Tuesday, September 29, 2020

About Borders

For centuries, the subcontinent was separated from the Tibetan plateau by the most formidable natural barrier, the Himalaya.
This border has been remarkably peaceful from time immemorial.
It is only since the early 1950s, once Tibet, a State with all the legal attributes of an Independent Nation, was occupied by Communist China, that the border became a bone of contention with the latter.

What is a Border?
Wikipedia, the online dictionary, explains what a border is: “Borders define geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated states and other subnational entities. Some borders — such as a state's internal administrative borders, or inter-state borders within the Schengen Area — are open and completely unguarded. Other borders are partially or fully controlled, and may be crossed legally only at designated border checkpoints and border zones may be controlled.”
Today borders are useful conventions for separating or defining sovereign countries/nations.

A Porous Border between India and Tibet

For centuries, the Himalaya saw a constant flow of Tibetan lamas, pandits and yogis visiting the great Indian viharas of Nalanda, Odantapuri or Vikramasila. Once Tibet converted to the doctrine of non-violence, it was transfigured. It lived only for the Dharma and by the Dharma of Buddha. It is fascinating to look at the changes wrought by the Buddhist faith on the people of Tibet who were among the most belligerent on earth. After adopting the new religion, their powerful Empire which had spread far and wide suddenly turned pacifist. As a result it would never recover its past military glory but it would start another kind of conquest, the conquest of self, and begin to spread its cultural influence over Central Asia and Mongolia.
Unfortunately for Tibet after 1950, the People’s Liberation Army walked onto the Tibetan plateau and brutally imposed its rule.
The fact is that when neighbouring States are on friendly terms, it is not too difficult to find an agreed frontier; when one faces an expansionist, aggressive neighbour, it is more difficult.

Border control

Over the last century, most States have instituted border control to restrict or limit the movement of people, animals, plants, and goods into or out of the country. Under international law, a State can decide the conditions under which a person can legally cross its borders; the State is also entitled to prevent persons or goods from crossing its borders.
To cross borders, one generally requires legal documents or travel documents like passports (which in many cases need a visa) or at least identity documents.
Till 1954, the Indo-Tibet relations were so friendly that the two nations trusted each other and no travel documents was required for the nationals of India or Tibet to visit the neighbouring country; one can take the example of Indians visiting the Kailash-Manasarovar area without any identity proofs.

What defines a border?

There are different ways to define borders.
To understand the difficulties to have a ‘border agreement’ with India’s most difficult neighbours, namely Pakistan and China, it is necessary to look at the features which define a border.

Geographical Borders
Natural borders are geographical features that present natural obstacles to communication and transport. It can be:

  • Mountain ranges:
    In the present study, the Himalayan range is the most formidable natural barrier, though mountainous passes for centuries witnessed cultural, trade and religious exchanges; they were unfortunately closed after 1962 War with China. As far as Tibet and India are concerned, diplomats, pilgrims or traders knew that when they crossed a certain pass, they had reached the neighbouring country; that was it.
  • A Watershed or a ridge:
    The entire McMahon Line in the North-east follows the watershed principle. One of the problems is that the Chinese have not accepted the watershed as the primarily principle. The Central Sector also follows the watershed principle except in four places today disputed by China (Chuva-Chuje, Shipki-la, Nilang-Jadhang and Barahoti-Lapthal-Sangchamalla).
  • A pass:
    One can give the example of the six passes mentioned in the 1954 Agreement between India and China. It constitutes a clearly definable boundary.
  • A Pasture:
    The location and ownership pattern of customary pastures can define the border between two countries.
  • Rivers:
    Some political borders have been formalized along natural borders formed by rivers, for example the Rhine border between France and Germany. The international border usually runs in the middle of the river.
  • Lakes:
    Large lakes can be a natural border. One example in the Himalayan region is the Pangong tso (lake) which spreads between India and Tibet. It is today the object of a bitter dispute between India and China.
  • An ocean or a sea:
    They often create very large natural borders. A nation may have exclusive rights over the mineral and other resources (including biological) in some areas in an ocean or a sea. The South China Sea is an example, though China fixed its claims without historical or legal sanction.
  • A wall:
    The Great Wall of China was the most famous example of a border protection for China against foreign invasions.

A few more such principles could be cited, but the above are the most usual features to determine a common border.

The Great Wall was China's border
On what is a settled border based?
A border agreed by the two neighbouring States is based on historical or customary features. Further, to determine these borders some factors are taken into account:

  • A Treaty or Agreement
    Borders can based on a treaty or an agreement signed by the two parties; this is the case of the McMahon Line between NEFA (today Arunachal) and Tibet; two concerned States affixed their signature on a map.
    Another case is the Peace Treaty between Ladakh and Tibet of 1684 which says: “The boundaries fixed, in the beginning, when king Skyed-lda-nyeema gon gave a kingdom to each of his three sons, shall still be maintained.”
    Further, the Treaty of 1842 between Ladakh and Tibet reiterated the same border; unfortunately, no map was attached to the 1684 and 1842 Treaties (it was probably not necessary at that time).
  • A Brokered Agreement i.e. the 1949 UN Cease-Fire
    Another example is when an agreement is brokered by a third party; in July 1949, the delegations of India and Pakistan, under the UN auspices reached the following agreement: “Under the provision of Part I of the resolution of 13 August, 1948, and as a complement of the suspension of hostilities in the State of Jammu and Kashmir on 1 January, 1949, a cease-fire line is established…” This became the Line of Cease-Fire.
  • Arbitral Decision i.e. The Radcliffe Line
    The Radcliffe Line was announced on 17 August 1947 as a boundary demarcation between India and Pakistan. Named after Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the chairman of the Border Commissions who had to equally divide 450,000 km2 of territory with 88 million people.
  • Custom and usage, i.e. Panchsheel, 1954
    More importantly for the Indo-Tibet (now Sino-Indian) border, custom and usage have been used to determine the borders.
    The 1954 ‘Panchsheel’ Agreement says: “Traders and pilgrims of both countries may travel by the following passes and route: (1) Shipki La pass, (2) Mana pass, (3) Niti pass, (4) Kungri Bingri pass, (5) Darma pass, and (6) Lipu Lekh pass. Also, the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Shangatsangpu (Indus) River may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom.”
  • Historical proofs
    The publication of maps or accounts of travelers fall in this category. This is the case of the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh.

One or several of these principles can be used to determine a border.

The Case of the McMahon Line
A few words should be mentioned about the McMahon Line.
In 1913, the British government convened a tripartite Conference in Simla between plenipotentiaries of Great Britain, China, and Tibet. The Convention provided for an ‘Outer Tibet’ which would be fully autonomous. However, after initializing the Convention, Ivan Chen, the Chinese plenipotentiary withdrew his consent in July 1914. Great Britain and Tibet attached a note to the Convention denying China any privileges under the Accord. The Convention was later sealed as a bilateral agreement.
Nevertheless, in March 1914, on the side of the Simla Conference, the British and the Tibetans defined their common border in India’s North-East; the McMahon Line was born.
Lonchen Shatra officially wrote to Sir Henry McMahon: “As it was feared that there might be friction in future unless the boundary between India and Tibet is clearly defined, I submitted the map, which you sent to me in February last, to the Tibetan Government at Lhasa for orders. I have now received orders from Lhasa, and I accordingly agree to the boundary as marked in red in the two copies of the maps signed by you subject to the condition mentioned in your letter, dated 14th March, sent to me through Mr. Bell. I have signed and sealed the two copies of the maps. I have kept one copy here and return herewith the other.”
During the following years, British officials had regular contacts with the Tibetan Kashag. Following the signature of the Convention, trade marts were opened in Tibet and telegraphic lines were maintained by Government of British India.

How to delimitate a border?
What are the stages of delimitation of a border between two independent States (or three in case of a trijunction) once they have agreed on principle(s)?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘delimit’ means “to mark or determine the limits of; to define, as a limit or boundary” while ‘delimitation’, it is the “determination of a limit or boundary, especially of the frontier of a territory”.
The first step for ‘delimiting’ a border is to ‘define’ the border, for example, ‘the border will follow the watershed’ or ‘will be the center of this river’.
‘Definition’ needs to be a precise statement. The next stage is to ‘delineate’ a ‘defined’ border. The dictionary says that ‘delineate’ is ‘to trace out by lines; trace the outlines of, a on a chart map’, for example.
‘Demarcation’ is often treated as the same as the ‘definition’, however ‘demarcation’ can also refer to work on the ground by means of pillars or other conventional signs.
The final stage is ‘abornement’ which is the ‘determination of the precise limits of a piece of land or border by fixing pillars or other markers on the ground.
The entire process is called ‘delimitation’ of the border; it is a long process. In the case of the Sino-Indian border dispute, the two parties have not even exchanged maps of their ‘perceptional’ Line of Actual Control (LAC).

China does not stick to any principle
It is difficult to deal with China because the claims made by Beijing are often without historical, cartographical or geographical support. This is true for the frontier (the so-called LAC) in Ladakh, but also for other recent Chinese claims in the South China Sea, in Tajikistan’s Pamir Region or Vladivostok.
For India, the principle of the watershed is the prime deciding factor; while most Chinese claims are not based on any of the principles normally used to demarcate a boundary, i.e. watershed, river, customary routes, grazing rights, etc.
As an example, we can cite the case of the now famous 1960 Chinese map, which just follows Beijing’s strategic interests and not any world-agreed principles.
That is why it is difficult to talk to China, which goes by its own changeable rules, practically promoting only its own interests.
It makes it impossible to find a mutually agreeable solution to the vexed issue today.

Friday, September 25, 2020

India Has Changed Since 1962; China’s Adventure May End Xi’s Dream

My article India Has Changed Since 1962; China’s Adventure May End Xi’s Dream appeared in The Quint last week.

