Friday, April 18, 2014

Fifty Years ago: China already planned to dam the Brahmaputra

The Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra)
As I am quoted, I am posting below an article published by the, a Canadian intelligence publication.
Though the project of a mega dam on the Brahmaputra (or worse, the diversion of the river) is today 'officially' denied by Beijing, there is no doubt that some scientists are working on it.
It is not a new project.
I recently came across a letter from the Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, addressed to the Political Officer in Sikkim (Apa Pant).
The Note is dated October 1960. It appears that in the 1950s, the Chinese were already planning to use the hydroelectric potential of the Brahmaputra.
I reproduce here this letter which is available in the National Archives of India.

From: B.C. Mishra
Deputy Secretary
Ministry of External Affairs
New Delhi
October 7, 1960
No. 12/281/NGO
Dear Shri Pant,
The following extract from a tour report of the Secretary General, Relief Committee for Tibetans, New Delhi, will be of interest to you:
"During the course of the talk, the Dalai Lama also informed that he had reports that Chinese are planning to build high dams across Brahmaputra and Indus group of rivers in the Tibetan region. He told that, as a matter of fact, the Chinese had those schemes in view ever since they came to Tibet in 1951. He wondered how far such projects undertaken unilaterally would be in the interest of India and when the projects took shape how the Government of India would view the situation”
2- We have received no information so far about any proposal of the Chinese Government to construct dams across the Indus and the Brahmaputra before the rivers leave Tibet. The correct international practice in such matters is that building of dams, reservoirs, etc. by the upper riparian must not cause material injury to the interests of the lower riparian. Since, however, the information contained in the above extract is rather vague, we cannot make representations to the Chinese. However, the necessity of being alert in this matter can hardly be over-emphasized.
3- As I said above, we have no correct information about any Chinese plan to construct dams or reservoirs on the rivers. However, we do know that there is a great fall in the Brahmaputra just before it enters Indian territory – I believe 6 miles from our border. This fall has a great potential for power and irrigation (?). It will, of course, require huge resources to make anything out of it and it will certainly take a long time. Nevertheless, I thought you would be interested to be apprised of this. You may perhaps like to pass the above information on our Missions in Tibet too.

Yours sincerely
sd/ (B.C. Mishra)

To Shri Apa B. Pant
Political Officer
Government of India
Fifty-four years later, Mishra's conclusion: "However, the necessity of being alert in this matter can hardly be over-emphasized," is still valid.

Water Wars: The Next Clash between India and China
Amitava Mukherjee
April 17, 2014

A China watcher named Claude Arpi has drawn attention to a recently posted article on the website of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission under China’s Ministry of Water Resources. The article speaks of the necessity and feasibility of diverting the waters of some rivers, including the Brahmaputra (called Yarlung Tsangpo in China), to meet water supply needs in China’s arid north and northwest. This further confirms the fact that, in spite of several denials, China is still progressing with the controversial project that could spell doom in not just large parts of India but Bangladesh as well.
If the article is to be believed, engineers in China’s Ministry of Water Resources have already completed a feasibility study. In 1999, Jiang Zemin, a former president of China, announced the grandiose “Great Western Extraction” plan which would transfer huge volume of water from Tibet to the Yellow River. In 2008, Prime Minister Singh raised the issue with the Chinese leadership, but Wen Jiabao, the then Chinese prime minister, replied that the water diversion plan was imperative due to China’s water insecurity.
There was a grain of truth in Wen Jiabao’s statement, and herein lies a grave source of tension in the Indian subcontinent. Fast-paced development has raised water imbalance in China to such an extent that the Chinese government has no other option but to look at unconventional replenishment options. Already 300 million people in China have no access to safe drinking water and 400 of the country’s 600 major towns are suffering from water shortages. While southern China has 80 inches of average annual rainfall, northern China - with massive population centers like Beijing with over 20 million people and Tianjin with 12 million - receives only 8-16 inches of annual rainfall on average. Groundwater levels under Beijing have fallen by 2.5 meters since 1999 and a staggering 59 meters since 1959.
The situation is very alarming, as water conflicts may soon become the main source of discord between India and China, replacing the two countries’ ongoing boundary dispute. China has 2.8 trillion cubic meters of water and stands fourth in the world in this regard. But due to the gigantic size of its population, China’s per-capita water reserves stand at only 2,300 cubic meters. The northern portion of the country has 44.3 percent of overall population and 59.6 percent of its arable land - but it has only 4.5 percent of the country’s water resources. The region has an average per-capita water reserve of 747 cubic meters, which is one third the national average.
The burning question then becomes: how much of the Brahmaputra’s water does China plan to divert?  To all intents and purposes Beijing seems to have a two pronged strategy. The first one is called the South-North Water Diversion Project, which seeks to transfer 45 billion cubic meters of water from the Yangtze River to the north and northwest of the country. The first phase of this project has already gone operational. But the most ambitious strategy aims to shift 50 billion cubic meters of water from the Brahmaputra to the Yellow River. Experts believe that the energy generated from these proposed hydro-electric projects on the Brahmaputra might turn out to be useful in pushing up river waters through difficult mountainous terrains.
No one knows whether there are any Chinese plans for the river Indus, which also originates in Tibet. If Beijing were to divert the Indus, then several other Indian rivers, like the Sutlej, Kosi, Gandak, and Mahakali which get their replenishment from it would run dry.
The Brahmaputra is a trans-national river. It enters India from China at Arunachal Pradesh, where it is known as the Siang. While in Assam it takes the name Brahmaputra and enters Bangladesh at a place named Bahadurabad. On March 1, 2012 residents of Pasighat, a town on the bank of the Siang in Arunachal Pradesh, witnessed a very strange sight. On that date, the Siang - which used to be nearly several kilometers wide - ran completely dry. Since then the river has continued to shrink.
There is no doubt that China is in need of water. However, the Mumbai-based Strategic Foresight Group has calculated that the Himalayan river basins in Bangladesh, China, India, and Nepal shelter 1.3 billion people. In the next two decades, annual per-capita water availability in these basins will decline by 13-35 percent. Moreover, 10-20 percent of the Himalayan rivers are largely dependent on glaciers and lakes for their supplies and 70 percent of these glaciers may melt in the next 100 years.
Within China there are two opposing schools in regard to the Brahmaputra water diversion proposal. In 2006, Wang Schucheng, the then Minister for Water Resources, described the proposal as unnecessary, unfeasible, and unscientific. But Wang Guangqian, an expert on the subject who enjoys great influence over the present Chinese power set-up, threw his weight behind the idea of Brahmaputra water diversion. In such a milieu, India has also stepped up its efforts to make use of the river’s flow. Already New Delhi has sanctioned an 800-megawatt hydro-electric project on the Brahmaputra. A technical  expert  group (TEG) constituted by the Indian government has suggested the construction of hydro power projects on the rivers Lohit and Subansiri, both tributaries of the Brahmaputra, at sites close to India’s border with China. India has also decided to speed up studies on the basins of the rivers Subansiri, Lohit, and Siang for their strategic utilization.
Bangladesh will face serious problems if China and India start actively competing over the Brahmaputra. Bangladesh receives around 1,106 cubic kilometers of water per year from external sources, out of which around 600 cubic kilometers of water come from the Brahmaputra. Bangladesh’s own internal generation is only 105 cubic kilometers, which means the country’s dependence on external water supplies is around 91 percent.
Thus, the need of the hour is a multilateral approach for solving this growing controversy over the Brahmaputra – before it starts to do real harm to Sino-Indian relations.
Amitava Mukherjee is a contributor to

