Sunday, January 31, 2010

Water: Culture, Politics and Management

A publication of the India International Centre for which I contributed an article Himalayan Rivers: Geopolitics and Strategic Perspectives is now available. Click here to order.

Water: Culture, Politics and Management is a compilation of essays written by some well-known connoisseurs of Indian art and culture as well as experts and activists dedicated to the cause of conservation of water. They illustrate how water has been treated in mythology, reveal the ecological messages that underlie these myths, and describe the culture that developed around water. There are also essays on maritime trade, the craft of boat- and ship-building, the politics of water emerging out of issues like dam construction, pollution of rivers and the scope of social services in flood-ravaged areas. Finally, a commentary on the imagery of water in Indian cinema, a selection of poems and a collection of photographs illustrating the sanctity built around water depict our response to it through art and poetry. Drawing on different disciplines as well as the arts, this volume is an informative and engaging exploration of the many ways that water has sustained and enriched our existence.

Table Of Contents
Introduction: The Ecology and Myth of Water, by Kapila VatsyayanThe Kaveri River, by Clare Arni

PART I: THE RIVER

   1. Himalayan Rivers: Geopolitics and Strategic Perspectives, by Claude Arpi
   2. The Narmada: Death of a River, by Shripad Dharmadhikary
   3. A Boat of Hope, by Sanjoy Hazarika
   4. Water as a Metaphor in Indian Cinema, by Partha Chatterjee

PART II: THE SEA

   5. The Indian Ocean: The History, Ecology and Making of a Community, by Himanshu Prabha Ray, Rohan D?Souza and Gulshan Dietl
   6. Pre-Portuguese Maritime Crafts of India: The Ethnological Evidence, by Lotika Varadarajan
   7. The Composite Culture of Goa, by Maria Couto

PART III: WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

   8. Water: What Must We Do? by Ramaswamy R. Iyer
   9. Hunting Down Water in India: In Search of Vox Pops, by Sanjay Barnela and Vasant Saberwal; Poems by Maya Khosla
  10. Environmental Values and the Quality of Life, by Mahesh N. Buch

PART IV: THE CULTURE OF WATER

  11. Vanchipattu: Songs of the Boat Race in Kerala, by Vijayan Kannampilly
  12. Bhatiali: Songs of the Boatmen of Bengal, by Indrani Majumdar
  13. A Selection of Poems, with Introduction by Keshav Malik

Ten More Things I Hate



A few years ago, when I wrote an article about the 10 things I hate about India, I was criticized by many, while others agreed. Getting older, many more things are irritating me. I have listed 10 of them.
Having completed 35 years in this country, I however realize how much I love this incredible India, the following irritants notwithstanding.

1 Statues
Though it is difficult to decide on an order in the list of irritants, if I had to list one first, I would say, the statues exasperate me most.
Today in India, we witness a statuemania.
Parties, politicians and other self-styled leaders, all want to erect a statue of their own ‘leader’ (I will not speak of those who erect statues of themselves, the Supreme Court can deal with them).
Once a statue is erected, the departed (or living) statuefied leader has to be garlanded periodically; for the rest of the time, the statue is forgotten, except if, for any reason, the statue needs to be removed. Then you are sure to get a riot the next day. The ‘erecter’ group is always ready to give his/her life for his/her ‘leader’. As a result, the number of statues will only increase in the already congested streets of India.
Another problem with the statues is that they are usually ugly. When you look at ancient statues of Buddha of the Gupta or Gandhara periods, at certain Greek statues or some of Michelangelo’s works, you usually experience a deep aesthetic emotion. It is not the case with the present-day statues of political leaders.
A sage who was ‘deified’ by his disciples told them: “why do you like so much to deify me, why don’t you emulate me instead”. He added that “changing your nature is more important than worshipping me”.
But true, it is easier to garland a statue than to change oneself and become a better human being.

2 Lal Batis
I deeply dislike the red light gyrating on the top of the cars of ‘important’ officials. Why is it so important to show that one is ‘important’?
India must be the country in the world with the highest percentage of ‘important’ people. I personally believe that someone ‘importance’ should be calculated by the service that this individual offers to his country and to society, not by the lal bati (or the siren) on his vehicle.
Like in many domains, these things have a tendency to become worse. At the time of independence, the bureaucracy used to be called the Indian Civil Service. Though Nehru in his Discovery of India said that the service was "neither Indian, nor civil, nor a service", at least it carried the word ‘civil’. Then it became the Indian Administrative Service, an institution whose job was only to serve the administration and the government. The ‘civil servants’ became ‘government servants’. It may seem a mere detail, but it is truly symptomatic of what has happened during the past 60 years.
For someone educated in the spirit of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, it is difficult to accept the gap (symbolized by the lal bati) between the rulers (mostly politicians or bureaucrats) and the ruled (alias the ‘common man’).

3 Plastic bags
I really hate the plastic bags and garbage littering the streets of India. One still remembers that a few years ago during an official visit, the British Queen remarked that India was very dirty compared to Pakistan.
Since then, things have worsened terribly. One can’t blame the government for everything, though if a strict discipline with heavy fines were imposed on the public, in a short span of time, India could certainly look like a Scandinavian country. The local authorities should start installing dustbins and garbage cans in all public places and organize a speedy collection of their content.
Recently after Pongal Festival, more than 100 tonnes of garbage were left on the sands of the beaches of Chennai. The Hindu reported: “People continued their celebrations till midnight and continued to throw plastic bottles, spoons and polythene bags”. Ironically, the reporter says: “Most people seemed to have forgotten the ban on plastics on the Marina and more than three tonnes of plastic waste was collected”.
Should this not be entered in the Guinness Book of Records?

4 Environment
It irritates me when I see so little concern for the environment in India. Let us take the rivers. Last week, a group of US green activists went to Agra to inspect the Yamuna behind the Taj Mahal; most belonged to river cleaning foundations in the US. One of them, Ginny Harris of the Alice Ferguson Foundation involved in the preservation of the Potomac river exclaimed: "Oh my god, you call this a river!" A number of NGOs and local activists were present. Who uses India’s holy rivers as sewage outlets?
The government does not really care to find out who is using rivers as sewage (though the present Environment Minister seems a bit different from his predecessors).
The soil of India is supposed to be sacred. Early January, scientists attached to the Punjab Agriculture University identified the reason behind the rapid spread of cancer in the Punjab. Their verdict is clear: arsenic in water is the main cause for abnormal cell growth in the human body.
The University analyzed 168 ground water samples over a period of 36 months. The sampling originating from different parts of North India contained an unacceptably high quantity of arsenic.
For years, the Government spoke of its green revolution as a miracle India should be proud of, but this type of miracle unfortunately has serious collaterals.
What saddens me more is that India has decided to align itself with the worse State on the planet in this field: China.
Why can’t India discover a Middle Path between Development and Environment Conservation? India ranks 123rd in the last Environmental Performance Index just published by a team of experts at Yale University and Columbia University; India is not shining in this domain.

