Friday, January 30, 2015

The shadowy Mr. Xiao

The meeting with the Karmapa did not go so well
The BBC News’ Shanghai correspondent has just reported about ‘China's super-rich communist Buddhists’, in which there is a footage of an audience given by the Dalai Lama to Xiao Wunan, a shadowy Chinese character.
I had mentioned Xiao on this blog in October 2012.
I then wrote:
According to the website of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a delegation from this Hong Kong based organization ‘visited India and Nepal upon invitation’.
The [organization] website gave some details: "During the visit in India, APECF delegation went to Dharamsala and visited the 17th Karmapa, both parties had a pleasant talk about the issue of bilateral religious and cultural exchange."
The APECF webmaster has forgotten to mention that Xiao Wunan, a senior CCP cadre and executive vice-president of APECF also met with the Dalai Lama and Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected Tibetan leader.
Why to only mention Karmapa?
The Chinese leadership probably wanted to keep the encounter with the Tibetan leaders as informal and low-key as possible.
None of the Tibetan websites reported the event which is an important one.
It appears that the meeting with the Karmapa did not go well and the young lama eventually walked out. It is not know what exactly happened.
A year earlier, I had already mentioned Xiao Wunan in connection with the so-called Lumbini project:
The Economist recently reported that China plans to invest $3 billion in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. The Economist explained: “After Prachanda, the leader of Nepal’s Maoists, stepped down as prime minister in 2009, he several times met representatives of The Asia Pacific Exchange and Co-operation Foundation (APECF). In July Chinese media reported that the Hong-Kong-based foundation—which is widely thought to have China’s backing—had signed an agreement with UNIDO, the UN’s industrial-development organisation, to invest $3 billion in Lumbini.” The objective is to make a ‘Mecca for Buddhists’. The Economist said that the news caused an uproar in Nepal as neither the central government nor the local authorities responsible for Lumbini were consulted. Later the Nepalese government refused to entertain the deal. “If this was an exercise in Chinese ‘soft power; it was a disaster’, The Economist commented.
Despite the 'uproar', Xiao Wunan stayed a week in Nepal.
The APECF website says: "From August 14th to 22nd, the Executive Vice Chairman of APECF Mr. Xiao Wunan, the Deputy Secretary General Ms. Gong Tingyu and Ms. Ge Chen, etc and representatives from China Railway 21st Bureau and China Potevio Group visited this area mentioned above, and had extensive exchanges with all parties in the aspect of bilateral and multilateral religious and cultural exchange and the further implementation of Lumbini Recovery Plan, and obtained fruitful results."
The Lumbini project is certainly not shelved as: "During the visit in Nepal, APECF delegation visited Mr. Parmanand Jha, the Vice President of Nepal, Mr. Prachanda, the President of Lumbini Development National Directive Committee, Mr. Posta Bahadur Bogati, the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Hridesh Tripathi, the Minister for Physical Planning, and Mr. Kamal Thapa, the Minister for Telecommunications."
And Mr Xiao wants also to help Nalanda!
About the encounter between the Dalai Lama and Xiao, posing as an emissary of Xi Jinping, I then concluded: “Anyhow, it is an extremely interesting development."
I thought that it could have been a small step forward.
At that time I was not aware of some other facets of Mr. Xiao's character.
The recent BBC reportage raises some serious issues.
Who is really Xiao?
Who are his sponsors in Beijing?
Why is Xiao suddenly back on the Buddhist stage?
How did Xiao Wunan get the footage of his audience with the Dalai Lama?
Why has he decided to make it public now?
Why has he not ‘released’ footages of his interviews with the Karmapa and Lobsang Sangye, the Tibetan Prime Minister?
It is difficult to answer these questions.
By the way, when he met the Dalai Lama, Xiao Wunan was accompanied by Simon Kei Shek Ming (alias Ji Shiming), a Hong Kong journalist who later interviewed Prof. Jin Wei of the Central Communist Party School. The latter suggested that Beijing should invite the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong.
If Xiao is a Chinese emissary, a messenger, there is no doubt that some of his visits abroad are related with the fact that Beijing has tried to project a 'soft' image of a Middle Kingdom, which could become the leader of the Buddhist world.
Yes, Beijing would like to be Marxist and Buddhist at the same time!
Already in July 2011, The China Daily had announced a plan to raise US $ 3 billion to turn Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace in Nepal into a Mecca for Buddhists: “a Hong Kong-based transnational foundation signed a memorandum with a United Nations agency that promotes industrialization in developing countries. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization will rely on its Beijing-based investment and technology promotion office for China to offer technical support for the project in Lumbini, Nepal.”
This then, it appears to have been shelved, at least temporarily.
But from where this money would have come from?
From the cash box of the Party?
The Chinese publication then affirmed: “As part of the project, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation has promised to bring roads, communication equipment, water and electricity to Lumbini, a poverty-stricken United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site that attracts about half a million visitors a year.”
Isn't it amazing?
Who is this APECF?
The China Daily says that the board is composed amongst others of Steven Clark Rockefeller Jr.; Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress; Leon H. Charney, a real estate tycoon and former US presidential adviser; Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); and Paras, the former Nepali crown prince known for his excesses.
In 2011, Xiao Wunan, executive vice-chairman of the foundation had explained that the Lumbini project will help "transcend religion, ideology and race" and rejuvenate the culture and spirit of Buddhism. …Buddhist dignitaries from around the world, including those from the Mahayana, Hinayana and Tibetan schools of Buddhism, have expressed enthusiasm about the plans.”
There is little doubt that some Chinese officials, with the help of Xiao Wunan would like China to take the lead in the world Buddhist movement.
In October 2014, I wrote about the Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) held in China.
Xinhua then reported: “Hundreds of the world's Buddhists gathered at an ancient temple in northwest China's Shaanxi Province to open the World Fellowship of Buddhists' 27th general conference. Congregating around a relic said to contain one of the Buddha's finger bones at the Famen Temple in Baoji City, more than 600 representatives from 30 nations and regions were in attendance.”
It was the first time that the three-day event, organized by the Bangkok-headquartered WFB, met on the Chinese soil (from October 16 to 18).
Xinhua also said: “Buddhist leaders at the opening ceremony included the 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu [Gyaltsen Norbu], and Nichiyu Mochida, chief abbot of Japan's Sogen-ji Temple.”
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who attended the WFB on behalf of the German Dharmadutta Society delegation from Sri Lanka, commented on the impressive display of Chinese Buddhist culture and hospitality.

