.L.A. are being issued with heavier calibre arms.

12. It is reported that compulsory cooperative farming has been introduced in villages around Gyantse. The average plot is between 40 and 50 acres. 1/4 of the produce is paid to the tillers and the balance is carted away to the Government godowns.

13. Chinese authorities are laying great stress on the education of the people in the younger age-groups. Apart from formal education, principles of Socialism are inculcated amongst the trainees and special emphasis is paid to the dignity of manual labour.

14. It is reported that in various meetings in Chusal amongst other things it was stated that Ladakh belonged to China in the past but it had been snatched away. Mohammad Umar Nyangroo, a Kashmiri Muslim, who had been arrested for refusing to attend the areawise meetings organised by the Communists has reported that the detenus in jail were given education in principles of Communism and that an Officer who was in charge of the Taring prison had during the course of a talk to the detenus stated that India was an expansionist country and had illegally occupied, Tawang, that the Macmahon Line was not the boundary accepted by Chinese, and that Bhutan, Sikkim and Ladakh were Chinese territories and China one day may have to fight with India for these.

Friday, December 20, 2019

As 2020 nears, challenges mount for Xi’s China

My article As 2020 nears, challenges mount for Xi’s China appeared in Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

China seems today to be caught in a vicious circle of repression and does not have a solution to come out of it.

The year 2019 was to be an incredible one for China: lavish events were organised to celebrate 70 years of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), that Chairman Mao, after winning a bloody war against the Nationalist forces, had announced from the rostrum of Tiananmen Square.
On October 1, 2019, President Xi Jinping was on the same wavelength as his predecessor: “No force can ever undermine China’s status, or stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward.”
Those who watched some 15,000 troops from 59 units, 47 belonging to the ground forces and a dozen airborne squadrons, could not doubt say that China has arisen. Also on display that day was the DF-17 hypersonic ballistic missile (a hypersonic glide vehicle that can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads) or a new-generation road-mobile DF-41, intercontinental missiles, which can reach the US, and several other futuristic gadgets.
Many examples could be given to show that China is doing well. In terms of defence for example: the website Aerospace & Defence reported: “While the US Navy launches a handful of destroyers each year, the single image of a Shanghai shipyard shows nine newly constructed Chinese warships. China’s Navy is modernising at an impressive rate. A key ingredient is the construction of a fleet of large destroyers, amphibious warships and aircraft carriers.” Not far away, China, which already has two carriers, works on the next-generation carrier (known as Type-003), with electromagnetic catapults similar to the latest US ones.
It is believed that in the same shipyard, a “sailless” submarine is being built; according to Forbes: “This submarine is a unique design that has no sail to speak of. All other submarines have this fin-like structure rising up from the middle of the deck where the periscope goes.”
Examples could be multiplied: quantum communication, supercomputers, artificial intelligence, new warning and reconnaissance abilities and so on.

