Friday, February 26, 2021

India’s firmness, Xi Jinping’s political goals, explain China’s withdrawal in Ladakh

My article India’s firmness, Xi Jinping’s political goals, explain China’s withdrawal in Ladakh appeared in The Indian Express

Here is the link...

A few months ago, most analysts were convinced that the Chinese would never vacate the occupied areas. But several reasons compelled Beijing to change its stance.

A great deal has already been written by Indian experts on the decision by the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army to ‘disengage’ in Ladakh, starting from the vicinity of the Pangong tso.
Rajnath Singh, India’s Defence Minister stated in the Parliament: “As a result of our well thought out approach and sustained talks with the Chinese side, we have now been able to reach an agreement on disengagement in the North and South Bank of the Pangong Lake.”
Singh announced: “both sides will cease their forward deployments.”
It was agreed that the Chinese would keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to the east of Finger 8: “reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3. A similar action would be taken in the South Bank area by both sides.”
Many have doubted the sincerity of the Chinese and have suggested that even if the PLA withdraws, Beijing will somehow manage to return through a ‘backdoor’; to trust China is undeniably difficult; this is why the minister spoke of withdrawing “in a phased, coordinated and verified manner.”
After the Galwan incident on June 16 last year (on President Xi Jinping’s birthday) during which 20 Indian jawans and officers lost their lives, trust has been absent; incidentally, the Chinese casualties (probably around 45 killed) are still today a ‘State secret’ in the Middle Kingdom, while Col Santosh Babu, the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar regiment was awarded Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest decoration in wartime. With the prospect of new clashes looming large, both sides took the decision to ‘disengage’.
Though a few months ago most analysts were convinced that the Chinese would never vacate the occupied areas, several reasons compelled Beijing to change its stance as continuation of the confrontation could have made the Communist ‘core’ leader lose face further.
Before we go into the change of mind of Chinese leadership, it is important to understand the political background in the Middle Kingdom.
The New Emperor wants to project himself on the world scene as a man of peace; addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Xi Jinping recently affirmed that “the misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation … will eventually hurt all countries’ interests and undermine everyone’s well-being.” Xi proclaimed that “the strong should not bully the weak …we should stay committed to international law and international rules, instead of seeking one’s own supremacy.” Was he speaking seriously?
The Wall Street Journal sarcastically commented: “but that admonition doesn’t seem to apply to his own government.”
Speaking of other conflicts, Xi added: “[the] solution lies in making peace, promoting reconciliation and restoring stability.”
It was difficult for the Chinese president to sustain a war for a few hundred meters here and there in Ladakh, by mobilizing some 50,000 of his own troops at an altitude above 4,500 m with glacial temperatures, while promoting peace in the world.
In another recent speech, Xi mentioned his objectives: “time and momentum are on China's side.” The new Great Helmsman believes in the ‘Great rejuvenation of Chinese nation’ led by the soon-100 years old Communist Party of China (CPC); he however cited challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, deteriorating relations with the West or a slowing economy and he added: "The world is in a turbulent time that is unprecedented in the past century.”
Only the future will tell us if the ‘momentum’ is indeed on China’s side, but there is no doubt that the world is going through uncertain and difficult times.
Xi’s objectives point to the Two Centenaries, which refer to two anniversaries:, the CPC founding in July 2021, before which a fully ‘moderately well-off’ society will be achieved and the centenary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2049 which will see a "strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country."
A war with India does not presently fit into Xi’s plans at this point in time at least.
Uncertainty is bound to continue in 2021 and probably beyond, but during the present crisis, India has found reliable and unwavering support abroad (particularly from the US and France), this was also a factor which made Xi think twice before continuing the confrontation in Ladakh.
He was also certainly surprised by the firmness of the Indian Government which stuck to its guns and asked China to return to the pre-May 2020 positions; Delhi was clearly determined to fight even if it was for a few hundred meters in a few spots.
The resilience and the innate strength of the Indian jawans who adapted far better than their Chinese counterparts to the climatic hardship, must have shocked the Chinese leadership who still depends on bi-yearly recruitments (with China’s one child policy, who wants to send a son to the front?); perhaps linked to this, it is a fact that China’s medical casualties were much higher due to weather and high altitude.
Another shock for Beijing has been that the Indian Army has been deputed, through the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, to conduct the negotiations. It is a first in post-Independence India; for most Foreign Service officers, negotiation is the Art of Compromise, but a soldier knows far better than a diplomat how a few hundred meters in a mountainous area, can be vital. The Indian military displayed patience, resolve and determination to return to the situation prevalent in April 2020.
It should also be mentioned that in recent years infrastructure development along the Northern borders of India have got an unprecedented boost; this must have irritated Beijing no end.
We also have to see the present disengagement in the historical context. Though knowing about the road being constructed by China in the Indian Aksai Chin as early as 1952-53, the then government in Delhi kept quiet; that inaction put the country in an inextricable situation.
On October 18, 1958, the Indian Foreign Secretary wrote an ‘informal’ note to the Chinese Ambassador in Delhi stating that it had come to Delhi’s notice that a road had been constructed by China “across the eastern part of the Ladakh region of the J&K State, which is part of India, …the completion of which was announced in September 1957.”
If Beijing had not announced the opening of the road, the information would have probably been kept secret longer by Delhi!
The note continued: “it is matter of surprise and regrets that the Chinese Government should have constructed a road through indisputably Indian territory without first obtaining the permission of the Government of India and without even informing the Government of India.”
It says it all. To retrieve the situation from such an abyss requires patience, endurance and determination.
Hopefully a first step has been done, but utmost vigilance is the need of the hour.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Mysterious Disappearances on the Roof of the World

