Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Phantoms of Chittagong: The unsung Tibetan heroes of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war

My article The Phantoms of Chittagong: The unsung Tibetan heroes of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war appeared in Firstpost

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On 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh, we need to recall one of the best-kept secrets of the war: The role played by the Special Frontier Force, a highly trained Tibetan regiment based in today’s Uttarakhand, in the Chittagong Hills.

We are soon going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh from the clutches of the dictators of West Pakistan. One of the best-kept secrets is the participation of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), a highly trained Tibetan regiment based in today’s Uttarakhand.
The SFF played an important role along with the Mukti Bahini, the Bangladeshi freedom fighters, in the liberation war in the Chittagong Hills.

Creation of SFF
SFF was founded in November 1962, a week before China’s unilateral cease-fire. The idea was that the Tibetans would themselves ‘liberate’ Tibet!
Dapon Ratuk Ngawang, a senior Tibetan officer (who has now passed away), explained how the SSF became known as ‘Establishment 22’ or simply ‘Two-twos’: the first commandant of the force was a senior Indian Army officer, Brig (later Maj Gen) Sujan Singh Uban, an artillery officer, who had earlier served as Commander of the 22 Mountain Brigade.
The Phantoms of Chittagong The unsung Tibetan heroes of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war

SFF and the Bangladesh war

The Official History of the 1971 War published by the Ministry of Defence mentions all the victorious battles, but the Tibetan regiment is not even cited and today it is extremely difficult to find any document proving the Tibetan soldiers’ participation. This is mainly due to inter-services rivalry.
A few years ago, Dapon Ratuk (the rank of ‘dapon’ approximately corresponds to a Commanding Officer) explained in an interview: “The Tibetan regiment known as Special Frontier Forces (SFF) has never functioned under the control of the Indian Army. It was established in 1962, after the India-China war. The main objective of the regiment was to fight the Chinese Army (with the help of the Indian Army). At the time of the creation of the force, we thought that the operations could be based at Lhuntse Dzong in Tibet (near the Indian border). The plan was to engage the Chinese Army in a military conflict within five-six months of the force’s creation. But the India-China war came to an abrupt end on 22 November 1962, and due to international pressure to maintain peace, no further military engagements occurred with China. Therefore, the services of the Establishment 22 regiment were not used for what had been planned.”

However in 1971, the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi thought of using the Tibetan force to conduct guerrilla warfare within East Pakistan; she mentioned this to RN Kao, the then Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Chief.

Brig Uban wrote in his memoirs, The Phantoms of Chittagong: “Suspecting it to be a long drawn-out affair, the Government of India sent for me as an expert in unconventional guerilla warfare and asked me to study the situation by visiting the border areas and meeting people and to submit a report, which I did after a hurried visit to the affected border areas and meeting several Bangladesh youth leaders.”

He goes on to explain: “My personal visit confirmed what the map showed, that is Bangladesh was a paradise for guerilla warfare. Forests and hills, rivers, streams and lakes made many areas inaccessible. Yet there was fish and fowl in abundance to keep a guerilla force functioning independently.”
The Phantoms of Chittagong The unsung Tibetan heroes of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war

He added an important aspect: “On top of that if you take on a disillusioned and angry population of 75 millions, one can visualise the Force needed by the martial law authority to maintain a semblance of order in any part of that country, a guerilla warfare I thought would suck Pakistan dry of troops and resources if it ever decided to retain this part under its possession.”

Uban proposed to conduct guerilla operations in the Chittagong Hills in order to cut the retreat route of the Pakistani troops. He recalled, “Apparently General Manekshaw (the then Army Chief) had been thinking on similar lines and one day sent for me to investigate this possibility. Our minds met and I set out to prepare this Special Force of Northern Hill Tribes (the Tibetans) for this new venture. Leaders and men of this force did not take much time to understand the full implication of joining this venture and they made a representation in writing that they [should] be allowed to participate and make some contribution if ever Pakistan forced this war on India.”

Uban had two fighting forces under his command: The SFF as a commando force and the Mujeeb Bahini, the elite Bangladeshi force.

SFF’s involvement
In early 1971, the Tibetan force heard that during a special meeting called by the Indian Army in New Delhi, Brig Uban had volunteered to lead the Establishment 22 in the Bangladesh liberation war: “It was SS Uban Singh and my colleague Dapon Jampa Kalden who voluntarily decided to take part in the War,” recalled Ratuk.

The narrative from the old Tibetan officer continued: “Later they told me about their plans. First, I refused to join them… I told them that the Establishment 22 had not been created to fight ‘for India’; rather it was established with the sole aim to fight the Chinese.”

Finally, after a directive came from the Department of Security of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, Dapon Ratuk accepted. “The Department told us that there was no alternative but to go to war ‘for India’. Moreover, they told us that the Indian government was in a very critical situation at that time and our participation in the war could help save a lot of Indian lives,” he recalled.

Through Brig Uban, the force was in direct contact with RN Kao, responsible for the External Intelligence in the Cabinet Secretariat.

The old Dapon remembered: “Once the decision to participate in the operations was taken, Dapon Dhondup Gyatotsang (he lost his life during the 1971 Operations), Dapon Pekar Thinley and myself divided the regiment into three units. We decided that each one of us would lead one unit in the war. Due to his age and despite his military experience, Dapon Jampa Kalden couldn't take part in the operations; he remained the administrative link between the Indian government and Establishment 22.”

The fascinating story of the Establishment 22 continued: “After we captured Chittagong, Kao came to visit our regiment (in Uttarakhand) and gave awards and speeches in praise of the Tibetan unit's heroic battles” — a sort of acknowledgment of the sacrifice made by the Tibetans to liberate a country which was not theirs.

Before the operations
It is not surprising that the SFF was already present in East Pakistan several months before the official start of the operations.
Some years ago, Dapon Jampa Kalden gave us another perspective: “Initially there was some guerilla training given in places like Tamil Nadu, to the Bangladeshi guerrilla groups, the Mukti Bahini. The training was given by the Indian Army.”

In December 1970, a year before the beginning of the Army operations, the force was informed of the possibility of a war. In March 1971, it became obvious that India would have to go to war to liberate Bangladesh in order to solve the issue of millions of refugees in West Bengal. Jampa Kalden recalled that in February 1971, the SFF had already started infiltrating Bangladesh along with the Mukti Bahini. At first, it was probably for reconnaissance only, simply because “the operation was decided in March (1971) but we were already in Bangladesh in February. I was there two months before the operations were decided”, said the Tibetan officer.

He further explained: “The Mukti Bahini was very good at making guerrilla plans and at guerrilla tactics. Mukti Bahini was solely responsible; they would go on their own and fight. We were responsible to support the Mukti Bahini and provide some reinforcement to them. The real battle started in March.” This was after the massacre of the students on the campus in Dacca by Gen Tikka Khan on 25 March.

Asked why very few in Eastern Command headquarters in Fort William in Kolkata knew about the operations in the Chittagong Hills, he replied: “Our headquarters was independent. (We were under) Chittagong Hill Tract Area command and I was in charge with Brig SS Uban.”

This created some friction with the Army; many were not keen to acknowledge the role of the Establishment 22. Worse, the force was not even allowed to parade in Chittagong after the victory. This was just petty jealousy!

Incidentally, the force had only one helicopter. The pilot, Sqn Ldr Parvez Rustomji Jamasji, had to carry out all the duties, para-dropping over the battle sites, rations and ammunition dropping, rescue operations, etc — a feat in itself for which the young pilot was awarded Vir Chakra.

For their part, the Tibetans have never been officially rewarded or acknowledged.

