Friday, September 4, 2015

Why does the state keep secrets?

My article Why does the state keep secrets? appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle.

Here is the link...

Now that defence minister Manohar Parrikar has complained that a murder story is getting more coverage than the 50th anniversary of the 1965 “victory” against Pakistan, in the coming weeks, the Indian press may carry more analyses about what happened during the war over Kashmir.
One issue is bound to come out again. What happened in Tashkent to Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Indian Prime Minister? Was he poisoned as many suspected? Why does the Prime Minister’s Office stubbornly refuse to declassify the files in its possession?
But like it often happens in India, the “celebrations” will pass and Shastri will be buried once again. This has happened many times to Subhash Chandra Bose despite politicians’ promises.
It, however, raises a larger issue: the principle of declassification of historical documents, and I am not just speaking of “famous” cases. Lakhs of “classified” files are lying in the record rooms of the ministry of external affairs or home affairs and no scholar, researcher or history lover can access them. This is a tragedy for India.
The Modi sarkar had come with great hopes; many thought that the old policy of blind “classification” would change and India would not remain a “banana republic” as far as historical research is concerned.
Disillusionment was not long in coming. Soon after taking over as the new defence minister, Arun Jaitley informed the Rajya Sabha: “The Henderson Brooks Report on 1962 Indo-China war is a ‘top-secret document’ and disclosure of any information about it would not be in the national interest.” The same Mr Jaitley had been vociferous, when in the Opposition, in favour of the “declassification” of this very document.
Incidentally, very few politicians and babus noticed that the famous report written by the Anglo-Indian general had in fact already been “released” by the old Australian journalist Neville Maxwell and was online since March 2014.
When he was in the Opposition, Mr Jaitley had blogged that it was not in the larger public interest to keep documents “top-secret” indefinitely: “Any society is entitled to learn from the past mistakes and take remedial action. With the wisdom of hindsight, I am of the opinion that the report’s content could have been made public some decades ago.”
It is important for a nation to know its past. Simply because, as Mr Jaitley said, a society is entitled to learn from its past mistakes. For this however, history has to be based on the nation’s own archival sources. The Henderson-Brooks report, the death of Shastri or Bose’s disappearance, are unfortunately only the tip of a huge iceberg.
To give an example in which I have been personally involved: the history of modern Tibet. You can find plenty of books based on American documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which ensures public access to all US government records. The FOIA legally carries a presumption of disclosure; the burden is on the government — not the public — to substantiate why information should not be released.
After receiving a written demand, any US agency is required to disclose the requested records, unless they can be lawfully withheld from disclosure under one of nine specific exemptions in the FOIA. If not satisfied, an appellant is entitled to appeal to a federal court.
One can also visit the India Office Records near London. The British have meticulously kept the records of the Raj, which are open to the general public for consultation and research. The Chinese version of this period is also available through the memoirs of several of the main actors who served in Lhasa and some selected foreigners have been given access to the Communist Party’s archives.
The tragedy is that we don’t have an Indian version of the same historical facts because relevant files remain sealed in the almirahs of the ministries of external and home affairs. As a result, one gets a version of history of Indo-Tibet relations only from the Western and the Chinese points of view, and not India’s. Isn’t that shocking?
It is not that there is no rule, but the babus and politicians often show no interest in implementing the law of the land.
The Public Records Rules, 1997, state that records that are 25 years or more must be preserved in the National Archives of India and that no records can be destroyed without being recorded or reviewed. Legally, it’s mandatory for each department to prepare a half-yearly report on reviewing and weeding of records and submit it to the NAI. The rules also stipulate that no public records, which are more than 25-years-old, can be destroyed by any agency unless it is appraised.
While the personnel declassifying historical documents (fully or partially) should make sure that it does not jeopardise the security of the country, at the same time this should not be a pretext to block the due process of declassification.
The Prime Minister can speak of good governance, transparency and accountability, but the fact remains, and it is quite appalling, there is no proper professional declassification policy in India. One genuine problem is the lack of “professionals” to do the job.
But there may be hope. India has an intelligent foreign secretary who recently introduced the concept of “lateral entry” into the ministry; under this scheme or a similar one, it should not be difficult to find and train young talent.
But is there the will to come out of the prevalent lethargy?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Has China decided the Future of Tibet?

China celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Tibet 'Autonomous' Region
My article Has China decided the Future of Tibet? appeared in NitiCentral.


Here is the link...

Though it escaped the Indian (and the world) media, a crucial event occurred in Beijing: the Sixth Tibet Work Forum was held on August 24 and 25.
A Tibet Work Forum usually decides the fate of the Roof of the World for the next 5 to 10 years. India should be concerned, as it also defines China’s western borders policies.
The previous Forum was held in Beijing in January 2010. Before that, four Tibet Work Conferences were organized in 1980, 1984, 1994 and 2001.
But what is exactly a Work Forum on Tibet?
It is a conference attended by several hundreds of officials, including the entire Politburo, the People’s Liberation Army, representatives from different ministries, as well as local satraps.
The 6th Tibet Work Forum was presided over by President Xi Jinping, who pleaded for more efforts to promote economic growth and bring about inclusive social progress in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas.
Note that the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan-inhabited areas of four provinces (Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan) have been clubbed together as far as Beijing’s policy for Tibet is concerned.
Xi vowed to take sustainable measures and continue preferential policies for the mountainous region which, “has entered a critical stage toward fulfilling the country's [China] goal of building a moderately prosperous society in a comprehensive way.”
The Chinese President asserted: “Development, which aims to improve living conditions for various ethnic groups and beef up social cohesion, should be advanced in a prudent and steady manner, and all measures taken should be sustainable.”
The dual objective of improving the ‘local conditions’ and ‘beefing up social cohesion’ pervaded the speech of the President
Xi also affirmed, “efforts should also be made to incorporate education on ‘socialist core values’ into courses in schools at various levels, popularize the national commonly-used language and script, and strive to foster Party-loving and patriotic builders and successors of the socialist cause.”
Will the Tibetans accept these ‘core values’?
Imposition of Chinese language could have severe backlashes on the Tibetan plateau. The unrest in March/April 2008 has already been a sign of rejection of the imposition of a new Tibetan culture with Chinese characteristics.
Premier Li Keqiang was also present at the Forum. He affirmed that “it will be an arduous task for Tibet to build a ‘moderately prosperous’ society over the next five years,” though this is a component of the Chinese Dream, so dear to President Xi.
Li also pledged to increase financial aid to Tibet and build further infrastructure which means more roads, airports, railway lines and dams. For India, it is certainly a cause of worries.
The entire politburo, including the seven members’ Standing Committee, was in attendance.
Behind these promises, the Forum focused on China’s main worry, namely the ‘instability’ of the Land of Snows, or in other words, the ‘nationalist’ aspirations of the people of Tibet.
According to the official news agency, President Xi Jinping mentioned “national and ethnic unity as the key plans for Tibet, vowing a focus on long-term, comprehensive stability and an unswerving anti-separatism battle.”
It is ‘an obligatory task’ said Xi. It shows that China is still trembling, more than 60 years after Tibet was ‘liberated’.
Xi reiterated his theory about the ‘border areas’: "governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilizing Tibet.”
Tibet’s main border is with India. Does it mean that China is afraid of India?
Xi also urged “the promotion of Marxist values in people's views on ethnics, religion and culture.” Party’s officials should “keep pace with the CPC Central Committee in their thoughts and deeds, telling them to ‘cherish unity as if it was their eyes’,” said Xi.
Will Tibetans one day cherish unity with Han Chinese as if the latter were their own eyes? It may never happen.

