Sunday, May 23, 2021

Tibet's so-called Peaceful Liberation: 70 year ago

My article Tibet's so-called Peaceful Liberation appeared in The Daily Guardian.

Here is the link...

As China plans to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the 17-Point Agreement, it is important to remember that the violence and subjugation Tibet has witnessed since 1950 cannot be termed as a ‘peaceful liberation’ of the region.

The history of Mao's China is a tale of well-planned and well-executed moves. All the events from 1949 onwards have unfolded in a perfectly calculated sequence: first, the invasion of Tibet in 1950; after a vague protest by the Indian Government and the adjournment of the Tibetan Appeal to the UN (at Delhi's instance), in 1951, the 17-Point ‘Agreement’ was signed. Then, in 1954, the ‘Panchsheel’ accord (which neutralized India under the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai bluff) was inked and soon after the first incursions started on Indian soil. It was followed by the crushing of the Tibetan uprising in 1959, and finally in October 1962, the ‘teaching of a lesson’ to India for daring to give asylum to the Dalai Lama and his followers in March 1959.
This should not be forgotten at a time China plans to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the “Agreement between the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”, also known as the 17-Point Agreement. The paramount question remains: has Tibet really been liberated?
Here too, Mao executed a meticulously planned two-pronged operation; the first part culminated in the Battle of Chamdo which saw the Tibetan forces being decimated; the Great Helmsman’s second step was ‘diplomatic’, the weak Tibetan State was forced to put its thumbprint on an agreement allowing Communist China to take over the Land of Snows.
In May 1951, the Tibetan delegates had no alternative but to accept that the “the Tibetan people shall return to the family of the Motherland of the People's Republic of China” and “drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet.” (Article I)
Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the former governor of Kham province at that time a prisoner of war, was nominated by the Communists as ‘head of the Tibetan delegation’; with his colleagues, Ngabo had to agree that “the local government of Tibet shall actively assist the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to enter Tibet and consolidate the national defenses.” (Article II)
One can ask: against who was this ‘defence consolidation’?
Very few realized then that it could only be against India; though the Indian officials posted on the Roof of the World would soon discover the true objectives of the Communists, nobody was ready to listen in Delhi.
This period coincided with the beginning of the Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai, the honeymoon between Delhi and Beijing.
Several years ago, the Central Tibetan Administration claimed that the number of Tibetans who died of starvation, violence, or other indirect causes due to the invasion was approximately 1.2 million. Though this figure could not be confirmed, the Chinese occupation was far from ‘peaceful’.
Over the years, the age-old Indo-Tibet relations were gradually replaced by a cruder relation with the new occupiers of Tibet; the Indian kinship with Tibet progressively disappeared with the presence of the ‘Liberation Army’ (PLA) the plateau. This was witnessed with dismay by the Indian diplomats and officials posted in the Land of Snows till the 1962 War.
At the beginning, very few Tibetans had the courage to fight the ineluctable; most, whether from the aristocracy or the clergy, first collaborated with the occupying forces, but these years also witnessed the birth of a national conscience and a ‘people’s movement’, which unfortunately never got Delhi’s support.
Soon after the signature of the 17-Point Agreement, the arrival of the Chinese troops in Lhasa brought a famine in Lhasa. Delhi came to the rescue and fed rice the PLA for a couple of years via Sikkim.
The first and foremost consequence of the signature of the 17-Point Agreement was that the Land of Snows lost its sovereignty; Tibet had become a part of the ‘Great Motherland’. It was the first time in its 2,000 year-old history, that Tibet consented to be a province ‘within the boundaries’ of China in an official document.
The Tibetans were put in front of a fait accompli and the Government of India did react to the ‘Agreement’, even though some clauses were in clear contradiction with several articles of the 1914 Simla Convention, binding between India and Tibet.
Three weeks after the Agreement was inked, during a press conference, Nehru pretended that he was unaware: “I do not know much more about it than you probably know. The story about an agreement being reached between the People's Government in China and the Tibetan authorities has reached us too. That is all; no further development has taken place to our knowledge. It is not proper for me to react to something which is not complete, which is not fully known.”
Washing his hands of the tragedy, the Prime Minister remained extremely vague when asked about the status of Tibet: “Throughout this period some kind of Chinese suzerainty has been recognised in the past as well as Tibetan autonomy. We have certain interests there which are not political but which are cultural, etc, which we should like to preserve. These are our approaches and we should like to preserve our cultural and trade interests in a friendly way with the people concerned.”
The Chinese propaganda said that the Dalai Lama welcomed the Agreement, he would have sent a telegram to Mao: "the local government of Tibet as well as the Tibetan monks and laymen unanimously support this agreement, and will actively assist the PLA in Tibet to consolidate national defense, drive imperialist forces out of Tibet and safeguard the unification of the territory and the sovereignty of the motherland." The 16-year old probably never did.
Some 15 years ago, in an interview, the Tibetan leader told us: “when the Tibetan delegation was negotiating in Beijing they were reluctant to sign, but the Chinese told them clearly: ‘If you do not sign, it is very easy for us, we just have to give a signal to the army and the army will march into Tibet.’" The Tibetan leader concluded: “It is clear, there were only two choices: either to accept the agreement or to go through what they called a military 'liberation'. For some years, we derived some benefit, but later, it became plain military occupation.”
Today China has started the most wide-apread campaign since the Cultural Revolution, to teach the glorious history of the Communist Party to the Chinese people. The propaganda says: “hostile forces at home and abroad make use of the history of the Chinese revolution and the history of the new China, doing their utmost to attack, vilify and smear them, with the fundamental aim of inciting the over throw of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and our socialist system.”
But history can’t be changed. The Tibetans were not ‘peacefully liberated’ in 1951.











