Monday, December 25, 2023

The Sino-Indian Boundary - A Historical Background with emphasis on the Ladakh sector


The Fault Lines is a series by FNVA that discuss developments occurring on our Indian frontiers. Engaging extensively with the Universities on these regions and bringing them to the fore.

The Second Episode of The Fault Lines sees Claude Arpi, Author, Tibet Expert, Advisor at FNVA and Director of the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture at Auroville addressing on the topic "The Sino-Indian Boundary - A Historical Background with emphasis on the Ladakh sector".

This Episode is moderated by Professor Sonam Joldan from the University of Ladakh and was addressed to the University of Ladakh. Claude Arpi in part 1, here shares with us the historical background and significance of Ladakh when it comes the current India - China Boundary which was previously the India - Tibet Border.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

How closure of diplomatic mission in Lhasa remains Nehru's lesser-known ‘Tibetan’ blunder

Dekyi Linka, the British and then Indian Mission in Lhasa
My article How closure of diplomatic mission in Lhasa remains Nehru's lesser-known ‘Tibetan’ blunder appeared in Firstpost

New Delhi seemed to have lost its nerve, which greatly helped China attain its final objective: To remove all traces of Indian presence and influence from Tibet. The blunder seems irreparable today

Here is the link...

Addressing the Parliament, Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently remarked that Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was responsible for the loss of what is known as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK): “The problem of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir occurred because of Pandit Nehru. Otherwise, that part would have belonged to Kashmir,” aid Shah, adding: “Nehru ji said it was his mistake. It was not a mistake. It was a blunder to lose so much land of this country.”
We shall not discuss here — the Kashmir blunders, though there are many more which could be listed, to cite just one: Why did India accept Lord Mountbatten as the first Governor General and Chairman of the Defence Council while Pakistan had nominated Muhammad Ali Jinnah as first Governor General?
Less known are some of the first prime minister’s ‘Tibetan’ blunders. He was assisted in this by KM Panikkar, India’s ambassador in Beijing, who often batted for Communist China; remember the words Sardar Patel wrote on November 7, 1950: “I have tried to peruse this correspondence as favourably to our Ambassador [Panikkar] and the Chinese Government as possible, but I regret to say that neither of them comes out well as the result of this study”.
Another of the most tragic events of the early 1950s was also initiated by Panikkar: It was the 1952 ‘downgrading’ of the Indian Mission in Lhasa into a Consulate General. While Delhi was dithering on whether to address the confirmation of its borders with China through bilateral talks with Beijing, the Chinese managed to gain this portentous change.
In the exchange of letters and notes between the Indian and Chinese governments after the latter’s troops entered Tibet in October 1950, Delhi never once insisted on the rights it had inherited from the Simla Convention in 1914, with the consequence that China even today does not recognise the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh.
In 1952, India still enjoyed several privileges in Tibet; apart from the full-fledged Mission in Lhasa, there were three Indian Trade Marts managed by Agents posted in Gyantse, Gartok and Yatung. Except for Gartok, the Agents were entitled to a military escort. The Post and Telegraph Service, a chain of rest-houses and the principality of Minsar (near Mt Kailash) were also under the Indian Government’s control.
Ideologically, Nehru was not comfortable with these ‘imperialist’ advantages, though he often admitted that they were useful for trade. It is true that after the arrival of the Chinese troops, the Indian government found it increasingly difficult to retain these benefits on the ground.
On July 28, 1952, in a letter to Nehru, for the first time Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier officially requested the ‘regularisation’ of the Indian Mission in Lhasa; it meant downgrading the Mission into a Consulate General. Tibet would not be considered a separate country anymore.
Finally, on August 15, 1952, the Indian Representative was re-designated as a Consul-General under the Indian Embassy in Beijing. By downgrading the Mission, Delhi officially accepted that Tibet was a part of China. Thereafter, India had no border with Tibet anymore, but only with China, with the consequences that one can still see today.
The new arrangement continued for the following ten years. Though downgraded, the Indian presence in Lhasa could take care of the trade between India and Tibet, could look after the hundreds of Indian monks from the Himalayan region studying in Tibet, as well as the thousands of pilgrims undertaking the Kailash/Mansarovar yatra every year.

After the Border War
On December 3, 1962, two weeks after the ceasefire had been declared on the northern front, South Block suddenly decided to unilaterally close down its Consulate General in Lhasa. Despite years of research, I have never been able to find the rationale for this decision.
The Ministry of External Affairs just informed Beijing that India had decided to close its Consulate General in Lhasa as well as the Chinese Consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata.
It is not known what triggered this hasty action, especially at a time when India had nearly 4,000 prisoners of war in Tibet; there is no doubt that a Consul General would have been useful for their welfare, to provide information to their next of kin and their eventual repatriation.
On December 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing wrote to the Indian Embassy in Beijing complaining that India had “unreasonably requested China to terminate its Consulates-General at Calcutta and Bombay.”
Beijing started accusing New Delhi of having an anti-Chinese policy.
But the loser has been India, not China, which has since reopened its two consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata, while Delhi could never reopen the Indian one in Lhasa.
On December 15, 1962, the Chinese Government finally agreed to close down its two consulates general and to withdraw its staff: “But this decision does not in any way mean that the Chinese Government accepts the Indian Government’s unreasonable demand or agrees to the Indian Government’s unilateral action.”
Retrospectively, one can only say that from India’s side, it was a misconceived decision, nobody thought of the consequences.
One of the justifications was that the communications with Lhasa were completely cut off between October 9 and 25: “Even the telephone of the Consulate General was cut and outsiders were forbidden to enter the premises.” This was a few days before the treacherous Chinese attack on India’s northern borders. But it hardly justifies the closure of the Consulate, especially after the war was over.

Justifying the Closure of the Consulate
During the following months, the Ministry of External Affairs kept trying to justify its decision to close down its consulate in Tibet.
While all this haggling was taking place, China refused to speak about the 3,900 Indian PoWs kept in different camps in Tibet. This issue was never even part of the innumerable exchanges; it is most astonishing to say the least.
Why was the issue of the PoWs never raised directly with the Chinese?
Delhi reiterated the contents of the notes of November 4 and December 28, 1962: “The local Chinese authorities at Lhasa had willfully harassed the staff of the Indian Consulate General at Lhasa. Local Chinese authorities had, in every manner possible, restricted the freedom of movement of the staff.”
Beijing just rejected the allegation that it had violated acknowledged international practice or had disregarded diplomatic courtesy.
But again, all this does not explain why the Indian Consulate in Lhasa was closed? Nor how and why was the decision taken?
Could it have been a rushed and unilateral decision taken by local officials in Lhasa and later endorsed by Delhi? Perhaps the truth is that there was an atmosphere of utter confusion and chaos reigning in Delhi.

