Sunday, February 7, 2016

Siachen Glacier: A Warrior's Ttale

On the glacier (Photo Col Ashok Choudary)
Last week, 10 Indian soldiers lost their lives in an avalanche in a new tragedy on the Siachen glacier.
The Times of India gave some figures about the 'highest battle in the world':
  • Temperatures: Can dip to -50°C in winter
  • The average winter snowfall is more than 1,000 cm
  • The glacier's melting waters are the main source of the Nubra River in Ladakh
  • India is estimated to be spending $1 million ( Rs 6.8 crore) a day to keep Siachen supplied, which comes to Rs 18,000/sec
  • A roti that costs Rs 2 to make, reportedly costs India Rs 200 to transport to Siachen
  • 879 Indian soldiers have died in Siachen since 1984, including 33 officers
  • The vast majority of troop deaths have not been due to combat but avalanches, exposure and altitude sickness caused by the thin, oxygen depleted air
  • The human body continuously deteriorates above 18,000 feet
  • Toothpaste freezes in its tube
  • Speech can be blurred
  • Frostbite and chilblains are common
  • Many soldiers suffer from high-altitude pulmonary and cerebral edema, headaches and hypertension
  • Troops live in igloos clothed in high altitude gear
  • Troops are supplied by helicopter (ALH Dhruv)
  • The world's highest helipad is here at Sonam, at a height of 21,000 feet
  • Officers get a Siachen allowance of 21,000 per month while soldiers get 14,000 a month
In 2007, I interviewed the hero of the Siachen, Capt Bana Singh, Param Vir Chakra for
Capt Bana Singh, PVC
I repost here Bana Singh's tale of courage.

A warrior's tale: How it all began
June 26, 2007

Mohammad Ali Jinnah was an impatient man. Hardly two months after he obtained a separate homeland for Muslims, he decided to grab Kashmir by force and sent tribal raiders to the valley.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, the marauders did not have the same motivation as Jinnah; they did not care for the 'Two Nation' theory, they just wanted to loot and rape. While they mauraded around Baramulla, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession; the next morning Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar. Kashmir had legally become a part of India. The hostilities that began then continue to this day.
On January 1, 1949, India and Pakistan agreed to a Cease Fire under the United Nations' auspices. A Cease Fire Line, CFL, remained to be demarcated. In July, a UN conference attended by Indian and Pakistan representatives signed an agreement defining this line, but unfortunately the CFL stopped in Ladakh at a point named NJ9842; at that time no one thought about the possibility of a war on the glaciers.
The agreement mentioned that the line continued 'thence north to the glaciers'. The demarcation was done on a clear principle: If a territory was no man's land and not occupied by any of the two armies, it was deemed to be part of India. This was implicitly accepted by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan in the August 1948 UN resolutions, which acknowledged that the state of Jammu and Kashmir had legally acceded to India through the Instrument of Accession.
To India's surprise, in 1984 Pakistan began sponsoring mountaineering expeditions in the Siachen area and showing the glacier as its territory. The situation worsened in early 1987 when the Pakistanis established a post on a feature overlooking Indian defences located near the Bilafond Pass on the Saltoro ridge.
The post was so important for Islamabad that it was named the 'Quaid' Post, after its first Quaid-e-Azam, Jinnah. When the Pakistanis started sniping at Indian helicopters, some Indian posts maintained by air suddenly became untenable.
The Indian Army then planned a daring, secret, operation to evict the Pakistanis from the post.
At a time when the de-militarisation of the Siachen glacier is in the news, Claude Arpi spoke to retired Captain Bana Singh, one of only three living recipients of the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest award for gallantry, who captured the 'Quaid' Post, 20 years ago this day, June 26, 1987.

Tell us about yourself: Where were you born, when did you join the army?

I was born in 1949 in Kadyal district of Jammu province. My father was a farmer, though many of my uncles had joined the army. My father used to tell me that army life is very prestigious. He wanted me to join the army because a farmer's life is very harsh.
I remember when I was a kid, I used to be so happy each time I saw off-duty army officers or jawans visit our village.

What was your motivation to join the army?

I wanted to do something for my country. That is why I joined the army.
Why did you join the Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI)?
It was the state force of Jammu and Kashmir, so being a Kashmiri I naturally joined the J&K forces.

When were you first posted on the Siachen glacier? Did you practice mountain climbing before being posted in Siachen?

I was trained at the High Altitude Warfare School in Gulmarg and also at another school at Sonamarg. My battalion was trained there.
Though the altitude is not as high as in the Siachen area, we learnt mountain warfare, how to climb, how to fight in the snows, how to move on a glacier.
When I was in Gulmarg, there were three battalions - 10 Dogras, 8 JAK Light Infantry and 5 Guard. Mountain training is imparted to formations from all over India, but more particularly to this Mountain Brigade which was specially established by the Government of India to look after the Siachen glacier. It is not only an opportunity for the battalions to be trained, but also to acclimatise at relative high altitudes.
Then we moved to the base camp of the glacier which is located at 18,000 feet. It takes seven days to be fully acclimatised. During this period we move to the base camp for the day and come back the next day. This is No 1 camp.

When you were posted to Siachen in April 1987, was the 'Quaid' Post already occupied by the Pakistanis?

Yes, they had occupied it earlier. Around that time, the Pakistanis started firing on our patrols and helicopters from the post. My commanding officer and the brigade commander decided to send a patrol to locate the position of the Pakistanis and how many of them were manning the post.
On May 29, 1987, a 8 JAKLI patrol was sent for a reconnaissance of the possible approaches to the 'Quaid' Post. The patrol leader was Lieutenant Rajiv Pande. He had 10 men with him. Unfortunately, they were sighted by the Pakistanis commandos. Most of them, including Lieutenant Pande, were killed.

On the glacier (Photo Col Ashok Choudary)
The Siachen glacier

Why was this post was called the 'Quaid' Post?

This is the name of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan. This is the most important and highest post in the area. From the top you can see 80 km around. You can see the entire Saltoro range, all the other posts like the Amar and Sonam Posts which can only be supplied by choppers.
If you control this post, you can prevent the supply of these posts located on the Saltoro range. That is why it had such an importance for Pakistan and why they named it after Jinnah.
My commanding officer therefore had to prepare a secret plan to recapture the post, since otherwise we would not be able to hold the other posts in the area.

How did the Pakistanis capture the post?

I do not know. It must have been captured long ago. The Pakistanis started occupying the glacier in 1984. When I arrived in 1987, it was already occupied.

How many people were killed on May 29, 1987?

Lieutenant Pande, a JCO (junior commissioned officer) and 8 jawans. Total 10 people, three survived.

What was then decided by your CO and the army HQ in Delhi?

Before Lieutenant Pande's reconnaissance patrol, a very secret operation had been planned. We had to find the different accesses and the one which would be the easiest to get to the post.
The first patrol was sent for this purpose. With this information, my CO and the army commander were able to decide the next step.

When was the second patrol sent?