An important Politburo meeting
Already on July 30, a meeting of the Politburo had discussed Tibet affairs. Xinhua had then announced: “Chinese leaders met to discuss economic and social development in Tibet, and how to ensure the autonomous region achieve prolonged stability.”
President Xi Jinping said the solution for Tibet was to “maintain national religious policies and promote patriotism in Tibet.”
The July Politburo meeting, 4 weeks before the Forum, raises a serious issue. Why to have a full meeting of the Politburo to ‘prepare’ the Tibet Work Forum?
When people had speculated about the possibility of the Party holding meetings at the summer resort of Beidaihe, Xinhua argued: “Not long ago, the CCP Central Politburo met twice, on July 20 and on July 30, which was unusual. They have already discussed ‘The Thirteenth Five-Year Plan’, the CCP Fifth Plenary Session, economic strategies, the ‘anti-tiger campaign’, and other important issues.”
The article, though it does not mention the Tibet issue, asked: "Is it meaningful, necessary, or possible to talk about these issues again in Beidaihe several days or ten days later?”
So why have a Politburo meeting on Tibet (even if ‘Tibet’ was just a topic on the agenda of the July meeting), to discuss the same things 4 weeks later?
A plausible explanation could be that there was some serious disagreement amongst the leaders on the Tibet issue.
The air had to be cleared (or the positions fine-tuned) before calling for the much larger forum which is usually attended by 200 or 300 cadres.
Since the time of the so-called ‘liberation’ in 1950, the leadership has always been sharply divided on the direction to take for the Roof of the World.
The situation seems the same today.
Around the same time, former President Jiang Zemin was targeted.
It was insinuated that ‘a highly positioned cadre’, when he was in power, arranged for his trusted aides to be in the top positions for the purpose of being able to manipulate power in the future. Jiang was asked to stop interfering in China’s affairs.
Could it be that some members of the Jiang faction were trying to derail Xi’s policy of development in Tibet? It is a possibility.

Two high-level visits to the Roof of the World

Following the July Politburo meeting, two members of the over-powerful body were sent to Tibet on ‘inspection’ (a few days before the Forum was held).
Wang Yang, vice-premier of the State Council ‘inspected’ Lhasa and Nagchu between August 13 and 15. Xinhua said that he “investigated relevant work [linked to] poverty alleviation and development, animal husbandry, tourist industry and meteorological services.”
This indicates the direction in which the Forum went a week later.
Wang is said to have concluded: ‘We are proud of the great achievements made for the development of Tibet, Tibet has a precious natural and cultural heritage; it should be cherished.”
It was a prelude to the 6th Tibet Work Forum.
On August 13, Xinhua reported that Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), another member of the 25-member Politburo, visited Tibet (and Chongqing). He urged the military forces posted for defense of the border [with India] “to make down-to-earth efforts and build a strong army”.
Xu pleaded for better management and control of the borders “as well as innovation with ideological work at military forces to shore up the morale of servicemen for border defense.”
Xu’s exhortation was reflected in Xi’s speech during the Forum.
Xi reiterated his theory about the ‘border areas’: "governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilizing Tibet is a priority for governing border areas.”
In the years to come, the ‘stability’ of Tibet and the borders with India, irrespective of economic and other issues, will remain crucial for the Beijing leadership to survive.
It was perhaps worthwhile to have 2 meetings!
And of course, “the Central Government did not in the past, nor is now and will not in the future accept the [Dalai Lama's] Middle Way solution to the Tibet issue,” said an article penned by an official the United Front Department after the Forum.
Here too, the hard line has prevailed once again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Interesting correspondence between the Dalai Lama and Nehru (1960)

The Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru recently published an interesting exchange of letters between the Dalai Lama, who a year earlier had taken refuge in India, and the Indian Prime Minister.
The main subject of this exchange is the Tibetan appeal in the UN and the role of Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's elder brother.
A first UN Resolution was passed in 1959 (see text) and the presence of Gyalo Thondup in New York at that time was deemed necessary by the Dalai Lama to coordinate a second resolution.
The Government of India however refused to grant an Exit (and No-Objection-to-Return) Visa to Thondup to prepare the second appeal. The reputation of Thondup and the fact that his was a Taiwanese probably compounded the issue.
The correspondence is particularly interesting because Gyalo Thondup has recently been in the news after the publication of his memoirs, The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong.
It is a fact that the Dalai Lama’s brother has always been a controversial figure, often very close to the CIA. While many saw him as a great patriot, fighting for Tibet’s independence, others believe that he was a bad influence on his brother (it is the view of the Indian Prime Minister)
At the same time, it is true that no Tibetan leader has had so close relations with the Communist leadership in China than Thondup. He is said to have travelled more than 50 times to Beijing to ‘negotiate’ his brother’s return to Tibet.
This exchange of letters also shows the difficult position of the Dalai Lama. Nehru was very much against an appeal in the UN, as he wanted to preserve for India what was left of the ‘brotherhood’ with Beijing, while the Dalai Lama believed that the international community should know what was happening in the Land of Snows and support the Tibetan people in their just struggle against Communist China.
Nehru believed (mostly after the awful Kashmir experience) that nothing can ever be ‘decided’ in the UN. He was probably right.
Since the early 1950s, Nehru had often to deal with Gyalo Thondup, more particularly in connection with the ‘melting’ of the Dalai Lama’s treasure, mentioned in Thondup’s book.
Questions had even been raised in the Indian Parliament on the 'treasure'; it was embarrassing for the Indian Prime Minister.
It should also been remembered that the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai had come to India in April 1960; he had 17 hours of talk with Nehru. India and China were keen to solve the border issue and at the time of this exchange of letters, the discussions between the ‘Officials’ of the 2 countries were going on in Delhi and Beijing.
Nehru did not want the ‘last chance’ to find a solution for the border to be jeopardized by a Tibetan appeal in the UN; this explains his attitude towards Thondup and the Dalai Lama.
Ultimately, a new resolution was passed in 1961, this did not help much the Tibetan cause. The border issue too was not solved and two years later, India and China clashed over what used to be the Indo-Tibet border.
There is no doubt that the Tibetan issue was at the centre of the 1962 conflict.

Correspondence between the Dalai Lama and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1960

Letter from the Dalai Lama to Prime Minister Nehru

July 25, 1960

Time and again you have been kind enough to express, both publicly and in private, your deep sympathy for the people of Tibet in their sad and sorry situation, and this has given strength and courage to all of us, whether living in Tibet or outside. You have generously accorded us asylum in this holy land. You have given, and are still giving, all possible help for the rehabilitation of the unfortunate Tibetans in India. I have already addressed several letters to Your Excellency in this behalf and am most grateful to you for the kind interest you are taking in the matter.
Your Excellency has also evinced abiding interest in "the cultural kinship between the people of India and the people of Tibet." We have always believed that Tibet is a child of Indian civilisation and the people of India must be vitally concerned in the preservation of Tibet's distinct personality. I have, therefore, ventured to address this letter to you. Your Excellency must be fully aware of the grim tragedy that is now being enacted in Tibet. I have been receiving with profound sorrow harrowing accounts of oppression and murder. Hundreds of Tibetans, who have recently been pouring into India and Nepal, bear witness to this sad and distressing state of affairs. There are thousands of others who cannot escape and are threatened with death and destruction. I, therefore, feel, and feel very strongly that something must be done, and done now, to save the lives of these people. As Your Excellency is aware, I have unflinching faith in non-violence and have throughout the last ten years made earnest endeavour to pursue the path of peace. Unfortunately, all my efforts have ended in failure, and I am at present not in a position to help my people in any way. I believe, however, that a wise and far-sighted statesman like Your Excellency may be able to do something to bring about a speedy end to this unnecessary and indiscriminate shedding of innocent blood and a just and peaceful settlement of the Tibetan problem.
I fully appreciate the difficult position of the Government of India in this matter and have, therefore, no other alternative than to take such steps as may be necessary to appeal once again for mediation by the United Nations. I confidently hope that even if the Government of India cannot themselves raise the issue, they will kindly agree to help us in securing the support of other countries and in prosecuting our appeal. Your Excellency, my heart is heavy with sorrow, and I have written to you frankly and freely. I have every confidence that this letter will be taken in the same spirit in which it has been written.