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Infrastructure Links on the Tibetan Plateau

New Tunnel on the Golmund-Xining railway line
While India is busy with the legislative elections, China continues to frantically develop its infrastructure on the Tibetan plateau and at its periphery.
A couple of days ago, Xinhua announced, 'world's longest plateau rail tunnel completed'.
The Chinese news agency reported that the Xinguanjiao Tunnel, the world's longest plateau rail tunnel on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, had been completed last week.
According to Zhi Changying, an official with the China Railway Tunnel Co. Ltd. (CRTC), a partner in the project, the 33 km tunnel is the longest rail tunnel in China.
It is a part of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It is located between Golmud in northwestern Qinghai province and the capital, Xining.
Except for the tunnel, the 763-km-long line was opened to traffic in November 2010.
It took some 7 years to the CRTC and the China Railway 16th Bureau Group Co., Ltd. (CRBGC) to built the tunnel which was the main 'bottleneck' on the Golmund-Xining railway line.
Liu Hairong, a CRBGC official admitted that the project posed several challenges for engineers due to high altitude, complicated geological conditions and tight budgets [sic].
Zhi Changying said that the tunnel will be opened to traffic at the end of 2014: "It will give a much-needed boost to the transportation capabilities of the high-profile Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which connects the northwestern Qinghai Province and Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region", stated the official who added that it will allow to better connect Qinghai and Tibet.
But that is not all.
The China Daily announced that the construction of a new road between Xichang (in Sichuan province) – Shangrila (in Yunnan province).
Te highway is expected to be started soon, 'with a planned construction period of five years'.
And when the Chinese say 5 years, it is usually 5 years.
The new highway will connect the Xichang-Panzhihua Highway with the Shangrila-Lijiang segment of the Xining-Chamdo–Dali highway.
It will start from the city of Xichang.
Let us not forget that the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) is one of the main Chinese space vehicle launch facilities The launching pads are located some 64 kilometres, northwest of Xichang, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan.
Xichang Satellite Launch Center
According to Wikipedia: "The facility became operational in 1984 and is primarily used to launch powerful thrust rockets and geostationary communications and weather satellites. It is notable as the site of Sino-European space cooperation, with the launch of the first of two Double Star scientific satellites in December 2003. Chinese officials have indicated interest in conducting additional international satellite launches from XSLC. In 1996, a fatal accident occurred when the rocket carrying the Intelsat 708 satellite failed on launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Also, a 2007 test of an anti-satellite missile occurred from the center."
Is the new road linked with the satellite launch? Difficult to say!

China National Highway 318
The new highway will be 320 kilometers long. It will run through Yanyuan county in Sichuan province and the touristic Lugu Lake. More than half of the highway is located in Sichuan province.
The highway will have 97 super large, large and medium bridges and 24 tunnels; it will have four lanes all along; it is designed for a speed of 80 kilometers per hour.
This will be a new route linking Chengdu to Yunnan and Central Tibet (via Highway 318).
Once opened to traffic, it will only take two hours from Xichang to Lugu Lake. Chengdu, Sichuan's capital is 7 hours away from the picturesque lake.
The highway will connect National Highway 108 to National Highways 214 and 318.

China's National Highway 318 (G318) runs from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the China-Nepal border. It is the longest of China's National Highway with 5,476 kilometres. From Shanghai it crosses Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan, and ends in Tibet.

China National Highway 214 (G214) runs from Xining in Qinghai province to Yunnan. It is 3,256 kilometres long. From Xining it goes southwards to southeastern Tibet (Yunnan province).

China National Highway 108 (G108) connects Beijing to Kunming via Chengdu. In Beijing it is known as Jingyuan Road. It is 3,338 km long. Xichang is located approximatively half way between Chengdu and Kunming.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When a Border Deal was Possible!

Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary (and future National Security Advisor?) wrote an excellent article in The Business Standard yesterday.
Saran speaks of a 'lost opportunity' to solve the Sino-Indian border issue in the early 1980s.
He writes: "In 1983, when I was serving in our embassy in Beijing, there were a series of informal and confidential exchanges on the possibility of resolving the border issue. ...The answer was to point to Deng's package proposal, i.e. to formalise the status quo. Our counter was that something more than the status quo would be necessary given the grievous blow to Indian psyche that the 1962 war had delivered. There was some indication that if Gandhi would be ready to visit, then some additional territory in the western sector, occupied as a result of the 1962 operations, may be conceded. Unfortunately, the Indian side did not follow up on this and the opportunity was lost."

In this context, it is interesting to quotes from a paper by Sumit Ganguly, 'The Sino-Indian Border Talks, 1981-1989: A View from New Delhi' (Asian Survey, Vol. 29, No. 12, Dec., 1989, University of California Press, pp. 1123-1135).
Ganguly describes the eight rounds of Sino-Indian talks, held before Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in December 1988.
Here is Ganguly's views on the first round:
The Eight Rounds
Most of the Indian officials who were closely connected with the process of border talks between 1981 and 1988 cluster the eight rounds into two groups. Though the specific division varies, they all agree that the first four dealt with ‘basic principles’ and the last four with ‘the situation on the ground’.

The first round.
The first round of talks began in December 1981 with the Chinese offering the so-called package proposal, a suggestion Deng Xiaoping had put forth via the two visiting Indian journalists. Pared to the bone, this proposal entailed freezing the status quo on the ground, with minor concessions by both sides. Its seriousness can be questioned because, when pressed by the Indian side, the Chinese refused any cartographic examination.
In fact, according to a senior Indian official closely connected with this round, the Chinese did not appear interested in turning it into anything more than a propaganda exercise. When the Indian side appeared less than enthusiastic about the package proposal, the Chinese suggested that the border issue be frozen and progress be made on other matters such as scientific and cultural exchanges. Foreign Minister Rao rejected the Deng package proposal, contending that it equated the aggressor with the victim, denied the legality of the McMahon Line, and in no way assuaged India's 1962 humiliation. Furthermore, it was felt that the package would legitimize Chinese gains made through the use of force.
Additionally, there was a historical problem associated with this proposal as, in many ways, it was a reprise of the one made by Zhou Enlai in 1960. It had been rejected then because of Chinese claims to significant portions of land claimed by India. To accept the proposal in 1978 would have meant further territorial concessions. India's minimal expectation was that the Chinese would concede that they were occupying a modicum of Indian, or at least disputed territory. From a negotiating standpoint, this position could hardly be deemed particularly helpful, but it needs to be borne in mind that many in the Ministry of External Affairs had strong memories of the humiliating defeat inflicted on India by China in 1962 and this had strongly colored their perceptions.
In fact, in the words of an Indian diplomat who has been associated with the border talks, there are the so-called ‘settlers’ (of the dispute) and ‘non-settlers’ in the Ministry of External Affairs.

