Thursday, May 16, 2024

Xi in Europe: How Chinese President posed as ‘ruler of world’ while Europeans 'begged' a solution for Ukraine

My article Xi in Europe: How Chinese President posed as ‘ruler of world’ while Europeans 'begged' a solution for Ukraine appeared in Firstpost

Here is the link...

Macron probably wanted to impress the French public with his diplomatic skills before the European elections in June. Unfortunately for him, banners and flags were unfurled by Uyghur, Tibetan and Chinese activists on the streets of Paris
Xi in Europe: How Chinese President posed as ‘ruler of world’ while Europeans 'begged' a solution for Ukraine

Observers could see that France was fascinated by China when President Xi Jinping of China paid a three-day visit to France; he was lavishly received by his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron.
What is strange is that at a time when President Vladimir Putin of Russia is considered to be the supreme villain in France (and in Europe in general), Xi is seen as a decent person that France needs to engage with.
But is Xi really different from Putin? Does he treat his minorities better? Have the Chinese people more freedom than the Russians? Certainly not. But Europeans and Westerners in general remain fascinated by China and prefer to bury their faces in the sand about the dark side of the Middle Kingdom.
Let us not forget that it is thanks to China that, for the past two years, Russia has survived all the US and European sanctions.
Putin may not be what one can call a ‘good human being, but unlike India, France has been unable to find a balanced relationship with Russia and China.
What were Macron’s motivations to receive so elaborately Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan (a major general of the People’s Liberation Army) with red carpets all over Paris and even in the snows of the Pyrenees mountains?

France’s Short Memory
In France, as elsewhere, political leadership has a short memory.
Who remembers February 23, 2017, when French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve went to Wuhan to inaugurate a ‘P4’ virology laboratory? That day, Cazeneuve declared, “France is proud and happy to have contributed to the construction of the first high biological security ‘P4’ laboratory in China.”
The French Prime Minister further explained: “This cutting-edge tool is a central element in achieving the 2004 intergovernmental agreement on Franco-Chinese cooperation for the prevention and fight against emerging infectious diseases.”
This investment did not prevent or even foresee the forthcoming disaster, though it showed the level of trust between the two countries.
My point is that, despite having a very privileged relationship with India, Paris would not have trusted New Delhi enough to build a P4 lab in India.
But thankfully, during the following years, relations between New Delhi and Paris have grown in strength and depth.

First Visit to China

During his first state visit to China in 2018, the French President brought with him two key messages.
One was the huge possibility of cooperation between China and Europe and France’s commitment to that effort.
The other is a warning to not underestimate growing concern and frustration in Europe and elsewhere with what many regard as China’s unfair trade practices (such as investment restrictions).
At that time, Mathieu Duchatel, deputy director of the Asia and China Programme at the European Council of Foreign Relations, stated: “[Macron] wants to present himself as a leader of the EU, but at the same time, I think he wants to send a signal that Europe and the EU are in better shape than many think in China.”
In 2018, in a speech in Xi’an, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province, Macron admitted that China faced a “united front from developed countries against its unfair trade practices”.
Nothing has changed since then. This has become acutely worse after the COVID crisis (made in Wuhan), though today the Chinese leadership desperately needs to be accepted by the world. This explains the Chinese President’s first outing after five years (to France, Serbia, and Hungary).

A Failure?
In an article published in Le Figaro (belonging to the Dassault family), President Xi Jinping spoke of “carrying forward the spirit that guided the establishment of China-France Diplomatic Relations [in 1964], working together for global peace and development.”
Xi wrote that he was bringing three messages with him: “China will work with France to carry forward the spirit that guided the establishment of their diplomatic ties, build on past achievements, and open new vistas for China-France relations.” He further observed: “I think it’s important to have a dialogue, everyone together, so we can all go in the same direction. It’s very important for French and Chinese people to communicate. China is a very important country."
He added that China understands the repercussions of the Ukraine crisis on the people of Europe, adding that the longer the Ukraine crisis drags on, the greater harm it will do to Europe and the world.
Good intentions indeed, but will they be followed by resolute action when an economic war is raging between China and the United States?