1971 war: When world woke up to Pakistani terror and India’s endeavour to save humanity in Bangladesh

My article  1971 war: When world woke up to Pakistani terror and India’s endeavour to save humanity in Bangladesh appeared in Firstpost

Here is the link...

The Bangladesh liberation war united the multitudinous progressive forces in all continents in an aspiration for a better world
1971 war: When world woke up to Pakistani terror and India’s endeavour to save humanity in Bangladesh

“Bangladesh Bangladesh, When the Sun Sinks in the West…” my generation still remembers the crystal-clear voice of Joan Baez, the youth icon of the ‘flower generation’, supporting an action to save the millions of Bengalis fleeing their homeland after Pakistan’s generals unleashed terror on the populace of the land which would soon become Bangladesh.

The birth of this new country was to become an event observed by the entire planet; the months which preceded the ‘birth’ are engraved into world history.

50 Years Later
Joan Baez had written ‘The Story of Bangladesh’ in March 1971, soon after the Pakistani Army crackdown on sleeping unarmed Bengali students at Dhaka University on 25 March 1971, an event which triggered the Bangladesh Liberation War eight months later.
This month, the planet celebrates the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh by the Indian Army. For many, the events of December 1971 symbolise an awakening of the world consciousness to the injustice and cruelty of Pakistan’s state politics towards the people of East Pakistan.
It also remains an episode that united the multitudinous progressive forces in all continents in an aspiration for a better world. Many nations played an extremely negative role, first and foremost being the United States of America and China.

Many sides to birth of Bangladesh
In this context, it is unfortunate that in 1971, the United States, for its own petty political interests (primarily to become friends with Mao’s China) gave its support to the Pakistani dictator and this despite the ‘Blood Telegrams’ sent by Archer Blood, the US Consul General in Dacca, informing Washington of the atrocious massacres being committed by the Pakistani Army.
There are a number of other aspects to the Bangladesh liberation, some of which have been neglected by historians. Obviously, for India and prime minister Indira Gandhi, it was a war that became a resounding victory for the Indian Army and its chief, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
In many ways, it washed away the scars of the crushing defeat of 1962 against the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. For the Indian defence forces, it was proof that with good, sound, down-to-earth and at the same time decisive political and military leadership and coordinated cooperation between the three Services (Army, Air Force and Navy), “India can do it”. The ‘job’ was done in 13 days (3-16 December 1971). It was an immense psychological boost for India.

The end of Panchsheel policy
One issue which is not often highlighted is that the liberation of Bangladesh saw the end of the sacrosanct Panchsheel policy. By intervening inside Pakistan’s territory, India showed that the right to self-determination can prevail over other principles.
The mandarins of South Block have always preferred ‘not to rock the boat’ and the Five Principles (primarily ‘non-interference’ in other’s affairs) have been the best way to avoid looking at crimes committed in the neighbourhood (remember the invasion of Tibet in 1950?).
This time the diplomats did only intervene after the war was over (to botch up the military successes and give Zulfikar Ali Bhutto whatever he wanted).

The Tibetan participation
The Indian intervention in East Pakistan explained the nervousness of communist China which had just been admitted to the UN: Would India one day ‘liberate’ Tibet, like it was in the process of doing for Bangladesh? This was certainly an issue for the leadership in Beijing that violently opposed India’s military actions. It was compounded by the participation of the Tibetan commandos in military operations.
The participation of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), a unit composed of Tibetans, which had been created in November 1962 and was under the responsibility of Brig (later Maj Gen) Sujan Singh Uban, an officer specialised in guerilla warfare, is not well known. This force played a crucial role in cutting off the retreat of the Pakistani troops toward Burma (today Myanmar) and neutralising the Mizo insurgents supporting Pakistan.
The Tibetan operations in the Chittagong Hills are important for different reasons: It had the spiritual backing of the Dalai Lama, the temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet, and also because China, an ally of Pakistan, realised for the first time that the SFF was a force to reckon with and that one day, the SFF might be used by India for operations inside Tibet.
The records of the actions of the Mukti Bahini, the Bangladesh Liberation Force, also trained by Gen Uban, are still difficult to find (even after 50 years), but their actions are worth remembering.

Intellectual and spiritual aspects
But there is more to the liberation of Bangladesh. Many intellectuals, thinkers and well-known personalities joined in their condemnation of the crimes by the Pakistani generals, who were supported by the US and Chinese leadership. The collusion of these two governments against basic human values is well documented.
The example of André Malraux, the Culture Minister of General Charles de Gaulle, who was extremely active in the intellectual and political sphere in support of the new state of Bangladesh, is worth mentioning. At an advanced age, he was keen to join the Mukti Bahini to help Mujibur Rehman, the Bengali leader who had won the Pakistani elections held earlier in the year, to ‘liberate’ his nation from the tyrannical Pakistani rule.
It is interesting to note that in 1971, the Indian Army was commanded by a General of the Parsi faith (Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw), the Army Commander in Eastern Command (Gen JS Aurora) was a Sikh, while the Chief of Staff (Gen JFR Jacob) was of the Jewish faith; and of course, several senior officers were Hindus. Apart from the fact that this blend is a unique trait of the Indian Army, all these representatives of different faiths defended their Muslim brothers of Bangladesh. The liberation of Bangladesh also meant the survival of a pluralistic world, where freedom of faith, speech and democracy can thrive.

Sri Aurobindo’s vision
In this context, it is worth mentioning the spiritual angle, particularly the deep spiritual involvement of the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the Liberation War.
During his entire life (including after his so-called ‘retirement’ in Pondicherry), the Rishi of Pondicherry felt extremely concerned about the happenings in Bengal (in both its western and eastern parts) and until his passing away, he would regularly be briefed about the ‘politics’ of Bengal.
Already at the start of World War II, the sage had beautifully commented upon the struggle between two worlds, one based on violence and authoritarianism (or fascism) and the other on a more human approach. He argued that it was of utmost importance to support the latter.
In 1940, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “The struggle that is going on is not fundamentally a conflict between two imperialisms — German and English… It is in fact a clash between two world forces that are contending for the control of the whole future of humanity. One force seeks to destroy the past civilisation and substitute a new one; but this new civilisation is in substance a reversion to the old principles of dominant force and a rigid external order and denies the established values, social, political, ethical, spiritual, altogether. Among these values are those which were hitherto held to be the most precious, the liberty of the individual, the right to national liberty, freedom of thought; even religious liberty is to be crushed and replaced by the subjection of religion to state control.”
In many ways, the fact that the cause célèbre for the liberation of Bangladesh attracted so many diverse voices the world over, is a reminder that if India and the world had accepted the diktats from Pakistan (and their friends in Washington and Beijing), a more barbaric world would have flourished, at least in this part of the world. The Indian armed forces should be proud to have been the main might behind this victorious multifaceted endeavour.

Indianness of Arunachal is not to be proven to anyone: Pema Khandu

Inaugurating Maj Bob Khating Memorial with the Governor
and the CDS, Gen Bipin Rawat in Tawang and Kiren Rijiju (right)

This is the second part of my interview with Pema Khandu, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Indianness of Arunachal is not to be proven to anyone, the interview was published by

Here is the link...

'Our love for our great nation -- Bharat is second to none and our patriotism towards our motherland -- India is for the entire nation to emulate.'