That’s for the bright side.
But all is not well in the Middle Kingdom. In October, the BBC commented: “Modern China has since developed at an extraordinary pace, but it is also one of the world’s most restrictive states. The celebrations were overshadowed as thousands took to Hong Kong’s streets, with some violent clashes breaking out.”
Take the fourth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee finally held in Beijing from October 28 to 31; it took place after a delay of more than a year to discuss the Chinese economy — this long postponement is not a healthy sign. During the plenum, it was openly admitted that China faces many challenges, the communique mentioned: “the complicated situation of increasing risk challenges at home and abroad.”
The gathering upheld the principle of “one country, two systems”, and of “maintaining lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, and promoting the peaceful reunification of China”.
At that time, China was certainly not expecting a “tsunami” in favour of the pro-democracy movement, which won 392 out of 452 seats in Hong Kong’s local elections: the anti-Beijing candidates took control of 17 out of 18 district councils.
Beijing was left speechless. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Xinhua waited [a day] to release a two-paragraph news report on the polls, stating only that the elections took place and ‘18 districts produced results’”. The People’s Daily just mentioned the history of US intervention in foreign elections.
To make things worse for Mr Xi, on November 16, the New York Times published excerpts of 403 pages of internal classified documents with dreadful new details on China’s crackdown on Xinjiang.
The documents provide an unprecedented insider’s view on the clampdown and particularly the internment camps, where more than one million Muslims are kept. According to the New York Times: “Senior party leaders are recorded ordering drastic and urgent action against extremist violence, including the mass detentions, and discussing the consequences with cool detachment.”
At the end of August 2016, Chen Quanguo, the then party secretary in Tibet, was sent to Xinjiang to “pacify” the restive Muslim region. Mr Chen had “managed” well on the Roof of the World. Three years later, Mr Chen has transformed Xinjiang into a vast camp (either called “concentration” by the West or “vocational” by China).
In Tibet, Mr Chen had implemented powerful slogans such as “Social Management”, “Comprehensive Rectification”, “Preventive Control”, “Eliminate-Unseen-Threats”, “Nets-in-the-Sky-Traps-on-the-Ground” or “Copper-Ramparts-Iron Walls”; the latter one for example, translates into “an impenetrable public security defence network consisting of citizen patrols, border security posts, police checkposts, surveillance systems, Internet controls, identity card monitoring, travel restrictions, informant networks and other mechanisms”.
China seems today to be caught in a vicious circle of repression and does not have a solution to come out of it.
Though China and the United States have now reached an agreement in their trade negotiations, which should temporarily stop the trade war, many issues remain unsolved, simply because China’s economy is not in good shape, though Wang Shouwen, the Chinese vice-minister of commerce, announced that the agreement would cover a wide range of issues, including intellectual property protection, technology transfer or purchase of agricultural products.
In the meantime, Beijing’s propaganda has become more hyperactive than ever. The South China Morning Post observed: “While more Chinese diplomats and embassies have activated Twitter accounts, they have entered a cold new world.” But this does not help as most of China’s neighbours are getting tired of Beijing’s bullying tactics.
During a forum on Strengthening National Security for Taiwan and Japan held in Taipei on December 14, Adm. Hideaki Kaneda, a retired officer from Japan’s maritime self-defence force, openly called for a strategic partnership between Japan, the US and Taiwan to counter China’s growing influence in the region. The admiral noted that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had long been preparing for military action against Taiwan, simulating attacks on the presidential office, strategic Taiwan ports, and even streets.
Mr Kaneda suggested that, to start with, Taiwan should be included in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training (HADR) of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), an international maritime warfare exercise.
Emmanuel Lenain, the French ambassador to India, has recounted in an article that before taking his post in September, President Emmanuel Macron briefed him, and his first task was “to consolidate Indo-Pacific ties based on shared values and principles”. Obviously, China is not always “sharing” international recognised values on the ground (or on the seas).
Last month, French Navy Chief Adm. Christophe Prazuck asserted: “There are different behaviours in the South China Sea… We go there, we will still go there, and we will continue to go there and we continue to, and by our action, support freedom of navigation.”
This trend of other nations asserting their “core” interests will not stop next year, and China will have to learn to live with it. And if President Xi does not want a coalition of nations against China to emerge, in his own words: “we will continue to work with people from all countries to push for jointly building a community with a shared future for humanity,” will need to be more than mere propaganda words. This is the challenge for China in 2020.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Why it is the right time to reclaim Gilgit-Baltistan

Gilgit Scouts (1947)
My article Why it is the right time to reclaim Gilgit-Baltistan appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

The India-China border is 4,056 km and not 3,488 km, as China would like to believe.

Recently, I came across an interesting announcement published in the 1948 London Gazette which mentioned that the King "has been graciously pleased… to give orders for… appointments to the Most Exalted Order of the British Empire…" The list included "Brown, Major (acting) William Alexander, Special List (ex-Indian Army)."
Who was he? What was this 'special list'? Brown is infamous for illegally 'offering' Gilgit to Pakistan in 1947.
As we debate the question of nationalities after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed by Parliament it raises several questions, including the question of the nationality of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

But first, a little bit of history.
In 1935, the viceroy prevailed upon Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, "in the interests of the security of the British empire" to lease the Gilgit Agency as well as the hill-states Hunza, Nagar, Yasin and Ishkoman for 60 years to the British. Thereafter, Gilgit was administered by the political department, with a political officer reporting to the viceroy. In 2017, an article, When the British poured scorn over Gilgit, explained the background of the 1947 rebellion: "A carefully chosen force capable of rapid movement in the mountainous territory controlled by British officers, the Gilgit Scouts, provided the muscle to the administration."
The British Paramountcy lapsed on August 1, 1947, and Gilgit reverted to the Maharaja's control. Lt Col Roger Bacon, the British political agent, handed his charge to Brig Ghansara Singh, the new governor appointed by the Maharaja. Maj Brown remained in-charge of the Gilgit Scouts.
After the brutal tribal invasion organised and supported by Pakistan, on October 26, 1947, Singh decided to sign an Instrument of Accession and joined India. However, Maj Brown refused to acknowledge the orders of the Maharaja, under the pretext that some leaders of the Frontier Districts Province (Gilgit-Baltistan) wanted to join Pakistan. He took upon himself to hand over the entire area to Pakistan on November 1, 1947.
The article said: "The bloodless coup d'etat was planned by Brown to the last detail under the code name 'Datta Khel', which was also joined by a rebellious section of the J&K 6th Infantry under Mirza Hassan Khan."In his memoirs, Gilgit Rebellion: The Major who Mutinied over the Partition of India, Brown described his encounter with Pakistan PM Liaquat Ali Khan: "Colonel Bacon, Colonel Iskander Mirza, and I were called into the ante-room. The Pakistan Premier was seated at a desk, poring over a large-scale map of Kashmir and Central Asia. …Mr Liaquat Ali Khan started by congratulating me and thanking me for all I had done in preserving peace in the Gilgit Agency."
Liaquat the infamous
Liaquat then said: "Brown, give me your ideas [for Gilgit] from a military point of view." The major explained in detail his plans to defend the area by reorganising the Scouts. "Right" said the Premier: "That disposes of the military angle." There is no doubt about the illegality of the mutiny, but were the British Headquarters informed? At the time, the entire Pakistani Army hierarchy was British. So, the answer can only be that Maj Brown's British bosses were aware of his 'gift' to Pakistan. The fact that he was appointed to the OBE is a further proof. The
King usually does not appoint 'deserters' or 'rebels' to the august Order.
Even today, it has serious implications for India. The UN resolutions of January 17, 1948, and August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949, (UNCIP Resolutions) made it clear that "Pakistan cannot claim to exercise sovereignty in respect of J&K." In 1963, a secret note from the MEA clarified further that according to the term of the UN Resolutions, "Pakistan cannot purport to exercise even 'actual control' over the defence of these areas."