Here is the link...

Xi Jinping shouldn’t forget that India is better prepared than in 1962, and Beijing is isolated like never before. 

The situation is fast deteriorating in Ladakh.
For China, it took a turn for the worst when India captured a ridge on the southern bank of the Pangong tso (lake).
The fact that the Tibetan Special Frontier Force (SFF) was involved brought the Tibetan factor into the conflict; this was clear when BJP general secretary Ram Madhav attended the funeral of Company Leader Nyima Tenzin who was killed in mine blast during a recee.
In a tweet (later deleted), Madhav said: “Attended the funeral of SFF Company Leader Nyima Tenzin, a Tibetan who laid down his life protecting our borders in Ladakh. Let the sacrifices of such valiant soldiers bring peace along the Indo-Tibetan border. That will be the real tribute to all martyrs.”
Though no official comment came from the government, this has greatly irritated Beijing.
Another event took place the same day, India test fired its first hypersonic missile demonstrator; as Forbes put it: “a cutting-edge hypersonic missile could massively increase the potency of Indian Navy warships in a future conflict.”
Obviously, the Communist leadership in Beijing was not pleased, The Global Times reacted: “We must warn India seriously: You have crossed the line! Your frontline troops have crossed the line! Your nationalist public opinion has crossed the line! Your policy toward China has crossed the line! You are over-confidently provoking the PLA and Chinese people - this is like doing a handstand on the edge of a cliff!”
Till recently China thought that India would react as it did during the past 60 years, the Indian diplomats would agree to talk and ultimately a compromise would be found (in other words, the People’s Liberation Army could keep half of the territory that it had just grabbed). But this time, Delhi decided to stand firm and asked for a return to the status quo as on April 2020.
Beijing probably did not expect this from the Modi Sarkar, The Global Times was furious: “Nationalist forces in India should think twice that if the Chinese and Indian armies change their agreement …[and] prioritize the use of guns? Does commanding heights make sense in modern military conflict? Between India and China, which country has more weapons, and which has a bigger military budget. Can't India count?”
The tabloid warned: “if the Indian side misinterprets China's goodwill and intends to deter the PLA with warning shots, its moves will backfire. China will never concede for the sake of avoiding a war.”
The MoD gave a simple, but strong answer: “The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility, however is also determined to protect national integrity and sovereignty at all costs. The statement by the Western Theatre Command is an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience.”
The Chinese domestic audience might indeed be the real issue.
President Xi Jinping had a Dream: China would be the power No 1 in the world in a couple of decades. How can a ‘weak’ neighbour like India dare to refuse to give in for a few hundred meters in the Himalaya? This explains China’s stubbornness to disengage during the talks at the political, diplomatic and military levels.
Not only did India resist China’s advances on the ground, but the Elephant took over the ridge overlooking the lake; and to make the matter worse, Delhi used Tibetan soldiers; Tibet (with Xinjiang) are the sore point in Beijing’s policy of assimilation of ‘its’ minorities.
With the Fifth Plenum of the Communist Party of China coming up next month, the Chinese President, who often speaks of the stability of the Tibetan borders, is in difficult position. He will have to explain to the Central Committee members why he launched the Ladakh adventure, and more importantly, what had he expected to gain from it? Just a couple of fingers and few hundred meters of territory in two or three locations? Is it worth risking an armed conflict during the post-Covid period?
Today, there is definitely risk of an escalation; observers, particularly historians see similarities between the tone and tenure of exchanges between Delhi and Beijing in the Summer 1962 and now; then too, the Great Helmsman’s position was fragile after another national mishap, the Great Leap Forward.
If the situation turns bad, there is no doubt that China will shift the blame on India; already in October 1962, Beijing wrote: “On October 20, Indian forces started a massive general offensive in both the eastern and western sectors of the Sino-Indian border. In these serious circumstances, the Chinese frontier guards had no choice but to strike back in self-defence.”
Xi Jinping may call it again ‘self-defence’, but he should not forget that India is far better prepared than in 1962, and Beijing is, like never before, isolated on the world scene; China should think twice before going into a bloody adventure. It could be the end of Xi’s grand Dream.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

India and its Saga of 'Reneged' International Promises

The 'broken' 17-Point Agreement

My article India and its Saga of 'Reneged' International Promises appeared in News Intervention

 Here is the link...

 Global Times is famous (or infamous) for saying that black is white and vice-versa; and at the end, arguing that everybody should admire Red China.
For the past five months, the tabloid has described the situation in Ladakh as of India’s own making; it continues the Communist Party long tradition of telling lies (remember the Great Leap Forward and its claims of bumper harvests at a time when more than 40 million Chinese died of starvation). Today, The Global Times continues to reverse the roles and change the facts.

Take the example of the joint statement and five-point consensus reached by the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers at the end of their recent meeting in Moscow. While admitting that it is “a substantial step in cooling down the current border situation, exceeding the expectations of most international observers,” The Global Times squarely put the blame on India: “The successful implementation of the joint statement, however, depends on whether the Indian side can truly keep its word,” as if Delhi is not keeping its word.
It is not difficult for the tabloid to find ‘experts’ to corroborate its conclusions; one Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing told the Communist publication: “given India's past history of breaking consensuses reached at such meetings, some Chinese experts stressed that it's still too early to pin high hopes on its implementation.”
However, the history of modern China is a tale of broken promises.
Hardly two months after Mao solemnly announced the birth of the People’s Republic of China from the Tiananmen Square, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) annexed Xinjiang, closing down the Indian Consulate General in Kashgar in the same stroke.
Delhi was told that the new regime would have to renegotiate all its former agreements, a position untenable in international law.
By taking over Xinjiang, Mao controlled the western borders of the Middle Kingdom, he could access trade with Central Asia and block any possibility of Soviet southward advance; for the first time, he also came in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly the Aksai Chin area; a few years later, Beijing built a road across Indian territory linking up Xinjiang with Tibet.
The first broken promise was about the Indian Consulate in Kashgar, despite Beijing’s promises, it would never be reopened.
At the same time, Beijing repeatedly told the Uyghurs that the PLA had come to help them to develop the area; the Uyghurs still do not understand how they have been ‘helped’ during all these decades.
India foolishly kept the closure of its Kashgar  Consulate secret because “nothing could be done about it,” but that is another story.
Then came the invasion of the Roof of the World, called by Mao the ‘liberation’ of Tibet. A two-phase operation was meticulously planned by the Great helmsman; the first part culminated in the Battle of Chamdo in 1950, which saw the Tibetan forces being decimated; after the winter had passed, the Communist regime started the second phase, a diplomatic one; the weak Tibetan State was forced to put its thumbprint on an agreement allowing Communist China to take over the Land of Snows.
An ‘Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’, better known as the ‘17-Point Agreement’ was signed (‘under duress’ according the Dalai Lama) in Beijing on May 23, 1951 by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the former Governor of the Eastern Province of Kham, then a prisoner of war.
The Tibetan delegates were ‘trapped’ into this (the seals of the Tibetan government had to be forged for the purpose, but never mind). The consequences for Tibet would be most momentous; not only Tibet would lose more than its independence, because here too, China would not keep its promises.
On September 9, 1951, soon after the Tibetans had signed on the dotted line, several thousand PLA troops entered Lhasa under the command of General Wang Qimei; subsequently 20,000 troops began to occupy the most strategic points on the Tibetan Plateau. India had a new neighbour.
The next step for Beijing was to subdue the Indian government with a well-orchestrated propaganda of ‘eternal friendship’ between the two Asian giants; the Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai honeymoon between Delhi and Beijing began to flourish.
In April 1954, India and China signed the so-called Panchsheel Agreement about Tibet, to which the Tibetans were not even invited to participate. India’s long border with Tibet (now China) was wishfully deemed settled in the process; Delhi thought that by signing this hasty agreement, it had ‘fixed’ the border.
But two months later, the ink on the treaty had hardly dried, the Chinese troops walked into Indian territory; the PLA entered for the first time in Barahoti, a small flat grazing ground located in today’s Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
It was another broken promise, the first two of the Five Principles (‘Panchsheel’) spoke of ‘Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty and Mutual non-aggression’.
In April 1958, for the first time, officials of India and China sat together to try and sort out the issue. It was a first rehearsal for the long negotiations which would take place in 1960; both led nowhere.
As a compromise in Barahoti, India agreed that Chinese ‘unarmed’ patrols could visit the place in summer till the case was solved; Beijing never kept its promise and repeatedly sent armed soldiers to Barahoti.
Sixty-two years after the negotiators agreed to be unarmed, the Chinese still cross the Tunjun-la and armed personnel walk into the desolate area.
Many more examples could be cited, i.e. the agreements of 1993, 1996 or 2005 on the borders which are often forgotten. For example, Article VII of the 2005 Guidelines said: “In reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas.” It was clearly referring to Tawang, but a few months later, Beijing started claiming again the area; to the long list of broken promises, one can add the decision for a disengagement arrived at during the recent five rounds of talks between the Corps Commanders in Ladakh. Where is the disengagement today?
Considering China’s track record in the matter, The Global Times should be less arrogant, but it is apparently impossible.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Tibet factor in India-China relations

My article The Tibet factor in India-China relations appeared in The Sunday Guardian

Here is the link...

