Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Red Cross and the 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict

A letter sent by an Indian POW
(Courtesy: Col Nirmaljit Pannu)
My article The Red Cross and the 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict appeared in the USI Journal

Here is the link...


Abstract
For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China has been one of the most traumatic post-independence events. For more than 3,000 prisoners of war (PoWs), the experience was particularly harrowing.
This article looks at difficult relations between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, the Indian Red Cross (IRC) and the Chinese Red Cross (CRC) Society. The ICRC’s archives in Geneva helped to understand the role of the international organization as well as of the two national Red Crosses and their respective governments during the conflict.
China not only refused to officially acknowledge the Geneva Convention of 1949 on PoWs, but also committed several violations in respect of the treatment meted out to captured Indian military personnel.
27 Military officers taken PoWs during operations were taken on a tour of china and repatriated on 04 May 1963.
The rosy picture painted by the Chinese propaganda had actually been a traumatic experience for the Indian PoWs.

Introduction
For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China has been one of the most traumatic post-independence event. For more than 3,000 PoWs, the experience was particularly 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 these dark days. But according to Chinese records, never in the history of warfare have prisoners been treated so well.
Preferential treatment or propaganda?
An account recently published by China1 tells us: “During the Sino-Indian border war, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captured more than 3,900 Indian officers and soldiers2 (including one brigadier general and 26 officers). In the long-term goal of striving for friendship between the Chinese and Indian people and in accordance with the principle of lenient treatment of prisoners, which had always been upheld by the PLA, the treatment of prisoners of war by the Chinese side had far exceeded the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War, and many touching deeds had taken place”.
I shall cover the Geneva Convention and the role the Red Cross played in getting the PoWs released in several batches in 1962/63 a little later. This article looks at difficult relations between the Indian Red Cross (IRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross ((ICRC) in Geneva with the Chinese authorities represented by their Red Cross Society (CRC). It is often said the winner writes the history, but it is then with a deep distortion: “China released all Indian prisoners of war in a short period of time, playing an important role in winning over rivals, turning enemies into friends and promoting the restoration of friendly relations between the Chinese and Indian peoples,” mentioned the Chinese report.
Interestingly, China terms the Sino-Indian border conflict, a ‘counter-attack’, as if it was India who attacked China in NEFA or Ladakh. “In late October 1962, the General Political Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army issued several provisions on the question of prisoners of the invading Indian Army,” further explaining that the PLA “emphasised that captive officers and soldiers should not be killed, mistreated or insulted, or tied up and their private property should not be confiscated. The injured should be treated. At the same time, it was also required to take care of the living habits of all prisoners, and to find out the names and army numbers of dead bodies on the battlefield as far as possible, to bury them properly and to set up signs. Prisoners had to fill in medical records and death certificates signed by military doctors.” These principles were hardly followed.

No Declaration of War

An important legal element needs to be noted; there was no formal declaration of war between China and India. The Chinese said that they called the captured Indian Army personnel ‘captives’ and not ‘PoWs’; the camps were ‘captive shelters’, an euphemism. This was indeed part of the Chinese propaganda.3 The Chinese account does not mention the constant indoctrination sessions to which the Indian jawans and officers were subjected; China just says that meetings were organised to discuss “according to the wishes of the Indian prisoners …on the right and wrong issues in the Sino-Indian border dispute.” One can guess who was said to be right and who was wrong.
The Chinese described thus the departure of the PoWs from Tibet: “The captured Indian officers and soldiers, carrying clothes and souvenirs from the Chinese side, reluctantly bid farewell to the Chinese personnel. …the Indian captives in farewell with the Chinese Red Cross staff cheered their arms: ‘Long live the friendship between the Chinese and Indian people!’” The facts were, however, different.

Download the rest of the article...

You can also watch this video made by the Chinese...

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Origin of our Misery: The Mystery of Wuhan’s Lab P4

Gen Chen Wei awarded by the Emperor. For what?

 My article Origin of our Misery: The Mystery of Wuhan’s Lab P4 appeared in The Daily Guardian

Here is the link...

In the wake of the deadly second wave of Covid-19, some questions need to be asked about the biosafety lab in China’s Wuhan. Why did the PLA take over the lab, why were the lab’s French collaborators silent on the issue, and did the WHO investigation hide any truths?
 

China has mastered the Art of Disinformation Warfare.
Nearly one and half years after the dreaded Covid19 emerged in Wuhan and while the COVID-19 virus is still raging all over the world, having infected some 153 million on the planet (20 million in India alone), Beijing has managed to fully cover the tracks leading to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
A team from the World Health Organization (WHO) was supposed to shed some light on the origin of the virus; but at the end of their inspection tour in January 2021, the members slipped the vital issues under the carpet and conveniently stated that initial findings suggest the most likely pathway the virus followed was from a bat to another animal and then to humans. They dismissed outright the possibility of the virus originating from the lab.
But l’Affaire Wuhan is not closed.
On March 4, a “Call for a Full and Unrestricted International Forensic Investigation into the Origins of COVID-19”, was issued by some 28 senior world scientists; speaking of the WHO’s China tour, they asserted: “We have reached the conclusion that the joint team did not have the mandate, the independence, or the necessary accesses to carry out a full and unrestricted investigation into all the relevant SARS-CoV-2 origin hypotheses - whether natural spillover or laboratory/research-related incident.”
The eminent scientists further observed: “With more than two million deaths, more than a hundred million infected by COVID-19 worldwide, and a massive global disruption impacting some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, we cannot afford an investigation into the origins of the pandemic that is anything less than absolutely thorough and credible. If we fail to fully and courageously examine the origins of this pandemic, we risk being unprepared for a potentially worse pandemic in the future.”
Whether China manages or not to change the narrative and blame it on ‘foreign’ hands, the tragedy is bound to have deeper implications for the future of the Middle Kingdom.
Beijing is slowly, but surely losing its credibility worldwide; further the role played by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is being speculated upon.

