Saturday, August 30, 2014

One more new airport in Tibet

A year ago, I mentioned on this blog, the construction of some new airports in Tibet.
One more now!

Xinhua just 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."
It shows that Beijing's policy of 'opening up' restive areas to tourism continues.
It must pay rich dividends.
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, also known as Ngawa (or Aba in Chinese) was the epicenter of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in which over 20,000 of its 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.
Can the number of self-immolations be inversely proportional to the number of tourists visiting an area on the plateau?
It is what Chinese officials believe.
According to a local official, the new flights will be "cutting travel time to the local plateau prairie and Jiuzhaigou Valley, a World Heritage site famous for its colorful pools and snowy mountains."
But the main purpose is clearly to bring 'stability' in the restive prefecture.
Xinhua admits: "Lack of transportation facilities has long troubled the province's out-of-reach Tibetan region, which includes the two prefectures of Aba [Ngaba] and Garze [Kartse] and the county of Muli. Prior to Hongyuan, the province opened three high-altitude airports to link the region with the outside world"
Luo Erwu, head of the tourism bureau of Ngaba told the Chinese news agency: "The new airport will not only help travelers but also benefit locals by bringing more tourists to the region."
This is part of Beijing's policy to make the Tibetan plateau a giant Disneyland.
Beijing's rationale is that by bringing more tourists, the level of employment (and the revenue) of the local population will automatically increase, so will the 'stability' of the area.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Intrusions, trangressions and a line of perception

Local herders are always the sufferers
My article Intrusions, trangressions and a line of perception appeared yesterday in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

No matter how you define it, the fact is that China has become aggressive along the Line of Actual Control. Indian troops and citizens on the border have to be equipped to deal with the challenge

‘There is nothing like that’, said the new Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, when asked if it was true that Chinese troops had entered deep into Indian territory in Burtse sector, near Daulat Beg Oldi in north Ladakh. The media had earlier reported an intrusion by the People’s Liberation Army. Members of Parliament were explained that there was no Chinese ‘intrusion’ in Ladakh. On August 13, in a written reply to a question, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju stated: “No intrusion has been reported or taken place on India-China border, including Sikkim, during the last five years, However, there are cases of transgression due to difference of perception of the Line of Actual Control.”
A couple of years ago, the terminology was different; ‘intrusions’ were called ‘perceptional’, now Mr Rijiju describes the Chinese walking around with banners that read ‘this is our territory’, as simple ‘transgressions’. Even if only attributed to a “mere difference in perception of the LAC between the two sides”, the Government of India admits that there has been a total 1,612 such ‘transgressions’ between January 1, 2010 and August 4, 2014. The young Minister also gave the MPs a crash course on the subtleties of both armies’ reckoning: “While ‘intrusion’ would mean that the Chinese troops crossed over to Indian side of the LAC and stayed put, ‘transgression’ implied that they had entered Indian territory only to eventually retreat to the Chinese side.”
Fine, we can adopt the new terminology, though according to Mr Rijiju, 334 cases of ‘transgression’ had taken place this year alone up until August 4, as compared to 411 in the whole of 2013, 426 in 2012, 213 in 2011 and 228 in 2010. It is clear that the number has increased over the years, though the Government has remained silent on Uttarakhand, where the phenomenon regularly occurred (in Barahoti area particularly). Does this practically means that when the Chinese cross the Indian LAC, they just ‘transgress’ it, because according to their own perceptions, they are in China? As a result, do we have two ‘perceptional’ LACs?
This raises another question: Have maps of the different ‘perceptions’ been exchanged? Apparently, the Chinese are reluctant. The question will hopefully be asked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits New Delhi next month. Mr Modi should insist: “At least, give us maps of ‘your’ LAC”.
1959 Line, today forgotten

This situation is relatively new. In the past, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai provided India a map of Chinese claims. On December 17, 1959, after Jawaharlal Nehru asked that the Ladakh sector be treated separately, Zhou argued: “The Chinese Government is very much perplexed by the fact that Your Excellency [Nehru] put forward a separate proposal for the prevention of clashes in the sector of the border between China and India’s Ladakh.” The Premier added: “There is no reason to treat this sector of the border as a special case. The line up to which each side exercises actual control in this sector is very clear, just as it is in the other sectors of the Sino-Indian border. As a matter of fact, the Chinese map published in 1956, to which Your Excellency referred, correctly shows the traditional boundary between the two countries in this sector.”
Three years before the 1962 border war, Beijing’s positions were clear, while today it refuses to provide a map of its claims (which over the years, have obviously expanded in China’s favour). By keeping the situation unstable on the ground, the PLA can continue to prick the Indian Army as well as the local population in Ladakh.
Gen Suhag’s ‘nothing like that’ remark is certainly not good for the morale of the Ladakhis who have to face Chinese ‘transgressor’ on a daily basis; the best proof of is comes from the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson herself. Ms Hua Chunying delightedly stated: “China today appreciated the Indian Army’s response on recent reports of incursions by the PLA in Ladakh... China has noted relevant reports and the Indian position. The Indian position reflects the objective understanding and rational attitude towards the special situation.” She added that for a long time, the Indian and Chinese “have exercised restraint and have maintained peaceful coexistence.” Well, everything is relative.
But there are other issues which, though not directly related to the position of the LAC, are worrying. The Times of India recently reported: “Forces guarding the Sino-Indian border have for years been suffering lack of optimum technological, infrastructural and logistical support — something available aplenty across the border to Chinese troops.”
The article lists several aberrations such Indian GPS sets showing the Indian soldiers in Chinese territory even when the Indian troops are well within their border. Why? Because the Indo-Tibetan Border Police uses US satellite data which does not reflect Indian ‘perceptions’. On the Arunachal border, the situation is often worse as Indian troops have to walk for days without proper all-weather shoes and suitable tents, to reach the LAC. Can the Modi sarkar change this?
Another issue is the recurrent harassment of local herders and villagers by ITBT personnel who regularly stop them on one pretext or another. It is said to be one of the main reasons for migration towards Leh, Itanagar and Delhi.  In an interview to Rediff.com, Mr Rijiju had rightly pointed out: “If we manage to strengthen our forces along the border, I’m sure that it can take care of the local fear. But if we are unable to provide basic necessities to the people living the border areas, then definitely people will run away. [Today], people need basic amenities; if these basic facilities such education, health, roads, communication services, drinking water supply are not made available, people will migrate. These basic facilities should be available to those areas; if we don’t do it, someday the whole border area will be without any civilian population.”
An extreme case occurred in the Pin valley of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh where residents stated that they were not adverse to seeking help from China, if the State and Union Governments did not do something for the area. Apparently, a flood in June 2012 had damaged a bridge which connects several villages of Pin valley. Even after two years, nothing has been done by the Governments to fix it. The president of Sagnam panchayat, Mr Lobsang Tandup, (who since then has been arrested for sedition) had raised the slogan ‘Chalo China’. He told the Press: “If our Government has nothing to do with the pain and problems of its citizens, then we will not be averse in seeking help from China.”
This may be an aberration, but it reflects the unease of the local population against what they perceive as neglect by India. This should be changed on a war-footing. Let us hope that Delhi will go beyond rhetoric and start acting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