TAR Standing Committee meeting on February 19

In December, I mentioned that the Ninth Plenary Session of the Ninth Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and the Economic Work Conference of the Regional Party Committee, took place in Lhasa from December 25 to 27, 2020.
The Chinese media spoke of the importance of the conference held ‘at a historic moment’ when the 13th Five-Year Plan ended ‘successfully’ (with hundreds of new villages on India’s borders, among other achievements!!). 

Xinhua added: “The building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects was achieved, and the new journey for the comprehensive construction of a socialist modern Tibet, which is about to begin, is self-evident.”
Though it was an important gathering, the real news was about the absence of Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Chairman of the TAR Regional Congress and senior most Tibetan cadre (he is a full member of the all-powerful Central Committee).
I then wrote: “Gyasltsen was nowhere to be seen. It is too early to speculate, but that there not many explanations as of now; either he caught a bad cold or more (the delegates were seen respecting social distancing during the Plenum, with only alternate chairs occupied by the participants) or Lobsang Gyaltsen is under ‘investigation’.”

Morphed appearance of Lobsang Gyaltsen
He came back and disappeared again
Since then Lobsang Gyaltsen has reappeared, extremely skinny, to disappear again.
But did he really reappear?
On February 19, he was seen attending a meeting of the TAR Standing Committee; Wu Yingjie, the TAR Party Secretary was to convey “the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech at the 2021 Spring Festival”.
Yu exhorted the cadres to use “the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech as guide to do a good job of the 'Four Major Events’ (one is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the party and another one, the so-called 70th peaceful liberation of Tibet).
The latter probably meant the signature of the 17-Point Agreement in May 1951 and the entry of the People’s Liberation Army in the streets of Lhasa in September 1951.
The meeting also got the feedback from the 10th Central Inspection Team on the ‘rectification work’. 

Lobsang Gyaltsen was seen in the video report, but on closer examination, he was not present.
In a pure Stalinist  way, he was added, the video was morphed (the yellow curtain behind him did not exist in the meeting room).

Another angle shows Che Dralha, the head of the TAR government seating on the left of Wu (it should have been the place of Lobsang Gyaltsen).
Why to show him if he was not present?
This is probably how the Communist Party has always been functioning.