In April 2011, Dorjee Khandu, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, died in tragic circumstances in a helicopter crash.
Soon after, his elder son Pema succeeded him as the MLA of Mukto in Tawang district; he was then only 32 years old.
Five years later, on July 17, 2016, after a long period of confusion in the state, Pema Khandu took oath as the chief minister; soon after, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.
During the 2019 legislative assembly elections, Khandu won a landslide victory with 41 seats out of 60 for the BJP alone.
Under Khandu's leadership, the border state found badly needed stability which helped putting Arunachal Pradesh on fast track development, while preserving its own genius.
At a time when China social media is buzzing with threats of military action against Arunachal (with various verified or unverified handles releasing videos and photos of People's Liberation Army troops training close to the Indian border), Arunachal Pradesh's dynamic 42-year-old chief minister answers Claude Arpi's questions.

The final segment of an exclusive two-part interview:

China is said to have built more than 600 'model' villages on the border (most of them north of Arunachal). According to Beijing's propaganda, there are two objectives: Poverty alleviation and defence of the border.

Arunachal Pradesh is home to patriotic 26 major tribes and over 100 sub tribes, we are a thriving society where people elect their leaders democratically by elections.
We are empowering our border regions to develop in conjunction with their culture and traditions.
We are running programmes where people decide to stay back out of free will in the border areas because the land, rivers and forests are sacred to us.
We are committed to protecting our environment and preserving it.
This is our model and it is an open source model. Anyone can use this model.

You have been trying to develop Arunachal as a sustainable tourism destination. Does the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, known as the Inner Line Permit hamper your efforts?
Have you envisaged a sort of 'digital' pass which could remove the idea that Arunachal Pradesh is different from other states in India?

Inner Line Permit is not a restrictive regulation that hampers tourism but meant to conserve the culture and traditions of the indigenous tribal societies.
As the chief minister of the state, I have been talking of 'High Value Low Volume' tourism which is sustainable as well as provides employment to our youth.
We have made the process of granting the Inner Line Permit digital and is seamless.

Many places have been visited by Guru Padmasambhava, Guru Nanak or other saints/lamas/yogis. Do you envisage developing 'spiritual' tourism in Arunachal?

Not many are aware but Guru Padmasambhava and Guru Nanak Dev have travelled through the state.
Arunachal Pradesh is also the land of indigenous faiths and we have developed a temple in Pasighat for indigenous faiths.
Tawang has the largest monastery in the country and second largest in the world after the Lhasa monastery.
There is a beautiful Golden Pagoda in Namsai area of the state.
Malinithan has ancient temples in the Likabali area of the state.
We have the famous Parashuram Kund and a famous Shiva temple in the Ziro region.
There are various Christian denominations and some beautiful churches too in the state.

In March 2021 during the last National's People Congress, a draft of China's 14th Five-Year Plan was presented; it included the first phase for the construction of a mega hydropower plant or plants (thrice the size of the Three Gorges Dam) in the Great Bend area.
In view of the fragility of the Pemakoe area (seismic, landslide, biodiversity, etc) as well as the sacredness of the place, can something be done to put this project on hold?

The Government of India is taking all appropriate actions to secure the interests of her people and terrain of the region.

In 2009 at the conclusion of a two-day meet on environment, the chief ministers of five Himalayan states signed the Simla Declaration.
Do you think that this type of initiative should be repeated?
Would you take the initiative for a greater 'Himalayan' unity as far as environment and culture are concerned?

I have always been advocating that the Mountain States have their unique strength and challenges.
Therefore, the development model of this fragile ecology need a different treatment to take forward development of the area.
The Himalayan landscape and her people's culture calls for unified and sustainable call for development.
We are mindful of taking these aspects very seriously, while taking up our development goals.

'Migration' towards the big cities seems to be a serious problem for your state. Can you elaborate? How are you planning to tackle this issue?

Yes, it is a universal phenomenon. Everyone wants to look for better avenues for a comfortable life for them and their families.
This is also true in Arunachal Pradesh.
While the same is NOT discouraged, the government's endeavour is to provide all the basic facilities of health, education, housing etc in situ to encourage our people to live in the respective villages and ensure they are NOT uprooted from their roots.
We are also empowering our villages in the true sense in which Mahatma Gandhi talked of Gram Swaraj.
We have recently conducted the panchayat elections in the state and are determined to provide the 3Fs -- Funds, Functions and Functionaries to the villages.
There are still too many remote villages in Arunachal Pradesh, with hardly any 'modern' facilities (school, dispensaries, communications, etc)? How do you plan to remedy this?
As I mentioned, we are late starter in our development journey.
However, in the last 6 years, we have added many 'modern' facilities in remote villages -- Saubhagya for electrification, PMAY for housing, UJJAWALA for cooking gas and Jal Jeevan Mission to take potable drinking water to each household to name a few.
The government of Arunachal Pradesh conducted a programme called Sarkar Aapke Dwar or 'Government at your Doorstep' to take essential government schemes to extremely remote villages and benefitted over 4 lakh people.
Yes, we have still a lot of distance to cover and we are working towards this goal.

How does it feel to rule over a state claimed by another country? Do you think that more historical research could highlight the fact that Arunachal has never been part of China?

The Indianness of the People of Arunachal Pradesh is NOT to be proven to anyone.
Our love for our great nation -- Bharat is second to none and our patriotism towards our motherland -- India is for the entire nation to emulate.
Further to state on record that Arunachal Pradesh does not share any direct border with China, but it has a border with Tibet.


US wanted China to intervene against India in 1971 War

My article US wanted China to intervene against India in 1971 War has been published by

Here is the link...

On December 10, Kissinger began to encourage the Chinese to take action against India: 'If the People's Republic were to consider the situation on the Indian subcontinent a threat to security, and if it took measures to protect its security, the US would oppose efforts of others to interfere with the People's Republic.'
On the 50th anniversary of India's greatest military victory, Claude Arpi recalls how the US suggested that China intervene militarily on Pakistan's side.

Rarely the birth of a new country became an event observed by the entire planet; it has happened for Bangladesh.
Soon after the Pakistani army crackdown on sleeping unarmed Bengali students at Dacca University on March 25, 1971, an event which triggered the Bangladesh Liberation War eight months later, Joan Baez wrote The Song of Bangladesh. It would be released in an album a year later, by then millions already knew the lyrics (and what had inspired the singer).
The ‘Concert for Bangladesh’, organized by ex-Beatle and guitarist George Harrison along with the Indian sitar-player Pandit Ravi Shankar at the Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 1, 1971, also marked the minds of a generation.
The Bangladesh Liberation War is fascinating because it encompassed so many diverse features simultaneously.
Not only artists, but number of intellectuals (such as André Malraux, the French Culture Minister) supported the millions of Bengalis fleeing their homeland after Pakistan’s generals unleashed terror on the populace.

The Meaning for India
For the Indian Army, the War was proof that with good political leadership, down-to-earth defence officers, the misadventure of 1962 could be left behind.
The Liberation of Bangladesh also saw the end of the sacrosanct Panchsheel policy; by intervening inside Pakistan’s territory, India showed that the Right to Self-Determination can prevail over other principles.
This possibly explained the nervousness of Communist China which had just been admitted to the UN: would India one day ‘liberate’ Tibet, like it was in the process of doing for Bangladesh?
But while it will remain in world history as an episode which united the multitude of progressive forces in all continents in an aspiration for a better world, many nations played an extremely negative role, first and foremost of these being the United States of America and China.

