Monday, January 29, 2024

China is preparing for ‘history warfare’ that India must counter

My article China is preparing for ‘history warfare’ that India must counter appeared in Firstpost

Through 'history warfare', Communist China will try to prove that it has always occupied the Tibetan plateau and that the border areas (whether Tibet or Xinjiang) have always been under Chinese possession 

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Recently, news circulated that after the Galwan incident which claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers and some 40 Chinese soldiers in June 2020, new clashes would have taken place between India and China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This probably explains why External Affairs Minister, Dr S. Jaishankar often mentions that the relations between the two Asian giants are ‘not normal’.
Clashes would have taken at least twice on the LAC during the past three years, China would have attempted to violently attack some Indian Army checkpoints (probably not in Ladakh) between September 2021 and November 2022.
General Manoj Pande, the Chief of Army Staff, himself stated that the situation on the border with China was ‘stable, yet sensitive’.
While these incidents need to be taken seriously (and they are, by the Indian Army), they show the limits of the Chinese ability to militarily create mischief on the northern border.

Opening New Fronts
In this context, there is no doubt that Xi Jinping’s regime will try to open new fronts, perhaps not so visible, but which could lead to serious consequences if India is caught napping.
One of these is what could be called ‘History Warfare’, through which Communist China will try to prove that it has always occupied the Tibetan plateau and that the borders areas (whether Tibet or Xinjiang) have always been under Chinese possession.
Earlier this month, The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party asserted: “Half-decade-long frontier archaeology yields major discoveries, reveals diverse yet united Chinese civilization.”
The article says that in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, nearly 80 archaeological projects were taken up between 2019 and 2023.
Why is Chinese control suddenly projected far from the historical frontiers of the Middle Kingdom (represented by the Great Wall of China); the answer is clear, all these areas are part of China since immemorial times: “archaeological projects in Xinjiang, along with other discoveries made in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, and other parts of the country, have contributed greatly to the enrichment of the current research landscape of China's frontier archaeology.”
A new term has come into being ‘frontier archaeology’; in fact a China Frontier Archaeology Symposium was recently held in Beijing; its declared objective was “to facilitate discussions about future topics in Chinese archaeology.”

Ethnic cultural diversity
The Symposium looked into questions such as ‘ethnic cultural diversity’ or ‘ancient Silk Road cultural exchanges’. A ‘frontier’ archaeologist, Chen Hurong told The Global Times that this reflects “the unique value of frontier archaeology. …Compared with many inland archaeological projects, frontier histories can often vividly depict ancient China's exchanges with other cultures.”
Another Chinese ‘expert’ affirmed that apart from Xinjiang and Xizang autonomous regions, northern China is also the birthplace of many ‘frontier sites’. Note that ‘Xizang’ is the new name for ‘Tibet’, a century-old nation which no longer has a name of its own.
According to Party’s mouthpiece: “Extending the Chinese frontier archaeological landscape to Southwest China's Xizang [Tibet] Autonomous Region, more than 10 research sites have been investigated in the last five years including the Nwya Devu and Sang Kar Gang sites.”
The Nwya Devu (Nyadeu in Tibetan) is an archaeological site located in the eastern Changthang region of Nagchu Prefecture, at the altitude of 4,600 m (15,092 ft) above sea level. It is the highest known archaeological site from the Paleolithic area; it is supposed offer evidence for one of the earliest known presences of humans at high-altitude …around 40,000-30,000 BP (before present era).
The conclusion of the research will undoubtedly be that Tibetans are ‘Chinese’ since 30,000 or more years, and the 1950 invasion was simply a forced ‘return to the motherland’.
Another site has witnessed extensive excavations by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP); called Sang Kar Gang, it is located near Lhasa, the Tibetan capital: “Over 1,000 stone artifacts were unearthed, providing crucial materials for the understanding of the earliest human migration into the central Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, their routes and survival strategies.”
This highly-political research explores “the process of early human adaptation to the plateau is also crucial to gaining a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the formation and evolution of modern populations in Xizang.” Adaption from where? The answer is obviously from China.
Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia are also being excavated to show the extent of the Chinese influence, millennia ago.
To link it with contemporary China, The Global Times is not shy to admit: “Many cross-cultural frontier archaeological projects conducive to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have been launched.“