Let's confront China

It means that the agreement signed on March 2, 1963, between Pakistan and China about the Shaksgam Valley of the Gilgit Agency being transferred to China is legally invalid.
Another logical result is that inhabitants of the area, if they want to move to India, should be entitled to Indian citizenship. Amazingly, two years ago, the British Parliament passed a resolution confirming Gilgit-Baltistan was part of Jammu and Kashmir.
The motion was tabled on March 23, 2017, by Bob Blackman of the Conservative Party. It reads: "Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights including the right of freedom of expression."
One can only hope that Ajit Doval, the Indian interlocutor of Wang Yi, the new Chinese special representative, will point out these historical facts, which means that the India-China border is 4,056 km and not 3,488 km, as China would like to believe. The new maps recently released by the government of India showing the Leh district of Ladakh including the districts of Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory of 1947, make this clear.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

When China consolidated its grip in Tibet

Photo taken in Gyantse probably at the end of the 1950s
I posting today extracts from the Monthly Report for October 1960 sent by the Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim (Apa Pant) to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.
We can see that the Chinese are fast consolidating their presence on the plateau ("the programme of mass settlement of Chinese in Tibet has started. There are rumours in Lhasa that about 2.1/2 lakhs Chinese civilians are to be brought in and settled in Tibet in the very near future. Even at the moment the Chinese population both at Lhasa and Gyantse has increased considerably").
At the same time, communications to the Indian borders are built on war-footing, while the trade with India is progressively stopped.
Two years later, an armed conflict would erupt between India and China.
We know the outcome.
Nobody had seen the writing on the wall, though in November 1960, the PO wrote: "It has also been reported that roads have been constructed from Chusal to Bhutan border via Nagartse, Nalung, Talung and Ling. All these roads lead towards Tawang in NEFA."
Here is the report:

Gangtok (Sikkim)
November 5, 1960
Infrastructure and Migration
Except for reports that there have been sporadic dislocations of traffic on Lhasa-Chamdo-Sining-Sinkiang [Xining-Xinjiang] highway due to guerilla action of the Khampas and of resistance by isolated pockets on the Nepal-Tibet border region, the resistance of the rebels in the regions round about the big towns of Tibet appears to have been not considerable. Chinese cadres continue to pour into Tibet in increasing numbers.
The programme of mass settlement of Chinese in Tibet has started. There are rumours in Lhasa that about 2.1/2 lakhs [2,50,00] Chinese civilians are to be brought in and settled in Tibet in the very near future. Even at the moment the Chinese population both at Lhasa and Gyantse has increased considerably.
Women cadres have also been brought in.
Lhasa now looks like a Chinese city where the Tibetans form only an insignificant minority. The lamas have been taken out of the monasteries and put to work as labourers and the monasteries are being used as public offices by the Chinese.
The Ramoche Monastery in Lhasa is now the head quarters of the traffic police while the Kundeling Monastery which had been damaged in March 1959 struggle, is after repairs being utilised to house the Chinese cadres. The houses vacated by the Kashmiri Muslims have also been occupied by the Chinese cadres.
The Chinese now appear to be in complete control of the administration.
The members of the former Tibetan nobility are in concentration camps except for those who had cast their lot with the Chinese Communists prior to the March 1959 conflagration, who have been given official positions and can be seen moving about in motor vehicles in Lhasa.
The Tibetans in Lhasa are being made to adopt the Chinese dress – the close collar coat and trousers while the traditional Baku is being discarded.
This sartorial reform is being ushered on grounds that it is more economical on clothing material.
Tibetan children above the age of 12 are being sent in large numbers for education and training to China which is to last for a period of between 3 to 5 years.
Apart from the general education imparted these Tibetan children would be systematically indoctrinated. There are reports that the younger generations of Tibetans appear to be quite enthusiastic over the reforms introduced by the Chinese authorities and opportunities offered to them.

