Sunday, August 30, 2020

A Tibet Forum without Tibetans

An important event took place on August 28 and 29.
The Seventh Tibet Work Forum (TWF) was held in Beijing.
While the previous one (the Sixth), organized on August 24 and 25, 2015, completely escaped the Indian (and the world) media, this one got immediate coverage; indeed, it is a crucial event not only as far it concerns the fate of the Roof of the World, but also for the presently-tense Indian frontiers.

But what exactly is a Work Forum on Tibet?

A Tibet Work Forum (TWF) usually decides the fate of Tibet for the next five to ten years. Delhi should be deeply concerned, at the time India faces a precarious situation in Ladakh, because the TWF also defines China’s western border policies.
The Fourth Forum was held in Beijing in January 2010; the four previous ones were organized in 1980, 1984, 1994 and 2001.
A Work Forum (or Conference) is attended two to three hundreds officials, including the entire Politburo (with the Standing Committee standing on the dais), the People’s Liberation Army (including the all-powerful members of the Central Military Commission), Party Secretaries of at least five provinces, representatives from different ministries, as well as local satraps posted in Tibet.
The Seventh TWF has been given large publicity; the TV report lasted more than 14 minutes, mostly quoting the ‘People’s Leader’ (Xi Jinping) and showing the large ‘masked’ attendance (including the Chief of the PLA Navy!); a detailed report (in Communist jargon) was immediately issued. The select  attendance shows Tibet's extreme importance for the Communist Party.

The Sixth TWF, already presided over by Xi, pleaded for more efforts to promote economic growth and bring about an inclusive social progress for Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas; in 2015, Xi vowed to implement sustainable measures and continue preferential policies for the mountainous region which, “has entered a critical stage toward fulfilling the country's [China] goal of building a moderately prosperous society in a comprehensive way.” 

Note that the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan-inhabited areas of four provinces (Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan) were clubbed together as far as Beijing’s policies for Tibet were concerned.  

The timing of the Forum
The TWF comes two months before the Fifth Plenum of the Communist Party of China, which will have to take difficult decisions for the Middle Kingdom's shaky economy and also at the time, Beijing is celebrating the 55th anniversary of the creation of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), which has never really been autonomous; additionally, a tense situation on the border with India.
The Fifth TWF resulted in poverty alleviation schemes and the construction of hundreds of ‘moderately-well-off’ villages (‘ghettos’ say the Tibetans), particularly close to the border with India. There is no doubt that it is easier to control the masses when they are sedentary and settled in well-connected villages (via Wifi); when the whereabouts and actions of the villagers can be controlled through their mobile phones.
In 2015, Xi mentioned his well-known theory about the ‘border areas’: "governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilizing Tibet;” since the month of May, we understand better why China wants to stabilize and control its borders with India.
Xi’s language was not very different this time.

Where was Gyaltsen Norbu?

No Monks, Not many Tibetans
But looking at the TV report one is struck by a few images.
First, no monk attended the Forum. For a society which has traditionally been based on “the Harmonious Blend of Religion and Politics,” it is strange to say the least. Even Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese selected Panchen Lama, a favorite of the Chinese media, was nowhere to be seen. He is probably too young (and unsafe) for the Communist hierarchy. His predecessor, the Tenth Panchen Lama, first a stooge of the Communists, had revolted and became one of the most ardent Tibetan patriots when he was released from jail in early 1980.
It is not only the lamas who were missing in action, but as far one can recognize  the masked faces (only members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo were exempted from wearing masks), hardly any Tibetans were present; although all the speeches (and the TWF itself) are around the welfare of the ‘masses of all ethnic groups’ in Tibet.
‘All ethnic groups in Tibet’ is a way to mention the large migration of Hans on the plateau.

The Ten Musts
In his speech, Xi Jinping emphasized The Ten Musts to “fully implement the Party's strategy of governing Tibet in the New Era;” he went through ten areas or ‘musts’.
The objective, he observed was to build a new socialist modern Tibet that is “united, prosperous, civilized, harmonious and beautiful.”
Xi Jinping elaborated on “forging a sense of the community of the Chinese nation, improving the quality of development, ensuring and improving people’s livelihood, promoting the construction of ecological civilization, strengthening the party’s organization and regime building, ensuring national security and long-term stability, ensuring the continuous improvement of people’s living standards, ensuring a good ecological environment, and ensuring the consolidation of the border defense and security, and finally striving to build a new socialist modern Tibet.”
That is the Ten-Point Program.
The CCP’s General Secretary pointed out: “Practice has fully proved that the Party Central Committee’s policies on Tibet work are completely correct, and that Tibet’s sustained, stable and rapid development is an important contribution to the overall work of the party and the country.”
He congratulated the comrades struggling on the ‘snowy plateau’, especially the cadres who serve on the frontline (read the border with India).

Members of the Politburo

Follow the Party
The new Great Helmsman further explained: “To do a good job in Tibet, we must adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy.”
Although Xi loves to speak about regional autonomy, it is clear that the Tibetans do not have much say in the matter. Why for example, seventy years after the so-called ‘liberation’ of Tibet, has any  ethnic Tibetan been made Party Secretary in Tibet? No Tibetan has ever made it to the Politburo?
The reason is that the Han still do not trust the Tibetans.
One can only wonder where does the Dalai Lama’s Middle Path fit in all this?
Xi continued his long speech (qualified as ‘important’ by the Chinese propaganda): “We must adhere to the strategic thinking that governing the country must govern the borders and stabilize Tibet before governing. It is necessary to maintain the unity of the motherland and strengthen national unity as Tibet's work.” He went on in the same vein, speaking of “enriching the people and rejuvenating Tibet, uniting people’s hearts, and consolidating the foundation.”
It is clear that the hearts of the Tibetans have not so far been ‘unified with the Motherland’; this will be probably what Xi and his colleagues will try to achieve during the coming years, by building more infrastructure, bringing more tourists and assimilating in different ways the recalcitrant Tibetans into the Chinese nation (by integrating them in to the PLA for example).

A copper wall and iron wall

Xi Jinping pointed out that it was necessary to “extensively mobilize the masses to participate in the struggle against separatism, and form a copper wall and iron wall for maintaining stability. It is necessary to carry out in-depth education on the history of the Party, the history of New China, the history of reform and opening up, and the history of socialist development, and the history of the relationship between Tibet and the motherland.”
In other words, indoctrination of the Tibetan masses and the fight against the Dalai Lama and his followers, is the need of the day for Beijing.
Buddhism has an important place in the scheme, but the Communist Party strive to “actively guide Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to the socialist society and promote the Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism.”
One could call it ‘Buddhism with Marxist characteristics’.

Chief of the PLA Navy and his colleagues
Infrastructure Development
Worrying for India is the large scale development of infrastructure on the plateau; Xi spoke of promoting “the construction of a number of major infrastructure and public service facilities around the Sichuan-Tibet railway construction and other projects, and build more solidarity lines and happiness roads.” Other projects could be a railway line from Tibet to Xinjiang across the Aksai Chin and a new route between Tibet and Xinjiang (G216 Highway).
Xi added: “It is necessary to strengthen the construction of border areas and adopt special support policies to help border residents improve their production and living conditions and solve their worries.”
One wishes India would make the same resolution and help its own border populations.

The Old Spirit?
Like five years ago, Xi mentioned the ‘Old Tibet Spirit’, referring to the first Communist cadres who went to Tibet in the early 1950s: “the [present cadres] should not lack the Spirit, even if they lack oxygen, they should not be afraid of hardship, or the higher altitude. They should continue to enhance their sense of responsibility and mission” and he added : “It is necessary to care for Tibetan cadres and workers, improve and implement various supporting policies such as wage income, housing, medical treatment, children's schooling, and retirement placement, so as to solve their worries.”
The Tibetans still are at the center of the scheme, though they are hardly asked about their aspirations or their opinion.
In any case, all this does bode not well for the Tibetans in India (who will soon face a general election for a new ‘president’) and for the Indian border areas, whether in Ladakh or elsewhere on the northern frontier, which need more attention from the Indian Government.

Incidently, where was Foreign Minister Wang Yi who recently went on an inspection tour in Tibet and to the Indian border? Apparently in Paris. To convince President Macron that all is fine on the Indian border? Strange that he did not attend the Forum.

Friday, August 28, 2020

The History of Barahoti Plain

Map of 1850 showing Barahoti in British India's territory
I continue with my study of the Middle Sector of the 4056-Kilometer boundary between India and China (this figure includes the areas occupied today by Pakistan – Gilgit and Baltistan). 

 

 

 

 

The previous posts looked at:

I shall now look at a place which has often been in the news: Barahoti.

Here too the Chinese claim to the area are fictitious (not to say frivolous) as the area is clearly located south of the watershed. 