Already vaccinated in March 2020.
Had Gen Chen the secret of the virus?
The Role of Gen Chen
Apart from the scientific recommendations of the Group of 30, an issue which needs to be immediately enquired is the role of an enigmatic personage; Chen Wei, a fifty-three-year-old PLA major general and a leading epidemiologist at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who was said to have developed the world's first gene-based vaccine on Ebola in 2014; she was sent to take over the Wuhan Institute of Virology on January 26, 2020, immediately after Beijing admitted the existence of the virus.
The Chinese press reported: “After arriving in Wuhan, Chen's team started building a portable testing lab, which was in operation on January 30.”
The State-run CCTV noted that Chen and her colleagues worked in shifts around the clock to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.
The Global Times wrote: “People familiar with Chen Wei, all know one thing very well - she is fast. Chen walks fast, speaks fast, and works at a fast pace. Chen is now working to speed up the development of the vaccine of COVID-19 in China.”
But there is more to Gen Chen; two months later, in March 2020, the Chinese media announced: “A Chinese doctor has stunned people around the world by injecting an untested vaccine for the coronavirus.” A commentator added: “Scientists in the country have been busily trying to find a way to beat Covid-19, however vaccines can usually take many months to go through testing and animal trials.
Speaking to China's state-run TV network, Chen said: "We are doing all we can to put the recombinant vaccine that we are developing into clinical application. We must strive to bring the vaccine we are working on to clinical trial and application, providing strong technical support for winning this battle."
This raises serious questions: why did the Chinese Army need to take over the P4 lab? How did Chen manage to produce a vaccine less than two months after the virus was officially found? Did she know beforehand about the virus?
One has to know that the P4 Institute of Virology in Wuhan is a high-tech facility partially funded and built by France; China had then a strong lobby in Paris led by former French Prime Ministers.
When he launched the research facilities in February 2017, Bernard Cazeneuve, the then French Prime Minister declared: “France is proud and happy to have contributed to the construction of the first P4 high bio-safety laboratory in China. …This cutting-edge tool constitutes a central element in the achievement of the 2004 intergovernmental agreement on Franco-Chinese cooperation in the prevention and fight against emerging infectious diseases.”
According to China.org.cn: “In January 2018, on the occasion of the state visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to China, the heads of state of the two countries signed agreements on bilateral cooperation and issued a joint statement stating: ‘China and France will conduct joint cutting-edge research on infectious and emerging diseases, relying on the P4 laboratory in Wuhan’. The medical and health field constitutes a very important part of the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.” 

French PM Bernard Cazeneuve in Wuhan (Feb 2017)
France then trusted China.
But soon after, the French disappeared from the scene; the 50 researchers supposed to work on the project never reached Wuhan. Why was nothing made public? Was the PLA behind this? Could Gen Chen have used the P4 lab as a military facility in contradiction with the civilian agreement with France?
They are many questions that the unprofessional WHO team forgot to ask.
Xi Jinping had given the PLA’s medical teams the responsibility to win the ‘War’; when on March 10, 2020, Xi visited Wuhan to announce the ‘victory’, the Chinese president took the opportunity to reaffirm the PLA’s leading role in fighting the virus.
Many more questions need to be asked today, especially after the second deadly wave in India: Why was the P4 lab, a civilian collaboration between France and China, handed over to the PLA, with Paris remaining silent? Was Gen Chen sent to clean up all the compromising evidence in January 2020? Were the French asked to leave Wuhan or did they leave on their own?
Macron’s government recently generously donated to India, 28 tons of medical equipment, included 8 high capacity oxygen generators and 200 electric syringe pushers; this was very much appreciated. But he would now do a great service to humanity, if he would tell the world about the cause of the end of the Sino-French collaboration in Wuhan and what happened in the P4 Lab between the beginning of 2018 and the end of 2019.
L’Affaire Wuhan is certainly not over.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Will Beijing return the remains of 1962 hero?

New Bumla Memorial in honour of Sub Joginder Singh, PVC

 

After publishing this article, I have found that Joginder Singh's ashes were returned to India at Bumla on May 17, 1963 (probably outside the framework of the Indian and Chinese Red Cross).
On May 20, 1963, they were sent to Delhi (Palam airport) where they were received with due honour.
Later, they were taken to the Sikh Regimental Center in Meerut. After a one night-vigil in the Center's mess, they were handed over to Joginder's widow.
Despite ten years of research, I did not find this information earlier, not even in the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, that I visited especially to research this topic. My apologies.

The lack of archival coordination in India is stark (understatement!)

 

My article Will Beijing return the remains of 1962 hero? appeared in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle.

Here is the link...

It is shocking that Beijing has never returned the remains of Subedar Joginder Singh, Param Vir Chakra, who died in Tibet in November 1962
 