India-Japan cultural ties through history

Rabindranath Tagore with The Mother (right) in Japan in 1916
My article India-Japan cultural ties through history appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is soon leaving for Japan. For several reasons, his visit will not be an ordinary one. In a statement issued by the PMO, Modi explains: “I will visit Tokyo and Kyoto, and will interact with all sections of Japanese society from students, political leaders to captains of industry.”
Though Modi could not make it in early July (due to the ongoing Parliament session), the visit will undoubtedly be special as it will be the Prime Minister’s first bilateral meet outside the subcontinent, further Japan is an important strategic partner for India.
But there is more. Apart from the first ever defence cooperation agreement between Japan and India which is expected to be signed, there is a cultural and spiritual dimension to the visit as well.
Whether it is Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore or Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, many great Indians have been associated with Japan and have become admirers of the Land of the Rising Sun. There is a reciprocity too and it is not a coincidence that the Japan-India Association was set up 111 years ago in 1903. It is today the oldest international friendship body in Japan.
A Ministry of External Affairs’ backgrounder points out:
Throughout the various phases of history, since civilisational contacts between India and Japan began some 1400 years ago, the two countries have never been adversaries. Bilateral ties have been singularly free of any kind of dispute – ideological, cultural or territorial.
Soon after Independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gifted an Indian elephant to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. This special gift brought light into the lives of thousands of Japanese children who had suffered the trauma of the War. The elephant, named Indira after Nehru’s daughter, lived till 1983.
Officially, the first cultural agreement between India and Japan was signed in October 1956, establishing a scholarship system for young Japanese scholars to study in India. A year later, Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi travelled to India, and Jawaharlal Nehru visited Tokyo later in the year.
But the relations between India and Japan are much older and deeper.
India’s earliest documented direct contact with Japan dates from 752 CE when the Todaiji Temple in Nara was consecrated by an Indian monk, Bodhisena, who performed the eye-opening of a statue the Buddha Sakyamuni.
Buddhism had been introduced to Japan in 538 CE. The king of Baekje, a Korean principality, gifted a shiny image of the Buddha along with some scripture-scrolls and ornaments to the Japanese Emperor Kimmei.
Though some traditionalist clans opposed the new faith, considering their Shinto indigenous tradition as far more adapted to Japan, the influential Soga clan adopted Buddhism as a State religion.
In 604 CE, a Japanese prince, Shotoku issued a 17–Article Constitution quoting Buddhist and Confucian principles. Article II enjoined his subjects to:
Fervently respect the Three Treasures (the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha).
Prince Shotoku ordered the Government to start building Buddhist temples. The most famous of them, the Horyu-ji temple, the world’s oldest wooden structure, still stands near the former capital of Nara.
It was because of this prince’s patronage and devotion to the Three Jewels that Buddhism was firmly established on Japanese soil.
During a lecture in Tokyo in 1916, the Great Poet Rabindranath told a Japanese audience:
While travelling in a railway train I met, at a wayside station, some Buddhist priests and devotees. They brought their basket of fruits to me and held their lighted incense before my face, wishing to pay homage to a man who had come from the land of Buddha. The dignified serenity of their bearing, the simplicity of their devoutness, seemed to fill the atmosphere of the busy railway station with a golden light of peace. Their language of silence drowned the noisy effusion of the newspapers. I felt that I saw something which was at the root of Japan’s greatness.
Tagore said he reached the conclusion that the welcome…
...which flowed towards me, with such outburst of sincerity, was owing to the fact that Japan felt the nearness of India to herself, and realised that her own heart has room to expand beyond her boundaries and the boundaries of the modern time.
The Nobel Laureate was a great admirer of traditional Japanese martial arts, particularly of jujutsu, the original form of judo.
Gurudev was determined to bring this art to India. In 1902 in Kolkata, during a meeting with Tenshin Okakura, the Japanese eminent writer and art critic, Tagore requested him to send judo instructors to Shantiniketan. Jinnutsuke Sano, a student of Keio University, eventually came to Tagore’s school, where he stayed from 1905 to 1908. It is how judo was first introduced to India. An interesting aspect of the training was that girls took part along with boys. Quite a revolution!
Rathindranath, Tagore’s elder son, later recalled:
Father had brought a jujutsu expert from Japan. We took lessons from him in order to prepare ourselves to fight the British! Had not the spirit and training of judo helped the Japanese to win the war?
Remembering the deep connection between Tagore and Japan, Visva-Bharati established a Japanese department in 1954 under the guidance of Probodh Chanda Bagchi. This made Visva-Bharati the first Indian university to introduce Japanese language courses.
Another eminent person who served as a bridge between India and Japan is the Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s French-born collaborator. She spent 5 years in Japan between 1915 and 1920. She beautifully described the Japanese genius, she wrote:
If you have — as we have had — the privilege of coming in contact with the true Japanese, those who kept untouched the righteousness and bravery of the ancient Samurai, then you can understand what in truth is Japan, you can seize the secret of her force. They know how to remain silent; and though they are possessed of the most acute sensitiveness, they are, among the people I have met, those who express it the least.
The Mother, who settled in Pondicherry and worked with Sri Aurobindo to create the Ashram, later recalled:
A friend here can give his life with the greatest simplicity to save yours, though he never told you before he loved you in such a profound and unselfish way. Indeed he had not even told you that he had loved you at all.
She spoke of the Japanese unselfishness which…
is not the privilege of the well-educated, the learned or the religious people; in all social ranks you may find it.  …The Japanese are taught from their infancy that life is duty and not pleasure.
This sense of unselfishness, of beauty, of love for nature, along the martial aspect of the Mahayana Buddhism touched many Indian souls.
Narendra Modi rightly noted, “The scale of innovation and level of precision among the people of Japan is admirable. Both our nations can learn a lot from each other.”
India has certainly a lot to learn from Japan, though cricket fans cleaning the stadium after a test may not happen just yet.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why the Dharamsala-Beijing talks failed