The Traditional Boundary
On November 20, 1950, during a question and answer session in the Parliament, Prime Minister Nehru was asked: “Will the Prime Minister be pleased to state whether India has got any well-defined boundary with Tibet?”
His answer was: “The border from Ladakh to Nepal has probably not been the subject of any formal agreement between India, Tibet and China but it is well established by custom and long usage. The Historical Division are investigating if there are any formal agreements. There have been a few boundary disputes in this area but they have been peacefully settled.”
It is a historical fact that the Indo-Tibet frontier had been peaceful. It is probably why the Indian diplomats who four years later negotiated the Panchsheel Agreement foolishly ‘forgot’ to mention the border during the talks (and in the final text). India would pay dearly for this lapse.
Over the years, China have kept changing the posts, claiming new areas, often not knowing the coordinates of the places.
In this context, it is interesting to study the historical background of the ‘disputed’ area, called Barahoti by India and Wu-Je by China.

The Beginning of the Story
In June 1890, the Foreign Department in Delhi received a report from the Commissioner of Kumaon, reporting the visit to Bampa of the Agent of the Jaghphoon (Dzongpon) of Dapha (Daba) in Tibet. The subject of the letter was “Tibetan encroachments on the Garhwal frontier.”
The Under-Secretary in a Foreign Department asked for a map of area: “in the 1879 map shows to be within the border, although the borderline is not coloured. And we have an older map still, I recollect, where it is marked within the Kumaon border. We should first obtain the 1884 sheet however.”
A few days later, the Department got the proper map: “I have now got the 1884 sheet nod several other maps from the Intelligence Branch. Bara Hoti [now written Barahoti]  is within the British frontier, but last year the Tibetans were in possession much lower down, on our side, than Bara Hoti. They prevented the Assistant Commissioner passing within two days' march of Hoti - a proceeding the Commissioner of Kumaon thought perfectly reasonable and harmless.”
A discussion then took place in the Government, it was concluded that one Colonel Erskine was wrong to say that the map of 1884 brought “a large slice of country including Bara Hoti within the British boundary, all the territory shown as British in 1884 was also shown as British in 1850, and it was never shown as anything else on the map of 1879 is only the colouring of the boundary was omitted - probably by some mistake of the draftsman.”
The British decided to act.

A Report about the Encroachment
The telegram had come from a ‘native’ news reporter which had written that “a Tibetan official has come down to Bampa (which is 20 miles or more below [south of] Hoti, but does not say what following he has. He [the Tibetan official] claims Hoti as Tibetan territory, and the place will, no doubt, be occupied again by the Tibetans this summer. But a further report has been sent for, and DO [Demi-Official] orders need be passed on the present correspondence. Hundes is the Tibetan district immediately across the frontier; and by ‘Hunias’ the people of Hundes is meant.”
The Tibetan name of the district is Tsada (or Zanda).

Establishing a Picket in Barahoti
On July 18, 1890, the Chief Secretary to the Government of The North-Western Provinces and Oudh, submitted a report about “the re-establishment of a Tibetan picket at Bara Hoti”.
The Deputy Secretary in Delhi noted: “It will be remembered that last year and the year before a considerable number of Tibetans came into the Niti District, set up a custom house at Bara Hoti, turned back the Assistant Commissioner while on tour, and otherwise virtually took possession of the country down to near Malari. They came in both times, in spring and returned for the winter, to their own side of the range. It was recommended that a party or about 20 Gurkhas should go up in September and turn them out.”
The official further mentioned that in fact a large expedition of 200 sepoys had been sent by the military authorities, but so much delay occurred that “the force did start from Sobha till the 8th November and did not reach Bara Hoti till nearly the end of the month, by which time the Tibetans had retired for the winter.”
The issue continued to be discussed: “It is now reported that a very few unarmed Tibetans have returned to Bara Hoti and it is a question whether it is worthwhile to take any notice of them. If anything is done at all it should be as an ordinary matter of police duty - a small party of police being sent to drive them out. But if so, it should be done while they are still there and the winter should not be waited for. On the other hand, it may be considered that last year's expedition [with the 200 sepoys] may be considered as practical evidence that the country belongs to India, and that our claim has been practically made good. In this case there might be no necessity to take any action until the Tibetans make themselves obnoxious again at, or about, Bara Hoti. The only political significance about the affair is its resemblance to the Sikkim question.” The British were then facing problems with the Tibetans in North Sikkim crossing over the ridge line and sending their yaks to graze in British territory.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ conclusion was: “The Tibetans come in and assert a claim to territory, and behind them come the Chinese and support this claim on their own account-no matter how preposterous it is - and a troublesome international question arises. The way to obviate the greater difficulty is obviously, to nip the smaller one in the bud.”
The Chinese threat will materialize in 1954. We shall come to it, though the Chinese were nowhere in the picture at this time.
On July 17, 1890, the Secretary of the Ministry replied to the note: “Although only a few men have come to Hoti and are unarmed, it is evident they have come as officers of their Government with the intention of exercising authority, for they have been summoning the-people and taking bonds from them. I should think we might tell the Government of the North-Western Provinces that they should not allow these Tibetans to exercise authority in Hoti, and that they should take such steps as they think necessary to prevent them and to make it perfectly clear that Bara Hoti is British territory. Probably this could be best effected by sending one of the Civil Officers of Kumaon on tour to Bara Hoti.”
Two days later, another note provided more information: “Tibetans came to Hoti and invited our people to go to a mart in Tibet to trade. They asked them to undertake not to introduce diseased goats and not to invade Tibet, and they asked for the letter which the Commissioner of Kumaon had last year sent to one Natbu Padhan, then they went away.”
Delhi’s conclusions were: “Now if this is so, it appears to me that the Tibetans have by their actions acknowledged Hoti to be within our border and made no attempt to exercise authority there. But the report is by no means lucidly written, and if the North-Western Provinces can send of an officer… it will be well, fur it would save two purposes to make clear our assertion of authority at Hoti, and to obtain real information.”
But let us have a look at the original report.

The Letter from the Local Sarpanch

The letter ‘not lucidly written’ had been translated into English; it had come from Durga Dutta, Patwari, Mana Painkhanda and was dated July 1, 1890.
Dutta wrote: “On making an enquiry (I find) that the Dupa officers' servants, one Sarji [messenger of the Tibetan Commissioner or Dzongpon] of Urgyal by name, with two men with him, brought on the 19th May of the current year, salt on 50 goats and gave it to their mitrae or customers of villages Gamsali, Bampa and Farkya. After two or three days, they went away with rice on the goats, and a copy in their Tibetan language of the khat which the Commissioner had given to Nathu Padhan from Ramri. Again, the same Sarji returned with two men on 10th June, called together to Gamsali all Padhans from above Soonagiri and Jelam to Niti and told them that the Dupa [Daba?] officer was gone on a pilgrimage to Kailas(h), and that the Padhans should give in their usual bonds about ‘Ragbyadh’ (meaning that they should not bring diseased goats, etc.) as also (a bond) of bringing ‘Pal tan’ (meaning that they should not bring a British force). All Padhans gave bonds about ‘Ragbyadb’, but with regard to ‘Paltan’ they replied that it was not in their power whether a force did or did not come and they could not give a bond about it.”
The letter continued: “The Sarjis went away. Again, for the third time, the same three persons on three yaks (Chanur Gao) returned on 27th June vid Char Hoti and said that Jagponam the Dapa officers bad returned fro in pilgrimage and three guards had come with them and stationed themselves as usual at Hoti, and that the Dapa officers had sent a word to the natives of the 'Ghata that they should fear nothing from (the Tibetans) but come for trade as usual and bring the original khat. A letter also came for Johar Singh Bampa (complaining) that he had not come (to Thibet) for two years, that the man who had quarelled with him had been summoned and the quarrel would be settled. But Johar Singh won't go. Having said this and given the letter, they went away. It is said that on 24th, 26th and 27th June, Fonya, Nathu Padhans and other natives of this Ghata went to Hundes.”
The letter concluded: “Sir, all natives of this Ghata went to Hundes yesterday, and to-day via Raj Hoti and Char Hoti for trade. Some five who had remained are ready to start on the 3rd instant. They (the Sarjis) did not come armed. The purpose for which they came has been given in detail (in this report). It is also known that the same Sarjis used to come two or three times every year formerly also.”