The virus which originated in Wuhan, China and the unexpected attack by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Indian frontiers in Ladakh have forced India to re-look at her relations with China. After ambitious generals in Chengdu’s Western Theater Command sold the idea to Xi to advance the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the bonhomie between India and China has become past history; in the process, Xi Jinping has destroyed the trust built during the Wuhan Consensus in 2018 and the Chennai Connect in 2019.
Borrowing the words of Beijing’s tacticians, some in India have suggested using ‘ten thousand methods’ to tackle the Middle Kingdom.
Among the different ‘methods’, many speak of a ‘Tibet Card’.
Though the word ‘card’ may not be adequate, one can certainly speak of Tibet Factor in the India-China relations.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Tibetan nation had all the attributes of a sovereign State (a government, a language, a script, a flag, a (weak) army, coins, stamps, etc); for centuries, the Land of Snow had unhindered relations with India, first and foremost, in the cultural and spiritual domains (Tibetan Buddhism originates from Nalanda, let us not forget), but also economically with countless ‘silk’ roads across the Himalaya; in other words, there was a deep kinship.
All this came to a sudden end when Mao decided to ‘liberate’ Tibet.
The Great Helmsman was not interested in the civilization aspect, but purely in Tibet’s strategic assets; by invading Tibet, China gained not only a huge landmass, but access to the ‘water tower of Asia’, large mineral resources and a strategic position dominating the subcontinent. The welfare of the Tibetan masses was not the Communists’ concern.
In 1950, by weakness or idealism, the Indian government abandoned Tibet to its own fate …for the sake of world peace.
In a recently-published quadrilogy covering the period between 1947 and 1962, I described this momentous era: India became independent; China did its own revolution, resulting in the arrival of a new regime, more brutal in its approach, especially towards the periphery of the Middle Kingdom. While most of the African and Asian nations were decolonized, Tibet, a de facto independent nation came under the yoke of Communist China.
An unprepared and peaceful Land of Snows became part of the Chinese ‘Motherland’. The events that we are today witnessing in Ladakh have their origin in a series of blunders committed in the 1950s and 1960s.
In India, the tumultuous year 1950 saw the emergence of two factions: one led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and KM Panikkar, his ambassador in Beijing, both obsessed with an imaginary friendship with New China and fixated on the ‘larger implications for World Peace’ for any decision concerning Tibet; the other, which immediately saw the strategic implications for India’s frontiers if Delhi let Tibet down, was led by Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minster, with Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations as his main adviser, but also comprised of President Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, KM Munshi and others. They were fed with reports ‘from the ground’ by Harishwar Dayal, the brilliant Political Officer in Sikkim and Sumul Sinha, the Head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa, two sincere and far-sighted civil servants. At that time, India had a full-fledged Mission in Tibet as well as three Trade Agencies in Gyantse, Yatung and Gartok.
The dichotomy between the officers on the ground and the ‘visionaries’ in Delhi continued till October 1962, when China’s massive invasion in NEFA and in Ladakh brought the idealists back on earth.
One can trace the first blunder to December 1949 when India kept quiet after Beijing unilaterally closed down the Indian Consulate in Kashgar, Sinkiang (today Xinjiang).
By taking over Xinjiang, Mao controlled the western borders of the Middle Kingdom, he could access trade with Central Asia and block any possibility of Soviet southward advance; for the first time, he also came in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly the Aksai Chin area, the object of today’s conflict; a few years later, Beijing built a road across Indian territory linking up Xinjiang with Tibet.
On November 7, 1950, a well-drafted appeal to the UN was sent from Kalimpong (as there were no postal facilities in Lhasa), pointing 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.
Delhi decided to bury the issue in the UN by telling the General Assembly that it would sort out the issue and find a peaceful solution. Interestingly, some years ago, a Canadian scholar, Claudia Johnston studied the issue; the outcome of her research was that the Tibetan Appeal was still a pending matter in the UN …waiting to be reopened.
Another very-little known, but consequential blunder was that Delhi accepted to downgrade its full-fledged Mission in Lhasa to a Consulate General in 1952. It was secretly done without the knowledge of the Indian Parliament. This action, initiated by KM Panikkar, practically brought down Tibet to the level of a province of China; Delhi thought it would please Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier; of course, India did not get anything in return.
Two years later, Delhi took the initiative to call a conference to discuss the trade and pilgrimage between Tibet and India.
One of the most immoral parts of what became the Panchsheel Agreement, was that Delhi ignored the existence of the Tibetan Government; Delhi only dealt with the new masters of the Roof of the World, without informing the Dalai Lama’s Administration. Strange for a government so vociferous about the decolonization of Africa or Asia, while Tibet enjoyed what the Indian Prime Minister himself described as an autonomy ‘verging on Independence’.
The “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India” was signed on April 29, 1954 in Beijing. The talks would take four months to arrive at a settlement …forgetting the border in the process.
The ‘Panchsheel’ Agreement resulted in the unhindered advance of the Communist ideology and the PLA on the Tibetan plateau.
At the time, many senior Indian politicians and diplomats, educated in ‘modern’ ideas, thought the ‘old Lama hierarchy’ should be swept away and Tibet become a ‘modern’ country; they believed that the Chinese invasion was a chance to make a clean sweep of the old superstitions, beliefs or rituals. What a folly!

A New Tibet Policy
It is easier to commit a blunder than to repair its consequences, however in view of the present situation on the borders, it is necessary to take a first step and re-think what could be a new approach, not only towards Tibet and the Tibetan refugees, but also the entire Himalayan belt.
It would indeed be more advantageous to have a policy for the entire Himalaya, including Tibet, which have shared countless cultural, spiritual, strategic and economic similarities. The first step could be the creation of an Office of Northern Frontiers and Tibetan Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Office.
For the purpose, Delhi should start a dialogue with the Tibetans (for example with the present Dalai Lama’s representative in Delhi, who has a great knowledge in security issues) and the Himalayan States.
Some general principles should dictate the new policy.
First, India should look after her own interests and the security of the people living on the borders; it seems obvious, but it has not always been the case.
Another principle is that India’s policies or actions should not be dictated by what others will think or say, particularly how China will react to a particular decision. This tendency has lasted too long with no tangible gain for the country; for example, the 2018 notice circulated to all ministries/departments ordering that no Indian officials should meet the Dalai Lama had serious counter-productive effects.
It is unfortunate but it is a fact that India faces a country which still believes that power comes from the barrel of a gun; without emulating China, India needs to quietly and forcefully look after her own interests and be straightforward about it; a closer kinship between Delhi and Dharamsala is in the country’s interests.
Whatever over-all policy is adopted by the Government at a later stage, one element is critical: coordination. In view of the individualistic tendencies of the Indian bureaucracy, this is crucial in order to achieve the targeted aim of the policy between the different shareholders (Ministries of External Affairs, Defence; Home Affairs, Education, Culture, intelligence agencies, etc).
Without proper coordination, it will be just one more futile new policy.
The creation of such a Department would be the first step to strengthen the border areas, and use the goodwill of the Tibetans towards India; the rest will follow. But undoing the knots of the past will take time.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Dragon and the art of selective amnesia

My article Dragon and the art of selective amnesia appeared a few days back in The Daily Guardian

Here is the link...

Before making outrageous claims, Chinese officials should do their homework and know their country’s history. China has not always claimed Arunachal Pradesh.

Zhao Lijian, the ‘wolfwarrior’ and spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, did it again. On 7 September, during a press briefing, when asked to provide details about five missing Indian nationals from Arunachal Pradesh (who are said to have been captured by the People’s Liberation Army), the arrogant Zhao asserted: “China’s position with regard to the eastern sector of China-India boundary i.e., South Tibet region, is consistent and clear. We have never recognised the socalled ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ illegally established on the Chinese territory.” About the missing Indians, he added: “I am not aware of it now.”
Obviously, Zhao has poor knowledge of history and even geography. Already in February 2019, when the Prime Minister visited the Northeastern Indian state, Hua Chunying, Zhao’s boss, had affirmed: “The Chinese Government has never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader’s visit to the East Section of the China-India boundary.”
South Block issued its usual weak rebuttal. Why can’t New Delhi speak of the ‘so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region’ or Eastern Turkestan? Will Indian diplomats do this one day? In 2019, Hua’s sharp tongue expressed hopes that “India will cherish the momentum of warming bilateral ties and not take any provocative action.” Today, the bilateral ties are not that warm anymore, but the fact remains that Hua, like Zhao, seems unaware that China’s refusal to acknowledge the McMahon Line is a new phenomenon.
Let us go back to 1956. As India prepared to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the birth of Buddha, communist China was extremely nervous; eastern Tibet was on fire with the Khampa rebellion, while central Tibet was slowly getting contaminated by the revolt. After months of prevarication, Beijing finally allowed the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama to visit India for the celebrations. But Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was really febrile, he was aware that many Tibetans wanted the Dalai Lama to stay on in India; as a result, he visited Delhi thrice in a period of two months.
During one of his numerous encounters with Zhou, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked him: “But I do not quite understand what you meant when you said that Tibet in the past had not become a province of China?” The Premier answered: “That Tibet is part of China is a fact but it has never [been] an administrative province of China and has kept an autonomous character.” For the Communists, the autonomous character would remain on paper only. Zhou even admitted that India knew more about Tibet’s past history than China: “For example, I knew nothing about McMahon Line until recently when we came to study the border problem after the liberation of China.”
Zhao Lijian would be surprised to learn that China’s Premier did not know about the line delineating the border between India and Tibet till the early 1950s. Nehru unnecessarily asserted that historical knowledge was not important: “History is gone,” he said, adding: “My impression was that whatever it may be in theory, for all practical purposes, Tibet has all along been autonomous.”
The clever Zhou repeated that though people like him never knew about the McMahon Line till recently, the Kuomintang regime knew about it. Referring to the McMahon Line, he spoke of a ‘secret’ pact between British India and Tibet at the time of the Simla conference.
The Chinese do not like to remember that the Tibetans sat on an equal footing with them and British India during the Simla conference between October 1913 and July 1914. To give an example, the proceedings of the third meeting of the Tibet conference held on 12 January 1914 mentioned the presence of Sir Henry McMahon, British Plenipotentiary and staff, Monsieur Ivan Chen, Chinese Plenipotentiary and staff, and Kusho Lonchen Shatra, Tibetan Plenipotentiary and staff. They officially sat together for nine months, but China suffers from selective amnesia today.
To come back to the Nehru-Zhou meeting, the Premier continued on the McMahon Line: “And now that it is an accomplished fact, we should accept it. But we have not consulted Tibet so far. In the last agreement, which we signed about Tibet [in 1954], the Tibetans wanted us to reject this Line but we told them that the question should be temporarily put aside,” the Chinese Premier bluffed and added: “But now we think that we should try to persuade and convince Tibetans to accept it.” Then, Nehru went on his favourite argument: “The border is a high mountain and sparsely populated.” He further asserted: “Apart from the major question, there are also small queries about two miles here and two miles there. But if we agree on some principle, namely, the principle of previous normal practice or the principle of watershed, we can also settle these other small points.” It is Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government which first made the communists realise the extent of the Tibetan territory in the area. Long before the beginning of the Japanese war, Ren Naiqiang, an influential scholar during the Republican era, had started wandering through eastern Tibet. In 1926, he went a step further and included part of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA, today Arunachal Pradesh) into Chinese territory.
In 1939, as the Nationalist Government formally established the new province Xikang (corresponding to Kham province of Tibet), Ren Naiqiang was encouraged by Liu Wenhui, the Governor of Xikang, to produce a map of the area. Though the Chinese had never set foot in the area, the new map included NEFA in the new Chinese province. It is how “Arunachal has always been Chinese territory”.
At the end of 1949, Ren Naiqiang met Marshal He Long, one of the senior-most generals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and explained why his map was dependable; the Marshal was convinced and ordered the distribution of copies. On 10 January 1950, He Long sent a report to Mao Zedong strongly recommending that Ren’s map should be accepted and circulated amongst the PLA. It is after this encounter that Beijing started claiming NEFA as Chinese.
Before making outrageous claims, Hua and her colleagues should do their homework and know their country’s history. China has not always claimed NEFA.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Jawaharlal Nehru ignored intelligence report of Chinese road in Indian territory in 1957: Book