The Role of the US
The negative role of the United States, particulary of President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger is today well known; a large corpus of files/documents have been declassified, particularly by the National Security Archive (NSA) in the United Sates.
William Burr, senior analyst at the NSA commented: “[This] deserves the attention of the widest possible readership because of its fascinating, sometimes startling, revelations on Nixon administration policy. It gives the reader an unparalleled perspective on the inner workings of White House policy throughout the crisis.”
Already in 2002, the NSA and the George Washington University's Cold War Group had published a series of declassified US documents on the Sino-American rapprochement.
The NSA website had observed: “ This material documents Nixon's efforts to make contacts with Beijing during 1970-1971 as the basis for rapprochement after decades of hostility. …Since the beginning of his presidency in early 1969, and even earlier, Nixon had been interested in changing relations with China, not least to contain a potential nuclear threat but also, by taking advantage of the adversarial Sino-Soviet relationship, to open up another front in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.”
India had no place in the new scheme, as Delhi would soon realize.
In October 1970, Kissinger met with Pakistan's dictator General Yahya Khan, who had offered a channel for Sino-American communication a year earlier: “The Pakistani channel produced an important message from Zhou in December 1970, which quickly generated a White House response.”
In April 1971, even while the Bangladesh crisis had already become acute, China and the US engaged in a ‘Ping Pong diplomacy’; at the same time, Nixon made public statements about his interest in visiting China.
On April 27, 1971, the Pakistani ambassador delivered Zhou Enlai's reply: “Mao Zedong's and Zhou's interest in receiving a visit from Nixon laid the way for Kissinger's secret trip in July 1971 and the beginning of the U.S.-China effort to discuss the issues that had divided them over the years.”
This is corresponds to the period when millions of refugees had started pouring into India; it shows that Washington was not in the least bothered by the humanitarian crisis; it was too busy trying to fix a rapproachment with China; India and Bangladesh were nowhere in the American preoccupations.

More NSA Documents

The NSA released new archival material in 2005; it was entitled: “New Documents Show White House Ignored Regional Nature of Crisis and Risked Confrontation with Moscow to Look Tough”.
A now-famous document says, “Nixon's dislike of 'witch' Indira.”
Both Nixon and Kissinger saw India as a ‘Soviet stooge’; they “downplayed reports of Pakistani genocide in what is now Bangladesh, and even suggested that China intervene militarily on Pakistan's side.”
In fact, they completely ignored the reports of their own staff posted in the US Consulate General in Dacca; Washington knew very well about the ‘reign of terror’ orchestrated by Pakistani forces (see The Blood Telegram), but chose to ignore the facts for the sake of the rapprochement with China.
It is worth noting that Archer Blood, the US Consul General in Dacca was never promoted for daring to tell the truth to his bosses in the State department.
Coming back to the NSA website; it affirmed that Nixon and Kissinger did not want “to get [the] West Pakistanis turned against us, in part because President Yahya was providing a secret communication link for their quest for rapprochement with China.”
The close China-Pakistan relationship “was central to Nixon's wish to ‘tilt’ US policy toward Pakistan in part to show Beijing that Washington would support its allies,” commented the think-tank.
While the refugee issue was becoming the main bone of contention between India and Pakistan, Nixon and Kissinger thought that China, which had a close relationship with Pakistan, could play a role in the crisis.
Nixon and Kissinger believed that a Cold War confrontation could involve a China-Soviet conflict and US confrontation with the Soviet Union: "Nixon and Kissinger overlooked the regional, ethnic, and national dimensions of the crisis and instead saw it in terms of the Cold War and macho terms, which made the crisis even more dangerous; they risked a China-Soviet conflict so they could demonstrate what they thought was toughness and resolve,” commented Burr.
There are interesting accounts of Nixon's meetings with Kissinger on November 5, 1971, after the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Washington; the National Security advisor said the "Indians are bastards anyway. They are starting a war there [in Bangladesh] … While [Gandhi] was a bitch, … she will not be able to go home and say that the United States didn't give her a warm reception.”

Will China help?

But the duo wanted China to put more pressure on India: "I think we've got to tell [the Chinese] that some movement on their part … toward the Indian border could be very significant.”
Was it a CIA report which led Kissinger and Nixon to believe that India intended to dismember Pakistan and destroy its armed forces?
This has not come to light.
In any case, at that point in time that Nixon and Kissinger decided to send a US aircraft carrier and other naval forces into the Bay of Bengal “in order to prevent a ‘Soviet stooge, supported by Soviet arms’ from overrunning Pakistan.”
Kissinger said that it was done to "prevent the West Pakistani army from being destroyed. And secondly to retain our Chinese arm. And thirdly, to prevent a complete collapse of the world's psychological balance of power, which will be produced if a combination of the Soviet Union and the Soviet armed client state can tackle [Pakistan] without anybody doing anything.”
The series of cables, reports, minutes continue, with the US completely ignoring the human tragedy highlighted by so many all over the world.
On December 10, Kissinger began to encourage the Chinese to take action against India: "if the People's Republic were to consider the situation on the Indian subcontinent a threat to security, and if it took measures to protect its security, the US would oppose efforts of others to interfere with the People's Republic."
On December 12, Huang Hua, China's ambassador to the UN asked for an urgent meeting in New York with Kissinger who was certain that Beijing was "going to move. No question, they're going to move."
Nixon asked his advisor "what do we do if the Soviets move against them? Start lobbing nuclear weapons.” Kissinger told the President: "We don't have to lob nuclear weapons. We have to go on alert… We may have to put forces in. We may have to give them bombing assistance."
Later in the day, Alexander Haig, the Deputy National Security Advisor met with the Chinese; he informed Nixon and Kissinger: “the Chinese had not made any military decisions but would call for a cease-fire and mutual troop withdrawal and support a stand-still cease-fire if necessary.”
They had done this on December 6 already; in any case, China was not in a position to intervene militarily after its Defence Minister was killed by Mao a few months earlier.
The Bangladesh crisis is perhaps one of the best documented episodes of the Cold War, unfortunately it is only available from the US side; it would be interesting to read the Indian archives (if they exist!) and the Chinese side of the story. It will probably not happen anytime soon.
On December 16, Pakistani forces surrendered in Dacca; the drama was over. India had fought her battle alone.
Many lessons can be learnt from this multi-facetted War.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Chinese village in Arunachal: India must speak up!

My article Chinese village in Arunachal: India must speak up! appeared in

'China wants to change the status quo of India's Northern Border and proves that it can do whatever it wants in what it perceives as its own territory,' states Claude Arpi.

Here is the link...

On August 28, 1959, the Indian Ambassador in Beijing sent a strong note to China’s Foreign Ministry, to protest the fact that Chinese troops had violated Indian territory; after mentioning other trespassing in the Tawang and Ladakh sectors, the note says: “Another serious instance of violation of the Indian border and unlawful trespass into Indian territory by Chinese forces has just been brought to the notice of the Government of India. On the 25th August a strong Chinese detachment crossed into Indian territory south of Migyitun on the NEFA [North East Frontier Agency] border and fired without notice on an Indian forward picket [of the 9 Assam Rifles]. They arrested the entire picket which was twelve strong but eight Indian personnel somehow managed to escape. Thereafter the Chinese detachment outflanked the Indian outpost at Longju and opened fire on it from a distance of about 800 yards.”
For Delhi, the Indian outpost was “well within our territory, about two miles south of the international border.” The protest note affirmed: “There could be no doubt about the international frontier in this area and this is a case of deliberate aggression on Indian territory.”
Delhi concluded that it had taken very serious notice of the incident.
Three days later, the Indian public discovered with stupefaction that India and China had serious differences on the border; Prime Minister Nehru reported the incident in the Lok Sabha …and mentioned the construction of a Chinese road in the Aksai China area of Ladakh. India realized that large chunks of Indian territory, several thousand square kilometres in the Aksai Chin, were under Chinese control. It was the first time that the Government had made the legislators and the Indian public, privy to the situation on the border. 