Wu Yingjie
According to the pro-Beijing daily The Hindu, Wu Yingjie, the Deputy Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region's Communist Party told a group of visiting Indian journalists that talks with the Dalai Lama were “ongoing and always smooth, but we are discussing only his future, not Tibet’s”.

Wu who, last year, spent several months fire-fighting in Nagchu prefecture, would have added: "All Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama and the people around him, can return if they accept Tibet and Taiwan as part of China, and give up ‘splittist’ efforts.”
When asked about the now-broken talks with Dharamsala, Wu affirmed that the Tibetan demands were unacceptable. “How can the Dalai Lama demand that China withdraw its army from Tibet?”
Wu is probably not aware that in the Dalai Lama's Middle Path approach, Foreign Affairs and Defense remains with the Central Government (Beijing).
Or perhaps, he just bluffed the gullible Indian journalists.
Regarding the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet, as early as 1981, the Dalai Lama had rejected the proposal as his fight was for 6 million Tibetans, not for his personal sake or future.
I quote from my book, The Negotiations that never were:
The answer of the Chinese government to the Dalai Lama’s letter to Deng came in July 1981 when Gyalo Thondup visited Beijing. He had a meeting with the CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang on July 28, 1981 during which the parameters of the future negotiations were given.
From the Chinese side, this policy statement would guide all further talks; it only mentioned the status of the Dalai Lama and his future role in case he returned to the ‘motherland’.
Here is the text of the Five-Point Communiqué from Beijing:

1. The Dalai Lama should be confident that China has entered a new stage of long term political stability, steady economic growth and mutual help among all nationalities.

2. The Dalai Lama and his representatives should be frank and sincere with the Central Government, not beat around the bush. There should be no more quibbling over the events in 1959.

3. The central authorities sincerely welcome the Dalai Lama and his followers to come back to live. This is based on the hope that they will contribute to upholding China's unity and promoting solidarity between the Han and Tibetan nationalities, and among all nationalities, and the modernization programme.

4. The Dalai Lama will enjoy the same political status and living conditions as he had before 1959. It is suggested that he not go to live in Tibet or hold local posts there. Of course, he may go back to Tibet from time to time. His followers need not worry about their jobs and living conditions. These will only be better than before.

5. When the Dalai Lama wishes to come back, he can issue a brief statement to the press. It is up to him to decide what he would like to say in the statement.

This was not acceptable to the Dalai Lama and his exiled administration. The Tibetan leader wanted to talk about the happiness and the fate of his 6 million countrymen, not about his own status. This issue would be a recurring obstacle during the years to come.
Thirty-three years later, Beijing has not changed its stance.
It is the reason why the 'negotiations that never were' failed.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Let us build roads to the borders: sixty-four years later

Border Road Organisation ...in 2011
Everyday, one reads in the Indian press about the poor infrastructure in the border regions, particularly in areas facing China in the Himalayas.
Last week, I already wrote on this blog about the 'Neglected Borders of India'.
Today, I am posting a note by the Indian Prime Minister addressed to V.K. Krishna Menon, the  Defence Minister on January 20, 1960.
Please read it carefully, you will see that nothing much has changed during the last sixty-four years! 
Nehru suggested the creation of the Border Road Organisation, which has, for different reasons, become the stumbling block in road development in border areas.
It is rather strange that the Prime Minister is thinking of using 'old machinery' for building roads in most difficult terrains. He should have suggested the use of the latest technologies.
Will the Modi Sarkar be able to change this trend?
Certainly not with the present structure.

Note from Jawaharlal Nehru to Krishna Menon
January 20, 1960
[From the Selected Work of Jawaharlal Nehru, Series II, Volume 56, page 378-79, published by Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund]

You will remember that the question of our border areas came up before the Cabinet sometime ago. There were two aspects of it: One was the building of
roads and the other was the development of those areas in other ways. So far as the development is concerned, certain tentative proposals have been made for a reorganisation of the administrative apparatus there so that some good and experienced officers may be put in charge of smaller areas than at present and should be given a good deal of authority and latitude to proceed with the development. Naturally, funds for this development will largely come from the Centre. This matter will come up before the Cabinet soon.