Trying to Reopen the Consulate
An Indian diplomat, Shivshankar Menon is said to have played a pivotal role in trying to reopen the Indian Consulate in Lhasa in the 2000s; however, it soon became obvious that it was easier to hurriedly close the Indian mission in 1962, than to reopen it. It has also to be noted that Nepal still has a representative in Lhasa today, with a thriving presence.
Designated as the ‘Year of Friendship between China and India’, Year 2006 seemed to offer a possibility for the two countries to leave their tumultuous past behind. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited China in May; for China and India, it was the occasion to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defence cooperation.
Did Pranab Mukherjee officially suggest reopening a consular office in Lhasa in return for allowing China to open one in Kolkata during his visit? The rumour was that Beijing was not keen and asked Delhi to open an office in Guangzhou instead.
In July, 2006, the Nathu La pass between Tibet and Sikkim was officially reopened for border trade for the first time after 1962. Were the bilateral relations going to make a new start?
At the time of President Hu Jintao’s visit to Delhi in November, The Indian Express observed: “Though India has made it repeatedly clear that it recognises Tibet Autonomous Region, China turned down the Indian proposal for opening a consulate in Lhasa ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent visit.”
On March 31, 2015, PTI reported that India’s proposal to re-establish a mission “in the sensitive Tibetan capital Lhasa did not get a favourable response from Beijing.”
The news agency asserted “India is set to open its third consulate in China in the southwestern city of Chengdu after its proposal to re-establish a mission in the sensitive Tibetan capital of Lhasa which was closed down during the 1962 war did not get a favourable response.”
For millennia, China has been mastering The Art of War expounded by its great strategist, Sun Tzu. This episode is another demonstration that by attacking an enemy (by accusing the Indian diplomats of mischief) and mentioning all sorts of Indian wrongdoings, the Communist regime in Beijing managed to divert the energies of an India already weakened by the unexpected war (of 1962), but the blunder was Indian at the start.
New Delhi seemed to have lost its nerve, which greatly helped China to attain its final objective: To remove all traces of Indian presence and influence from Tibet. The blunder seems irreparable today.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

How Pakistan surrendered in 1971

Lt Gen AAK Niazi, with Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora
(behind Vice Adm N Krishnan and Maj Gen JRF Jacob), December 6, 1971
My interview of Lt Gen Ashoke K Chatterjee, How Pakistan surrendered in 1971, appeared in

Here is the link...

'You have been surrounded from all directions, if you want the safety of your troops and your personal safety, we will give you eight hours to make up your mind to surrender.'

Lt Gen Ashoke K.    Chatterjee, former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command speaks to Claude Arpi about the 1971 Bangladesh operations and his participation in the Surrender in Dacca.
Gen Chatterjee was then a young officer from the Sikh Ligh Infantry posted in the Eastern Command in Kolkata. He had the privilege to accompany Lt Gen Jagjit Sigh Aurora, the Army Commander to Dacca for the surrender of the Eastern Pakistan forces led by Lt Gen AAK Niazi, the last Governor of East Pakistan and Commander of the Eastern Command of the Pakistan Army.
Gen Chatterjee’s direct boss was Maj Gen ‘Jack’ Farj Rafael Jacob, the Chief of Staff of Eastern Command.
It is a fascinating first-hand account.

In March 1971, I was a Lieutenant Colonel (GSO-I), meaning General Staff (Operations) - Grade 1. At that time, a Lt Col was looking after the entire operational aspect of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. Today, the same appointment has been upgraded to a Major General rank.
I was working under the Chief of Staff; every morning at 8 o’clock, I had to report to him and subsequently brief all the officers at the headquarters of the Eastern Command.
My briefing included internal security issues in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh [NEFA at that time], Mizoram as well as the situation on the China [Tibet] and Bhutan borders and on the East Pakistan front.
After this, I had to meet Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, the Army Commander, along with Gen Jacob in a smaller   gathering for a briefing regarding the happenings in East Pakistan.
General Jacob took a lot of interest in the planning of the operations, while General Aurora was more interested in preparing for the war. The latter used to go on around all the formations, the 4 Corps (in Tezpur), the 33 Corps (in Siliguri) and the 9 Mountain Division which was based in West Bengal.
[During these war games/briefings] for the Bangladesh operations, we decided to avoid hitting the enemy in conventional attacks.
The problem was that they were holding their defences on large obstacles, such as water courses, deep rivers, which we could not cross without specialised equipment.
Therefore, the idea was to always avoid these strong points, take a longer detour and come from the rear; cross smaller obstacles, not held by the enemy, and then maneuver.
By the time the Indian Army entered Bangladesh, the Mukti Bahini [the guerrilla resistance movement consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians who fought for the liberation of Bangladesh] had created such a sense of fear among the Pakistan Army and also the people supporting the Pakistan government, that psychologically we had already won the war.
At some stage, a Bangladesh government was formed in Kolkata; it was prior to our going into Bangladesh. The Mukti Bahini had workers all around East Pakistan, starting from West Bengal, North Bengal, Cooch Bihar district, then in Assam, Sylhet border, Tripura border, Mizoram border, everywhere we had organized Mukti Bahini camps. They would go in by night, raid the Pakistani strongholds and get back in the morning. So, the Pakistani army was afraid of the Mukti Bahini and we realized they had lost faith and confidence in the locals, except for some Bengali people who still provided support to them.
By the time we went in [for the War], there was some opposition at Jessore in West Bengal sector, we also encountered opposition in the North, in the area of East Dimapur. There was hardly any opposition in Khudmiya, same thing for Sylhet, but there was opposition at the Tripura border, when the Pakistanis had deployed the average of a brigade against a division of ours.
Our buildup took place and luckily we were on exterior lines, and they were fighting on internal lines, so our deployment had to be from multi directions along East Bengal border.
It reminds me of our Param Vir Chakra (PVC) Lt Col Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore, who died in 1965 during the Battle in the Sialkot Sector in the then East Pakistan. He was a tribal soldier from the 14 Guards; he won our first Param Vir Chakra in the Eastern Sector.
Our first thrust-line moved in from Tripura, the Guards battalion crossed the river Meghna and then moved in right up to the river line near Dacca. This created a panic among the Pakistani Army and subsequently the 8 Mountain Division came from Sylhet and closed in on Dacca.
The 33 Corps came from North Bengal, and 9 Division from West Bengal in Jessore Sector. These morning briefings continued throughout the war.
We used to get sitreps (‘situation reports’) and I used to go to the ops [operation] room at about 4 o’clock in the morning to get all the sitreps, speak to the general officers commanding [GOC] the divisions and the Corps about important issues.
I still remember Gen Sagat Singh, GOC 4 Corps, responsible for the two thrust lines on Dacca from the East.
Luckily for me he was my instructor when I was doing my junior commander’s course in Mhow [at the Army War College].
Gen Sagat always said: “Ok this is the story from my side, now you ring up the divisional commander and get his story too.”
He was commanding 4 Corps, the 8 Mountain and 57 Mountain Division came under him; he was based in Agartala and that is how the 4 Corps came in from that direction. Eventually the 4 Corps crossed the river, and they reached Dacca.
There was a Mukti Bahini force that came from Meghalaya, Foxtrot Sector, I don’t remember now which force; it was commanded by the Shillong Area Commander.
Gen Sagat was given certain troops and the Mukti Bahini was put under his command. They were the troops who entered Dacca first with the Mukti Bahini along with a platoon of the Indian Army which came from the north, from Shillong. They crossed the hills and just came down. And when they reached the outskirts of Dacca, the 57 Mountain Division had crossed the river Meghna. There was really a panic among the Pakistan Army. 

Preparations for the Surrender
Soon after, Gen Jacob drafted a beautiful letter for Gen Niazi.
In his letter Gen Jacob mentioned: “you have been surrounded from all directions, if you want the safety of your troops and your personal safety, we will give you eight hours to make up your mind to surrender.”
This was, I think on December 9; General Niazi was then in Dacca. Pressure was being built on him from international groups also and then ultimately on December 12, he agreed.
On December 13,, the surrender papers were drafted in Kolkata and on 14th morning along with the Army Commander, we were to fly into Dacca where the ceremony was to take place.
My overall impression is that the Pakistan Army had no will to fight. They were encouraging the Razakars [an anti-Bangladesh paramilitary force organised by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan] to create atrocities on the civilian population, which they felt would affect the Bangladesh volunteers [the Mukti Bahini], who after March 1971 had come across the border to India and were operating under India’s control.
The role of the Razakars was revealed to me only after the signing of the surrender document, I put this together after talking to many Pakistani officers of rank of brigadier and generals…
The next day, I was told by my Army Commander [Gen Aurora], “you will represent me in Dacca.”
At the time of the Surrender, Major General Sarkar, who was the head of the civil administration of the Mukti Bahini, became the civil administrator on behalf of the Eastern Command.
So the responsibilities were divided between General Sarkar and myself.
I was to look after the military aspect; he looked after the civil side.
Military aspect meant that India did not want to get committed to restoring law and order in Bangladesh. The Indian forces in Bangladesh had come from our Northern borders, from Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.
Because we went in the month of December, we thought that in March, with spring, the Chinese border could get activated, so the idea was to complete the operation quickly so that the Indian troops could then go back to their original task.
There was not much threat from the Chinese, they moved near our border, but they did not cross it. All the major mountain passes in Sikkim, or Arunachal Pradesh, including Nathu-la [in Sikkim] and Jelep-la [in West Bengal] were closed due to heavy snow fall.