It was not a patrol. They were troops sent for fighting purposes, to capture the post. It was in June.
How was the approach route to the post at 21,000 feet?
There was a 90 degree climb for a distance of 1,500 metres, and ice walls. Lieutenant Pande had managed to fix ropes, but due to heavy snowfall, the ropes were lost when the troops tried to reach the post in June. Ropes had to be fixed again.
In the meantime, to divert the attention of the Pakistanis, Indian troops had been firing at the post. There was no artillery fire, only machine guns. It is only when the attack began that artillery was used from the base camp.
Was artillery not dangerous for the climbing troops?
It was at the beginning. We were climbing from the other side when the post was fired at.

Tell us about your operation, which was the third attempt to capture the post?

A total of 62 people participated in the final operation. Two officers, 3 JCOs and 57 jawans were selected.
The operation was conducted in three phases on June 23, June 25 and June 26, 1987.
A first platoon was sent under Major Varinder Singh on the 23rd, but unfortunately they had to come back. Two soldiers were killed.
The second platoon led by Subedar Harnam Singh with 10 jawans made an attempt on June 25. At that time, there was no problem with the ropes, but due to some communication gap with us, the mission had to be aborted.
The next day, on the 26th, I started early and was told that we would try another attack and capture the post from the enemy today itself. A message was passed from the major general, who was the task force commander, and we got the green light.
Allouette on the glacier (Photo Col Ashok Choudary)

All the 62 were volunteers?

We had been selected by our CO.

Could you refuse to go?

Yes, of course! But we all said that we were ready.

'When you face death, you don't feel cold, you don't feel fear'
Tell us now about your assault? What did you feel?

It was at day time, but because of the snowfall, you could not say if it was day or night. It was snowing so heavily.

Couldn't the Pakistani commandos see you?

No, but they must have known that something was going on because of the firing from the base camp to divert their attention. We had been trained for such a fight and how to lob grenades.
There was a single bunker on the top. I threw a grenade inside and closed the door. At the end, six Pakistanis were killed. We brought back their bodies which were later handed over to the Pakistani authorities during a flag meeting in Kargil.
Some sources say there were 17 persons manning the post.
Some must have escaped towards the Pakistani side, perhaps over the cliff. But only six were killed. I think, we bayoneted three or four persons, I don't remember now.
When you are fighting for your life, you cannot say...

How long did the operation last?

We left by noon. The entire operation was completed by 5 pm, so five hours including the climb.

Were you cold or tired?

In these conditions, when you face death, you don't feel cold, you don't feel fear.
You don't think you are going to die or fail.

Did you think of your wife or your dear ones?
No, never. But I prayed to the Gurus before and after the operation.
After having been successful, I considered myself a lucky man.
I must tell you, a strange thing happened one day before the assault.
As I was feeling depressed, I heard the voice of Guru Gobind Singh who said: 'I was only testing you.' Then my depression disappeared. It is the only time I have had such an experience.
On the glacier (Photo Col Ashok Choudary)

'Musharraf was very upset when I captured the Post'
When silence finally fell on the post, what happened?

All the officers started to congratulate me: "You have done very well, Bana, Congratulations". All this through wireless.
Three months later there was a major Pakistani attack on the Bilafond Pass; they had apparently been very upset to lose the 'Quaid' post. Did you participate in the defence of the Bilafond Pass?
Yes, it was in September 1987. I did not participate because I was not posted in this area. But about 1,000 Pakistani men must have died. General Musharraf was then the brigade commander of the Special Security Group. He planned the operation.
In one way, he is a loser. He lost the 'Quaid' Post, in September 1987 the Bilafond Pass, then in 1999 Kargil.

Do you think there is a link between these three events?

No, but Musharraf was very upset when I captured the post.
There are rumours that an agreement will be signed between India and Pakistan on Siachen and that the glacier and the Saltoro range will be demilitarised.
I feel it is not good, but I do not want to comment further because in the past my words have been distorted.
The point is that so many people died for this glacier, it would not be good to give it to Pakistan.
I have told this so many times to the media. Politicians do not know the value of the lives of the jawans. If they knew what has happened to the glacier, if they knew everything...
If tomorrow India withdraws from the Siachen glacier, the Pakistanis make take the post again.
Everyone knows that in Kargil it was the decision of Musharraf and the military to start the conflict, but he says it was Nawaz Sharif and the politicians who gave the order. Everyone knows it is a lie.
Tomorrow, if India withdraws, the Pakistanis will take Siachen, Pakistan will take it over, because they will always tell lies to the Indian government.
Sometimes I receive threats from the Pakistani side. Since I am retired, I attend some functions, but I still need permission from army HQ. Unless I get permission, I cannot attend official functions. I have two personal security officers protecting me.

But you are stronger than your PSOs.

Yes, and I am not worried about my life (laughs).
I understand you had a good offer from the Punjab government?
The Punjab government has a deep respect for the Indian Army. They have offered me Rs 25 lakhs, a monthly allowance of Rs 15,000 and a 25 acre plot if I move to Punjab. But I refused.


Because I consider myself a subject of Jammu and Kashmir. My own state gives me Rs 160 a month as allowance for having won the Param Vir Chakra, the highest bravery award. It is the way we are treated in Jammu and Kashmir.