Another MIA
Another senior member was ‘Missing in Action’ (MIA), it is Ding Yexian.
Ding was Executive Deputy Secretary of the TAR Party Committee, Secretary of the Party Leadership Group of the Regional Consultative Conference (CPPCC), President of the Party School of the District Party Committee and since 2019 and Director of the Office of the Comprehensive Deepening Reform Committee.
A really important cadre.
On January 23, 2021, he even became deputy director of the Standing Committee of the Eleventh TAR People's Congress, along with his colleagues Norbu Thondup and Tang Mingying.
Ding is/was also an alternate member of the 19th Central Committee.
But according to a Chinese website dated February 3: “Alternate member of the Central Committee Ding Yexian, has stepped down as Executive Deputy Secretary of the TAR Party Committee.” (Source: Beijing News Political Affairs).
The website added: “According to the latest information from the ‘Introduction to Leaders’ on the official website of the CPC Tibet Autonomous Region Committee, Ding Ye, the executive deputy secretary of the TAR Party Committee, is no longer among the leaders."

Norbu Thondup

Another Central Committee Alternate Member disappears
In the video report of the meeting of the TAR Standing Committee mentioned above, another senior Tibetan cadre, Norbu Thondup, is also MIA.
A day later, he could not again be spotted in another gathering: the TAR Communist Regional Party held a ‘mobilization meeting’ to implement the rectification work of the 10th Inspection Team of the Central Committee (to maintain political sobriety, improve political positions, take up political responsibilities, resolutely implement the rectification and implement the feedback from the central inspection team).
It was in February 20 in the afternoon.
It was presided over by Wu Yingjie, who is also the head the Leading Group of the 10th Inspection Group of the Central Committee.
Lobsang Gyaltsen was MIA, ditto for Ding Yexian and Norbu Thondup.
The disappearance of three members of the Central Committee is certainly a very serious affair which will need to be followed closely.
All is not well on the Roof of the World.

New Appointments
In the meantime, on February 10, it was announced that Zhuang Yan and Wang Haizhou would no longer serve as Vice Chairmen of the TAR People's Government.

The Tibet Daily’s WeChat official account released the list of removals from the Standing Committee of the TAR People's Congress  on February 10, (the decision had been taken at the 27th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Eleventh People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the same day).

Wang Haizhou, new member of the Standing Committee
According to The Paper in Hong Kong: “Zhuang Yan, Wang Haizhou no longer serves as Vice Chairman of the TAR People's Government.”

It indicated a promotion for both cadres;  the next day, Wang Haizhou was appointed as a member of the TAR Standing Committee and Minister of the Propaganda Department.

Xinhua said: “On the afternoon of the 10th [February], the Propaganda Department of the TAR Party Committee held a cadre meeting and announced the decision on the appointment of the main leaders: Comrade Wang Haizhou was appointed member of the Standing Committee of the District Party Committee and Minister of the Propaganda Department.”

Deputy Secretary of the TAR Party Committee Yan Jinhai attended and delivered a speech. Chen Yongqi, member of the TAR Standing Committee and Director of the Organization Department, announced the appointment decision of the main leaders of the Propaganda Department.

Party Committee Standing Committee Member and Minister of Propaganda Department Wang Haizhou made a statement.

Zhuang Yan

As for Zhuang Yan, he is probably stepping in the shoes of Ding Yexian as TAR Executive Deputy Secretary. 

It has to be  noted that 70 years after the so-called 'Peaceful Liberation of Tibet' and as the Communist Party is preparing to celebrate the event, that are only 5 Tibetans out of 14 members of the Standing Committee (if one counts Lobsang Gyaltsen).

Tibet is not really 'liberated'.

 The presence of the PLA
Incidentally, Lt Gen Zhang Xuejie, the Political Commissar of the Tibet Military District and senior most PLA officer in Tibet attended the meeting of the Standing Committee on February 19. 

He is listed No 6 in the protocol, certainly an insult for the Chinese Armed Forces.

Lt Gen Zhang Xuejie, Political Commissar, Tibet Military District

Saturday, February 20, 2021

A manual of Indian blunders in India-China relations

My book The End of an Era India Exits Tibet - Part IV has been reviewed by Vijay Kranti in The Organizer.  