 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Forgotten Hero of the Indian Air Force

Chinese PLA surrounding the Bell helicopter of Sqn Ldr Vinod Sehgal

My article The Forgotten Hero of the Indian Air Force appeared today in Rediff.com

Did Vinod Sehgal die in Tsangdgar or was he taken PoW to China?
Why has the IAF kept so quiet for all these years, asks Claude Arpi.

Here is the link...

Perhaps the main unsolved mysteries of the 1962 India-China War is the fate of 35-year old Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Vinod Sehgal, (sometimes is name is written ‘Sahgal’); the Vayu Sena Medal awardee of the 105 Helicopter Unit of the Indian Air Force, went ‘missing in action’ at Tsangdhar in the Tawang sector of the then Kameng Frontier Division of the North East Frontier Agency (today Arunachal Pradesh) on October 20, 1962.
In the early hours of this fateful day, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attacked the Indian positions south of the Thag-la ridge. It soon turned into a debacle recounted by Brig John Dalvi, the Commander of the ill-fated 7 Mountain Brigade in his remarkable Himalayan Blunder; the ‘leadership’ in Delhi had insisted of defending indefensible positions on the river Namkha chu (river), with the tragic well-known outcome. 

Tsangdar Dropping Zone where Sqn Ldr Sehgal landed
What happened in the vicinity of the Thag-la ridge and the Namkha chu (river) has been the object of a number of good or less good books.
Nobody has forgotten that the foolish (not to say criminal) leadership in Delhi did not think it fit to use the services of the IAF for offensive operations; the 7 Brigade was soon decimated; Hatung-la, the ridge next to the Thag-la fell on October 21 and Brig Dalvi was taken prisoner of war (PoW) on October 22; by that time, Maj Gen Niranjan Prasad, the General Commanding Officer (GOC) of the 4 Infantry Division had trekked back to Tawang from Zimithang, his tactical headquarter.
Maj Gen KK Tewari was then a Lt Col commanding the Signal Regiment of the 4 Corps based in Tezpur; on October 18, he had flown with Vinod Sehgal to the front and landed at Tsangdhar to inspect some deficient equipment on the forward posts, particularly in the Namkha chu sector.
Tewari, like many other officers and jawans, was taken PoW on October 20 morning; not hearing from his boss, with all communication lines cut, Tewari’s second-in-command (2iC), Maj Ram Singh decided to find out the situation on the front; he flew to Tsangdhar in Vinod Sehgal’s Bell helicopter.

Gen Tewari wrote in his memoirs: “Numerous cases of men who deserved to be honoured for their outstanding examples of devotion to duty in the face of enemy were ignored because of the confusion and failure in the higher directions and conduct of war. …The case of my own 2iC, Maj Ram Singh who gave his life along with Sqn Ldr Vinod Sehgal when they had tried to land at Tsangdhar in a two seater Bell helicopter after the Chinese attack, is one such. They came to find out what had happened after my last radio transmission that morning, when we suddenly went off the air after giving news of intense shelling and they were shot down.”
The GOC of the 4 Division later remembered that Maj Ram Singh, not knowing the true situation, had suggested sending a replacement set to the front; according to Gen Prasad’s memoirs: “I decided to go with him, not only to keep an eye on the battle while 7 Brigade HQ was on the move, but because I was keen to supervise the Tsangle withdrawal ...I called out to (Sqn Ldr) Vinod Sehgal to get his helicopter ready, collected Ram Singh and set out for the helipad. When emplaning, however, Sehgal raised an objection about the load. While he had no objection to carrying an extra passenger against regulations, he said, he just could not risk taking a heavy wireless set and battery in addition. At those heights, this was asking for trouble. My first reaction was to tell Ram Singh to wait for the next sortie, but Ram Singh quite rightly argued that establishing the set on Tsangdhar was more important as I would be helpless up there without communications In any case, by then the set and the battery had already been strapped on to the outside carrier frame; Ram Singh argued that it would only take a turn-around of 20-25 minutes to drop it at Tsangdhar and return. This made sense, so I got out of the helicopter and allowed Ram Singh to proceed to Tsangdhar.” The fate of the two officers was sealed; Ram Singh and Sehgal would never return. 