The second and third rounds

The first round ended without accomplishing much beyond agreeing to meet again. By the second round, which was held in New Delhi, Chinese ardor had cooled considerably and little transpired then or in the third round. India's position was that it would not discuss the legality of the case as the legal positions of the two sides had been fairly well documented in the Officials' Report of 1960. The one tangible concession that the Indian side was willing to make was that it would seek some common ground without abandoning its legal position...
But the real chance to sort out the border issue occurred earlier, in April 1960, when the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai visited Delhi. Since then, the scar of 1962 has greatly complicated the issue for the Indian public opinion as well as for the Indian political class.

I am posting here a description of the 1960 talks between Nehru and Zhou Enlai. Using the recently declassified P.N. Haksar Papers at the The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, Lorenz Lüthi, an Associate Professor in History of International Relations at McGill University in Montreal wrote about the Sino-Indian Relations, 1954-1962.It is a good analysis.
Over the period of April 20-25, Zhou and Nehru met daily while their ministers and specialists held conversations in parallel or in between summit sessions. The two talks on the first day revealed not only differences in claims but also differences in defining terms. Both sides stressed their maximalist positions as they had during the past six months. Nehru underlined how much India’s national security, including the security of its capital Delhi, was affected by Chinese troops in the Himalayas, while Indian troops there hardly threatened most of China or its capital, Beijing.
Zhou in turn stressed that China did not recognize the McMahon line at its borders with both India and Burma, and repeated the claim that the customary border at the eastern sector was in the Himalayan foothills.
Talks the following day suffered from a bad start. During Zhou’s courtesy call, Vice-President Sarvepalli Radnakrishnan bemoaned how China was treating India despite all the help Delhi had provided Beijing in international relations since 1950.
On the issue of borders, he repeated India’s maximalist positions, arguing that China had occupied all of Xinjiang, to which Beijing had added Aksai Chin, in the late 19th century and Tibet only in 1950. Zhou replied—with irritation—that both had been Chinese for hundreds and thousands of years, respectively. Foreign Minister Chen Yi reminded the Indian vice-president of the value of good relations with the PRC: “What are a few thousand square miles of territory compared to the friendship of six hundred million Chinese?”
Obviously, the same question could have been also asked about China’s friendship with hundreds of millions of Indians. Zhou left the courtesy call in anger.
The negotiations with Nehru in the afternoon were personally less hostile but still uncompromising. After observing that the two sides had aired their disputing versions on the border, Zhou proposed to find a procedure to discuss the issues step by step. With regard to the territory of NEFA at the eastern sector, the Chinese Premier claimed that, while Tibet and the PRC had hardly possessed any actual control in the past, they still had a legal claim—a statement which Nehru disputed immediately.
Zhou continued to insist that the PRC would legally recognize neither the McMahon line nor the Simla convention. In turn, the Indian prime minister claimed that India had patrolled Aksai Chin in the 1950s without ever meeting Chinese troops there until late in the decade. In a talk with Indian ambassador R.K. Nehru late that evening, Zhou made a hard case for Aksai Chin based on a history of patrolling since 1950 and on road building that had not been disputed by India.
On the third day, April 22, Zhou strenuously tried to move the discussions towards an agreement. Under the heading of establishing facts and finding common ground, the Chinese Premier explained why China could not accept the McMahon line. In his view, the Tibetan government had no right to sign the Simla convention in 1914, as it was bound by age-old law to get approval from the Chinese government for any such international agreement. Apart from the fact that China had no effectual central government at the time, his explanation implicitly pointed to the crux of the problem.
Any legal recognition of the McMahon line would have meant that Tibet had acted as an independent country in 1914, which would have undermined China’s historical claim to it and would have marked PRC actions in Tibet since 1950 as aggression or even imperialism. No wonder that Zhou wanted Nehru to stop bringing up Simla at all, but he was willing to solve the problems at the eastern border on the basis of the status quo. While making a concession at the eastern sector, the Chinese prime minister again was unwilling to compromise on Aksai Chin. Implicitly, he had put a deal on the table.
Both sides would compromise on the basis of the existing geographic makers which formed one of the principles in international law regarding border settlements. Thereby, the territory of NEFA would go to India, and Aksai Chin to the PRC. But Nehru was not willing to accept the deal.
The talks on April 23 resumed where they had left off the previous day. Nehru opened the conversation by complaining that, the previous evening, the Chinese side’s experts had refused to engage in any discussions regarding Aksai Chin.
Obviously, Zhou had ordered his team to stall after Nehru had refused to accept the deal proffered the previous day. In reply to these Indian complaints, the Chinese prime minister used arguments similar to those which Nehru had used all along for the eastern sector, to come to an agreement at the western sector: geographical markers, linguistic place names, treaties, maps, etc. Despite his proposal for a five-point statement on the principles which should govern the solution of the Aksai Chin dispute, the day did not end with any movement toward an agreement.
On April 24, Nehru replied to Zhou’s assessment of the situation at the western sector, countering the Chinese narrative of past events that underscored PRC claims with an alternative narrative supporting Indian claims. The host also warned that, after the Indian Supreme Court had recently made a land mark decision on unrelated border issues with Pakistan, any agreement on boundary changes had to pass through the process of a constitutional change in India’s parliament.
This legal obstacle, however, probably carried little weight with the guest from the Communist neighbor. But Zhou again was willing to break the impasse by proposing principles about troop disengagement and future patrolling.
On the last day of talks, the two leaders negotiated on the text of the joint communiqué to be issued. Zhou was willing to use Nehru’s draft as a basis for discussions. But he quickly realized that his host wanted a communiqué that described the talks as a failure—not even a statement of mutual respect for the status quo at the eastern sector was inserted. The Chinese guest also complained that there was no reference to panch sheel in the Indian draft, but Nehru firmly replied that any such reference would make the communiqué look insincere after all that had happened in the Himalayas in the past years. Eventually, the joint communiqué ended up to be a short and pessimistic text that announced the lack of agreement and the start of bilateral talks among specialists in June. At the press conference late on April 25, Zhou deplored the failure to reach an agreement, but publicly announced his proposals both for a five-point statement on the principles, which should govern the solution of the Aksai Chin dispute, and for the principles of troop disengagement and future patrolling. Clearly, Zhou tried to impress the public that he had come to find a settlement, which even Indian observers recognized in retrospect. Yet, the Indian Premier subsequently blamed his Chinese counterpart for the failure, publicly calling him a “hard rock.” Archival documentation from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, however, suggests the opposite, as shown above. Internally, the Indian side also considered the talks a complete failure; a circular to all embassies asserted that there was virtually no agreement on any of the issues raised. In fairness, however, it did acknowledge that Zhou offered a deal linking the territory of NEFA to Aksai Chin.
This all raises the question of why Nehru was unwilling to go for Zhou’s deal? It offered the status quo at the eastern sector which benefitted India and it left Aksai Chin to the PRC which had strategic interests there. The problem rooted in the public propaganda war ongoing since the fall of 1959 in which both sides had made exaggerated claims. In China’s case, one might add, this had happened for nationalist and tactical reasons with regard to the eastern sector where its claims were rather weak. The propaganda war, however, had cornered Nehru to a much greater degree than Zhou.
Unlike his Chinese counterpart, the Indian prime minister headed a country with vibrant public debate and a rigid constitutional framework, and not one with a tightly controlled monopoly both of information and political power. As the historian Srinath Raghavan concluded, Nehru was convinced that Indian public opinion would not accept any deal in which territories would be exchanged. Also, Delhi considered its case to be strong while it charged Beijing with using dishonesty and military force.
Furthermore, the Indian prime minister knew that the Supreme Court decision made relinquishing Aksai Chin virtually impossible in the contemporaneous political climate, as constitutional changes required a two third majority in parliament.
And finally, after all the Chinese ideological propaganda in previous years, India’s leaders also had lost all trust in their former Chinese friends. Among the four impediments, which Raghavan lists, Nehru might have been able to overcome the first three through a less rigid public stand in 1959 and 1960.
To a certain degree, Nehru thus was the victim of his own public statements and actions. The Indian distrust toward China, however, predated the events of 1959.
India and China subsequently came to different conclusions about how to proceed with regard to the disputed borders, particularly since the bilateral meetings among specialists did not lead to any results by the end of 1960. Even if Nehru might have had good reasons not to agree to Zhou’s offer of a deal, his subsequent assertive policy was unwise and even dangerous.
In 1961, Delhi decided to implement a forward policy at both sectors by resuming border controls and establishing military sentry posts within disputed territories. Beijing was aware of these developments, but did not react beyond the lodging of protest notes initially. By the summer of 1962, the two sides traded fire across the disputed border again.
Another border war was in the offing.
The rest is history. 
One point has to be noted: Nehru told Zhou that "after the Indian Supreme Court had recently made a land mark decision on unrelated border issues with Pakistan, any agreement on boundary changes had to pass through the process of a constitutional change in India’s parliament," this legal point is still probably valid today.
It makes the possibility to find a solution all the more distant.
Shyam Saran's article also proves that the Chinese are masters at moving the posts when it is in their interest to do.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kyirong: A New Gate to Nepal