The French Motivations
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Macron has expressed his desire to ‘play a role’, but it was doubtful from the start that he could influence Beijing, which has its own interests with Russia; despite the official declarations, China has always stood firm behind Putin.
Further, the French President has stated several times that he does not rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine. Is it compatible with ‘playing a role’?
In an interview with The Economist earlier this month, Macron reaffirmed his previous statements backing Ukraine: “If the Russians were to break through the front lines, if there were a Ukrainian request, which is not the case today, we would legitimately have to ask ourselves this question,” he said.
Isabelle Lasserre in Le Figaro frankly noted: “Emmanuel Macron failed to win over his Chinese counterpart, reflecting France’s lack of clout in the face of China.”
Speaking of the joint press conference, she wrote: “Behind the tense face of the French president…and that of the Chinese president, uncomfortable and closed, we could not see the ‘friendship’…but the confrontation between two worlds that oppose each other on everything.”
It is indeed two opposite worlds.

Special Friendly Outing
In a very special gesture, Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte took Xi Jinping and his wife to the Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees, where they watched folk local dancers and enjoyed local gastronomy.
Does it remind you of an outing in Mahabalipuram?
They had lunch on the spot; on the menu, typical Pyrenean dishes were chosen by Dominique Bouchait, the local chef. For starters, garbure, the traditional local soup. Then shoulder of lamb confit, with ham from Porc Noir de Bigorre cut into pieces, accompanied by Tarbais beans and porcini mushroom heads. After a cheese platter, for dessert, the chef had prepared a pastry known only to the local Béarnais: le russe (the Russian). It is made with an almond-based cookie and praline paste and is said to originate from Crimea.
However, in view of the war in Ukraine, this dessert, particularly appreciated by Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron, was at the last minute replaced by a banal blueberry tart. Diplomacy and politics prevailed.

Not Much Progress
The bilateral negotiations did not see much progress, though China will allow imports of pig origin protein feed as well as pork offal from France. However, European hopes for an Airbus plane order have been dashed, with the two sides only agreeing to expand cooperation.
A European diplomat said Xi was the ‘winner’ of the visit, having ‘cemented his image as the ‘ruler of the world’ where westerners are begging him to solve European problems in Ukraine’.
Macron probably wanted to impress the French public with his diplomatic skills before the European elections in June. Unfortunately for him, banners and flags were unfurled by Uyghur, Tibetan, and Chinese activists on the streets of Paris. “Free Tibet. Dictator Xi Jingping, your time is up!” stated a large white banner that his motorcade had to drive under on the Outer Boulevard. On the top of the banner was the flag of Tibet, a symbol of the Tibetan independence movement.
The protesters were joined by Chinese, Taiwanese, Mongolian, and Vietnamese human rights activists, as well as Hong Kong pro-democracy supporters, because after all, France is a democracy and people can express their views.

Indo-French Relations
More discreet but perhaps more concrete, on May 13 in Versailles, France will host its seventh edition of the ‘Choose France Forum’.
A French official told Business Today Television: “Seven Indian CEOs will meet President Macron on the 13th. There will be a Franco-India forum where the Indian CEOs will interact with the French CEOs."
The official objective is to welcome more Indian investments in France and to increase further partnership between both countries.
This may not bring votes for the European elections to Macron’s party, but it will certainly enhance relations between France and India.
The South China Morning Post summarised Xi’s three-nation tour: “Xi Jinping, his tour over, leaves behind a Europe split by how to deal with China,” adding: “Despite long-standing ties to President Emmanuel Macron, [Xi] made few if any concessions to reduce the flood of Chinese imports into the European Union.” And no concession on Ukraine either.
But for Xi, these few days must have been a relief from the pressure under which he lives in Beijing.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Nepal’s flimsy claims on Kali River will not change ground realities, but India must be vigilant

Adi Kailash
My article Nepal’s flimsy claims on Kali River will not change ground realities, but India must be vigilant appeared in Firstpost.