The review is entitled: A manual of Indian blunders in India-China relations

This monumental four-volume analytical document deserves to be adopted as a compulsory text book in the training programmes for every MEA entrant and Member Parliament on “How not to conduct External Affairs of India.” This review deals with the fourth volume, The End of an Era—India Exits Tibet: India-Tibet Relations 1947-1962

Here is the link...

A big handicap in the business of book publishing on current affairs in India, especially on major issues related to India’s international relations, is the shortage of books by genuine and passionate researchers. A large section of books available in the market is by former bureaucrats and political leaders who invest most of the space and efforts in justifying and highlighting their personal role and looking good. There are quite a few other serious books which are mere reproduction of PhD or other research works of individual scholars for whom it was a formal exercise in completing a project or an assignment. Very few among such works are the result of a passionate hunger for digging out facts, developments and trends related to events which made history and affected India’s fate in a big way.
Claude Arpi’s set of four books under the series “India Tibet Relations (1947-1962)” belongs to the last category. It is a monumental work as an honest and detailed ‘post mortem’ of developments during 1947-1962 era within the India-China-Tibet triangle. It was that period of history which first marked the Chinese attack on the Eastern part of Tibet, followed by its formal occupation and then India’s final withdrawal and snapping of centuries old relations with Tibet to leave the ground open for China to fortify and perpetuate its colonial rule over Tibet. Interestingly, all this colonial drama happened under the watch of a ‘free’ world which had just emerged out of the Second World War and had started taking pride in witnessing the beginning of the end of colonialism from the face of earth. The focus of our discussion is the fourth and concluding volume of this series which is titled “The End of an Era: India Exits Tibet”.
This book is monumental in more than one ways. As Maj. General BK Sharma the Director of United Service Institution of India (USI), puts it in his foreword....
This historic research project will not only dispel many myths but also unravel the truth about the events that were to shape India-Tibet-China relations during those crucial years.” It is under USI’s ‘Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence’ that Claude Arpi conducted this research. These books offers a deep insight and an honest and dispassionate analysis of the way Indian government ‘mishandled’, the invasion of Tibet by China in October 1950; subsequent complete assimilation of Tibet into PRC; and then issues created by China on Indian borders as a consequence of this sudden overnight metamorphism of many millennias old ‘India-Tibet border’ into an ‘India-China border’. It explores and exposes the unending chain of blunders committed by the then Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and his army of diplomats and policy makers in the MEA. It also analyses how these blunders pushed India into miserable and hopeless situation where India finds itself today vis-à-vis China seven decades later.
It explores and exposes the unending chain of blunders committed by the then Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and his army of diplomats and policy makers in the MEA. It also analyses how these blunders pushed India into miserable and hopeless situation where India finds itself today vis-à-vis China seven decades later
The forth volume (1958-1962) deals with developments leading to India-China war in 1962. It presents the stark contrast between the approaches of Mao’s China and Nehru’s India in dealing with their respective national interests and ambitions. While China was feverishly busy in establishing a motorable network of roads in Tibet, the ‘Hindi Cheeni Bhai Bhai’ fever of PM Nehru had taken the dimensions of such a cerebral fever that the PM office and the MEA mandarins in New Delhi practically assigned all such warning reports to files without even reading them – leave aside taking any action or counter measures to correct the situation.