In recent months China has given a lot of publicity to several new war memorials which have come up in Tibet; this mushrooming is probably due the Galwan incidents in which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) lost some 45 men and officers in July 2020, although this information is still a State secret in China (it took months for Beijing to finally admit that four Chinese died in the brawl with the Indian troops).
On May 6, China Tibet Net published pictures of the Lhoka (Shannan) Martyrs cemetery. This sub-district of the Tibet Military Region (TMD) faces the Northern borders of Bhutan and the western part of the McMahon line, north of the Tawang sector.
The article says: “among the green pines and cypresses is the solemn Shannan Martyrs Cemetery, where are buried [the martyrs] of the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, the Tibetan rebellion, the Sino-Indian border self-defense counterattack, and the socialist revolution and construction in Tibet.”
More than 700 soldiers are said to be buried there.
Tibet’s ‘Peaceful Liberation’ should be read as the invasion of Roof of the World; the Tibetan ‘rebellion’ is the uprising of the Tibetan masses against the occupiers in March 1959 while ‘the self-defence counter-attack’ is the treacherous attack against India in October 1962.
Along with the memorial, “sculptures, manuscripts, pictures, certificates of merit, military medals... all cultural relics, silent and sacred, telling the infinite loyalty and love of revolutionary martyrs to the motherland and people.”
Similar memorials can be found in Gar and Tsanda in Ngari Prefecture (Western Tibet), in Rima (north of Kibithu in the Lohit Valley) and of course in Lhasa and Shigatse; the most important one is Kanxiwar Memorial on the Highway 219 (Aksai Chin road) in Xinjiang, which pays homage to the hundreds of Chinese soldiers who lost their life in the battle of Rezang-la in November 1962.
While there is nothing wrong in China honouring its soldiers, it is shocking that Beijing has never returned the remains of Subedar Joginder Singh, Param Vir Chakra, who died in Tibet in November 1962.
What happened to Joginder Singh?
In the morning of October 20, 1962, a JCO of the Assam Rifles posted at Bumla, north of Tawang, noticed some 1,000 labourers, with digging implements; they came protected by Chinese soldiers. The JCO rushed to inform the nearby platoon of a possible danger.
Nothing happened till 4:30 hrs on October 23, when suddenly the Chinese started firing with mortars and anti-tank guns to destroy the Indian bunkers built south of the International border and soon, 600 Chinese attacked the Assam Rifles post, which was quickly overrun, though after inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.
Subedar Joginder Singh of the 1 Sikh Regiment was posted a few hundred meters away. According to the Official Report of the 1962 War: “the enemy attacked the forward platoon position of ‘D’ Coy [Company] of the Sikhs at the IB [Inspection Bungalow] Ridge, at about 5:00 hrs with the objective of capturing ‘Twin Peaks’. As the climb from the bed of the Nullah to the platoon position was steep, the Sikhs were able to inflict heavy casualties to the Chinese, compelling them to retire.”
Joginder Singh immediately asked for more ammunition, but by that time the enemy had cut the communications with the Coy Headquarters (HQ). Joginder Singh fought like lion, he was badly wounded in the process and taken prisoner.
The citation for the PVC gave more details: “In this fierce action, the platoon lost half of its men but not the will to fight. Subedar Joginder Singh, despite a wound in the thigh, refused evacuation. His platoon also refused to yield any ground to the enemy. The last wave of the Chinese attack, which was more determined and more forceful followed next. Now the platoon had very few men left to fight. Subedar Joginder Singh, therefore, manned a light machine gun and killed a large number of enemies. But he could not stem the tide of the enemy advance single-handed. The Chinese continued advancing with little concern for the casualties.”
The Report concluded: “While the enemy’s custody he died because of his wound. He was awarded PVC (Posthumously) for his bravery.”
Joginder was very badly wounded. When a few days later he arrived in the PoWs camp near Chongye in Central Tibet. The Chinese doctors immediately suggested an imputation (he was also suffering of frostbites), which the brave Subedar refused; his chances of being promoted to Subedar-Major, the senior-most rank for a JCO (junior commissioned officer) would be jeopardized.
The Chinese doctors ask the Indian Commanding Officers (CO) in the camp to try to convince Joginder that it was necessary if he wanted to survive. But the Indian officers failed to do so and soon after, Joginder passed away; it was sometime in November 1962.
Ironically, it is at Bumla, the place where Joginder fought so well that the first wounded jawans were repatriated by the Indian Red Cross on December 15.
In his memoirs, one of the COs remembered that on March 23, 1963, the PoWs were informed that Major Gurdial Singh of the Rajputs who was in the camp, had been awarded the Maha Vir Chakra. At the same time, they probably heard of the PVC to Joginder Singh.
The officer noted: “On 26 March 1963, the Commandant of the camp, called us to tell us that we were going to be returned to India via the mainland;” he further recalled: “Before leaving the PoW camp, we asked the Chinese to take us to the graves of our soldiers who had died in our camp. There were seven of them including Subedar Joginder Singh, who had been awarded the highest gallantry award of PVC. We were told by the Chinese that he had refused to have his toes, which were affected by frost-bite [and bullet wounds], amputated. …He [had] died of gangrene.”
Incidentally, a war memorial has recently been constructed to honour the PVC awardee at Bum La; it was inaugurated by Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Pema Khandu, Joginder’s family and army authorities; it is a first step in the right direction, but it is time for Delhi to ask the Chinese Government to repatriate to India the mortal remains of the brave Sikh soldier as well as those of his six other companions still buried in Tibet.
It would only be late justice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Still Powerful Chamdo Clique

Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal with Mao (c. 1954)

Very few have heard of the Chamdo Clique, a group of Tibetans who have (and have had) important positions in the Communist Party of China.
In March 2013, in an article on the Internal Campaign for Tibet website, Bhuchung Tsering explained: “It is now the Chamdowas [who are] dominating the Tibetan leadership in Lhasa”.
He wrote: “The appointment of Jampa Phuntsok as a Vice Chair of the National People’s Congress on March 14, 2013, completes an interesting development in the regional representation in the top Tibetan leadership in Lhasa. This new development could be said to have begun when Pema Thinley (or Padma Choling) assumed the Governorship of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in 2010; it is now the Chamdowas, the people from Chamdo in Eastern Tibet, who hold all the highest Tibetan leadership positions in Lhasa and Beijing.”

It became known as the Chamdo Clique.

Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal 'Rinpoche'
Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal
The ‘founding’ member of the Clique is Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal, a reincarnate Lama, popularly known as Chamdo Phakpalha, who, though born in Lithang (Kham province), was recognized as the Head Lama of Galden Jampaling Monastery in Chamdo.
The Rinpoche has been supporting the Communist regime for more than 65 years.
It is probably, thanks of the patronage of Phakpalha, Jampa Phuntsok and Padma Choeling that Lobsang Gyaltsen, today a member of the Central Committee of the CPC, appeared on the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) political scene.
According to Bhuchung Tsering: “Earlier this year [in 2013], we had Pema Thinley becoming the Chairman of the TAR People’s Congress; Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal was reappointed as head of the TAR PPCC; and Lobsang Gyaltsen has become the new Governor of the TAR. Except for the top position of the Party Secretary, which continues to be in the hands of a non-Tibetan, these three positions are the highest in the region. All three individuals holding the positions are from present-day Chamdo Prefecture (today called City).”
In 2013, Bhuchung added: “At the national level, Jampa Phuntsok has become the highest rank Tibetan official now and he is also from Chamdo.”

Today, another member of the Clique, Pema Choeling is the 'highest' Tibetan in the Communist hierarchy, though Phakphala remains very influential.

Jampa Phuntsok

Jampa Phuntsok
Next to Phakpala is Jampa Phuntsok, a native of Chamdo.
Born in May 1947, he started to work in October 1970 and joined the Communist Party of China in May 1974.
He majored from the Mechanical Engineering Department of Chongqing University.
From October 1970 to April 1972, he was employed in agricultural machinery factory in Chamdo.
During the next three years, he studied at the Mechanical Engineering Department of Chongqing University.
From 1975 to 1979, he was a technician and then director of the farming machinery plant under the Agricultural Machinery Administration of Chamdo.
He then became Deputy Director of the same organization.
From 1980 to 1983, he served as Secretary of the Communist Party of Bomi County Committee, while training at the Central Party School.
From 1983 to 1992, for nine years he was Vice Commissioner (ministers) of the local Chamdo government and he November 1992, he became Deputy Secretary of the Shannan (Lhoka) Communist Party. 

In June 1995, he was promoted Party Secretary of Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture. 

In November 1997, he was transferred to the Tibetan capital is Lhasa Party Secretary and in 1998, he became a member of the Standing Committee of the TAR Regional Committee; he continued to serve as Lhasa Party Secretary.
In April 2003, he was promoted as Chairman of the TAR government and served in this capacity till 2010.
From January 2010 to 2013, he became Director of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the TAR and in March 2013, he made it to the national scene by becoming Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People's Congress.
From March 2013 to 2018, he served to the prestigious post of Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
Jampa Phuntsok was then replaced by Padma Choling as one of the Vice-Chairman of the NPC’s Standing Committee, Jampa Phuntsok today remains influential in the Tibet politics.