Xiaogang Village
Sixty-two years later, China has built one of its infamous ‘Xiaogang’ (‘well-off’) border villages, a few hundred meters from the place where the Longju incident took place in 1959.
Since 2015, Tibet is said to have built 965 Xiaogang villages and relocated 266,000 people, many on India’s border. Official Chinese statistics said that by the end of 2019, “Tibet had lifted 628,000 people out of poverty and delisted 74 county-level areas from the poverty list.” ‘’Lifting out of poverty’ is a euphemism for relocating thousands of Tibetans.
Longju now has one of such villages; it was reported by NDTV: China had built some 101 homes in the remote place of Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.
The TV channel acquired satellite imagery dated November 1, 2020; the images, analyzed by several experts, confirmed:“the construction, approximately 4.5 kms within Indian territory of the de facto border. [the McMahon Line]”
It is of huge concern to India, added the channel: “Though this area is Indian territory, according to official government maps, it has been in effective Chinese control since 1959 [which is not correct as we shall see]. However, earlier only a Chinese military post existed, but this time a full-fledged village that can house thousands has been built. The village, located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, an area which has been long disputed by India and China.”
As we have seen, the new village is located near Longju, a highly symbolic place, which witnessed the first clash between India and China in 1959. Incidentally, it was five months after the arrival of the Dalai Lama in India and the attack on the Assam Rifles’ platoon seemed to have been a ‘punishment’ for granting asylum to the Dalai Lama.

Year 1956
The year of the Monkey-Fire was a special year; the young Dalai and Panchen Lamas were honoured guests of India on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the birthday of the Buddha, 1956 also witnessed another momentous event: the last Tsari Pilgrimage.
In the Tibetan psyche, Tsari has always been synonymous of ‘sacred place’. With the Mount Kailash and the Amye Machen in eastern Tibet, the pilgrimage around the Dakpa Sheri, the ‘Pure Crystal Mountain’ has, for centuries, been one of the holiest of the Roof of the World. The ‘Pure Crystal Mountain’ lies at 5,735 meters above the sea in the Tsari district, north of the McMahon Line.
Toni Huber, one of the foremost scholars on the subject, wrote a great deal about the site of the pilgrimage, between Tsari and today’s Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh: “The large-scale, 12-yearly circumambulation of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims around the mountain known as the Rongkor Chenmo, had the character of a state ritual for the Ganden Phodrang [Tibetan Government]. Pilgrims in this huge procession crossed the McMahon Line below the frontier village of Migyitun in Tsari district,” wrote Huber. After crossing the McMahon line, the procession would proceed southwards along the Tsari chu (‘river’) towards Longju and Maja, where an Indian Army post is today located and then turn westwards to follow the Subansiri, to finally cross back into Tibet to reach the first frontier village in Chame county.
The southern leg of the Rongkor procession crosses the tribal areas of Upper Subansiri. This was the territory of the Mara clan of the Tagin tribe who live downstream in the Tsari chu valley and around its confluence with the Subansiri at Gelensiniak.
It is most regrettable that this sacred place has today become the symbol of Chinese aggressive and hegemonic policies. The now-retired Gen Zhao Zhongqi, who headed the Western Theater Command till recently, probably made it a point to build this village on Indian territory, knowing that India would not know how to respond.

India continues to patrol
Let us return to history.
Throughout 1962, the Indian Assam Rifles continued to patrol the place. In a letter addressed by Nehru to his Chinese counterpart on December 1, 1962 (two weeks after the cease-fire), Nehru pointed out: “In Longju both Governments agreed that neither Chinese nor Indian personnel should occupy the village. However, it is known that Longju lies within the Indian side of the line of control, whereas Migyitun is on the Chinese side.”
A week later, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing gave its own version: “Longju is a village in the Migyitun area, and India itself has admitted that Migyitun is situated to the north of the illegal McMahon Line. This village was invaded and occupied by Indian troops in June 1959, but was recovered by China after the armed conflict instigated by Indian troops in August 1959. Following that, China not only restored its administrative control over Longju, but also maintained a post there for a period of time.”
Beijing added that the Indian allegation that both sides had agreed that neither Chinese nor Indian personnel should occupy the village, was ‘pure fabrication’.
On December 19, 1962, Delhi strongly objected to China ‘very boldly’ saying that the Indian stand was ‘pure fabrication’, it requested Beijing to read again Zhou Enlai’s latter of December 17, 1959 addressed to Nehru, in which the former had stated: "Pending the above-mentioned agreement, the Chinese Government, in a conciliatory spirit and out of the desire to move towards the withdrawal of armed forces along the entire border, is prepared to agree first to reach a partial solution by applying the proposal you have made in your letter for the non-stationing of the armed forces of both sides at Longju to the other disputed places on the border as well."
During the following years, China started slowly creeping in, eventually a small border post in the area. Delhi kept quiet.
Today, China wants to change the status quo of the Indian Northern Border and proves that it can do whatever it wants in what it perceives as its own territory. It has serious implications elsewhere on the border, particularly in the Aksai Chin area, where Beijing has started exploiting the largest zinc deposits in the Middle Kingdom. If India does not object now, it will be too late in Aksai Chin too.
If China was really interested by peace, as it pretends in every international fora, it should reopen the Rongkor pilgrimage for world peace around the Dakpa Sheri, instead of opening new fronts against India.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Dragon flaunts ‘firepower’ across LAC to ward off growing internal challenges

Bunkers near the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh
My article Dragon flaunts ‘firepower’ across LAC to ward off growing internal challenges published in Firstpost

Here is the link...

President Xi Jinping has not left China for almost two years; it is not difficult to understand why if one looks at the domestic problems he has on his plate

What is going on in China? One thing is sure that the Middle Kingdom is going through turbulent times, to say the least. One just needs to look at the 13th round of the India-China Corps Commander level meeting, held at Chushul-Moldo post in Ladakh on 10 October. We are now told that the process of disengagement failed to move forward.

India said that it was necessary for the Chinese “to take appropriate steps in the remaining areas so as to restore peace and tranquility along the LAC in the Western Sector”. The Indian side, therefore, “made constructive suggestions for resolving the remaining areas, but the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals. The meeting thus did not result in resolution of the remaining areas”.

While the Indian negotiators regretted that “the atmosphere has changed suddenly”, China had been quicker to move… and blame India. Most commentators could not explain why the negotiations failed.

A quick look at the two press releases (the Indian one quoted above and the one provided by Col Long Shaohua, the spokesperson of the Western Theatre Command based in Chengdu-Sichuan), helps us to understand. Nowhere are mentioned the names of the commanders who met for nearly nine hours. Why?

From the Indian side, like for the previous rounds, the talks were led by the General-Officer-Commanding (GOC) of the 14 Corps based in Leh, a post presently held by Lt Gen P G K Menon (earlier, Menon’s predecessor, Lt Gen Harinder Singh conducted the first rounds).

What is strange is that nobody seems to know who led the Chinese side. It is usually the commander of the South Xinjiang Military District (SXMD), a post held till recently by Maj Gen Liu Lin. A few weeks ago, Liu Lin was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and transferred to Urumqi (Xinjiang) as commander of the Xinjiang Military District (XMD) overlooking the SXMD (and the Ladakh front).

Liu Lin’s promotion meant that the Central Military Commission or CMC (read Xi Jinping, its Chairman) was happy about the way that he dealt with India. Since then, the SXMD, China’s most strategic and ‘hot’ front, has had no commander.

Can you believe it?

This is why both sides agreed to leave a blank on the names of those who conducted the talks (it is rumoured that an officer posted in Urumqi, without a real mandate, was nominated as a stop-gap to replace Gen Liu Lin). What does this mean?