The Final Conclusion
On July 31, 1890, the Officiating Deputy Secretary in Foreign Department wrote to the Chief Secretary of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh: “It appears from the report submitted by Durga Dutta, Patwari, that some Tibetans recently came to Bara Hoti unarmed, and invited the people to a mart in Tibet for purposes of trade, and that the head of the party also asked for the letter which the Commissioner of Kumaon had last year sent to one Nathu, Padhan. The Tibetans appear to have made no attempt on this occasion to exercise any authority on this part of the frontier, and are reported to have since returned to Hundes [Tibet].”
The final conclusion was: “If the circumstances have been correctly reported by Durga Dutta, the action of the Tibetans may be considered to operate as an admission that Hoti is within the British border. The reports received on the subject are however not very clear and I am to suggest that, if His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor sees no objection, an officer may be deputed to Bara Hoti to enquire into the exact circumstances of the case, and that a further report may be submitted for the information of the Government of India. This visit will, it is hoped, have the effect also of making clear the assertion of British authority at Bara Hoti.”
It was to remain at that for the next fifty years.
It is only in the early 1950s, that the Tibetans tried to revive the issue, this time probably under the instigation of the Chinese.

A Historical Note from the Intelligence Bureau
In July 1952, in a note “Border Disputes and Collection of Taxes by Tibetans in Garhwal District” the Intelligence Bureau described the topography of the Himalaya in this area of today’s Uttarakhand: “The Garhwal-Tibet border can only be crossed through the Mana and Niti Valleys where there are open places and habitation, while the rest of the border area consists of snow-covered mountains studded with glaciers. In the Mana Valley, the last village on the Indian side is Mana which is situated at 26 miles from Mana Pass, which lies on the boundary of Tibet and India. From Mana the route to Tibet following along Saraswati river and there are no grazing grounds or other places of habitation on the way which could be occupied or claimed by the people of Tibet. There is no border dispute in this Valley, although some rumours have been heard, that the Tibetans claim territory upto Kanchanganga, which is situated about one mile south of Badri Nath. There are no grounds for attaching any importance to such rumours.”
This refers probably to the Nilang-Jadhang dispute which we have already studied. There were definitively old Tibetan claims in areas south of Tsangchok-la pass.
The IB Report continues its descriptions of the area: “There are four Passes between Niti Valley and Tibet, namely - Gothing Pass [Niti], Damjin [Tun Jun] Pass, Hoti Pass and Ghirti Pass. Niti, the northern most village in the Indian territory, is situated at 11 miles from Gothing Pass and Damjin Pass. There are few plains situated near these passes in the Indian territory.”
The Intelligence admits that it appears that there is an old boundary dispute about Hoti Plain, which in fact consists of two plains called Bara Hoti and Chhota Hoti, both situated near the Chor Hoti Pass.
It refers to the 1890 episode mentioned above.

The history background of the ‘dispute’ is then explained: “About the end of last century the Tibetans had established a Customs Post at Hoti Plain. To stop this practice, the British Govt. [Government] had to send out a detachment of Gurkhas along with Shri Dharma Nand Joshi, Deputy Collector, in 1890. This had a salutary effect and the Tibetans removed their post. It appears that for some time past the Tibetans have again been establishing a Police-cum-Customs post at Hoti during the trading season.”
The access of the place is difficult, but from there, a tab can been kept on the area. It has also to be noted that the access is much easier from the Tibetan side than from the Indian. Over the years, this will make it easier for the Chinese to intrude.
The Intelligence Bureau continues: “It is quite possible that if the Tibetans are not stopped from establishing their post at Hoti Plain, they might eventually claim it to be their own territory. Since there is no habitation or cultivation in this area, the Garhwal authorities hardly ever visit the area or take any action to denote that it lies within their jurisdiction.”
Along the Himalaya watershed, there were quite a few areas were Tibetans authorities tried to change the border for the sake of their traders and shepherds. The IB report further remarked: “It may be mentioned that last year [1951] when some Indian traders established their trade at Hoti Plain for buying wool etc. from the Tibetans living near the border, the Dzong-Pon [District Commissioner] of Dhapa (Tibet) [Daba in Western Tibet] sent his Serjis (or sarjis - ‘messengers’) to Hoti Plain to serve notices on the Indian traders to appear before him.”
The IB recommended to the Government of India: “It is, therefore, essential that the Govt. of India should make it clear to the Govt. of Tibet and its Dzongpon that the Hoti Plain is Indian territory and the Tibetans have no right to establish any Customs post there; nor can they exercise any authority in the area.”
The report added: “We understand that the Deputy Commissioner Garhwal has already suggested to the U.P. Govt. that he and the Supdt. [Superintendent] of Police should visit Hoti with a detachment of Garhwal Rifles and Armed Police, and that they should hoist the Indian flag there in order to establish their own authority and stop the Tibetans from establishing their Customs post.”
It is what the ITBP still do every year, though now they often encounter Chinese troops patrolling the high-altitude plain.
The Intelligence Bureau concluded: “A number of Indian traders from Niti and Mana Valleys visit Tibet every year for purposes of trade. They have to pay certain taxes inside Tibet. However, in case of Mana Valley, the Serjis of the Dzong-Pon [Dzongpon] of Chaprong [Tsaparang] realize Rs.22/- from the people of Mana as Singthal i.e. Land Tax. This collection is made in Indian territory when the Serji comes to announce that the Pass is open. The Serjis are also provided with free food and fuel. It is reported that in the records of the Dzong-Pon this levy is entered as Land Tax and not as Trade Tax. No such collection is made from the villagers of Niti Valley. We feel that the Tibetan tax-collectors should not be allowed to collect taxes inside the Indian territory. The traders could pay this amount which is really a Trade Tax, when they visit the Tibetan markets.”
A similar situation had arisen in Nilang/Jadhang area.
On April 24, 1952, the ministry had received the opinion of Ministry of Defence (MOD): “the guiding principle in the new circumstances must be the Government of India’s ability to vindicate what they would regard as the appropriate frontier, since it would be idle to claim territory which could not be effectively protected or controlled.”
Nilang is mentioned in a previous post, but it is worth quoting the MOD, as the Ministry remarks can apply to any border posts: “The area under dispute is an extremely difficult country physically and climatically with hardly any communications. It therefore follows that operations in the area will have to be confined to short periods and undertaken by specially trained infantry organized on an ad hoc basis with very scanty artillery support and no support whatsoever from either tanks or aircraft. The administrative problems connected with an operation would be considerable. Even if the defence area were narrowed down to the protection of the villages Nilang and Jadhang, with the present resources of the army, it would be well nigh impossible to guarantee the integrity of the above villages. It will be equally difficult to afford hundred per cent protection to the small inhabited localities lying with the Indian frontier within the Indian frontier in this area.”
Therefore, the MOD conclusion was “Whatever solution the E.A [External Affairs] Ministry adopt, it would be subject to the conditions set out above so far as the defence of the frontier will be concerned.”
Like for the case of Nilang/Jadhang, in Barahoti, it was decided to assert Indian customary rights in the area. Not doing so, could have had serious consequences for the entire Himalayan frontier.

The View from the Ministry of External Affairs

A few months later, in September 1952, an official of the Ministry of External Affairs pointed out: “Last year there was some trouble over the opening of market for trading with Western Tibet at Hoti instead of the established market known as Nabra in Tibet. The local Tibetan officials who used to collect certain dues from our traders suffered a loss and resented the functioning of the Hoti market. There is, however, no indication that the Tibetans wanted to establish a customs post at Hoti.”
The issue was referred to G. Mukharji, the Home Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Government who, on December 27, 1952, wrote back to the Foreign Secretary. Note that the subject line of the letter read: “Border disputes and collection of taxes by Tibetans in Garhwal district.”
Lucknow acknowledged the receipt of the Intelligence Bureau’s note mentioned above and affirmed that the State Government had been keeping the Government of India in the loop as far as the developments along the Indo-Tibetan border were concerned.
The Home Secretary further asserted that there was no case of “encroachment has so far been reported though at one or two places tax collectors from Tibet did come in but were persuaded to go back.”
He added that “it is rather embarrassing that tax collectors should come in at all and it is, therefore, requested that the matter may be settled finally with the Tibetan Government do not come in to India for purposes of tax collection.”
Mukharji concluded: “Until this is done, it is feared that similar visits will be paid in future also creating unnecessary embarrassment for Government as well as for our people on the border.”
He also answered the question about the practicability of the State Government stationing a small force of armed police on the border. Quoting from an earlier communication, he reiterated that “it would not be possible to stop any intruders from coming into our territory with the help of small police guards alone.”
He further pointed out that it would be difficult for the State Government to make adequate police arrangements in such remote areas “on account of difficulties of climate and terrain.”
He mentioned the creation of a Border Security Force which is “at present under examination with the Government of India” and stated “a force of that kind alone can be trained and equipped to function in those remote and difficult areas. Until that force is properly established, the State Government find it difficult to meet the situation by posting armed police in those areas.”
It is only on October 24, 1962, four days after the Chinese massive attack that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police was raised on. But this did not stop the Chinese from trespassing every year since then.