The Thagla ridge in the background
Gen Prasad then sent Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) AS Williams to check what was going on: “It was not more than fifteen minutes later I received a report from Borkungthang post that they had seen a helicopter come crashing near them. The pilot appeared to be safe and even then making his way towards Zimithang. Sure enough, Williams appeared down the path in about ten minutes time, looking visibly shaken. …The loss of both my helicopters was a serious blow - apart from the fact that I was more than a little worried about the fate of Ram Singh and Vinod Sehgal."
Air Marshal Bharat Kumar, who wrote the history of the 1962 air support operations, noted: “It can be surmised that Sehgal and Ram Singh were captured after their landing - they were not aware that the post had been overrun by the Chinese. The Chinese have kept silent about the incident, as if nothing ever happened. It is probable that both of them were shot after they were captured as their names did not appear either in the list of Prisoners of War (POWs) or declared dead by the Chinese.”
In a Chinese video clip released a few years later, Sqn Ldr Williams recognized the Bell 47-G2 Helicopter piloted by Sqn Ldr Sehgal: “the helicopter was intact and apparently Sehgal and his passenger [Ram Singh] were captured by the Chinese, never to be heard or seen again.”
After another helicopter was later shot by the Chinese; the Operational Record Book of No. 105 Helicopter Unit concluded: “Zimithang was abandoned with a sad heart as three beautiful valuable aircraft were lost and one very experienced pilot (Vinod Sehgal) taken prisoner by the enemy. Zimithang detachment came to a tragic end.”
That was it!

Sqn Ldr Vinod Sehgal, VSM
Why was Vinod Sehgal’s action never rewarded?
One of the tragedies within the greater 1962 tragedy is that Sq Ldr Vinod Sehgal’s bravery has never been acknowledged by the Indian Air Force. The young pilot’s name has today been forgotten though he performed a heroic feat several hours after the war was started.
Incidentally, a few years ago, Brig Amar Jit Singh Behl who was a young Second Lieutenant of the 17 Parachute Field Regiment fighting in Tsangdhar, told me in an interview for Rediff.com that after he was made prisoner by the Chinese: “On October 21, we were kept near the helipad and I saw the two officers who had been killed near their chopper. I went to the Chinese officers who had interpreters in English and Hindi. I asked this officer, I want to bury these officers; after I insisted, he said: 'Alright'. With two of my boys, we dug a two feet trench and buried Major Ram Singh and Squadron Leader Sehgal. We saluted them.” The next day, Behl and his companions started their long walk to the PoW camp in Tibet.
The question is: was it Vinod Sehgal that they buried?

from the ICRC Archives, Geneva

The Red Cross Angle
The mystery deepened further when during a recent visit to Geneva, I had the opportunity to visit the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). I came across a cable from the Indian Red Cross (IRC) to the ICRC dated November 9, 1962 requesting the humanitarian organization in Switzerland to take up the case of Vinod Sehgal with the Chinese Red Cross: “Kindly obtain confirmation Peking [Beijing] Radio News that Brigadier Dalvi, Lt Col Tewari and Sqd Ldr Saigal [are] in Chinese hands; also news [of] their welfare.”
The cable further says: “In conformity with Third Geneva Convention, we would appreciate receiving news concerning above mentioned prisoners.”
Does it mean that Vinod Sehgal was not killed in Tsangdhar, but taken prisoner in China? Probably.
Why has the IAF been silent on this event for all these decades?
The same day, the IRC was informed by the ICRC: “We have transmitted your request to Chinese Red Cross and [other] authorities.”
In a letter to Wu Chin-Shih, the Chinese General Consul in Geneva, the ICRC enquired: “[We] would appreciate receiving news of these prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949 relative to the treatment of prisoners of war (Convention No III).”
There is no answer in the file.
Does it mean that what happened to Vinod Sehgal will forever remain a mystery?
Apparently (and sadly), Sehgal’s family was never informed of the fate of the young pilot. Gen Tewari mentioned in his memoirs an incident which took place when the PoW officers arrived in Kolkata after their captivity: “At the mess, an Air Force officer had ‘sneaked’ in a lady. She approached me to ask about Sqn Ldr Vinod Sehgal. Vinod was the Bell helicopter pilot who had flown me to Tsangdhar on October 18 with that jar of electrolyte in my lap. This lady was his sister. When I told her that Vinod was not with us, she said that she had a picture from a newspaper in which he was supposed to be standing next to me. She showed me the faded picture and of course, it was not my picture, nor Vinod’s. We had also been told already by the Chinese in the PoW camp that a Bell helicopter had been shot down at Tsangdhar on 20th October. …When I told her that it was not my picture, she broke down and cried bitterly. It was so sad and upsetting. In the happiness of our home coming we had forgotten even if temporarily, the pain of others who had lost their dear ones. We were not otherwise allowed to talk to anyone. In fact, all the mess staff also were forbidden to talk to us.”
Had Vinod Sehgal’s sister been informed that he was a PoW in China? It is possible.