Here is the link...

Though China does not have any claim in the area, it is clear that Chinese have been inciting Nepal to claim Kalapani and beyond, and this is probably to destabilise India

Nepal’s flimsy claims on Kali River will not change ground realities, but India must be vigilant
Kathmandu seems to have forgotten that the location of the Kali river on the maps of the Sino-Nepali treaty matches with the Indian stand: Kalapani is on Indian territory. Image: Wikimedia Commons
A recent visit to the border areas of the Central Sector of the Indo-Tibet boundary was an eye-opener. The first thing that I witnessed was the considerable efforts that have been made by the Central government (through the Border Road Organisation of the Indian Army) to connect to ‘the world’ in these remote locations.
The accounts of travellers, yogis (particularly Swami Pranavanada in the 1930s), yatris (to Kailash Mountain), or Indian officials posted in Gartok in western Tibet always struck me for the description of the harsh terrain near the tri-junction of India, Tibet, and Nepal; till recently, the journey was indeed extremely perilous.
To give an example, a few years ago, it took up to a 27-day walk for a yatri to travel from Darchula to Lipulekh and later come back (in Tibet, they were taken by buses to the Kailash base camp). Today the road reaches a few hundred metres from the top of Lipulekh, the border pass separating Kumaon (near the trijunction with Tibet and Nepal) from Purang County (Dzong) in Tibet.
The black-topping of the road between Darchula and Lipulekh is not yet fully completed, but it is a matter of a few more months before the tar will be laid all the way to the pass.
The implication of this development is that access to the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP) is far easier; today, the defence forces can answer any contingencies in the shortest possible time, which also makes the lives of the local population simpler.
Though this area did not witness any confrontation during the 1962 War with China and is not directly claimed by Beijing, it remains ‘disputed’ through China’s proxy, Nepal.

In the News Again
The issue was recently in the news when Kathmandu decided to incorporate on their 100-rupee banknotes a new political map of Nepal, covering the so-called disputed territories of Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura, and Kalapani as part of the Nepali territory.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was quick to answer: “I saw that report. I have not looked at it in detail, but I think our position is very clear. With Nepal, we were having discussions about our boundary matters through an established platform. And then, in the middle of that, they unilaterally took some measures on their side. But by doing something on their side, [Nepal is] not going to change the situation between us or the reality on the ground,” said Jaishankar.
Nepal, which now tries to unilaterally change the maps, has not always claimed the Indian village of Kalapani, the main resurgence of the Kali river, which has its origin in a rivulet near Lipulekh.
In May 2020, an argument erupted between India and Nepal; the immediate reason was an 80-km road from Darchula to Lipulekh.
Strategically, this road is crucial for India, but also important for the yatris and local traders, Lipulekh being one of the three landports between India and Tibet.
It was only in 1998 that the CPN-ML faction led by Bam Dev Gautam started claiming some Indian territory in the vicinity of Kalapani as Nepalese. According to Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, a former Director General of the Land Survey Department, the ‘Kali River’ was the Kuti Yankti river that arises below the Limpiyadhura range and not the Kali accepted by India; Nepal began then claiming an entire area of 400 km².

But why was no claim put forward by Nepal for the previous 150 years?
This has never been explained by Kathmandu, and some flimsy historical excuses are being used today.
A Nepali argument is that the flow of the Kuti river is more significant, though this does not prove anything. In his book, History of the Kailash-Mansarovar, Swami Pranavananda, who extensively wrote on the subject, mentioned the confluence of the Kali and Kuti rivers “at a distance of 2 or 3 furlongs down below the road. Though the River Kuti is almost twice or thrice as big as Kali, the Kali is taken to be the main river.” The Swami also noted that the local population attached to Garbyang village is not of Nepali stock.