The Indian Minister on his way to Bhutan via Tibet
My Volume 4 was reviewed by Rajeev Deshpande in The Times of India: Jawaharlal Nehru ignored intelligence report of Chinese road in Indian territory in 1957: Book

Here is the link...

Jawaharlal Nehru ignored intelligence report of Chinese road in Indian territory in 1957: Book
NEW DELHI: In early 1957, an audacious secret mission into Aksai Chin that saw an Indian Army officer and a havildar join a group of yak grazers in disguise actually provided first-hand evidence that China had illegally built a road in territory claimed by India.
Unfortunately, the efforts of Lt Col R S Basera of Kumaon Regiment and Havildar Diwan Singh of the Corps of Engineers went abegging despite the immense risks and hardships they undertook as then defence minister V K Krishna Menon and then PM Jawaharlal Nehru remained sceptical about the road’s exact location. It would be a full two year later before the Indian government admitted in Parliament that the road had indeed been built.
In a soon to be out book, ‘End of an Era, India Exits Tibet’, well-known China expert Claude Arpi has set out in exhaustive detail, based on Nehru Memorial Library papers, de-classified Indian and Chinese documents and personal interviews, how even voluminous reports by its own agencies about the ominous consolidation of China’s occupation of Tibet failed to prod India into action.
The theme of the book is about India losing all its influence in Tibet, helping China press aggressive claims along the border with India. This came at the cost of letting down opinion in Tibet that looked up to “Chogyal Nehru” and felt India could come to their aid in preventing “Sinofication” of their culture and ways.
Arpi’s research however, indicates that India did have options. At the time, the Indian Air Force was clearly superior to China’s military air arm and could have aided in helping Tibetan resistance, which was significant. The diplomacy itself, given India’s strong presence through trading centres, could have been forceful.
Indian reports from Tibet spoke of the speed with which motorable roads were being built but failed to stir New Delhi. The roads enabled Chinese troops to reach India’s borders quickly. The long preparation saw Mao Zedong, annoyed by the asylum to Dalai Lama and Nehru’s attempts to “undermine” China’s leadership in the Third World, to order attacks on Indian positions on October 1962.
Lt Col Basera’s trip actually reached the road and took its measurements. But on return, Menon and Nehru asked the director of military intelligence if the road could be confirmed by a map. The secret patrol had, however, carried no maps for security reasons.
This was not the only evidence of the road. Even earlier, British mountaineer Sidney Wignall went to Tibet with the knowledge of the Indian military. He was captured but released at a high pass and reached India after an incredible journey. His report of the Aksai Chin road was dismissed by Menon in Nehru’s presence as CIA propaganda.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Review: The End of an Era; India Exits Tibet

Prime Minister Nehru meeting the Indian traders
in Yatung, Tibet in September 1958
My last volume, The End of an Era; India Exits Tibet (India-Tibet Relations 1947-1962 - Part 4) has been reviewed by Thubten Samphel in The Hindustan Times

Here is the link...

Claude Arpi’s four volumes on Tibet’s relations with India show how China developed its Tibet playbook that includes encroachment, occupation, and the spinning of a narrative of false claims. The last book in the series focuses on the last five years of India’s diplomatic presence in Tibet
 
 What’s happening with China these days? It is picking fights simultaneously with most of its neighbours. The only time communist China opened two fronts was in 1950 when it invaded and occupied Tibet and fought the US-led UN forces to a standstill at the present demilitarized zone between South and North Korea. Now, China is harassing Japan in the East China Sea, restricting the freedoms of the enraged people of Hong-Kong, and firing missiles across the Taiwan Strait and claiming most of the South China Sea, disputed by many countries in South East Asia.
The latest is China’s encroachment on Indian territory.
On 15 June, PLA troops crossed over the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh and were repulsed by the Indian army. China is doing everything according to its Tibet playbook: in the early 1950s, it occupied the Indian territory of Aksai Chin. Both in Ladakh and in the South China Sea, Beijing hopes to apply its Tibet playbook to establish facts on the ground and on water and later argue that possession is nine-tenth of the law.

How China developed its Tibet playbook that includes encroachment, occupation, and the spinning of a narrative of false claims is examined in rich detail by Claude Arpi in his four volumes on Tibet’s relations with India. Digging deep into the material at the National Archives and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Claude Arpi’s latest offering focuses on his findings on the last five years of India’s diplomatic presence in Tibet.

As he writes in his first volume, the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 presented newly independent India with a policy choice: was new China a friend or foe? In this debate, the friend camp led by India’s first Prime Minister Nehru wanted deeper cooperation with its new neighbour. The foe camp wanted India to treat China, now at its door step, as harbouring malign intent and recommended that the country beef up border security from Ladakh in the west to North-Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA), now Arunachal Pradesh, in the east. In the policy choice India made, the China-as-a-friend camp carried the day. India handed all its extraterritorial rights including the trade agencies in Gyantse, Dromo (Yatung) and Gartok in Tibet to its new rulers,. In 1954, India signed the Panch Sheel agreement with China that formally recognized Tibet as a part of the People’s Republic.
One of the important documents Arpi has dug out and commented on is a report filed by Apa Pant to the Indian foreign ministry of his observations in Tibet. Pant was the Political Officer (PO) based in Gangtok. Since the days of the British Raj, the PO had looked after the affairs of Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. Apa Pant travelled to Tibet from November 1956 to February 1957 and met with the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, members of the Tibetan ruling elite and leaders of the Tibetan resistance. The observations Apa Pant made in his report was, in the words of Claude Arpi, “an eye-opener” for New Delhi.
Pant’s observations about the sentiments of the Tibetan people under their new rulers and his predictions about China’s plans for Tibet in the future are sharp and prophetic. Regarding the true feelings of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule, Apa Pant observed, “Due to fear and the realization of their military, (as well as) the weakness of the Tibetans (they) are keeping quiet but have neither mentally or emotionally submitted themselves to the Chinese rule nor accepted it as the final dispensation.”
About China’s future plans for Tibet, Pant wrote: “Only when roads, aerodromes and perhaps a railway line are completed millions of Chinese will start flooding into Tibet and settling there permanently.” Claude Arpi adds that this “has come true 60 years later.”
Claude Arpi’s fourth and final volume in his examination of Tibet’s relations with India from 1947 to 1962 ends with the closure of the Indian Consular General in Lhasa. New Delhi cited the severe restrictions imposed on the consulate for its closure. In hindsight one wonders whether the closure of the Lhasa consulate was a wise thing to do. If it had remained open, weathering Chinese restrictions and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, New Delhi would have had a keener sense of what was happening behind the Himalayas.
For scholars and researchers interested in this phase of Tibet’s relations with India, Claude Arpi’s books will remain essential reading. These four volumes are a seminal contribution to our understanding of Tibet’s interaction with both India and China and India’s interaction with China on Tibet at a critical period in history.

Thubten Samphel is an independent researcher and a former director of the Tibet Policy Institute.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Old Chinese habits die hard but have we learnt the lessons?

Namkha chu-Namjiang chu
My article Old Chinese habits die hard but have we learnt the lessons? appeared in The Daily Guardian

Here is the link...

China’s questionable conduct regarding border and territory disputes has raised eyebrows time and again. What remains to be seen now is whether India can learn from history to prevent it from repeating.