Claude Arpi presents many glaring examples of how Nehru mishandled his relations with China. One example is of Aksai Chin of India’s Ladakh which China quietly occupied by just walking in. In early 1958 Nehru’s Foreign Secretary Subimal Dutt submitted to him report on China’s 1200 km long road connecting Gartok in Western Tibet with Yeh (Yeheng) in Sinkiang (now ‘Xinjiang’) through India’s Aksai Chin area five months after its ‘official’ opening by China. With this report he advised the PM to send a reconnoitering party ‘in the coming spring’ to verify if the road had ‘really been built’ on Indian territory. In response, an indifferent Nehru rejected even the idea of an air reconnaissance saying: “I do not think it is desirable… In fact I do not see what good this can do us….”. And finally Nehru suggested to his Foreign Secretary: “our maps should be sent to the Chinese….. But I think it would be better to do this rather informally.” It simply shows that Nehru did not have any desire, or guts, to confront China even in a blatant case of usurping Indian territory. The book reveals how New Delhi happily went on exporting tons of rice through Nathu La to feed the Chinese road workers who were busy connecting their army posts on border with Lhasa through a motorable road.
This set of book fortifies popular perception that a sizeable section among Indian bureaucrats, especially those serving MEA, are brilliant in parts but most of them use their brilliance more for ensuring and fortifying their personal comforts and interests rather than for serving the national interests. Prior to signing of the so called “Panchsheel Agreement” with China in 1954, Indian Ambassador KM Panikaar to Peking (know ‘Beijing’) had advised Nehru not to speak of a border which is settled with China because “if it were not settled China would have brought the issue to the negotiating table”. He failed to understand the meaning behind Chinese PM Zhou Enlai’s words, “we are prepared to settle all such problems as are ripe for settlement,” which actually meant that China would prepare for or wait for situations to become favourable enough to raise claims on any Indian areas.
Author Claude Arpi has put in hard work in studying official documents to expose such anomalies in the performance of India’s diplomatic force. He refers to PM Zhou’s letter of January 23, 1959 to Indian PM Nehru in which he had clearly explained why China did not discuss border issues in the 1954 agreement. The letter said, “…The border question was not raised in 1954 when negotiations were being held between the Chinese and Indian sides for the ‘Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet Region of China and India’ (popularised by Pt. Nehru as the ‘Panchsheel Agreement). This was because conditions were not yet ripe for its settlement.”
The book is a monumental work as it is loaded with logical analysis of Indian government’s blatant failure in reading the Chinese mind and its inability to take timely steps to protect Indian interests. One only wonders why India’s foreign policy leaders and their army of MEA bureaucrats could not learn basic lessons even from written documents like Zhou’s above letter which gives a transparent peep into the real Chinese mind and their intentions about borders with India. Had India’s China policy makers ever read Zhou’s letter seriously they would have saved India from the deep pitfall they have landed Indian on the border issues vis-à-vis China. On the one hand such incidents explain why China has never allowed the border issue to be settled with India and how inefficient, incompetent and indifferent Indian policy makers have remained oblivious to it for over six decades after Zhou revealed his government’s policy on border disputes with India. This failure reflects even from a well-known fact while China has been feverishly busy in fortifying their defence infrastructure on the Tibetan side of our borders, India has been postponing providing even a single reasonable road link to our Army personnel along nearly 4000 km long border.
This set of books is result of a long painstaking research by the author. He has given hundreds of real examples of how India’s leaders and bureaucrats mishandled their responsibilities in the most delicate and demanding moments of national history. That is why Claud’s racy and lucid writing style makes reading of this monumental work an exercise in self-inflicted torture for any reader who has some love or sympathy for India.
All this makes this set of books an invaluable document for all those scholars, media persons and students of international affairs who wants to understand the true characteristics and history of India-China relations. It is a must read for India’s policy makers who need to understand the significance of a free Tibet for ensuring India’s territorial integrity and national security from China’s future plans and machinations. Thanks to the author’s in depth research and sharp analysis, this four-volume analytical document deserves to be adopted as a compulsory text book for every MEA entrant and each Member of Indian Parliament on “How not to conduct external affairs of India.”