The Panchsheel Negotiations

In December 1953, the talks for an agreement on trade and pilgrimage started in Beijing. It resulted in the infamous Panchsheel Agreement. Looking at the way Indian diplomats were ready to bend backward to any Chinese demands, Mao Zedong and his colleagues would find more and more outstanding issues to rise. But in May-June 1954, they were still awaiting the outcome of the Geneva Conference on Indo-China.
The Indian diplomats thought that by naming six passes for the traders and pilgrims, they had delineated a border.
What a folly!
India tried to include other passes: “Traders and pilgrims from India and Western Tibet may travel by the routes traversing the following localities and passes,” but it was not accepted by China.
The passes/routes mentioned by Delhi were: Tashigong, Gartok; Spanggur Tso To Rudok; Chiakang, Churkang, Ruksom; Tashigong, Churkang, Ruksom; Rudok, Ruksom, Rawang; Bodpo La; Shipki La; Keobarang; Shimdang; Gumrang (Khimokul); Tsang Chok La; Muling La; Mana Pass; Niti Pass; Tunjun-la; Marhi La; Shalshal Pass; Kungri Bingri Pass; Darma Pass; Lampiya Dhura (Lampiya Lekh); Mangshadhura and Lipu Lekh.
But Delhi capitulated, China was then a friend and ultimately only 6 passes were named.
The fact that India did not insist on this list, turned into a tragedy; as a result China will soon claim the area south of Tunjun-la (and Tsang Chok-la as well). The Indian negotiators had clearly not done their homework.
In a short note on the ‘talks’ for the Panchsheel Agreement written after the signature, the Foreign Secretary noted: “It would also be desirable for us to establish check-posts at all disputed points as soon as possible so that there may be no opportunity for Chinese to take possession of such areas and face us with a fait accompli.
In this connection the opening remarks of Premier Zhou Enlai that “there are bound to be some problems between two great countries like India and China with a long common border… but we are prepared to settle all such problems as are ripe for settlement now” are significant.
The note said: “We immediately countered this by saying that we had mentioned all outstanding questions in this region, and stressed this several times later the Chinese did not pursue the matter further. It is, however, likely that the Chinese may raise or create border problems if we are slow in advancing our administration right up to our frontiers, especially in the disputed areas which are fortunately not many. This is also a matter which requires further examination and consulates between the Ministries of external Affairs, Home Affairs and Defence.”
The former Indo-Tibet border (now Sino-Indian) was forgotten in the process. 


The Ink was Hardly Dry
It took only two months for India to discover that all problems had not been solved. The first Chinese incursion in the Barahoti area of Uttar Pradesh occurred in June 1954. This was the first of a series of incursions numbering in the hundreds which culminated in the attack of October 1962 ...and which continues till date.
The ink was hardly dried on the Panchsheel Agreement, when the Chinese entered Barahoti; a first note was given by the counsellor of China in India to the Ministry of External Affairs dates July 17, 1954.
The irony of the story is that it is China which complained about the incursion of Indian troops… on India’s territory!
Though Barahoti was well inside Indian territory, the exchange of notes continued during the following months and years. This exchange is the first of more than one thousand Memoranda, Notes and Letters exchanged by the Governments of India and China over the next ten years, published in the White Papers on China.
TN Kaul who had negotiated the Agreement philosophically explained later: “Territorial disputes have existed between near and distant neighbours through the ages. The question is whether they can and should be resolved by war, threat, use of force or through the more civilized and peaceful method of negotiation... Both sides still profess their faith in the Five Principles, and therein lies perhaps some hope for the future.
The Five Principles had put Kaul and his colleagues to sleep.
Some officials soon realized the blunder. John Lall, who later served as Diwan in Sikkim, commented: “Ten days short of three months after the Tibet Agreement was signed the Chinese sent the first signal that friendly co-existence was over… Significantly, Niti was one of the six passes specified in the Indo-Chinese Agreement by which traders and pilgrims were permitted to travel.”
Friendly co-existence had perhaps never existed.

The ‘Dispute’ Starts
On July 17, 1954, a note handed over by the Chinese Counsellor in Delhi to South Block briefly mentioned for the first time the issue. The Chinese asserted that “over thirty Indian troops armed with rifles crossed the Niti pass on 29 June 1954, and intruded into Wu-Je [Barahoti] of the Ali [Ngari] Area of the Tibet Region of China. (Wu-Je is about one day’s journey from the Niti Pass). The above happening is not in conformity with the principles of non-aggression and friendly co-existence between China and India, and the spirit of the Joint Communiqué issued recently by the Prime Ministers of China and India.”
How Barahoti, a pass between Tibet and India, suddenly got a Chinese name is still today a mystery.
The note continued: “It is hoped that the Government of India would promptly investigate the matter, and order the immediate withdrawal of the Indian troops.”
Probably adepts of Sun Tzu or the Art of War, the Chinese had decided to attack to justify their un-defendable position.
On 13 August 1954, the Chinese Counsellor in Delhi delivered another note to South Block, providing more detail on the so-called Indian intrusion: “further investigations reveals that they were a unit of 33 persons attached to the local garrison in U.P., India. The unit was under the command of an officer called Nathauja [according to Chinese pronunciation] who was a deputy commander of the troops stationing at Kanman [Chinese pronunciation]. Together with the officer, there was a local official named Sopit Singh [Chinese pronunciation] of Chinal tribe in U.P., who was also a district magistrate of Walzanjapur [Chinese pronunciation] district. Besides, there were a doctor, radio-operators and soldiers. They were putting up in 17 tents.” This was not in conformity with the Five Principles, the Chinese diplomat added.
Finally, on August 27, 1954, India woke up of its stupor: “We have made thorough enquiries regarding the allegation ... our further investigations have confirmed that the allegation is entirely incorrect. A party of our Border Security Force is encamped in the Hoti Plain which is south-east of Niti pass and is in Indian territory.”
The most ironic part of the story was that the Chinese were confused about the exact location of Wu-Je. The Minister of External Affairs (MEA) stated: “none of our troops or personnel have crossed north of the Niti pass, as verbally mentioned by the Chinese Counsellor.”
The Indian notes also pointed that some “Tibetan officials tried to cross into our territory in Hoti plain without proper documents, which is not in conformity with the Agreement.” The ministry could only hope that Beijing will instruct the Tibetans “not to cross into Indian territory as we have instructed our authorities not to cross into Tibetan territory.”
The correspondence was to continue for months and years in the same vein. It will soon become a regular yearly feature.
A year later, on June 28, 1955, the MEA wrote: “Tibetan officials attempted to enter in our territory in the Hoti plain. We have now received a report that a party of Chinese are camping at Hoti with 5 tents and 20 horses and that they have entered our territory without proper documents.”
The note further requested that “instructions be issued immediately to these personnel to withdraw across the border over the Tunjun-la and to refrain from entering Indian territory unless they are in possession of proper documents.”
Again it was repeated that it was not in conformity with the principles of non-aggression and friendly co-existence enounced in the 1954 Agreement.
An Indian official, SK Roy, Special Officer Frontier Area (or SOFA), met a Chinese official in Delhi on June 28, 1955 in connection of the Chinese intrusions, the Chinese informed the MEA that their Government “has times and again instructed the personnel of the frontier garrison not to move a single step beyond the Chinese border. Our investigations have confirmed that in the course of the last year and the current one there never has been any case of Chinese personnel crossing the border in the vicinity of the Niti Pass.”
This shows that the India-Tibet border has become the India-China border.
On July 11, 1955, the Chinese handed over a reply to TN Kaul: “Another batch of more than 30 Indians soldiers crossed into Wu-Je of the Tibet Region of China on 25 June 1955 and engaged in constructing fortifications at places very close to our garrison forces stationing there.”
On July 18, 1955, India replied to Chinese note saying it was not representing the factual position: “The troops mentioned were not in the Tibet region of China but at the Bara Hoti, on the Hoti plain in India which is south of the Tunjun-la.”
It also pointed out that the Indian troops withdrew in September 1954, because the outpost is a seasonal post; the MEA had some doubt if Barahoti were the same place; it admitted: “We are not aware of the exact location of Wu-Je, though the Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy mentioned that it was 12 kilometers north of the Tunjun-la, but we are quite confident that our troops have not, under any circumstances, crossed the border into Tibet Region of China.”
Another note was given to the Chinese embassy in Delhi on August 18, 1955. It had received a report that the Sarji, a Tibetan official, who had come with the Chinese troops in the Hoti plain had tried to “realise grazing tax from Indian herdsmen grazing goats in the area. This is a new development which we would request the Chinese authorities to stop forthwith.”
The exchanged continued during the following months.
On September 26, 1955, the Chinese embassy in Delhi mentioned the informal note given by SK Roy on August 18: “Our repeated investigations made in Wu-Je area of the Tibet Region have proved that no Chinese personnel has ever crossed the border. On the contrary, it was the Indian troops that intruded into Wu-Je which has always belonged to Dabasting [Daba Dzong?] of the Tibet Region within the Chinese boundary.”
The note added: “the Indian troops are still stationing at Wu-Je, and are incessantly carrying out reconnaissance activities on the Chinese Garrison. Hence the situation is rather serious.”
The Chinese conclusion was that “since no Chinese personnel has crossed the border, there could not have been such situation as stated in your informal note.”
On November 5, South Block gave another note to the Chinese stating that there was clearly a misunderstanding on the location of Wu-Je: “We are quite definite that our personnel have at no time intruded into the Wu-Je area of the Tibet region of China but have throughout remained at Bara Hoti which is 2 miles south of the Tunjun-la.”
It was emphazised that Chinese troops had come south of the Tunjun-la and camped at Bara Hoti alongside the Indian troops: “We would like to repeat that we are most anxious to avoid any possible incident and we, therefore, suggest that strict instructions should be issued that no personnel from the Tibet region of China should cross into India without due permission.”
It repeats once more that the India troops “have not entered the Wu-Je area because they have never crossed the Tunjun-la, the border pass ...and Wu-Je was stated by Mr. Kang to be 12 kilometres north of this pass.”
On the same day, it is also pointed to the Chinese that as the Indian detachment was approaching Damzan, which is 10 miles south of the Niti Pass (and therefore clearly in Indian territory), they were stopped by 20 Chinese soldier.
The Chinese troops sent a message to the Indians they could not go via Damzan without the permission from the Chinese authorities at Gartok. The Indian troops insisted on going via Damzan as it was clearly Indian territory: “if the Chinese party used force to stop [them], they would be responsible for the consequences.”
Finally, Delhi asserted that “great restraint [had been] exercised by our detachment. The Chinese soldiers did not try to stop our detachment but wanted to remain on the Indian territory at Damzan without due and proper permission.” The Indian note then gives the coordinates of Damzan, south of the Niti Pass, one of the passes named in the Panchsheel Agreement.
 