A 'Nepali' Festival at Kyierong
Last week, The Sunday Review of the The New York Times published an Editorial on Nepal entitled 'Doing China’s Bidding in Nepal'.
It quotes the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which "shows how far Nepal has gone in capitulating to Chinese pressure in cracking down on Tibetan residents and refugees. "
The report gives 'a long list of shameful actions against Tibetans in Nepal, including restrictions on their activities and movements, surveillance and intimidation, arbitrary detention and forcible return to China."
The New York Times asserts: "In effect, Nepal has turned itself into a partner of China’s anti-Tibetan policies."
To quote from a section of the HRW Report, entitled 'Chinese Pressure on Nepal':
It is no surprise that China would pressure Nepal to push back Tibetans or to crackdown on their political activities in Nepal. Beijing continues to assert that the 14th Dalai Lama and supporters of the Tibetan cause in exile or abroad play a major role in seeding discontent among ethnic Tibetans in China. It also continues to see this purported negative influence as a substantial hurdle to inculcating the kind of undivided political loyalty to the Communist Party and the state that it would like to see among Tibetans in China. For these reasons, measures to limit foreign and cross-border influence have featured prominently in the policies that Beijing has meticulously deployed since the 2008 protests.
The Report gives further details: 
These policies have included militarily sealing off Tibet’s international borders to end the constant trickle of Tibetans fleeing the region. The approach seems to be working: the number of Tibetans crossing the border has dropped from an average of 2,200 per year before the 2008 protests, to under a thousand between 2009 and 2012, to 171 in 2013. The available evidence suggests that Tibetans detained by Chinese authorities for crossing the border irregularly from Nepal are routinely imprisoned and physically abused in China.
But that is not all:
Chinese authorities have confiscated the passports of many Tibetans and require that all Tibetans submit to pre- and post-trip debriefings with police as a condition of international travel. They maintain registers of Tibetans who have family members abroad. Tibetans within Tibet must now also endure rigorous scrutiny before obtaining domestic travel permits. In recent years Tibetans have been arrested and sentenced for passing, receiving, or simply consuming information critical of China’s policies in Tibet.
The Chinese are now present everywhere in Nepal. The Report says:
There is now substantial evidence of increased Chinese government onitoring and censoring of telecommunications, Internet activity and messaging, and increased limitations on access to foreign Tibetan language broadcasts through the jamming and confiscation of satellite reception dishes. Chinese authorities have also stepped up efforts to prevent Tibetan communities in neighboring countries from assisting, documenting, or protesting conditions in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and adjoining provinces with significant Tibetan populations. As detailed below, China frequently imprisons, and tortures or otherwise mistreats Tibetans who leave China without permission.
And of course the Chinese government's main goal is to suppress the influence of the Dalai Lama.
The human rights group affirms that Beijing has had three primary objectives:
1. Ensuring Nepal’s effective cooperation with China’s efforts to put an end to clandestine border-crossing by Tibetan asylum seekers and migrants, including children sent to study in Tibetan schools in India by their families;
2. Enforcing a de-facto ban on pro-Tibetan political mobilization in Nepal, including demonstrations and all activities linked to the Dalai Lama or Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government-in-exile);
3. Enrolling Nepal’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus to monitor and infiltrate Tibetan communities living in Nepal, as to provide up-to-the-minute intelligence for China.
The Human World Seaven?
The New York Times comments: "Tibetans in Nepal know that wherever they gather to socialize or worship, they are likely to be spied on by Nepalese security forces who make no secret of their close links with Chinese authorities. Non-governmental organizations that seek to monitor the situation or are engaged in humanitarian work with Tibetans in Nepal are also under surveillance and have been accused of disloyalty."
Even after the democratic election of Sushil Koirala as prime minister, harassment of the Tibetan refugee population continues.
The New York Times concludes: "The government of Nepal has every right to seek positive trade and diplomatic relations with China. But it must stop allowing China to dictate policy regarding Tibetans in Nepal. Mr. Koirala and Nepal’s Constituent Assembly should move quickly to guarantee resident Tibetans legal status that respects their basic rights, and to treat Tibetan refugees in accordance with Nepalese and international law."