Xiao with Admiral Rogel, Chief of the Naval Staff (France)
Around the same time, Xiao Wunan was in France.
A Chinese publication reported: “A dinner to celebrate the Sino-French "SeaOrbiter" was hosted by the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and co-sponsored by the Asia Pacific Exchange & Cooperation Foundation. It was held in French navy headquarter on the evening of October 16. Admiral Bernard Rogel, chief of staff of the French Navy, Mr. Jacques Rougerie, initiator of the 'SeaOrbiter' project and Chairman of the Jacques Rougerie Foundation, Mr. Xiao Wunan, Executive Chairman of APECF, Mr. Li Shaoping, Cultural Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in France, and other distinguished guests attended the dinner. In March this year, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to France, the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and APECF signed a memorandum of understanding on the SeaOrbiter–China Project in Paris. They plan to build the world's first 'SeaOrbiter' in the South China Sea.”
I did not know that SeaOrbiter was a Sino-French project!!
In a speech in August, the eclectic Mr. Xiao had explained that China's State Council “officially listed the SeaOrbiter as one of ten major scientific and technological projects and praised this cooperation from a national strategic perspective. ...China hopes this project will turn it into a maritime power and assume more responsibility exploring our oceans.”
Xiao Wunan is indeed very versatile.
A month earlier, he visited Tel Aviv at the invitation of Israel's Labor Party. His website says: “During the visit, they exchanged ideas with Israel's Labor Party, the Prime Minister's Office, think tanks, the national bank and other institutions and achieved fruitful results.
He met Isaac Herzog, Chairman of Israel's Labor Party who gave him an autobiography of his father (the former president of Israel).
Xiao Wunan has a particularity: he likes to be photographed with important persons. One can understand, as he probably has to report to Beijing about the huge amounts of money he lavishly spends when he moves around.
Bizarre Affair!
Later, he was spotted in the United States.
As one of the characters in the BBC reportage admits, today in China, one becomes Buddhism to get richer.
It looks like the case of Mr. Xiao. It is true that to get rich in China was till recently relatively easy (with or without Buddha's help).
The question remains: who are Xiao's sponsors?
Some rumours have linked an APECF's Vice-Chairman with Zhou Yongkang, the demoted former member of the Politburo's Standing Committee. Is Mr Xiao's money coming from in oil, gas, media, hospitality and communications?
It is up to Wang Qishan and his Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to find out.
But presently, Xiao Wunan is doing well ...till his karma catches up with him!