2. The Cabinet Secretary was put in charge of a committee to deal with these border areas and report to the Cabinet. He is reporting soon about the development of the border areas. When I asked him about the roads and communications, he said that the paper had been sent to the Defence Ministry about two weeks ago and it was still there. Will you please look into this matter and have it expedited so that Cabinet might consider any proposals that are being made?

3. To name the roads required in some order of priority can of course be done without much difficulty. The question, however, is how we can expedite the building of these roads. The normal PWD methods are very slow and we cannot afford to wait for several years before these roads are completed. I had a talk with you about this matter sometime ago. You had then suggested that it would be desirable, in order to expedite the building of these roads, to divide them up into three categories: (1) the Central PWD; (2) State PWD; and (3) some other agency [The Border Roads Organisation was started in July 1960] to be created for the purpose. I am not taking into consideration here those roads which might be called operational and which inevitably will be under the charge of the army engineers.

4. About the third category, i.e. some other agency, to build these roads, it is for us to consider what kind of an agency we can create. Probably it will not be wholly desirable to put them regularly under the army engineers, although army engineers may well be used for the purpose. Possibly, a separate labour corps might be recruited, and some army engineers attached to it. This method would probably be cheaper. Also, some of our old machinery for building or levelling etc. which we have with us at present might be used after some reconditioning.

5. This will have to be considered by the Cabinet. I should like your Ministry to give thought to this and prepare a paper on the subject as soon as possible.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Is China becoming Buddhist?

Communist China is fast becoming expert in Tibetan Buddhism. Unfortunately (for them), though Beijing shows a great interest in the Tibetan Tradition, it is not enamoured with the Dalai Lama as yet.
Beijing was very pleased when, on August 20, Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun reported that the Tibetan religious leader’s visit to Mongolia, scheduled for later this month, was canceled.
Of course, this was done under Beijing’s own pressure.
How could the Dalai Lama visit Ulan Bator the same month than the new Emperor? Xi Jinping paid a two-day state visit on August 20 and 21 to Ulan Bator.
The Chinese media reported that the cancellation was ‘believed’ to result from China's effective use of economic leverage on the neighbour, whose 80 percent of the population follow Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Suppose that the Dalai Lama had got a better reception than Xi Jinping, it would have not looked nice for the strong man in Beijing. Isn’t it?
Mongolia, being China's largest trading partner, had no choice, but to bow to Beijing's will and cancel the visit.
More interestingly China Tibet Online asserts: “Tibetan Buddhism has been a remarkable tie and witness of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.”
Outer Mongolia and Communist China now share their passion for Buddhism.
Beijing’s new love is apparent in another article of China Tibet Online which, quoting Trinley Dorje, director of the Tibet Committee of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, affirms: “At present, China's Tibet Autonomous Region has 358 Rinpoches [reincarnated lamas] who were enthroned in accordance with the reincarnation system of Rinpoches.”
The official publication adds: “The reincarnation system of Rinpoches, or living Buddha, is a unique practice for the continuation of the Rinpoche of Tibetan Buddhism, which is respected by the Chinese government. In recent years, some 40 Rinpoches in Tibet were enthroned according to the historical custom and religious ritual. The searching, decision and enthronement of 5th Dezhu Jiangbai Gesang and the 8th Rongbu Chokyi Lozang Dondrup which were carried out in the recent five years both strictly followed the reincarnation system.”
Of course, very few have heard of these ‘rinpoches’ before, but it is another issue; the point is Xi Jinping’s regime pretends to be not atheist anymore.
We are told that Tibet’s Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs also helped 20 Islamic clergies to get the approval from the China Islam Association (under the Communist Party). In 2013, the Tibetan government even sent 16 Tibetan Muslim for a pilgrimage in the Saudi Arabia.
Is China transformed?
In the meantime, Gyaltsen Norbu, the Panchen Lama selected by Beijing visited with fanfare Western Tibet (Ngari prefecture).
Xinhua reported: “The 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Qoigyijabu [Panchen Gyaltsen Norbu], has come to Nagri [Ngari] Prefecture of Tibet for the first time to hold Buddhist activities. Since he arrived on August 13, the Panchen Lama had worshiped Kangrinboqe, [Kang Rinpoche or Mount Kailash] a holy mountain about 6,656 meters above sea level in Burang [Purang] County. In the eyes of the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and Bonism, it is the center of the world.”
It is undoubtedly true.
The details of the busy schedule of the Panchen Gyaltsen Norbu are given: “Before the worshiping ceremony started in the morning of the August 14, he visited a temple at the foot of the mountain to pray for all living creatures.”
We are told that Gyaltsen Norbu was received by some 20 monks [who] welcomed him ‘by holding prayer flags, accompanied by the sound of horns’. The report continues: “Before the worshiping ceremony [puja], he visited the Chokyi Temple at the foot of the mountain and chanted sutras to pray for all living creatures”, says Xinhua, adding that hearing the news that the Panchen Lama had arrived, 'Buddhism followers' [i.e. Tibetans] nearby got together in a zigzagging queue in hope of worshipping the Panchen Lama for blessings.
Nothing, of course, like the late 10th Panchen Lama, during his last visit to Tashilhunpo. Watch this video!
Gyaltsen Norbu had the ritual photo op in two local village house in Montser [Minsar?] in Gar County. A Tibetan, Yeshe with his family, “with all in brand new clothes, welcomed the Panchen Lama by holding hada [khata] in their hands and bringing out the chema, a wooden container used by Tibetans to pray for a bumper harvest.”
Yeshe had to give details about his daily life, "how many members are there in your family, where is the source of your income, how much do you earn one year”, etc. Gyaltsen Norbu was told the 8-member family, lived on transportation and tourism travel; they have an annual income of about 8,000 US $: “the Panchen Lama was pleased and wished Yeshe could also help other local residents prosper”.
Gyaltsen Norbu then went to “the holy lake Mapham Yutso [Mansarovar] and nearby temples, chanted sutras for all living beings, visited two local farm households, named a 13-day-old baby at the request of his parents and touched the heads of several hundreds of people to give them blessings.”
The report asserts: “It enjoys a reputation equal to the holy mountain in the eyes of local Tibetans.”
On the morning of August 16, the Panchen Lama went to the Khorchak Monastery, built in 996 CE, near Purang. the monastery belongs to the Sakya school; according to the Chinese news agency: “He successively worshiped the main shrine, Great Chanting Hall, Tara Hall, Champa Hall, Dharmapala Hall, and Seven-Buddhas Hall. Then in the main shrine, he chanted sutras with monks of the monastery and gave head-touching blessing to those followers”.
But Karl Marx was not forgotten during the visit, on the last day, Gyaltsen Norbu honoured a Communist ‘model worker’ by visiting the tomb of one Kong Fansen, a Chinese ‘model’ official who dedicated his life to the building of Tibet; Gyaltsen Norbu presented “a hada [khata], a strip of raw silk and linen for good blessing.”
All these choreographed visits would be fine, if they were not aimed at showing off to the world that Communist China is today a very tolerant  nation.
But China is so intolerant that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima born on April 25, 1989 and recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama is still under house arrest in China; the authorities in Beijing have systematically refused to let the world know about his whereabouts.
He has not been seen in public since May 17 1995, nearly twenty years ago.
This proves that Communist China is not truly Buddhist as yet.
Here are some pictures of the Chinese Panchen Lama near Mt. Kailash and Manasarowar.
 