Wishful Thinking?
It appears wishful thinking because Nepal's all-important economic relations with the giant northern neighbour will soon get a tremendous boost when the Kyierong (Chinese: Gyirong) land port opens.
A few days ago, the official China Tibet Online reported: "The Gyirong Port in southwest China’s Tibet bordered with Nepal will be formally opened in October this year. The opening of the Gyirong Port has been listed in the key work plan of national ports in 2014."
The website also announces that a cross-border China-Nepal Gyirong Port Economic Cooperation Zone will soon be established; further the Gyirong Port will be built into a tourist destination.
The website affiliated with Xinhua continues: "The Gyirong Port enjoys a long history of being the largest land trading port between Tibet and Nepal. Many shop owners have expressed their hope that the opening of the port can help them get more involved in the border trade. From May 2007, the Shigatse Customs House will dispatch four officials to station at the Gyirong Port. A regular coordination system had been set up in order to seek support from the Gyirong county government, the Gyirong Customs and the Risur Customs of Nepal. Besides, the officials have been trying to promote preferential trade policies to encourage the local people to participate in the border trade. And some training have been provided to the port officials in Zham Customs House, another Class A port next to Gyirong in south Tibet’s Shigatse Prefecture."
Kyirong Town
What will be the consequences of the opening of a new port between Tibet and Nepal?
First and foremost, it means new infrastructure on both side of the border.
Dong Mingjun, a vice president of the Tibet Autonomous Region told the press: "By the end of July this year, construction of roads, energy and medical appliances will be completed at the port. The Gyirong Port will be equipped with special facilities for supervision and smuggling suppressing in preparation for the opening of the port."
But more importantly, a month earlier (in September)  the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway will be inaugurated.
China affirms that "the Gyirong Port will serve as a link between China and the South Asian countries. It is expected to bring a big number of visitors into Tibet and boost its tourism, which will help enhance the port’s popularity home and abroad."
The Party boss of the Gyirong County told the press: "The opening of the Gyirong Port will become a key trading port next to Zham Port in Shigatse, and an important destination for international trekking, folk activities and visitors’ driving tours."
The Strategic G219 National Highway
In other words, Chinese tourists and goods will be poured into Nepal through the Lhasa-Shigatse railway line and then a highway between Shigatse and Gyirong (a branch of the highly-strategic  G219 highway linking Tibet to Xinjiang, i.e. the Aksai Chin Road).
The Chinese officials believe that "the Gyirong Port will be opened wider to the outside world with improved operation capacity in order to promote trade with South Asia and become a cross-border economic cooperation zone between China and Nepal."

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the message is clear, even if there is nobody to hear it in Delhi: Kathmandu, once the secluded ex-Kingdom is connected by rail to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, is interested to import petroleum products from China.
Nepal still remembers the unwise economic blockade put in place Rajiv Gandhi.
More interesting, a couple of years ago, a Nepali government statement mentioned that “an expanded and enhanced connectivity between the two countries [will] also open the avenues for Nepal being a transit country between the two giant economies, China and India."
Has India been asked?
China boasted that as early as 789 AD, Gyirong served as a hub for commercial and cultural exchanges between Tibet and Nepal (it might be true, though China was not around at that time).
However in 1961, the Gyirong Port of Entry obtained from Beijing the approval to open to the outside world; Gyirong was upgraded to a national first-class (A Grade) land port of entry in 1987.
By the end of 2008, Gyirong's imports and exports of had reached 0.67 million U.S. dollars.
In 2013, the volume of border trade between Tibet and Nepal reached 114.1 US dollars, an increase of 10.8 percent over the previous year.
Till now, the transactions in Gyirong represented only a small percentage of it; this will change with the opening of the new land port.
The strategic relations are also improving fast.
China Military Online reported  that on February 21, 2014, Girija Prasad Koirala (it meant Shushil Koirala!!!), prime minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal met with General Wang Guanzhong, the deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Kathmandu.
According to the Chinese agency, Koirala said that "Nepal and China have long been maintaining good neighborly relations, and Nepal regards China as a reliable friend and partner, and thanks China for providing long-term selfless help and assistance in economic and social development of Nepal".
It is not necessary to comment of the 'selflessness' of Beijing.
Koirala added that "The new government of Nepal will always develop its relations with China on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence as before, continue to firmly pursue the one-China policy and not allow any force to engage in anti-China activities by using the territory of Nepal."
It is what General Wang Guanzhong wanted to hear.
He profusely thanked Kathmandu "for Nepal’s long-term and firm support on issues concerning China’s core interests such as that on Tibet."
He assured the new Nepali Prime Minister: "The Chinese military is willing to strengthen the pragmatic cooperation with the Nepalese military in the new historical period so as to make contributions to the development of the relations between the two countries."
This is quite ominous for the Tibetan refugees.

By the way, during the 1792 Tibet-Nepal War (in Chinese: 平定廓爾喀, 'pacification of Gorkha') , the Manchus troops called by Tibet to defeat the Gorkhas used Kyierong route to invade Nepal.
There is of course no connection with today's situation!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

India and Tibet, Ancient Links - Current Bonds

My Exhibition on the relations between India and Tibet entitled "India and Tibet, Ancient Links - Current Bonds" can be visited online on my website.

There are 35 panels depicting this unique relation through the ages.

You can download an image of each panel by clicking here...
  • A Share Spiritual Lore
The Himalayas as a Bridge
  • The Light comes from India
The Buddha Dharma Becomes State Religion
  • The Three Religious Kings
Tibet's Relations with Its Neighbours
  • A Script from India
The Translation of Buddha's Words Can Start
  • The Art of Healing
Tibetan Medicine and Ayurveda
  • The Renaissance of Tibetan Buddhism
The Second Propagation comes from India
  • An Indian Dalai Lama
Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama
  • Tibet's Relations with Kashmir
The Treaties with Ladakh and the Dogras
  • The Empire Strikes
The Younghusband Military Mission (1904)
  • The Thirteenth Dalai Lama in India
A Refugee in Kalimpong
  • The Drawing of the Indo-Tibet Border
The Simla Conference (1914)
  • Caravans across the Himalayas
The Transborder Trade
  • Searching for the Lost Manuscripts
Indian Cultural Missions in Tibet
  • Pilgrimages
The Holy Lands of Tibet and India
  • The Asian Relations Conference
Tibet Still Independent
  • Stepping into British Shoes
Tibet after India's Independence
  • Trading with India
The Indian Trade Agencies in Tibet
  • Indian Presence in Tibet
Military Escort and Trade Agent
  • Tibet becomes a Chinese Colony
India has a New Neighbour
  • From Sardar Patel to Nehru
A Prophetic Letter (November 7, 1950)
  • Nehru crosses over to Tibet
The Indian Prime Minister visits Chumbi Valley
  • The Return to the Source
The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama visit India (1956)
  • Preserving an Endangered Culture
The Rehabilitation Starts
  • The Road to Exile
The Dalai Lama Arrives in India (1959)
  • A War Over Tibet Border
The 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict
  • When Tibet Fought for India
The Tibetan Special Frontier Force
  • How India Considers Tibet
An Autonomous Region of China
  • An Honoured Guest of India
The Dalai Lama with Presidents and Prime Ministers
  • Meeting Indian Leaders
They had Strong Words for Tibet
  • The Himalayan Renaissance
The Role of the Dalai Lama
  • The Khaches
The Kashmiri Community in Tibet
  • The Nalanda Tradition
India's Gift to Tibet
  • The Dalai Lama and the People of India
A Son of India
  • Acknowledgments
Our Gratitude for their Support, Advice and Illustrations