Friday, February 5, 2016

China loves Tibet: 60 million visitors in 2015

Xinhua brought out a rather surprising news report this week: the Qinghai province received a record 23 million tourists in 2015, up 15.5 percent compared to the previous year (most of them visited tourist spot on the plateau).
According to the provincial tourism bureau in Lhasa, the influx of tourists has generated a revenue worth 25 billion yuan (3.8 billion U.S. dollars), up 22.8 percent from 2014.
The Chinese News Agency explained that: “The province held a number of festivals targeting winter tourists in 2015 and marketed new travel packages.”
Zhang Yan, a deputy director in Tibet's Tourism Bureau added: “Spring and winter tourism in Qinghai grew over 20 percent every year during the last five years, with tourism revenue up 30 percent on average every year."
Xinhua asserted that China’s northwestern province has witnessed a rapid tourism growth, the number of tourists increased from less than 4 million a decade ago to 23 million in 2015.
If one adds the number of tourists who visited the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), it comes to 44 millions (Tibetan areas in Yunnan, Sichuan and Gansu should be added to this figure).
Again according to Xinhua, Tibet welcomed a record 20 million tourists in 2015. It was officially announced during the ‘Two Sessions’, i.e. the meeting of the Regional People’s Congress and the Consultative Political Conference held last week in Lhasa.
Tourism industry in the TAR generated 28 billion yuan (4.26 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015, nearly three times the figure of 2010.
Lhasa, the Tibet’s capital alone saw its tourism revenue triple over the past five years to an estimated 15.49 billion yuan in 2015. The number of tourists visiting the capital rose to 11.79 million in 2015, a 23 percent increase compared to 2014.
Lhasa’s tourism revenue during the first 10 months of 2015 reached 1.52 billion yuan, a 38.16 percent rise compared to the same period of 2014.
Various activities and festivals such as Princess Wencheng’s Opera, Tourism and Culture Expo were held in Lhasa, attracting millions of tourists from the mainland.
And the air is still pure, the sky is still blue, the Kyi chu river still clean.
Isn’t it attractive for a mainlander?
Now, take the case of Metok County, located near the Indian border (Upper Siang of Arunachal). This small country, with a population of hardly 11,000 inhabitants received over 70,000 visitors in 2015. Can you believe it?
China Tibet Online noted that during the last two years, since a highway reached the village of Metok “tourism industry has seen rapid development”. In 2015, Metok officially welcomed some 70,800 tourists. For the first time in 2014, the authorities of the county started selling tickets for entrance to its scenic areas; in 2015, total ticket sales have exceeded 5 million yuan.
China Tibet Online said that the local Tourism Bureau has created a self-driving route outside of the original scenic area; it is about 164 kilometers in length (starting from Zhamo Highway to Beibeng Township).
The propaganda invites the Chinese tourists to see the Galongla Waterfall, the wonder of Swallow Pond, the Metok Waterfalls, the Menba suspended tower and other scenic sites, “as well as ‘plant fossil’ spinulosa trees and other such thousands of kinds of plants and animals.”
The potential tourists in China are told that Metok “is famous for its natural ecology and highland tropical climate. The drop in elevation here is huge, with both brilliant snow mountains and tropical and subtropical plants existing side-by-side, and it is knows as a hiker’s paradise.”
I wonder how many Indian tourists are allowed to Tuting/Geling in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Metok is located just north of these villages on the Yarlung Tsangpo river (the river becomes the Siang in Arunachal and later the Brahmaputra in Assam).
Would it not be the best way for the Government of India to demonstrate that Arunachal is part of India?
But the local politicians and babus are busy in other games right now.
China Tibet Online
remarked that in Metok, the tourists enjoy “the mysterious and unique cultures of the local Menba and Lhoba minorities.”
Before the opening of a tunnel in October 2013, Metok was ‘the last county in China not accessible by a highway’.
And the trend is going to continue.
A few weeks ago, it was announced that by 2020, Lhasa will become the only international tourist city on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
China News Service reported that the decision was taken during the Lhasa Tourism Development Conference held on December 28.
According to the plan, from 2016 to 2020 Lhasa will receive 24 million domestic tourists (an annual increase of 15 percent), as well as 300,000 international tourists (an annual increase of 20 percent).
The total revenue from tourism is expected to exceed 30 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for more than 40 percent of Lhasa's GDP.
The Chinese authorities have now decided to accelerate the construction of infrastructure and develop high-end tourism brands. During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), Lhasa will invest 100 billion yuan (15.42 billion U.S. dollars) for the purpose. Tibet’s capital will further ‘vigorously’ develop an online souvenir sales network.
China News Service further affirmed that Lhasa could also benefit from the ‘One Belt One Road’ opportunities from the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor.
Has India has been informed of the project?
Probably not!
Lhasa would also like to join the World Tourism Cities Federation and the Asia-Pacific Tourism Association and build duty-free shops at the airport and in the city center to develop itself into China’s major tourism hub to South Asia.
Once again, has India been informed?
As mentioned a few days ago on this blog, a second international airport is being planned near Lhasa.

Incidentally China Tibet News reported that the passenger traffic on the Qinghai-Tibet railway hit 11.934 million in 2015, rising by 3.885 million passengers from 2014.
The growing rate reached 48.3%, hitting a new record.
The Chinese website added: "In 2015, tourism in Qinghai and Tibet grows dramatically. Qinghai-Tibet railway company seized the new opportunity and took a series of effective measures to improve its passenger traffic capability.
The company added 2,422 passenger trains, 2,992 additional coaches and 1.73 million seats."

No foreign tourists in Tibet
In the meantime, according to, the Chinese government has announced that the TAR will be closed to all foreign travelers “from February 25, days ahead of some politically sensitive anniversaries including the 2008 March uprising that rocked the plateau in the run up to Beijing Olympics.” quotes a post of tripadvisor: “the entire TAR will be closed from February 25 to March 30 with the authorities issuing a notice to all major cities and counties that all foreign visitors must leave the region by the deadline.”
But do the Chinese authorities really need foreign travelers?
Probably only for the sake of showing a ‘normal’ image of China!
Taking in account the tourists visiting Tibetan areas in Yunnan, Gansu and Sichuan provinces, probably 60 millions of visitors go to Tibet in a single year.
It is a lot.
Does it mean that the Chinese love Tibet?
As the Chinese propaganda puts it: “Tibet with its mystery is the spiritual Garden of Eden and is longed by travelers home and abroad. Only by stepping on the snowy plateau, can one be baptized by its splendor, culture, folklore, life, snow mountains, saint mountains, sacred lakes, residences with local characteristics and charming landscape.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Sichuan-Tibet rail-line on the way

Chengdu-Kangding-Nyingchi-Lhasa railway line
(Note that Arunachal is shown as Southern Tibet on this Chinese map)
The China Daily reported that the construction of a 1,629-kilometer Sichuan-Tibet railway will start in 2016.
Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government announced it in Lhasa during the fourth session of the TAR’s 10th People's Congress: “The government will start a preliminary survey and research of the Kangding-Nyingchi railway project this year, and accelerate the construction of Sichuan-Tibet railway in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period," he said.
Kangding is known as Dardo or Dartsedo in Tibet. It is today the capital city of Gartse Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
Yin Li, the acting governor of Sichuan confirmed the news in Chengdu during the 12th People's Congress of Sichuan.
The railway will be connecting Lhasa to Chengdu. It will be divided into three sections from west to east: Lhasa-Nyingch, Nyingchi-Kangding, and Kangding-Chengdu.
The railway line will run for some 1,000 km on the Tibetan plateau.
The construction of the western and the eastern sections already started last year. The entire project is expected to be completed in the early 2030s.
The China Daily quoted Lin Shijin, a senior civil engineer at China Railway Corp, saying: “Perched at over 3,000 meters above sea level, and with more than 74 percent of its length running on bridges or in tunnels, the railway will meander through the mountains, the highest of which is over 7,000 meters.”
It will cross the major rivers Min river (a tributary of the Yangtze), the upper stretches of the Yangtze and the Yarlung Tsangpo (later Siang and Brahmaputra).
Lin added: “The accumulated height it will climb reaches more than 14,000 meters, and it will cross many fault zones. It's like the largest rollercoaster in the world. With a designed service life of 100 years, it is believed to be one of the most difficult railway projects to build on Earth."
According to Zhao Jinxue, a rail construction ‘risk appraiser’: “It will cost at least 100 million yuan ($15.87 million) per kilometer, similar to the cost of high-speed railways on plains.”
Lin explained the difficulty of the Sichuan-Tibet railway project: “it presents difficulties to overcome, such as avalanches, landslides, earthquakes, terrestrial heat, karst caves and underground streams, yet, it is still a worthwhile project."
Why? Because it takes today 42 hours by train and three days by road to travel from Chengdu to Lhasa; the new rail line will shorten the travel time to less than 15 hours.
It will have incalculable strategic implications for India as the train will pass near the Indian border, north of the McMahon Line in Nyingchi Prefecture (Nyingtri in Tibetan, sometimes Lyingchi in Chinese).
He Ping, a tourism agency manager in Chengdu told the Chinese publication: "The railway will effectively boost tourism, and bring a new Shangri-La to the world and tangible revenue to local people," but it will also allow People’s Armed Police’s and PLA’s reinforcements to reach the Indian border in a much shorter time, accentuating further the military strategic balance between India and China.
And one should not forget that with the new military reforms put in place by President Xi Jinping,, the entire plateau now comes under one Combat Zone (or Theater Command) only.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gen Zhao Zongqi lands on the plateau