An often mentioned remark is: “History repeats itself.” Even in antiquity, a Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence was taught. When one looks at the history of the Communist Party of China since 1949, one can see that there is definitely some truth in this concept.
I experienced this “recurrence” a number of times during recent research on the Indian presence in Tibet between 1947 and 1962. Trying to put on record what happened to the age-old relation between India and Tibet is a rather depressing story, not only because it ended with the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet and a border war with China, but also because history seems to be repeating itself today, even in the minutest details.
Since our planet entered the ‘New Virus Era’ (which originated from China) in January, followed by the unexpected attack from the People’s Liberation of China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in May, the past events in Tibet kept coming to my mind. China seems to have never given up its quest to extend what it perceived as its territory; further, the brutal way to push its interests remains the same.
I remember the great historian R.C. Majumdar’s statement from decades ago, when he had rightly assessed the Chinese way of behaving, which went: “There is one aspect of Chinese culture that is little known outside the circle of professional historians. It is the aggressive imperialism that characterised the politics of China throughout the course of her history… Thanks to the systematic recording of historical facts by the Chinese themselves… we [historians] are in a position to follow the imperial and aggressive policy of China from the third century BC to the present day, a period of more than twenty-two hundred years… It is characteristic of China that if a region once acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a short period, she should regard it as a part of her empire forever and would automatically revive her claim over it even after a thousand years whenever there was a chance of enforcing it.” Today, China’s claims have advanced further to earlier unclaimed new areas, and when the mindset does not change, history can only repeat itself.
The Communist regime probably still believes that power comes out of the barrel of a gun. It was true in Xinjiang and Tibet in the early 1950s, and it is a fact in Ladakh today. In 1949, hardly two months after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Mao had annexed Xinjiang, opening the door to Western Tibet which would be occupied a few months later.
There is a recurrent characteristic of the Communists regime: First, it takes what it “needs”, then announces that it is ready to talk. The two-pronged strategic move had been followed in Tibet, with the military attack on Chamdo in October 1950, after which negotiations had been held in May 1951, forcing a 17-Point Agreement on a weak Tibetan nation. It was a typical Chinese approach. Later, Mao did the same thing in the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh. He built a road on Indian territory and sent Zhou Enlai, his Premier, afterwards to discuss with the idealist Indian Prime Minister.
Today, whether it is in the South China Sea, in Ladakh or elsewhere, China has followed the same pattern — it helps itself to what it wants and then offers to talk. At the same time, as we have seen recently in Ladakh (or 60 years ago for the Aksai Chin), Beijing remains intransigent and refuses to vacate any of the areas which have been freshly occupied.
Beijing has been unable to justify its action in one more ‘repeat’ of the kind of incidents seen in the 1950s, even with solid historical proofs Why is it so? In 1950, apart from a vague suzerainty, China had no proof that Tibet and Xinjiang ‘belonged’ to the Middle Kingdom (China’s suzerainty over Tibet was called by Lord Curzon a ‘constitutional fiction’). Ditto in Ladakh, where China cannot justify its military advance, even though, at the same time, the Chinese propaganda would like to make us believe that black is white or vice-versa. In March 1959, Mao had projected the Tibetan Uprising as the ‘emancipation of the serfs’, whereas the reality had been the very opposite. It was the greatest mass movement witnessed in the Land of Snows, with the entire population of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital revolting against the invaders. Meanwhile, today, the Chinese propaganda claims that India attacked China in Ladakh and tried to grab some ‘legitimate’ Chinese territory. The tragedy is that the Chinese masses have no choice but to believe their official media (as there is no other).
The two years preceding the closure of the Indian diplomatic missions in Tibet in 1962 saw constant harassment of the Indian diplomatic personnel in Tibet who had to deal with thorny issues such as the fate of Indian traders or the vicissitudes of the pilgrims to Mt Kailash. It is frightening to see that in each case, the Chinese authorities put the blame on the helpless Indian officials in Lhasa, Gyantse or Yatung.
Finally, the Chinese way to negotiate continues to follow similar patterns. At the end of 1953, negotiations for the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India” started in Beijing. The talks were to be settled in a couple of weeks. It took four months to arrive at an accord, and in the process, the Indian negotiator “forgot” to include the border (an issue still haunting India) in the package deal. On 23 March 1954, after three months of tough negotiations, the Indian Ambassador N. Raghavan cabled Delhi that the Chinese had objected to keeping open the old traditional route via Demchok in Ladakh. The Indian diplomat could not understand why.
A month later, on 24 April, Raghavan informed Delhi about a fight which took place between him and Zhang Hanfu, his Chinese counterpart. “It was a royal fight from beginning to end,” he reported. In the process, the Indian diplomats discovered that China had a big problem with Ladakh. It virulently objected to the Ladakh route being included in the Agreement, and Zhang quoted an oral understanding. “[China] would not like in writing even by implication to have any reference to Ladakh,” cabled Raghavan to Delhi. Why? Simply because the mountainous region was considered a “disputed” region, with China claiming part of it. The route has never been reopened since then.
History seems to repeat again and again, but one can hope that India has learnt some lessons from history and will be firmer and stronger than it was in the 1950s.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Unnecessary Controversy of Lapthal and Sangchamalla

Chinese Map of 1962 showing Lapthal
and Sangchamalla as a contiguous place
I continued with my study of the Central Sector.

Here a list of the previous posts on the subject.

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.”

The Importance of the Watershed 

As important as the customary  basis for the boundary between Tibet and India, the watershed factor determined the location of the border; in this case, a host of passes marked the frontier.
The Report described the area thus: “In the area of Wuje/Barahoti (approximately 79° 58' E, 30° 50' N), Sangcha (approximately 80° 09' E, 30° 45' N) and Lapthal (approximately 80° 08' E, 30° 44' N), the boundary line follows a continuous mountain ridge south of these three places, passes through Ma Dzo La (approximately 70° 55' E, 30° 55' N) south of Niti Pass, skirts the southern side of the U-Dra La River, and arrives at U-Dra La not far south-west of Kungri Bingri Pass.”

The case of Lapthal and Sangchamalla: Hazy Chinese Claims
As I have mentioned in previous posts, here too, the Chinese made hazy claims of pockets of ‘Chinese territory’ south of the main watershed.
One of the strangest cases is Lapthal and Sangchamalla; in the course of the meetings of the Officials, both parties presented their claims for the Central Sector (in today’s Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand).
Nilang-Jadhang area and Barahoti, Sangchamalla and Lapthal were clubbed together for discussion.
At the 15th meeting at Beijing on July 18, 1960, while answering the question of the Indian side, the Chinese suddenly stated that Barahoti (Wu-je), Sangchamalla and Lapthal formed one composite area on the Chinese side of the alignment claimed by them, and there was no Indian territory wedged between these three pockets.
It was a completely new claim which was put forward for the first time; it was contradicting the Chinese earlier official positions.
On September 8, 1959, in a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai treated Wu-Je, Sangchamalla and Lapthal as three separate areas. In 1960, however, the Chinese suddenly included some 300 square miles of territory belonging to India, into the Tibetan territory.

The Lapthal-Sangchamalla area
I shall go more in details into this case.
Speaking of Nilang-Jadhang area and Barahoti, Sangchamalla and Lapthal, the Report explained: “Although these were separate areas, the Indian side, for convenience, dealt with them together. The Chinese alignment and description as given departed here also from the watershed, which was the natural, traditional and customary boundary in this area, to include the Nilang-Jadhang area and Barahoti, Sangchamalla and Lapthal in Tibet.”
The conclusion was that during the above mentioned meeting,  the Chinese had brought up a new claim on Indian territory: “[it] had been put forward for the first time, and which contradicted even the position of Premier Chou En-lai in his letter of 8 September 1959, wherein he had treated Wu-je, Sangchamalla and Lapthal as three separate areas.”
But China did not seem to know were Lapthal and Sangchamalla were located.

The Chinese Stand in 1958
Worse, at the third meeting of the Barahoti Conference held in Delhi on 24 April, 1958, , the Chinese representative, Counselor Fu Hao had stated that the area the Chinese called Wu-je was "from the south to the north about 15 kilometres approximately and from the east to the west may be a few kilometres less [and] that is, an area of about 200 square kilometres at most. So this area could not include Sangchamalla and Lapthal in fact, these two localities were not mentioned at all by the Chinese side at the Barahoti Conference, and Wu-je was regarded as a wedge of territory claimed by China and flanked on both sides by Indian territory.”
That fact was that Sangchamalla and Lapthal had never been claimed by either the Chinese or the Tibetan Government before; further, the Indian Government had been maintaining check-posts at these two places.
The Report continued: “In the winter of 1958, when according to usual practice, the Indian border check-posts retired south, Chinese patrols for the first time intruded into these two places; in 1959 the Chinese Government put forward a claim to these places; and now for the first time it was stated that Wu-je, Sangchamalla and Lapthal formed one composite area and the Chinese side claimed not merely these three places but also the territory lying between them, even though in the description given at an early stage of the meetings, Wu-je, Sangchamalla and Lapthal were specified as three separate places.”
This is called ‘changing the posts’.
Again the Indian negotiators had to show that the traditional and customary boundary in this sector lay along the watershed range, “on which were the passes of Tsangchok La, Mana, Niti, Tunjun La, Balcha Dhura, Kungri Bingri, Darma and Lipulekh. 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.”
China was not too interested by these niceties.

Today deserted village of Milam

Travelers’ Accounts
The Indian officials cited Manson, who in The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal wrote that he had visited Milam and the Unta Dhura Pass in 1842 and said that there was ‘two days' journey “from Melum to the Pass (Unta Dhura) and from thence four days to Neetee [Niti]; two alternate days no village to encamp at; the whole road within our own boundary.”
The road from Milam passes through Sangchamalla; and Lapthal is south of Sangchamalla; it meant that both places are in India.
About his visit to Milam in 1848-49 Strachey wrote: "Girthi is a deserted village on the stream which is named from it, about halfway between Topidhunga and Malari, on the Dhaoli in Garhwal; near it are said to be lead and copper mines but they are only occasionally worked, and then on the most insignificant scale. The Government, which possesses the proprietary right in all the mines of these mountains, has, I understand, not often made a larger sum than five rupees per annum from the Girthi workings.”
This also showed that the Girthi valley, lying south of the Tunjun La Pass was part of India.
The conclusion was that Sangchamalla and Lapthal were (and are) located south of Balcha Dhura; when Strachey who visited the Rakas-Tal and Mansarowar Lakes in 1848, he also stated that he set out from Sangcha on September 7, 1848 and ascended the summit of the Balcha ridge.