The Set-up for the Surrender
The ceremony of the Surrender was very interesting. Gen Niazi had agreed to surrender on the December 12. He had got the clearance from his government in West Pakistan. The United Nations had also intervened; they put pressure on Western Pakistan leaders to surrender. Having decided that, we formulated the surrender text the next morning, not only with Army lawyers, but also with the leading Kolkata lawyers including one of the High court judges.
They all sat to make the surrender papers.
On the December 15, it was cleared by the Army Headquarters in Delhi.
On December 16 morning, we left from Kolkata Eastern Command Headquarter to the airport by helicopter and then used a Dakota plane to reach Dacca; Gen Jacob, Gen Aurora, his wife and me. We landed at Dacca and from there we drove by road. After the surrender ceremony, the Army Commander with his wife returned back to Kolkata the same evening. Gen Jacob too returned to Kolkata the same day.
As we arrived, the Bangladeshis, the civilians were very excited; there was a surge of people; the ceremony took place at the heart of Dacca city, on the Dacca Polo Ground.
On one side was the university, on another side was the famous Kali Mandir, and on yet another side was the Secretariat building, all these places were surrounding the polo ground; it was something like in Kolkata where you have the Eden gardens or in New Delhi, Rajpath, with greenery all around. Such was the setting at the Polo Ground in Dacca where the ceremony took place.
It was late in the evening and luckily, Gens Aurora and Jacob had flown on a fixed wing aircraft, which could fly even at night.
And at the point of time, Gen Sagat, who had crossed the river from the East, was also in Dacca. His responsibility was to look after the military affairs in the city of Dacca, though ultimately after three or four days, he was requested to go back to his original headquarter in Tripura and I was instructed to stay behind to represent the Eastern Command in Dacca.
Gen Sagat had also to initiate a headquarters for the civil administration of Bangladesh; high court judges of Bangladesh, police officers, magistrates, commissioners, deputy commissioners were brought in for administering and restoring the civil administration as fast as possible.

The Ceremony of Surrender
We were late by about by seven minutes, I think the Surrender was to take place at 5 o’clock in the evening, Gen Niazi, Gen Jacob, Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan (Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief - FOC-in-C of the Eastern Naval, and the Air Marshall Hari Chand Dewan, in charge of Eastern Air Command, were there along with Gen Niazi, waiting for Gen Aurora, the Army Commander to come.
[On behalf of Bangladesh, Group Captain AK Khandker acted as witness to the surrender. Lt Gen Sagat Singh, Commander of the Indian IV Corps, Air Marshal Hari Chand Dewan, Maj Gen JFR Jacob, Chief of Staff of Eastern Command, acted as witnesses on behalf of India.]
When we drove in and the Bengalis saw Gen Aurora and his wife coming, the entire population broke loose and came to try to hug them. As a result, we were so scared; we were not used to such a large crowd and our four military police chaps could hardly keep our group away from the crowd.
Gen Aurora told me: “Ashoke, look after my wife and stay with the military police.” Ultimately, we went and witnessed the ceremony; it lasted about 15 minutes. The moment Gen Aurora went there, he told Gen Niazi, “You sign the surrender papers”. Niazi said ‘yes’, saluted and signed.
I think Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali (he was later accused to be a ‘conspirator’ of the civil war in East Pakistan and one of persons directly responsible for committing the mass atrocities) was also there from Pakistani side, and a major general, who was the Chief of staff was there too.
At that time, Gen Niazi was already under arrest.
The Pakistani side had also a naval officer, Rear-Admiral Mohammad Shariff, Commander of the Pakistani Naval Eastern Command and Air Vice-Marshal Patrick D. Callaghan of the Pakistan Air Force's Eastern Air Force Command, who signed the Surrender.
An interesting thing is that by that time the Pakistani army operating in Bangladesh were all prisoners of war, they were all disarmed. On the December 12 itself they, they had surrendered and we disarmed them.

If you had been leading us
Later, I was given the bungalow of a Pakistani major general, I don’t remember his name now; he used to be a civil administrator, he used to represent Gen Niazi, just like Gen Sagat used to represent Eastern Command. He was from General Niazi’s headquarters. He was commanding eastern command for the Pakistani side. After he was taken prisoner of war and sent to the PoW camp.
I occupied his house. Surprisingly his private staff, who cooked, looked after the garden, washed the clothes, etc, was all Bengali. They provided this service to him; when I came they jumped and said: “You are our savior, we will do whatever you want”, it was perhaps why this house was allotted to me.
While I lived in that house, they cooked for me; I was there for about eleven days after the surrender. Interestingly, after the fourth day, the prisoners of war had to be given some exercise, so the jawans were made to clean the roads, under guard of course.
Since I was in the General’s accommodation, (with a huge lawn and a garden, December is the flowering season in Bengal, there were lovely flowers, roses, etc), I sent a request for a working party to clean up the place on a daily basis.
And after two days a Pakistani JCO [Junior Commissioned Officer] came up and reported to me: “The working party has come to clean your house,” he said. After they had finished, I offered them a cup of tea, something we normally do (whenever a working party comes, they are given a cup of tea). Half-way they take a break, are given tea, then they go again to work.
When I offered tea, the JCO was so overwhelmed that a colonel could offer a cup of tea to a prisoner of war, he came to me with tears in his eyes and said: “Sir, we would never have lost, if we had been with us, leading us, if army officers like you, like the Indian army officers had led us. Our officers were corrupt; they were indulging in making money, in womanizing. We would never have lost the battle with officers like you.”

Friday, November 24, 2023

As Tibet becomes Xizang, Delhi faces a new concern

Tibet No More
My article As Tibet becomes Xizang, Delhi faces a new concern appeared in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle.

Here is the link...

US President Joe Biden greets China's President President Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, California, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference. (AP)

The long-awaited meeting between the two most powerful leaders of the planet finally took place at a farmhouse on the outskirts of San Francisco on November 15. During his press conference, US President Joe Biden said that Chinese President Xi Jinping was effectively a "dictator", which seemingly undid whatever good could have come out of the meeting.

When asked whether he still held the view (mentioned in June) that Mr Xi was a dictator, Mr Biden answered: "Look, he is. He’s a dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who runs a country that is a Communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours."

Listening to his boss, US secretary of state Antony Blinken made a telling face: "He has done it again."

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, was not long to respond: "This statement is extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation," he told reporters on Thursday at a routine briefing. But Mr Xi’s speech at the welcome dinner remained uncontroversial: he mentioned the Belt and Road Initiative as well as the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) and proposed that China was "opened to all countries at all times, including the United States. China is also ready to participate in US-proposed multilateral cooperation initiatives."

He remembered his first visit to the United States: "I stayed at the Dvorchaks in Iowa. I still remember their address -- 2911 Bonnie Drive. The days I spent with them are unforgettable. For me, they represent America… Our two peoples are both kind, friendly, hardworking and down to earth."

These are different ways of dealing with seemingly insurmountable differences.

But remember Mahabalipuram? Everyone had praised the Modi-Xi encounter in 2019, and seven months later the People’s Liberation Army entered eastern Ladakh.