Gen Zhao Zongqi, the new Western Theater Commander
receives the flag from Chairman Xi Jinping

According to China Military Online, President Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) yesterday presided  over a ceremony to unveil five new Military Theater Commands (MTCs).
“The five MTCs are named by their strategic location in north, south, east, west and central China, replacing the current seven Military Area Commands (MAC) headquartered in Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Jinan, Shenyang, Lanzhou and Guangzhou”, says the Chinese website.
The purpose of this major reform is to restructure the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) to better manage the armed forces and boost their combat capabilities.
According to The PLA Daily, Chairman Xi told the new commanders and political commissars that the MTCs should “shoulder the responsibilities of responding to security threats, safeguarding peace, [and work on] war containment [and be able to win] wars in each strategic direction.”
China had already unveiled the military reform blueprint in November 2015 with the formation of a three-tier command system (CMC - MTC – Troops): "an administrative system running  from the CMC, through various services down to the troops has been developed.”
Of course, Xi urged the new MTC’s commanders to “unwaveringly follow the leadership of the CPC and faithfully carry out instructions and orders from the CPC Central Committee (CC) and the CMC.”
He also asked them to study how to win modern wars, by using efficient joint theater command management.
Xi presented the flags of the new MTCs to the new Commanders: General Liu Yuejun, Commander of the Eastern Theater and General Zheng Weiping, the Political Commissar; General Wang Jiaocheng, Commander of the Southern Theater and General Wei Liang, the Political Commissar; General Zhao Zongqi, Commander of the Western Theater and and General Zhu Fuxi, the Political Commissar; General Song Puxuan, Commander of the Northern Theater and General Chu Yimin, the Political Commissar; and Lt Gen Han Weiguo, Commander of the Central Theater and Lt Gen Yin Fanglong, the Political Commissar.
According to the same source, Xi called on the MTC’s commanders “to keep their duties in mind and resolutely implement the country's military strategies.”
In the new structure, the CMC will look after the overall military administration, while the MTCs will focus on combat.
Xi said that the move to establish five theater commands and form a joint battle command system is a Party’s strategic decision in view of realizing the Chinese dream of a strong military: “It is a landmark progress in implementing the military reforms and building the PLA's joint battle system.”
Xi added that “the five theater commands are responsible for dealing with security threats in their respective strategic scopes, maintaining peace, containing wars and winning wars”.
He noted that the pivotal role of the commands “in safeguarding the country's overall national security and military strategies.”
Xi also said that the new commands should concentrate on fighting battles.
The commanders were asked “to study the mechanism of winning modern wars, grasp the law of employing military forces, speed up the development of a strategy for the theater commands and enhance the training of joint operations and command in order to win the initiative in future wars.”
The new commands “should be prepared to fight at any time and always be ready to act in response to the call of the people and the Party.”
Xinhua News Agency commented that, under the CMC's leadership, the MTCs should focus on engagement, while the PLA army, navy and air force will concentrate on developing their respective forces.
Fang Bing, a professor at the PLA National Defense University told The Global Times, the Party’s mouthpiece that more senior officers from the navy and air force will be assigned in the future as top leaders of the theater commands.
The Global Times also reported that though official details have not as yet been revealed about the exact areas covered by each theater command, analysts believe that the new commands are likely address the new challenges faced by China as a growing world power.
According to Song, a Beijing-based military expert, the Western MTC will have to shoulder more responsibilities in counterterrorism (read separatism in Xinjiang and Tibet), while the eastern and southern commands will face more threats from the East and South China Seas - each requiring a different style of joint battle command:
The different strategic locations will require an adjustment of different PLA forces inside each theater command. The PLA army, which formerly had a larger proportion in the previous military area commands, is likely to see a reduced proportion, while other forces - including the navy, air force and the rocket force - will see a bigger role.
All this will take time and is bound to create frictions within the PLA.
Chinese defense ministry spokesperson, Yang Yujun asserted that the establishment of the MTCs marks a historic progress in the PLA construction of a joint battle command system: “The PLA has also adjusted its different forces under the theater commands based on the functions of the PLA navy and air force, as well as previous military area commands.”
The spokesperson added that the new arrangement is in line with the practices of the world's leading military powers:
The previous mechanism with seven military commands was set up when China was under heavy military pressure from the north, but the nation's security environment has changed over the decades, hence requiring a re-drawing of area commands addressing different strategic locations.
Though it was denied that China's military reform meant more muscle-flexing, the future only will tell us if this is true.
The spokesman reiterated that China's defense policy is defensive in nature and its military strategy features active defense: “The Chinese military intends to seek more military cooperation and make greater contribution to safeguarding world peace.”
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) commented that commanders with battle experience have been posted in areas with ‘high risk of war’, though the selections for the central command reflect concerns about 'maintaining stability'.
In fact, this is also true for the Western MTC, which not only faces India, but also is responsible for the ‘instability’ in Xinjiang and Tibet.
While the new commanders and political commissars will look after the territorial defence of those areas, "they will no longer directly administer the troops in each region, but focus instead on joint command of the ground, naval, air and all other forces", added the Hong Kong newspaper.
The Commanders have also been reshuffled regionwise, for example, former Lanzhou MR’s chief, General Liu Yuejun has been transferred as the head of the Eastern MTC, while General Wang Jiaocheng goes from Shenyang MR to the Southern MTC and Jinan region commander General Zhao Zongqi becomes head of the Western MTC (General Zhao however served in Tibet for many years, as reported on this blog); and former Beijing region commander General Song Puxuan becomes head of the Northern MTC.
Retired colonel Yue Gang told the SCMP that it was making a big change and the leadership had to be cautious.
There is no doubt that the battle is not won for Chairman Xi, who will continue to take ‘cautious’ steps.
One indication is that several political commissars (of Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Shenyang) have been kept and reposted as the commissars of the new commands.
The South China Morning Post points that the exception is the Central MTC, where Lt Gen Han Weiguo has been promoted Commander (he is not a full general or even a member of the Central Committee), and Lt Gen Yin Fanglong, former deputy chief of the General Political Department is the new commissar (he too is a Lt Gen, though a CC’s Alternate Member).
Col Yue commented: “Commanders with battle experience have been put in areas with a high risk of war but the selections for the central command reflect more concern about maintaining stability.”
It is only the beginning of a long process.
India should watch carefully, especially now that the entire northern border will be dealt by one command only; it will certainly improve its efficiency. Further General Zhao Zongqi, the new Western MTC’s Commander has a good knowledge of the situation on the Tibetan plateau, having been posted in Tibet for several years.