5 Lavish Marriages
I have nothing again marriages, having successfully gone through one myself (with an Indian), but it hurts my sentiments to see so much money and energy wasted for a ceremony which should be ‘sacred’. Further, the ‘outcome’ of the marriage is not always proportionate with the money invested.
What shocks me is the lavishness, verging on indecency of some Indian weddings, usually in the large metros. I don’t appreciate the ostentatious side of these ceremonies which is often more a showing of wealth (often borrowed), than the celebration of the union between two individuals.
Though considered a 'seasonal' industry, the Indian wedding industry has an estimated turn-over of over Rs 1,50,000 crores; and it is growing by the year. One could argue that it creates employment, but too many people are indebted the day after; this is not healthy.

6 Reservations

Reservations were introduced in the Constitution as a temporary measure at the time of Independence to remove disparities between different ‘weaker’ sections of the population. It was genuine problem, with no easy solution. Over the years, it has been politicized (especially during and after VP Singh’s rule) and it has now become a tool for political parties to gain power.
Why should a dalit or OBC crorepatti get more support from the government in terms of quota in a university or financial incentives than a poor Brahmin? It is just unfair.
While more attention should be paid to the poorest communities in India, the only criteria to receive financial support should be strictly economic.
For this, I admire the Indian Army which has managed for the past 6 decades to remain free from the poison of ‘cast’ quota.

7 Nouveau riche
The nouveau riche tribe is a despicable species whether in India or elsewhere on the planet. They behave particularly badly in this country. They speak loudly and they like to show-off their newly-acquired wealth. One understands that they had no time to invest to educate themselves, being too busy making money, but life, whether of an individual or a nation should be balanced. Culture is an essential part of any human being.

8 National Security

The concept of National Security is constantly misused by government babus to avoid transparency. Though the situation in India is far better than in China where you can be sent to concentration camps (known as laogais) for any real or fictitious breach of ‘national security’, Indian bureaucrats however take refuge behind the veil of this undefined concept to escape scrutiny. To take an example, under the RTI Act, section 8A allows exemption of information, disclosure of "which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.”
Tons of important documents, having nothing to do with ‘national security’ are withheld under this pretext. Courts will one day have to define the concept more precisely.

9 Chaotic traffic
I had listed ‘traffic’ in my earlier article, but things have got much worse. I wish India would learn from China how to develop proper infrastructure (without of course having to import the workforce from the Middle Kingdom).
The ideal state would probably be the Middle Path between Switzerland, boringly over disciplined and chaotic free-for-all India.

10 I hate Bt Brinjal

But again India is incredible and lovable, despite these small hitches.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Clarification

In an article published in Phayul.com and entitled Ngabo, a Traitor or a Patriot (The Ngaboization of Tibetan Society and its dangers), Vijay Kranti mentioned my name.
I would like to clarify my position on L’Affaire Ngapo (or Ngabo).
First of all, I believe that it is up for the Tibetans to decide whether to bestow a designation like ‘traitor’ or ‘patriot’ to one of their countrymen. Being a foreigner, I don’t consider it proper for me to comment on the decision of the Kashag, the elected body of the Tibetans.
However, as a student of Tibetan history, I have my own opinion on the subject.
On my blog, I have cited a few historical incidents which influenced this opinion.
Here is the link to my postings on the subject

The only point which makes me sad is that it seems that there is no distinction today between someone who is ready to fight for his country (or for his deepest convictions) and someone who is afraid to displease the masters of the day. I believe that it is important for a society to make this distinction clear; otherwise the martyr will remain on the same level as an ordinary person.
When I speak of defending one’s country, I am not speaking of a ‘nation’ in the parochial sense, but more in terms of the universal values which the Buddha Dharma and Tibet represent, which are, in my opinion, worth fighting for (and in some extreme cases, dying for).
Ngabo would have been great, if he had dared to speak out for these values. He never did. It is HIS tragedy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interview Irina Bokova



The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation was founded at the end of World War II. UNESCO seeks to function as a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues.
On October 15, 2009, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria was elected as the tenth director-general of UNESCO. During her recent visit to India, Madam Bokova spoke to Claude Arpi about her vision and aspirations for UNESCO in a changing world. Read on...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reincarnation sutra retold

My article Reincarnation sutra retold appeared in today's Edit Page of The Pioneer. Click here.

Bonjour les Giraffes





Have you heard of Red Giraffes?
You may believe that I am just back from a safari in Africa! But no, the giraffes are presently in the Land of Elephants and they are French.
They are part of “Bonjour India”, the Festival of France in India.
“A herd of red giraffes is slowly, gracefully moving on, balancing their flexible necks, …the silhouettes of the nonchalant giraffes glide over the avenues”, thus the invitation presented the life-size puppet show. But to experience it is different; the magic of the long slender necks on the streets of India is difficult to describe with words. Set up by La Compagnie Off, a French theater group, this outstanding show is the hors-d’oeuvre of the cultural extravaganza offered to the Indian public.
The Festival will consist of a series of exhibitions, concerts, literary meetings, film festivals, debates, conferences, food festivals and economic, educational and scientific exchanges. Organized by the French Embassy in India and Cultures-France, the cultural arm of the French Ministry of External Affairs, Bonjour India will visit 18 cities seeking to showcase the various facets of French (and Indian in some cases) contemporary performing arts and modern creation.
Jérôme Bonnafont, the French Ambassador had announced in November: "The eclectic mix of events lined up for Bonjour India promises to enthral India, thus, giving India an experience of different facets that define France.”
Though an Indian newspaper titled the festival, “The Gauls come to town”, most of the programs like the Giraffes reflect more a multicultural dimension than the usual ‘tribe’ image associated with the ancestors of the French. It is this spirit of a modern France which is displayed through the Alliance Française network and other cultural or academic institutions.
Over 200 events are scheduled during the 2-month long program, featuring 250 artists, musicians and scholars from France. The festival has been taken seriously not only by the French government (several ministries are involved in the sponsoring), but also the regional and municipal communities and number of French companies doing (or wanting to do) business in India.
The most exciting element of the Festival is that it has been designed for all types of public; everyone — youth, seniors, intellectuals, contemporary art lovers, gourmets, modern music freaks or oenologists (wine experts) can find an event to his/her taste.
Amongst the performances I attended, Marion Baglan, a young and good-looking soprano singer has been my favorite (apart from the Giraffes of course). Marion who has recently been awarded the Simone and Cinno del Duca Foundation Award for her promising career, displays a stunning voice when she takes on the classical repertory.
But you may prefer to go for the French gastronomy course, it is really your choice.