Though the California encounter may also end with a new confrontation (in Taiwan or the South China Sea?), one should not forget the hard realities of today’s life in China, particularly in what Beijing calls the "minorities areas", meaning Tibet and Xinjiang.

On November 10, Xinhua reported that the State Council Information Office had just released a white paper on the governance of the Xizang Autonomous Region.

But what is Xizang?

As a true colonial power, Communist China often changes the names of the people, places and even nations. It is the case of Tibet, which is now called "Xizang".

The main objective of the white paper titled "CPC Policies on the Governance of Xizang in the New Era: Approach and Achievements", is to make official the new name for the occupied territory of Tibet. It goes to highlight the CPC’s guidelines for governing Tibet, showing that Beijing has brought about "all-round progress and historic success in various undertakings in the region".

Of course, it praises Emperor Xi: "Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, Xizang [Tibet] has experienced a period of unprecedented development and huge change, bringing more tangible benefits to the people."

It also gives figures: "Xizang’s gross domestic product reached 213.26 billion yuan (about $29.3 billion) in 2022, representing an average annual growth rate of 8.6 per cent since 2012. The length of the region’s railway network had almost doubled during this period and 5G network has covered all counties and main townships there. The region had also eradicated absolute poverty."

Before concluding that "together with the rest of the country, people in Xizang have witnessed the tremendous transformation of the Chinese nation from standing up and becoming prosperous to growing in strength, and are now embarking on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all respects".

The word "Tibet" is never used in the white paper, except as an adjective such as "Tibetan" or in the name of an organisation or institution, such as "Tibet Airlines".

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamsala, strongly rejected the white paper, saying that the document was "unacceptable" and filled with "misinterpretation, misconceptions and lies".

It further pointed out that this 19th white paper on Tibet consistently downplaying the region’s distinct political identity by using "Xizang" or "Xizang Autonomous Region".

The CTA spokesperson, Tenzin Lekshay, called it "an insult to the Tibetan people. …The 32-page document talks about the aspirations of the people, but somehow the Tibetan people are missing, so we wonder what kind of aspirations they are talking about, whose aspirations they are talking about".

Also worrying for Delhi, China made official the term "Xizang" with India’s neighbours by sending visit Wang Junzheng, the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s party secretary, on a five-day visit to Kathmandu and then to Colombo. The "Tibet" delegation (without any Tibetans) was received at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu by Urmila Aryal, the National Assembly Vice-chairperson.

Mr Wang’s visit was to maintain the "good momentum of high-level exchanges between two countries", a communiqué of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs said.

During his stay, Mr Wang met with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal "Prachanda" Dahal: "Since we share a long border with Tibet, during the visit, our officials and the CPC delegation will discuss strengthening the bilateral ties along with implementing the agreements signed during the Prime Minister’s China visit," observed Rupak Sapkota, foreign affairs relations adviser to Mr Dahal.

The "Xizang" representatives also paid courtesy calls on vice-president Ramsahaya Prasad Yadav; later they met deputy prime minister and home minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, minister for federal affairs and general administration Anita Devi Sah as well as Ganesh Prasad Timilsina, the chairman of the National Assembly.

He also visited "joint" projects in Pokhara, though it was clear that the objective of the exercise was to get acceptance for the name for "Xizang".

That is not all. A day later (on November 14), Wang Junzheng was seen in Colombo with Ali Sabry, the Sri Lankan foreign minister, who wrote on his X handle: "Pleased to meet with Wang Junzheng, secretary of the CPC of Xizang Autonomous Regional Committee in #China at the foreign ministry. Amongst other areas, we discussed potential bilateral cooperation @ChinaEmbSL [@MFA_SriLanka."

This means that more nations are now using "Xizang" instead of Tibet.

The moral of the story: Despite Mr Xi’s sweet words about building a community "with a shared future for mankind", ancient nations like Tibet have no place in Beijing’s schemes.

It does not augur well for humanity … or for India which has a long border with Tibet. After all, President Biden had been perhaps right about the Chinese "dictator".

Monday, November 6, 2023

Claude Arpi | To integrate border areas, devise a new philosophy

My article To integrate border areas, devise a new philosophy appeared in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau had once said: "Nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man."
Jawaharlal Nehru too was a romantic; he wrote thus about the inhabitants of the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA): "I am not at all sure which is the better way of living, the tribal or our own. In some respects, I am quite certain theirs is better… There is no point in trying to make of them a second-rate copy of ourselves."
Though constitutionally a part of Assam, in the 1950s the NEFA was administered by the ministry of external affairs, with the governor of Assam, seconded by a senior officer (often from the ICS), designated as an adviser to the governor.
In 1955, Dr Verrier Elwin, the famous British anthropologist who had just taken Indian citizenship, joined as adviser for tribal affairs. Verrier’s concept of the development of these areas was expounded in his celebrated book, The Philosophy of NEFA, which became a sort of "bible" for all the officers serving in the NEFA.
Near 70 years later, one realises that this romantic view of the border areas amounted to the segregation of a large chunk of the Indian population. Verrier Elwin and Nehru only looked at the anthropological side of the problem, forgetting the strategic as well the economic aspects of border development; it resulted in a huge development gap between the frontier areas and the rest of India.
All factors, including military, need to be taken into consideration to arrive at a holistic "philosophy".
However, the first Prime Minister took an excellent initiative: he created a separate cadre for India’s frontier areas, namely NEFA, Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan: "These primitive people especially have to be dealt with care and friendliness and require expert knowledge which our average administrator does not possess. Hence the necessity for a specially trained cadre."
It was the Indian Frontier Administrative Service (IFAS). This was shut down in the 1960s.
Today India is changing fast, particularly the border areas. One could say that the New Philosophy of the Northeast (this is also valid for Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh or Ladakh) is at present being rewritten and this time it should not to segregate the border populations but to integrate them into India.
Take the example of the Chumig Gyatse Holy Waterfalls in the Yangtse sub-sector of Tawang. This is one the most sacred places in Arunachal Pradesh, blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, the great yogi and tantric master who lived in the 8th century AD; it has now been opened to visitors.
The Great Guru extensively visited the border areas and his legacy can still be found in many places (for example, the Taktsang monastery near Tawang, Rewalsar in Himachal Pradesh or Gurudongmar in Sikkim).
On the exact spot where the Guru is said to have created 108 waterfalls, the Yangtse clash took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the night of December 9, 2022.
Several other border areas are now being opened to visitors.
An article in a national newspaper mentions: "The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has decided that tourists, mountaineers, and trekkers will no longer need an Inner Line Permit to visit Milam Glacier [located at 18,000 feet]. The Inner Line Permit has been one of the most mandatory requirements for decades now. It is one of the most famous places for adventure enthusiasts in the Kumaon Himalayas [of Uttarakhand]."
The article explains: "The Inner Line Permit requirement had many adverse effects on the tourism sector." But it goes beyond that: these areas are within Indian territory and there is no reason why permission should not be required to visit them. The "susceptibility" of the northern neighbour should not be New Delhi’s concern.
Interestingly, one newspaper had reported in 2015: "As villages along the international border in Uttarakhand face out-migration on an unprecedented scale, uninhabited areas lie open to territorial claims by the Chinese."
The reporter had studied the case of Niti, the last Indian village, located 26 km south from the Niti Pass which demarcates the border between Tibet and India, 88 km from Joshimath. For centuries, the village saw traders, pilgrims and officials freely moving between the two countries and the area flourished. Unfortunately, all this stopped in 1962.
In 2015, only 35 families remained in the village, while a few decades ago there were 250. After the trade with Tibet (today China) stopped, the area is virtually closed to outsiders and slowly it became a "ghost" region, with most young people moving to the plains in search of education or a better life.
Hopefully, the "philosophy" is changing fast and the village can now develop with eco-tourism.
In Ladakh too, the UT administration along with the Indian Army and the ITBP are making all-out efforts to change the trend to stop the out-migration. For example, on July 15 and 16, a Nomadic Festival 2023 took place not far from the Line of Actual Control in Hanle, famous for its observatory and white cranes. It was open to any visitor who could witness cultural troupes from different villages in Changthang presenting dance, songs and traditional sports: "The main focus of the festival was to present a kaleidoscopic view of the nomadic lifestyle and traditions of the people of the region… Nomadic communities in Ladakh lead a challenging but self-sufficient lifestyle, adapting to the harsh climatic conditions and high altitudes. They have a deep connection with nature and maintain a strong sense of community and cultural identity," said a release.
A couple of months later, Umling-la, the world’s highest motorable road at 19,024 feet, entered a Guinness World Record by hosting the World’s Highest International Fashion Runway, under the Vibrant Ladakh Festival.
All this is good for the local population as well as the defence forces: a populated border is a stronger border.
But the real factor that the Government of India, the UT administration and other stakeholders should not forget to keep in prime focus is the environment. Nobody wants to see another Joshimath or Chunthang (Sikkim), where a number of people lost their lives due to man-made disasters.
And perhaps the government should also think of re-creating an IFAS cadre, with motivated and dedicated officers ready to serve at the remote borders of India.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Why New Delhi should worry about instability in China's PLA ranks