Chinese not sure about Sangchamalla and Lapthal
Till July 18, 1960, the Chinese Government had regarded Barahoti, Sangchamalla and Lapthal as separate areas; this was clearly shown by the fact that they had always been listed separately and enumerated singly. Even in the Chinese statement of August 30, 1960, Barahoti was referred to at one point as a place and not an area of considerable size, although later, the claim became a large area of about 300 square miles.
The Report mentioned that in the final Chinese statement on November 7, 1960, “they were uncertain as to what exactly they were claiming, for in the same paragraph reference was made to both a composite area and a number of areas.”
The Report observed: “while they referred to evidence which they believed would support their claim to parts of these three pockets of Barahoti, Sangchamalla and Lapthal, brought forward no evidence that would cover the whole composite area.”
The Indian negotiators, on the other hand, provided solid evidence to show that the whole area right upto the watershed had always been a part of India.
The Report concluded: “Sangchamalla and Lapthal have always been a part of Kumaon and the traditional pasture grounds of the people of Milan.”
The Indian negotiators did not accept the Chinese assertion, made without any evidence, that in 1941 that certain Tibetans rented these pastures to other Tibetans.
The Chinese negotiators had quoted a passage from Strachey who said that Lapthal was more accessible from Tibet: “But comparative accessibility has never been a criterion in the determination of a boundary.” 

In any case Strachey had also said that “from Sangchamalla he had proceeded north towards the boundary of Tibet. Lapthal was to the south of Sangchamalla and, therefore, the evidence about Sangchamalla covered Lapthal.”

Milam Village on the way to Kungri-Bingri pass

The Traditional Boundary
Sangchamalla and Lapthal are grazing grounds of Milam village in Patti Malla Johar of Pargana Johar, in the Almora District of Uttar Pradesh. Malla Johar is the northernmost Patti and Milam its principal and northernmost village.
According to The Gazetteer of Almora District of 1911: “The principal line of water-parting along the Tibetan frontier is a ridge of great altitude-the watershed is throughout a greater part of its length, a simple longitudinal range.”
From these official accounts, it is clear that the northern boundary of Milam is the Sutlej-Ganges watershed, and Sangchamalla and Lapthal lie south of this watershed. Malla Johar was included in the Chand Kingdom of Kumaon and paid taxes which “besides land revenue, included taxes on profits of trade, mines, looms, produce of jungles, musk, hawks and wild beehives. Taxes were to be paid in gold dust, but were often received for the sake of convenience in silver and kind. The revenue was imposed on the area in one sum and detailed assessments were left to the village headmen.”

Conclusions

The Report concluded that as far as Sangchamalla and Lapthal were concerned, the evidence submitted by India was conclusive: “The Gazetteer Map clearly showed the pasture grounds of Sangchamalla and Lapthal as the northern most parts of the Patti Malla Johar of the Almora District and Milam was the northernmost village in the Patti. It was, therefore, clear that Sangchamalla and Lapthal were included in the traditional boundaries of Milam. The revenue settlements for Milam and the census taken in the area had also included Sangchamalla and Lapthal. The area upto the border had been regularly visited by Indian officials.”
The Indian side noted “a change in the Chinese conception of their boundary, even during the course of these discussions. In the description of the Chinese alignment provided to the Indian side, it was alleged that in the Middle Sector, eight places of Chinese territory were under Indian occupation and that the boundary skirted these places on the south side. Lapthal and Sangchamalla were individually listed and mentioned as distinct from Barahoti (Wu-je).”
It further mentioned that earlier in the correspondence between the two Governments (as well as during the 1960 discussions), Barahoti, Lapthal and Sangchamalla had always been mentioned separately: “However, the answers given by the Chinese side to some of the questions of the Indian side seeking clarification of the Chinese alignment raised the suspicion that the claimed alignment did not just (as had been stated) skirt these places, but ran much further to the south and east of them and that these places were much nearer the traditional Indian boundary than to the line now claimed by China.”
The final conclusion was the Chinese claim was inflated “after the commencement of these discussions. As far as the Indian side was concerned, they contested the claim to these three pasture and camping grounds even when the area involved did not amount to more than ten to fifteen square miles.”
According to the Report, the Indian negotiators were most concerned that “the area, as finally claimed, was a sizeable one and, incidentally, included the Niti and Kungri Bingri Passes, which are border passes explicitly mentioned in the 1954 Agreement and where for decades India has exercised her traditional jurisdiction.”

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Is the ‘Tibet card’ in play?

My article Is the ‘Tibet card’ in play? appeared in The Deccan Herald

Here is the link...

A dramatic Indian Army operation last week has given India tactical advantage in the 4-month-long confrontation with China 

 On August 31, a statement from the spokesperson of the Indian Army informed the nation that on the night of 29/30 August: “PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements …and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo.”
However, the Indian troops “pre-empted this PLA activity on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso Lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground.”
It was clear that Delhi had decided to respond to the aggressive posture shown by the Chinese since the past four months; it was the first time that the Indian Army could ‘preempt’ the Chinese grabbing more Indian territory.
A few hours later, the social media was abuzz with news that a Tibetan officer had died; Company Leader Nyima Tenzin lost his life on a land-mine near (or on) the theater of the operations.
Though the government has remained silent on the subject (as it usually does when Special Forces are involved), the Indian media started mentioning the existence of the secretive Special Frontier Force, also called Vikas Regiment or Establishment 22. The first Inspector General of the Force, Brig (later Maj Gen) Sujan Singh Uban had once commanded the 22 Mountain Artillery Regiment (therefore the name 22s) before being sent on deputation to establish a Special Force, mainly composed of Tibetan refugees. It was in November 1962, a few days before the unilateral Chinese ‘cease-fire’. Since then, the Force has remained, as most other specialized commandos, unknown to the general public.
But the song of the regiment tells us about its original objectives: “We are the Vikasi; the Chinese snatched Tibet from us; and kicked us out from our home; even then, India, kept us like their own; one day, surely one day; we will teach the Chinese a lesson; whenever opportunities arise; we will play with our lives.”
We know very little about what has happened during the fateful night, but the point is India is today in a dominating position in the area south of the lake, near Rezang-la, where China suffered hundreds of casualties in November 1962. Beijing, one can imagine, is not happy; but for India, this is the first real good news since the beginning of the bitter conflict, which is bound to be known in Tibet itself.
It might have been a coincidence, but an important event took place on August 28 and 29 in Beijing; the Seventh Tibet Work Forum (TWF) was held. 


What exactly is a Work Forum on Tibet?
A TWF usually decides the fate of Tibet for the next five to ten years. This should deeply concern Delhi, as the TWF defines China’s long-term policies for its western borders.
The TWF was attended by two to three hundred senior officials (all in white shirts); it included the entire Politburo (with the Standing Committee standing on the dais), the People’s Liberation Army (the all-powerful members of the Central Military Commission were in attendance), several provincial Party Secretaries, representatives from different ministries, as well as local satraps posted in Tibet.
For the first time, the TWF was given large publicity; the TV report lasted more than 14 minutes, mostly quoting Xi Jinping and showing the ‘masked’ delegates (including the Chief of the Chinese Navy!).
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; at the same time, Xi Jinping is being questioned for some of his decisions within his own Party.
In his speech, he emphasized that Beijing’s objective was to build a new socialist modern Tibet that is “united, prosperous, civilized, harmonious and beautiful.”
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 no 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, though Xi is fond of mentioning his theory: "governing border areas is the key for governing the country and stabilizing Tibet is a priority for governing border areas.”
In fact, the new Helmsman is nervous; China has never ‘stabilized’ Tibet: “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,” pleaded Xi.
The two ‘coincidental’ events (India taking control over the ridge south of Pangong tso and the TWF in Beijing) are linked to the ‘stability’ of the borders. While on one side, by extending China’s borders in Ladakh, Beijing dreams of ‘stabilizing’ Tibet and Xinjiang; on the other side, Tibetans are ready to give their lives to protect India’s frontiers.
Xi also spoke of promoting “the construction of a number of major infrastructure and public service facilities”, the large scale development of infrastructure on the plateau should indeed deeply worry Delhi.
Further, though the Tibetans should be at the center of the stage for Xi, they are hardly asked about their aspirations or their opinion.
Incidentally, it should be noted that Hua Chuning, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson, when asked about the Indian Special Forces, said that she was not aware of Tibetans serving in the Indian defence forces. Her remark was later deleted from the official transcript; clearly Beijing is troubled by the happenings in Ladakh.
Even without playing a Tibet card, Delhi should realize that Tibet is definitively an important factor in the present conflict and exiled Tibetans should perhaps stop dreaming of a dialogue with Beijing. Dharamsala can ask the Indian diplomats what happened to the 1954 Panchsheel Agreement, the 1958 Barahoti accord or the Chinese promises in 1993, 1996 or 2005; none were respected. Tibetans themselves had their own experience with the 17-Point Agreement in 1951.
The best bet for India and the exiled Tibetans is to closely work together; it could pay rich dividends.

Friday, September 4, 2020

China is not a normal state

My article China is not a normal state was distributed by IANS

Here is one link...