One could however ask, why this mega show?
Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Affairs Minister may say: “France and India share a common vision of the world …we share common values, those of democracy and liberty. …France is working towards building an international; order in which India and other emerging nations share full responsibility. …Because we share these common values, both India and France believe in the liberating power of culture,” We can’t however forget that we live today in a world lorded by business and money. It is therefore not only the ‘liberating’ aspect of culture which interests the French (and their Indian partners), but also the more down to earth, but equally important economic and strategic partnership.
Already 12 years ago, a tremendous boost was given to bilateral relations by the visits of President Chirac in January 1998 and Prime Minister Vajpayee’s trip to Paris later in the year.
The most striking feature of these visits was the setting up of a strategic partnership. Reaching Delhi, Jacques Chirac saluted India, “a nation which has affirmed its personality on the world stage”. He said that he had come to show that “France wanted to accompany India in its potent march [towards the future].” At that time already, the French President spoke of a possible nuclear deal with India and suggested to: “reflect on the ways to reconcile our common will to cooperate”. Ten years later, France was the first nation to sign a nuclear agreement with India.
As the Giraffes arrived in India, the Indo-French deal for civil nuclear cooperation came into force. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Jérôme Bonnafont exchanged instruments of ratification.
The civil nuclear cooperation covering a wide range of activities including nuclear power projects, R&D, nuclear safety, should contribute, according to the French side, to "further strengthening the deep ties of friendship and long-standing cooperation between the two countries".
The French company Areva has already been allocated the nuclear project site at Jaitapur (Maharashtra) to build two nuclear EPR power plants. Each of the two plants will have a capacity of 1,600 mw.
Is it not strange that the Indian media is only aware of the Indo-US nuclear deal, when the US has only little to contribute in the field?
Many more collaborations are in the pipeline.
Michelin, the French tyre-maker has recently signed a MoU with the government of Tamil Nadu to set up a tyre manufacturing facility near Chennai. Michelin plans to set up a truck and earthmover tyre plant dedicated to the domestic market. It will employ a 1500 work force; production should start by the end of 2012. The project means a whopping Rs 4,500 crores investment.
Then Renault! Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in November 2009, Carlos Ghosn, Renault’s Chairman announced that Renault’s new Chennai factory will be opened soon.
It is expected to have an annual capacity of 400,000 cars. According to Ghosn, the company was negotiating with Mahindra & Mahindra to bringing new products to India, probably in the low-price range.
Examples of close collaboration could be multiplied.
There are also the 126 Medium Multirole Aircrafts to be purchased by the IAF. France is one of the contenders with its fighter, The Rafale. Paris has invested a lot in this fighter plane, with little concrete returns so far, at least in terms of foreign orders. The aircraft possesses the latest and most advanced technologies including the AESA radar. It is said to have good stealth characteristics and a proven combat capacity.
As a retired IAF Air Marshal explains: “France is willing for unrestricted transfer of technology including source codes,” adding: “a deal with the French will be free of pressures that usually are associated with the US or Russia.”
Let us not forget that during his recent visit to Pakistan, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates declared: “we are very judicious in the sale of systems to India and have provided [India] with cargo aircraft and NOT the weapons system”.
Though the price of the Rafale is prohibitively high, there is an advantage that none of other competitors have: France has never tried to impose backdoor sanctions on India, even after Pokhran II.
In a few months, we will know who emerges as winner of the 11 billion mega dollars deal. Some observers say that a visit of President Sarkozy might be necessary to justify the price of the plane.
The giraffes will go (though they will remain in our memory), but this more tangible Indo-French partnership is bound to develop and with no string attached; this has not been the case with some other ‘friends’.
One regret only: Carla Bruni could not make it for the inauguration of Bonjour India. It seems that she is now the most popular ‘French’ personality in India. This also exemplifies France’s multi-cultural dimension.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The new Tibetan Flavor



President Hu had spoken of Tibetan 'traits' and Tibetan 'flavor' while presenting Beijing's new policy towards the Roof of the World. A few days later, we hear of a Chinese singer 'promoted by the Government of Tibet'. She looks good, she may sing well in Sanskrit (!), but in what does she represents Tibet or Tibetan Buddhism?   




China claims to have '1st pop singer in Sanskrit', may present her during World Expo
Saibal Dasgupta,
Times of India, 25 January 2010
BEIJING: China's official media is promoting what it describes as the first pop singer who sings in Sanskrit. She is one of the singers being considered to sign at the inauguration of the World Expo in Shanghai, which is expected to draw the glitterati from the world of business next May.
This could be the reason why Sa Dingding, who won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the Asia Pacific category in 2008, is suddenly being promoted by the provincial government of Tibet. The provincial government has indicated it wants to reshape her image and get her to focus on Sanskrit singing.
"She is also called the 'first Chinese Sanskrit singer'. To Sa Dingding, who she was in the past is not important now... To preserve her new image, she must eliminate all distractions," the local government of Tibet said on its website.
Sa, who graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts run by the People's Liberation Army, sings in the language of Inner Mongolia, Tibet and in Sanskrit. Sa is not a Tibetan although she sings in Sanskrit and Tibetan and dresses in grandiose Tibetan clothing.
"We should pay more attention to her music, to the Zen sensation and Buddhist spirit in her music," it further said. The official site went on to say that "Her musical inspirations all come from Chinese civilization and culture."
Apparently, the local government is pushing her to give up song writing and singing in languages other than Sanskrit so she can be presented to the world as a symbol of China's rich cultural heritage.
"It is possible China may be trying to show that Sanskrit is part of its cultural heritage. What better way to draw world attention than to get a lovely voice to sing pop?," a Shanghai based expert on Chinese culture told TNN.
During major events like the Olympic Games and the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Chinese republic, Beijing usually makes a big display of the culture and arts of Tibetans and other ethnic people. It is expected to do the same during the opening and closing ceremonies at the World Expo.
Sa also won praise from Grammy Award judge Eric T. Johnson. She is the first Chinese citizen to be invited for a tour of the United States by the Grammy organizing committee.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Talks in Beijing



This follows the Special Meeting on Tibet chaired by President Hu Jintao on January 8. Hu spoke of a Tibet with 'Chinese characteristics and Tibetan flavor'. A bit frightening. It is doubtful if this ninth round of talks can bring any substantial progress, particularly after the recent posting of a tough administrator with PLA background  as Governor of Tibet.  

Press Statement
January 25th 2010
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy Lodi G. Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen will arrive in China tomorrow for discussions with the representatives of the Chinese leadership. This is the ninth round of dialogue. The Envoys are visiting China after a gap of 15 months in the process that began in 2002.
They will be accompanied by senior assistants Tenzin P. Atisha, Bhuchung K. Tsering, both members of Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations, and Jigmey Passang from the Secretariat of the Tibetan Task Force.
At a two day meeting of the Tibetan Task Force in Dharamsala chaired by Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan delegation finalised their preparations for the discussions in Beijing. On January 22, 2010 the Kalon Tripa and the two Envoys briefed His Holiness the Dalai Lama and sought his guidance.
The delegation is expected to return to India at the beginning of next month. 
Chhime R. Chhoekyapa
Secretary to His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hackers again and again




Vijay Sakhuja has written an interesting article on Chinese Infrastructure Projects Trouble India in the China Brief of the Jamestown Institute.
It comes at the time when the Ministry of Defense has confirmed that they have been victims of hackers (probably Chinese). Last week, it was former NSA, MK Narayanan, who had admitted attacks on the PMO. One can just hope that the Government is taking seriously these threats.



Chinese Infrastructure Projects Trouble India
Vijay Sakhuja
In an apparent attempt to overcome deeply embedded suspicion and concern, the Chinese telecommunication giant, Huawei, has pledged to expand its operations in Bangalore, the ‘Silicon valley’ of India. In the next five years, Huawei plans to invest $500 million in its research and development center and double its employee strength from 2,000 to 6,000 personnel (China Economic Review, January 11, 2010). Such a bold expansion from Huawei, which already has a leg up in the Indian telecommunications market but is believed to have suspect ties with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), could be a welcome development for other Chinese state-owned companies wanting to do business in India that have been under the scanner of Indian security agencies (Peopledaily.com, September 8, 2009). Read on.