My article Why New Delhi should worry about instability in China's PLA ranks appeared in Firstpost.

New commanders may be inclined to please the Emperor in order to consolidate their position in the hierarchy and therefore take a more belligerent stance towards Taiwan and India 

Here is the link...

The planet is in turmoil. As if the Ukraine war was not enough, a new conflict has erupted in the Middle East.
The Russo-Ukrainian War had started in February 2014 soon after Ukraine's Orange Revolution, when Russia annexed Crimea. But it is only in February 2022 that Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, aiming at occupying most of the country. Since then the conflict has taken a disastrous turn with more than of a lakh casualties on each side.
Chaos is also visible in the Middle Kingdom where the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers have both ‘disappeared’ since weeks. This is certainly not a sign of stability for a country which dreams of overtaking the United States in the years to come.
Havoc also in Afghanistan, where multiple earthquakes struck northwest of the city of Herat killing more than 4,000 people, leveling thousands of homes; the earthquake was said to be of magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale.
And now a new conflict has erupted in the Middle East; in a column in The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman spoke of “Israel’s Worst Day at War”: “This is not your usual Hamas-Israel dust-up. The Gaza-Israel border is only 37 miles long, but the shock waves this war will unleash will not only thrust Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza into turmoil but will also slam into Ukraine and Saudi Arabia and most likely Iran. Why?”
Friedman answers: “Any prolonged Israel-Hamas war could divert more US military equipment needed by Kyiv to Tel Aviv, and it will make the proposed Saudi-Israeli normalization deal impossible — for now. And if it turns out that Iran encouraged the Hamas attack to scuttle that Israeli-Saudi deal, it could raise tensions between Israel and Iran and Tehran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and also between Saudi Arabia and Iran.” He concludes: “This is an incredibly dangerous moment on multiple fronts.”
Some reports on the social media speak of 6,000 bombs dropped in Gaza in the first six days of the conflict (during the air campaign against ISIS between 2014 and 2019, the US-led coalition dropped 2,000-5,000 munitions per month across all of Iraq and Syria).
According to a release of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), as on October 12: “Dozens of fighter jets and helicopters attacked a series of terrorist targets of the Hamas terrorist organization throughout the Gaza Strip. So far, the IAF has dropped about 6,000 bombs against Hamas targets.”
Incidentally, a story was going around: “The so called Five Eyes Intelligence knew about Nijjar's killers; why did it not have knowledge of the 5,000 Hamas rockets and hundreds of terrorists preparing to attack Israel?”
It is something for Mr Trudeau and his allies to answer or at least to ponder about.
For Delhi, an important question to look at is: will China benefit of the new war and how will it affect India?
There is no doubt that with the intensification of the conflict, the United States, China’s main adversary, will be bogged down on two fronts. This will undoubtedly weaken Washington (and its allies).
According to The Global Times, China’s (new and old) Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized Israel after its counterattack in Gaza against Hamas. Wang blamed the rapidly worsening conflict in the Middle East on a lack of justice for the Palestinian people: “The crux of the issue lies in the fact that justice has not been done to the Palestinian people," Beijing's top diplomat said in a phone call with Brazil's Celso Amorim, a special adviser to Brazilian President Lula da Silva.
Reuters says the comment by Wang appeared “to mark a hardening of its stance amid heavy Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and talk of a possible ground operation to dislodge Hamas, which controls the strip. Earlier this year, China positioned itself as a potential mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, as it seeks to become a more influential player in the region.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin used the same argument: "the Palestinian-Israeli conflict keeps repeating for a fundamental reason: The Middle East peace process has been off the right track, the foundation of the two-state solution has been continuously eroded, and relevant U.N. resolutions are not followed through in good faith."
In view of its pro-Palestinian stand, Beijing will probably be unable to mediate in the conflict, but China will certainly benefit from the engagement of the United States on two fronts at the same time.
In these circumstances, some observers believe that it would be the ideal time for Beijing to occupy Taiwan.
This raises several questions: first, is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) militarily ready? The next question is: can China open another front (in the Himalaya for example) against India to divert the world’s attention from its much larger objective on Taiwan.
China’s problem is that today India is ready to defend its territory and it will not be surprised like in May 2020 when the PLA entered several places in Ladakh.
On October 9 & 10, the 20th round of India-China Corps Commander Level meeting was held at Chushul-Moldo border point.
A release of the Ministry of External Affairs says: “The two sides exchanged views in a frank, open and constructive manner for an early and mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector, in accordance with the guidance provided by the national leadership of the two countries, and building on the progress made in the last round of Corps Commanders' Meeting held on 13-14 August 2023.”
It was agreed to maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations and both sides said that they were committed “to maintain peace and tranquility on the ground in the border areas in the interim.”
But China keeps putting the blame on Delhi …for wanting to occupy its own territory.
Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told The Global Times, “the biggest obstacle in making a breakthrough in corps commander level meetings lies in India's objective, which is not simply reaching disengagement of troops from friction points, but to use the talks to compel China to withdraw and allow India to carry out patrols and occupy Chinese territories in certain areas.”
Liu accuses the US to cozying up to India, “siding with New Delhi in the border dispute, granting it higher status and more flexibility on major global issues, to serve its Indo-Pacific Strategy to contain China.”
Long Xingchun, a professor at the School of International Relations at Sichuan International Studies University, even argues "China will not make major concessions to India on border disputes, particularly on territorial issues, due to concerns over India's strategic drift toward the US."
Now, what could happen?
On the western front (Ladakh), China can’t do much while the talks are on and India has massively posted troops on a LAC, which is still ill-defined. The status-quo, particularly in Depsang and Demchok should presently suffice for Beijing.
In the Central Sector (where maps were exchanged in 2000), it is difficult to envisage an advance in the Barahoti sector during the winter though Delhi should be aware of China’s new aggressiveness; ditto in Northern Sikkim were the PLA could hardly advance a few hundred meters in the Naku-la or Chorten Nyima sectors, but Chinese surprise incursions can’t be overlooked.
Trickier is the Eastern Sector, where China could try its luck in places like Asaphila, Dipu-la or in the Fish Tails area. But here too the Indian Army seems to be aware of the danger. Let us not forget that the PLA was repelled last December in the Yangtse sector, a few hours after it tried to occupy some ridges south of the LAC.
What should worry Delhi is the instability in the PLA ranks.
According to Chinese social media, several personnel changes will take place in the weeks to come. It includes Liu Zhenli, a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) taking over as defense minister to replace Li Shangfu, who has ‘disappeared’
The Commander of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) Gen Chang Dingqiu may take over as director of the CMC Joint Staff Department (JSD), while the position of PLAAF commander may be filled by Lt Gen Jing Jianfeng.
Further, Wang Xiubin, commander of the Southern Theater Command is slated to become commander of the Strategic Support Force (SSF) while Lt Gen Hu Zhongqiang, the deputy commander, will likely succeed him as the commander of the Southern Theater Command.
This does not include several important changes in the offing in the Western Theater Command facing India.
All these new commanders may be inclined to please the Emperor in order to consolidate their position in the hierarchy and therefore take a more belligerent stance from the PLA vis-a-vis Taiwan and India.
Turmoil is undoubtedly here to stay for some time and in these circumstances, Delhi should not be caught napping like in May 2020.