Confluence of the Namkha chu and the Namjiang chu

This leaves us with a host of unanswered questions:
•    Did Vinod Sehgal die in Tsangdgar?
•    What happened to the helicopter? Was it dismantled and taken to China? Why China has never acknowledge it?
•    Or was Vinod Sehgal taken PoW to Tibet or China?
•    If he was, where was he kept? Why was he not kept with other PoWs who did not know about his whereabouts?
•    How did he finally die? Was he killed? Was the Indian government informed?
•    Why has the IAF kept so quiet for all these years?
We can only hope that one day the Ministry of Defence will seriously take up these questions; it is up to the Indian Air Force to take the initiative.

Equipment used by the Signals Regiment on the front near Tsangdhar

Sketch of the battle of Namkha chu by Brig John Dalvi


The Chinese New Highway to the Indian Border


On May 16, Xinhua reported that the construction of a new highway passing “through the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, known as the world's deepest canyon with a maximum depth of 6,009 meters” was completed.
As can be seen on the map posted below, the new road does not really pass through the Grand Canyon, more correctly, it ‘cuts through the canyon’.
What the Chinese agency does not mention is that the terminus of the road reaches very close to the Indian border (the Gelling circle of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh), posing a serious security risk to the Indian territory.
We are told that the project took almost seven years to be completed: “A 2,114-meter tunnel was dug through, [today] marking the completion of the major construction of the 67.22-km road connecting Pai Township in  Nyingchi City [prefecture] and Metok County.”
It is the second road serving Metok Country, which till 2013, was the last county in China without road access.
Xinhua gives more information: “The project was built by the China Huaneng Group Co Ltd and started in 2014, with an estimated investment of over 2 billion yuan (about 310 million U.S. dollars).”

The Doshong chu (river)

The project was concluded 228 days ahead of schedule.

According to Du Canxun, a Huaneng manager: “The company stressed green development during the construction and poured 110 million yuan into ecological and water environment protection. It was much more than the planned 75.39 million yuan.”
It has to be seen if it is true, as the area is  environmentally extremely fragile (this can be seen on the above video).
The Chinese news agency adds: “The road was built on the former hiking route between Nyingchi's Pai Township and Drepung (Chinese: Baibung) Township in Metok County, with an altitude difference of up to 2,892 meters between the highest and lowest spots of the road.”
This difference of altitude will be used for the hydropower plant mentioned on this blog a few months back. The new road is indeed the first stage to start building the giga project.

The Xinhua article concludes citing the first road access to Metok: “It is the second significant passageway to Metok, following the first one connecting the county and Chabmog Township in Bome County [29°51′33″N 95°46′14″E]. After the new highway opens to traffic, the road length connecting the city proper of Nyingchi and Metok County will be shortened to 180 km from 346 km, cutting travel time by eight hours.”
A mega strategic change in the offing for India’s defence forces.

Another Article
Another article mentions: "The climate along the Paimok [Pai-Metok] Highway is changeable and construction is extremely difficult. ...It is scheduled to be completed and opened to traffic in September 2022. It is a key Tibet aid project of China Huaneng."

It further reports that the Pai-Mo [Pai-Metok] Highway is the second highway reaching Metok County: "After the completion of the road, the length of the road from Bayi [8.1 or August 1 = PLA garrison] District to Metok County in Nyingchi City [prefecture] will be shortened from 346 kilometers through Bome County to 180 kilometers in Jingpai Town; the travel time will be shortened from 12 hours to about 4 hours with the existing Metok highway, it will form a loop in and out of Metok."

Climatic Issues
According to the Huaneng Linzhi [Nyingchi] Hydropower Project Office: "The climate along the highway is changeable, and natural disasters such as avalanches, landslides, heavy rainfall, and mudslides occur frequently. The construction environment is harsh and the construction is extremely difficult."

As mentioned earlier, this area known as Pemakoe, is also extremely sacred for the Tibetans, but this is no concern to atheist China.

It has however to be seen how the new road will sustain during the torrential monsoon rains and how the highly seismic terrain will take the new development. Serious mudslides were recently reported downstream to Pai Township (see map below).

The terminus of the road is presently the bridge near Drepung

 

The last tunnel at Lobang opened on May 16

 

Mudslides in 2018 and 2021 (north of Pai township)



Possible route (one tunnel + 9 stations) for the giga HPPs


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.