Army confirms attack by China hackers
23 Jan 2010
After the National Security Advisor (NSA) MK Narayanan admitted that Chinese hackers had targeted Indian government websites, the Indian Army on Saturday (January 23) confirmed that they too were a victim of a cyber attacks. Army sources told TIMES NOW that two years ago they suspected their computers had been hacked by the Chinese.
The sources claim that the Chinese had been able to access important documents and confidential information. Following this the Indian Army was forced to increase security on its websites.
Now, the onus is on the Chinese to explain accusations levied by the Indian government.
After M K Narayanan's interview to a foreign daily, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called for higher accountability from countries from where the attacks were being planned. With America seeking answers from China over cyber attacks like the one on Google, the pressure is mounting on the Chinese government to provide the countries an explanation.
However, after the initial accusations from the former NSA, China remained defiant. The Chinese foreign ministry had vehemently denied involvement in the cyber attacks saying the accusations were baseless.
Ma Zhaoxu, Spokesperson, Chinese Foreign Ministry had said, "I have talked enough about hacking before. I have nothing more to add. But I want to stress that there is no basis at all for this claim."

The Reincarnation Business

My article on the Reincarnation Business has been published in The Statesman. Read on.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Chinese Tibetan Flavor


I have updated a previous posting on the reincarnation issue.



The fact that China is today a recognized superpower (the Middle Kingdom has become the 2nd largest economic power and the first exporter of the planet), may lead you to conclude that the leadership in Beijing lives in peace with itself, enjoying its newly-acknowledged position.
But you are wrong, despite their status, the Politburo members in the walled-enclave of Zhongnanhai are trembling.
Why? Like in the famous comics Asterix, some indomitable tribes continues to refuse the rule of the most powerful empire of its time. Though the tiny Armorican village could not be captured by the Roman Empire because the villagers managed to acquire invincible strength by drinking a magic potion brewed by the local druid; in our case, the tribe does not use magic potion, but non-violence.
The Empire does not really know how to strike back.
A meeting of the all-powerful Politburo of the CCP was held on January 8 to deal exclusively with the situation in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which represents about a third of historical Tibet.
President Hu Jintao, who between 1988 to 1992, was posted as Tibet Party Secretary, spoke during the meeting of two objectives: to seek a breakthrough in [economic] development and maintain long-term stability.”
Hu said that the Central Government would help Tibet in four ways: boosting investment, transferring technology, and sending in more qualified officials as well as ‘experts and talents’. The new motto suggested by the Chinese President is “going down the road of development with Chinese characteristics and Tibetan flavor”.
Unfortunately, this will not apply when it comes to the Lamas’ most sacred institutions: the reincarnation tradition.
“Keeping a living Buddha under control means keeping a temple under control, and keeping a temple under control means keeping a district under control." This quotation, conveniently put in the mouth of an unknown supporter of the ‘separatist Dalai’s group’, appeared in The People’s Daily, on January 7. In fact, this is what the CCP has realized long ago.
The entire article, entitled ‘Dalai Lama's reincarnation tale indicative of separatism’ is most offensive and shows a great nervousness on Beijing’s part.
What provoked the anger of the ‘analyst’? The People’s Daily’s argument is that a few months back the Dalai Lama declared that he could very well be reincarnated in the form of a woman. Beijing says that it is “an eye-popping thing to say”.
Several years ago, I had the occasion to ask the Dalai Lama to elaborate on this point, he had then explained: "In Tibet, the tradition of having reincarnated teachers is almost 700 years old. Among them, we had one institution of a female reincarnation. In case a female Dalai Lama is more useful to Tibet in future, then why not have a woman as ‘reincarnation'? If a Tibetan lady Dalai Lama comes, every male will become her follower," he said, laughing.
"I feel that education alone cannot solve all our contemporary problems. More emphasis should be given on ‘compassion'. Women are basically more sensitive and compassionate. But men are not. They are more aggressive”.
The Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama to be the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Saint-Patron of Tibet. His ‘job', as the present Dalai Lama puts it, is to make sure that the Buddhist tradition flourishes in the Land of Snows.
Beijing has now reacted violently (and belatedly) to the idea of a girl Dalai Lama: “A living reincarnation, reincarnated as a girl or a bronze-haired foreigner… all these absurd arguments by the 14th Dalai Lama on his reincarnation have made people in the Tibetan Buddhist circle feel furious.”
The Communist Party, which has apparently gained great expertise in the Buddha Dharma, argues “according to the basic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, ‘may be a girl’ is simply an outrageous remark.” It then adds: “In the eyes of many Tibetan Buddhists, it was a blasphemy.”
What a sexist remark! Did not Buddha ordain his own mother? But one can’t expect the apparatchiks in Beijing to have read the sutras.
Alreday a couple of years ago the Chinese government had announced new Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism.
Beijing was preparing for the Dalai Lama’s departure (and return); the ‘measures’ clearly targeted the Tibetan leader. If Karl Marx could read some of the 14 articles of the ‘measures', he would be turning in his grave. They describe in great detail how “reincarnating living Buddhas should carry out application and approval procedures.” The Party threatened: “No group or individual may without authorisation carry out any activities related to searching for or recognising reincarnating living Buddha soul children.”
The Communist Party, who always treated religion as ‘poison’, has suddenly become an authority on the century-old tradition of ‘reincarnation’.
The People’s Daily comes back to the ‘Measures’ to state that “the reincarnation of Living Buddha shall not be interfered or dominated by any organization or individual abroad.” It is another way to say that the Dalai Lama has no business in deciding reincarnation.
In Tibet, the lineage system has never been rigid. For example, during the 13-14th century, the hierarchs of Sakya monastery ruled over the Land of Snows. Their succession was set up by way of ‘transmission' from father to son or uncle to nephew. Further, historians believe that at the beginning of the 17th century, two Dalai Lamas were alive at the same time (the 6th and the 7th). There was no fixed place about where a Dalai Lama could be reborn. The Fourth, Yonten Gyatso was born in Mongolia while the Sixth, Tsangyang Gyatso, took birth in India (in Tawang district of today's Arunachal Pradesh).
Through Tibet's history, the interregnum between two Dalai Lamas has been a weakness of the reincarnation system. The 19th century saw a succession of five Dalai Lamas. The Chinese, through their Ambans (or Ambassadors) in Lhasa, made full use of this weakness. Many surmise that the premature deaths of the Ninth up to the Twelfth Dalai Lamas were not a mere coincidence and the Chinese Ambans certainly took great advantage of their ‘timely departure’. It is clear that the problem is not only a spiritual issue, but also a political one and this explains the meddling of the Chinese Communists in what seems at first sight to be a religious affair.
The unnamed ‘analyst’ of the People’s Daily commented: “Seeing Dalai Lama keep sullying Tibetan Buddhism, many people sharply pointed out the most sacred reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism has become his tool of separatism. It is foreseeable that he will trample on the historical and religious rituals more savagely, and finally bring disrepute to Tibetan Buddhism. He should realize carrying out separatist activities through the reincarnation issue will only meet with public ridicule.”
History will decide who is the most ridiculous, but obviously, Beijing is nervous to think of what will happen after the death of the present Dalai Lama.
Like the Gaulish tribe, one can hope that the Tibetans will be able to resist (without magic potion as they have abjured violence), the cultural invasion of the mighty Empire and preserve their religious heritage, more particularly the tulku (reincarnation) tradition which should be acknowledged by UNESCO as part of the Intangible World Heritage.
In any case one could ask, is it befitting for a superpower to speak in such appalling manner? If President Hu Jintao is serious about the preservation of a ‘Tibetan flavor’, he should remember the words of the Dalai Lama: “My religion is simple, my religion is kindness”. This is Tibetan flavor.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Common Man and the Common Wealth