Gyalo Thondup (right) with colleagues
in New York for the UN Appeal

Letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to the Dalai Lama

August 7, 1960

Your Holiness,
Thank you for your letter of July 25 which reached me about a week ago. In this letter you have been good enough to express your appreciation and gratitude for the deep sympathy in India for the Tibetan refugees and for all that has been done for their rehabilitation in India. At the same time, you have expressed your profound sorrow at the state of affairs in Tibet and the plight of the people there, and your strong feeling that "something must be done, and done now, to save the lives of these people".
I can well appreciate your distress as well as your desire that something effective should be done. Unfortunately it is not always possible to give effect to our wishes and desires, and circumstances beyond our control prove limiting factors. We have, therefore, to consider all these circumstances and then come to decisions. Otherwise, any action that we may take may not only be totally ineffective but might also, to some extent, injure the very cause that we have at heart.
I am glad that you have written to me frankly about your feelings and your wishes. I think it is right that I should write to you also frankly what I think about these matters. Some of the activities undertaken on your behalf in the past have been a matter of concern to us, and we have felt that they are not rightly conceived or carried out. I have had a feeling that some of your advisers have not given you right advice. I have in mind particularly the activities of your brother Gyalo Thondup and one or two others of your entourage.
Two questions face us. One is the proper rehabilitation of the Tibetan refugees who have come to India; the other is the larger and more difficult issue of what is happening in Tibet itself. So far as the former question is concerned, it is not simple or easy of solution, but we have undertaken responsibility for it, and we shall do our utmost to rehabilitate them in India. We hope that with your help we shall succeed. The question of these refugees is an internal matter for India which has to be dealt with by the Government of India in consultation with and according to the advice of your goodself [sic]. Other countries are not concerned.
We have given asylum to more than 20,000 Tibetans in our country and the stream of such refugees has not stopped. Your Holiness knows well that this act of ours in giving refuge and asylum to all these Tibetans has created considerable friction between India and the People's Republic of China. Nevertheless, we have considered it our duty to receive these Tibetan people who have come to India and to help them to rehabilitate themselves. The only condition we have attached is that Indian territory must not be made a base for hostile propaganda or activities against the People's Republic of China. It is true that our relations with the Government of China are strained because of various reasons. That is a matter between India and China. But it would be against international convention and usage for refugees, who have taken asylum in India, to use the soil of India for any kind of hostile activities against another country.
Thus we have assumed full responsibility for these Tibetan refugees. We have not asked other countries for financial or any other kind of help for this purpose. It is true that three countries, namely, New Zealand, Australia and the United States of America, have offered financial help for rehabilitation and we have accepted these for specific schemes. But whether that help came or not, our responsibility for rehabilitation would remain.
The other question that arises is a much wider one, that is, the condition of Tibet and the fate of the people there. Any action contemplated in regard to Tibet must necessarily raise difficult and complicated international issues and has to be considered with the greatest care. We live in a world which often hovers over the brink of war, and in which what is called the cold war vitiates the atmosphere of international relations. No subject of international importance can be considered calmly or objectively in this atmosphere, and the decisions of Governments or even of the United Nations itself are governed by these international controversies and conflicts.
I fear that some of your advisers have not got all these aspects in view and have, therefore, often given you wrong and even harmful advice. I have ventured in the past to give you such advice as I thought proper. But you have not always been in a position to accept it. It has not been our desire to interfere with your judgment even though I have regretted some of the decisions our Holiness has taken.
Last year, in rather special circumstances, we gave travel facilities to your brother Gyalo Thondup and one or two others, and some amounts of foreign exchange were also made available to them to enable them to visit a number of countries and thereafter to proceed to New York. Our information is that Gyalo Thondup collected some money last year for Tibetan refugees. We do not know whether he has given full accounts for the money he had collected to Your Holiness. Our information further is that while he was abroad he spent rather lavishly and lived in expensive hotels. I do not think that in the circumstances this was fitting or desirable.
I feel that collecting money abroad in this way is not in keeping with the dignity of Your Holiness or that of the Government of India. The Government of India have not only taken the liability for this purpose, but Your Holiness has also some funds at your disposal. We have no objection to receiving help from other countries, as we have already accepted some such offers. But for individuals to go about in foreign countries begging for aid for the Tibetan refugees appears to us to be totally inappropriate. Further what guarantee is there that the money so collected would, in fact, be properly utilised?
Your Holiness may remember that there were questions in our Parliament about the treasure that was handed to you last year. We had relaxed some of our rules in this matter in our desire to be of help to Your Holiness. We had hoped that the money, as Your Holiness said, would be utilised for the rehabilitation of your people in India.
I have now received requests from Gyalo Thondup and his wife for travel documents to enable them to go abroad. Among the reasons for going abroad, they have mentioned that they would promote an appeal in foreign countries for help towards the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees in India. For the reasons I have indicated above, we are entirely opposed to any such appeal being issued, more especially by individuals. In the circumstances, therefore, we have regretfully reached the conclusion that we should not give travel documents to Gyalo Thondup and his wife.
Similarly, we have got a request from Mr Rinchen for facilities for going abroad. I am told that he would arrange for the publication of a book which you have written. I have no idea of what this book is about, but Your Holiness, no doubt, knows that it is not necessary for one of your staff to go abroad just to arrange for the publication of a book.
Speaking generally, we have no objection to travel documents being allowed to Tibetans who wish to leave India permanently. We have, however, to consider carefully requests for endorsements which would facilitate return to India at a later date. We have to take particular care to see that facilities of easy travel between India and foreign countries by foreigners are not abused.
Your Holiness has mentioned in your letter that you are proposing to take steps to appeal once again for "mediation by the United Nations". As I have said above I do not wish to interfere in your judgment, but I do feel that I should tell you as a friend that this attempt is not likely to produce any practical results. I can very well appreciate your feelings and your desire to see something done, but my own judgment is that in view of a number of important events that have taken place during the last twelve months, any such appeal to the United Nations would have to face even greater difficulties this year than the last year. If I feel so, as I do, I can hardly be expected to encourage you to follow a course of action which I consider unhelpful and possibly harmful.
With kind regards,
Yours sincerely,
Jawaharlal Nehru


Letter from the Dalai Lama to Prime Minister Nehru
August 25, 1960

Will you kindly accept my sincere thanks for your letter of the 7th instant which I received on the 11th.