Tracing the History
After a war between British India and Nepal in 1814, the Nepalis were sent back across the Kali River in May 1815, and subsequently, the Sugauli Treaty was signed on March 4, 1816. Article 5 of the Treaty stated: “The Rajah of Nepaul renounces for himself, his heirs and successors, all claim to or connexion with the countries lying to the west of the River Kali, and engages never to have any concern with those countries or the inhabitants thereof.”
Unfortunately, no map was attached, which could have authoritatively shown the exact alignment and source of the Kali River.
In any case, at that time, no scientific survey worth the name could be carried out; it was only by the mid-19th century that the Himalayan border was first surveyed by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India (a precursor of the Survey of India), in a more scientific manner.
Today, the Nepalis base their claims on an old map that is neither accurate nor authentic. From 1998 until 2020, the Nepalese government continued to keep quiet, but in May 2020, Kathmandu for the first time released a map incorporating the entire area east of the Kuti Yankti River as part of their territory. To make it worse, on June 13, a bill seeking to give legal status to the new map was unanimously approved by the lower house in the Nepal Parliament.
The political struggle within the ruling party in Nepal further complicated the issue.

The Border in the 1950s
Interestingly, in the early 1950s, the Indian police already manned a check post at Kalapani. In his diary, Lakshman Singh Jangpangi, the Indian Trade Agent in Gartok, wrote: “July 10, 1955. I could not start on 9th, as my clerk suddenly ran a very high temperature and was unable to leave his bed. The Compounder was sent with the advance party on 6th. This clerk was today better and fit to travel, I started and camped at Kalapani Police Post. A section of P.A.C. [Provincial Armed Constabulary] under Subedar Sher Singh has been stationed here since June 28, 1955. The Garbyang villagers have cultivated land close to the post.”
When the police post was set up by the Uttar Pradesh government, probably in 1952, Nepal did not object.

The 1961 Sino-Nepal Treaty
But there is more, the “Boundary Treaty between the People’s Republic of China and the Kingdom of Nepal,” signed by President Liu Shaoqi of China and King Mahendra of Nepal on October 5, 1961, shows the Kali River as per the Indian stand. Article I (1) defines the China-Nepal boundary line, which “starts from the point where the watershed between the Kali River and the Tinkar River meets the watershed between the tributaries of the Mapchu (Karnali) River on the one hand and the Tinkar River on the other hand”.
More telling are the precise maps attached to the treaty and signed by both parties; Kathmandu seems to have forgotten that the location of the river on the maps of the Sino-Nepali treaty matches with the Indian stand: Kalapani is on Indian territory.

Other Proofs in Favour of India’s Stand
The Memorandum between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Resumption of Border Trade, signed on December 13, 1991, and the Protocol on Entry and Exit Procedures for Border Trade, signed on July 1, 1992, are other examples confirming that China agreed with India on the border in this area.
For Beijing, the border pass was (and still is today) Lipulekh. Once again, Kathmandu did not protest.

The Chinese Stakes
Though China does not have any claim in the area, it is clear that Chinese have been inciting Nepal to claim Kalapani and beyond, and this is probably to destabilise India.
The visit of Wang Junzheng, the TAR party secretary, to Kathmandu last November set the ball rolling. The Tibet delegation (without any Tibetans) announced that they wanted to maintain the “good momentum of high-level exchanges between the two countries”. During his stay, Wang met, among others, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
A five-year initiative for Nepal’s northern border districts was then created; it offered different kinds of logistical and material support, mostly for building schools and health posts, installing solar electricity in the 15 northern districts of Nepal.
A preparatory meeting was recently held in Lhasa on April 23 and 24; all this means a more important Chinese presence in Nepal, including in Darchula district (of Nepal), bordering India.
Besides these political aspects, the stunning and majestic beauty of the area (particularly the Om Parvat and the Adi Kailash) will hopefully attract more and more Indian visitors in the years to come. After all, it is Indian territory.

The border in the Kalapani/Lipulekh sector

Om Parvat near the trijunction India-Tibet-Nepal at Tinkar Pass

Cave in which Maharishi Vyasa meditated and wrote the Mahabharata (near Kalapani)

Chinese map showing Chinese claims (green) and Nepali claims (mauve)

First Pillar on Sino-Nepal border near Tinkar Pass