Monday, October 18, 2021

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

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

Here is the link...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you believe it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Stop China from erasing ‘the heart of the world’

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

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

Here is the link...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Nothing new in Dragon’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy; it actually started when India was ‘nice’ to China

1971: China enters the UN Security Council

My article Nothing new in Dragon’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy; it actually started when India was ‘nice’ to China appeared on Firstpost.

India has to fight her own battles alone, and should not expect any ‘friend’ to come to her rescue, especially when facing China

Nothing new in Dragon’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy; it actually started when India was ‘nice’ to China


Here is the link...

In a couple of months, India will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh from the tyranny of the Pakistani generals. It is perhaps an occasion to take a look back at some of the events which marked those momentous months of 1971. It is interesting to look at the attitude of China, which at that time had just been admitted to the United Nations.

But let us first go back to October 1949. Soon after Mao Zedong declared from the rostrum of Tiananmen Square that ‘China has risen’, the then Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, decided to recognise the Communist regime in Beijing. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel could not understand the hurry. On 6 December 1949, he wrote to Nehru: “It seems your intention is to recognise China soon after the UN session ends, even if it means that others are not ready by then or prepared to do so. My own feeling is that we do not stand to gain anything by giving a lead.”

Nehru immediately replied: “Our advisors [read VK Krishna Menon] are of the opinion that it would be definitely harmful to recognise… after the Commonwealth have done so. It would mean that we have no policy of our own, but follow the dictates of other countries.”

Nehru won the battle. On 31 December 1949, India was the first nation, with Burma, to recognise the Communist regime.

A few months later, the US State Department offered to sponsor India for a seat in the Security Council; Nehru refused.

On 30 August 1950, he wrote to his sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, then the Indian Ambassador in the United States: “You mention that the State Department is trying to unseat China as a Permanent Member of the Security Council and to put India in her place. So far as we are concerned, we are not going to countenance it. That would be bad from every point of view. It would be a clear affront to China and it would mean some kind of a break between us and China.”

Again in 1955, when the Soviet Union offered to sponsor India’s case for a permanent seat, Delhi refused. In his three-volume biography of Nehru, Sarvepalli Gopal wrote: “He [Nehru] rejected the Soviet offer to propose India as the sixth permanent member of the Security Council and insisted that priority be given to China’s admission to the United Nations.”

For China, the great day finally arrived at the end of 1971, when the People’s Republic of China took the seat occupied by Formosa (Taiwan) and made a formal entry into the UN.

Had China by then become a ‘normal’ state? No, though the Cultural Revolution had just ended, the power struggle continued. In September 1971, Lin Biao, defence minister and heir-apparent of Mao, died in a mysterious aircraft crash while he was fleeing to Mongolia. Officially, he was preparing a coup against Mao.

Huang Hua, first Chinese representative to the UN
But nine years after the 1962 war with China, India probably thought that it could engage with China; Delhi was happy that Beijing was finally admitted to the Security Council.

On 27 October 1971, prime minister Indira Gandhi wrote to her Chinese counterpart, Zhou Enlai, conveying: “[India’s] felicitations on the restoration of the legitimate right of representation of China by your government in the United Nations. This will make the United Nations more representative in character and will give greater weight to Asia’s participation in the deliberations for any decisions of this organisation.”

It was six weeks before the Bangladesh war began. On 15 November 1971, in a speech to the world body, the Indian Permanent Representative to the UN, Samar Sen, spoke of a “perverse mistake” to not have admitted China earlier. At the time, Delhi thought that Beijing would appreciate its gesture.

But hardly three weeks later, Huang Hua, China’s representative in the UN Security Council, made a scathing attack against India: “The Indian government has openly sent troops to invade East Pakistan... The question of East Pakistan is purely the internal affair of Pakistan, in which no one has any right to interfere.” He proceeded to say: “The Indian government asserts that it has sent troops to East Pakistan for the purpose of ‘self-defence’. This is sheer gangster logic. The facts show that it is India which has committed aggression against Pakistan, and not Pakistan which has 'menaced' the security of India.”

What about the 10 million Bangladeshi refugees? Was this also India’s fault?

The next day, on 5 December 1971, Huang Hua presented a draft resolution to the Security Council for consideration; Beijing asked for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Indian troops from Bangladesh (East Pakistan for China).

Two days later, Chiao Kuan-hua, another Chinese representative at the UN, made another statement pointing out that the Indian government was an outright aggressor. He linked the issue with the presence of the Dalai Lama and several of his countrymen being refugees in India, saying that “this is indeed absurd to the extreme”, that Delhi had no alternative but to send troops to Bangladesh. Was China apprehensive that one day India could try to liberate Tibet?

Speaking of the Tibetan refugees, China said: “The Indian ruling circles had also some time ago forcibly coerced several tens of thousands of the inhabitants of China's Tibet into going to India and set up a so-called government in exile headed by the Chinese traitor—Dalai Lama. To agree that the Indian government is justified to use the so-called refugee question as a pretext for invading Pakistan is tantamount to agreeing that the Indian government will be justified to use the question of the so-called ‘Tibetan refugees’ as a pretext for invading China.” He told the UN General Assembly that it was “utterly ridiculous”.

In the meantime, the duo Richard Nixon-Henry Kissinger was trying to convince Mao and Zhou to intervene and send troops into the Chumbi Valley to attack India.

Pakistan's General Niazi was told to hold out for help from “Yellows from the North and Whites from the South”—the Chinese and the Americans. The aircraft carrier Enterprise was indeed on the way; but the ‘yellows’ never came.

Kissinger had planned a scheme to intimidate Indira Gandhi: “The United States would illegally allow Iran and Jordan to send squadrons of US aircraft to Pakistan, [then] secretly ask China to mass its troops on the Indian border, and [we will] deploy a US aircraft carrier group to the Bay of Bengal to threaten India. Urging Nixon to stun India with all three moves simultaneously, Kissinger observed: “I’m sure all hell will break loose here.”

All that to show that, like in the past, India has to fight her own battles alone, and should not expect any ‘friend’ to come to her rescue, especially when facing China.

And when ‘experts’ speak about a new phenomenon, i.e. the appearance of the ‘Wolf’s Warriors’ (the ‘barking’ Chinese diplomats), they should read history. It started long ago, even when India was ‘nice’ to China; ‘niceties’ have never influenced the Communist regime.