And the story goes on...

The entire study is available on my website.

A Series on Chinese 'Claims' in the Central Sector

Chuva and Chuje: Obscure Chinese Claims in the Central Sector
It was recently reported that the populations of the Lahaul and Spiti, and Kinnaur districts of the Himachal Pradesh were becoming increasingly nervous; they expressed serious concerns as China has been building roads leading to the Indian villages near the border.
The Hindustan Times wrote: “Road construction along the Indo-China border, on no man’s land, came to fore after villagers of Kunnu-Charang in Kinnaur raised an alarm and informed the local administration and border patrol party.”
The article further noted: “China has accelerated work of road construction along the Indian border in Tango and Yamrang regions, which are close to Chitkul and Charang villages on the Indian side. Both Yamrang and Tango in China are controlled [by the] Tibetan Autonomous Region.”
Though there is no known village by these names in Tsamda (Zanda) county of Ngari Prefecture, it is possible that these are new villages or the names have been changed.
A villager told the media that China was building a road to the Yamrang village. “There is no mobile network in the region and road connectivity is poor on the Indian side. There is fear among villagers that the Chinese troops could invade the Indian territory,” said the article.

The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police manning the border, are now on high alert.
 While most of the Indian media reported that the area was not ‘disputed’ by China, it is not the case. Areas called by China, Chuva and Chuje have been on their long ‘shopping’ list to extend their territory since the end of the 1950s.

The Case of Shipki la
After looking at the ‘dispute’ in Chuva-Chuje area, we continue eastward and look at the case of Shipki la (pass), also in Himachal Pradesh.
This is another tenuous claim from China, with no historical, cartographical or geographical backup. Presently it is a dormant claim, but with Beijing in the mood to claim Tajikistan’s Pamir Region and Vladivostok (and Ladakh), it is worth looking into the facts.
The first Chinese incursions inside India’s northern border, took place in Barahoti in June 1954, hardly two months after the signature of the Agreement on Tibet. 

In a way, Barahoti could be explained by the fact that Indian negotiators omitted to insist on Tunjun-la as a pass notified in the 1954 Tibet Agreement. This gave an opportunity to the Chinese to claim an area south of the border pass.
But what happened two years later, cannot be justified under the same principle. In Shipki-la, it was plain violation of the Indian territory, without any justifications.

The Nilang/Jadhang 'dispute' with Tibet
Nilang/Jadhang is the third places ‘disputed’ by China in the Central Sector (going westward).
This ‘dispute’ is different from the two precedents, Chuva-Chuje (Kaurik sector) and Shipki-la, in the sense that the Nilang-Jadhang area (South of Tsangchok-la) was disputed by the Tibetan government before Independence.
But it was a ‘gentle’ dispute between neighbours sharing the same values.
For the Tibetans, their claim was based on the fact that the Thirteenth Dalai Lama would have said that the border was located at a bridge on the Gumgum nala on the way to Gangotri.
For the British, the principle of the watershed was the prime deciding factor and therefore Tsangchok-la was the border (India has since Independence followed this principle).
Soon after the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1950/51, the situation which had been pending for decades, suddenly became pressing and Delhi had no other options but to send police patrols and take control of the place in 1952.
The issue was discussed at length during the meetings of the Officials of India and China in 1960, but China did not accept the Indian stand.
I will come back to the area, as China created further confusion, soon after by mixing up two places, having a bit similar names (Pulang and Pulam).
One of main historic upshots of the relation between Tibet and the Himalayan region has been the Sino‐Indian border dispute along the 4,000 km mountainous range.
In some cases, the present ‘dispute’ with China has its origin in disagreement between the Lhasa government and the administration of Himalayan princely states (and by extension British India). This is true for NEFA.
Our case study relates to Nilang/Jadhang area in today’s Uttarakhand.
It is particularly interesting due to the large amount of correspondence between Tibet (the Kashag in Lhasa and the Dzongpen (or Dzongpon) in Tsaparang) and the princely states of Tehri‐Garhwal, Bashahr as well as the provincial governments of the United Provinces and the Punjab and of course, the Foreign and Political Department of British India in Delhi.
The ‘negotiations’ lasted some 12 years, at the end of which no mutually acceptable solution could be found (it fact, it lasted till India's Independence).
The entire story is extracted from a couple of files today in the British Archives. A few years ago, I had the good fortune to come across them and I thought it would be interesting to share this unknown aspect of the Himalayan relations.

Pulamsamda vs Pulang Sumdo, a Fresh Absurd Dispute
It is necessary to mention the case of Pulamsumdo, which is also part of the Nilang-Jadhang region.
Here too the Chinese claims are laughable.
The ‘dispute’ came from two places whose names sound slightly similar.
Let us remember the basics to determine a border, as explained in the Report of the Officials of India and China in 1960/61; the Indian Report says: “In the Middle Sector both sides had referred to the watershed boundary and were clear as to where the watershed lay. In fact, the two alignments coincided for the most part along the main watershed. The Chinese alignment departed from it only at Gyuand Kauirik, Shipki, Nilang-Jadhang, Barahoti, Lapthal and Sangchamalla. All these departures from the watershed were also the points of divergence from the Indian alignment, and were, curiously enough, to the south and west, so as to include Indian territory in Tibet, and in no case the other way round. These isolated and small departures always in one direction were difficult to comprehend and emphasized that the correct traditional boundary lay along the watershed itself.”
It was therefore clear that what was south of the watershed was India and north Tibet. This is a universally accepted principle to demarcate borders.
The Report of 1960 further noted: “In this sector the Chinese alignment are conformed for the most part to the traditional Indian alignment. Only in four areas did it diverge from the watershed to include certain pockets of Indian territory in China-the Spiti are (Chuva and Chuje), Shipki pass, the Nilang-Jadhang area (Sang and Tsungsha) and Barahoti (Wu-je) Sangchamalla and Lapthal. In this sector, therefore, it would be sufficient to prove the traditional and customary basis of the Indian alignment in these four areas.”
The Indian delegates argued that the traditional and customary boundary in this sector lay along the watershed range, marked by the passes of Tsangchok La, Mana, Niti, Tunjun La, Balcha Dhura, Kungri Bingri, Darma and Lipulekh; therefor “Nilang, Jadhang and Pulamsumda were in Uttarkashi district (formerly Tehri-Garhwal State), Barahoti in Garhwal district and Sangchamalla and Lapthal in Almora district, in Uttar Pradesh State.”
Apart from Nilang-Jadhang, this principle had never been disputed by the Tibetans.