 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Building Tibet's bloodlines

The new routes were mainly used by the PLA
China is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet and the Sichuan-Tibet highways.
Quoting a Chinese 'expert on modern international relations', China Tibet Online affirms: "The running of the Qinghai-Tibet Highway and Sichuan-Tibet Highway not only accelerates the social and economic developments in Tibet, but is of great significance to link the plateau with the rest of the world"
The 'expert', Ma Jiali, a senior researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (and an old India expert) stated: "I think it's safe to liken the two highways to blood as they hold Tibet and the inland cities together," explaining that the two highways are crucial for the national unity.
China Tibet Online informs us that the Qinghai-Tibet and Sichuan-Tibet highways (4,360 km) were both officially opened into traffic on December 25, 1954, "ending Tibet’s history of no modern highway".
According to Ma Jiali, "The running of the two highways, in a sense, has held the central government and Tibet together."
Arriving in Lhasa (December 25, 1954)
The Chinese website adds: "In 1962, Indian side constantly caused troubles in the China-India border areas and later invaded Chinese territory. The two highways contributed remarkably to the success of China’s war of self-defensive counterattack since a total of 65,700 tons of goods and materials were delivered to the front via the Qinghai-Tibet and Sichuan-Tibet highways, according to historical data."
Ma believes that the two highways were [and are?] of strategic importance in safeguarding the national security and maintaining the territorial integrity: "So we believe Tibet will have a brighter future with such two highways."
This is the Chinese side of the coin.
India, of course, did not attack China in 1962. The country was not prepared for an 'attack' for the good reason that no roads reached the border in NEFA.
Between 1954 and 1962 however, China worked hard to reach the Indian borders, particularly by constructing roads to the Chumbi Valley (the border with Sikkim and Bhutan) and Kongpo (Nyingtri), north of the McMahon line.
We have an Indian account showing how the Chinese frantically built roads using the local Tibetans when it suited them (and Chinese when it was a 'secret road' for the PLA only).
Lakshman Singh Jangpangi, a native of Kumaon, was the officer-in-charge of the Indian Trade Agency in Yatung in 1960. In his report posted below, he describes his visit to Lhasa in July 1960; he gives details of what he saw and how he was harassed by the Chinese authorities despite his diplomatic status.
Reading this report one understand better how China had meticulously prepared her attack on India two years later.

Report on the visit of Indian Trade Agent in Yatung to Lhasa
by L. S. Jangpangi (3rd to 19th July 1960)

I paid liaison visit to Gyantse and Lhasa on the approval of the Political Officer in Sikkim. I left Yatung on the morning of 3rd July, reaching Gyantse same evening. After one day’s halt at Gyantse, I reached Lhasa on the 6th July. Shri P. N. Kaul, Consul General for India at Lhasa, was kind enough to come some distance to meet us. After a halt of 9 days I left Lhasa for Yatung on 16th and reached it on 19th July. On way back I again halted for a day at Gyantse. In this tour I was accompanied by my wife, two children. Personal Assistant and Smt. Joshi, wife of an assistant at Yatung. The journey though very tedious was pleasant except enforced halts on way due to mechanical defects of the car and unnecessary detention at Shigatse bridge on our return journey.

2. Road between Yatung and Lhasa was in good condition and had been made quite wide for running two-way traffic easily. Few portions on either side of Shegula which were still narrow were being widened by the local labourers brought from the villages on way and from the interior. It was found that gang huts have been constructed all through between Yatung and Lhasa at a distance of about ten to twelve miles. In these gang huts fuel and fodder were being collected in sizeable stock. This clearly showed that besides vehicular transport they propose to run also mule cart transport. Number of such carts were seen plying on way up and down at many places. Besides this, one big boat was in making at Taktukhs. All these improvements of road, etc. indicate possible plan for heavy traffic in near future. Besides improvement of road some survey parties were seen working on the road for improving, we suppose, the present alignment.