China is not a normal State, but this is a fact that most China 'experts' in India have, for years, failed to grasp this.
Gautam Bambawale, who understands China well after serving as the Indian Ambassador to China, in an Op-Ed in The Hindustan Times stated some inconvenient facts: "It is now obvious that the moves by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern Ladakh this summer were premeditated, planned and smoothly executed.
"This comes through when you consider the strength of the troops involved as well as the multiple locations where action has been seen. There were certain military objectives set out for PLA and at least some, if not all, of those have been achieved."
What was the objective of President Xi Jinping and his generals when they started the Ladakh adventure? Was it only to grab a few hundred meters of Indian territory in Pangong tso, Hot Springs or Depsang? This would show China as a compulsively hegemonic State.
'A few hundred meters more' cannot be an objective for a 'normal' State, but today it looks as if some elements of the Communist regime still have a medieval mindset.
The PLA was ordered to march into Ladakh at the worst planetary time; India, in particular, had (and has) to deal with a complex situation. The nation's energy and resources were required to fight the dread 'Chinese' virus rather than a battle (perhaps soon a war) in the High Himalaya.
China watchers today agree that Xi Jinping is not going to vacate the areas that it has occupied in Ladakh; this has become obvious after the several rounds of military as well as diplomatic talks aimed at disengagement. What remain? Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat recently stated that a military option was on the table, if the diplomatic option failed.
In this context, it is worth looking at the sudden apparition of the Corona Virus on the world stage and the role of the PLA in it.
First let us look at the official figures, China had about 85,000 cases and 4,600 casualties, while India has crossed more than 3,00,000 cases for 56,000 deaths (Maharashtra alone has 6,82,000 cases and 22,000 casualties).
What do these figures say?
This means that China is cheating its own people as well as the rest of the world; it simply does not tell the truth.
Even if the situation stabilizes the world over, China is bound to be more affected that the Communist propaganda wants us to believe. Beijing will never be seen in the same light by the community of nations; to have attacked India in these circumstances cannot be forgotten or forgiven.
Interestingly, from Day One, a PLA Unit, the Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF), has been on the center stage of what the Communist Party of China called the 'People's War' against the 'demon' virus.
The Force was created on January 11, 2016 as part of Xi Jinping's in-depth military reform; according to Xinhua, it "comprises the support forces for inventory and warehousing, medical services, transport, force projection, oil pipelines, engineering and construction management, reserve assets management, and procurement". Coincidentally, it is based in Wuhan.
On October 18, 2019, President Xi Jinping, also Chairman of the Central Military Commission, flew to Wuhan to attend the first Party Congress of the PLA's Joint Logistic Support Force (JLSF). According to Xinhua, Xi Jinping encouraged the JLSF delegates and other senior officers stationed in Hubei province "to faithfully perform their duties and contribute to fulfilling the dream of a strong military".
Did Xi know then that the JLSF would play a crucial role in the 'war' against the COVID-19, which erupted in the capital city of Hubei province just a month later, on November 17?
The tasks for the JLSF were already clearly defined and once the COVID-19 broke out, a mega military exercise took place on the ground.
The JLSF coordinated transportation for more than 4,000 military medics and other personnel from its subordinate units and other parts of the PLA, and brought thousands of units of critical medical supplies to Wuhan over a six week period. At the end more than 10,000 troops (including the Militia also serving under the CMC) were deployed.
On January 29, Xi Jinping personally intervened to exhort the military to save the nation... and the Party; Xi ordered the PLA to win the battle, he exhorted the troops "to keep the original spirit... breathing with the people, sharing the same fate, and connecting hearts".
At a press conference on March 2, Maj Gen Chen Jingyuan, Director of the health division of the Logistic Support Department, said that there was no infection among the 10,000 or so military medical staff that had been dispatched to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Was he telling the truth?
When on March 10, Xi visited Wuhan, he went straight to the PLA command centre at Huoshenshan temporary hospital to announce the 'victory'; he took the opportunity to reaffirm the PLA's leading role in fighting the virus.
For India, it is important to analyze the implications of the PLA's direct involvement in the battle against the virus. It certainly had consequences for the PLA who suddenly dared to attack India's borders (probably the leadership could not probably refuse anything to the 'victorious' generals).
The most hypocritical part of the Chinese discourse is the doctrine of a Community of Shared Future advocated by China.
In April 2020, Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister stated: "in these trying times, mankind has written a new chapter of building a global community with a shared future." He added that Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy had "won high recognition from the international community".
Already in November 2012, soon after taking over as General Secretary of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping declared that the international community was increasingly becoming 'a community with shared future' with each having a stake in others: "In the face of the complicated situation of the world economy and global problems, no country could possibly stay aloof by taking good care of itself alone."
That is why I am saying that China is not a 'normal' State.
In the 21st century, you can't preach something and blatantly do something else.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The History of the First Months of Establishment 22 (Special Frontier Force)

This post is dedicated to Company Leader Nyima Tenzin, who lost his life near Pangong tso, fighting for India.






The Song of Establishment 22

We are the Vikasi
The Chinese snatched Tibet from us
and kicked us out from our home
Even then, India
kept us like their own
One day, surely one day
we will teach the Chinese a lesson
Whenever opportunities arise
we will play with our lives
In the Siachen glacier
we got our second chance
Our young martyrs
have no sadness whatsoever
Whether it is Kargil or Bangladesh
we will not lose our strength
Whenever opportunities arise
we will play with our lives
Where there is our Potala Palace
and lovely Norbulingka
The throne of the Dalai Lama
was dear even then
Remember those martyrs of ours
who sacrificed with their lives
Let’s sing together
Hail to our Tibet!
Hail to our Tibet!
Hail to our Tibet!
The First Months of the Tibetan Army

Earlier articles on Establishment 22:

The Phantoms of Chittagong

 A War which was not theirs 

 A Two-Two as Army Chief

The History of the First Months of the Special Frontier Force

An aspect which has not often been researched but is the outcome of the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict, is the creation of a Special Frontier Force (SFF). It was to be ready to infiltrate into Tibet after six months following its creation. This did not happen, but it is worth looking at the first months of the Tibetan Army.

The Creation of the Establishment 22

For most Indians, November 14 means the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru, but there is also another anniversary, albeit an ‘uncelebrated’ one, falling on the same day; the latter has for long been kept secret, as it marks the creation of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), the Tibetan Army (also known as Vikas Regiment or the ‘Two-Twos’). It was founded a week before China’s unilateral cease-fire in the 1962 conflict. There might have been an invisible link between the two ‘birthdays’, but we will possibly never know why the formation of the Tibetan Army was initiated on November 14.
Did BN Mullik, the then Director of the Intelligence Bureau or DIB (and one of the main culprits of the 1962 fiasco) want to please Nehru on his birthday by telling him that he ‘had found a solution’ to China’s military superiority? The Tibetans would themselves ‘liberate’ Tibet!
Mullik immediately realised he would need outside help for his project; he obviously looked towards the United States.
On November 19, the day Nehru sent two panicky letters to the US President asking for help for India,  a crucial meeting to respond to Nehru’s requests was held in the White House. The then Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, the Secretary of State Dean Rusk, as well as his Assistant for Far Eastern Affairs, Averell Harriman, a respected diplomat and politician, were present. The CIA bosses were also in attendance.
The declassified US archives  tell us: “McNamara urged that the first move be to find out what the real situation was. If we were to put our prestige and resources at risk, we must find out the score. He proposed sending a small high-level military mission immediately to Delhi. …McNamara again urged getting a high level mission out to Delhi, including State and Intelligence people in order to concert a plan of action with the Indians.”
This is what happened.