Pema Choeling

 Pema Choeling
Padma Choling (alias Pema Thinley, Pelma Chiley, Baima Chilin, 白玛赤林) is born in Dengchen County in Chamdo Prefecture in September 1952.

In December 1969, he left the preparatory class of the Tibet Nationalities Institute to join the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and train in the Qinghai Provincial New Corps. 

From March 1970 to August 1974, he served as deputy squad leader, squad leader, deputy platoon leader, and platoon leader of the Artillery Regiment of the 53rd Division.
From August 1974 to January 1980, he was posted in the Political Division of the Artillery Regiment of the 53rd Division of the PLA.
In January 1980, he was transferred to the Tibet Military Region (TMD) and served successively as a company officer and deputy battalion officer in the Group Work Division of the TMD Political Department.
In October 1984, he got a deputy regimental position in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the TMD General Hospital
He then left the PLA and in June 1986, the 35-year-old Padma Choeling moved to work as the deputy secretary of the Second Division of the Secretary of the General Office of the People's Government of the TAR.
Like Jampa Phuntsok, he served in Lhoka Prefecture and in January 2003, Pema Choeling became Vice Chairman of the TAR.
In October 2006, he was elected as a member of the Standing Committee and promoted to the Executive Vice Chairman of the People’s Government of the TAR.
In January 2010, he became Chairman of the TAR government and was promoted to the ministerial level.
In 2018, he was elected as the Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress and became a national leader.
In one way, a career very similar to Jampa Phuntsok’s (except the PLA part).

Lobsang Gyaltsen

Lobsang Gyaltsen
Lobsang Gyaltsen was born in July 1957 in Drakyab county of Chamdo prefecture; he joined the Communist Party of China in December 1978 and followed the footsteps of Jampa Phuntsok and Pema Choeling.
He is currently a member of the 19th Central Committee, deputy chairman of the Nationality Committee of the 13th National People's Congress, deputy secretary of the TAR Party Committee and secretary and director of the Standing Committee of the District People's Congress.
On January 30, 2018, he became the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress, like Jampa Phuntsok and Pema Choeling before him. 

In March 2018, he was nominated Deputy Chairman of the Ethnic Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress and member of the 19th Central Committee.
In the recent months, Lobsang Gyaltsen has been seen on and off in Lhasa and in Beijing (he made a short appearance during the Twin Meetings).
With Phakphala and Padma Choeling, they are powerful players to count on in the Tibetan political life. The Chamdo clique is still kicking.
In the recent months, Lobsang Gyaltsen has been seen on and off in Lhasa and in Beijing (he made a short appearance during the Twin Meetings).

Dzonglung Jampa Khedup Rinpoche
Dzonglung Jampa Khedup
Apart from the above individuals, Dzonglung Jampa Khedup Rinpoche, a reincarnated lama plays also a prominent role in the political affairs in Tibet.
Born in August 1940 in Chamdo,  in 1943 he was recognized as the reincarnation of Dzonglung Monastery in Riwoche County, Kham.
He started his studies in this Monastery. 

Under Phakphala’s patronage he went up in the Communist hierarchy.
From 1992 to 2003, he served as Director of the Buddhist Association of Chamdo Prefecture, Vice Chairman of the CPPCC of Chamdo County, Director of the Civil Management Committee of Galden Jampaling Monastery.
He continued to go up the ladder and from January 2008 to November 2011, he was Vice-Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) of TAR and Vice-Chairman of the CPPCC of Chamdo Region, as well as Standing Director of the Buddhist Association of Chamdo Region and Director of Civil Management Committee of Galden Jampaling Monastery.
From 2011 to 2014, he was President of the Buddhist Association of Chamdo Region and First Director of the Management Committee of Galden Jampaling Monastery.
Despite his age, he remains in the Standing Committee of the TAR CPPCC.
In 2015, he received Gangchen Rinpoche, the main propagator of the Shukden cult, opposing the Dalai Lama.
This clearly shows the deep link between the monastery, the Chamdo Clique and the anti-Dalai Lama campaign. 

Gyari Lobsang Tenzin
 Gyari Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche
Another political figure of Chamdo is Gyari Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche, who was born in December 1953 in Lhasa.

In 1956, he was recognized as the eleventh incarnation of a monk of Jampaling Monastery in Chamdo; he soon was nominated by the Communists as a  member of the Standing Committee of the Religious Affairs Committee of the Chamdo Office of the TAR Preparatory Committee. 

During the Cultural Revolution, he worked as  carpenter in Lhasa and an ordinary worker in the highway engineering team of the Communications Department.
In 2000, he became Executive Deputy Mayor of Lhasa and three years later Vice Chairman of the TAR Government. 

He has been a member of the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in other words, a good Communist.
Today he is still a member of the TAR Government.

Jampaling Monastery
Chamdo’s largest monastery is seen at the centre of the local politics and the Shukden cult.
In 1373, Chamdo was visited by Je Tsongkhapa, the monk reformer and founder of the Gelukpa school; he suggested that a monastery should be built on the spot overlooking the town of Chamdo, on a hill above the confluence of the rivers Dza Chu (Mekong) and Ngom Chu (before the rivers merge into the Mekong proper in Chamdo Town).
Galden Jampaling Monastery was constructed between 1436 and 1444 by a disciple of Tsongkhapa, Gyaltsen Sherab Zangpo.
The monastery is affiliated to the Ganden Monastery in Central Tibet; it has a Main Assembly Hall, the Guardian Hall, the Tara Hall, the Debating Hall and 12 colleges.
The Main Assembly Hall was said to be extremely impressive, especially when hundreds of monks attended the religious function.
A tourist website writes: “The glorious inner sanctum is dominated by Sakyamuni, Tsongkhapa and Atisha. Then there is a statue of Pakhpala Rinpoche.”
It thus describes the site: “Hundreds of Buddhist figures and sculptures of hierarchs, wonderful murals and Thangkas in this monastery are also worth visiting. All of them show the exquisite craftmanship of the artists in Chamdo.”
It was destroyed in 1912, but the main hall and two other buildings survived, and it was rebuilt in 1917 after the Tibetan army retook Chamdo. It now houses about 800 monks.