Construction all-around
2. There are reports of all round construction activities being carried on by the Chinese in Tibet which is one more evidence of the consolidation of their hold over Tibet. A steel factory is coming up at Dode – a place near Lhasa. Cement though of an inferior quality is being produced in substantial quantities locally and is being utilised in the construction of important buildings.
At the foot of the Potala a four storey building is going up which is to be used as a Radio Station. This Radio Station will have special services beamed towards NEFA, Bhutan, Nepal etc.
A new building for housing the Chinese Foreign Bureau office is going up at Gyantse. Apart from construction of these administrative buildings residential quarters for Chinese settlers are also being constructed.
Telegraph and Telephone lines have been installed between Tsechen and Gyantse and telephone Telegraph poles are also being installed on the new Gyantse-Lhasa road. It is expected that the telephone and telegraph links between Gyantse and Lhasa will be completed by the end of November 1960.
A large number of new schools have been opened all over Tibet, there are eight schools in Lhasa alone. While Tibetan is taught in the lower classes in these schools, Chinese is taught to the students in the higher classes.

Trade being Stopped
3. Trade which was formerly in the hands of Indian and Nepalese traders and Kashmiri Muslims is gradually being taken over by the Chinese who have by their restrictive policies and heavy taxation driven out the non-Chinese traders.
A large number of Kashmiri Muslims have already left Tibet or are on the way out. Many Nepalese traders are also closing their establishments in Lhasa.
Most of the Indian shops at Phari have already closed down while those at Yatung are also in the process of closing down and within a month or two there will be only just a couple of shops left there.
There are only three Nepali shops left in Gyantse which are also likely to be closed shortly. The position on Gartok side is also no better. Chinese authorities have opened a number of shops in the towns where Chinese goods are sold, and as they do not look favourably upon the Tibetans and Chinese cadres patronising private shops the private shops have very little business left to them. Salt, borax and wool trade has already been taken over by the Chinese authorities.
It is only a question of time before the entire trade becomes a State monopoly to be directed and controlled according to the plan policies of the Communist authorities.

Communication with Mainland and to the Indian Border
4. About 60 vehicles ply each way daily between Lhasa and the Chinese mainland. There are reports of considerable movement of troops on the new Lhasa-Gyantse road. All these troops appear to be fresh arrivals from the mainland.
About 10,000 of them have passed through Gyantse during the course of a few days. It is suspected that this movement is towards Bhutan.
Reports have been received that Chinese have constructed a road connecting Nyiru with Ramto and Ramto with Yatung, this road has also been connected to Khangma.
It has also been reported that roads have been constructed from Chusal to Bhutan border via Nagartse, Nalung, Talung and Ling. All these roads lead towards Tawang in NEFA.
Reports have also been received that the Chinese have also constructed an aerodrome near Talung from where aircraft can very easily cover Bhutan and Kameng Frontier Division of NEFA.
Reports from Bhutan however indicate that there is no immediate concentration of troops on Bhutan border and possibly the Chinese troops have been proceeding towards Guru which is two days journey from Rhamtoi and Rham me and that probably the Chinese are moving towards Toi.

The Situation in Gartok
5. It is reported that there were very few Indian traders in Gartok this year. The Chinese authorities are not issuing certificates to local Tibetans traders to enable them to go for trade to the Indian side of the border thus reducing their contacts with Indians. Although the Indian traders have been allowed this year to visit the interior they have been informed that from next year they would not be allowed to proceed beyond the recognised trade marts.
Even otherwise it has become impossible for traders to function there as the Chinese authorities have banned export of live-stock as beasts of burden to India and as the Tibetans are discouraged from transporting goods across the Indo-Tibetan border and as there is lack of adequate transport facilities on Indian side of the border.
The 3% export and import taxes imposed on the traders is being realised in kind as traders in Gartok side are not in possession of local Chinese currency.
The goods are under-valued for purpose of taxes realised in kind but are over-valued for purposes of imposing the export taxes thus both ways the traders are being penalised and squeezed out. Trade Agent Gartok could not visit Tashigang trade mart this year because Chinese authorities failed to provide transport facilities and it was not possible for him to visit the other trade marts as winter was already advanced and it was late for him to go there.
Thus the Chinese have succeeded in preventing him from discharging his functions effectively. During his stay at Gartok the Trade Agent brought up for discussion with the local Chinese authorities the question of settlement of debts owed by local Tibetans to Indian traders but no solution could be found as the Chinese authorities were not prepared to permit export of live-stock – the only commodity in which the Tibetans could make their payment nor was it possible for him to get restored to the Indian traders their goods which they had stored at Tharchen in the house of the Bhutanese Officer in the previous year, since the Chinese insisted that the Bhutanese officer should come there personally to hand over the goods and this was obviously not possible.