January 26, 1950 saw India become a Republic. Everybody rejoiced, the people of Bharat, free from the British tutelage, could decide their own future.
But what was this ‘Republic’ about?
Etymologically ‘republic’ comes from the Latin res publica, meaning ‘what belongs to the public’; in other words, the nation and its wealth belong to the people.
Wikipedia says that ‘in republics such as the United States and France, the executive is legitimated both by a constitution and by popular suffrage,” adding that ‘republicanism’ refers to an ideology based on ‘civic virtue’.
In 1950, India acquired a Constitution and people were requested to select a government of their choice.
Sixty years later, though the government has recurrently put forward the aam aadmi (the common man), where does the poor man stand today? Where have those ‘civic virtues’ gone?
The mere fact that the rulers mention the ‘common man’ demonstrates that something went wrong along the way. If rulers have to speak of ‘common men’, does this not signify that there are ‘uncommon men’ or people above the ordinary lot? 
The British had the notion of a ‘commoner’, someone who is neither the Sovereign nor a peer. Members of the House of Commons were commoners, while members of the House of Lords were peers. After the new Constitution came into force, India acquired its own Lok Sabha (Assembly of the People) and its Rajya Sabha (Assembly of the States).
Unfortunately ‘the people’ were soon forgotten. One small indication: the bureaucracy under the British Raj was called the Indian Civil Service. Though Nehru in his Discovery of India said that the service was "neither Indian, nor civil, nor a service", at least it carried the word ‘civil’. Soon after Independence, it became the Indian Administrative Service, an institution whose job was only to serve the administration and the government. The ‘civil servants’ became ‘government servants’. It may seem a mere detail, but it is truly symptomatic of what has happened during the past 60 years.
It was probably the beginning of the schism between the rulers (mostly politicians, bureaucrats, but also industrialists) and the ruled (the ‘common man’).
Because of the ever-growing gap between the ‘common’ and the uncommon’ (also known as VIP), the government had to devise new schemes such as the National Rural Employment Guaranteed Scheme, the National Food Security Act or the Bharat Nirman Yojana to ‘help’ the aam aadmi.
But in actual fact, while the rich continue to expand their wealth, these schemes serve mostly to keep poor people poor. Has not a former Prime Minister famously stated that 90% of the monies allotted never reached the targeted communities?
But there is another issue which greatly bothers me: the ‘common wealth’ of the people. I believe that this will determine if India can one day reach superpower status. Let me explain.
On the occasion of the New Year, a friend sent me an e-card. It said: “Save the Birds — they make our planet livable and happy”. I wrote back asking him “What about the rivers, the mountains or the earth?”.
These are the ‘common wealth’ of the nation. It was what the res publica was supposed to cherish and protect for the ‘common good’ of the nation.
Unfortunately, it has not been the case.

Common River
Let us take the rivers. Last week, a group of US green activists went to Agra to inspect the Yamuna behind the Taj Mahal; most belonged to river cleaning foundations in the US. One of them, Ginny Harris of the Alice Ferguson Foundation involved in the preservation of the Potomac river exclaimed: "Oh my god, you call this a river!" A number of NGOs and local activists were present. Harris later told a news agency: "Our major concern is trash. Agra activists and students of several schools have agreed to pick up trash from the Yamuna river bed at several ghats in the city on March 22."
When asked: "Can the river Yamuna be saved?", the US scientist said: "Why not? Emerging cleanup technologies promise a lot of hope for the future. For now, don't let the water body be used as a sewage canal."
The question could be asked: who uses India’s holy rivers as sewage outlets?
You cannot blame the ‘common man’. In most of the cases, it is greedy industrialists who do not care for the nation’s ‘common wealth’. They usually act in connivance with ‘government servants’ who are always quick to find ways to benefit from the situation.
Nobody can pretend that the Ganga is in a pristinely healthy state, not even Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who recently affirmed that the river can still be saved. He even announced that by 2020 the polluted Ganga would be clean. One can only applaud when Jairam Ramesh says: "The Union government is confident of getting the holy Ganga river cleaned by 2020. Rs 15,000 crore will be spent for this purpose under the river development fund". Delhi plans to save the river by making it nirmal (clean) and aviral (free flowing): "We will not only ensure 'aviral dhara' (continuous flow of the river stream), as being demanded by several NGOs, but also ensure nirmal dhara (clean and pollution free flow).”
But why should the taxpayers (the common men) pay for cleaning the Ganga, they have already paid several times in the past and the polluters have continued to pollute. The polluters should be booked and made to pay.
Ordinary men and women should be entitled to live in a clean environment.

Common Mountains
It is said that the Himalayas have been revered by the people of the sub-continent since the Vedic times; it has probably been so since man exists. Poets, rishis, rajas or common folks have praised the majestic beauty of the highest mountains in the world. Unfortunately, our children will probably not be able to experience the splendor of the eternal snows in the future.
Today, the Himalayan glaciers are melting fast. It is enough to walk from Gangotri to Gaumuk the source of the Holy Ganga, to understand the tragedy. The livelihood patterns for millions of people are bound to change. Ten of millions will have to migrate or adapt.
Last October, on the occasion of a two-day conclave of the five Chief Ministers of the Himalayan States of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a call for saving the Himalayan ecology. He announced that the Union Government was planning to set up an institute on glaciology. It is good but a bit late.
Andreas Schild, director the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development based in Kathmandu, while speaking about the Himalayan eco-systems, stated that “sustainability of eco system services in the mountains will require new instruments and out of the box thinking in order to reduce vulnerability.” Can the government think out-of-the box? This is another question. In this particular case, the common man can’t do much, as the issue is truely global.
Early this month, during an international workshop on climate change held in Srinagar, it was announced that the Kolahoi glacier, the largest in Kashmir, has melted by one square mile in the last three decades. The same thing has happened in Sikkim where glaciers like the Zemu, Thongsong and Talung have irreversibly shrunk over the past 50 years. Shall we witness the tragedy silently?