Dzonglung with late Gangchen Rinpoche,
one of the main Shukden leaders
The Dorje Shukden Angle
In 2015, I wrote of this blog: “Last year [2014], according to Cultural Relics Bureau of Chamdo Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the ‘maintenance’ project of Chamdo Jampaling Monastery received some 90 million yuan (14 million U.S. dollars) for the completion of the renovations which was scheduled for June 2014.”
Xinhua then said: “It is one of the key projects in Tibet during the 12th Five-Year Plan and is also the first large-scale relic conservation project in Chamdo Prefecture.”
As mentioned before, the monastery has been one of the main centers for the Shudgen cult in the TAR and it has the patronage of the Chamdo Clique.
In 2015, a Tibetan official then explained: “During the first period started on March 8, 2013, the project focused on ancient architecture maintenance with a total investment of 31.78 million yuan (5 million U.S. dollars), mainly strengthening and retrofitting the Du Kang [Dukhang] Hall (the assembly hall), the Holy Shrine and the Scripture Printing Lamasery. By far the first period has been basically completed. Now the second period of the project with pre-investment of 62 million yuan (10 million U.S. dollars) has been started its four sections one by one, including gate of bounding wall, fire pile, censer, square, inside and outside circumambulation, water supply and drainage.”
The official also asserted that “the construction won't change the architecture's original state and its primary design will be kept by traditional handicrafts and materials.”
The news agency added: “The Chamdo Prefecture has started the special investigations since 2008 to record the important historical relics, ancient buildings, ancient sites, ancient books and movable cultural relics.”
Around the same time, several Shugden centers got some sort of priority for funds allocations under the Five-Year Plan.
But in Chamdo, there is still a powerful clique still calling the shots.

 Communist banners in Jampaling monastery

Ding Yexian, former TAR Executive Secretary with Dzonglung in October 2020

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Lt Gen Wang Kai: the New TMD commander

A few weeks ago, I mentioned on this blog the name of the new commander of the Tibet Military District (TMD).
Lt Gen Wang Kai formerly served as one of the Deputy Commanders of the Western Theater Command.
He took over the TMD from Lt Gen Wang Haijiang, who was transferred to Xinjiang Military District (XMD) on April 1 (it is not an April fool).
From his CV, which appeared on Chinese websites, Wang Kai had been Deputy Commander of the Army in the Western Theater Command with the rank of Major General and beginning of April, he was transferred to Lhasa and promoted lieutenant general.
Yesterday Gen Wang Kai appeared for the first time on TV when he participated in a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
According to the Chinese media, Wu Yingjie, the TAR Party Secretary insisted “on putting the safety and health of people of all ethnic groups as the first priority," he added that the members of the Party needed to grasp their political responsibility for the epidemic prevention and control.

Tibet TV said that in the morning of May 10, Wu Yingjie chaired a special meeting of the TAR Party Committee in Lhasa “to convey and learn the spirit of Premier Li Keqiang's instructions, and re-mobilize and redeploy the work of preventing the import of overseas epidemics.”
Is China nervous about the spread of the ‘Indian’ variant of the Chinese virus?
Let us not forget that Tibet has important trade relations with Nepal.
Another probable reason for the meeting of the Standing Committee is that Tibet has reopened its borders to China expats from May 9, after being closed for more than a year.
Incidentally, till recently, the Political Commissar of the TMD was representing the PLA in the TAR Standing Committee. It is not clear why Gen Wang Kai attended the meeting yesterday.
Has he been promoted to the Standing Committee?

Standing Committee of the TAR
 

Lt Gen Wang Kai
Wang Kai served as brigade commander and commander of the 37th Division of the 13th Army.
During the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, Wang Kai, then commander of the 37th Division, led his troops to reach Beichuan, the hardest hit area, and commanded the men to advance to the epicenter of Yingxiu Town.
In 2009, he served as Chief of Staff of the Fourteenth Army of the Army.
He won the title of '5-12' National Model for Earthquake Relief.
'5-12' stands for May 12.
It refers to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, also known as the Great Sichuan earthquake or Wenchuan earthquake. It occurred at 14:20 hrs on May 12, 2008 and measured 8.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake's epicenter was located 80 kilometers west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Strong aftershocks, some exceeding 6 Ms, continued to hit the area up to several months after the main shock, causing further casualties and damage. The earthquake also caused the largest number of geohazards ever recorded, including about 200,000 landslides and more than 800 quake lakes distributed over an area of 110,000 km2. Over 69,000 people lost their lives in the quake.
In July 2013, Wang Kai became the commander of the 13th Group Army. His illustrious predecessors include Gen Zhang Youxia (2000-12 – 2005-12), now member of the Central Military Commission; Gen Zhao Zongqi (2007-09), former commander of the WTC of Doklam fame and Gen Xu Yong (2008-13), former TMD Commander.
In April 2017, Gen Wang was transferred to Chengdu as deputy commander of the Western Theater Army.
In 2019, he won the commemorative medal of "Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China."
In April 2021, he moved to Lhasa as the Commander of the TMD and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Can Dharamsala stop PLA's Tibetan gambit?


In the recent weeks, news of the recruitment of Tibetan soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been reported in the Indian media.
We had often written about this on this blog as elsewhere.

See Tibetan Faces in the PLA

or Tibetans in the PLA Paramilitary 

or  The Colonizers’ Dilemma


My article Can Dharamsala stop PLA's Tibetan gambit? appeared in Rediff.com

The first priority for the new Tibetan administration in Dharamsala should be to look at Tibetan recruitment in the PLA, suggests Claude Arpi

Here is the link...

Last month, The Hindustan Times went a step further; it asserted that a special unit composed of Tibetans was being raised by PLA: “China’s military has stepped up efforts to recruit more Tibetans amid the dragging border standoff with India on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), holding special recruitment drives across Tibet Autonomous Region [TAR] since the beginning of the year.”
Quoting intelligence sources, it further noted: “PLA officials have criss-crossed the TAR to hold recruitment drives and to pick up Tibetan recruits who were already at PLA camps,” adding, citing intelligence reports and communications intercepts from three separate intelligence agencies: “There are also reports the PLA intends to create a Special Tibetan Army Unit. If this were to go ahead, this would be the first PLA formation comprising soldiers from a specific ethnicity.”

A New Sikyong
All this comes at a time when Penpa Tsering, the newly-elected president of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) — known as Sikyong — is going to take over his job.
In an interview with The Week, the Tibetan leader stated that he planned “to approach the Chinese government to facilitate a visit of the Dalai Lama to China;” he also hopes “to bring Beijing to the negotiating table with the representative of the Dalai Lama for the resolution of the Sino-Tibetan conflict.”
When asked about his priorities, Tsering said: “A key priority is the resolution of the Sino-Tibetan conflict. Keeping in mind the international situation and the political dynamics, we will have to study the issue more closely and come out with the right strategy. We also have to make good use of all the opportunities that come our way.”