Theater Command Commander Commissar
North Song Puxuan Chu Yimin
South Wang Jiaocheng Wei Liang 
East Liu Yuejun Zheng Weiping 
West Zhao Zongqi Zhu Fuxi 
Central Han Weiguo Yin Fanglong 

Interestingly, on the day of the announcement of the new MTCs, a series of photos of J-11 fighter planes operating on the plateau were published. These planes will now be under the direct command of Gen Zhao Zonhqi.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Airport infrastructure on the Tibetan Plateau

In 2015, a statement of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) asserted: "Safeguarding national unity and strengthening ethnic unity should be highlighted in work involving Tibet."
It added that: "Efforts should be made to unswervingly carry out the anti-separatism battle, promote the region's economic and social development, safeguard and improve people's welfare, and enhance exchanges and integration of different ethnic groups."
The Politburo's priorities were to strength Tibetan infrastructure, which in turn will help fostering competitive industries while ensuring environmental protection "to achieve marked improvement in living conditions and more social cohesion."
The PLA/Civil integration of the airports in Tibet greatly helps Beijing to 'strengthen the infrastructure' and consolidate its presence on the Plateau, i.e. 'to stabilize Tibet' and be ready in case of a conflict with India.
In 2015, a joint statement from the People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) affirmed that the integration would include joint maintenance of airport support facilities, joint flight safety support and joint airport management.
Interestingly, the Lhasa Gongkar Airport in Tibet and Sunan Shuofang International Airport in  Wuxi in Jiangsu province, were selected as the first two pilot PLA/civil airports to implement the 'integration' in China.
The PLAAF/CAAC circular further affirmed that "All the civil-military airports will conduct strengthened integration next year."
Apart from the strategic aspect, according to Xinhua: "Tibet welcomed a record 20 million tourists in 2015. ...This generated 28 billion yuan (4.26 billion U.S. dollars) in tourism revenue, nearly three times the figure in 2010. ...Regional capital Lhasa saw its tourism revenue more than triple over the past five years to an estimated 15.49 billion yuan in 2015. The number of tourists visiting the city rose by a yearly average of 23.32 percent in the period to 11.79 million in 2015."

In this context, it is interesting to draw a list all the major airpiorts on the Tibetan plateau.
List of Airports in the TAR
Lhasa Gonggar Airport 
Lhasa Gonggar Airport is the airport serving Lhasa, the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. It is located about 62 kilometres (39 mi) southwest of the city in Gonggar County of Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture. The airport is close to the road to Tsetang, the capital of Shannan Prefecture.
At an elevation of 3,570 metres (11,710 ft), Lhasa Airport is one of the highest airports in the world. The airport was built in 1965, a second runway was built in 1994 and terminal facilities were upgraded in 2004.

Ngari Gunsa Airport
Ngari Gunsa Airport is a dual-use military and civil airport serving the town of Shiquanhe (Ali or Gar) in Ngari Prefecture, in the southwest of China's Tibet Autonomous Region near the Indian border. It started its operations on July 1, 2010, becoming the fourth civil airport in Tibet after Lhasa, Nyingchi [Nyingtri], and Chamdo airports.
Situated at 4,274 m (14,022 ft) above sea level, Gunsa Airport is the third highest airports in the world after Chamdo Bangda Airport (elevation 4,334 m (14,219 ft)) and Kangding Airport (elevation 4,280 m (14,042 ft)). Gunsa airport has a 4,500-meter runway. It is expected to handle 120,000 passengers by 2020. Construction began in May 2007 and cost an estimated 1.65 billion yuan (241.22 million U.S. dollars).

Nyingtri Mainling Airport
Nyingchi Mainling Airport is an airport in Mainling, Nyingchi Prefecture. It is one of the most challenging landing ground in the world, since the airport is in a winding valley.
Nyingchi Airport is the third airport that Tibet has put into operation. Built at a cost of 97 million U.S. dollars: this includes investment by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC)
The airport is 2,949 meters above sea level, with a designed annual passenger flow of 120,000.

Chamdo Bamda Airport
Chamdo Bamda Airport is located in Bamda near Chamdo.
The airport is the highest airport in the world, at an elevation of 4,334 metres (14,219 ft) and has the longest paved runway in the world, with a length of 5.5 km.
The low air density at this altitude makes a higher takeoff and landing true airspeed necessary, and therefore a longer runway. Also, the aircraft's engines produce less thrust at higher elevation than near sea-level.
The airport is 2.5 hours by mountain road from the county seat of Chamdo. The long commute is the result of no flat land closer to the city being available to construct an airport.

Shigatse Peace Airport
Shigatse Peace Airport or Shigatse Air Base, is a dual-use military and civilian airport serving Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet Autonomous Region.
It is located in Jiangdang Township, 43 kilometers from Shigatse. With an elevation of 3,782 metres (12,408 ft), it is one of the highest airports in the world.
Construction of Shigatse Airport started in 1968 and was completed in 1973. It was solely for military use until 2010, when a 95 million US dollars expansion was completed. On 30 October 2010, the airport was opened as the fifth civilian airport in Tibet.

Nagchu Dagring Airport
Nagqu [Nagchu] Dagring Airport is an airport under construction near Nagchu in the Nagchu Prefecture of Tibet. When completed (later in 2015?), it will be the highest airport in the world at 4,436 m (14,554 ft), surpassing Chamdo Bangda Airport as the highest. Construction began in 2011 and is scheduled to take three/four years. The airport is part of a Chinese government development scheme to build 97 airports across China by 2020. By then, the authorities intend that four-fifths of China's population will be within a 90-minute drive of an airport.

Choedrak inspecting the site of the second airport in Lhasa
Second Lhasa Airport
On September 7, 2014, it was reported that the Lhasa Party’s Secretary Qizha (or Choedrak in Tibetan) went for an inspection tour on the site of the new airport.
The Tibet Daily said that preliminary planning and design work were carried out. Choedrak asked the people to fully understand the practical significance of the construction of this new airport.
The Township of Lhasa attaches “great importance to further strengthening the organization by building a first-class international airport,” he said.

List of airports in Sichuan Province
In Tibetan areas
Kangding Airport 
Kangding Airport is an airport serving Kangding, capital of the Gartse Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan Province, China. It is located 40 kilometers northwest of the city center. Construction of the airport began in September 2006 and the airport started operation on April 26, 2009.
Situated at 4,280 m (14,042 ft) above sea level, Kangding Airport is the third highest airport in the world behind Daocheng Yading Airport and Chamdo Bamda Airport, and just higher than Ngari Gunsa Airport (elevation 4,274 m (14,022 ft)).