Common Soil
Many seers have stated that the soil of Bharat, like the rivers, is different. Both had a quality that could not be found anywhere else in the world. It might have been true a few decades ago, but it is unfortunately no more a fact.
The sacred soil of India is polluted. Early January, scientists attached to the Punjab Agriculture University identified the reasons behind the rapid spread of cancer in the Punjab. Their verdict is clear: arsenic in water is the main cause for abnormal cell growth in human body.
The Vice-Chancellor, Dr MS Kang stated: “Lab findings have shown that arsenic is probably one of the culprits enhancing cancer in the region.” The University has analyzed 168 ground water samples over a period of 36 months. The sampling originating from different parts of North India contained unacceptably high quantity of arsenic.
The Tribune commented: “Pesticides and heavy metals have entered the food chain through irrigation with untreated wastewater that could lead to an increased number of people suffering from cancer, bone deformities and gastrointestinal disorders.”
For years, the Government spoke of its green revolution as a miracle India should be proud of, but this type of miracle unfortunately has serious side effects.
India Today studied the case of Rajasthan where groundwater drawing is far superior to the replenishment: “In 140 of the state's 237 blocks, the water table has been tagged as ‘overexploited’, in another 50 blocks it is ‘critical’ and in 14 more blocks ‘semi- critical’.”
The study also found the presence of saline, fluoride, chloride, iron and nitrate in the water; all this far exceeds the World Health Organization's permissible limits. The pollutants are said to affect the teeth, heart, bones, arteries and liver.
Though the state government had introduced the Rajasthan Regulation and Control of the Development and Management of Ground Water Bill in 2006, the Bill has been shelved by the next Government which had probably more ‘urgent’ problems to tackle.
The list could continue. Where does this lead us, the common men?
Ultimately, only a joint action by the rulers and the ruled can help remedy the situation. But tremendous will and great efforts will be required.
Sixty years after the res publica was proclaimed, one can only note that the ‘common wealth’ has been dilapidated. The ‘common man’ is certainly not the only the culprit, though at the end he is always the sufferer.

Why India should not get too close to China

To read my article on China in Rediff.com, click here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cyber jawans




An interesting article.  
Can you imagine a five-lakh jawans cyber army working to penetrate Western (and Indian) most secret and protected networks of the planet?

Former Indian NSA, M.K. Narayanan said that the PMO was itself the target of such attacks. If it is admitted now, it has certainly happened several times in the past. 
The Army will of course deny. Even if Chinese grazers or troops cross the LAC, it is systematically denied by the Ministry of Defence.

A Report of McAffee on Cyber Criminality recently found that "for countries, nuclear weapons continue to be the matter of greater concern than malware, but still computer viruses and logic bombs can't be overlooked".
It also reveals that China, France, Israel, Russia and the United States  have developed "advanced offensive cyber capabilities."
What about India, the Land of the Software?


Chinese hackers force US showdown
January 15
(China Military News cited from expressvpn.com and written by JOHN GARNAUT)
GOOGLE’S fight with Chinese censors risks escalating into a fullblown US-China showdown over cyber warfare, as claims emerge about the unprecedented scale of Chinese attacks on US commercial and defence systems.
The Chinese-originated attack on Gmail accounts of human rights activists, which Google said had partly prompted its threat to leave China, was “probably insignificant” compared with the “theft” of source code and data from Google and at least 33 other leading technology companies, said a consultant briefed on the cyber attacks.
The details coincided with claims that the FBI had tracked more than 90,000 Chinese-originated attacks last year on the Defence Department alone.
Australia’s big mining companies are refusing to negotiate iron ore contracts in China because of Chinese security agency intrusions at Rio Tinto, which culminated in the arrest of one of its executives, Stern Hu.
Greg Walton, a security development fellow at the Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, said a series of intelligence leaks implied ”there is something big going on which is not being reported at the moment”.
“Maybe it’s conceivable China has now pulled ahead on offensive operations, partly because US intelligence is geared in a very different way. It’s more, ‘Let’s suck up all the electronic communications in the world through the five eyes’: the intelligence alliance between the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.”
A US company, one of the world’s largest, forbids employees from carrying communication equipment into China, including laptops and mobile phones, because of security concerns.
The consultant who was briefed on the Gmail attacks said at least 34 companies, including Yahoo!, Symantec and Adobe, had been affected. A report in The Washington Post named another two companies, Northrop Grumman and Dow Chemical.
Mr Walton said China’s cyber warfare capability was mostly not in the same league as that of the US or Britain.
The Obama Administration has become increasingly concerned about internet censorship in China.
While sources say the US has been quietly disappointed that its co-operative approach to such issues as climate change, the Chinese currency and Iran’s nuclear program, has not been reciprocated, the President, Barack Obama, has publicly pushed censorship, in part because his views resonate with a big proportion of China’s 338 million internet users.
But a political analyst in Washington, Chris Nelson, has written that Mr Obama could be forced to respond to China “in a far more aggressive and public way”.
The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is reportedly planning to release a new technology policy next week to help web users evade censorship controls.
The State Department is understood to have invested big sums in developing technology to help Chinese users overcome China’s firewall.
The largely state-controlled Chinese media, usually packed with protests and elaborate claims about US policies to ”contain” China, barely reported Google’s decision to consider leaving and did not mention censorship.
A Chinese security official said China was likely to continue to tread quietly on the subject because “a large portion of the Chinese public support Google”.
Jin Canrong, professor of international relations at the People’s University, said the “honeymoon was over” in US-China relations but the row over cyberspace would barely create a ripple.
Jia Daojiong, of Peking University, who specialises in US-China relations, urged leaders on both sides to diffuse the “images of confrontation” that have emerged since Copenhagen.
Mr Walton said the attacks on Google, US defence systems and computers were extremely sophisticated.
They all involved the same modus operandi, with “Trojan” viruses being dropped on to computers when users inadvertently opened email attachments purportedly from friends.
This enabled a remote user to drop a kind of remote access device that Chinese hackers call “gh0stRAT”.
In the Google case, he said, data was deposited in a computer 'sink hole' in California before being sent back to China.
These attacks had been traced to “patriotic actors” who enjoyed Chinese Government support.
“Intelligence agencies estimate there are approximately half a million of these people willing to engage in cyber warfare,” he said.
A Chinese security source said yesterday that it was unlikely China’s unofficial “internet army” or even military and intelligence agencies had the sophistication to seriously challenge the world’s leading technicians in the US. “The Chinese military uses American software systems,” he said.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Three Evils and Promotion