2. I am very glad indeed that Your Excellency has written to me frankly and openly and for this I am grateful to you. May I, however, respectfully say that there are certain statements in Your Excellency's letter which have caused me a great deal of pain and surprise. I refer to your statement that some of the activities carried on my behalf have caused you concern, particularly the activities of my brother Gyalo Thondup and one or two members of my entourage. Your Excellency is aware that I would not permit anything to be done, which might cause you concern and if you had been good enough to draw my attention, I would have promptly attended to the matter. As it is, I am at a disadvantage, for I am not aware of any such activity by Gyalo Thondup or anyone In my entourage. I shall be grateful if you will kindly let me know the nature of the activities and the persons who are carrying on such activities.

3. May I also refer to the statements regarding my brother Gyalo Thondup and the other members of the Tibetan Delegation which had been deputed by me to the last session of the United Nations? At the outset, I should like to assure Your Excellency that there is not the slightest foundation for the information which has been reported to you. You will, I trust, allow me to state the barest facts.

4. The Delegation stayed for about a fortnight at the Atheneum Court in London en route to the United Nations. The three members of the Delegation shared one room, and one of them had to sleep on a sofa. In New York, arrangements were made for their stay at the Waldorf Astoria by some prominent Americans, who have always been keenly interested in the affairs of Tibet. They paid about thirteen dollars a day for a single room and this could not be called an exorbitantly high rate keeping in view the charges which are made at some of the leading hotels in India. However, within a short while after their arrival in New York, they left the Waldorf Astoria for a cheaper hotel, as the American friends were insisting on the payment of their expenses, and they did not wish to be under obligation to any person, however well meaning he might be. I am sure, Your Excellency will agree with me that, in the circumstances, the expenses incurred by my representatives could not be described as lavish. Nor did they spend any large sums of money on entertainment, whether official or otherwise. Indeed, within the small allotment of dollar exchange granted to them it was impossible for them to live lavishly and in expensive hotels. What was, however, expensive were the fees paid to American lawyers and others by the Delegation for the purpose of obtaining the best possible advice.

5. As regards the serious allegation made against my brother that he has been collecting money for the relief and rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees and that he may not have given full account to me, with due deference, I would like to state clearly that this is completely untrue. The members of the Tibetan Delegation did indeed pay visits to various charitable organisations, but they did so at the request of such organisations and only to thank them for the contributions they had already made to the Central Relief Committee in India and to suggest to them that they should continue to remit direct to the Committee whatever funds were available. The only contribution that was directly received by my brother was the sum of forty-one dollars handed over to him personally by a few Buddhist disciples from Inner Mongolia. All these facts can easily be verified. I may be permitted to add that we have heard of a person who has been giving currency to such reports, and have documentary evidence to prove conclusively that these reports are not in accord with facts. If necessary, I trust that, in all fairness and justice, Your Excellency's Government will be pleased to grant to my brother and his associates the opportunity to substantiate the statements which I have made. In this connection, I would also like to emphasise the fact that, in all their dealings, the members of the Tibetan Delegation have never failed to praise, as they should, the help and assistance which I and my people have always received from the Government of India. Nor have they hesitated to contradict observations prejudicial to the interests of India made by other people. I trust I have succeeded in making the position clear to Your Excellency.

6. May I, with Your Excellency's permission, also point out that there appears to be a certain amount of misunderstanding regarding the proposed visit overseas of my brother, Gyalo Thondup and his wife. It was not intended that Gyalo Thondup should go abroad for the purpose of appealing to the people of foreign countries for raising funds for the Tibetan refugees. We have received several requests from various organisations in different parts of the . world that one of my officials should be deputed to help them in raising funds for the Tibetan refugees. All that was, therefore, intended was that he should visit these foreign countries and render whatever assistance he can to the various charitable organisations, which may remit whatever they might collect to the Central Relief Committee. I am sure Your Excellency will agree with me that there is nothing objectionable in this procedure. It may also be added that he had not been instructed to collect funds for this purpose. I must offer apologies to Your Excellency that the position was not made clear to your Government. As regards Mrs. Thondup, her main purpose was to visit her mother, whom she has not seen for a number of years. I am, therefore, greatly disappointed that Your Excellency's Government has thought it fit to refuse travel documents to both Gyalo Thondup and his wife.
While agreeing with Your Excellency that the settlement of the Tibetan refugees in India is primarily the concern of the Government of India, I also consider it my duty to help the Government of India as far as it lies in my power. As for myself, I have already spent about five lakhs of rupees on the education of Tibetan children and the maintenance of Tibetan officials. I have also decided to create a trust for the Tibetan refugees in India and have been in touch with distinguished Indian nationals in order to persuade them to be trustees of the fund. My intention was that Gyalo Thondup should, as one of the Tibetan trustees, visit foreign countries and contact the various organizations, which have on several occasions offered to help us financially or otherwise.
As regards the book to which Your Excellency has referred, I would like to inform you that I had undertaken the writing of the book several months ago and, in fact, one of the chapters was very kindly revised by the officer of the External Affairs Ministry who has been deputed by Your Excellency's Government to be on duty with me. The book purports to be an autobiographical essay. As it contains a great deal of new information on Tibetan religion and religious practices, it was considered necessary that one of my officials should proceed to the United Kingdom to supervise the publication. I may add, for Your Excellency's information, that the book also contains a narrative of the recent events in Tibet. It was, and still is, my intention to seek Your Excellency's advice and suggestions in respect of the chapters, which deal with questions of a political character.
Your Excellency is fully aware that on several occasions I have clearly stated that I realise and appreciate the difficult position of the Government of India. We are all most grateful to Your Excellency for granting asylum to me and my people when we were confronted with an extremely difficult situation, and I can assure Your Excellency that I and my people will always remember with feelings of gratitude the kindness which we have received from the people and the Government of India in such a generous measure. At the same time, I cannot but frankly state that we had always assumed that the right to asylum recognised by all civilised nations presupposes the legitimate exercise of all fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. Nevertheless, I and my officials have tried our best to follow the advice given to us by the Government of India and have for several months past sedulously refrained from making any public statements of a political character or indulging in any political activity which might embarrass the Government of India. I hope and trust that the exercise of this freedom will not be denied to me. I shall, as you know, always endeavour to see that no action of mine is in any way detrimental to the interests of your great and hospitable country. I feel, and feel very strongly, that if I cannot speak, and speak for my people, my existence has no meaning or value.
I want Your Excellency to understand that it is difficult for me to express in words the gratitude that I feel for all that Your Excellency's Government has done for my people and myself. I feel, however, that I should no longer avail myself of the generous grant of Your Excellency's Government to me. The amount, if I might suggest, may be used for the relief and rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees.
I am extremely sorry to find that Your Excellency still adheres to the view that no useful purpose would be served by taking the Tibetan question to the United Nations. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Your Excellency and attach the highest value and importance to your opinion. It is, therefore, with the deepest regret that I beg to differ from Your Excellency on this issue. I am fully conscious of the fact, as Your Excellency has been kind enough to point out, that an appeal to the United Nations may produce no practical results, but this has not deterred leading nations from agitating the same issue year after year before the world forum. May I cite some instances? Your Excellency is familiar with the case of Ethiopia after its subjugation by Italians. The issues of the persons of Indian Origin residing in South Africa and of apartheid have been agitated for the last 14 years, and very rightly so, by Your Excellency's Government in the United Nations. This has been done because it is a moral issue, an issue which can rouse the conscience of the civilized world. After all these years, it appears to bear some fruit. I feel that the subjugation of my country and the travails my people are going through ought to be placed before the conscience of the world and I shall be failing in my duty if I do not do so. I am sure Your Excellency will agree with me that there is no other course open to me; there is nothing else that I can do to help my poor and unfortunate people. I, therefore feel and feel very strongly that I would be failing in my duty to God and to my people if I do not make use of the only remedy that is available to me. A subjugated people have at least the right to cry out and protest against their subjugation. With the great traditions of your country laid down by that immortal soul, Mahatma Gandhi, who stood up for all oppressed people, the traditions which you are so nobly upholding, Your Excellency will, I am sure, appreciate the stand I am taking in this matter.
Your Excellency has been kind enough to appreciate my feelings in this regard. I have no doubt that in my position Your Excellency would have taken the same action as I have decided to take. I might mention that now that, according to reports in the newspapers, Malaya and Thailand have moved to raise the question of Tibet in the United Nations Assembly and I am confident that several other countries will be supporting the move, I consider that somebody on my behalf should be in New York during the sessions of the United Nations. I therefore, request your Excellency to grant Gyalo Thondup the necessary facilities for travel. I shall shortly communicate to Your Excellency the names of other representatives, whom I propose to depute to go to New York. In the circumstances, I would earnestly beg of you and your Government to be generous with us once again and give us all possible help, particularly in the matter of travel documents and foreign exchange for the Tibetan Delegation to the United Nations. It is needless for me to add that whatever help Your Excellency decides to give us will be most welcome. I shall be grateful for an early reply.
With assurances of my highest consideration.