3. The new road between Gyantse and Lhasa has been completed long ago but it has not been opened for general traffic. So it was not possible for us to travel on that road. The Foreign Bureau at Lhasa had informed our Consul General that road was still dangerous at places for through traffic, so it would not be possible to open the road for some time. It was however learnt at Gyantse that lot of military trucks were running on this road. It is presumed that they are keeping this road for the present for use of the military only. Road is much better than the existing via Shigatse. It is said that journey between Gyantse and Lhasa, if this road is opened, will take only seven hours.

4. The construction of road through Khangphu valley [near Chumbi Valley] to connect it with Thangkarfu road was said to be still incomplete and it has not yet been linked with Thangkarfu road. The work is said to be in progress. This road is being kept secret as local Tibetans are neither employed on its construction not allowed to go somewhere near about it. The military men are working on this road. There are, however, conflicting reports about linking of this road with Thangkarfu road. One report says that they have taken a direct alignment to join it to Thangkarfu road somewhere near about Thangkerla [Tangkar la] pass and another report indicates that this road is being brought through the Khangphu valley some two miles up the valley from Yatung to link it with Thangkarfu road. Confirmation is being obtained about these conflicting reports. It is a fact that road construction is being done in this section. We noticed that a branch road was started just below Thangla but it appears to have been abandoned after constructing more than a mile. It is not known why it was abandoned but local people at Phari say that there would be no difficulty is connecting the road with Khangphu village because there is a flat ground all through to it. No branch road was noticed anywhere between Gyantse and Phari either being constructed or already made towards either Bhutan or Sikkim border.

5. During our this [sic] trip, although we noticed quite a number of trucks running between Shigatse and Lhasa. Only a few truck loads of troops were seen coming from Lhasa towards Shigatse. Most of the trucks were covered and contents could not be judged. The traffic between Yatung and Gyantse was not so heavy. Trucks going from Yatung towards Lhasa were invariably all loaded with timber or firewood and these going in opposite direction were loaded with stores, etc. We learnt at Gyantse and Shigatse that the number of troops was not very considerable. Although several parties of troops passed through Shigatse towards Western Tibet about a month before our visit, at the time of our visit there appeared to be no remarkable troop movements. It was estimated that there were about five to six thousand troops at Shigatse and about two thousand at Gyantse. It was learnt at Gyantse that some fresh troops had arrived there just about that time. At Lhasa it was learnt that concentration of troops was much less than during the past months. We came to know that Phari post had also been strengthened with fresh reinforcements. During this whole trip I saw only one armoured car at Lhasa where it is reported there are some of them. There was neither any report nor any indication on the road of tank movements between Lhasa and Yatung and it was not seen at Lhasa itself.

6. It was noticed that Tibetan villagers in general were being either employed in road constructions or in agricultural farms in order to keep them busy all the time. Besides this, they were asked to attend meetings almost daily during nights. It was learnt that they were not being paid any appreciable wages. In a few cases they were being supplied with tsampa [barley flour] for one meal or half to one renminbi a day. As regards road construction, the villages had to bear cost of labour in their areas. All sorts of people – men, women, boys and girls – were seen working on road improvements near about Shegula. It was else reported that these people were not even allowed to take sufficient food brought by themselves, what to say of supplying from the Government. At Lhasa itself it was noticed that even the school children were being put to dirtiest possible work in cleaning refuge, etc. Ladies of ex-nobles have of late been also put to manual work such as street cleaning and other such manual work. Even the parents of Panchen Lamp have not been spared. They were asked to clean streets in Shigatse daily and it was learnt from the Nepalese Trade Agent at Shigatse that they have been asked to live in stables where as their servants were forced to occupy their rooms. Tibetans, whether rich or poor, are not happy at the treatment meted out to them. The former Tibetan officials or well-to-do men, lamas and monks were being publicly humiliated both at Gyantse and Lhasa. Last on such list were these who were up till now either Chinese employees or their favourities. It was learnt at Gyantse that one lama of nearby monastery was humiliated and beaten so badly that his assistant (disciple) when called to report a day later is said to have committed suicide in order to escape such public humiliation.

7. It was reported that all valuable properties from the monasteries at Gyantse, Tashilunpo at Shigatse and Sera, Drepung, etc. near Lhasa, have been confiscated. It is said that from Jokhang at Lhasa which is the only monastery where visitors are allowed, articles have not been removed.
When we visited it on 10th we found no such pilferage but it was evident that lamps were not being burnt daily as before. It has been further learnt that at Shigatse all the properties except the private property of Panchen Lama have also been confiscated by the Chinese. Only a few monks have been left in each of the monasteries and they are also being put to manual labour in fields, collection of firewood, etc. The general public have been issued with strict warning that they should not burn lamps for worship as they were in the habit of doing so in the past.

8. There are practically no Indian traders at Gyantse, but three shops of Ladakhis and some Kashmiri Muslims are at Lhasa and Shigatse. The latters’ nationality has been disputed by the Chinese who say that these Kashmiri Muslims are Chinese nationals. But these Muslims have so far claimed Indian nationality and they have thus not accepted Chinese claims. They are, therefore, being put to all sorts of trouble, harassments, both at Lhasa and Shigatse. About four or five at Lhasa and one at Shigatse are in Chinese jails. All the shops of Kashmiri Muslims at Lhasa are closed as a protest against Chinese treatment towards them. When we were at Lhasa, as these Muslims had not accepted Chinese ration cards which might have implied their acceptance of the Chinese nationality, they were faced with the problem of fresh supplies. So far they were using the ration which they had hoarded about three or four months before in view of coming in conflict with the Chinese authorities. While we were at Lhasa these people were having worst time with the Chinese authorities and some of them were badly beaten and one young boy had to be treated for wounds at Consulate hospital at Lhasa. There are some Nepalese traders at Gyantse, Shigatse and Lhasa but most of them were on the point of closing their shops in Tibet due to slackness in the trade and interference by local authorities. The Chinese are discouraging local people to visit Indian or Nepalese shops and they have declared these shops out of bounds for their civil and military personnel. So there was practically very little trade at these places, being carried by Nepalese who are established at these places for more than five or six decades. The recent decision of Chinese to levy a monthly sales tax on all traders irrespective of their nationality. The Ladakhi Kashmiri Muslims were made to pay it immediately but cases of Nepali traders were still under consideration. The Kashmiri Muslims, as complained by them, were charged exorbitant tax on exaggerated valuation of sales by the Chinese area Tibetan hirelings. As in the Chinese way they do not accept any representation or argument these Muslims traders had to pay whatever amount was imposed on them by the authorities. The latter were very angry with them on nationality ground. They were, therefore, being harassed in every way possible. A hint although has been thrown at Phari and Yatung also, but no such tax has been levied so far. In fact practically there is no trade at the moment due to various reasons.