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Unsung Heroes of the 1962 War

My article The Unsung Heroes of the 1962 War appeared in

Here is the link...

The Chinese admitted that they had suffered the maximum casualties fighting in the first battle on October 20, 1962, and these casualties had been inflicted mostly by 2 Rajput.
Claude Arpi salutes Major B K Pant and his fighting force of 112 men, 82 of whom lost their lives in the Battle of Namkha Chu, and whose courage must never ever be forgotten by a grateful country for who they laid down their lives.

For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China is one of the most traumatic post-Independence Indian events; for those who fought, for their families and for the Indian Army in general, the experience was extremely harrowing.
Contemporary China likes to speak of what they call their 1962 'counter-attack' in the North-East Frontier Agency and Ladakh, but uses it for different purpose: to project its present strength and threaten India, forgetting that India of 2022 is not the India of the 1950s or 1960s.
When today the Chinese military leadership speaks of a 'repeat of 1962' (If India would not behave), it seems to overlook the many battles where hundreds of Chinese PLA troops were killed by heroic Indian soldiers.
The Forgotten Heroes
Unfortunately, some of the heroes of 1962 have been neglected by history.
Though the official history of the war published by the ministry of defence records the prowess of several units, many individuals are not mentioned.
Take the 2 Rajput, for example, the official history says: 'Of the units deployed on the Namkha Chu [river], the Rajputs suffered the most. They were preparing for the morning 'stand to' routine practice in adopting defensive positions in battle order when they were caught between the frontal fire of the Chinese guns and the main attack from the rear.
'Their companies were widely dispersed and each fought its own battle, taking on wave after wave of the enemy as long as men remained standing. In many cases, entire platoons were wiped out.'
It is a fact the nearly all the company commanders were killed except the wounded Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel M S Rikh and the battalion's second-in-command, Major Gurdial Singh (who was eventually awarded a Mahavir Chakra); both were taken to Tibet; the former's role is hardly acknowledged today.

The Tale of Major BK Pant
One of the officers of the 2 Rajput who has not sufficiently been mentioned in the history of the battle of Namkha Chu is Major B K Pant.
In his memoirs (The Himalayan Blunder) Brigadier John Parshuram Dalvi, the commander of the ill-fated 7th Infantry Brigade ,called the young major's leadership and indomitable courage, a true epic: 'When the Chinese shelling commenced, Pant went round the locality bracing the men for the inevitable assault.
'He told the men that this was the day in which they would write a new chapter in the history of the battalion; and the time had come to show the Chinese the qualities which had made the name Rajput synonymous with courage and tenacity.'
Why this bravery was not recorded in the Official History is a mystery.
Brigadier Dalvi explained that Major Pant was wounded in the leg but continued to insist on exposing himself during the shelling 'to reassure his men who had never experienced artillery fire.'
The company held strong against three waves of Chinese attacks and suffered heavy casualties.
Soon, Major Pant was wounded in the stomach and both legs.
Realising that the major was responsible for their heavy casualties, the Chinese brought heavy machine-gun fire to neutralise him before launching their fourth attack; by then Major Pant's body was riddled with bullets.
Brigadier Dalvi writes that despite his agony the brave major continued to inspire his men who seeing 'the indomitable will of this man, rose to super-human heights and broke the fourth attack. Pant losing blood rapidly, was nearing his end but would not cry enough.
'He shouted to the men that Rajputs never give up and never die. His last stirring clarion call was to remind his jawans to fulfill their destiny and historical role as members of the martial clan from whom descend all other fighting men in India.'
Major Pant's last words were: 'Men of the Rajput Regiment, you were born but to die for your country. God has selected this small river for which you must die. Stand up and fight as true Rajputs.'
Brigadier Dalvi noted: 'The Chinese later admitted to one of our senior prisoners-of-war that they had suffered the maximum casualties of the NEFA fighting in the first battle -- and these casualties had been inflicted mostly by 2 Rajput.'
Major Pant's force of 112 men had 82 killed and wounded.
After retirement, Brigadier M S Rikh, the former commanding officer of the 2 Rajput, asserted: 'Where officers lead men will always follow. It is easy to command, but it is a different matter to lead. A leader has to show the way. A commander directs as to what is to be done.
'Doing and directing are two different things. In an infantry battalion there can only be leaders and no directors.
'It has been my privilege to have commanded 2 RAJPUT at a time when the unit had to carry out the most difficult task in its whole history.'
Brigadier Rikh admitted that 'the battalion did more than even I expected it to do. For no man can do more than give his life for a cause, however impossible the task may be.'
He recalled his experience while being interrogated by the Chinese interpreters in the PoW camp: 'They asked me on several occasions what were the characteristics of the Rajput Battalion as different from that of other troops in the Indian Army. I enquired of them the reason why they were asking me these questions.
'They finally told me that it was in the first battle on 20 Oct 1962, that the Chinese army had suffered the maximum casualties of all the fighting in NEFA.
'These casualties had been inflicted on them by the Battalion. I felt proud to have commanded such a unit.'
The former CO concluded: 'We must ensure that at a future date when the time to defend our country again comes, we are not found lacking.'
He then told young officers: 'Yours is the responsibility, lead the way with courage and perseverance, the men will not be far behind.'

Another Testimony
Major General (then a lieutenant colonel) K K Tewari, the commander of the 4 Infantry Division's Signals Regiment who spent seven months in Tibet with Lieutenant Colonel M S Rikh, also witnessed Major Pant's prowess.
General Tewari wrote: 'Major Pant had really inspired his men and they had killed a number of Chinese. We were told by many of our men in the PoW camp later that even after Pant was killed and his position overrun, the Chinese kept bayoneting his dead body repeatedly.
'They were perhaps angry because of the large number of casualties which Pant and his men inflicted on them.
'Otherwise, who would expect a regular army soldier to go on bayoneting a dead body in battle! This was also confirmed by a Chinese officer when we were in the PoW camp.'
General Tewari regretted: 'Major Pant should certainly have been honoured and given a high gallantry award posthumously. But such was the state of wrong in the Indian Army hierarchy at the time, that not only did he go unrecognised but others who had run away the quickest with least regard for their command responsibilities, were given gallantry awards.'