Friday, April 11, 2014

Calling a spade a spade in dealing with China

Recent PLA's maneuvers in Tibet (April 3)
A friend recently asked me: "In your opinion, how should the new government deal with China?"
I answered that first of all, I do not know who will be the next Prime Minister and then, perhaps more importantly, who will the PM's choice to look after Defence and External Affairs.
It will be indeed crucial choices and the relations with China (and the rest of the world) will depend on this choice.
But something came to me, whoever 'deals' with China will have to be frank and transparent. The person should not be scared to 'hurt China's sensitivities'.  
In this context, an interesting article was published by Xinhua yesterday.
It is a commentary on US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's visit to China.
Xinhua says that Hagel "may well feel after wrapping up his four-day visit to China on Thursday that Beijing has become more frank with Washington and less hesitant to voice its dissatisfaction with some US moves."
It was indeed the case as several encounters were reported to have been quite 'tough'.
The Chinese Communist Party news agency explains: "By inviting Hagel to tour the 'Liaoning', China's sole aircraft carrier, and being honest about its grievances, China showed that it has nothing to hide."
Then it quotes Fan Changlong, the powerful vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission who "denounced Hagel's recent remarks to ASEAN defense ministers and Japanese politicians over their territorial disputes with China as tough and biased."
It is something that the Indian diplomats and politicians have always difficulty to do: to call a spade a spade. Remember Depsang Plains a year ago.
General Fan Changlong told Hagel in front of the press that the Chinese people, including himself, were dissatisfied with such remarks in Japan.
Xinhua adds: "The unusual harsh tone delivers a clear message: Beijing is resolved to defend its core interests, particularly territorial sovereignty, and will not allow any country to make waves."
Frankness should not be confined to the rooms of Zhongnanhai or South Block, but should be shared with the press and the public. It is something Delhi should definitely learn.
For once, I agree with a comment form Xinhua: "The frankness is expected to reduce the possibility of miscalculation by other countries when they gauge China's red lines, and consequently reduce rashness in their China policy-making."
The new Indian government if it wants to deal on an equal footing with China will have to be frank, straightforward and transparent ...and be able to draw 'red lines'.
If the Chinese news agencies can say: "As a responsible player in regional and global affairs, China expects the United States to respect its core interests, but has been repeatedly disappointed by the latter's double-faced tactics", why can't India does the same to China.
To take a concrete example, why can't Delhi tell Beijing openly, "if you are sincere in finding a solution for the border dispute, why can't you put the maps of your perceived LACs on the table. We are ready to put ours."
Or else, "please explain what are your ownership rights on the Depsang Plains or on Chumur in Ladakh? Why have your perceived LAC moved so much since 1959?" Many such questions should be asked frankly and publicly.
Xinhua says: "Regardless of disagreements in various fields, both Beijing and Washington clearly know they are friends, not enemies, and a healthy US-China relationship is a sine qua non for world peace and stability."
The same thing applies to India and China, but before being real friends, the differences should be openly displayed, discussed and known to the public.
It would be the best way to dismiss unsustainable claims.
Xinhua concludes: "If hard-nosed politicians in Washington can understand Beijing's frankness and resolve better, China-US ties will be more stable and the Asia-Pacific region will be more peaceful."
The 'hard-nosed' leaders in Beijing will understand better India if the next Foreign and Defence Ministers can speak in a straightforward and transparent manner.
The Indian public, which is mature enough, should always be taken into confidence.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Myth that must be busted at earliest

My article Myth that must be busted at earliest appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer today.

Here is the link...

Neville Maxwell, who recently ‘released’ the Henderson-Brooks-Bhagat Report on the 1962 conflict, claims that Nehru forced the war on Mao. This is a dangerously inaccurate interpretation of history and must be debunked

It is necessary to come back to the Henderson-Brooks-Bhagat Report (HBBR) and the role played by Neville Maxwell. The Australian journalist, who recently ‘released’ the famous report by posting it on his website, has been propagating a wrong interpretation of history, namely that India attacked China in 1962.
Even presuming that Indian troops may have crossed what the Chinese perceived as the international border, many other factors have to be taken into consideration.
At age 87, why Maxwell remains a great advocate of China’s theory that India was the aggressor, is a mystery to me.
It is not that I have any doubt that Nehru committed blunder after blunder, but Maxwell’s version is truly a biased over-simplification of the facts.
In an interview in The South China Morning Post, when asked by the Hong Kong newspaper: "What do you hope to achieve with this disclosure?" Maxwell answered: "What I have been trying to do for nearly 50 years! To rid Indian opinion of the induced delusion that in 1962 India was the victim of an unprovoked surprise Chinese aggression, to make people in India see that the truth was that it was mistakes by the Indian government, specifically Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, that forced the war on China."
Reading the HBBR does not show that India forced a war on China, it just proves that India was not prepared to successfully defend some new forward positions ordered by Krishna Menon (and Nehru) in NEFA and Ladakh.
It is undoubtedly a Himalayan Blunder in itself; it demonstrates the foolishness of the Prime Minister (and his arrogant Defence Minister), but it was certainly not the root-cause of the War.
The ‘forward policy’ was however the ideal pretext for Mao to show that India could not go unpunished for insulting China (by giving refuge to the Dalai Lama and his followers).
An interesting conversation which took place in February 1972 in Beijing, (during the historic Nixon visit) demonstrates the high esteem the Chinese have for Maxwell.
The Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai told Nixon, Nehru never implemented the famous the Panchsheel (five principles). In an earlier encounter, Zhou had already mentioned “a book by Neville Maxwell (India’s China War) about the Indian war against us, which proves this.”
Zhou repeatedly quoted Maxwell: “Neville Maxwell mentioned in the book that in 1962 the Indian Government believed what the Russians told them that we, China, would not retaliate against them. Of course we won’t send our troops outside our borders to fight against other people. We didn’t even try to expel Indian troops from the area south of the McMahon line, which China doesn’t recognize, by force. But if [Indian] troops come up north of the McMahon line, and come even further into Chinese territory, how is it possible for us to refrain from retaliating?”
He concluded: “You know all the other events in the book, so I won’t describe them, but India was encouraged by the Soviet Union to attack.”
The question of how India could attack without arms, ammunitions, clothing, food or basic supplies, etc. is not explained (The HBBR even says that some Indian troops starved for days).
One should grant China ideological consistency in its interpretation of the conflict. I remembered interviewing Indian PoWs who were taken shivering to Tibet in their light parkhas, they were repeatedly told by their jailors, “why did you attack us, we are a peaceful nation.” China has been propagating this theory ever since and Maxwell’s over-simplistic interpretation has been extremely useful to them.
However, many other factors came into play, but first and foremost the flight of the Dalai Lama in March/April 1959 and his subsequent asylum in India, changed the rapport between India and China. It is an aspect that Maxwell has totally ignored: China has been aggressive from the day it entered Tibet in October 1950. Let us not forget that China had NO BORDER with India till that time.
When Nehru acquiesced to the annexation of Tibet, it was a far more serious blunder than the so-called Forward Policy.
Another blunder of Nehru was to have ‘discovered’ the Aksai Chin road, linking Tibet to Xinjiang, only in 1958, (while it was officially opened to traffic in 1957 and the construction had started several years earlier). That was Blunder No 2.
Further, Maxwell conveniently forgets is that at the end of the 1950s and the early 1960s, Tibet was on the boil (particularly Eastern Tibet, north of the McMahon Line).
The 70,000 character petition from the Panchen Lama to Zhou Enlai on the internal situation in Tibet demonstrates the atrocious suffering of the Tibetan people during the period.
A few weeks back, while working in the National Archives of India, I came across interesting reports from the Indian Trade Agent in Yatung (Tibet). The Chinese authorities kept harassing the local Tibetans. For example, they were told: “[They] should offer scarves to the photograph of Mao Tse-tung which will be displayed in the bazaar. It is no use to worship images in the monasteries which are of no use. Some images from the local monastery were thrown in the latrine or trampled down under their feet in the presence of the gathering.” They were also ordered: “From now onwards, nobody should utter any Hindi word and they should not speak of [to] India Office [Trade Agency] in any matter. They should address Indian merchants here as ‘dogs’.”
The ITA says: “The effect of the above announcement in the meeting is having adverse effect on the general local population and they are making every effort to escape into India.”
By attacking India, China could effectively and ruthlessly seal the Tibet border and stop the Tibetans taking refuge in India.
Another factor forgotten in Maxwell's simplistic approach is the internal power struggle in China; the War was a plank for Chairman Mao to return to power. In Volume III of his Origins of the Cultural Revolution, the US scholar Roderick MacFarquhar said “It is not difficult to understand why Mao launched this sudden [internal] counter-attack [during the 10th Plenum in September 1962]. He was faced with what he saw as fundamental and unacceptable changes in key areas of policy: a rolling back of collectivization in the countryside which would have undermined his whole vision for a socially transformed China; and a détente with the Soviet Union.”
But here too, Maxwell only sees the Chinese side of the coin; it explains why he was so lavishly praised by Zhou Enlai.
Retrospectively, the babus who confiscated the HBBR made a huge disservice to India, they allowed Maxell’s one-sided interpretation to flourish.
Let us hope more hidden aspects of India’s modern history will soon be made public; it can only help India to become a mature nation.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A New Tibet Policy?