9. On our return journey we were stopped at Shigatse bridge at 5.45 p.m. IST by two armed soldiers. As soon as our cars stopped, these soldiers fixed bayonets to their rifles and began moving up and down by the side of our cars. These men also made enquiries of us and purpose of our visit to Lhasa. We showed them our travel documents as issued by Foreign Bureau at Yatung and checked by the Foreign Bureau at Lhasa. Instead of allowing us to pass, these soldiers told us to wait till their officer returns from the mess where he had gone for his dinner. Although it was anodd hour for Chinese dinner which usually taken place between 3 and 4 p.m. IST, we had no alternative but to wait. When nobody turned up until 6.30 p.m., we told the guards that they should better take us either to their immediate officer or to the Foreign Bureau at Shigatse but they did not agree to this and simply asked us to wait until their officer returns. After a long discussion they agreed to take us to the Transport Office at 6.50 p.m. IST. When we had reached nearer to the officer, one N.C.O. [Non Commissioned Officer] said to be the check post officer met us and he after examining our road permit allowed us to pass. We felt this a clear case of harassment but as there was no officer forthcoming nor we were allowed to see any one we had no other alternative but to wait helplessly. On return to Yatung I tried to see Director of local Foreign Bureau (Hung Fei) but as he was out of station, I could meet him only on 26th. I protested to him about such treatment meted out to me at Shigatse bridge. He told me that he had received report from the department concerned at Shigatse. They have pleaded that due to language difficulty we were stopped as guards on the bridge were Tibetans and did not know Han language. I told him that after receiving proper documents from the authorities concerned and explaining to the guards on duty, there was no point in stopping us unnecessarily for such a long time when we had ladies and children in our party and it was raining and we had to arrange for our night’s halt at Shigatse. He simply repeated his above assertion. As I was not satisfied with his reply I told him that I strongly protest against such a treatment meted out to me.

10. At Gyantse Indian Trade Agent (Shri R.S. Kapoor) took me round the old Agency site where some constructions of class IV quarters had been completed except that roofs have not been put even then. For want of roofs, walls already constructed were on a process of wearing out due to rainy weather which had started. Besides this, there was some collection of local materials by the site. The accommodation of the Trade Agent and his staff in three Tibetan houses were felt very inadequate but under the circumstances there was no other alternative. In the house occupied by some of the staffs some Tibetans were also living with their cattle, etc. which was making the premises all the more dirty. The Central Public Works Department staffs were housed in another rented building about a mile or so away from the Trade Agency office. I learnt from Shri Kapoor that some members of our Tibetan staff were being shadowed by the Chinese and he was expecting harassment of these any moment. All the class IV staff irrespective of the fact whether they are Tibetans or Nepali katchras were ordered by the Chinese to attend daily meetings. Some of the Nepali katchras in employ of Gyantse Agency, although have been issued with passports, the Chinese have not given stay visas on them. It was learnt at Shigatse from the Nepalese Trade Agent that all the katchras who were issued with passports by the Royal Nepalese Consul General at Lhasa have been given stay visas by the Foreign Bureau there. Movement of staff at Gyantse is restricted to a limited area from the Agency to the bazaar only.

11. Our Consul General at Lhasa was also experiencing the same difficulties to house the staff properly. He has, therefore, started construction of two units for the staff under the supervision of Chinese engineers. Quarters were still incomplete when I left Lhasa. He has some further proposals to construct some quarters for the staff and also for class IV. If his proposal materializes the staff members of the Consulate will have some satisfaction of some sort of accommodation. At present they are in Tibetan rented houses and accommodations provided in these are not very satisfactory. The movements of Consulate staff is also limited to certain areas, particularly bazaar areas. Special permit is needed to go beyond this limit. Outsiders are also not allowed to enter Consulate promises by the sentry placed at the gate.

12. Inspite of all these difficulties, our staff members in Tibet are doing their work satisfactorily.

(L. S. Jangpangi)
Indian Trade Agent
Yatung, Tibet.
31st July, 1960

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tourism and Environment on the Tibetan plateau