White Paper VII on China

I have posted on my website, a digital version of the White Paper No.VII (also known as Notes, Memoranda and Letters Exchanged Between the Governments of India and China).
This volume relates to the period between July 1962 and October 1962, the months preceding the India-China War.
It was published by the Ministry of External Affairs Government of India in November 1962 :
On 6 August 1962, the Prime Minister presented to Parliament the Sixth White Paper containing the notes, memoranda and letters exchanged between the Government of India and the Government of the People's Republic of China since 2 December 1961. This White Paper contains the notes, memoranda and letters exchanged between the two Governments, since 28 July 1962. It also contains 5 earlier notes which had not been included in the previous White Paper."

Click here to download...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

High on rhetoric, but ill-prepared on ground

My article High on rhetoric, but ill-prepared on ground appeared today in the Edit page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

If we are to be prepared to counter Chinese designs along the Line of Actual Control and China’s claim over States like Arunachal Pradesh, we need to dramatically ramp up road infrastructure at the borders

President Barack Obama has come and gone. The dust is slowly settling over the Indian capital. Even if very few concrete projects have materialised during the three-day visit, it was a great diplomatic success for Mr Narendra Modi. The bonhomie displayed by the two heads of Government is certainly a good omen for the future. At last India has come out of the dreadful ‘non- alignment’ syndrome.
But one serious concern comes from Mr Modi’s own camp: Several Ministers are not able to think before speaking. The latest is Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma who stated, “If there was a religious centre in Aksai Chin, China would not have dared [enter] and there would have been no need for border security.” Religion and spirituality were Tibet’s way of life, but the Chinese invaded and destroyed 6,000 monasteries.
But that is not all for Mr Modi. Take Arunachal, for example. Despite the good intentions and the publicised resolutions to transform the State, changes take more time than expected. Irredentist China still asserts that the State belongs to it. During his recent visit to Delhi, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was fired by Beijing because he stated that Arunachal Pradesh was under India’s control. Beijing immediately lodged a strong protest: “We hope Japan fully understands the sensitivity of the China-India boundary question”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
At the time of the incident, the website, China Tibet Online explained its stance: “The areas located between the illegal ‘McMahon Line’and the traditional customary boundary between China and India [down to Assam], have always been Chinese territory.” Though this does not make any historical sense, Beijing continues with its claims. At the same time, China develops the areas north of the McMahon on a war footing.
For centuries, one of most sacred places in Tibet was a remote area known as Pemakoe. Dominated by Mt Namcha Barwa, at an altitude of 7,782 metres, it is located in Metok county, north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. For the Tibetans, this pristine region was one of their ‘hidden valleys’, said to be the home of Goddess Dorjee Pagmo, Tibet’s Protecting Deity.
As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao landed in Delhi in December 2010, Xinhua dropped a bombshell: “The tunnel of highway linking Tibet’s Metok completed”, it informed. Though unnoticed by the Indian media, it heralded a significant strategic change for the defence of India’s borders. On October 31, 2013, China Tibet Online reported that the 117-km Metok Highway had been opened to traffic: Pemakoe was not ‘hidden’ anymore. Xinhua announced that the journey by cars or buses to the nearby Bomi county would take hardly eight hours.
Last week, Xinhua announced that the same Metok county “celebrated a tourist boom last year thanks to a new highway”. Tashi, Party chief of the county declared that Metok “received 96,000 tourists last year, almost doubling that in 2013, …[it] expects to welcome 110,000 visitors this year”, bringing revenue of nearly one billion US dollars to the area.