China Today
It would extremely doubtful if the Chinese are in a mood to negotiate anything today with Dharamsala which should study the recent 11 rounds of talks between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA in Ladakh; it will immediately be realized that even with muscles, tanks, artillery and 50,000 jawans, it is not easy (not to say nearly impossible) to make the Chinese bend.
Further, just look at the situation in Hong Kong, where the National People’s Congress in Beijing passed a new law ensuring that only ‘patriots’ can govern the former British colony; addressing the Chinese legislative body, Premier Li Keqiang showed that Beijing is serious about it, Li warned the world not to interfere.
According to the BBC: “Critics say Beijing is crushing dissent and removing the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement it made with the UK. Under the agreement, Hong Kong, a former British colony, was allowed to continue with its own legal system and have rights including free speech and freedom of the press.” It is all over now.
Lord Chris Patten, former governor of Hong Kong, observed that Beijing has “taken the biggest step so far to obliterate Hong Kong's freedoms and aspirations for greater democracy under the rule of law.”

Could it be different for Tibet?
Nearby, in the Taiwan Strait, the situation has also greatly deteriorated during last few weeks. According to Reuters, in March, in a day only, twenty Chinese military aircraft “entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, in the largest incursion yet reported by the island’s defence ministry and marking a dramatic escalation of tension across the Taiwan Strait.”
The island’s defence ministry announced “the air force deployed missiles to ‘monitor’ the incursion into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone. ….[Taiwans’] planes warned the Chinese aircraft, including by radio.”
The situation in South China Sea is becoming tenser by the day, on April 23, Xi Jinping, China’s Supreme Leader, launched three new warships in just one day from the Hainan Island. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has acquired a new cruiser, an amphibious assault ship and A ballistic missile submarine. All using the latest technologies.
Popular Mechanics, a magazine reporting on science and technology, commented: “The commission [of the three ships] reflected the breakneck pace of China’s naval shipbuilding program, which has transformed the country’s navy from a meager coastal defense force into the second most powerful navy in the world in just 30 years.”
No need to mention the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and the propaganda orchestrated by Beijing for defending the indefensible.
In these circumstances, Dharamsala has little chance to succeed, especially after nine rounds of talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama’s representatives over nine years came to nil in 2010.
At the same time, the state of affairs in East Ladakh is far from improving, on the contrary. China is massing new weapons, radars, equipments and reinforcing the Xinjiang Military District (XMD).
PLA divisions are also being reorganized, enlarged and modernized, introducing at a fast pace the concept of Combined Armed Brigades.
Moreover, lands belonging to Tibetans living on the border are said to have been expropriated by the PLA to build new garrisons.
Xi’s China is certainly in no mood to ‘negotiate’ with Dharamsala, especially when the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China and the 70th of the so-called Liberation of Tibet are on the horizon.
Penpa Tsering will also have to be briefed about the intensive ‘historical’ education of the masses taking place in China and on the plateau.
Today all over China, the mood is Red. 

Everything Red
On May 5, China Daily mentioned the Zhaojin Beiliang Red Army Primary School in Shaanxi province: “In 2018, the school was designated a demonstration school for Red education, which refers to Chinese revolutionary history, the spirit of role models and stories of the Communist Party. All 160 pupils are immersed in Red songs, Red tales and Red films.”
In Lhasa, the local leaders recently gathered in the ‘Two Roads’ Museum consecrated to the pioneers who invaded Tibet in 1951 and built the two roads (between Sichuan to Lhasa and Qinghai to Lhasa) between 1951 and 1954, which was indeed a remarkable engineering feat.
Today, Red slogans are flying all over; for example, Red Tourism should use “Red Resources, Good Red Stories, carry out Red Education, inherit the Red Genes, cultivate core socialist values and keep the Spirit of Old Tibet, while remaining true to the Original Aspiration.”
Does it not sound like the Cultural Revolution?
In these circumstances, ‘negotiations’ with Dharamsala, seem far away.
The priority should perhaps be to reconnect with the Tibetans inside Tibet, especially on the border areas.
In an article similar to the one in The Hindustan Times, IANS also spoke of the PLA recruiting “exclusive military formations manned by ethnic Tibetans.”
Citing intelligence officials, the news agency said: “most of the recruits are mixed Tibetans -- mostly children of Tibetan mothers and Han Chinese fathers or otherwise. Most of them are children of ex-PLA Han Chinese soldiers who got married to Tibetans.”
The intelligence officials told the agency: “It is a fairly long process because the security vetting process after the initial selection on the basis of a tough physical and IQ test is very extensive," an intelligence official monitoring the process, told the news agency.
In is undoubtedly a risky business for the PLA who 70 years after the ‘Liberation of Tibet’, still does not trust Tibetans enough to give them the command of a unit (or to become TAR Party Secretary).
Only a couple of Tibetan officers made it to the rank of major general (namely, Maj Gen Thinley, responsible of the recruitment of Tibetans and Maj Gen Ngawang Dorjee).
It needs however to be noted that hardly any Tibetans served in operational postings on the Indian borders, and no Tibetan has ever commanded the Tibet Military District (TMD), a lieutenant general post (nor for that matter, a Uyghur, the XMD).

Settling Han Veterans in Tibet
Another serious development is taking place, which Dharamsala should take notice of. According to Xinhua News Agency, after retiring from the PLA, a number of Han soldiers who have served in TMD or XMD, “took the initiative to sign up and chose the highest county in the Tso Nyi County of Nagchu City to make their contributions [to the motherland]. Over the past few years, after retiring, 17 retired non-commissioned officers “used their true qualities as soldiers and have moved to areas with an altitude of more than 5,000 meters, dedicating their youthful glory to write a new chapter in their life.”
The Chinese agency cited several examples: “Most of them are post-90s party members’ (meaning in their thirties), have moved to settle in these remote districts “to help [the Tibetans?] to get rid of poverty in high-altitude areas and take care of everyone.”
The propaganda said that they wrote a youthful song about hard work and national unity in which the party and the people are one: “We just changed place (of residence) to realize our dream.”
Xinhua continues: “in 2017, Tibet recruited civil servants from PLA veterans across the country, and 17 people eventually came to work in Tso Nyi County. Fifteen of them are members of the Communist Party or reserve party members, 14 are ‘post-90s’ [born] and 11 are college veterans.”
Tso Nyi (‘the Two Lakes’) County is located “in the depths of the Northern Tibetan Plateau. It covers an area of nearly 120,000 square kilometers, has a population of only 14,000 people, and has an average elevation of more than 5,000 meters. There are 10 months of long winter, with a minimum temperature of minus 40°C.”
It is obvious that China plans to change the demography of these areas like never before. It is true for this remote desolate place of Northern Tibet, but also for India’s borders, whether north of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand or Himachal.
The first priority for the new Administration in Dharamsala (and the newly-elected Assembly) should be to look into the issues of recruitment in the PLA and resettlement of Han ‘veterans’ on the plateau. It may be less glamourous than to run to Washington to meet the State Department officials, but it is the need of the hour.
Reconnecting with their countrymen in occupied Tibet is indeed the first task of the new Sikyiong and Assembly.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Article 370 is a very misconceived Article

A giant is no more.
Jagmohan Malhotra, known as Jagmohan has passed away in Delhi on May 3.