Hongyuan Airport (Ngaba)

In 2014, Xinhua reported, "Southwest China's Sichuan Province opened its fourth high-altitude airfield, which local officials hope will boost tourism in the heavily Tibetan-populated region."
According to the official news agency, the new Hongyuan Airport is located in Aba [Ngaba] Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture at an elevation of 3,535 meters.
The Prefecture is situated in northwestern Sichuan, at the border of Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
Ngaba (or Aba in Chinese) was the epicenter of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in which over 20,000 of local residents died.
The area has also been the epicenter of the wave of Tibetan self-immolations in 2011 and 2012.
While half of the 'Tibetan' self-immolations happened in Ngaba Prefecture, very few of them happened in Tibet Autonomous Region.

Daocheng Yading Airport
The 4,411-metre-high Kardze Daocheng Yading airport, being built in Kardtse (Garze), it became the world’s highest civilian airport when put into operation in 2014 (a year earlier than planned!!).
The Civil Aviation Administration said that its main purpose is to boost local tourism.
The Yading airport cost of 245 million US dollars. The Sichuan authorities plan to bring one million tourists (and get 1.5 billion yuan revenue!) by 2015. A quick return on investment!
But as important as tourism, the airport will facilitate the transportation of fresh troops from the Military Area Command in Chengdu to Kardtse prefecture in a short time. It has been one of the most restive areas on the Tibetan plateau.
The new Kardze Yading airport will greatly facilitate the transportation of PAP's reinforcements in case of unrest. With one stone, two birds are killed: the Tibetan protesters are 'pacified' and the deluge of Chinese tourists brings hefty revenues.

Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport
Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport also known as Jiuzhaigou Airport is an airport in Songpan County of Sichuan Province.
This airport serves two major scenic places of interest in this area, namely Huanglong, 53 kilometres away, and Jiuzhaigou, 88 km away. It is 3,448 metres (11,312 ft) above sea level.
Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport is about 240 km or 40 minutes flight from Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, an aviation hub of Southwest China. It started flights on September 28, 2003, and has one runway of length 3,200 m and width 60 m.

In Qinghai Province
Tibetan areas
The Huatugou aviation Airport
A few months ago, Xinhua reported that Qinghai Province will be home to another airport. The Huatugou aviation airport, presently under-construction, is being built in the Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Haixi.
The Qinghai Airport Company said the airport will cover an area of 180 hectares and it will cost 114 million U.S. dollars.
It is a big investment for a Prefecture which, according the 2010 census, has 489,338 inhabitants only. The airport will have a 3,600 meters runway and a terminal covering an area of some 3,000 square meters, which is relatively small. The airport is expected to be completed within a year.

Delingha Airport 
Delingha Airport is an airport serving Delingha City, the capital of the Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China. The airport is located 29 kms southwest of the city center, on the south bank of Bayin River.
Construction began on 27 May 2011, with a total investment of 630 million yuan. The airport was opened on 16 June 2014, with the inaugural flight China Eastern Airlines MU2241 from Xining Caojiabao Airport. Delingha is the fourth civil airport in Qinghai.
Delingha has been one of the sites used by China to launch its missiles.

Golok Airport (under construction)
The Qinghai Airport Co. authorities announced that a new civil airport will open on the Tibetan Plateau by the end of 2015.
It is located in Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province.
The airport has been built at an altitude of 3,500 meters.
It has a 3,800-meter-long runway and a 3,000-square-meter terminal.
The construction is expected to be completed by the end of October.
The announcement had to be made now, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (though Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is located in Qinghai).
By the end of 2015, flights from Golok to Xining, Lhasa, and Chengdu will be introduced.
It will be the sixth civilian airport in Qinghai province and the first in Golok.

The Yushu Batang Airport
The Yushu Batang Airport is the airport serving Yushu City in Qinghai Province, China. It is located 18 kilometers to the south of the city center, Gyêgu [Jyekundo], at the 3,890 meters elevation about the sea level, which makes it the highest civilian airport in Qinghai Province, and one of the highest in the world.
The construction of the airport started in 2007. The first aircraft landed at the new airport on May 29, 2009, and the airport was officially opened on August 1, 2009.
It can receive A319 aircraft. The passenger terminal is designed to serve up to 80,000 passengers per year. According to the CAAC statistics, the airport served 7,484 passengers during 2009, the first year of its operation.
The airport played an important role in the delivery of rescue personnel and relief supplies to the area affected by the 2010 Yushu earthquake.

In Gansu Province
Tibetan areas
Gannan Xiahe Airport
Gannan Xiahe Airport is an airport in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, China. It is located in Xiahe County, 72 kilometers from the county seat and 56 kilometers from Hezuo, the capital of Gannan Prefecture. Construction started in September 2010 with a total investment of 722 million yuan, and the airport was opened on 19 August 2013.
In Yunnan Province
Tibetan areas
Diqing [Dechen] Shangri-La Airport
Diqing Shangri-La Airport is an airport serving Shangri-La City, Diqing [Dechen] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China.
Accorging to the Chinese propaganda, "Shangri-la, a place where the majority people believe in Tibetan Buddhism, is full of religious atmosphere amid the sutra streamers everywhere.Shangri-la has an area of 11,613 square kilometers populated with near 130,000 people who are mainly Tibetans."
It is one of the main sites on the plateau for 'Tibet tourism' where hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors rush every year in search of some exoticism.
In Xinjiang Province
Hotan Airport
Hotan Airport is an airport serving Hotan, a city in the autonomous region of Xinjiang in the People's Republic of China.

List of airports in Sichuan Province
At the periphery of the Tibetan plateau
Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport
Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, also known as Jiuzhaigou Airport is an airport in Songpan County.
This airport serves two major scenic places of interest in this area, namely Huanglong, 53 kilometres away, and Jiuzhaigou, 88 km away. It is 3,448 metres (11,312 ft) above sea level.
It is located about 240 km or 40 minutes flight from Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, an aviation hub of Southwest China. It started flights on September 28, 2003, and has one runway of length 3,200 m and width 60 m.

Panzhihua Bao'anying Airport

Panzhihua Bao'anying Airport is the airport serving the city of Panzhihua in China's Sichuan province. The airport was opened in December 2003. Construction of the airport began in 2000 and cost a total of 1.1 billion yuan. The airport was closed on 25 June 2011 after a major landslide, and was reopened on 29 June 2013 after two years of repair.

Guangyuan Panlong Airport
Guangyuan Panlong Airport is an airport serving Guangyuan, Sichuan province.

Guanghan Airport
Guanghan Airport is an airport southeast of Guanghan. Formerly a military airfield, known as Kwanghan Airfield (A-3) during World War II, it is now used by Civil Aviation Flight University of China for pilot training.

Yibin Caiba Airport
Yibin Caiba Airport is a dual-use military and civil airport serving the city of Yibin in southern Sichuan Province of China. Located in the town of Caiba in Cuiping District, the airport was expanded twice in 1991 and 1993.
In 2011 Yibin Caiba Airport served 326,000 passengers, a 12.4% increase over the previous year, and 2,737.6 tons of cargo. As the airport's current location limits its capability to expand, in May 2012 the State Council of China approved the building of the new Yibin Wuliangye Airport to replace Caiba Airport.

Luzhou Lantian Airport
Luzhou Lantian Airport is an airport serving the city of Luzhou in Sichuan Province. Luzhou Airport was built in 1945 and initially served an air route between China and India by the US Air Force during the World War II. Services were suspended in the 1960s, but later it was used for training purposes by the Chinese Air Force. Major renovations and expansions were completed in January 2001.