On the Indian side, Prime Minister Modi has to deal with unbelievable difficulties. One is the terrain itself, while others have been the creation of the previous Congress Government. Take the Border Roads Organisation, which has clearly been unable to deliver the goods. There was an irrational dual command between the Ministry of Surface Transport looking after ‘administration’ and the Ministry of Defence taking care of ‘operations’. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar admitted that “with two masters, you don’t get work output”.
It may take years to set things right, but the Modi regime  seems determined. It has been decided to transfer the BRO under the MoD. The organisation will entirely be “defence-controlled and defence-financed”, according to the Defence Minister, quoted by Business Standard. Mr Parrikar added that the Modi Government was “considering transferring of 6,000-7,000 km of roads, which are not in sensitive areas, to the National Highways Authority of India”.
This is good, but today, nobody in Arunachal Pradesh believes that the BRO will be able to keep its promises (amongst them, to complete by 2016 the strategic Balukpong-Tawang road). Another small step in the right direction is the exemption by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest of necessary clearance for the “construction/widening of roads entrusted to the BRO in the area falling within 100 kilometers aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control”.
Press Trust of India reported that the BRO’s Director General , Lt Gen RM Mittal, accompanied by the organisation’s top brass, paid a five-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh early this month. The Director General must have heard of the pathetic case of the 221-km Daporijo-Taksing road in Upper Subansiri district. In November and December, the BRO’s local Chief Engineer, Brigadier HK Pokhariya had to tour the project on foot. This time, the officials flew to the LAC, “for ascertaining the progress of work and to suggest steps to speed up the work”, said a communique.
All essential goods have still to be carried to Taksing circle, which often witnesses Chinese intrusions. The BRO has not enough camps, and, in some cases, according to local sources, it takes three to four  hours for the workforce to reach their workplace. After working a couple of hours, the time comes for the workers to return to their base. When will this be sorted out? The situation on the ground shows that Mr Modi’s dream to stop the migration from the border areas will continue to face huge hurdles.
Another example was that the Protected Area Permit for foreigners, was made more complicated: Tourists from abroad had to go through a tour operator who was charging several times the $50  fixed by the authorities. It appears that the issue has now been solved; a proposal has been approved for relaxation of the permit to promote tourism.
Yet another issue that the Modi Government has not yet been able to solve is the Chinese intrusions. This is going to take more time. It is a pity that the Government remains hesitant and still insists on the antiquated Inner Line Permit (and PAP) for Arunachal Pradesh. This timid attitude seems to encourage Beijing to persist with its wild claims on the region.
Delhi should assert once and for all that the entire Arunachal Pradesh is Indian territory and, therefore, it must treat it on par with any other Indian State. Every Indian national should be allowed to freely visit the State, while, of course, keeping in mind the security issues. Similarly, in every field of governance, the progresses are slow. Still, as long the Modi Government keeps trying to bring about change, there is hope.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkeys: CCDI in Tibet

Applauding the Party at the Tibet People's Congress
A few days ago, China releases a long list of PLA commanders under investigation for alleged corruption.
The South China Morning Post wrote: "The military made a rare move by listing 16 senior commanders to come under investigation for graft over the last year. The People's Liberation Army has singled out corrupt individual officers over the past two years but never so many at one time. The list includes familiar names as well as new additions, including two from the logistics department, a PLA unit that oversees military spending."
The list of the 16 generals was made public.
The situation is different in Tibet.