Jagmohan, a former Indian civil servant and politician, served as Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and Goa and as the 5th Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. For three terms, he was a  Member of Parliament, elected from New Delhi.
In the Cabinet, he served as Union Minister for Urban Development and Tourism.

The Prime Minister thus condoled the demise of Jagmohan: "Jagmohan Ji’s demise is a monumental loss for our nation. He was an exemplary administrator and a renowned scholar. He always worked towards the betterment of India. His ministerial tenure was marked by innovative policy making. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti."

In 2007, I had interviewed Jagmohan.  It is reproduced below.

Interiew

My interview with Mr. Jagmohan, former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Minister is posted in The Indian Defense Review website. It was recorded in 2007.

Claude: Sir, there are rumors that India and Pakistan will soon have a ‘deal’ on Kashmir. As someone who has been twice governor, in 1982 and in 1989 and this in the most difficult conditions, could you tell us how do you see the situation today? Is there any chance of a breakthrough in the peace process?

Jagmohan: The basic point is: whatever arrangements will be made, these arrangements will not work if the fundamentalist forces remain in power and if they dictate the law by the virtue of the gun. Take for example the suggestion [from President Musharraf] that they should be a joint-rule, joint management [of parts of the J & K State]. All this sounds very big, but it does not mean anything. If you and I are controlling the same place and if we differ, who is going to decide, who will have the final word? Even elementary things like that are not clear in Musharraf’s proposal.
And what does it means ‘self-rule’. If it means a ‘democratic rule’, it is already existing in our part of Kashmir; elections are regularly held and elected leaders form the government. What other ‘self-rule’ do you want? ‘Self-rule’ does not mean that Kashmir can become independent.          
The poorest State in India is Bihar, but today Kashmir gets 11 times more Central assistance than Bihar.
And if Kashmir becomes independent, who is going to provide the money which is needed to run the government. Take the example of the Plan Expenditure [money allocated for development in the Five- Year Plan], today it is 100% financed by the Central Government.
Between 40 to 45% of the Non Plan Expenditure [allocations outside the Plan to run the day to day expenses] are met by the Central Government. In case of ‘self-rule’, nobody has made clear who will pay the bill.

Claude: Kashmir is today the most subsidized State in India!


Jagmohan: The poorest State in India is Bihar, but today Kashmir gets 11 times more Central assistance than Bihar. If ‘self-rule’ means self-sufficiency, all this support from the Central government will stop. But the problem is that nobody, none of the Kashmiris leaders will tell you this. If you ask them, they will say, “the finances will come”, but they will remain vague. That is for development.
Then Non Plan Expenditure, the day to day expenses like the salaries [of the government employees]. If tomorrow Kashmir is ‘de-linked’ from India except for External Affairs, Communications and Defence, the finances will not be provided anymore.
The next question is “who will pay?”
Will the Americans do it? Nobody is able to answer these questions. Some say, India should continue to finance ‘self-ruled’ Kashmir, but if tomorrow the ‘self-ruled’ government declare themselves independent or an Islamic State, will India, a secular State continue to finance a theocratic State?
There are so many contradictions in these proposals; it is what people do not understand. There are so many loopholes.
So far is Pakistan concerned, it is not even a democracy [and they are speaking of ‘self-rule’].

Claude: Does ‘self-rule’ applies also to Baltistan, Gilgit and other parts of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan?

Jagmohan: [Musharraf] has not clarified this. Today, [these areas] are virtually a colony of Pakistan. In POK, the President of Pakistan is the Chairman of the Security Council, of the Development Council and of the Kashmir Council. The Minister for Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad is the Vice-Chairman of these Councils. It means that all decisions are taken by Islamabad. It is not like here in India where the elected Chief Minister can take its own decision, there is not such thing in PoK. [The problem is that] nobody has gone into the nitty-gritty of these proposals.… it generates the feeling among Kashmiris that they are different. They believed: “We are different”. This has created a separate psyche in Kashmir.

Claude: Would this means ‘self-rule’ for Ladakh and Jammu?


Jagmohan: On the Indian side, we have given an autonomous Council to Ladakh because of his special character. It means that for certain subjects, whatever Ladakh decides, it is final. You can not [constitutionally] go beyond this, but because of these arrangements, Ladakh is prosperous.
Their only grievance is that they want to get rid of the Kashmir State. They want the status of Union Territory whereby they will directly be linked with the Central Government. It is also a problem, because Ladakh has two districts, Leh which is Buddhist dominated and Kargil which is Shia dominated.
The only solution for all these areas of the Valley, Jammu, Ladakh is that we have to learn to live together and to learn to work for the social and economic development of the State. We should not waste our energies in ethnic issues. If you look at ethnicity in the Jammu & Kashmir State, you will find so many ethnic groups. For example the shepherds in hilly areas can ask for a separate State, the people living in the mountains close to Himachal Pradesh speak Pahari, a different language and they are racially different, they can ask for a separate State, same thing with the Jammu people, or Pooch or Rajauri area. Even on the Pakistan side, you have the Mirpuri or people from Gigilt. It is just like Yugoslavia, the separation has only created havoc and bloodshed.
[In Jammu & Kashmir], many small dictators will claim to the leadership of their own area and the economical development will suffer, the State will suffer, everybody will suffer. I am against this; people should learn to live together with their own differences. So far the State is concern, one should provide good governance, give justice to people, offer economic development.
When I was in Kashmir the first time, I did a lot of developmental work and people forgot about article 370 and other [political] issues. There was justice, the roads were built, everything was done and people were happy; their attention was diverted from the narrow issues.

Claude: I noticed recently in Jammu that Indian firms can not invest in Jammu & Kashmir because of the Article 370. How to develop in these conditions?