Monday, August 31, 2015

From Theocracy to Democracy

My review of H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV: My Appeal to the World appeared in 
Mail Today a few days ago. 

Innumerable books have been published about the remarkable life of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The one written  by French Sanskrit scholar Sofia Stril-Rever (H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV: My Appeal to the World) is however special as it deals the political Statements pronounced by the Tibetan leader, every March 10, from 1961 until 2011.
Year after year, the Statements highlight the achievements not only of the Buddhist monk, but also the struggle of his people to survive under Chinese occupation or in exile.
On March 10, 2011, the ‘simple monk’ as he likes to call himself, pronounced his last Statement as he renounced his temporal power. As Stril-Rever notes, this marks ‘the end of the political authority of the Dalai Lamas’: “The speech was short, …eighteen minutes that have radically changed nearly four hundred years of Tibetan history.”
Ever since the Great Fifth Dalai Lama was given in 1642, the temporal and spiritual responsibility to lead the people of Tibet, the Dalai Lamas have ruled over the Roof of the World.
Why this ‘ritual’ statement every March 10?
On that day in 1959, the Tibetan ‘masses’ rose against the Chinese invaders and ‘with their bodies’ protected their beloved leader, who had been invited for a performance in the PLA garrison in Lhasa. The entire population of Lhasa stopped the Dalai Lama to attend the Chinese show, especially ‘without his usual Corps of Body Guards.’
Since then, March 10 is termed ‘Tibetan Uprising Day’.
The greatest lie of Communist China has been to make the world believe that Mao and his colleagues just wanted to ‘liberate’ the Tibetan people from the oppression of the aristocracy and the clergy.
During the days following the Uprising, according to Chinese figures, 87,000 Tibetans were killed for resisting the so-called Liberation. Ultimately on March 28, Beijing proclaimed ‘The Serfs are emancipated’ and since then, China celebrates the day as the ‘Serf’s Emancipation Day’.
What a price to be emancipated!
Stril-Rever’s work highlights each March 10 Statement by giving a detailed commentary on the existing situation, a few times with some minor inaccuracies, (a big one is that Tawang is not ‘a Tibetan village’).
It makes fascinating reading because it shows the evolution of a two-thousand old nation, which in 50 years is metamorphosed from a theocracy with all its imperfections into a modern State with democratic institutions.
Though not often reported by the world media, the Dalai Lama’s first and greatest gift to the Tibetan people is undoubtedly ‘Democracy’.
This collection of the March 10 Statements is the Tibetan leader’s log on this arduous path, often struggling against his own people, reluctant democrats. But, year after year, the persevering Dalai Lama managed to force into the Tibetans’ mind, the necessity of a more modern governance system.
Tenzin Gyatso knew that if ‘democracy’ was not imposed, after his passing into the Eternal Fields, Tibet would have two Dalai Lamas, like there is today two Panchen Lamas. The temptation would be too strong for political leaders in Beijing, to not choose ‘their’ own candidate.
This explains why the Dalai Lama recently told the BBC “The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease.”
Soon after the events of March 10, 1959, the Dalai Lama secretly left Lhasa and took the direction of India and finally crossed the border, north of Tawang on March 30. During the following months, some 80,000 Tibetans joined him and settled in India.
On April 29, 1959 from the hill station of Mussoorie, the Dalai Lama formed a Tibetan Government-in-Exile, also known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA); a year later the CTA moved to Dharamsala, where it is still located.
The process of democratization then started. As a first step, on September 2, 1960, the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, then called ‘Commission of Tibetan People’s Deputies’, came into being.
On 10 March 1961, in his first Statement, the Dalai Lama formulated a draft Constitution of Tibet, incorporating traditional Tibetan values and modern democratic norms. Two years later, it was promulgated as the Tibetan Constitution-in-Exile.
The process continued during the following years; in 1990, the Tibetan Parliament was empowered to elect the Kashag or the Council of Ministers, which was made answerable to the Parliament. A Supreme Justice Commission was also instituted.
The newly-empowered Parliament soon drafted a new Constitution, known as the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile which defines the role of the three organs of the government: judiciary, legislature and executive. Today, the CTA functions as any democratic government. This fact deeply irritates China, which is still governed by a one-Party system.
The Dalai Lama has often had to fight to impose these democratic institutions on the Tibetan ‘masses’, who often thought that “the Dalai Lama is wiser, why do we need a human governance, when we have a divine one?”
But it shows the wisdom and the vision of the Tibetan leader, who knows that in the long run, democracy is a more stable system.
This book is a good addition to the large collection on the Dalai Lama; it documents a rare historical process, whereby a theocrat par excellence, decides to be the father of the democracy for his own nation.
What makes China so angry with the Tibetan leader is that Beijing is unable to follow his footsteps.
A Foreword of Prof. Robert Thurman is always a plus.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

China visit and after – Undoing Nehru’s folly

In May, I wrote an article China visit and after – Undoing Nehru’s folly which appeared in NitiCentral.
It was about Nehru's rejection of a seat for India in the UN Security Council.
It occurred twice.
The first time in 1950, when the State Department made the offer and a few years later, when the Soviets were ready to sponsor India for a seat.
Both times, Nehru refused.

Since then, I got a copy of a letter from Nehru addressed to his sister, Vijaya Lakshi Pandit, then the Indian Ambassador in the United States, in which he justifies his refusal.
Here is Nehru's letter.