Yesterday, The Global Times announced: "Several officials who participated in the illegal underground 'Tibetan Independence' organization, provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama clique and assisted activities that would harm national security, were put under investigation in 2014." The mouthpiece of the Party quoted 'authorities' in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
However, no names were given.
Why this double-standard between Party cadres in Tibet and PLA generals?
Wang Gang, an official of the Central Committee of Discipline Inspection (CCDI) stated that "15 officials were punished by the Communist Party of China (CPC) for violating Party and political discipline in 2014."
Who are they?
We are only told that there are "Six 'typical' cases of Party members and civil servants violating discipline and 45 officials who abandoned their positions and neglected their duties".
Did they visit Dharamsala during their holidays? Wang would not say, though we are told that they have been severely punished.
Ye Dongsong, head of the CCDI inspection team who visited Tibet in November 2014 added: "Some officials failed to take a firm stand on issues related to the Tibet question and some grass-root officials in the region were found to be seriously corrupt."
The CCDI official suggested that the Tibetan regional government should focus "on neutralizing separatists and maintaining social stability, cracking down on corruption and strictly monitoring projects in the region."
It looks to me  like 'killing a few chicken for scaring the monkeys', as the Chinese proverb says.
Last week, during the 'Two Meetings' (the annual Tibet People's Congress and Tibet People's Political Consultative Conference), all the big shots were around. It probably means that the 15 black sheep who dared admiring (or worshiping) the Dalai Lama, are relatively junior officials posted at the county level.
[Three days after writing this post, Xinhua, quoting the CCDI's website, gave a name. It was announced that "Losong Tsering, secretary of the CPC committee of Tibet's Transportation Department, is the subject of an investigation relating to 'serious disciplinary violations', according to the regional discipline inspection commission. The commission did not elaborate on the 'violations'." Losong Tsering served earlier as Party Secretary of Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture from 2006 to 2011].

The Fashion Show

By the way, reported that "Two-Thirds of Provinces Say They Missed GDP Growth Targets in 2014," and added: "At least two-thirds of China's provinces, regions and municipalities failed to meet their targets for gross domestic product growth for last year, prompting regional governments to lower their projections for 2015."
Interestingly, among the 22 provinces and regions which have released macroeconomic statistics for 2014, only Tibet managed to meet the target of 11 percent growth.
One could add, thanks to the tourism boom.
This year too, the Two Meetings witnessed the usual fashion show.
Please note that some of the 'models' were not really politically correct as they wore animal fur.


The McMahon Line is legal

My article The McMahon Line is legal appeared in NitiCentral.
Here is the link...