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Trusty old allies India, France can bond over big research

My article Trusty old allies India, France can bond over big research appeared in The Asian age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

What is required for France and India is to take their relations to the next level
Concrete collaborations are, and will be, undoubtedly difficult, they will face obstacles, which in the end can only help deepen bilateral relations. 

Concrete collaborations are, and will be, undoubtedly difficult, they will face obstacles, which in the end can only help deepen bilateral relations. 

President Xi Jinping recently affirmed that “time and momentum are on China's side”. The Great Helmsman believes in the “great rejuvenation of Chinese nation” led by the soon-100 years old Communist Party of China; he, however, cited challenges, adding: "The world is in a turbulent time that is unprecedented in the past century.”
Only the future will ascertain if the “momentum” is indeed on China’s side, but there is no doubt that the world is going through uncertain and difficult times. As this is bound to continue in 2021 and probably beyond, India has to find reliable and unwavering support abroad.
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Xi recently asserted, somewhat ironically: “The misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation… will eventually hurt all countries’ interests and undermine everyone’s well-being.”
For over 20 years, France and India have been practising cooperation. Recently, India had supported France when the country was attacked by Islamic fundamentalists: “India stands with Paris at this difficult moment and fully supports the French government on this issue,” affirmed New Delhi.
Trust is the key in every relationship. When President Jacques Chirac came to India in 1998, he proposed a strategic partnership. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee readily agreed to give a concrete shape to one based on shared values.
The 1998 Indo-French partnership is deep for many reasons; one of them is a shared vision of the world. Further, France has never tried to bully India into accepting its views, while standing by India during the nuclear tests, in favour of a UN Security Council seat and on terrorism. This has not always been the case with other countries, including the United States.
The recently-concluded “Exercise Desert Knight-21” held in Jodhpur is another example of sharing. With 11 Rafale aircrafts having already joined that Indian Air Force (IAF), the collaboration has been a game-changer for India in the confrontation with China in Ladakh.
Speaking in Jodhpur, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria said the first priority had been for the IAF to integrate the fighter planes in the existing fleet: “It has been done and the current exercise Desert Knight is the result of that.” French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, noting that the first French aircraft landed in India in 1953, observed “the partnership has persisted through good and bad times”.
New Delhi and Paris also held their annual Strategic Dialogue on January 7. National security advisor Ajit Doval met his French counterpart Emmanuel Bonne, the French President’s diplomatic advisor (known as the “Sherpa”). According to a South Block press release: “The two sides held discussions on… counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, defence cooperation, maritime security, regional and global issues, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.”
According to some sources, France agreed to an Indian request that defence technologies will not be shared with Pakistan. Further, Mr Bonne would have offered that 70 per cent of the assembly line for future Rafales could come under “Make in India” scheme, with technology transfer.
During the recent India-France-Japan Workshop on the Indo-Pacific held in Delhi, the foreign secretary said: “The Indo-Pacific has become an essential concept in international relations today.” It is certainly a field where Paris and Delhi could collaborate, however, a “turbulent-time” partnership means more than joining a new grouping or buying a few combat aircrafts. Of course, sharing advanced technology is difficult; years ago, Safran, the French company which has developed the engine for the Rafale, tried to work with DRDO on a new engine for the Tejas, nothing has materialised.
One still remembers how difficult has been the cooperation and transfer of technology under the “75 Project” for six Scorpene submarines. The fifth Scorpene, INS Vagir, built by the Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) with technology transfer from France was launched in November 2020; MDL will manufacture a total of six submarines with technology assistance from the Naval Group under a US $3.75 billons deal signed in October 2005.
Concrete collaborations are, and will be, undoubtedly difficult, they will face obstacles, which in the end can only help deepen bilateral relations. It is ironic that for years Paris believed in the depth of its relations with China, so much so that a P4 Lab was “offered” to China in Wuhan, with consequences that are suspicious today. The P4 lab episode is an example of what should never be done — work with untrustworthy partners.
What is required for France and India is to take their relations to the next level; for this, both nations need to work on a “big” research project. I am thinking of an armed drone of the next generation; another field could be quantum communication, yet another could be a sixth-generation aircraft. In Jodhpur, the Air Chief said, “Our present vision is to incorporate all the latest technologies and sensors in our fifth-generation aircraft” and at a later stage work on a sixth-generation plane, a project in which both nations could collaborate.
For this, the thrust of the leaders of both countries is necessary — but can they find time to “dream” in these turbulent times?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The man who brought Tawang under India: 70 years ago

Maj Khathing discusses with Tibetan officials and village elders in Tawang (April 1951)

Here is a note recorded by the Prime Minister of India on February 9, 1951, when he heard that Maj Bob Khathing (and the Assam Rifles) had taken over the administration of Tawang earlier in the day.
The note is addressed to the Foreign Secretary (FS).
The Committee referred to by Nehru is the Himmatsinghji Committee, known as the North and North East Border Defence Committee.