It shows that in India, a democracy, the passing over between commanders at all levels is a smooth affair, announced well in advance in the media; it is not the case in totalitarian China, unable to ‘replace’ its commanders in time, resulting in confusion and an inability to “provide forward-looking proposals”. Some Chinese social media have suggested that it was due to the high rate of “mountain sickness” among the officers and soldiers.

It probably means that President Xi Jinping, also CMC Chairman, is unable to find adequate officers who can fit the bill of professionalism, knowledge of the terrain and, critically, are faithful to the Party, i e the Emperor; the latter being the most important criteria.

As a result, the two armies will probably face each other during the forthcoming harsh winter. India will have no choice but to be prepared; this was stated by Gen M M Naravane, the Chief of Army Staff.

Knowing that the talks were bound to fail in the absence of someone mandated to discuss with India, China was quick to move. The Western Theatre Command headquarters immediately released a communiqué: “Instead of misjudging the situation, the Indian side should cherish the hard-won situation in China-India border areas,” commented Senior Colonel Long Shaohua, the spokesperson, who said that the Chinese side had made great efforts “to promote the easing and cooling of the border situation and fully demonstrated China’s sincerity of maintaining overall interests of bilateral military relations. However, the Indian side still persisted in its unreasonable and unrealistic demands, which added difficulties to the negotiations”.

It pointed out that China was firm in its resolve to safeguard national sovereignty: “The Indian side should avoid misjudging the situation and cherish the hard-won situation in the China-India border areas. The Indian side should abide by the relevant agreements and consensus reached between the two countries and two militaries, show sincerity and take concrete actions to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the border areas with China.”

China, it is well known, has great expertise to point a finger at others for mischiefs that it has itself committed.

A few hours later, The Global Times followed the same track and accused India, warning: “PLA border troops maintain high alert, prepared for upcoming confrontations… The harshly worded statement issued by the Chinese government on China and India failing to reach an agreement during their latest round of corps commander-level talks, showed China's subtle change of attitude toward India, and the country's staunch determination to protect its territorial and sovereign integrity.”

In other words, China was now fed-up with India (for the PLA having entered India’s territory); to prove its points, the Communist mouthpiece quoted different ‘analysts’.

These ‘experts’ brought up in the process a couple of incidents created by the PLA in Barahoti in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, where over 100 soldiers and 55 horses transgressed over five km into the Indian territory by walking south of the watershed — the Tunjun-la pass. A few days later, a large number of Chinese soldiers entered into India at Yangtze in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh; the Indian Army and Intelligence Bureau later confirmed the reports of border transgression which lasted for three hours on 9 October.

The Chinese scholars conveniently said: “India has been triggering new incidents along the eastern section of the border recently.” They argued that China should not only refuse “to give in to India's arrogant demands at the negotiating table, but also be prepared to defend against new Indian military aggression.”

But there is more than the local situation. The Sixth Plenum of the Communist Party of China is soon coming up (probably mid-November) and Xi Jinping is under great pressure from many quarters and in these circumstances, he could not afford to ‘give away’ anything in Ladakh.

The forthcoming Plenum explains the PLA’s latest aggression on India’s northern borders, but also near Taiwan where hundreds of Chinese planes have recently trespassed into Taipei’s airspace.

The same Global Times published an editorial stating that mainland China will have a showdown with Taiwan if the Taiwanese authorities continue to make trouble colluding with the United States and Japan. It suggested that the PLA fighter planes could fly over the island of ‘rebel’ Taiwan: “This is a step we must take… It will be a clear and unmistakable declaration of China’s sovereignty over Taiwan, and will create unprecedented conditions for us to further implement this sovereignty.”

Xi has several other problems on his plate, whether it is in Xinjiang, with the continuous unrest of the Uyghur population; in Hong Kong, which is slowly being assimilated to the mainland; with the endless power-cuts affecting the industries and individuals; the quick collapse of Evergrande Group and the real estate market; the purge of more and more senior Party officials (on October 2, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said that Fu Zhenghua, the former minister of justice, was being investigated), and many more issues.

In the circumstances, one understands that Xi does not have the time to find a replacement for Gen Liu Lin and can’t afford to withdraw from more disputed areas of Ladakh. The media onslaught on India has simply been to divert the attention of the Chinese public, from far more serious issues. Incidentally, President Xi has not left China for almost two years; it is not difficult to understand why

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Great Han Chauvism once again

Wang Junzheng, new TAR party Secretary
In 2004, I had mentioned one of the cancers of Communist China: The Great Han Chauvinism (see post below).

The situation seems to be getting worst, particularly in Tibet or Xinjiang.
The Chinese media just announced  that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) had decided to nominate Wang Junzheng of Han nationality as Secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR); he become de facto a member of the TAR Standing Committee.
A Chinese website explained: "On October 19, the Tibet Autonomous Region held a meeting of leading cadres, at which Comrade Zeng Yichun, vice minister of the Central Organization Department, announced the decision of the Central Government; Zeng said that the adjustment was made by the Central Government [Beijing] in the light of the overall situation, according to the work needs and the actual construction of the leadership team of the Tibet Autonomous Region, after thorough consideration and careful study."
So far, not a single Tibetan or non-Han has made it to Party Secretary's seat, can you believe it?
The situation is similar in Xinjiang with the Uyghur minority being second-class citizens.
Seventy years after having 'liberated' the Tibetans, the latter are still slaves of the Han majority.
It is ironical that during the forthcoming Sixth Plenum of the Communist Party (November 8 to 11), President Xi Jinping will boast about the achievements during the 100-year rule of the Communists in China (and 70 years in Tibet).
But, he will certainly not mention the fate of the Tibetans or Uyghurs and why they are not given the top responsibility.

The Communist Party of China is in fact a racist Party, not giving any place to the minorities.
Can you imagine such situation in India: if West Bengal or Tamil Nadu never had a Bengali or Tamil Chief Minister since Independence?
This is the situation in Tibet, Xinjiang or Inner Mongolia.
Simply shameful.

Wang widely Sanctioned
According to The South China Morning Post, Wang is China’s highest ranking official "to be widely sanctioned over accusations of human rights violations in March, during his tenure as Xinjiang’s deputy party secretary and security chief. His boss, Xinjiang party chief Chen Quanguo, appeared only on the Donald Trump administration’s sanctions list announced last year."
The Hong Kong newspaper added: "Wang’s promotion underlines Beijing’s snub of the West’s response to its policies in Xinjiang, as well as its growing interest in the pool of officials who have been held up as examples of competence in areas with large ethnic minority populations. He served as Xinjiang’s security chief from 2019 before starting his most recent role last year as political commissar of the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, while retaining his post as deputy party chief."
The years to come are going to be tough for the Tibetans.
No question, of course, to negotiate anything with Dharamsala.

Wu's farewell speech
While leaving Wu Yingjie said: "I have lived on the Tibetan plateau for more than 60 years, worked for 47 years, traveled through the mountains and waters of Tibet, personally witnessed the human miracle of Tibet under the leadership of the Party in just a few decades, spanning thousands of years. Tibet is my home and the Tibetan people will always be my relatives. I feel extremely happy to be able to live here, work here and grow here, feel proud to be able to dedicate the most precious youthful years of my life here, and feel extremely honored to be able to plow, struggle and harvest together with my comrades here. Looking back on the work and life in Tibet, looking back on the unforgettable years with all of us together, remembering the instructions, thanksgiving and progress, many scenes are real, many past events are vividly remembered, all of them make me deeply moved, infinite fondness."
Interestingly, Wang has never been posted in Tibet. It is definitively a change of policy from the rulers in Beijing.

About Wang Junzheng
He is born in May 1963, in Linyi, Shandong Province; he has a postgraduate degree and a doctorate in management. He is currently an alternate member of the 19th Central Committee.