Promoting Tibetan Culture?
Last year, on March 9, 2013, China's boss, Xi Jinping visited the Tibet delegation at the National People’s Conference.
In his speech, the Chinese President pledged that under his leadership, Beijing would pay the same close attention to Tibet as previous 'leadership groups' and would continue to emphasize “the maintenance of stability and leap-frog style development” (weihu wending 維護穩定and kuayueshi fazhan 跨越式發展) following China’s own special pathway and according to Tibet’s special characteristics.
This year Yu Zhengsheng, who chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, met the Tibetan delagation on March 10 (which is celebrated outside Tibet as the National Uprising Day).
Yu Zhengsheng, took part in a 'panel discussion' and stressed the importance to adhere to the 'rule of law' in Tibet. 
It is clearly the leadership's first and foremost preoccupation.
Yu Zhengsheng also said that he wanted concrete measures to be taken to support Tibet's economic and comprehensive development, improve people's well-being and ensure long-term peace and stability in Tibet.
His 'wish' has now filtered down to the 'local' authorities in Tibet, who have enacted new 'regulations' to implement Beijing's wishes.
According to Xinhua: "Authorities in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region are enacting a new legally-binding regulation to safeguard the heritage and development of the Tibetan language".
The Chinese news agency reported: "The Tibetan Language Work Committee and other authorities in the plateau region have finished drawing up a draft regulation on the ethnic language." 
An ethic Tibetan Chodrak, who is the committee's deputy director (he is also the major of Lhasa) explained that the regulations, which has gone through four amendments, are expected to implemented in September this year. For Chodrak, the regulation "enshrines the study, usage and development of the Tibetan language in law and clearly shows the attention being paid to the issue by the central and local governments."
He boldly asserted that the rumor that Tibetan language is dying is totally groundless.
According to the local Communist authorities in Tibet, "the new regulation will provide a legal protection for the rights and freedom of the people of Tibetan ethnic group to study, use and develop their language."

It sounds good, but will it be implemented? Or is it only for the show?
The authorities in Lhasa "hoped that it will play a role in boosting the region's overall development in the economy, politics and culture." They affirmed that "the Chinese government encourages bilingual education at schools in Tibet and other ethnic regions."
If one believes the official propaganda: "In Tibetan areas, most classes are taught in Tibetan, though Mandarin and English classes are also on the curriculum. Teachers in Tibetan areas are given on-the-job training to help with their bilingual teaching, in Tibetan and Mandarin."
It is not the first time that the Chinese authorrites 'decide' to promote Tibetan language.
According to the same official communique: "The region promulgated the Several Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan Language in 1987. ...In 1988, the Tibetan Language Work Steering Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up, later renamed the Tibetan Language Work Committee. ...In 2002, the region issued the Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan Language after amending the 1987 version."

Will the new regulation be different?
In an interview in 2010, the Dalai Lama told a group of scholars (I was with them):
"More than 10 years ago, when Chen Kuiyuan was Party Secretary in Tibet [1992-2000], at a Party meeting, he mentioned that the ultimate threat to China (its separation from Tibet) is the Buddhist faith of the Tibetans. Two weeks ago, I was in Switzerland, I met some Tibetans. They know very well about the Tibetan University in Lhasa; they told me that the level of Tibetan studies before Chen Kuiyuan was quite good. After Chen became Party Secretary, it changed. The Tibetan texts were banned. Only the Chinese curriculum was allowed and translated into Tibetan; the courses were [conducted] according to this curriculum. Chen Kuiyuan saw the unique Tibetan culture heritage as a threat to separate Tibet from China. So, he systematically eliminated Tibetan [culture] from Tibet."
And this happened despite the 'regulations' and other 'provisions'.
Let us hope that this time it will be different.
China Tibet Online also reported that the Standing Committee of Tibet People's Congress had decided to promulgate some "Implementation Measures of Law for Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection in Tibet Autonomous Region".
It should be implemented after June 1, 2014.
The news agency said that it will be different from the national law, the implementation measures contain 49 specific articles to be enforced in Tibet only.
It speaks of "a humanistic care for the inheritors who are losing the ability to carry on the intangible culture."
I am not quite sure what these 'inheritors' are, but Article 33 of the 'implementation measures' stipulated "if an existing successor loses the ability to carry on the culture, a new inheritor for the intangible culture should be redefined by related cultural department, and at the meantime the replaced inheritor can be conferred an honorary title and enjoy a proper living subsidy rendered by government."
According to official sources, these 49 articles include "a general principle, survey of the intangible cultural heritage in Tibet, a list of the representative intangible cultural heritage projects, the inheritance and spread of the culture, and the legal responsibility and protection of these culture, which is a practical and unique layout to cover almost every step concerning the status quo and protection of the intangible cultural heritages in Tibet."
Only the future will tell if Mr. Yu and his colleagues are sincere in preserving the unique culture and language of the Roof of the World.
It seems to good to be true.