The magazine Nature (No 512, p. 240–241) publishes a fascinating article about the ecology of the Tibetan plateau. It quotes a report just released by the Chinese Academy of Science.
The authors of the report should have added another factor: the 15 million mainland tourists yearly pouring onto the Tibetan Autonomous Region. 
For centuries, Tibet has been the most isolated country on the planet. A few brave explorers managed to sneak in, most of the times illegally, on the Roof of the World. But things are changing, changing very fast.
Today, Chinanews.com thus describes Tibet: “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 ”.
Tibet is fast becoming the largest entertainment park in the world; thousand times larger than Disneyland.
The government in Beijing has decided to market the Land of Snows as the ultimate ‘indigenous’ spot for the Chinese people to spend their holidays; in one way, it has become Tibet’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Tibet has two unique assets: first, its physical reality. The beauty of the landscape, the imposing mountain ranges, the purity of the air and the rivers, the dry blue sky (especially when compared to the dusty sky of China’s great metropolis); Tibet is indeed the ideal place to visit and have a break from the fast pace of the polluted mainland of China.
The second advantage is the rich historical past of the Roof of the World, the Land of the Lamas. In Tibet, you can find everything, says the Chinese propaganda: a beautiful Chinese princess falling for the powerful emperor and converting him to Buddhism; the monasteries and nunneries, seat of a wisdom lost in the mainland; the folkloric yak or snow-lion dances; the Shoton (yoghurt) festival; the beautiful colourful handicrafts; the exotic food, you name it, …and a couple of millions of Tibetans (in the TAR) who can guide you through the mega-museum.
Of course, the ‘locals’ are not always reliable and their knowledge of Mandarin is often not that good; in any case, the show can go on without them.
When 15 millions of ‘tourists’ pour into a relatively small place like the Tibetan Autonomous Region, one has to be ready to ‘welcome’ them and provide them ‘entertainment’.  This is adding to the pressure on the environment.
The time has come to start a debate and more importantly, initiate serious and honest researches on the pros- and the cons- of mass tourism in an environmentally fragile region.
But it is still a touchy subject, because tourism is a great source of revenue for a poor mountainous region.


Double threat for Tibet
Climate change and human development are jeopardizing the plateau’s fragile environment.
Nature
Jane Qui
No. 512, p. 240–241
August 19, 2014
Hot, dry weather and progressive urbanization are turning grasslands into sand near the headwaters of the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong rivers.
A comprehensive environmental assessment of the Plateau of Tibet has found that the region is getting hotter, wetter and more polluted, threatening its fragile ecosystems and those who rely on them.
The plateau and its surrounding mountains cover 5 million square kilo­metres and hold the largest stock of ice outside the Arctic and Antarctic; the region is thus often referred to as the Third Pole. And like the actual poles, it is increasingly feeling the effects of climate change, but rapid development is putting it doubly at risk, the report says.
Released in Lhasa on 9 August by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the government of Tibet, the assessment aimed to address gaps in knowledge about the extent of the problems the 4,500-metre-high plateau faces. It finds that precipitation has risen by 12% since 1960, and temperatures have soared by 0.4 °C per decade — twice the global average.
In addition, glaciers are shrinking rapidly and one-tenth of the permafrost has thawed in the past decade alone. This means that the number of lakes has grown by 14% since 1970, and more than 80% of them have expanded since, devastating surrounding pastures and communities.
The plateau feeds Asia’s biggest rivers (see ‘Running wild’), so these problems are likely to affect billions of people, the report says. Pollution from human and industrial waste as a result of rapid development is also a serious risk.
But the assessment also suggests ways to combat the problems, calling on the Chinese and Tibetan governments to make conservation and environmental protection top priorities. It will help in the design of “policies for mitigating climate change and striking a balance between development and conservation”, says Meng Deli, Tibet’s vice-chairman.
Expand
“The Tibetan plateau is getting warmer and wetter,” says Yao Tandong, director of the CAS Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research in Beijing, who led the assessment. This means that vegetation is expanding to higher elevations and farther north, and growing seasons are getting longer. But some areas, such as the headwater region of Asia’s biggest rivers, have become warmer and drier and are being severely affected by desertification and grassland and wetland degradation.
Human activity, too, is on the rise. The population of the plateau reached 8.8 million in 2012, about three times higher than in 1951. And the number of livestock has more than doubled, putting more strain on grasslands.
Multiple menaces
Growing urbanization is creating more waste than the region can handle. Tibet has the capacity to treat 256,000 tonnes of domestic solid waste a year, less than the amount generated by its two largest cities, Lhasa and Shigatse. “You see a lot of rubbish lying around the plateau, including headwater regions,” says Kang Shichang, a glaciologist at the CAS Institute of Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute in Lanzhou. “It’s an environmental menace.”
A bigger threat comes from mining. According to the assessment, Tibetan mines produced 100 million tonnes of wastewater in 2007 and 18.8 million tonnes of solid waste in 2009. Because most of the mines are open pits and have limited environmental oversight, “air, water and soil pollution is particularly serious”, says the report. Officials release few details about actual pollution levels.
Pollution is coming not just from local sources. Dust, black carbon, heavy metals and other toxic compounds are being blown in from Africa, Europe and southern Asia. The dust and carbon residues are darkening glaciers, making them more susceptible to melting, and the toxic chemicals are poisoning crops, livestock and wildlife.
But the threats from mining and pollution are dwarfed by the potential repercussions of changes in ice and vegetation cover, the assessment says. Different surfaces — snow, grassland, desert — reflect and absorb different amounts of solar radiation, affecting how the air above them is heated. This means that changes in coverage are likely to affect the onset and strength of Asian monsoons. It also has important ramifications for the livelihood of downstream river communities because the glaciers, permafrost and ecosystems act as a giant sponge, helping to control the release of water and prevent floods. “The significance of the assessment goes beyond national borders,” says David Molden, head of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu.
Temperatures in the plateau are projected to rise by between 1.7 °C and 4.6 °C by the end of 2100 compared with the 1996–2005 average, based on the best- and worst-case global-emissions scenarios. So as urbanization and climate change tighten their grip, researchers worry that unbridled development will devastate the plateau’s environment. To protect it, the report says, the central government must evaluate local officials on the basis of their environmental, not just economic, achievements. It must also invest more in ecological compensation, for example by paying herders more to cut their livestock numbers. Moreover, it must be much more open about pollution incidents.
“Tibet will be a test case of how seriously China takes ecological protection,” says Yao. “Safeguarding the plateau environment is crucial not only for sustainable development of the region, but also to social stability and international relations.”