An important factor which will play a crucial role in the internal situation in China in 2010 is the power struggle within the Party between the ‘clique’ of President Hu Jintao and the ‘princelings’ (offspring of high-ranking Party officials) of Vice-President Xi Jinping. The struggle is visible even in Defence posting. The Straits Times stated that after the ‘princeling politicians’ , the PLA has now ‘princeling generals’.
The South China Morning Post reported that General Zhang Haiyang, son of General Zhang Zhen, a former Vice-Chariman of the Central Military Commission under President Jiang Zemin has become political commissar of the Second Artillery Corps, which controls China’s nuclear and conventional strategic missiles. His promotion comes five months after he became full general.
The interesting part of the story is that General Zhang was earlier in charge of Tibet. He served as political commissar of the Chengdu military region and was responsible of the Sichuan earthquake’s relief in May 2008, as well as for crackdowns carried out to curb rioting in Tibet in March/April.
Commander-in-Chief Hu Jintao has also offered plump postings to some of his favorites. Hu wants to make sure that officers in key posts are loyal to him and the Communist Youth League faction, today, the dominant clique in the CCP.
Since the October 1, a large number of senior appointments in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) have been announced.
The China Brief of The Jamestown Institute pointed out: “Given the party’s reliance on the PAP to crack down on “the three evil forces of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism” across the nation, high-level personnel changes at the PAP deserve special attention. In late December, Lieutenant General Wang Jianping was appointed PAP Commander. The 56-year-old General Wang replaced General Wu Shuangzhan, 64, who is retiring after having served a record ten years as head of the paramilitary force. Wang and about two dozen officers were promoted in what the Chinese media described as one of the largest-ever reshuffles since the PAP was set up in 1983.”
General Wang is one of Hu’s favorite. The new rising star was elevated twice in 2009 — from PAP chief of staff to Vice-Commander, and now Commander. But oh! surprise, he also served as Commander of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) PAP from 1996 to 2000 when Hu was Party Boss on the Roof of the Word.
Pema Thinley the new Governor of Tibet has also served in the PLA in Tibet.
The bosses in Beijing are not ready to take any risk and Tibet has become the best school to fight the three ‘evil forces’. 




New Man Same Chair 
Phayul.com
January 16, 2010
By Bhuchung D. Sonam
Pema Thinley's (also called Padma Choling) appointment as a governor of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) under China is widely reported by Reuters, BBC, The Strait’s Times and many other news media around the world.
However, for Tibetans, inside Tibet and in exile, the news came as just another regimented official exchange of position in a carefully manufactured show. Jampa Phuntsok (Chin. Qiangba Puncog), Pema Thinley and others who apparently hold high positions are mascots to show the world that Tibetans are fairly represented and happy in the Motherland. But in fact, they mostly do the barking when Beijing raises a stick and wag their tails when Beijing shows a bowl of chicken noodles.
The real decision-making power in Tibet is held by Zhang Qingli, a Chinese and the local Party boss. Zhang is a hardliner, who became infamous for calling His Holiness the Dalai Lama “a wolf in monk’s clothes, a devil with a human face."
Jampa Phuntsok, 62-years-old former governor, is “three years shy of China's mandatory retirement age for provincial governors,” and has held the position for six years since May 2003. His replacement Thinley is 58 and has served for 17 years in the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Though Beijing is mute on the replacement, it clearly indicates that Tibet ranks very high in China's priorities. Hu Jintao, the current Chinese president, who served as the Party Secretary in Tibet and declared martial law there in 1989, senses the usefulness of a man with a military background.
In the light of massive peaceful protests throughout Tibet in 2008, and Beijing's brutal crackdowns due to which over 200 lives were lost, an appointment of a former PLA does not augur well for Tibetans. This is a subtle way of saying — dissenters will be dealt even more harshly.
The appointment may also have to do with the recent Politburo's meeting on Tibet chaired by Hu Jintao, during which, according to 9 Jan. 2010, Tibet Daily, they reviewed issues regarding economic development and long-term stability in Tibet. In fact, this has been the basis of Chinese policy towards the minority for a long time — "that increased wealth brings increased social order and allegiance to the source of that wealth" i.e. the Communist Party of China.
However, according to some other sources, Politburo also discussed putting more restrictions on religion such as furthering the on-going mandatory registration of religious institutions and monks and nuns. Religion forms the social backbone for Tibetan people.
Economic growth is, at least, what the new governor promises.
According to The Hindu newspaper, Thinley said “[that] Tibet would target 12 percent GDP growth this year, and increase spending on sectors involving people’s livelihoods. The net per capita income of farmers and herders is expected to top 4,000 yuan.”
Yet China’s promises about economic growth and massive investment in Tibet are mirages for ordinary Tibetans.
A recent arrival from Tibet, who does not want his name mentioned for fear of reprisal when he goes back to Tibet, said that the investment and contracts go to the Party cadres, their family members and those with connections or Guan Xi. “Ordinary people like us get nothing. Absolutely nothing,” he said.
Gongmeng Law Research Centre or Open Constitution Initiative’s report on the root causes of 2008 large-scale protests in Tibet testifies the above statement. The groundbreaking report said that a “'deep-rooted' local power elite networks have formed in many Tibetan areas, where it has become routine for the local authorities to be rent-seekers and for the administration to be inefficient." Under the Neo-Leninist system, a new class has formed, who are intimately linked with the local Party elites and other vested interest groups. The sole aim of this unholy union is ‘to get rich by’ grabbing the money meant for the poor.
Thinley's claim about “net per capita income of farmers and herders is expected to top 4,000 yuan (which is roughly $750)” in the next year is dismal. It is not much better than East Timor's $500, which is one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world.
Thinley was also quoted saying that “stability is of overwhelming importance,” and that “[they] will firmly oppose all attempts at secession,” a clear indication that the new man is up to the job to crush dissents against the Party's rule.
China is excessively obsessed with Tibet and is willing to go to any extent to avoid another massive popular people’s protest. However, the fundamental question that Beijing fails to understand is that negotiation — and not suppression — will solve this vexed issue. Appointing someone with a military background as a governor of Tibet will only deepen the chasm between Tibetan people and Beijing.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Hackers hacked?



 


A day before Google announced that it may have to stop its operations in China, the Chinese search engine Baidu was hacked.
Strange! The hackers were said to be from the Iranian Cyber Army. Considering that Iran is close to China, it is even more strange.
A few months back, I had written on the Dark Visitors in the Indian Defence Review, things are now getting darker by the day.



Baidu Site Unavailable Tuesday Morning On Signs Of Hacker Attack
By Aaron Back
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
JANUARY 11, 2010
BEIJING (Dow Jones)--Baidu Inc. (BIDU), China's top search engine, was unavailable early Tuesday in China, and some Internet users reported seeing signs of an attack on the site by Iranian hackers.
Users reported seeing a banner for the "Iranian Cyber Army," complete with an Iranian flag and a shattered star of David, when they tried to access Baidu's homepage Tuesday.
Marten Strassburg, a Swedish citizen living in Beijing, said he saw the site defaced with the Iranian group's logos around 10:30a.m. Beijing time (9:30 p.m. Monday EST). Strassburg and dozens of others posted screen shots of Baidu's defaced site online.
As of 11:30 a.m., Baidu was still unavailable, with users seeing just an error message when they attempted to visit the site. As of noon, the site was accessible.
Baidu spokeswoman Cynthia He declined to immediately comment, saying the company is looking into the matter.
Last month, a group also calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army attacked Twitter, temporarily disrupting access to U.S.-based social networking site. The Iranian Cyber Army also appeared to have attacked an Iranian reformist Web site.
It was unclear why the group, which appears to sympathize with the Iranian government rather than anti-Tehran protesters, would attack Baidu.
Twitter has famously become a tool for Iranian dissidents to communicate and organize, and Chinese citizens began expressing sympathy with Iranian protesters last month through Twitter. Though Twitter is blocked in China, these Internet users have found ways around the limits through use of proxy servers outside of China.
But the Internet free speech advocates on Twitter are not fans of Baidu, which is seen as in good standing with Beijing. Foreign Web sites such as Google Inc. (GOOG) have been periodically blocked by the Chinese government for linking to pornographic or politically sensitive material, but Baidu has not had similar problems with Chinese censors.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

India shrinking courtesy China



Now it is 'official'!
Two years ago, Rediff.com published my interview of Thupstan Chhewang, then MP of Ladakh; nobody seems to care much at that time. Read the interview.