To Shrimati Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit,
Embassy of India,
Washington, D.C., USA.
SECRET 
PERSONAL
New Delhi,
August 30, 1950.
I have your letter of August 24th. Also Einstein’s new letter.
As far as I can see at present, I shall not be going to Lake Success, But of course there is always a possibility of some new development which might induce me to go there. I am quite sure that my going there casually will do no good to anyone. Einstein and people like him, with their simplicity and good-heartedness, think that some magic might result by a personal intervention. We can hardly plan for magic. Frankly, I do not want to make myself cheap and to get entangled in the internal controversies and debates of Lake Success.
Living in the United States, you are naturally oppressed by the atmosphere there at the present moment. You dislike it and you criticize it. Nevertheless, your view of the world situation is necessarily influenced by your environment. That environment and what happens there is of very great importance because, as you put it, the issue of war and peace may depend upon it.
It is clear that the world outlook today of the British people is markably different from that of America, even though they might be functioning more or less as allies. Western Europe again is also different in its own way. If you travel further to Russia, you are of course in a new world entirely. With new fears, new apprehensions, new ambitions. Here in India though there may not be much intelligent thinking on international affairs, there is nevertheless an instinctive reaction to them which is not at all favourable to the US.
It is no easy matter to deal with this complicated situation where each group thinks differently and where perhaps the only common feature is some kind of fear. Only today I received a letter from Panikkar from Peking together with a report on the present-day China. Both the letter and the report are very interesting and I am therefore enclosing a copy of them for you. Here also you will see an entirely different world with its own way of thinking on problems. What a vast difference there is between this and the US view of China as a stooge of Moscow!
Panikkar is a man of extraordinarily acute intelligence and powers of observation. In fact, his mind is so keen that it over-shoots the mark and goes much further ahead than facts warrant. But his analyzing the situation, apart from the time factor, is usually good. What will happen to China during the next few years is anybody’s guess. But it is a complete misunderstanding of the China situation to imagine that they function like a satellite State of Russia. Only one thing will push them in that direction to some extent. And even then this cannot go far. That one thing is isolation from the rest of the world. The US policy is the one policy which will make China do what the US least want. That is the tragedy or comedy of the situation. We grow blindly to achieve something and get something entirely different.
There can be little doubt that the Chinese Government is trying its best to be friendly to us. Apart from present day conflicts and in the long run, I am sure that it is of great importance to Asia and to the world that India and China should be friendly. How far we shall succeed in this endeavour, I cannot say.
In your letter you mention that the State Department is trying to unseat China as a Permanent Member of the Security Council and to put India in her place. So far as we are concerned, we are not going to countenance it. That would be bad from every point of view. It would be a clear affront to China and it would mean some kind of a break between us and China. I suppose the State Department would not like that, but we have no intention of following that course. We shall go on pressing for China’s admission in the UN and the Security Council. I suppose that a crisis will come during the next sessions of the General Assembly of the UN on this issue. The Peoples’ Government of China is sending a full Delegation there. If they fail to get in there will be trouble which might even result in the USSR and some other countries finally quitting the UN. That may please the State Department, but it would mean the end of the UN as we have known it. That would also mean a further drift towards war.
India, because of many factors, is certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the Security Council. But we are not going in at the cost of China.
Meanwhile, the continuance of the Kuomintang representative in the Security Council becomes more and more Gilbertian. Here is a Permanent Member of the Security Council with power of veto supposed to be a great power. In fact what we have is a Representative of the Government of Formosa having this authority and power at Lake Success. That Government of Formosa too is practically protected by a foreign power, the US.
Pakistan is busy building up a big case against us. There is of course Kashmir. They are now demanding from us a reference to the International Court at The Hague of the canal water dispute. Obviously they are going to raise this matter in the UN and are likely to do so directly on the ground that this might involve a breach of peace between the two countries. They have also written to me after many months about my proposal for a “No War” declaration in the simple and general form which I have originally proposed and which Pakistan had not accepted them.
As regards canal waters, I have not answered them yet, but I shall do so in the course of the next week. I do not propose to agree to The Hague tribunal. But we are prepared for arbitration, that is each party to nominate an arbitrator and a third to be chosen by them.
I am thinking of going to Assam for two or three days soon to confer with people there and to fly over the earthquake areas. We do not yet know the full extent of the earthquake and the damage it has caused. Many areas are completely isolated and people are marooned. It is said that the landscape of upper Assam has changed considerably. Some hills have disappeared and rivers are following new courses. Fortunately that area is not a heaily populated one, or else the damage would have been colossal.

Sd/- Jawaharlal Nehru.

China visit and after – Undoing Nehru’s folly
Here is the link of my May article....

A few months ago, a European diplomat confidentially told me, ‘in fact, the job of Modi is just to undo the knots in which the UPA tied up India in the past’. He was probably thinking of the complex Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) put in place by A.K. Antony, the UPA’s Defence Minister, who made the DPP so complicated that it became impossible for India to arm itself or even ‘make arms in India.’ This is the sad story of the Rafale deal; finally, during his recent visit to France, Prime Minister Modi had cut the MMRCA ‘bind’ and buy a few airplanes ‘off-the-shelf’.
Unfortunately, it is not only in defence issues that the previous governments have entangled India into insolvable predicaments.
The case of a seat in the United Nations’ Security Council is a stark one.
After Modi’s meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, I was curious to see what the Joint Statement would say on this issue and if China’s position had moved. I thought that if Beijing is truly keen to enhance the trust between India and China, it should make a gesture and sponsor India’s candidature to the Security Council. Unfortunately, it did not happen.
The Joint Statement says: “The two sides support a comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including recognizing the imperative of increased participation of developing countries in UN’s affairs and governance structures, so as to bring more effectiveness to the UN. China attaches great importance to India’s status in international affairs as a large developing country, and understands and supports India’s aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations including in the Security Council.”
It does not say that India should have a permanent seat with veto power, like China has. This is really ingratitude from China’s side.
One remembers the 1955 Soviet offer to sponsor India’s case for a permanent seat.
Sarvepalli Gopal wrote in his 3-volume biography of Nehru: “He [Jawaharlal Nehru] rejected the Soviet offer to propose India as the sixth permanent member of the Security Council and insisted that priority be given to China’s admission to the United Nations.”
Now some ‘experts’, like A.G. Noorani have argued that Nehru did the right thing as ‘the offer was unlikely to materialize’.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin had told the Indian Prime Minister: “We propose suggesting at a later stage India’s inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council”; Nehru had replied: “This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject to controversy.”
In another letter, Nehru elaborated about India’s position and the reasons to reject the ‘proposals’: “We have, therefore, made it clear to those who suggested this that we cannot agree to this suggestion. We have even gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage, even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place and then the question of India might be considered separately.”
But there is more. Recently, a young scholar, Anton Harder, working on his PhD at the London School of Economics, went through the Vijayalakshmi Pandit Papers kept at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library in Delhi.
Harder found that in August 1950, Mrs. Pandit, then posted as Ambassador to the US, wrote to her brother: “One matter that is being cooked up in the State Department should be known to you. This is the unseating of [Nationalist] China as a Permanent Member in the Security Council and of India being put in her place. …Last week I had interviews with [John Foster] Dulles and [Philip] Jessup, reports of which I have sent to Bajpai. Both brought up this question and Dulles seemed particularly anxious that a move in this direction should be started.”
Five years before the Soviet offer, Washington was ready to sponsor India for a seat in the Security. A few days later, Nehru answered to Pandit: “You mention that the State Department is trying to unseat China as a Permanent Member of the Security Council and to put India in her place. So far as we are concerned, we are not going to countenance it. That would be bad from every point of view. It would be a clear affront to China and it would mean some kind of a break between us and China.”
The Indian Prime Minister added: “We shall go on pressing for [Communist] China’s admission in the UN and the Security Council. …The people’s government of China is sending a full delegation there. If they fail to get in there will be trouble which might even result in the USSR and some other countries finally quitting the UN.”
Thus whole background is all the more shocking as at that particular time, China was preparing to invade Tibet; a position in the UN would have helped India’s prestige and influence. K.M. Panikkar, India’s Ambassador to China knew about the communists’ intention: on August 15, 1950, it had been reported from Hong Kong that Chinese troops had begun advancing towards Tibet’s borders. Nehru too was aware of the impending ‘liberation’: “This invasion of Tibet might well upset the present unstable equilibrium and let loose dangerous forces. Some of our border States will be affected. But I am more concerned with the larger issues which this involves,” he wrote.
What were the larger issues? One of them was the Chinese admission to the UN!
On October 25, when the news of the Chinese invasion became known, Nehru was unhappy, he frankly told Panikkar: “Our views regarding [the] threatening invasion of Tibet and its probable repercussion should have been communicated to them clearly and unequivocally. This has evidently not been done.”
One can still regret India’s inaction even today and though Modi can’t officially admit it, India has been suffering due to this ‘lapse’ for the past 65 years. But in October 1950, for the then Prime Minister: “The Chinese Government's action has jeopardised our persistent efforts to secure the recognition of China in the interests of world peace have suffered a serious setback.”
What to say? The rest is history, sad history.
As Prime Minister Modi arrived in Xi'an, the first leg of his high profile visit to China, I was wondering if he would speak with the Chinese leadership about Tibet. Apparently, he has not!
The ‘T’ word appears only once in the Joint Statement, when the Kailash yatra is mentioned: “The Indian side appreciated the support and cooperation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local government of Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China to Indian pilgrims for the Kailash Manasarover Yatra …the Chinese side would launch the route for the Yatra through Nathu La Pass in 2015.”
Note that Beijing always speaks of ‘Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China’! Delhi never speaks of ‘Tamil Nadu of the Republic of India’ or ‘West Bengal of India’. Perhaps it shows that Beijing is still unsure about the legal ground of its ‘presence’ in Tibet.
Apart from this reference, nothing on 'T'.
The fact remains that in the years to come. Narendra Modi will have a lot of work to untie the many knots left by Jawaharlal Nehru and his advisors like K.M. Panikar and V.K. Krishna Menon.
As for the Chinese, the least that one can say is that they have shown little gratitude towards India; Indian leaders should know that till today, Beijing has been unable to appreciate kindness and generosity.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