The American Version
Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison in their book The CIA’s Secret War in Tibet  recounted: “Also mentioned (during the meeting) was the possibility of using the CIA’s Tibetan guerrillas. John McCone, a wealthy and opinionated Republican chosen by Kennedy to replace CIA Director Dulles after the Bay of Pigs, was on hand to brief the President on such covert matters. Joining McCone was Des FitzGerald, the [CIA’s] Far East chief.”
McNamara’s delegation arrived in India three days later; during their stay, the CIA officials held lengthy discussions with BN Mullik. According to Conboy, who quoted from David Blee, the CIA station chief in India: “The Indians were interested in the Tibet program because of its intelligence collection value …Mullik was particularly interested in paramilitary operations.” The DIB and his deputy ML Hooja  made a special request during a session with FitzGerald and Blee. “They made us promise that our involvement would remain secret forever.”
By the end of the Harriman mission, the CIA and IB had agreed to a division of tasks; the IB with CIA support would train a 5,000-strong tactical guerrilla force; the CIA’s Far East Division would create a strategic long-range resistance movement inside Tibet and the Tibetan freedom fighters in Mustang  would remain under the CIA’s control.
The honeymoon with the CIA did not last long and the Tibetan Force would eventually be built with purely Indian inputs under the supervision of Maj Gen Sujan Singh Uban .
Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison have written a romanticized version of these events; reading their account, it is as if it was the CIA which was entirely running the show. They explained that it was Krishna Menon  and Lt Gen BM Kaul  who decided “to create a guerrilla force that could strike deep behind Chinese lines. Because the Chinese were coming from Tibet, members of that ethnic group were the logical guerrillas of choice. Finding volunteers would not be a problem; both knew that there was no shortage of Tibetans on Indian soil, and virtually all were vehemently anti-Chinese and would not hesitate to take up arms for their own patriotic reasons.”
Putting the CIA always on the center stage, the US Spy agency wondered who could lead such a force: “They needed a senior Indian officer who could win the confidence of the Tibetans, embracing their independent nature and promoting a semblance of discipline without resort to a rigid army code. And he would need to have a bent (of mind) for the unconventional-something that was in short supply in the Indian military.”
The CIA ‘historians’ wrote: “As they scoured the roster of available officers, one name caught their eye. Brigadier Sujan Singh Uban, until recently the commander of the 22th Artillery Brigade in Kashmir, was in New Delhi after having just processed his retirement papers;” by their version, the CIA could pick up any officer in the Indian Army, for a particular job.
The authors argued that Uban had spent much time with mountain units and was familiar with fighting at high altitudes. Furthermore, during a stint as an artillery instructor for jungle warfare units, he had earned the nickname ‘Mad Sikh’, “this small detail was enough for Menon and Kaul” to summon the brigadier.
According to the US writers, on 26 October, 1962, Uban was given sketchy details of the proposed behind-the-lines guerrilla mission : “Working with the Tibetans would not be easy, warned Kaul. Disciplining them, he said, would be like taming wild tigers. As a sweetener, the brigadier was promised a second star in due course. Uban was hooked; he grabbed the assignment without hesitation.”
Later an emissary was sent from the Intelligence Bureau to Darjeeling to fetch the Dalai Lama's brother, Gyalo Thondup: “After years of attempting to court the Indians - who were often sympathetic but never committal - Gyalo relished the moment as he sat in front of a select group of senior intelligence and military officials in the capital.”
Thondup Gyalo told the meeting that he needed 5,000 volunteers.
The following exchange is ludicrous: “Would Gyalo prefer that the Intelligence Bureau or the Ministry of Defense be involved?”
"Not Defense," he would have said.
The story continued “The very next day , Prime Minister Nehru made an unequivocal request for US military assistance. For the tired, beaten leader, it was a humbling overture. It was an admission not only that his central belief in peaceful coexistence with the PRC was irrevocably shattered but also that his cordial relationship with the Soviet Union had proved hollow.”
This is when, according to Conboy and Morrison, the US President called the meeting already mentioned; it decided to increase US military assistance to India; also mentioned was the possibility of using the CIA's Tibetan guerrillas: “By meeting's end, it was decided that Harriman would lead a high-powered delegation to New Delhi to more fully assess India's needs. General Paul Adams, chief of the US Strike Command, was to head the military component. From the CIA, Des FitzGerald won a seat on the mission, as did the head of the Tibet Task Force, Ken Knaus.”
According to the US version: “without pause, Ambassador Galbraith ushered Harriman into the first of four meetings with Nehru. The end results of these discussions were plans for a major three-phase military aid package encompassing material support, help with domestic defense production, and possible assistance with air defenses.”
During their visit to Delhi, the CIA representatives held sessions with BN Mullik: “Both the CIA and the Intelligence Bureau were quick to seize the opportunity.” They came up with some schemes to counter China and despite the opposition from several quarters in the US Administration, on December 13, the Kennedy administration approved some training assistance to Uban's tactical guerrilla force.

A First Meeting

Ratuk Ngawang, one of the commanders  of the Tibetan force, consecrated one chapter of his memoirs  to the first days of the SFF, we shall quote from his book in Tibetan. He recalled: “One day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s brother Gyalo Thondup had asked Andruk Zasak  Gonpo Tashi  to visit him at his residence in Darjeeling.” Ratuk accompanied him: “In one of his messages, Gyalo Thondup mentioned that we should not believe that the military base in Lo Manthang  has strong foundation.”
Thondup explained that in a place where there were plenty of bamboos, the leaves which fall from the bamboo will move upwards when the wind blows upwards and downwards if the wind blows downwards: “there is no guarantee which side the leaves will go. His conclusion was that it was better to establish a large military academy in India.”
He then asked Gonpo Tashi’s opinion, the latter told Thondup that it would be an important military initiative which could make the Tibetan people more powerful.
When Gyalo Thondup asked the Khampa leader about his recruitment plans, Gompo Tashi said that a thousand or two thousand soldiers would not be of much benefit and that the objective should be to have as many soldiers as possible. The Dalai Lama’s brother answered that he would go ahead and speak with the IB (Intelligence Bureau) people to check if there was any possibility of finding support. Thondup told Gonpo Tashi that strict confidentiality should be maintained about the meeting.
It was suggested to go ahead and coordinate with Indian authorities; there would not be an issue with the recruitment from the Tibetan side. As the meeting ended with a mutual agreement, it was decided to proceed with the project.

Meeting the Chushi Gangdruk
It is then that Adruk  and Ratuk called for a meeting of the Chushi Gangdruk to ask the opinion of the military commanders living in Kalimpong: would the Tibetans be interested to participate and how many were likely to join if a large military training academy was established somewhere in India.
Jagoe Namgyal Dorjee and Sadu Lobsang Nyandak, two Khampa leaders agreed; they had no objection to establish a military training institution; they readily supported the idea.
It was decided to divide the Chushi Gangdruk leaders and depute them to go across India to the different Tibetans settlements to collect the names of perspective soldiers: “Every participant agreed to this suggestion and started electing their representatives”.
Ratuk Ngawang, Dhargon Taso Choezoe and Amdo Kathok were selected to collect the lists of possible recruits. Gonpo Tashi told Ratuk to first go to Dharamsala to seek an audience with the Dalai Lama and update the Tibetan leader about of the new situation. During the next few days, this was done: “We informed His Holiness about our travel plans to cover Dalhousie, Chamba area, Kullu, Upper and lower Shimla, Janakpur, Jalirung  and Mussoorie to find candidates to start the new Tibetan military establishment. …His Holiness the Dalai Lama advised us to include names of young men and women from all three regions and not to restrict amongst Chushi Gandruk  and then filter and select those whom you feel are qualified.”
He also said to the three representatives of the Chushi Gangdruk that their work would be smoother and easier, if they travelled with a recommendation letter from Kashag : “We followed His guidelines and approached the Kashag and received an official letter from Palha Dronye Chenmo  and travelled to the above places to collect names,” said Ratuk Ngawang.
When they reached Mussoorie, Gyalo Thondup had already sent a message for Ratuk to Jigme Taring, the Principal of the Tibetan school: “Ratuk Ngawang should immediately proceed to Darjeeling. The work of collecting names should be left in the hands of two remaining members and they should join later.”
Ratuk obeyed and immediately left; when he arrived in Darjeeling, he met Gyalo Thondup and Gonpo Tashi who asked for a report on the places visited so far: “I informed them about our visit to Dharamsala, the audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Kashag’s support letter,” recalled Ratuk, who also brought a first list of volunteers’ names.
Gyalo Thondup was happy with the work done and told the Khampa chieftain that he should go again to the places already visited to recruit soldiers.
Kundeling Thupten Gyaltsen, Kalsang, student of General Yeshi and elder son of Trengdong were to assist him: “You should go to Pathankot and make a phone call to Security Department in Dharamsala and inform them about your arrival and ask Security Commanding Officer to come to Pathankot. He will meet you there, you will discuss with them and you guide them where to start the recruitment.”
The travel and daily allowance of the new recruits were to be paid according to the norms decided by Ratuk’s team: “A small metal box full of hundred-rupee Indian notes, exact amount I don’t recollect, was handed over to me with instruction to keep proper records of income and expenditure,” noted Ratuk.
The officers did as ordered and went to Pathankot; the Commanding Officer of the Dharamsala Security Office was not available, but his deputy, Lobsang Yeshi came to meet them; he was keen to get guidance on how to collect the names of the required soldiers. He was told that there were about 1,000 monks from monasteries working on two separate road construction sites in Chamba Valley, some 800 of them should be able to join the force; then they could get about 400 out of about 600 Chushi Gangdruk’s members living in Dalhousie.
On the Chamba road construction, many got suspicious and two of the leaders went to Dharamsala to meet the Minister of Home, Phalha Donyer Chemo and asked his advice about joining the military force. Phala said that he had no knowledge about the recruitment, but “it is up to individuals, we can’t prevent anyone from joining or push anyone to go against his wish.”
Fearing a misadventure like it had happened to the recruits to Mustang, only 72 volunteers signed up. The recruiters did not go to Dalhousie, but asked some of the leaders to send all the volunteers from Dalhousie to Pathankot. The officer in-charge of the Tibetan Handicraft Center and the settlement officer were told that no instructions had been received from the exiled Tibetan Government and it was an individual’s decision. The recruiters informed those wanting to enroll that they should report to Ratuk Ngawang at Pathankot. Their travel fare and food expenses were to be fully covered: “everyone left saying, we had been waiting for such an opportunity when we can receive military training.” Ultimately, they recruited more than 500 soldiers.
Incidentally, one of the buses had an accident and five or six recruits suffered minor injuries, but there was no loss of life.
Suddenly, the Dalhousie settlement officer informed the Kashag that the handicraft center was empty “because Ratuk Ngawang recruited everyone into military”; he wanted to know what should he do. Kashag insisted that the handicraft center should not be closed. Pathankot’s branch of the Security Department then asked Ratuk to report immediately to Dharamsala.
None of the new recruits were interested to go back to Dalhousie, though Ratuk and his colleagues tried to explain that it was an order from the government that they should return to the handicraft center.
The Security Office in Dharamsala deputed Chamdo Jampa Kalden to Pathankot to tell Ratuk to send at least half of them back to the handicraft center: “We requested and appealed to them, but not a single soul changed their mind. …Finding no resolution, we drafted a letter saying everyone should decide on their own [to join the Army] and Chamdo Jampa Kalden returned to Dharamsala.”
Then, Ratuk send them off after disbursing their travel allowances.
The recruiters then moved to Kullu and Simla area to see if there were volunteers interested to join the force: “in total there were little more than 3,800 volunteers.” Later, they visited Musoorie, Herbertpur, Jalirung , Chhorpur  and gathered some 200 recruits more before returning to Darjeeling to present the accounts of all their expenditures: “When we reached, we were informed of the arrival of about 200 guerilla fighters in Darjeeling and 700 from Kalimpong, Gangtok and Darjeeling area.”
With the other representatives who visited other areas, there were already 6,000 recruits at the military camp. 


The above lines are part of a longer paper, available on my webiste (proper references are provided in the paper). 

Click here to read...