Jagmohan: Article 370 is a very misconceived Article.
First, it generates the feeling among Kashmiris that they are different [from the rest of India]. They believed: “We are different”. This has created a separate psyche in Kashmir.
Then it benefits people who want the power like the Abdullah family; they have exploited this Article, not allowing outside people to come to the State. They have thus created their own sheikhdom.
I will tell you a story. When I was for the first time Governor in Kashmir, one day a fire erupted in an area of Srinagar. I went to inspect the place, it was stinking, there was no sewage at all. After some time, I sold in the same area a plot for a cinema which brought 60 millions rupees to the State. I had opened the tender to outside parties from Delhi and Mumbai. Normally under Article 370, it should have been restricted to local people, but we would have not got more than 4 millions. A friend of a politician would have bought it and eventually this ‘friend’ would have entered into a lease agreement with the Mumbai businessman and will have pocketed the difference. The middle man would have got the benefit, not the State.
The local leaders started an agitation against me, because I was not respecting Article 370. They came in a delegation, it included the people from the area were the fire had erupted (and where there was no sewage). They told me that it is an infringement of Article 370. I told them: “Do you understand what it means for you Article 370?” They spoke of their self-identity. I told them: “I went to your colony and it was stinking, yourself told me that you were living in hell, now with this 60 millions I will provide you with proper sanitation. Do you want sanitation or Article 370?” They immediately understood.
It is vested interest who keeps this article 370 and do not allow outside investment to come. This article does not help anyone, it hampers economic development. It only helps politicians and narrow-minded people who work only for their selfish interest.

This interview was taken in 2007, but is equally relevant even today — Editor, Indian Defence Review.

Monday, May 3, 2021

China’s new weapon is ‘political archaeology’

My article China’s new weapon is ‘political archaeology’ appeared in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle

In February this year, the Communist Party of China (CPC) started a new campaign called Party History Learning and Education

In February this year, the Communist Party of China (CPC) started a new campaign called “Party History Learning and Education”; it will continue in full swing through the year as the CPC celebrates its centenary in July. Neican, a weekly brief on China published from Australia, observed: “The CPC’s official historiography is a product of politics and serves a political agenda.” There is no doubt about this, and India should closely watch the new campaign.
Neican’s analysts said: “In the case of the current campaign, it aims to strengthen ideological cohesion, confidence, and a sense of historical destiny. In doing so, it will likely reinforce the legitimacy of Xi Jinping as the party’s helmsman and his political project of national rejuvenation.”
Like everything in China these days, the crusade originated in an “important” speech by President Xi Jinping, the new Great Helmsman. On February 20, at a gathering in Beijing, Mr Xi spoke of “the importance of learning the history of the CPC, so as to let the party better serve the people and lead the country to fully build a modern socialist country.”
Xinhua commented that the CPC has achieved its first centenary goal “to complete building a moderately prosperous society in all respects”, and now embarks on the second: “The learning [of history] will help ensure the whole party to remain true to its original aspiration.”
Being purely an ideological move, archaeology plays a crucial role in the new scheme of “national rejuvenation”. If Beijing is able to prove that China dominated large parts of Asia, let us say 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, the ideological foundation of the rejuvenation will be established.
Already in September last year, Mr Xi presided over a meeting of the party’s politburo and discussed “the latest archaeological discoveries in China and their significance”. The CPC general secretary showed a great interest in excavating the past; he spoke of “developing archaeology to better understand the long-standing and profound Chinese civilization”.
He said that he attached “great importance to archaeological research to deepen people’s understanding of Chinese civilisation that features a long history and profoundness, thus providing strong support for promoting fine traditional culture and strengthening people’s confidence in Chinese culture”. You could ask: how does this concern India?
Unfortunately, it does, especially after China’s new territorial claims in Ladakh as well as the older ones in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
On April 14, The China Daily mentioned with fanfare an event highlighting “China’s Top 10 New Archaeological Discoveries of Year 2020”; the annual awards function was dubbed the “Oscars of Chinese archaeology”. The idea was to promote new archaeological findings among the masses, with a 21-expert judging panel selecting the 10 sites.
One of them is the Sangsdar Lungmgo graveyard site in Tsanda county of Ngari prefecture of Western Tibet. Tsanda, or Zanda, is located near the historical vestiges of Tholing, close to the Indian border, north of Uttarakhand. The findings date from the 4th century BC to 7th century AD and though it is not officially said, it belongs to the Kingdom of Zhangzhung, which spread across Western Tibet and Northern India. The site was presented as a key finding “of early-stage history of Tibet, showing frequent communication among the region with the area to the south of Himalayas as well as today’s central China and Xinjiang”.
India should be concerned because “political archeology” has always helped China to substantiate its territorial claims at a later date. Zhangzhung was an ancient kingdom which spread in Western Tibet and Northern India; it predates the culture of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet and is usually associated with the Bon faith. The inhabitants are often mentioned in ancient Tibetan texts as the original rulers of central and western Tibet. Only in the last two decades or so, have archaeologists started to excavate areas once ruled by the Zhangzhung kings.
Though very little is known about the extent of the kingdom, it is said to have had extensive contacts with its neighbours, particularly Northern India (and not China). While Beijing has now taken up a large number of excavation sites to demonstrate Zhangzhung’s relations with the mainland, very little is done in India, where archaeology is still under the slumberous Archaeological Survey of India and the babus of the ministry of culture.
At the same time, China is moving ahead with the blessings of the People’s Leader; for example in November 2017, China Tibet Online mentioned a group of 2,000-year-old sarcophagi tombs “recently discovered in Jomdo County, Chamdo, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, in which the cultural features not only possess strong local characteristics, but also have very clear similarities with sarcophagus remains found in the Min Jiang River and Yarlung River basin in the west part of southwest China’s Sichuan Province”.
Quoting a Chinese archaeologist, the article further argues: “This discovery confirms that around 2,000 years ago, there had been frequent communication and exchanges between the people living in the east part of Tibet and those in the plateau areas of western Sichuan.”
Another article in China News mentions the Western Tibet tombs; quoting Dr Feng Yang from the School of Archaeology, Culture and Science of Sichuan University, it speculated that the tombs dated back to the seventh century BC. During a seminar on “2020 Tibet Cultural Relics and Archaeological Achievements” recently held in Lhasa, Dr Feng gave a report on the latest stages of excavations: “Seven archaeological surveys and trial excavations were carried out from 1994 to 2001. In order to explore the early society and civilisation of western Tibet and clarify its status in Tibetan civilisation, archaeological excavations in this area continued from 2018 to 2020; 10 new cemeteries were discovered (eight of them were date-tested), 68 tombs were cleared, 10 new sites were excavated and one stone tool site found. Systematic carbon fourteen dating was done, and a basic chronological framework could be established.”
According to Feng Yang, the 68 tombs are divided into four phases: “Tombs are rich in burial goods, including pottery, iron, bronze, seashells, mussel decorations, beads, woodware, etc. The phenomenon of burial of animals is common, including sheep, horses, and cows.”
The article added: “The cultural connotation of this area is obviously diverse, and cultural connections with different surrounding areas can be seen, including cultural connections with the mainland.”
Unless India decides to heavily invest in the archaeology of the Himalayas, which will prove the Indic origin of the Zhangzhung kingdom, China will rewrite the history of India’s borders. But how many politicians understand this in New Delhi? Probably no one.