The History of Barahoti Plain

The next ‘disputed’ place has often been in the news: it is Barahoti.
Here too the Chinese claim to the area are fictitious (not to say frivolous) as the area is clearly located south of the watershed.
On November 20, 1950, during a question and answer session in the Parliament, Prime Minister Nehru was asked: “Will the Prime Minister be pleased to state whether India has got any well-defined boundary with Tibet?”
His answer was: “The border from Ladakh to Nepal has probably not been the subject of any formal agreement between India, Tibet and China but it is well established by custom and long usage. The Historical Division are investigating if there are any formal agreements. There have been a few boundary disputes in this area but they have been peacefully settled.”
It is a historical fact that the Indo-Tibet frontier had been peaceful. It is probably why the Indian diplomats who four years later negotiated the Panchsheel Agreement foolishly ‘forgot’ to mention the border during the talks (and in the final text). India would pay dearly for this lapse.
Over the years, China have kept changing the posts, claiming new areas, often not knowing the coordinates of the places.
In this context, it is interesting to study the historical background of the ‘disputed’ area, called Barahoti by India and Wu-Je by China.

The Unnecessary Controversy of Lapthal and Sangchamalla

In August 1980, SN Gopalkrishnan, Senior Research Officer of the Historical Division of the Ministry of External Affairs explained once again the factors on which are based a border's delineation.
Referring to the meetings of the Officials of India and China in 1960, he noted: “The Indian side brought forward clear and conclusive evidence to show that the alignment as shown by them in the Middle Sector had, throughout its length a traditional and customary basis reaching back through many centuries, and that, in addition, this boundary had been recognized by Chinese Governments and been confirmed through diplomatic exchanges, treaties and agreements. The Indian side also brought forward a large of representative evidence relating to different aspects of administration, to show that Indian Governments had exercised full, continuous and uninterrupted control over all the areas right up to the traditional alignment.”

Glimpses of the Land Dispute with Nepal

On May 8, 2020, an argument erupted between India and Nepal; the immediate reason which triggered the debate was an 80 km road between Darchula to Lipulekh, the border pass near the trijunction with Tibet and Nepal, inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
The road is to be used by the Indian pilgrims visiting Kailash-Mansarovar, located some 90km from the pass, as well as the local traders; Lipulekh being one of the three landports between India and China. Strategically, this road is also crucial for India.
PTI then explained: “The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Signs of trouble in central sector too

My article Signs of trouble in central sector too appeared in The Economic Times

Here is the link...

On August 11, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat informed the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the Indian armed forces in Eastern Ladakh were ready to handle any eventualities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). He added that the troops were well-prepared for a long haul.
The parliamentary committee wanted to hear from the top brass, about the need for procurement of high-altitude clothing for the soldiers.
This clearly means the Chinese intrusions in Ladakh will not end soon; it is therefore time to ask: is there a possibility of the PLA opening a second front in the Central Sector of the northern boundary?
On May 17, IANS reported that Chinese helicopters violated Indian airspace twice in Himachal Pradesh in April: “The first intrusion was reported on April 11 and the second on April 20. In both incidents, a Chinese helicopter was observed flying on the Indian side of the international border close to Sumdo in Spiti subdivision,” an official told the agency.
Furthermore, activities of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) seem to have recently increased along the frontier in this sector. The Hindustan Times reported: “China has accelerated work of road construction along the Indian border in Tango and Yamrang regions, which are close to Chitkul and Charang villages on the Indian side.” Though it is not clear where these Tibetan villages are located (for the simple reason that China keeps changing the names of the localities), it is rather worrisome.
In this context, it is worth looking at the ‘historic’ claims made by Beijing in the Central Sector. For Beijing, there are four ‘disputed’ areas which stretch over the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand; namely Chuva-Chuje near Sumdo in Kinnaur district, an area south of Shipki-la (pass) in the same district, Nilang-Jadhang and Barahoti-Lapthal-Sangchamalla in Uttarakhand, to which should be added Lipulekh, recently engulfed in Nepal’s new maps.
On July 30, 1980, the historical division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent a secret note to the East Asia (EA) Division, dealing with China; they wanted to know if there was any Chinese claims in the Central sector.
The note described the area thus: “This sector of the boundary has natural features of watersheds, mountain passes and river valleys.” These geographical features marked the border.
It was explained that during the 1960 talks with China, the Indian officials brought forward conclusive evidence: “to show that the alignment had throughout its length a traditional and customary basis reaching back through many centuries.”
In November 14, 1962, while the border war with China was raging, in a letter to Zhou Enlai, Nehru told his counterpart: “The Chinese government has never had any authority south of the main Himalayan watershed ridge, which is the traditional boundary in this sector.” The Indian Prime Minister however admitted that “Tibetan officials along with some Chinese troops did intrude into Barahoti on various occasions since 1954;” in 1958, as an unnecessary compromise, Delhi agreed to both sides withdrawing their armed personnel from the locality, “[even though] Indian civilian personnel have throughout been functioning [there].”
Interestingly, all these Chinese claims, including the 1960 Line that Beijing would today like to make the LAC in Ladakh, are not based on any of the principles normally used to demarcate a boundary, i.e. watershed, river, customary routes, grazing rights, etc.
As long as Beijing uses its own variable rules, promoting first and foremost its own interests and refusing to follow universally recognised conventions, it is difficult to envisage a quick solution and India should be ready to deal with trouble in these ‘dormant’ Chinese claim areas in the Central Sector.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Pulamsamda vs Pulang Sumdo, another dispute in the Central Sector

I continue today my study of the Middle Sector of the 4056-Kilometer boundary between India and China (this figure includes the areas occupied today by Pakistan – Gilgit and Baltistan). 

After looking at:

areas, it is necessary to mention the case of Pulamsumdo, which is also part of the Nilang-Jadhang region.

The Basics
Let us remember the basics to determine a border, as explained in the Report of the Officials of India and China in 1960/61; the Indian Report says: “In the Middle Sector both sides had referred to the watershed boundary and were clear as to where the watershed lay. In fact, the two alignments coincided for the most part along the main watershed. The Chinese alignment departed from it only at Gyuand Kauirik, Shipki, Nilang-Jadhang, Barahoti, Lapthal and Sangchamalla. All these departures from the watershed were also the points of divergence from the Indian alignment, and were, curiously enough, to the south and west, so as to include Indian territory in Tibet, and in no case the other way round. These isolated and small departures always in one direction were difficult to comprehend and emphasized that the correct traditional boundary lay along the watershed itself.”
It was therefore clear that what was south of the watershed was India and north Tibet. This is an universally accepted principle to demarcate borders.
The Report of 1960 further noted: “In this sector the Chinese alignment are conformed for the most part to the traditional Indian alignment. Only in four areas did it diverge from the watershed to include certain pockets of Indian territory in China-the Spiti are (Chuva and Chuje), Shipki pass, the Nilang-Jadhang area (Sang and Tsungsha) and Barahoti (Wu-je) Sangchamalla and Lapthal. In this sector, therefore, it would be sufficient to prove the traditional and customary basis of the Indian alignment in these four areas.”
The Indian delegates argued that the traditional and customary boundary in this sector lay along the watershed range, marked by the passes of Tsangchok La, Mana, Niti, Tunjun La, Balcha Dhura, Kungri Bingri, Darma and Lipulekh; therefor “Nilang, Jadhang and Pulamsumda were in Uttarkashi district (formerly Tehri-Garhwal State), Barahoti in Garhwal district and Sangchamalla and Lapthal in Almora district, in Uttar Pradesh State.”
Apart from Nilang-Jadhang, this principle had never been disputed by the Tibetans.

A Fresh Absurd Dispute
The ‘dispute’ came from two places whose names sound slightly similar.
On April 29, 1954, India and China signed an agreement in Beijing: “The Government of the Republic of India and The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China, Being desirous of promoting trade and cultural intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India and of facilitating pilgrimage and travel by the peoples of China and India, have resolved to enter into the present Agreement.”
This is remembered as the Panchsheel Agreement; let us forget about the pompous principles which will in any case, never be respected by China.
Article II (2) says:
The Government of China agrees to specify (1) Gartok, (2) Pulanchung (Taklakot), (3) Gyanima-Khargo, (4) Gyanima- Chakra, (5) Ramura, (6) Dongbra, (7) Pulang-Sumdo, (8) Nabra, (9) Shangtse and (10) Tashigong as markets for trade; the Government of India agrees that in future, when in accordance with the development and need of trade between the Ari [Ngari] District of Tibet Region of China and India, it has become necessary to specify markets for trade in the corresponding district in India adjacent to the Ari [Ngari] District of Tibet Region of China, it will be prepared to consider on the basis of equality and reciprocity to do so.”
Now, the Chinese came up with the argument that Pulamsumda in Nilang-Jadhang was Pulang-Sumdo mentioned in the 1954 Agreement.