This reminds me of the joke about former President Hu Jintao.
Though he did not like this uncivilized, rustic place, Hu was posted for nearly four years in Tibet as party Secretary. He once mentioned to a journalist that he 'disliked Tibet's altitude, climate and lack of culture', in other words, 'everything'.
During his tenure, Hu often shuttled between Lhasa and Beijing where the real power was. There was a common saying about Hu amongst Tibetan cadres: 'Where is Hu?'
The answer was: 'Hu is in Beijing Hospital.'
He had to officially report sick each time he was going to Beijing!
Twenty-five years later, Tibet has changed.
Beijing today promotes Tibet as a great place, the best in China.
The China Daily says: "Tibet, aka the 'Roof of the World', is the highest region on the planet, with an average elevation of more than 4,000 meters. Located on a plateau north of the Himalayas, it is a mysterious, exotic place to many outsiders. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the massive, tranquil land with its majestic scenery and mysterious religious culture has exerted an overwhelming attraction on travelers. Tibet's capital city Lhasa is labeled one of the most dreamed-about cities in the world. An ancient city dating back 1,300 years, Lhasa is home to the magnificent Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple Monastery and Norbulingka (Garden of Treasures), all listed as world heritage sites. May to July is the best time to visit Lhasa, as it rains at night but is still sunny in the daytime."
How this will translate for the local Tibetans is another question.
The China Daily lists the top 10 attractions in Lhasa (with the admission fees).
The description are from The China Daily.

1. The Potala Palace 

The Potala Palace is considered to be a model of Tibetan architecture. Located on the Red Hill in Lhasa, it covers more than 360,000 square meters and has 13 storeys. It was first constructed in 641, by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, in order to welcome his bride, Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty. This structure was later burned to the ground during a war and rebuilt in the 17th century by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Over the past three centuries, the palace has gradually become a place where the Dalai Lama lives and works and a place for preserving the remains of previous Dalai Lamas.
[Though not mentioned, the admission fee recently passed from 100 to 200 yuan]

2.Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple, located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa, is Tibet's first Buddhist temple and is part of the Potala Palace. The temple used to be called Tsulag Khang ("House of Wisdom"), but is now known as Jokhang ("House of the Buddha"). It is the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan pilgrims. Featuring Tang Dynasty architecture, Jokhang Temple is a four-story timber complex. A statue of Sakyamuni at the age of 10 is one of only three statues designed by Sakyamuni himself.
Admission: 85 yuan (US $13.71)

Namtso, or Lake Nam, is one of three holy lakes in the Tibet autonomous region and should not be missed by any traveler to the region. In Tibetan, Namtso means "Heavenly Lake". It is famous for its high altitude and imposing scenery. The second largest salt lake in China, Namtso covers 1,920 square kilometers and is also the second-highest salt lake, in terms of altitude, in the world at an elevation of 4,718 meters above sea level.
Admission: 120 yuan (US$19.35) (May 1-Oct 31); 60 yuan (US$9.67) (Nov 1-Apr 30)

4. Norbulingka
Norbulingka, literally the "Jeweled Garden," is a palace and its surrounding parks located in a western suburb of Lhasa. It was constructed in the 1740s as a summer palace for the Dalai Lama and later served the whole governmental administration. The place boasts typical Tibetan palace architecture, as well as gentle streams, dense and lush forestry, birds and animals. Covering an area of around 36 hectares, it is considered to be the largest man-made garden in Tibet. Being part of the "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace," Norbulingka is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was added as an extension to this Historic Ensemble in 2001.
Admission: 60 yuan (US$9.67)

Barkhor is a small neighborhood consisting of ancient streets and a public square surrounding Jokhang Temple in the old area of Lhasa. The oldest street appeared about 1,300 years ago, right after Jokhang Temple was built in 647, attracting thousands of Buddhist pilgrims. The streets are filled with a religious atmosphere and show the original Lhasa. Shops offer prayer wheels, chubas (traditional Tibetan clothing), Tibetan knives and religious article.
Admission: Free

6. Yambajan  
Yambajan is famous for its wide range of hot springs, ranging from those with the highest temperatures in all of the country to boiling geysers. It sits in a basin at the foot of the Nyainqentanglha Mountains some 90 kilometers northwest of Lhasa. In the early morning, the town is covered in a white and luminous vapor. The hot springs in Yambajan contain various minerals and are believed to be therapeutic.
Admission: 30 yuan (US$4.83); Hot-spring bathing: 98 yuan (US$15.79)

7. Drepung Monastery
Built in 1416, the Drepung Monastery is situated at the foot of the Mountain Gambo Utse, about 10 kilometers (3.1 miles) to the western suburbs of Lhasa. It is the largest and most influential monastery of the Gelug Sect, a branch of the Tibetan Buddhism. Together with the Ganden Monastery and the Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery is regarded as one of the "Three Great Monasteries" in Lhasa.
Admission: 55 yuan (US$8.86)

8. Ramoche Temple
Ramoche Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, is considered to be the most important temple in Lhasa after the Jokhang Temple. Located in the north part of the city, it is about 500 meters from the Jokhang Temple, covering an area of 4,000 square meters. First built in the middle of the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the same time as the Jokhang Temple, the Remoche Temple boasts a long history, with a nickname of "Minor Jokhang Temple." Ramoche Temple was supervised by Prince Wencheng and designed and constructed by craftsmen from the inner China, so its early buildings resemble the style of the Tang Dynasty.

9. Tibet Museum  
Located in Lhasa, the Tibet Museum is the first large and modern museum within the Tibet autonomous region. It was inaugurated in October 1999, with a permanent collection related to the cultural history of Tibet. Covering a space of 53,959 square meters, the museum displays more than 1,000 artifacts, including Tibetan art and architectural design such as Tibetan doors and beams.
Admission: Free

10. Ganden Monastery 
Ganden Monastery, also known as Gaden Monastery, is one of the "great three" Gelukpa university monasteries in Tibet, together with the Sera Monastery and the Drepung Monastery. Located at the top of Wangbur Mountain, Tagtse county, Ganden Monastery was built in the seventh year of the Yongle Reign (1409) during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Ganden Monastery consists of over 50 structures and main halls include the Main Assembly Hall (or Coqen Hall), Zhacangs, Khangtsens, and Myicuns. Coqen Hall is positioned in the northern part of the temple and faces south; it is the largest assembling hall. It has three storeys and is 43.8 meters wide and 44.7 meters long. It features the statues of the Maitreya Buddha and the master Tsong Khapa, the initiator of Gelugpa. In addition, it also has many rare and precious cultural relics, such as Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) armor.
Admission: 40 yuan (US$6.44)


Tibet Museum