Chinese name: Wang Junzheng
Nationality: China
Ethnicity: Han Chinese
Place of origin: Linyi, Shandong
Birth date: May 1963
Graduated from Shandong University

  • 1981.09-1985.07 Shandong University, Department of Scientific Socialism, majoring in Scientific Socialism
  • 1985.07-1988.08 Master's degree in Scientific Socialism, Marxist-Leninist Institute, Renmin University of China
  • 1988.08-1993.10 Section officer and deputy chief section officer of the General Office of the Ministry of Labour, chief section officer and deputy divisional secretary of the Minister's Office
  • 1993.10-1994.09 Deputy Divisional Secretary and Full Divisional Secretary, General Office of Yunnan Provincial Party Committee
  • 1994.09-1995.06 Deputy Secretary, Guandu District, Kunming City, Yunnan Province (at divisional level)
  • 1995.06-1998.12 Secretary of Guandu District Committee of Kunming City, Yunnan Province
  • 1998.12-2000.11 Standing Committee Member and Secretary of the Political and Legal Committee of Kunming City, Yunnan Province
  • 2000.11-2003.10 Standing Committee Member and Director of the Organization Department of Kunming Municipal Committee, Yunnan Province
  • 2003.10-2003.11 Deputy Secretary of the Kunming Municipal Committee and Director of the Organization Department, Kunming City, Yunnan Province
  • 2003.11-2005.01 Deputy Secretary of Kunming Municipal Party Committee and Minister of Propaganda Department, Kunming City, Yunnan Province
  • 2005.01-2007.05 Vice-President of Yunnan Provincial High People's Court
  • (1998.09-2006.07 Postgraduate studies in Business Administration, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, PhD in Management)
  • 2007.05-2007.06 Deputy Secretary of Lijiang Municipal Party Committee, Yunnan Province
  • 2007.06-2007.11 Deputy Secretary and Acting Mayor of Lijiang City, Yunnan Province
  • 2007.11-2009.12 Deputy Secretary and Mayor of Lijiang City, Yunnan Province
  • 2009.12-2012.09 Secretary of Lijiang Municipal Party Committee, Yunnan Province
  • 2012.09-2013.05 Vice Governor of Hubei Province
  • 2013.05-2013.06 Vice-Governor of Hubei Province, Secretary of Xiangyang Municipal Party Committee
  • 2013.06-2013.09 Standing Committee Member of Hubei Provincial Party Committee, Secretary of Xiangyang Municipal Party Committee
  •  2013.09-2016.01 Member of the Standing Committee of Hubei Provincial Committee, Secretary of Xiangyang Municipal Committee and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Municipal People's Congress
  •  2016.01-2019.01 Member of the Standing Committee of the Jilin Provincial Committee and Secretary of the Changchun Municipal Committee
  • 2019.01-2019.02 Standing Committee of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
  • 2019.02-2020.04 Standing Committee of the Party Committee and Secretary of the Political and Legal Committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
  • 2020.04-2020.05 Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and Secretary of the Political and Legal Committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and Secretary of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, at full ministerial level 
  • 2020.05-2020.09- Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and Secretary of the Political and Legal Committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Secretary of the Party Committee and Political Commissar of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Chairman of the Board of Directors of China New Construction Group Corporation, at full ministerial level
  • 2020.09- Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Secretary of the Party Committee and Political Commissar of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Chairman of the Board of Directors of China Xinjiang Group Corporation, full ministerial level 
  • 2021.10- Secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region. 
The Great Han Chauvinism still in full bloom in the Middle Kingdom.
Here is my 2004 article

A A few years back, I wrote an article, Flag and nationalities on the issue.

The recent unrest in Tibet has generated a healthy debate in India. Some sections of the Indian society like the Kashmiri Pandits now view their plight through the Tibetan prism (the bad luck of the Pandits is that they never had a charismatic leader like the Dalai Lama, though India’s ruling family belong to their community and they have remained a divided lot).
Some others say that we should give time to China to change and progressively evolve into a decent democratic system. They are probably not aware that the ‘time’ is also clocking against India’s interests. Last year alone 3.8 millions of Chinese ‘visited’ Tibet using the railway line to Lhasa; a few lakhs of them settled on the Roof of the World. Like in the Nepal case, when we will realize that the situation is irreversible, it will be too late. And it is India which will have to suffer.
More than twenty years ago, I had asked the Dalai Lama how will Tibet regain its independence (or autonomy). He had answer: “It does not depend on us Tibetans, changes will come from within China”.
It seems also clear that he was not expecting the United States or India to offer him on a platter the most cherished dream of his people. This statement may be disappointing to those who believe that he is only banking on the Great White Chief in Washington.
He repeatedly said that the people of China will bring about changes in their own country which will give a chance to the people of Tibet to fulfill their aspirations. 

 This is a far more plausible alternative than any other, including a dead-locked dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing. In this context, three letters addressed to President Hu Jintao by the veteran Tibetan Communist leader Phuntsok Wangyal, who had led the Chinese troops into Lhasa in September 1951, could trigger a larger debate in China once the Olympics are behind us.
Wangyal (known as Phunwang by the Tibetans) told Hu several interesting things: the Dalai Lama’s demise would only radicalize young Tibetan hardliners frustrated with his ‘middle way’ approach; he reminded the Chinese President about his own objective to establish a harmonious society; and if Hu would strive for the return of hundreds of thousands of exiled Tibetans, he could turn ‘confrontation into harmony’.
The present debate veers around the place and status of the nationalities within the People’s Republic of China.
A historical incident about the Tibetan flag gives an indication of the direction in which the question could go.
In the 80’s, I had interviewed Phuntso Tashi Takla, the Dalai Lama’s brother-in-law who was in charge of the Tibetan leader’s security when the latter visited China in 1954-55. Takla recalled: “At that time [in 1954] because the Chinese occupation of Tibet was not complete, the Chinese extended full courtesy and cooperation to the Dalai Lama. On some occasions Mao Zedong came himself to the Dalai Lama’s residence [in Beijing]. During one of the several discussions that the Dalai Lama and Mao Zedong had, they were talking on some subject, when Mao [suddenly] said: “Don’t you have a flag of your own, if you have one, you can hoist it here [on the Guest House]”.
Takla was surprised to hear Mao Zedong speaking thus.
Personally I did not immediately realize the importance of Mao’s point, but when I later read Phunwang’s biography, I understood better the incalculable implications of the Chairman’s statement.
It is worth quoting Phunwang: “One day, Mao unexpectedly came to visit the Dalai Lama at his residence… During their conversation, Mao suddenly said, "I heard that you have a national flag, do you? They do not want you to carry it, isn't that right?"
Phunwang further recalled: “Since Mao asked this with no warning that the topic was to be discussed, the Dalai Lama just replied, "We have an army flag." I thought that was a shrewd answer because it didn't say whether Tibet had a national flag. Mao perceived that the Dalai Lama was concerned by his question and immediately told him, "That is no problem. You may keep your national flag." Mao definitely said ‘national’ flag [tib. rgyal dar].
The Chairman added that in the future the Communist Party could also let Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia have their own flag. He then asked the Dalai Lama if it would it be fine for him to host the national flag of the People's Republic of China in addition to the Tibetan flag. Phunwang says that the young Lama nodded his head and said ‘yes’: “This was the most important thing that Mao told the Dalai Lama, and I was amazed to hear it” later wrote Phunwang.
His mind immediately started racing. He was not sure if Mao had discussed this with other leaders in the Politburo or if it was his own idea: “As I had always paid great attention to the Soviet Union's nationality model, I was excited because I took Mao's comment that Tibet could use its own flag to mean that China was contemplating adopting the Soviet Union's ‘Republic’ model, at least for these three large minority nationalities.”
Phunwang realized that the innocuous remark of the Great Helmsman had far reaching consequences for the future of China and particularly for the Tibetans.
Unfortunately Phuwang was arrested in April 1958; he ‘needed to cleanse his thinking'. He spent the following 18 years in solitary confinement. This gave him time to ponder about Mao’s remarks on the flag and the ‘nationalities’ issue and their place in the People’s Republic of China. His studies of Marxism led him to believe that the relationship between nationalities in a multiethnic state should be one of complete equality.
He wrote: “In socialist states, the majority nationality does not (or should not) oppress the minority nationalities. All should be equal, and there should be complete unity and cooperation among nationalities.”
The Great Han Chauvinism
Most of the problems facing China today are due to the Great Han Chauvinism. The State (or Central Government) had to guarantee the equality amongst nationalities (by not imposing Chinese language over a ‘nationality language’ such as Tibetan for example).
Phunwang was finally rehabilitated at the end of the seventies.
In the early 80’s, Phunwang managed to send a 25,000 character memo to senior Party leaders such as Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. He stressed that the outcome of a debate on the question of nationality would have a huge impact on future work in ‘minority nationality areas’ such Tibet.
After Hu Yaobang and Deng Xiaoping instructed the officials not to remove him as a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, his stand seems vindicated.
In May 1980, a delegation headed by Hu Yaobang, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of China visited Lhasa. Hu Yaobang was shocked to see the level of poverty in Tibet. During a meeting with the Party cadres, he asked “whether all the money Beijing had poured into Tibet over the previous years had been thrown into the Yarlung Tsangpo [Brahmaputra] river”. He said the situation reminded him of colonialism. Soon hundreds of Chinese Han cadres were transferred back to China and Tibetan language rehabilitated. Tibet witnessed a few years of glasnost.
The debate started by Mao’s remark more than fifty years ago and reignited by Phunwang twenty years later, is still on. Will Hu Jintao and his colleagues listen to Phunwang’s point on the issue of nationalities or will the Great Han Chauvinism prevail once again?
The fate of Tibet depends on which side the wind will blow in Beijing not on CIA operations?
In the meantime, it is not advisable to go around Lhasa with a national Tibetan flag: Mao’s Thought has not percolated that much in China.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Stop China from erasing ‘the heart of the world’