The Kashmiri Muslims

6. Most of the Kashmiri Muslims have already crossed over into India from Tibet. The Chinese, however, have not so far released the nine Kashmiri Muslims whom they still continue to hold in custody and have indicated that they would be dealt with as Chinese nationals.

7. The Panchen Lama accompanied by his parents and tutor Nbulchu Rimpoche proceeded to Peking to attend the [his] 11th anniversary celebration.

8. Floods in Gyantse this year have caused some damage to the [Indian Trade] Agency premises.

9. About 25 Russians have been seen in the month of September in Gyantse.

Monday, December 9, 2019

How China released Indian troops after the 1962 War

Brig John Dalvi (left) followed by 2 Chinese guards while in captivity
(courtesy: Michael Dalvi)
My article How China released Indian troops after the 1962 War appeared in Rediff.com

Here is the link...

'All PoWs recounted that one of the worst aspects of their captivity in Tibet was the constant attempt at brainwashing by Chinese Communist propaganda,' reveals Claude Arpi.

While the media speaks of the ‘Wuhan Consensus’ or ‘Chennai Connect’, it is necessary not to forget that several aspects of the 1962 Sino-Indian War have never been properly clarified, mainly due to the lack of official records on the Indian side and the fact that successive governments have preferred to ‘hide’ what happened in 1962, sometimes by ignorance, more often due to an excessive sense of secrecy (or guilt?). It is a pity.
For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China has been one of the most traumatic post-independence events; for the more than 3,000 Indian prisoners of war (PoWs), the experience was harrowing.
To give an example of the ‘hidden’ dark side-effect of the War, the record of the debriefing of the PoWs when they returned to India has never been made public. All PoWs recounted that one of the worst aspects of their captivity in Tibet was the constant attempt at brainwashing by Chinese Communist propaganda.
One officer remembers: “The Chinese discovered that their political propaganda was effectively countered by some of us whenever their officers came to us for ‘friendly chats’. In the event, it had no effect on any of our JCOs and the result was that when we met the NCOs at mealtimes (twice daily) the same was effectively countered by all of us for ensuring that they are not wrongly influenced. For this realization to set in, took the Chinese authorities almost one month. It was then that all eight of us were shifted to another hut. Although this reduced our contact time with the JCOs, we nevertheless still met twice daily at the langar and made it a point to counter some of the blatant lies which the Chinese were trying to spread. Somehow the Chinese had come to the firm conclusion that if they could mete out exemplary punishment to one of us, the articulation of opposing viewpoints to their propaganda would either stop or would be stifled to a low murmur.” To break their morale, some officers were eventually sent to solitary confinement for weeks; this too did not work.
The Chinese account of the camps does not mention the constant indoctrination sessions to which the Indian jawans and officers were subjected; China just notes that meetings were organized to discuss “according to the wishes of the Indian prisoners …on the right and wrong issues in the Sino-Indian border dispute.”
Sixty-seven years after the War, it is time to release these records.

The Role of the Red Crosses
Another regrettable aspect is that one forgets that the Red Cross played a crucial role in getting the PoWs released in several batches in 1962/63.
Having been unable to find records in the Indian archives, I decided to visit the archives at the seat of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to reconstruct what happened between the different protagonists before the Indian PoWs were released by China.
My discoveries are captivating, particularly the correspondence between the Indian Red Cross’ president, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, its General Secretary, Maj Gen CK Lakshmanan with the IRCR and the Chinese Red Cross Society (CRCS).

Some interesting findings
As both India and China were signatories to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the ICRC had the mandate to protect all victims of international and internal armed conflicts; regrettably, the Communist regime in Beijing systematically refused to acknowledge this fact.
An important legal element needs to be noted; there was no formal Declaration of War between China and India and the diplomatic ties between the two nations were not severed during the months following the war. China used this fact to tell the ICRC that Delhi could directly deal with Beijing …if any problem existed.
While China remained keen to negotiate directly, on the Indian side, the Prime Minister probably felt betrayed and he preferred non-aligned countries to act on behalf of India. This greatly hampered an early solution to the PoWs’ issue.