Ref: from Nehru Paper (JN Collection Vol  72 - Part II)


The Committee appointed recently to tour the North East Frontier etc., has taken some action which I consider of doubtful value. For instance they decided to send some troops to Bhutan. I considered this most undesirable and the matter has been dropped.
Tawang has now been occupied. Probably the step taken was justified. But it was an important step and I should have been consulted about it. The instructions issued to the Officer Commanding should also have been placed before me before issue. This is a frontier matter involving possibly some complications and no step should be taken without full consultation.
I have just learnt that there is a proposal that this Committee should go to Nepal. This is not desirable in the present state of affairs.
If the Committee has any other step in view, I should be informed of it before-hand

(J. Nehru)

I repost below an old article dated 2015 on the subject.

My article
The man who brought Tawang under India appeared today in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

Major Ralengnao (Bob) Khathing, a Naga tribal from Manipur, used his distinguished military background and exemplary diplomatic skills to win over the locals and establish Delhi’s control over the region

The country recently saw some promising developments in the North-East. The Union Government signed a historic peace accord with Nagaland’s insurgent group — the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). And though the details have not been made public, it is certainly a first step towards the restoration of peace in the region.
Then the Government decided to celebrate the birth centenary of Rani Gaidinliu, the legendary freedom fighter from Nagaland. Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a commemorative coin of hundred rupees on Rani-maa to mark the beginning of the celebrations. However, there is a true hero of independent India who has not been sufficiently honoured by the nation: It is Major Ralengnao (Bob) Khathing.
Born on February 8, 1912, at Ukhrul in Manipur, Bob belonged to the Tangkhul Naga tribe. Till Class V, he went to Pettigrew Mission School in Ukhrul; being extremely intelligent, the boy received a handsome State scholarship of three rupees per month. Later, he joined the Government High School in Shillong, then the capital of unified Assam State and eventually studied in the Bishop Cotton College in Guwahati. He was the first tribal from Manipur to graduate.
During the World War II, as he decided to join the British Army under an Emergency Commission, he faced a serious problem. The British rules were strict: Recruits had to be five feet four inches, with the exception of the Gurkhas who could be recruited at five feet two inches. Bob, like many in the North-East, was too short, five feet three inches only. But with a clever hairstyle and the help of an understanding officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps, he made it. He was the first Manipuri to get a King’s Commission.
After his basic training in Agra, under Major KS Thimayya (later Army Chief), Bob opted to serve in a special intelligence-cum-sabotage unit, called the ‘V Force’ formed by the British in May 1942, to operate from Manipur.
For his devotion to duty and his brilliant organising skills, he was soon awarded Member of the British Empire in December 1943. Later, Bob fought the Japanese so well that in August 1944, he received the military cross. What a start in the life of the young Manipuri Naga!
After World War II, acceding to a request from the Maharaja of Manipur, he took leave from the Army to join the Government of Manipur as the Minister for Hills Administration. Here too,he excelled.
When the Manipur Assembly was dissolved in 1949, he was asked by Akbar Hydari, the first Governor of Assam, to join the Assam Rifles where he served for some time as Assistant Commandant. His next assignment will forever remain in the history of India. As Assistant Political Officer in the Kameng Frontier Division of the North-East Frontier Agency, he brought Tawang under Indian administration.
In January 1951, in consultation with the Himatsinghji Border Defence Committee, then Assam Governor Jairamdas Daulatram ordered the young Naga officer to march to Tawang and take over the administration. On January 17, 1951, Bob, accompanied by Captain Hem Bahadur Limbu, 200 troops of 5 Assam Rifles and 600 porters, left the foothills for his historic mission. During the following weeks, the young Manipuri showed his toughness, but also diplomatic skills.