Soon before India started suffering from an acute Obama fever, a small incident took place which, though largely unnoticed, it made China extremely unhappy.
During his recent visit to Delhi, the Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida dared to speak about what Beijing calls “a Chinese territorial area adjacent to India as Indian Territory.” According to The China Daily, the Japanese diplomat was referring to Arunachal Pradesh
Beijing immediately lodged a strong protest: “We hope Japan fully understands the sensitivity of the China-India boundary question,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, who added that in his speech in New Delhi, “Kishida attracted media attention after referring to a southern area of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region as Indian Territory. …Beijing has taken notice of the report, expressed serious concerns, demanded Japan make a clarification and immediately manage damage control.”
Hong affirmed that Tokyo had earlier stated its position of “no taking sides in regard to the areas disputed by China and India” and promised Beijing that it will not get involved in the issue.
Later, Kishida’s clarification did not satisfy China.
Unfortunately for Beijing, the bullying tactics do not work with Japan.
Apart from the China’s official position expressed by Hong Lei, Beijing used one of its ‘scholars’ to add to the barrage of artillery against Kishida.
Geng Xin, who teaches at Renmin University in Beijing and is involved in Japan-based China Studies Think Tank, spoke to The Global Times, the Communist party mouthpiece. He affirmed that Kishida’s words had
“unveiled Japan’s intent of ‘uniting’ the countries that have territorial disputes with China, in an attempt to create a strong impression that Japan, along with China’s other neighboring countries, is bullied by a rising China.”
At the time of the incident, the website China Tibet Online explained Beijing’s position vis-à-vis the border:
“Arunachal Pradesh, which includes three areas in Tibet Autonomous Region -Monyul, Loyul and Lower Tsayul, is currently under Indian illegal occupation. The Chinese government’s stance on these areas, located between the illegal ‘McMahon Line’ and the traditional customary boundary between China and India, is that they have always been Chinese territory.”
Historical facts speak very differently.
Contrary to what China says today, the McMahon Line is very much legal: it was signed by the Prime Minister of Tibet (Lochen Shatra) and India’s Foreign Secretary (Sir Henry McMahon) in March 1914.
As importantly, during the last two millennia, the Chinese have never set a foot in Arunachal Pradesh (formerly NEFA), except for one short visit in one particular location in 1910.
Soon after their occupation of Lhasa in 1910, the troops of Zhao Erfeng, a Chinese warlord troops undertook the subjugation of Poyul, the region located north of the territory inhabited by the Abors in the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra Valley. Zhao Erfeng also invited Chinese settlers to come and settle in Zayul, near Rima on the Tibetan side in the Lohit valley. During the summer of 1910, some Chinese officials posted near Rima, went as far south as Walong in Indian Territory where they planted boundary flags, in a place called Menilkrai.
This incident rang the bells in Delhi and London. Something had to be done.
This brief intrusion in the Lohit valley more than 100 years ago, does not means that the entire NEFA has always belonged to China.
In November 1913, the Secretary of State sanctioned what the British called a ‘promenade’. T.P.M. O’Callaghan, the Assistant Political Officer (APO), accompanied by an escort of the 1/8th Gurkha Rifles visited Rima at the invitation of the Tibetan authorities, and clarified the location of the border.
On May 6, 1914, Sir Archdale Earle, the Chief Commissioner of Assam wrote:
“Mr. O’Callaghan’s report confirms the information …that there are at present no Chinese troops anywhere in the neighbourhood of Rima.”
The APO had found Chinese markers at Menilkrai, near Walong (one set dated from 1910 and new markers had been placed in 1912 by the Chinese troops). O’Callaghan removed the markers, repositioned them upstream, near Kahao, just south of the McMahon Line.
O’Callaghan however suggested that a military post needed to be established at Walong:
“I am more than ever convinced of the necessity of the finishing of the road to our frontier and the opening of a post as near our frontier as soon as possible.”
Even before the McMahon Line was formerly delineated, there was no Chinese presence in NEFA.
It is however true that there were areas where the Tibetans had some influence (it represented some 10% of the NEFA’s/Arunachal’s territory); it was mainly in Tawang area; in today’s West Siang [Pachaksiri], Upper Siang [Tuting, Geling], and Lohit/Anjaw, where tribes affiliated with the Tibetans (Monpas, Mempas, etc…) lived.
This again does not make Arunachal ‘Chinese'; the Chinese never even visited these areas.
China knew this and admitted it. Take a letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to U Nu, his Burmese counterpart; on April 22, 1957, Nehru wrote: “I am writing to you immediately so as to inform you of one particular development which took place here when Chou En-lai (Zhou Enlai) came to India. In your letter you say that while premier Chou En-lai was prepared to accept the McMahon Line in the north (of Burma), he objected to the use of the name ‘McMahon Line’, as this may produce ‘complications vis-à-vis India’, and therefore, he preferred to use the term ‘traditional line’.”
Nehru continued: “[Zhou] made it clear that he accepted the McMahon Line between India and China, chiefly because of his desire to settle outstanding matters with a friendly country like India and also because of usage, etc. I think, he added he did not like the name ‘McMahon Line’.”
Whether he liked or not the ‘colonial’ connotation, the line remained the border and till September 1959, there was no dispute about the border!
NEFA/Arunachal as part of China is definitively a claim which followed the border tensions at the end of the 1950s and culminated in the 1962 War.
It is however true that the shyness of the Government of India, which still insists on an Inner Line Permit (or Protected Area Permit for foreigners) encourages the Chinese government to continue with its wild claims.
Delhi should assert once and for all that the entire Arunachal is Indian and therefore treat at par with the other Indian States and every Indian national should be allowed to freely visit the State, while, of course, keeping in mind the security issues.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Tibetan blues

My book review of Meltdown in Tibet by Michael Buckley (PanMacmillan), entitled The Tibetan blues appeared yesterday in the Sunday Pioneer (Agenda) .

Here is the link...

This well-documented work delves deep into issues which are bound to get hotter with time, writes CLAUDE ARPI