The ICRC communicates with Beijing
On December 28, the ICRC handed over a Note Verbale to the Chinese Red Cross; this gives a summary of the events between October and December 1962 and put the narrative in perspective: “During the fighting which took place in October and November 1962 between Chinese and Indian forces, more than two thousand Indian military personnel were taken prisoner,” further noting that 600 wounded and sick were repatriated at the beginning of December and that the Chinese Red Cross had then transmitted to the Indian Red Cross the addresses and news of the health of 528 Indian prisoners.
The Note Verbale continues: ‘The Indian authorities for their part reported that no Chinese prisoner was held by them. On the other hand, as from November 20, they have interned about 2,000 civilians of Chinese nationality or origin.”
What is striking is that during the seven months between October 1962 and May 1963, the correct figure of PoWs will keep changing. Even today, two different figures exist, varying by some 600 prisoners.
The Note gives the chronology of the ICRC’s initiatives: “On October 23 [three days after the Chinese attacked], the ICRC offered its services to the IRC on behalf of all the victims of events, including prisoners. On November 1, it requested the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of India, through the intermediary of their representatives in Geneva, to take position on the application of the Geneva Conventions.” The Note reminds Beijing that these Conventions had been ratified by India on November 9, 1950, and by the Chinese People’s Republic on December 28, 1956.
The ICRC wanted China to provide a list of the prisoners, information on their health as well as the authorization for an ICRC representative to visit the PoWs in Tibet.
On November 15, Beijing was informed that the ICRC had sent André Durand, its Delegate General for Asia to New Delhi to coordinate the release of the PoWs with the IRC and the Indian Government.
Four days later, a confirmation was given in writing by Delhi that it would adhere to the Geneva Conventions.
The Note to the Chinese government said that the Government of India having accepted the provisions of the Conventions, “it counted on the Government of the People’s Republic of China doing the same.”
Though some of the clauses would be implemented in the coming months, the Geneva Conventions would never be officially acknowledged by Beijing.
Despite repeated reminders to the Chinese government, an ICRC representative was never permitted to visit the PoWs’ camps in Tibet.
On November 28, the Chinese Red Cross argued that as normal contacts had been maintained between the Chinese and Indian Governments on all questions concerning Indian prisoners, the issue should be addressed directly between Delhi and Beijing.
On December 2, the Indian Red Cross asked for the authorization for its own delegates to visit the Indian prisoners of war in Chinese hands; this too was refused.

First PoWs Released
On December 5, a first batch of 64 wounded Indian PoWs was released from Bomdila in NEFA. Two weeks later, the IRC, while receiving another batch of Indian wounded soldiers in Dirang handed over 2,000 parcels of food and clothing for the Indian prisoners in Tibet; this was a major success for Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Gen Lakshmanan and their team.
The ICRC again asked for repatriation ‘within a short space of time’ of all Indian PoWs still in Chinese hands.

The Chinese Internees in Deoli
The Chinese cleverly opened another propaganda front; they started equating the PoWs kept in Tibet with the Chinese civilians interned for security reasons in Deoli in Rajasthan; even after André Durand was allowed to visit Deoli on December 12, 1962, he was not allowed to visit Tibet. China, the victor could dictate its terms.
On February 18, Han Nien-Lung, the director of the General Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that “the Indian Government cover up India's crime of persecuting Chinese nationals.” At the same time, he spoke of “the lenient treatment of the captured Indian military personnel by the Chinese side.” The Chinese propaganda machinery was working full steam.

What was the situation early 1963?
By early January, the Indian Red Cross had received the names of only 1,132 PoWs, while 715 wounded prisoners had been released and 13 bodies handed over. The names of more than 2,000 PoWs were still missing.
On January 25, 1963, the ICRC’s Executive Director wrote to Gen Lakshmanan to draw the IRC’s attention to the announcements of China News Agency that 2,156, (or 3,350) Indian POWs were still in Chinese hands. The released figures of the PoWs were, to say the least, confusing.

A Message to Marshal Chen Yi’s cable
Finally on February 6, the ICRC president decided to write directly to Marshal Chen Yi, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs.
On February 18, an answer came to the cable sent to Marshal Chen: “Since the Sino-Indian border clashes, the Chinese government has all along given good treatment in every respect to the Indian military personnel who were captured in the course of their attacks on the Chinese frontier guards.”
Beijing kept repeating that it was India who attacked China. Beijing’s conclusion was it was not necessary for the ICRC to take the trouble to visit the prisoners. However it found most regrettable that the India PoWs “captured in the course of the Chinese frontier guards' counterattacks in self-defence” were equated with the “law-abiding overseas Chinese illegally detained by the Indian authorities.”
On February 27, the IRCR confirmed to Gen Lakshmanan that the total number of Indian prisoners of war still in Chinese hands was 3,319, excluding the 716 wounded and sick who have been repatriated and the 13 bodies returned by the Chinese Red Cross.”

Announcement of the Release of all PoWs
Finally on April 4, the CRC officially wrote: “Our government announced on April second its decision to release all Indian military men whom Chinese frontier guards in Tibet and Sinkiang regions captured during their counterattacks in self-defence stop we have contacted indcross [IRC] directly to make arrangements for their repatriation stop thanks for your concern.”
During the following weeks, all the PoWs detained by China would be released in batches.
The fact remains that many details are still ‘secret’; i.e. the number of camps, location of these camps, treatment of the PoWs, etc.
When the next ‘Connect’ takes place, India should request China to provide this information.