Xichang Qingshan Airport
Xichang Qingshan Airport is an airport serving Xichang, the capital city of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture. The airport started an expansion project in February 2010.

Nanchong Gaoping Airport

Mianyang Nanjiao Airport is an airport serving the city of Mianyang in Sichuan Province, China. It is located in the southern suburbs of Mianyang (Nanjiao means "southern suburbs" in Chinese), 10 kilometers from the city center.
Opened on 28 April 2001, Mianyang Nanjiao is the second largest airport in Sichuan after Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. The airport is also used for pilot training by the Civil Aviation Flight University of China.
In 2011 Mianyang Nanjiao Airport served 622,816 passengers, ranking 66th among China's airports. It also handled 4,491.5 tons of cargo and 207,140 aircraft movements.
In Qinhai Province
At the periphery of the Tibetan plateau
Xining Caojiabao Airport 
Xining Caojiabao Airport is an airport serving Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, China. It is located in Huzhu County, Haidong, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) east of downtown Xining. The airport began operation in 1991, and in October 2011 a new 3,800 meter long runway was built to replace the old one.

In Yunnan Province
At the periphery of the Tibetan plateau
Dali Airport
Dali Airport is an airport in Dali (actually Xiaguan) in Yunnan Province.

Lijiang Sanyi Airport
Lijiang Sanyi Airport is an airport serving Lijiang, Yunnan province, China.
Built in 1995, the civil airport is 25 km to the south of the city proper.
The airport has one runway of 3,000 metres in length with turning bases at both ends of the runway.
Tibet Airlines recently opened a new air route, a daily service from Chongqing to Lijiang.

Dehong Mangshi Airport
Dehong Mangshi Airport is an airport serving Mang City in Dehong, Yunnan Province. It was formerly called Luxi Mangshi Airport.

Baoshan Yunduan Airport
Baoshan Yunduan Airport is an airport in Baoshan in Yunnan.

Lincang Airport
Lincang Airport is an airport serving the city of Lincang in Yunnan province, southwestern China. The airport started operation on March 25, 2001. The airport is 22.5 km from the center of the city in the town of Boshang.

Tengchong Tuofeng Airport 

Tengchong Tuofeng Airport is an airport serving Tengchong County in Yunnan Province. It is located near Tuofeng Village 12 kilometers south of the county seat. The airport was opened on 16 February 2009.

In Xinjiang Province
Qiemo Airport
Qiemo Airport is an airport serving Qiemo Town and the rest of Qiemo County, in the Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.

Kashgar Airport

Kashgar Airport, also known as Kashi Airport, is an airport serving Kashgar (also known as Kashi), a city in Uyghur autonomous region of Xinjiang in the People's Republic of China.

Friday, January 29, 2016

When Nehru was taken for a ride by Mao

Crossing the Upper Yangtze on October 7, 1950 (
One often-asked question is: why did India not take a stronger stand on the Tibet issue in October/November 1950, when Eastern Tibet was invaded by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army?
One of the reasons is the nefarious influence that K.M. Panikkar, the Ambassador in Communist China, played on the Indian Prime Minister and the fact that Nehru chose to follow his advice against those of senior diplomats like G.S. Bajpai or politicians like Sardar Patel of Rajaji.