More Explainations
The Indian Officials explained several times: “In spite of clear and repeated proofs furnished by the Indian Government in the 1954 negotiations and in the correspondence of recent years between the two Governments, the Chinese side once more brought forward their untenable claim that Puling [or Pulang] Sumdo, which is mentioned in the 1954 Agreement as one of the trade markets in the Ari [Ngari] District or Tibet is the locality in the Nilang-Jadhang area called Pulamsumda.”
In 1954, the Indian Delegation had communicated in writing to the Chinese side that the co-ordinates of Puling Sumdo (31° 19' North and 79° 27' East).
The co-ordinates of Pulamsumda, however were different (31° 18' North and 79° 8' East) as Pulamsumda was located on the south of the Sutlej-Ganges watershed and over twenty miles distance from Puling Sumdo on the north of the watershed and while Pulamsumda was a camping ground and Puling Sumdo had been a trademart in Tibet for the people of Nilang-Jadhang.
The Report of the Officials observed: “The reference in the 1954 Agreement was obviously to Puling Sumdo, because the Agreement formalized Indo Tibetan trade at customary trade marts. Clearly, therefore, there was no reason at all for confusing Puling Sumdo in Tibet and Pulamsamda in India. The Chinese side, however, persisted in doing so even though they were unable to bring forward any evidence that would even suggest that the two places were the same. They, for example, brought forward no evidence to show that Pulamsamda was a trade mart, which according to their argument it would have to be.”

India showed the evidence of administration of the area:

The Shikami Fard (List of Landowners and Tenants) of 1920 gave a list of the marusidars (owners of land) and Khaikars and Sirtans (tenants).
The Muntakib Parcha (Record of Holdings) listed the owners of holdings, areas of fields and the classes of soils, the names of marusidars who paid revenue to the Government, the names of sub-tenants who cultivated the lands of the marusidars, and the serial numbers of the fields allotted at the survey.
Among the grazing places mentioned were Pulamsumda, Rangmonchi and Thingthia, all in the Nilang-Jadhang area right up to the boundary alignment. It also says: “The Paro Mawesia (List of Camping Grounds), also prepared during the 1919-1920 settlement, listed the 136 camping grounds in the Tehri State. Forty-eight of these belonged to the Taknore Patti, and included Pulamsumda.”
No Quid pro quo earlier
There was no quid pro quo as long as Tibet was independent (though the entire Nilang-Jadhang area was claimed by Lhasa).
However in 1960, the Report of the Officials quoted a letter from the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai accusing India of having invaded the ‘Chinese’ territory’.
The Report said: “The Indian side were most surprised that despite many and detailed explanations given by the Indian Government during the last six years, the Chinese side had again put forward a claim to Pulamsumda, which was well within Indian territory. The fact that the Chinese side quoted the letter of the Prime Minister of India of 26 September 1959 only showed that they had misunderstood that letter. When Premier Chou-En-lai, in his letter of 8 September 1959 [http://www.claudearpi.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/WhitePaper2NEW.pdf], accused India of having ‘invaded and occupied’ Puling Sumdo, the Indian Government were amazed, for Puling Sumdo was a Tibetan trade-mart north of the watershed, which had never been occupied by India.”
The Indian Officials further explained: “The only place whose name sounded at all like Puling Sumdo was Pulamsumda, and the Indian Government could only believe that the Chinese Government had confused the two places. So the Prime Minister of India stated in his reply of 26 September 1959 that when the Chinese Prime Minister spoke of Indian ‘occupation’ of Puling Sumdo, he doubtless had in mind Pulamsumda, a camping-ground in the Nilang-Jadhang area.”
The Indian Government reiterated: “But there was no cause for such a mistake, because even in the negotiations of 1954 the co-ordinates of the two places had been supplied to the Chinese Government. Pulamsumda was a camping-ground south of the watershed which had always been under Indian administration, whereas Puling Sumdo was a customary trade mart north of the watershed in Tibetan territory, and had never been occupied by India. It had been a trade-mart for centuries and it was as such a customary trade mart that it had been recognized in the 1954 Agreement.”

A Trade Mart for Decades
The Indian negotiators had given a copy of the report of the Trade Agent at Gyantse of 1942; it clearly stated that Puling Sumdo was a trade-mart in Tibet frequented by traders from Tehri State; there was, therefore, “no question of Pulamsumda and Puling Sumdo being the same place and the Chinese side had brought forward no evidence that could even faintly suggest that this was so.”
This shows that the Chinese were often coming unprepared for important meetings.
The question remains, can Beijing continue to claim Pulamsumda today?
It certainly could if the Communist leadership decides to create trouble on a grant scale in the Central Sector; niceties such watershed principle, customary borders, historical facts or even pure logic do not come into play for Beijing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

More Mysteries on the Roof of the World

Screenshot of Wang Yi's visit to the Indian border (north of Tawang district)
On August 14, a mysterious visit took place in Tibet.

Two days later, Beijing issued a communiqué mentioning that State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi “conducted an investigation in Tibet and held discussions with leaders of the autonomous region party …Wang Yi introduced the current international situation and the main status of diplomatic work.”
It further emphasized that in recent years, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) had adhered to the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee; the release continued with the usual stuff; complimenting the TAR leadership for following “the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”
Nothing mysterious in this.
As a good Communist, Wang Yi repeated the words of his boss, Xi Jinping, “Tibet's security and stability are related to the overall development of the party and the country and the diplomatic front could only work if the comrades of the TAR earnestly implement the party’s strategy for governing Tibet in the new era, establish the ‘four consciousnesses’ and strengthen the ‘four confidences’ to achieve the ‘Two Maintenances’.”
That is the usual Communist jargon.
The communiqué ended saying that during his visit, Wang Yi went to the border areas of Tibet “to conduct field investigations on poverty alleviation, border infrastructure and construction of well-off villages.”

Wang Yang in Tibet

So why call the visit ‘mysterious’?
For a number of reasons.
First, it was the third ‘important’ visit by a Chinese big shot to Tibet in the last five weeks.
On July 9, Xinhua reported that Wang Yang visited the mountainous region. Wang is a member of the all-powerful Politburo’s Standing Committee and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee; in other words, No 4 in the Red hierarchy.
Wang spoke of “continuous efforts to consolidate the foundations of enduring peace and stability in southwest China's Tibet.”
Please note ‘China’s Tibet’.
Do we need to write ‘India’s Tamil Nadu’ or ‘India’s Uttarakhand’?
Does it mean the communist leadership is not sure that Tibet is part of China? Otherwise, what is the need (apart from insecurity) to repeat this formula in every article or press release?
In Lhasa, Wang Yang observed: “The efforts should center on safeguarding the country's unity and strengthening ethnic solidarity, resolutely combating separatism, forestalling and defusing major risks and challenges and continuously consolidate the foundations of long-term peace and stability.”
Wang Yang, who spent three days in Tibet, did not speak of the situation in the frontier with Ladakh.
He visited several villages ‘relocated’ under the pretext of poverty alleviation, pastoral areas, industrial parks and religious sites in Shigatse and Lhasa.
During a symposium, he mentioned his favorite themes, “raising the social awareness of religious believers, as well as the promotion of patriotism to adapt Tibetan Buddhism to the socialist society.” In other words, monks should be good Communists.

Politburo Member Hu Chunhua in Tibet (with Che Dralha, TAR Governor)

Another visit
What makes Wang Yi’s visit strange is that another ‘important’ visit had taken place four weeks after Wang Yang’s.
From August 3, Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua, a member of the Politburo and head of the national leading group on poverty alleviation, also ‘inspected’ many sites in Tibet.
Two weeks later Chinese websites were still urging the Tibetans to “carry out the spirit of Vice Premier Hu Chunhua to extremely high altitude areas.”
Apparently, Hu, who served in Tibet several years ago “went deep into the eastern part of Ngari Prefecture, western Nagchu City and other extremely high altitude areas to investigate poverty alleviation and animal husbandry development.” He had to give feedback to the leadership assembled in the seaside resort of Beidaihe for the annual ultra secret conclave.
It was reported that Hu Chunhua went to the home of herders in the remote Dawa Village in Tsochen County in Ngari Prefecture to check the production and conditions of farmers and nomads living in high altitude areas.
It was probably the first time that these neglected populations met a politburo member (and for many, Xi Jinping’s heir-apparent).
The Chinese media reported that Hu ‘successively’ walked into the most remote counties of Ngari Prefecture; he went deep into villages, visited enterprises and grassroots organizations (incidentally, Hu speaks good Tibetan).

Heir apparent Hu Chunhua in Ngari?

 So, what was the need of a third visit?