Other articles on 1962 War:

Friday, December 6, 2019

Politics of Reincarnation

China already playing politics with the 9th Panchen Lama (with Chiang Kai-chek on the picture)
My article Politics of Incarnation appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

A few months ago, a board was placed outside a monastery in Tibet; it stated that Government officials and Communist cadres were not allowed to enter the premises of the gompa as the Chinese State was atheistic.
One can understand that the Communist Party of China (CPC), religiously following the precepts of its founding father, is not in favour of any spiritual practices.
More recently, the CCP issued a notice banning retired Tibetan government employees from taking part in any religious activities.
According to Human Rights Watch, the notice required “all Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government and retired government employees – regardless of whether those retirees are party members – to submit a list by August 18 of any ‘retired personnel performing the kora,’ the Tibetan practice of circumambulating a sacred site.”
Though the People’s Republic of China is atheist by definition and does not believe in the return of a soul, it wants now to control the reincarnation of the Tibetan Lamas; read the "Management measures for the reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism" notified by the State Council on July 13, 2007, you will understand.
Article 1 spoke of “protecting religious concord and social harmony, and protecting the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism.” It asserted that: “Reincarnating Living Buddhas should respect the religious rituals and historically established systems of Tibetan Buddhism;” it insists on an old ritual rarely used, the Golden Urn, which can easily be manipulated …further “Reincarnating living Buddhas shall not be interfered with or be under the dominion of any foreign organization or individual.” In other words, the Dalai Lama is not allowed to be reborn in India.
Is China an atheist or a religious State?
The answer is: it depends on the interests of the Party. When it is convenient, it follows the Marxist orthodoxy, but when its interests differ, the CCP becomes expert in religious practices, particularly in the ‘reincarnation’ process.
Already in 2015, Padma Choling, then Chairman of the Standing Committee of the TAR People's Congress and then the only ‘ethnic’ Tibetan, member of the CPC’s Central Committee, created a flutter when he declared: “It's not up to the Dalai Lama to decide about his own reincarnation.” He objected to an announcement by the Dalai Lama that ‘his traditional religious role should cease with his death’. Padma Choling affirmed that the Dalai Lama’s renouncement was against “the Tibetan Buddhism tradition as the soul of a senior lama is [always] reincarnated in the body of a child on his death.”
Marx would have shuddered in his tomb, had he heard Choling uttering this Marxist blasphemy.
But this does not disturb the Communist leaders ‘in the new era’; today they argue that one can be Marxist and capitalist at the same time.
A recent development has brought some clarity.
On 29 November, the Dalai Lama addressed the issue of his reincarnation at a three-day Tibetan Religious Conference, a gathering of 117 Tibetan Buddhist and Bon senior leaders in Dharamsala.
On the occasion of the closing ceremony, the Tibetan spiritual leader told the rinpoches that there was no hurry to talk about his reincarnation; he affirmed “I am fine physically and mentally — is there any hurry to talk about my reincarnation?” He added that he will consult his advisors to decide on his reincarnation when he turns 90.
This is a welcome change from some contradictory statements made earlier, particularly that he was not keen to ‘return’, that the system was ‘medieval’ or that he will come back as an attractive lady.
On the first day of the Conference, the assembled Lamas had passed an important three-point resolution to counter China. The first point mentioned was the Karmic bond between the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan people which is ‘unbreakable’; it added that all Tibetans “genuinely wish for the continuation of the Institution and Reincarnation of the Dalai Lama in the future.” The Dalai Lama was supplicated to ‘come back’.
The second point made it clear that “the authority of decision concerning the way and the manner in which the next reincarnation of the XIV Dalai Lama should appear solely rests with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama himself. No government or otherwise will have such authority.”
It was the best way to counteract Beijing’s stance (and religious new ‘skills’). The third point, the monks’ gathering urged that “the same unique Tibetan traditional method, which has been continuously used until now, will be followed.”
Though it says that this method conforms to “the basic philosophy and tenets of the Buddhadharma and originated in Tibet over 800 years ago,” no details were provided, leaving the door opened to possible manipulation by China.
Incidentally, it is regrettable that among the 117 senior monks, the feminine gender was not represented; this is probably one of the reasons why the Dalai Lama terms the system as ‘medieval’.
The Chinese are aware that the reincarnation system is not purely a religious affair; it has always had a political angle. One historical example is the strife between the Ninth Panchen and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama which revolved around taxes to be paid by the Panchen Lama estate to the Dalai Lama’s government. As the result of the dispute, the Panchen took refuge in China in 1923; he was well-looked after by the Kuomintang, who had an eye on Tibet. A Chinese scholar recently wrote that “the treatment of the Ninth Panchen Lama was further enhanced in response to [China’s] needs on the border [with India]. In June 1931, the National Government appointed the Ninth Panchen Lama as an ambassador and set up an agency which was given a hefty monthly budget of 15,000 yuans.”
The Panchen Lama himself received 120,000 yuans monthly; it was not a salary said the scholar, but "for his personal expenses and the living expenses of his followers and monks.”
The fact that the US Congress recently passed a bill on the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders shows that it is still a highly political issue today.
The Tibetans should be left alone to decide their spiritual future, but even if India does not interfere, Delhi does have high stakes in the issue, particularly in connection with the Himalayan region where Buddhism has so far played a stabilizing role. The Dalai Lama is hopefully aware of this.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Xi Jinping's many problems: Hong Kong to Xinjiang

My article Xi Jinping's many problems: Hong Kong to Xinjiang appeared in Mail Today/DailyO.