André Malraux, the famous French Philosopher and General de Gaulle’s Culture Minister once said, ‘The 21st century will be spiritual or will not be’. Without denying the role that spirituality can play in the present planetary crisis, it is obvious that if the world leaders do not rapidly take some drastic actions to solve the planet’s environmental issues, annihilation will befall upon humanity by the end of the current century.
Michael Buckley’s, Meltdown in Tibet, delves deep into these burning issues. His well-documented work deals with topics which are bound to be hotter as the years pass by. Buckley says that he isn’t a scholar who analyses problems from air conditioned rooms, he sees himself more as an adventurer. The Canadian environmentalist has extensively travelled on the Asian roads, more particularly in the Himalayas and the Roof of the World where he witnessed the changes brought about by the wild development of modern China. He is an Asia-trotter, having spent most of his time in our continent, particularly in Tibet. His book, Heartlands: Travels in the Tibetan World had earned him the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.
He is also a keen rafter and points his finger towards the Tibetan plateau: “Glance at a physical map of the Tibetan Plateau and you will see why the rivers of Tibet are so important to southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Tibetan plateau is the source of the major rivers of this vast region, stretching all the way from the coast of China in the east to Pakistan in the west. Ninety per cent of the run-off from Tibetan rivers flows downstream into China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, India, Nepal etc. At the tail-end of those same rivers lie the world’s largest deltas...close to two billion people rely on Tibet’s waters-for drinking, for agriculture, for fishing, for industry.”
The first lines of Meltdown in Tibet accurately highlight our century’s vital issues: the fate of more than half of humanity depends on the waters from Tibet. Speaking about the water situation in China, Xinhua recently admitted a ‘domino effect on water supply’. The Chinese news agency was commenting on the first comprehensive study of China’s glaciers which proves that on an average, 244 sq km of glaciers disappear every year. The Chinese glaciologists “had warned of ‘chain effects’ that could have an impact on water supplies in the country’s western regions” …and one should add, on India.
The figures come from the survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which found, “China had 48,571 glaciers in its western provinces, including the Tibetan regions of Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces.” This is indeed not encouraging news, but despite the impending shortage of water in the long-term, China continues to dam rivers originating from the Third Pole; Buckley explains this terminology: “Outside of the Arctic and Antarctic, the Tibetan Plateau has the largest store of ice on earth, leading to its designation as the ‘Third Pole’. …In terms of human impact, however, meltdown of Tibetan Plateau glaciers will have far greater repercussions.” Even the Chinese scientists agree that there is far less scientific data available on the Third Pole than on the Arctic and Antarctic .
An interesting feature of Buckley’s book is that the author links different issues which are not correlated at first sight. When he speaks about the ‘Crisis at the Third Pole’, he asks, ‘What does a rain of black soot have to do with this?’ He himself answers the question: “There is no doubt that greatly elevated CO2 emissions from both China and India are leading causes of warming on the Tibetan Plateau. But for glacial meltdown, another significant factor may be the rain of black soot...Lumps of coal burned in households in China result in a tremendous output of black carbon, or soot, also referred to as black soot. …Black carbon from cities in both India and China travels on air currents and gets trapped on the Tibetan Plateau.”
That is not all, the carbon particle, being black, absorbs the heat from the sun “both while floating in an air column or once settled on the ground — or the ice”. Everyone has experienced that wearing white clothes in summer is cool, as white reflects the light (and the heat) but if you have a black shirt, you will soon feel the heat. Scientists say that when the sun’s rays hit the earth, a certain percentage of the energy is reflected back into space. The amount of radiation reflected is called, the albedo. The sun’s energy at the poles reflects more rays (and heat), it has a high albedo. The more ‘black’ particles and the less snow and glaciers, the faster the earth will warm up with incalculable consequences for the small humans living on it. It triggers a vast exponential domino effect.
'We have only one Tibet'
Chapter after chapter, Buckley enlightens us on the ‘Ecocide on the Land of Snows’; on why Tibet matters so much today; on the fate of the mighty rivers of Tibet and their damming (‘What on earth are China’s engineers up to?’); on China’s appetite for energy (‘Where is the thirsty dragon going to guzzle next’); on the fate of the nomads parked in new ghettos (‘Vanishing Nomads, Vanishing Grasslands’) or Plundering the Treasure House (‘How much can an ecosystem take before it collapses?’). He believes that Beijing’s water policies dictated by their new godhead, i.e. ‘Development’, will lead Asia to natural disasters.
In the chapter ‘Downstream Blues’, he mentions the consequences of the Third Pole’s environmental degradation for India and the possibility of a Himalayan Water War (if the Brahmaputra is diverted, for example). At the end, the author asks a vital question, valid not only for China (Tibet), but for India, Bangladesh or Pakistan too: “Why can’t they just leave the rivers alone?” It’s a difficult question, because development is today a ‘must’ for most modern states.
Is there a way out? A middle path? Buckley does not provide an answer, except mentioning the importance of trans-boundary collaboration. He rightly says: “Water, not oil, is now becoming the world’s most important resource. Though we live on a planet covered by water, very little of it is accessible.” The fate of the 21st century will indeed depend on water; spirituality could perhaps help in bringing some wisdom into humans’ brains and hearts, though it may soon be too late; as the Dalai Lama says in his preface: “We only have one Tibet. There are no backups.”