According to The South China Morning Post (Jack Ma’s newspaper is fast becoming a mouthpiece for Beijing), Wang Yi’s visit to Tibet was to “send message to India over border dispute.”
The Hong Kong paper says: “China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a rare visit to Tibet on Friday, including a trip to the disputed border with India, as the three-month military stand-off between the two countries continued to drag on with little sign of resolution. Although a terse statement issued by the foreign ministry did not mention India, Wang’s border trip was described by Chinese observers as an unusual and symbolic gesture.”
But there is more to the mystery of Wang’s visit.
Why was his ‘inspection’ not mentioned by the Chinese and Tibetan websites dealing with Tibet (contrary to the two earlier VIP’s visits)? After hours of search, I could only get a screenshot which appeared two days after the ‘important’ visit (soon after this was removed).
About the threat to India, Beijing seems to be shooting from The Post’s shoulders.
The ‘mysterious’ border area that Wang Yi visited is most likely Tsona county, north of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Was the visit intended to remind India of 1962?
In which case, the Foreign Minister should have done some homework; despite the over-all defeat of the Indian troops, he should have known how valiantly some of the Indians troops fought on the front, just south of the place he visited, particularly the 2 Rajput battalion in the Namkha chu area who inflicted heavy causalities to the People’s Liberation Army; ditto in the east in the Walong sector or in Rezang la in Ladakh.
Would China decide to ‘teach another lesson’ to India, there will be many Rezang las or Walongs and this time, India would use its Air Force, without speaking of severe economic and political retaliations (Beijing could forget about its dear ‘One China Policy’) – Tibet and Taiwan could immediately be recognized by India.
There is no doubt that Wang Yi (who is also the Special Representative in the border talks between India and China and the counterpart of Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor), has been sent by the top leadership who is bound to have discussed India’s stand in Ladakh.
What report could he give, he did even meet the top brass of the Tibet Military District, including the powerful Political Commissar Lt Gen Zhang Xuejie and the Commander, Lt Gen Wang Haijiang, who were nowhere to be seen during Wang’s visit to the border with India?
How powerful is such a message, with most of the Chinese media, particularly in Tibet, were banned to report about Wang’s visit?
Strange are the ways of a State which suddenly realized that it has taken a too big a piece to chew; if Xi Jinping thought that the Ladakhi adventure would a quick and easy one to digest, he has not probably fully read The Art of War of Sun Tzu.

The Chinese Panchen Lama prays in Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa

 in ne One more important visit
That is not all; Gyaltsen Norbu, China’s selected Panchen Lama, described by Radio Free Asia (RFA) as “a senior Buddhist monk hand-picked by Beijing to replace a candidate more widely recognized by Tibetans as authentic,” is also on an ‘inspection’ in Tibet.
While the Panchen Lama recognized by the Dalai Lama is languishing in undisclosed place in Beijing, Norbu arrived in Lhasa on July 31; he was “greeted by Chinese authorities, students, and civil servants,” said the Chinese media.
The photos however show a handful of people around him.
On August 3, he went to pray at Lhasa’s Jokhang temple: “few in Lhasa appear to have been aware of the Panchen Lama’s visit,” wrote RFA, adding that “access to the Jokhang and Lhasa’s central Barkhor old town area are usu ally tightly restricted …but a few days ago even more police were deployed there than usual. Gyaltsen Norbu was probably visiting then. …Not many Tibetans know about the China-appointed Panchen Lama, and only those who don’t know his background will care much about him.”
All this shows that all is not rosy in ‘China’s Tibet’, the region is boiling.
And if the Communist leadership counts on the Tibetans to defend the Middle Kingdom’s frontiers, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

One more mystery
On August 1, I announced the transfer of Ding Yexian (No 4 in the TAR) to Qinghai Province.
I wrote: "The Communist Party of the TAR has a new Deputy Secretary; his name is Yan Jinhai. Yan has been transferred from the neighbouring Qinghai province where he served most of career. Yan, a Tibetan and is also an Alternate Member of the 19th Central Committee. Yan’s predecessor, Ding Yexian was a Han who served most of his career in Tibet."
Now, it looks like Ding is back in the saddle.
He was seen on August 18 chairing a meeting for the security during the forthcoming Shoton Festival.
What happened is one more mystery.
Probably, the authorities in Lhasa are nervous before the Festival and they required Ding's expertise and experience.  Hu Chunhua under whom Ding worked, may have put his foot down during his visit.
Now, where is Yan Jinhai? Mystery.

No huge crowds to welcome the Chinese Panchen Lama

Please note that while Wang Yi's visit was hardly covered by the Chinese media, Gyaltsen Norbu is in the press everyday.






Monday, August 17, 2020

The Mistake of the Century

President Xi Jinping is a poor strategist.
Chinese are known followers of the Art of War, an ancient Chinese military treatise written by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general and military authority in the 5th century BC. The treatise teaches all aspects of warfare and particularly how to win a War without fighting it, but today, it is clear that President Xi Jinping has not read the book properly.
Xi got the first basic wrong, “don’t take too many enemies in one go, take them one by one.”
As a result, Xi may win a few battles, but ultimately, the Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission is certain to lose the war; the world will not let the Middle Kingdom dominate the planet.
Xi Jinping and his advisors did not take into account that China’s ‘enemies’ would react so quickly to Beijing’s aggressive expansionism.
Take India, how could the nation (and the government) ignore Chinese intrusions in Ladakh and accept a change of the status quo without taking measures to make Beijing pay a price.
Banning Chinese applications or cancelling State contracts for Chinese mining companies, Delhi has started acting. As China digs in in Ladakh and prepares for the winter, retaliating actions are bound to increase and certain policies taken in the 1950s, will certainly be debated afresh, particularly the ‘One-China’ policy.
It is where President Xi and his advisors have miscalculated.
India and the world can well reopen ‘unfinished’ business.
One is the Tibetan issue at the UN.
On November 7, 1950, a well-drafted appeal sent from Kalimpong (as there were no postal facilities in Lhasa), pointed to the fact that “the Tibetans were racially, culturally and geographically far apart from the Chinese.” It also made a parallel with the situation in the Korean peninsula: “The attention of the world was then riveted on Korea where aggression was being resisted by an international force.
Similar happenings in Tibet were taking place with the world covering its eyes: … [The problem is] largely the outcome of unthwarted Chinese ambitions to bring weaker nations on her periphery within her active domination,” said the Appeal, which continued: “As a people devoted to the tenets of Buddhism, Tibetans had long eschewed the art of warfare, practised peace and tolerance and for the defence of their country, relied on its geographical configuration and on non-involvement in the affairs of other nations.”
It added that the Chinese, in their natural urge for expansion, “have wholly misconstrued the significance of the ties of friendship and interdependence that existed between China and Tibet.”
Some twenty years ago, Claudia Johnston, an independent researcher in International Law at the University of Victoria, Canada, wrote a fascinating paper “Tibet: The International Mistake of the Century”.
The outcome of her research was that the Tibetan Appeal was still a pending matter in the UN …waiting to be reopened: “The UN and individual Member States, have been conducting their decisions based on the false assumption that Tibet is not a ‘State’, but ‘an internal affair’ of China. UN official records show this to be a mistake.” Tibet was then a State.
As a result, “the issue of Tibetan Statehood remains unconsidered by the United Nations. United Nations mechanisms for ‘States’ to employ peaceful solutions to ‘Disputes’ have not been utilised.”
All this was done …at the instance of India.
It is true that from the start, Delhi was pessimistic about the outcome of the UN appeal: “We doubt whether a discussion of Tibetan problem in General Assembly or in Security Council will yield any useful result,” wrote Nehru.
The friendship with China was already too important to be sacrificed for the fate a weak and peaceful neighbour like Tibet.
The Prime Minister frankly admitted that though Beijing had repeatedly expressed itself in favour of Tibetan autonomy “but of course we do NOT know what their idea of autonomy is.”
Delhi thought: “We do NOT think that legal argument will be helpful or that Assembly should attempt more than appeal to two parties to come to a peaceful settlement. Condemnation of China will NOT help Tibet; and neither Security Council nor Assembly is in any position to render physical aid to Tibet.”
As a result China was not condemned and could complete its task of entering Lhasa without hindrance; in Sun Tzu’s jargon, ‘liberating Tibet without waging war’.
In the course of the discussions at the UN in New York, most of the representatives indicated that India was the nation most concerned and that they would follow India’s lead.
In a note, Nehru sadly asserted: “I think it may be taken for granted that China will take possession, in a political sense at least, of the whole of Tibet.”
He further admitted that for the Tibetan people the “autonomy can obviously not be anything like the autonomy, verging on independence, which Tibet has enjoyed during the last forty years or so.”
His final words were: “We cannot save Tibet, as we should have liked to do so, and our very attempts to save it might bring greater trouble to it. It would be unfair to Tibet for us to bring this trouble upon her without having the capacity to help her effectively.”
The strange argument was: if we do anything to help Tibet, it will upset the Chinese and the fate of Tibet would be worse.
The case was eventually ‘put in abeyance’ at India’s demand.
Let us remember that Sardar Patel was by then a dying man; nobody could stand up to Nehru.
But today, if China stubbornly continues to occupy Indian territory in Ladakh or if the Chinese Western Theatre Command generals manage to convince the new Helmsman that India should be taught more lessons, there are plenty of old issues for India to reopen. For sure, Chairman Xi has not played his cards well.