A few days after his arrival, he selected a high-ground near the Tawang Monastery for meeting the Dzongpens, the Commissioners from Tsona in Tibet and the village elders (gaon burahs). Bob walked to the place, while 100 riflemen encircled the ground. The APO instructed his second in-command to ‘fix bayonet’: “One hundred click sounds of bayonets coming in unison seemed to say, we are even ready for blood,” wrote his biographer. Then Bob spoke to the people about the Indian nation.
It is not often mentioned, but the local Monpas were delighted by the arrival of the Khathing expedition. The Tibetan ‘administration’ only forcefully collected (in particular corvee) taxes, which the local people often could not afford to pay. Only a person with an Army background with his knowledge of the local tribes, his ‘human’ skills, could succeed in this tricky operation — and this, without a drop of blood.
Neeru Nanda, an IAS officer who was posted in Tawang in the 1980s, recalled what old villagers still remembered: After watching Khathing and his men for about a month, the village leaders came in a deputation with folded hands and grave faces. “Well sahib”, they said, “we have been watching your work and we like it but there is something that makes us very suspicious.” Khathing was quite startled: “What is it?” he asked. Had he done something wrong? “Sahib”, they said, “you do not take anything from us by way of tax, neither do you seem to be proposing to take any. This is causing grave concern to all of us.” The young officer then relaxed. “Is that all?” he asked them cheerfully. He then gave them a long lecture about India and its Government which would never exploit its people. It is the way Khathing conquered the hearts.
On March 18, six weeks after Bob had reached in Tawang, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a note to the Foreign Secretary: “I hear constantly about the activities of the North and North-East Border Defence Committee. These activities have resulted in action being taken on the Tibetan border and in Nepal. At no stage have these matters been brought up before me for consultation, although apparently consultations have taken place with the Governor of Assam and other people far away. …I am greatly concerned about this matter because, as I have already mentioned to you, the manner of our going to Tawang and taking possession of it and thus creating some international complications has not been a happy one. I am yet not quite clear how all this was done without any reference to me.”
Well, it was probably better for India. It was a dying Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who had got the ball rolling and decided upon the operation sometime in December 1950; he had ordered Jairamdas Daulatram to go ahead with his faithful APO. The experience of Kashmir was not to be repeated.
In 1953, Bob officially joined the newly constituted Indian Frontier Administrative Service; he was first posted Political Officer of the North-East Frontier Agency’s Tuensang Frontier Division; he then occupied several important posts in the North-East and Sikkim. During the 1962 war, he served as NEFA’s Security Commissioner.
Eventually, he was the first person from a tribal background to become Ambassador of India; he was posted in Burma in the early 1970s. Though Bob was awarded the Padma Shri in 1957, he is a fit case for the Padma Vibhushan, but having retired in his native State, Delhi has forgotten the ‘tribal’ who got back Indian territory. A rare case in India! Is it too late to posthumously offer him a well-merited recognition?

Maj Khathing arrives in Bomdila
Tawang (April 1951)

Monday, February 1, 2021

1962 - Reflections of the Past

A new book, 1962 - Reflections of the Past, published by Lancer Publisher is just out.

ISBN-13: 978-81-7062-329-8 

ISBN-10: 81-7062-329-4

It is available on Online Military Bookshop at the following address: or

If one event has deeply marked the Indian psyche since Independence, it is certainly the short Sino-Indian conflict in October/November 1962.
The publication of a this book (in this particular case, a compilation) on this subject is therefore always welcome, as it helps to understand what went wrong, as well as the positive sides.
For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China was indeed most traumatic, particularly for the nearly 4,000 prisoners of war (PoWs), the experience was extremely harrowing. Still today, some veterans who spent several months in the PoW’s camps in Tibet, refuse to speak to their families and friends about those dark days.
The Indian nation needs to understand what happened then to make sure that India does not have to live such painful times again.