More on the 6th Tibet Work Forum

Wang Yang on an 'inspection' tour in Tibet
More on the 6th Tibet Work Forum held on August 24 and 25 in Beijing.
I must say that I was mistaken by the meeting of the Politburo of the CCP’s Central Committee which on July 30, discussed Tibet.
I was then under the impression that it WAS the 6th Tibet Work Forum.
On July 30, Xinhua had announced: “Chinese leaders discuss Tibet development, stability …Chinese leaders met to discuss economic and social development in Tibet and how to ensure the autonomous region achieve prolonged stability.”
A statement issued after the Politburo meeting presided over by President Xi Jinping noted: “Safeguarding national unity and strengthening ethnic unity should be highlighted in work involving Tibet. …Efforts should be made to unswervingly carry out the anti-separatism battle, promote the region's economic and social development, safeguard and improve people's welfare, and enhance exchanges and integration of different ethnic groups.”
It was then said that the Communist leadership agreed that “strengthening Tibetan infrastructure, helping it foster competitive industries while ensuring environmental protection are the means to achieve marked improvement in living conditions and more social cohesion.”
The solution to the Tibet issue was to “maintain national religious policies and promote patriotism in Tibet.”
Easier said than done!
The leadership then promised more support “to provide assistance to Tibet by pairing its cities with flourishing coastal cities and state-owned enterprises.”
At that time, it looked like an announcement for the Tibet Work Forum.
It was not!

A Serious Issue
It however raises a serious issue.
Why did the leadership need a full meeting of the Politburo to ‘prepare’ a Tibet Work Forum to be held 4 weeks later.
It is unheard of.
Remember on August 5, Xinhua published a news item titled, “Do Not Wait Anymore; No Meetings in Beidaihe.” The official news agency then said, “sources have speculated on the themes of the Beidaihe meeting this August and whether or not one will be held.”
But Xinhua argued: “Not long ago, the CCP Central Politburo met twice, on July 20 and on July 30, which was unusual. They have already discussed ‘The Thirteenth Five-Year Plan’, the CCP Fifth Plenary Session, economic strategies, the ‘anti-tiger campaign’, and other important issues.”
The article, though it does not mention the Tibet issue, asked: "Is it meaningful, necessary, or possible to talk about these issues again in Beidaihe several days or ten days later?”
So why to have a Politburo meeting on Tibet (even presuming that ‘Tibet’ was just a topic on the agenda of the July 30 meeting) to discuss the same things 4 weeks later?
A plausible explanation could be that there was some disagreement amongst the leaders on the Tibet policy to be followed during the next 5 or 10 years.
The air had to be cleared (or the positions fine-tuned) before calling for the much larger forum which is usually attended by 200 or 300 cadres.
It is a fact that since the time of the so-called ‘liberation’ in 1950-51, the leadership has always been sharply divided on the direction to take as far as the fate of the Roof of the World is concerned.
The July 30 Meet probably decided on a middle-path approach, which translated, as mentioned on my earlier post, in a dual objective to improve the ‘local conditions’ and ‘beef up social cohesion’ and rejecting the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' approach.
In President Xi’s words: “Key efforts in the work for Tibet should be spent on ensuring national unity and consolidating ethnic unity, with realizing long-term and comprehensive social stability."
‘Stability is an obligatory task’ hammered Xi, who affirmed that China “should firmly take the initiative in the fight against separatism, vowing to crack down on all activities seeking to separate the country and destroy social stability.”
Between the 30-July Politburo meeting and the Forum two important visits took place in Tibet, probably to take a final decision on the directions to be taken.

Visit of Vice-Premier Wang Yang in Tibet

Apart for the meeting chaired by Sun Chunlan on August 18, to discuss the preparations for the visit of a delegation from Beijing to Tibet on the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, two other members of the Politburo visited Tibet during the week preceding the Forum.
Wang Yang, Vice Premier of the State Council ‘inspected’ Lhasa and Nagchu.
The report says that he “investigated relevant work [linked to] poverty alleviation and development, animal husbandry, tourist industry and meteorological services.”
In Ngachu, Wang visited a meteorological station.
According to Xinhua, he expressed the Party’s “respect to those who work in these remote areas, high mountain regions and islands [sic] and persistently contribute to meteorological knowledge.”
The Chinese new agency commented: “The hardworking and plain-living spirit of plateau meteorological members also touched Vice Premier Wang Yang.”
The Vice-Premier declared: “Tibet can take pride in the advancements and achievements of meteorological cause; it has impressed and inspired us all.”
He spoke of the importance of meteorological observations on the plateau for weather forecasts and climate prediction for downstream regions: “to ramp up the research of meteorological science and technology along with climate change, in view of Tibet’s location, carries a significant implication.”
But Wang did not go only to study the weather patterns.
In Lhasa, he spoke of the implementation of different programs “to vigorously alleviate poverty by developing modern agriculture, animal husbandry as well as tourism development.”
This is an indicator of the direction in which the Forum would go a week later. Wang spoke again and again of “effective measures to further the implementation of poverty alleviation, remove poverty, accelerate the transformation of agricultural development, promote the construction of modern agriculture and animal husbandry, and the healthy development of tourism in Tibet”.
He added that this could help the region to find a solid foundation for the sustained and healthy economic and social development of Tibet by 2020.
Wang Yang was in Tibet between August 13 to 15.
On August 14 afternoon, Wang Yang chaired a forum and listen to the work report of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
He later stressed the need to thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s vision for the Tibet work and ensure the timely realization/implementation of the Party’s objectives.
And of course, Wang Yang mentioned the ‘stability’ of Tibet: “the whole region of Tibet strives for national unity and oppose separatist, your efforts are commendable,” he says.
He concluded: ‘We are proud of the great achievements made for the development of Tibet, Tibet has a precious natural and cultural heritage; it should be cherished.”
This was a prelude to the 6th Tibet Work Forum.