Here is the link...

Beijing faced a 'tsunami' in favour of the pro-democracy movement and then its atrocities on Uyghur Muslims were exposed to the world.

Since his visit to Mamallapuram, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been facing a rough sea at home. The 4th plenary session of the 19th Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee was held in Beijing from October 28 to 31. The members discussed the work report presented by Xi and adopted it "to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics".
The complicated situation of increasing risk challenges at home and abroad," was mentioned in the communiqué. The gathering "upheld the principle of 'one country, two systems', maintaining lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, and promoting the peaceful reunification of China." Today, it looks like a distant dream.

Hong Kong polls
Beijing did not expect a 'tsunami' in favour of the pro-democracy movement which won 392 out of 452 seats in the Hong Kong local elections. Anti-Beijing candidates took control of 17 out of 18 district councils. "Xinhua waited until Monday afternoon to release a two-paragraph news report on the polls, stating only that the elections took place and 18 districts produced results," The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Meanwhile, the People's Daily just spoke of the history of US intervention in foreign elections.
In the weeks preceding the elections, the Global Times repeatedly claimed that a 'silent majority' in Hong Kong was condemning the protests. What complicates Xi's life further is that their victory could give pro-democracy candidates a larger say in the selection process for the next chief executive as they control of 117 seats on the 1,200-member selection committee. "This shift in the balance of power will mean that Beijing will be more reliant on the major property developers and their business associates — at a time when Beijing has been trying to wean itself away from [them]," SCMP said. So, the 'tycoons' may decide who will be the Communist leader of the semi-autonomous region. That is not the only problem of Mr Xi.

Spy gone rogue

Wang Liqiang, who spied for China for many years, recently defected to Australia. He wrote a 12-page Chinese-language confession on some disturbing aspects of Beijing's political interference. The Age in Australia cited a few: "efforts to manipulate Taiwan's elections, infiltration of student organisations in Hong Kong, and even the kidnapping of political dissidents. [Wang gave] names of organisations and key figures in Chinese military intelligence." Wang, probably one of the first operatives from China to blow his cover, is now seeking protection in Australia.
To make things worse, on November 16, The New York Times published excerpts of 403 pages of internal classified documents on China's crackdown on Xinjiang. It is an unprecedented insider's view on the clampdown and, particularly, the internment camps, where more than one million Muslims are kept.
"As the government presented its efforts in Xinjiang to the public as benevolent and unexceptional, [Beijing] discussed and organised a ruthless and extraordinary campaign in these internal communications. Senior party leaders are recorded ordering drastic and urgent action against extremist violence, including the mass detentions, and discussing the consequences with cool detachment," the NYT reported.
"The documents show China's plans for sweeping extrajudicial detentions and internment camps in Xinjiang are all signed by one man: Zhu Hailun," the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists noted. Zhu came to Xinjiang in 1975 as part of a party initiative to send educated urban youth to live in the countryside to further China's Maoist revolution. But they should not forget Chen Quanguo, the party boss in Xinjiang. At the end of August 2016, Chen was sent from his post in Tibet to 'pacify' the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The party believed that Zhang Chunxian, Chen's predecessor in Xinjiang, could not deliver the goods. For Chen, it was a reward for his 'Tibet recipe' as he was soon promoted to the all-powerful politburo. In five years, he managed to 'stabilise' Tibet. What was the recipe? First, utter ruthlessness. Second, Chen transformed the plateau into a vast Disneyland: Chinese tourists descended on Tibet in waves to experience the 'Paradise on Earth' with its blue sky, pristine lakes and rivers, luxuriant forests and deep canyons.

Uyghur secret out
Chen used powerful slogans such as 'Social management', 'Comprehensive Rectification', 'Preventive Control', 'Eliminate-Unseen-Threats', 'Nets-in-the-Sky-Traps-on-the-Ground' or 'Copper-Ramparts-Iron-Walls'. The latter translates into "an impenetrable public security defense network consisting of citizen patrols, border security posts, police check posts, surveillance systems... and other mechanisms." This was the recipe to control the Tibetan plateau.
In Xinjiang, Chen added the infamous internment camps. I almost forgot to mention one more headache of Xi's: US President Donald J. Trump, who is threatening him with a trade war. Also, as I concluded this article, the news came that Yonten, a 24 year-old Tibetan man from Ngawa in Eastern Tibet, immolated himself protesting the Chinese rule in Tibet. He is the 156th to do so.
India is indeed a 'cool' country in comparison.