Some historical facts
On August 3, 1950 General Liu Bocheng, the head of the Southwest Military Command had been ‘assigned to liberate Tibet’. In a proclamation, the great strategist affirmed:”The People’s Liberation Army will soon march towards Tibet with the object of driving out the British and American aggressive forces so as to make Tibetans return to the Great Family of the Peoples Republic of China.”
The fact that there was no American and only a couple of British nationals live on the Tibetan plateau, did not bother Panikkar and Nehru.
On August 21, the Indian ambassador met Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Foreign Minister; the latter assured him that:
it was China’s earnest desire to settle the problems by negotiations and peace, and that he [Zhou] had instructed the Chinese Ambassador to India to enter into preliminary contacts with the Tibetan Delegation in Delhi and to make arrangements for their journey to Peking.
Zhou Enlai said that he greatly appreciated the view taken by India and would do everything possible to come to a peaceful settlement “on the understanding that Tibet was an integral part of China, entitled to local autonomy and to its own institutions”.
During this meeting, Panikkar, on his own, promised that India would not move in case Tibet is forcefully liberated.
On 26 August 1950, in an aide memoire submitted to the Chinese Government, K.M. Panikkar went a step further, he changed India's policy vis-à-vis Tibet. This would trigger the most dramatic consequences for India.
In his note, Panikkar described Tibet’s status as ‘autonomy within framework or Chinese sovereignty’, and not anymore ‘suzerainty’ as it had been done during the previous decades. The two words had a very different legal meaning and Panikkar knew it.
During the following months, South Block tried to revert to ‘suzerainty’, but it was too late, the damage was done.
Three days after presenting his aide-memoire, Panikkar send a Top Secret cable to Nehru to inform him that he had met the Director of Asian Section of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had called on him on behalf of Zhou Enlai to discuss India’s (more correctly Panikkar’s) aide-memoire on Tibet.
The Chinese officials were delighted; they conveyed the gratitude of their Government
for reaffirmation that India had NO political or territorial ambition in Tibet and stated that it is earnest desire of Chinese Government to settle Sino Tibetan matters amicably and by peaceful means.
Six weeks before the invasion, the fate of Tibet was sealed.
But Nehru and his Ambassador continued to foolishly think that the future of Tibet would depend on ‘negotiations’ in Delhi or Beijing.
It was absolutely wrong. A telegram sent by Mao on August 23, 1950, (2 days after Panikkar had met Zhou) is telling.
General He Long inspecting the preparations
It is addressed the Southwest Bureau, repeated to the Northwest Bureau in Qinghai Province and entitled, ‘Strive to Occupy Chamdo This Year and Advance to Lhasa Next Year’.
Mao first refers to a communication received three days earlier from the Southwest Bureau suggesting the order of the battle (to ‘liberate’ Tibet). Mao writes:
The plan to push for occupying Chamdo this year and to leave three thousand men to consolidate Chamdo is good. You can actively make preparations according to this plan, and when it is ascertained by the end of this month or the beginning of next month that the road has reached Ganzi [also known as Kandze in today’s Sichuan province] without obstruction, the advance can go ahead.
It demonstrates that the east of the Upper Yangtze River, the Communists were not expecting (and they did not encounter later) any ‘obstruction’. Lhasa had then no control over these Tibetan-inhabited areas.
Mao continues:
It is expected that Chamdo will be occupied in October. That would be advantageous for pushing for political changes in Tibet, and marching into Lhasa the next year.
While Nehru believed that everything depended on ‘talks’ between the Dalai Lama’s government and the Communists, the reality was different. On the opposite, Mao asserts in his telegram: “Now India has issued a statement recognizing Tibet as China’s territory, only expressing hope that (the issue) can be settled peacefully, not by force.”
The Great Helmsman refers to the meeting between Panikkar and Zhou and admits that the earlier stalemate about visas for the Tibetan delegation had been sorted out: “Great Britain didn’t allow the Tibetan delegation to go to Beijing before, but now they have agreed.”
Though Mao knew that the hurdles for the ‘talks’ had been cleared, he was not interested in ‘negotiations’.
In order to understand Nehru’s mindset, let us look at a letter addressed by the Indian Prime Minister to C. Rajagopalachari, a Minister without Portfolio in his Cabinet on November 1. The Chinese had entered into Tibet 3 weeks earlier.
Rajaji had sent a note to Nehru complaining that the ‘Chinese are deceiving us’. Nehru answers: “Legally our position seems to be a weak one in regard to Tibet,” and adds that morally he finds it difficult to say that the Chinese Government has deliberately deceived India (i.e. Nehru) at any stage.
The Prime Minister explains: “We may have deceived ourselves, and they may have done wrong in the action they took, as I think they did.”
For him, the Chinese did ‘not deceive’ India:
For the last year they have been talking about ‘liberating’ Tibet as a part of the Chinese fatherland. From the 15th of July of this year there has been a great deal of talk on this, and even some Chinese troops’ movements were reported to us on the Tibetan border of China. Early in August the Chinese Government issued a text of a proclamation by the Head of their Southern Command [General Liu Bocheng], who was ‘assigned to liberate Tibet’.
The above lines show that the Government of India was well-informed about the decision of Communist China to forcefully enter in Tibet. Nehru writes to his colleague:
This proclamation stated that the Peoples Liberation Army will soon march towards Tibet etc. We sent a telegram to our Ambassador asking him to point out that any such move will be most unfortunate and that this should be settled by peaceful means. In this way telegrams have been exchanged repeatedly.
Nehru was regularly in touch with Panikkar (and Sumul Sinha in Lhasa) about the happenings in Tibet, in China and on the front; that is why Nehru could write, “at no stage did the Chinese Government say to us that they would not take any military steps.”
The Indian position was mainly the result of the foolishness of the Indian Ambassador who repeatedly informed Delhi that the Chinese would not use force.
The Communists were the worthy children of Sun Tzu and were adept of the Art of War, the ‘negotiations’ trick was just a dilatory tactic to gain time for the Chinese troops to be ready for the battle of Chamdo.
Nehru tells Rajaji:
They did say that they were always prepared for peaceful negotiations and that they had waited for a long time, but the Tibetan Delegation did not come. According to them, the Tibetan Delegation could not come because of imperialist manoeuvres.
None of the Chinese declassified telegrams/reports shows that the PLA was waiting for the outcome of the negotiations. In fact, it was absolutely clear for Mao and his colleagues that the 18th Army had to advance on Chamdo in 1950 itself so that Lhasa and Central Tibet could be ‘liberated’ in 1951.
Nehru admits: “When we informed them that the Tibetan Delegation was actually going to start, Chinese troops’ movement had already taken place some days before.”
This should have opened the Prime Minister’s (and his ambassador’s) mind to the true intentions and tactics of the Communists. It did not and very unfortunately, the Tibetan issue would get worse when, less than 2 months later, Patel will be gone forever.
The Indian Prime Minister was aware that the Chinese Government has decided to use force, “but I do not see how they can be accused of deception. They have been perfectly clear from the beginning.”
While understanding the rapidly-evolving situation, Nehru decided to remain passive, with tragic consequences for India.
In his letter to Rajaji, the Prime Minister tries to find excuses for the Communists:
We have to remember also that the Chinese Government and people are living in constant fear of attack by the U.S.A. That fear may not be justified but it is not wholly groundless. Prominent men in the U.S. have repeatedly state that this attack should be made.
…If we can put ourselves in China and see Chiang-Kai-shek with a powerful Army sitting nearby to attack China, supported by the U.S., and war coming over nearer and their own territories being bombed, then we can perhaps appreciate the temper and apprehension of the Chinese Government and people.
The argument has nothing to do the Chinese troops entering in Tibet, massacring hundreds of Tibetan soldiers and invading a peaceful nation. It is rather flabbergasting that the Prime Minister gives such a long justification on an unrelated topic. 
On his August telegram, Mao had stated that the Government of India has not objected to the Chinese entering into Tibet. But once again, Nehru tries to justify the Chinese actions (or his own?):
Of course, all this does not justify military operations against Tibet, but it does explain many things. Tibet for many years has been under British influence and the British Agent there was violently anti-Chinese. He tried his best to incite Tibetans against China. Previous Chinese Governments have protested against this, and indeed I have myself been told by their representatives. Tibet was thus looked upon as a place which was under British influence. That influence is now gone, but only six months ago the same British Agent was there representing us.
This is an absolutely an unfair statement against Hugh Richardson who brilliantly served the Indian interests in Tibet for 3 years (August 1947-1950). Richardson was not only a sharp-minded ICS officer, but also a great lover of Tibet and an outstanding scholar of ancient Tibetan history.
Sumul Sinha, Richardson’s successor, was himself one of the finest young Chinese-speaking diplomats; he tried to serve India as well as he could in the difficult circumstances. His services will never be appreciated by Nehru (‘Sinha does not understand our policies’). This is one of the saddest tragedies of modern India.
Nehru ends up his letter to Rajaji by saying that he just wish to point out to:
certain considerations which have to be borne in mind to understand why the Chinese Government may have developed a state of mind bordering on fear of what is going to happen, and fear leads to wrong action. I am quite sure that the Chinese Government did not intend to deceive us or to insult us deliberately.
It is necessary to come back for a moment on Mao’s cable to the Southern Bureau; Chairman Mao says: “If our army can occupy Chamdo in October, there is the possibility of pushing the Tibetan delegation to Beijing for negotiation, begging for a peaceful solution (of course there are other possibilities too). Right now we are using the strategy of urging the Tibetan delegation to come to Beijing and reducing Nehru’s fear.”
It is ironical that Nehru spoke of the Chinese fear, while Mao tries to ‘cool down Nehru’s fears’.
The second stage of the Chinese plans are explained by Mao
Map of the PLA operations
planned by Mao
When Tibetan representatives arrive in Beijing, we plan to use the Ten Points already decided as the basis for negotiation, urge the Tibetan representatives to sign it, and make the Ten Points an agreement accepted by both sides.
The Ten-Point eventually became the Seventeen-Point Agreement signed ‘under duress’ by Tibetan delegates in Beijing on May 23, 1951.
Mao concludes:
If this can be done, it will make things easier for advancing into Tibet next year. Your plan (the Southwest Bureau’s) to leave 3,000 men in Chamdo for the winter after occupying it, not to advance into Lhasa this year, and withdraw the main force back to Ganzi may be seen by the Tibetans as a gesture of good will.
This was the beginning of the Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai policy.
In the process, India lost of ‘buffer zone’ with Communist China and a friendly and peaceful neighbour.
The duo Nehru-Panikkar had been taken for a ride by Mao and Zhou.

(The translation of Mao's telegram is available on