My article Stop China from erasing ‘the heart of the world’ appeared in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle

Unfortunately, we can’t expect an atheist regime in Beijing to understand the meaning of the word 'sacred'

Here is the link...

Have you heard of the “Hidden Land of Pemako”?

It is the area where China is planning to build mega hydropower stations in the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) during its forthcoming 14th Five Year Plan.
This project, three times the size of the Three Gorges dam, which is extremely hazardous for downstream nations such as India, has another dimension -- the disappearance of one of the world’s most sacred places.

Unfortunately, we can’t expect an atheist regime in Beijing to understand the meaning of the word “sacred”.

In pursuit of Xi Jinping’s theory, “to govern the nation, govern the borders; to govern the borders, strengthen the development of border regions”, China has given a concrete shape to the new Great Helmsman’s slogan by building some 600 “model” villages, many in sacred areas on the Tibetan side of the Indian border.

Whether it is with the hydropower plants or the new villages, the hallowedness and pristine purity of these areas are being lost forever.
Ian Baker, a Buddhist scholar and author of The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place, extensively wrote on Guru Padmasambhava, “the king of all hidden lands”, visiting Pemako in the eighth century.
Baker explained: “The very eastern end of the Himalayan range is [Pemako], where the [Yarlung] Tsangpo Brahmaputra river makes this great bend, a hairpin bend, around the peak of Namcha Barwa, at the very terminus of the Himalayan range … just hearing about the great and blissful land of Pemako …that is the path to enlightenment.”
Baker visited Pemako several times: “I tried to follow what is called the sequence of the outer and inner circles into Pemako, leading into a kind of a paradisiacal round at the very heart of the circumambulation.”
That mythical place will soon be destroyed by Chinese engineers.

Baker writes: “Shambhala was represented as the mandala, with different ways leading into it from the peripheries. …As one enters the mandala, it is a transforming as well as a transformed space and condition. In Pemako, people describe the body of Dorjee Phagmo, a particular tantric Buddhist goddess called Vajravarahi in Sanskrit.”
What will happen to this paradise on earth after the tunnel-digging machines arrive? The Chinese propaganda nevertheless speaks of creating a beautiful place by preservation of “ecology and [providing] livability, health, charm, and happiness”. Is this compatible with a hydel plant three times the size of the Three Gorges Dam? Where will the goddess take refuge? Moreover, will she agree to these “human” plans?
Another travesty: Drolkar, an unknown Tibetan woman from a remote hamlet in southern Tibet, suddenly came into pre-eminence in China when, this year, she was awarded the “July 1 Medal”, the most prestigious recognition by President Xi Jinping on the occasion of the Communist Party of China’s completion of 100 years. Why?
In October 2017, Mr Xi had sent a letter to two young Tibetan herders, Drolkar and her sister, who had introduced their village, Yume, north of the Indian border, to him.
President Xi thanked them “for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area. Without peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families”.
The girls’ village, Yume, located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line, not far from the remote Indian village of Takshing, suddenly became the model village for the next 600.
Yume was one of the most sacred places in Tibet and the terminus for the holy Tsari pilgrimage. China Tibet Online, a Chinese website, praised the area thus: "Hailed as Tibet’s Shambhala, Tsari township boasts its lush vegetation, moderate weather, still lake, running brook, vast forest, holy mountains as well as a variety of herbs.”
While still one of the most sacred pilgrimages in Tibet along with the Kailash Yatra, Tsari was incidentally the site of the first clash between the Chinese and Indian troops in Longju in August 1959.

One of the unique characteristics of this pilgrimage was that it ran right across the Indo-Tibetan border (McMahon Line), one half being in Tibet, the other in the North East Frontier Agency (India).
Yume played an important spiritual role in the Yatra. Toni Huber, the author of The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet, wrote: “During the second week of the third Tibetan month, the initial rituals for ‘mountain opening’ began in the village of Yume in the western part of Tsari. At that time the protective deities of the mountain were worshiped. This annual, week-long period of ceremony and festival was called Chöle Chenmo or ‘The Great Religious Work’, and it was primarily a ritual performed by local villagers [of Yume].” Today the villagers worship the red flag of CPC and paint the rocks around the village in red colour.
 Huber speaks of “a knowledgeable local man who had taken over the role of annually opening the mountain from two hereditary lamas …As their names suggest, they used certain magical powers generated by way of ritual formulae to facilitate the clearing of a path through the often deep spring snows encountered on the mountain, and to avert avalanches that might sweep down on the pilgrims”. These were Drolkar’s ancestors.
The inhabitants of Yume and the Tsari valley were the “servants’ or ‘keepers” of the Yatra’s tradition; they had “an active role in staging village-based festivals of worship for the gods and goddesses of the mountain”. According to Huber: “Yume was the original centre of development for tantric retreats at Tsari …It is said that the original meaning of Chöle Chenmo was to mark the end of the winter meditation retreat by yogins in the Yume area and to worship the tantric sky-goers.”
All this ended with the invasion of Tibet in 1951.

While totalitarian China has almost completely erased the sacred tradition, it is certainly something that democratic India could promote; New Delhi should develop all the sacred places near the borders with Tibet (in Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Sikkim or Arunachal Pradesh), particularly all the places which have been blessed by Padmasambhava, Guru Nanak, the lamas or local saints.