But it is not the end of the story
Though in December 1962, the Indian civil administration returned to Bomdila from where the administration progressively restarted functioning, it is only in 1986 that the Assam Regiment of the Indian Army went permanently in the forward areas after 1962.
In some places, the army found a large quantity of bodies.
The Assam Regiment was tasked to record in detail the names, locations, position of the bodies, etc of each jawan that they found.
They did this and even prepared maps of the locations.
On the mountain heights, the bodies were well preserved, but on the Namkha Chu only skeletons were found.
Unfortunately, the Assam Regiment was not allowed to bring back the bodies and later they were tasked to destroy all the records of what they found; orders had come 'from above' not to keep anything, says an officer who witnessed the incident; Delhi was probably too nervous of a Chinese reaction (the official argument was that it would disturb the families of the dead Indian jawans).
Incidentally, in 1986, the General Officer Commanding the 5 Division (responsible for the area) was Major General J M 'Jimmy' Singh, also from 2 Rajput. Unfortunately, he could not convince Delhi.
It has to be noted that no Indian officer's body was found.
What happened to the remains of the Indian officers killed on the Namkha Chu and other areas is still a mystery.
One can only assume that they were taken to Tibet and buried there.
Sixty years after these tragic events, the Chinese should be asked to clarify this, even though they probably prefer to forget some of the aspects of the Namkha Chu battle.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Revisiting 1962

The Namkha chu which witnessed the first battle in October 1962
A recent visit in the forward areas of the Tawang sector opened my eyes wider. Though I have been studying different aspects of the 1962 border war with China for years, it is only by seeing the terrain of the tragic confrontation which turned into a debacle for the 7th Brigade of Brigadier John P. Dalvi, that one can realize the utter incompetence of some of the ‘political’ generals who conducted the battle of the Namkha chu on behalf of the senior leadership in Delhi.
Two conclusions came immediately to mind: first, the disaster wass entirely of the Indian political leadership’s making, particularly from Prime Minister Nehru and a small clique of sycophants around him (such as VK Krishna Menon, BN Mallik, Gen PN Thapar or Lt Gen BM Kaul).
Seeing the scene of the battle, makes you understand that a similar defeat can’t happen anymore. I shall further elaborate on this later.

Escaped Unpunished
What is flabbergasting is that the ‘culprits’ of 1962 never bore any consequences. In his Himalayan Blunder, Brig Dalvi wrote: “General Pran Nath Thapar resigned on ‘grounds of health’ - the hackneyed euphemism for what the British call ‘the bowler hat’. He was rewarded with the Ambassadorship to Afghanistan. Lt Gen BM Kaul, the Commander of the ill-conceived and ill-fated IV Corps, was compelled to seek premature retirement - a bitter pill for Mr. Nehru to swallow - as Kaul was widely believed to have been his protégé and military confidant.”

The Forward Policy
One often speaks of the Forward Policy decided by the government in 1961, as being the trigger for the war; according to Dalvi, during a meeting in the autumn of 1961: “at which Mr. Menon, General Thapar and General Kaul were present. Studying a map showing recent Chinese incursions, Mr. Nehru is reported to have said that whoever succeeded in establishing a post would establish a claim to that territory, as possession was nine-tenths of the law. He then asked if the Chinese could set up posts why couldn't we?”
Gen Kaul later claimed that “(Nehru) was told that owing to numerical and logistical difficulties, we could not keep up in this race with the Chinese. …China with her superior military resources could - operationally make the position of our small posts untenable.”
But wisdom did not prevail.
Seeing the narrowness of the gorge between the Hathungla and the Thagla ridges and the small nallah (the Namkha chu) running between the two giant massifs even a child would understand that the Himalayan stream was not the best defensive place (or even offensive). But Delhi stuck to its guns: “Chinese have to be evicted.”
In his Himalayan Blunder, Brig Dalvi recalled: “My appreciation of September 1962 is a pivotal document. It is capable of various interpretations by different people. Gen Kaul has used copious extracts to weave a claim of reprieval for his impatience and haste between 5th and 10th October (1962). He has manipulated passages to insinuate that he was on occasion a helpless spectator of events …and that he was compelled to implement the defective plans devised at the tactical level.”
The politicians (including the ‘politician’ generals) are masters are justifying their foolishness and blunders, Dalvi recalled: “(Kaul) has muted his role in moving 7th Brigade to the Namka Chu. …He omits the antecedents of the Appreciation and how it came into being, but quotes excerpts to achieve his ends. He has attributed some parts to Gen Umrao [33 Corps Commander] and others to the Brigade Commander.”
Kaul later justified his decision for accepting to be associated with what he called the Government's final desperate gamble: “I was thus expected to perform a miracle and begin operations immediately. I could hardly start bickering (sic) about the obvious handicaps at a time when India found herself in a precarious situation and therefore decided to cross my fingers, make the best of my lean resources (one brigade) and face the situation as best I could.”
The truth was that to force the 7th Brigade to set up posts near the nallah and hope to defend India’s position from there, was criminal.

Tree planted by the Dalai Lama as he arrived in India
on March 31, 1959
Chinese Tactics
Kaul and his patrons in Delhi did not know anything about the Chinese tactics.
The Chinese author Jianglin Li, who has masterfully recorded the movement of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, wrote: “By analyzing many memoirs, autobiographies and biographies, openly published, classified or semi-classified, I found out that the 12 large scale battles fought in central Tibet from March 1959 to early 1962 were in fact conducted as a thoroughly organised military training, beyond the actual requirements of a counter-insurgency operation …commanders were testing the battle strategies best suited to the terrain.”
She cited battles which were clearly fought to gain “experience of fighting with the large unit encircling tactic and carrying out policies in pastoral regions. …It has been proved by many experiences that carrying out encirclement is the most effective method to wipe out large numbers of rebel bandits.” Encirclement was extensively used by the PLA during the border war with India, but Kaul had never heard of this and insisted on climbing the Thagla ridge from the narrow nallah (using log bridges).

Flying Orders
Beginning of October 1962, orders were flying over the ridges, “have all the troops of 7 Brigade moved to Tsangdhar?” asked Kaul. Tsangdhar was a high altitude plateau used as a dropping zone.
When the officer answered, "Not yet, Sir", Kaul demanded: "Why not? It was my definite order that the troops must be in position by the evening of 7th October [1962].”
The newly-appointed Corps Commander then threatened: "How dare you disobey my orders, you are the Brigade Major. I have given an assurance to the Prime Minister that I will carry out the operation.”
In these conditions, it was difficult for Brig Dalvi to ‘disobey’ and realign his forces to better strategic positions, for example on the top of the Hathungla.

Why things are different today
The debacle of 1962 will not be repeated for several reasons.
Today, a brigade commander can take an immediate ‘strategic’ decision on the spot; as the chain of command is clear and respected, the brigade commander first refers to his Division commander who in turn will consult the Corps and Army commanders. Eventually final orders will have to come from the Army HQ in Delhi and the Ministry of Defence.
Today, there is no question of being ‘friends’ with the Prime Minster.
Further, India has tremendously invested in the infrastructure (though the Chinese side has an easier access to the LAC). Having visited the area for the first time in 1996, I have witnessed the unbelievable changes; in a couple of months time, the tunnel below Sela pass will be opened, shortening the journey between Assam and Tawang by one hour.
Another factor is that the Air Force (IAF) will be used; it was recently reported in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, that the Indian Air Force airlifted more than 68,000 army soldiers and a variety of military equipment to Eastern Ladakh along the LAC); PTI commented: “This swift deployment was facilitated by a combination of strategic airlift capabilities and increased surveillance measures.”
Would China adventure to cross the LAC, it would have to deal not only with the Indian Army but with the IAF too.
A visit to the historic spots of the 1962 tragic events convinces you that China cannot advance even a few meters without being inflicted heavy casualties. Is Xi Jinping ready for this? Certainly not.
After all what did the Emperor gain in Eastern Ladakh?
Did the Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road get blocked or stopped? The answer is ‘no’.
Did China gain strategic advantages in Galwan or Pangong tso areas? No.
Did Beijing manage to intimidate India with their Information Warfare? No.
Did the Ladakh ‘adventure’ bring any economic gain to China? The answer is again ‘no’.
Did the operations of May 2020 enhance the prestige Chairman Xi or the PLA? Not in India at least.
The above explains that it is today difficult for Beijing to walk out of the imbroglio and return to prior to the beginning of the confrontation.
Perhaps the Chinese leadership did not expect that the Indian Army would conduct negotiations; Indian soldiers know the value of even a few meters on this range or that ridge.
In conclusion, a look at the terrain and at today’s defence preparedness as well as the change of mindset makes you confident that 1962 debacle cannot and will not be repeated. The incident in the Yangtse sector in December 2022 is another proof of this.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Holy Waterfalls and the Great Guru

My article The Holy Waterfalls and the Great Guru appeared in

Here is the link...