The Situation on the Indian Side
On the Indian side, not much has been done to confront the History Warfare onslaught.
However, The Times of India recently reported a study claiming that natives of Ladakh clearly share their genetic heritage with India and Tibet, not China: “The research asserts that the three lakh natives of the region are a genetic mix of 60% from India and Western Eurasia and 40% from Tibet.” The conclusions of the research were published in the international magazine ‘Research Reports’ in the US. This is good news.
The research team comprised DNA sequencing experts from Benares Hindu University’s zoology department, led by Prof Gyaneshwar Chaubey, experts in archaeology as well as some Ladakhi scholars, including Padma Shri Dr Tsering Norbu (a retired Ladakhi surgeon), Dr Sonam Splanzin (the first woman Ladakhi archaeologist) and Dr Stanzen.
The team studied 122 samples (98 females and 24 males), all belonging to the Bot tribe, from two places in Central Ladakh.
Prof Chaubey explained: “Ladakh is the highest inhabited region of India and has unique biodiversity. With a population of nearly 3 lakh people, Ladakh is an example of long-term human occupation going back at least to the Paleolithic period.”
It was earlier unknown whether genetic and archaeological diversity in the mountainous region has developed indigenously or resulted from gene flow from distinct geographic regions.
The interesting conclusion of the research is that the genetic component of the samples is completely different from the ancestry of China.

Trans-Himalayan Archeology
Another attempt to explore the past has been conducted by archeologist Vinod Nautiyal and his team; according to them: “The Trans-Himalayan region, which runs parallel to the main Himalayan Range and south of the Tibetan Plateau, has not been explored extensively because of its rough terrain. Early work reported human burials from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir but the most significant evidence comes from Malari in Uttarakhand where a cave burial culture dated c. 200–100 BC has been identified.”
They admit that in contrast “across the Himalayas in Mustang, western Nepal, a large number of multi-storey caves used both for burial and habitat ion between c. 1200 BC and AD 1500 have been excavated.”
They quoted the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh which boasts of only two sites which can provide information on human burial; these burials have been dated speculatively to c. 2500–200 BC: “Neither of these sites, nor the human remains, have been subject to any archaeological or further scientific investigation,” they admit.
It is a fact that not much has so far been written about the migration and the trans-Himalayan relations.
Similarly, the Franco-Indian Archaeological Mission in Ladakh (Mission Archéologique Franco-Indienne au Ladakh, or MAFIL) was created in 2012. It was founded as a joint venture with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Their objective is to show in an irrefutable manner, that Buddhism was present in Ladakh in the last quarter of the first millennium AD and maybe as early as the middle of the first millennium. The only material evidence comes from rare rock inscriptions.
This is important, but it lacks the trans-Himalayan aspect.
More importantly, studies need to be conducted on the ancient kingdom of Zhangzhung; it could document the intense activities and contacts between Northern India, the Tibetan plateau and Central Asia, while these remained minimal with China.
A friend who has done extensive archeology in Spiti, recently wrote to me: “I am looking at mineral resource data for western Tibetan Plateau, as of the 2nd Millennium BCE. I have managed to convince myself that the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) used Ladakh, Zanskar and Spiti as well as Ngari as sources for minerals and other raw resources in the Bronze Age. …Gold, silver, copper, iron, lead and precious stones (eg, sapphires, turquoise, crystals, agate, steatite) would have been traded; but also wool, animal skins, and timber products. The IVC could have exchanged these items with finished metal objects.”
This is worth digging into further to counter China in this new form of warfare.

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