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Return of General Peng Yong

On November 4, 2013, I mentioned on this blog the sacking of Lt. Gen. Peng Yong; it had been then reported by Reuters.
At that time, I thought that Peng's removal from the Standing Committee of the Regional Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's Party was linked to the Depsang Plains incident in April 2013. I then wrote:
From 2011 till recently, [Peng] commanded the Xinjiang Military Region. In November 2012, he was promoted as a member of the CCP's Central Committee.
Let us remember that the Xinjiang Military Region of the Lanzhou Military Area looks after the Indian border in Ladakh as well as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Reuters says that he had been 'booted off' for the attack, presumably by Uygyur militants, on the Tiananmen Square.
Why should the PLA Xinjiang Commander (and Central Committee) be responsible for a problem of law and order (Tiananmen incident).
The PLA's job is the defence of China's borders and is concerned with external threats from abroad (in this case, India).
The internal threats are dealt with the People's Armed Police (PAP) and State Security apparatus (Public Security Bureau or PSB).
If a head had to roll for the embarrassing (for Beijing) incident which happened in the heart of the Chinese capital, the Party Secretary (and Politburo member) Zhang Chunxian should have lost his job.
PAP and PSB should have also been sacked. They did not. It means that Peng Yong was shown the door for other reasons, the Depsang incident is a strong probability.
Lt. Gen. Peng Yong
I had concluded: "Let us see what happens next."
My reading was that after being sacked from the Standing Committee, Peng would swiftly be removed from his command in Xinjiang Military District.
I was probably wrong, because General Peng has now reappeared and he is apparently going strong.
Quoting him, Chinese military websites title: 'PLA strengthens Xinjiang forces to foil terror attacks'.
The communique explains: "China is strengthening its military power in its northwestern frontier region bordering Afghanistan and Central Asia. The military reinforcement comes against a backdrop of United States troops pulling out of Afghanistan and extremists launching terrorist attacks on civilian targets."
Quoting General Peng Yong, the article says that the PLA troops, based in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will vigorously enforce border controls.
Not only Peng is  still commander of the PLA Xinjiang Military District (of Lanzhou Military Region), but he appears to have been reinstalled in the Standing Committee of the XUAR.
Peng declared that during this year, the PLA will continue to carry out 'realistic combat training' and increase its ability to carry out a variety of military exercises.
According to The South China Morning Post, Peng stated: "We have the responsibility to stay on high alert and strike hard against terrorist activities in the region."
He made these remarks during the annual session of the 12th People's Congress of Xinjiang in Urumqi.
It looks like Peng is back in his old seat in the regional Party.
The South China Morning Post further explains: "Three more PLA generals have been appointed to the Xinjiang military region, including Li Wei, a major general, who will serve as its commissar. The two other appointees, Ye Jianjun and Han Bingcheng, are also major generals. ...Xinjiang is the largest provincial-level military region in China. It has four deputy commanders and four deputy commissars, while other military regions normally have only one deputy commander and one deputy commissar."
Not a word about India's border with Xinjiang and Tibet though the Hong Kong newspaper mentions: "Xinjiang shares a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Xinjiang military region increased the number of routine patrols last year to guard against infiltration by terrorist cells after the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan."
The return of General Peng Yong shows that one can often be wrong when one assess China. We will probably never know why he was sacked and why he has been rehabilitated now.
The Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom!

Now Yong and Yong are running the Indian borders (Lt. Gen. Peng Yong - Xinjiang and Lt. Gen. Xu Yong - Tibet).
(According to China Military Online, both Xu Yong and Diao Guoxin, commander and political commissar respectively of the Tibet Military Command [or District] who were promoted lieutenant generals on July 15, 2014, participated in the China-Vietnam border war).