It is on the exact spot where the Guru is said to have created 108 waterfalls, that the Yangtse clash took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA on the night of December 9, 2022.
As it had done in Ladakh in May 2020, the PLA tried to change the unmarked LAC in the Yangtse sector in Arunachal Pradesh.
It was the most serious border incident since the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, notes Claude Arpi.

The Chumig Gyatse Holy Waterfalls are truly special and worth a visit, if you have the occasion (or the good karma) and this for several reasons.
First, this very sacred place in Arunachal Pradesh has been blessed by Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche by the Tibetans), the great yogi and tantric master who lived in the 8th century AD.
Padmasambhava (‘Born from a Lotus’) was a tantric Vajra practitioner from Oddiyana (or Swat, in today’s Pakistan) who played a crucial role in the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet.
After King Trisong Detsen invited Shantarakshita, the Nalanda Abbot to Tibet to teach Buddhism, the latter faced a lot of difficulties from the old shamanic faith. The King had to send him back to Nepal to fetch Padmasambhava in order to tame the local spirits and covert the Tibetans with his magical and ritual powers.
Padmasambhava practiced various forms of tantric Buddhist yoga and thanks to his great occult siddhis, the Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, could be constructed.
The Great Guru extensively visited the border areas and his legacy can still be found not only in Nepal and Bhutan (for example Taktsang monastery in Paro), but on the Indian side too (Rewalsar in Himachal Pradesh or Gurudongmar in Sikkim, etc.).

The 2022 Yangtse Clash

It is on the exact spot where the Guru is said to have created 108 waterfalls, that the Yangtse clash took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the night of December 9, 2022.
As it had done in Ladakh in May 2020, the PLA tried to change the unmarked Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Yangtse sector, northeast of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
According to the Indian media, violent clashes took place between the two armies which confronted each other with nail-studded clubs and other melee weapons on a ridgeline above the waterfalls. It was the most serious border incident along the boundary since the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020.
After receiving timely reinforcements, the Indian troops were able to send back the Chinese PLA to their side of the LAC, though six Indian soldiers who with severe injuries had to be flown to Guwahati for medical treatment. As usual, the casualties on the Chinese side were not disclosed.
Interestingly, Yangtse was one of three main ‘disputed’ areas in 1960 when the Indian and Chinese officials held several months of talks to try to sort out the boundary issue (the other places were Khenzimane/Sumdorong chu sector in the west and Longju sector in today’s Upper Subansiri district).

A Tourist Spot
The good news is that the area has recently been opened to Indian tourists.
To reach the place is a pilgrimage in itself; it takes some 4 hours drive from Tawang. One first moves in the direction of Bumla, the pass where senior Indian and Chinese officers regularly meet to sort out their differences of ‘perceptions’, it is known as Border Meeting Point or BPM.
Just 6 km before Bumla, one takes an eastward turn towards Nagu-la Lake: “One of the most picturesque places to visit in Tawang. …with some alluring reflections of the mountain waters in its serene waters, Nagula Lake is a captivating tourist attraction in Tawang,” says a tourist site.
The scenery around the lake and the pass (at an altitude of 4,200 meters) leaves you spellbound. Of course, one encounters a heavy military presence, due to the proximity of the border and the constant Chinese belligerence.
Then after one more hour drive on the high plateau one reaches a grazing ground for a large number of healthy yaks and often wild horses; the only vegetation is rhododendrons.
Later, moving down, one returns to a thickly forested area with extremely old and tall pine trees. The sight of the sharp gorges further down is rather scary. It takes one more hour of driving in this stunning paradise-like landscape before reaching the Tsona chu (river) gushing down from Tibet a few kilometers upstream.
Everywhere on the road, one crosses groups of local ladies working for the Border Road Organisation (BRO) to improve the road. In this very difficult terrain, the BRO’s work is really commendable.
After a few hundred meters walk, the great falls dropping from the cliffs like fairy hair suddenly appear; a signboard says “Enjoy the Magical, Mystical & Magnificent falls.”
Though the fighting took place on the ridge above the falls, it is in this idyllic surrounding that the clash took place in December 2022. 

Chumig Gyatse
It is truly is a magical place; as in most of the places associated with Guru Padmasambhava, one can feel the presence of the great master around.
A small Chumig Gyatse monastery, below the falls, was inaugurated by the young Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu on July 20, 2020 (note that it was a month before the Galwan incident in Ladakh). Khandu had then to walk for an hour or so before reaching the holy place.
Below the falls, a board said: “The temple is a symbol of spirituality. The magnificent falls adds to the beauty of the temple and makes it one of the most picturesque and mystic sights on earth.”
The same board describes various beliefs about the origin of Holy Waterfalls (also known as HWF by the Indian Army). According to the most popular religious belief: “during 8th century an epidemic struck the villages of this area and all villagers came to Guru Padmasambhava in the hope for relief. Guru Padmasambhava mediated and did penance in the area; in order to make the villagers free from the epidemic, [he] took out his rosary beads garland & threw the 108 beads on the mountain. Wherever the beads fell, a stream of water originated and thus Holy waterfalls came into existence. It is believed that the water here has magical medicinal values.”
It is said that Guru Rinpoche spent five days near the falls before moving to another retreat.
The board near the small gompa which houses a statue of Guru Rinpoche (and where a resident Lama reads the scriptures) informs us: “The Holy water is believed to have medicinal and healing properties and anyone consuming it with faith & devotion gets healed from all his ailments. Also childless couples if consumes holy water with credence, then blessings of Guru Padmasambhava are showered upon them and they are blessed with children. …Chumig Gyatse is a sight to behold.”

Chumig Gyatse and the LAC
The Chumig Gyatse falls lie some 250 meters from the LAC; it is today the main landmark in the Yangtse sector where the two prominent ridges, namely the Bumla ridge to its southwest and the Tulung-la ridgeline to its northeast, meet. The McMahon line at Yangtse is said to be coterminous with the two ridgelines.
It is only after the Chinese tried to occupy the Wangdung pasture in the Sumdorung chu area in 1986 that Indian troops moved troops to the ridge above the falls and occupied the area.

Open for Tourism
It is a great move from the Government of Arunachal Pradesh and the Ministry of Defence to have decided to allow tourists to visit the sacred place. Isn’t it the best proof that the area belongs to India despite the repeated Chinese claims?
Last year only, 6,000 Indian pilgrims/visitors had the darshan of the falls. Probably a similar number will visit this year.
A Tibetan friend told me that by throwing his mala, Guru Rinpoche certainly knew that one day the area would be disputed; he marked the place with the beads of his mala.
A news item reported by Radio Free Asia (RFA) came back to mind: a three-storyed high statue of Guru Padmasambhava was destroyed at the Chanang Monastery in Drago county of the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Tibet. According to sources living in exile and satellite imagery, it was razed in late January 2022.
Satellite imagery of the Chanang Monastery taken October 3, 2019, shows the statue of the Guru on the site, but on another shot taken February 25, 2022, one can see the destruction of the statue indicated by the circular mounts on the ground: “Though there has been no explanation of the reasons for its destruction, it falls in line with the Chinese government’s policy of demolishing Tibetan religious sites in the region,” a Tibetan told RFA.
It is really a grace that the falls are on the Indian side of the LAC; had they been 500 meters north, Guru Padmasambhava would never have been even mentioned, let alone worshipped.
Further, many believe that the Tantric Master still offers protection to the Indian soldiers, who guard this remote scenic spot.

The Gompa

The Holy Waterfalls and Tibet in the background

The Gompa

Guru Padmasambhava looking after the place

Yaks on the route

En route

The Ridge marking the LAC

Tsona chu flowing from Tibet