Another important visit: CMC's Vice-Chairman Xu Qiliang
On August 13, Xinhua reported that Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), visited Tibet (and Chongqing). He urged the military forces posted for defense of the border [with India] “to make down-to-earth efforts and follow the path to building a strong army”.
Xu had a call for strengthening education and urged the army to make “efforts to thoroughly clean up the negative influence caused by corrupt former military leaders [Generals] Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou.”
He pleaded for better management and control of the borders “as well as innovation with ideological work at military forces to shore up the morale of servicemen for border defense.”
He requested senior officers and army leaders to strictly observe the political discipline and rules, adding that modern ideas and elements should also be used in the management of the military.
Xu’s exhortation will be reflected in Xi’s speech during the Forum.
Xi reiterated his theory about the ‘border areas’; he said that “a series of strategies that have been in effect during the 60-plus years of governing Tibet," he then cited the theory that "governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilizing Tibet is a priority for governing border areas.”
Tibet’s border areas are India’s frontiers; let us not forget this.
And of course,  “the Central Government did not in the past, nor is now and will not in the future accept the [Dalai Lama's] Middle Way solution  to the Tibet issue,” said an article penned by an official the United Front Department after the Forum.
The hard line has prevailed once again.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The story so far: Weak yuan, bellicose China

My article The story so far: Weak yuan, bellicose China appeared yesterday in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Communist leadership in China believes that China is ‘big and strong', but the Shanghai and Chinese stock exchanges have shown that China is shaky too. A weaker China may, however, become more aggressive

On Monday, the Shanghai Composite index dropped down by 8.52 per cent. Can you imagine, markets in China lost a paltry one trillion dollar as the sell-off deepened not only in Shanghai, but also in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The world’s markets followed suit and started crumbling.
The South China Morning Post said, “Chinese stocks closed at their lowest level in six months as a wave or risk-off selling pummeled the market with only about 100 stocks listed in Shanghai still trading late as the other 993 stocks listed on the benchmark index.”
A first ‘explosion’ had occurred on August 11, when the yuan was devaluated for three consecutive days; at that time, many predicted long-term consequences for the Middle Kingdom.
Different explanations, often contradictory, have been given about the risky move: Some ‘experts’ explained that since a few years, Beijing kept the rate of the yuan more or less fixed at 6.20 per dollar, hoping to become a member of the exclusive club of reserve currencies of the International Monetary Fund. However, the IMF recently announced that China’s immediate inclusion was not on the cards as the fund would like Beijing to undertake more in-depth reforms, for example, by letting the exchange rate fluctuate. It is, however, doubtful if the devaluation was a first step in this direction.
Others have argued that the move would help China’s exports, but it will also push the dollar higher, making imports more expensive for China, the world’s largest user of energy, metals and grains. The question is: Has the leadership lost control over what is happening? Perhaps not, but the trust of the investors is fast vanishing.
Strangely, it is ‘holiday times’ in Beijing and all the big bosses have moved to a more clement sky in the sea resort of Beidaihe in Hebei province. On August 5, Xinhua published a news item titled, ‘Do Not Wait Anymore; No Meetings in Beidaihe.’
The news agency explains that every year since the Mao Zedong era, current and retired Chinese Communist Party leaders meet at Beidaihe in July or August.Xinhua however adds: “Not long ago, the CCP Central Politburo met twice, on July 20 and on July 30, which was unusual. …Is it meaningful, necessary, or possible to talk about these issues again in Beidaihe several days or 10 days later?”
So, no talk, though the communist leadership is on a warpath for something else. On August 10, the People’s Daily published an article mysteriously titled: ‘Dialectically View the Phenomenon of Tea Turns Cold When People Are Away.’
The article explains, “People come and go; the present day replaces old times. Over the years, many of our party cadres have correctly treated their status changes after having stepped down from their leadership positions. They consciously have not intervened in the work of the new leadership team …they have thus won everyone’s respect.” This targets former President Jiang Zemin and his clique.
Since then, websites in China have reported that Mr Jiang was under house arrest. It is difficult to check the veracity of the information, though a full-fledged war seems on the cards between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the ancient regime. Who will win is open to bets.
Simultaneously, Beijing is becoming more aggressive; not only in the South China Sea where it reclaimed number of large reefs, but also in the Pacific and elsewhere. Take the preparation of the military parade to be held on September 3, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II.
Xinhua announced that the People’s Liberation Army will unveil hundreds of new domestically developed pieces of armament. The grand show will feature 12,000 soldiers and 500 pieces of China’s latest military gadgets.
According to Xinhua, the Second Artillery Forces, the PLA’s strategic missile force, will display seven types of missiles, “The scale and number of the missiles will surpass any previous outing.”
During the National Day parade in 2009, China showcased five types of missiles, including the DF31A, a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the shores of the US.
Will the DF41, the latest inter-continental ballistic missile with a range upto 15,000 km be displayed? A Pentagon report recently asserted, “China is developing a new road-mobile ICBM, the DF-41, possibly capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle.”
The parade is “partly aimed at sending a message of warning to the us,” said Huang Dong, president of the Macau International Military Institute in an interview with Ming Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper. Mr Huang asserts that the purpose of the parade is “warning Washington to not ‘interfere’ in its regional activities, in particular its territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China sea.” The aggressiveness does not stop here.
On August 18, the PLA daily published an editorial, ‘Be Ready to Fight at All Times’. It re-emphasised the importance of building a strong Army which should be ready to fight ‘at all times’.
The article, later re-published (in Chinese) by all the major media, states: “Through these phenomena, we can easily see that Japanese militarism’s desire to eliminate China has never died, that is has refused to recognise the defeat in that war, and that it has secretly been gathering strength in an attempt to stage a comeback.”
It concludes, “China is at the critical juncture of becoming big and strong. Some Western countries are unwilling to see the rise of China, doing everything possible to contain and suppress China, repeatedly squeezing China’s strategy for development …thus the likelihood of disturbances and war taking place on our doorstep has increased.”
Closer to the Indian border, on August 24, the People’s Daily Online reported that three more unattended radars were soon to be installed in Tibet. The mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party reminds us that China’s “first unattended radar station has stood eight years on the top of Ganbala mountain, with a height of 5,374 meters above the sea level on Qinghai-Tibet plateau.”
The website affirms that the unattended radars would form a radar network with the previous one. Kampala (Ganbala in Chinese) is located in Nagartse county of Shannan Prefecture, not far from Lhasa.
Incidentally, on August 11, China Military Online published photos with this comment: “Air force J-11 regiment boosts night combat power, the PLA Air Force conducted night combat training in Tibet on August 9.” The pictures show a high plateau military airfield (Lhasa Gongkar) surrounded by snow-clad mountains and a group of J-11 heavily-Armed fighters taking off amid twilight.
The communist leadership believes that China is today ‘big and strong’, but the Shanghai and other Chinese stock exchanges have shown that China is very shaky too.