India has lost 'substantial' land to China: Official report
PTI, 10 January 2010, 03:00pm IST
NEW DELHI: The area along Line of Actual Control with China has "shrunk" over a period of time and India has lost "substantial" amount of land in the last two decades, says an official report.
At a recent meeting held in Leh which was attended by officials from the Jammu and Kashmir government, Ministry of Home Affairs and Army, it was agreed that there was difference in the maps of various agencies and that there was lack of proper mapping of the area.
The meeting was chaired by Commissioner (Leh) A K Sahu and attended among others by Brigadier General Staff of 14 Corps Brig Sarat Chand and Colonel Inderjit Singh.
While the absence of proper map was agreed upon, the meeting all the same felt, "however, it is clear and be accepted that we are withdrawing from LAC and our area has shrunk over a period of time."
"Though this process if very slow but we have lost substantial amount of land in 20-25 years," it was said at the meeting held last month.
According to the minutes of the meeting, it was also identified that "there is a lack of institutional memory in various agencies as well as clear policy on this issue which in long run has resulted in loss of territory by the India in favour of China."
The meeting was called to ensure proper protection to nomads who move with their cattle to Dokbug area of Nyoma sector during the winter months every year. In December 2008, Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) had damaged their tents and threatened them to vacate the land.
"They (Chinese) have threatened the nomadic people who had been using Dokbug area (in Ladakh sector) area for grazing since decades long, in a way to snatch our land in inches. A Chinese proverb is famous in the world - better do in inches than in yards," a report filed by former Sub Divisional Magistrate (Nyoma) Tsering Norboo had said.
Norboo was deputed by the state government to probe complaints of incursion of the Chinese Army in Dokbug area and threats to the local shepherds to leave the land as it belonged to them. The area has been used by the shepherds to graze their livestock as the area is warmer compared to other parts of Ladakh.
The SDM contended that it was another attempt by the Chinese to claim the territory as disputed in the same fashion as they had taken Nag Tsang area opposite to Phuktse airfield in 1984, Nakung in 1991 and Lungma-Serding in 1992.
The area of Dokbug and Doley Tango was frequented by shepherds and nomads from December to March every year during which their young lambs were capable to walk.
The SDM has also highlighted the fact that Army stopped these nomads from vacating the land. The nomads were terrified by the Chinese threats.
Last year, Chinese troops had entered nearly 1.5 km into the Indian territory on July 31 near Mount Gya, recognised as International border by India and China, and painted boulders and rocks with "China" and "Chin9" in red spray paint.
The 22,420 ft Mount Gya, also known as "fair princess of snow" by Army, is located at the tri-junction of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, and Tibet. Its boundary was marked during the British era and regarded as International border by the two countries.
Before this, Chinese helicopters had violated Indian air space on June 21 along the Line of Actual Control in Chumar region and also helli-dropped some expired food.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reincarnation Business






Beijing is becoming nervous. Too nervous!
The fact that China is today a recognized superpower (2010 will see the Middle Kingdom becoming the 2nd largest economic power and exporter of the planet ), may lead you to conclude that the leadership in Beijing lives in peace with itself, enjoying its newly-acknowledged position.
But you are wrong, despite their status, the politburo members in the walled-enclave of Zhongnanhai are trembling. Why?
In the famous comics Asterix, an indomitable tribe continues to refuse the rule of the most powerful empire of its time. Though the tiny Armorican village could not be captured by the Roman Empire because the villagers managed to acquire invincible strength by drinking a magic potion brewed by the village druid; in our case, the Empire has already invaded country of the stubborn people from the Land of Snows, but oh sacrilege, they still insist on keeping their cultural identity and demand a ‘genuine autonomy’. It may seem not much for an outsider, but the new Caesars in Beijing remain intransigent. For them, there is one culture alone: the Party is omniscient and supreme.
The Tibetan tribe would like to practice their creed in peace, as they have done for the past 800 years. But the mighty Empire will not bend, especially when it comes to the Lamas’ most sacred institutions.
They have good reasons for this: “Keeping a living Buddha under control means keeping a temple under control, and keeping a temple under control means keeping a district under control." This quotation, conveniently put in the mouth of an unknown supporter of the ‘separatist Dalai’s group’, appeared in The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China on January 7.
The entire article, entitled ‘Dalai Lama's reincarnation tale indicative of separatism’ is most offensive and shows a great nervousness on Beijing’s part.
The ‘official’ commentator charges the Dalai Lama of manipulating the system of Tibetan reincarnation for his own purpose: “It is not difficult to understand the reason why the Dalai Lama is so keen on making up arguments on reincarnation.”
What provoked the anger of the ‘analyst’? The People’s Daily’s argument is that a few months back the Dalai Lama declared that he could very well be reincarnated in the form of a woman. Beijing says that it is “an eye-popping thing to say”. One could ask, why?
Several years ago I had the occasion to ask the Dalai Lama to elaborate on this point, he had then explained: "In Tibet, the tradition of having reincarnated teachers is almost 700 years old. Among them, we had one institution of a female reincarnation. In case a female Dalai Lama is more useful to Tibet in future, then why not have a woman as ‘reincarnation'? If a Tibetan lady Dalai Lama comes, every male will become her follower," he said, laughing.
"I feel that education alone cannot solve all our contemporary problems. More emphasis should be given on ‘compassion'. Women are basically more sensitive and compassionate. But men are not. They are more aggressive. Therefore, a ‘female rule' will be more suitable for today's setup," he added. Already in the course of another interview several years ago, my young daughter, who had accompanied me, found it was not ‘normal' that ‘the Dalai Lama always returns as a man.' She quizzed him: "You have always been reincarnated as a boy. What is the reason for that?"
The Tibetan leader had become thoughtful and took time to ponder: "The reason is that in a male dominated society, it was more effective for serving the Buddhadharma."
The Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama to be the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Saint-Patron of Tibet. His ‘job', as the present Dalai Lama puts it, is to make sure that the Buddhist tradition flourishes in the Land of Snows.
Beijing has now reacted violently (and belatedly) to the idea of a girl Dalai Lama: “A living reincarnation, reincarnated as a girl or a bronze-haired foreigner… all these absurd arguments by the 14th Dalai Lama on his reincarnation have made people in the Tibetan Buddhist circle feel furious.”
The Communist Party, which has apparently gained great expertise in the Buddha Dharma, argues “according to the basic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, ‘may be a girl’ is simply an outrageous remark.” It then adds: “In the eyes of many Tibetan Buddhists, it was a blasphemy.”
What a sexist remark! Did not Buddha ordain his own mother? But one can’t expect the apparatchiks in Beijing to have read the sutras.
The unnamed ‘analyst’ refers to the Memorandum presented by the Dalai Lama’s Envoys during their 8th round of talks with Chinese officials in Beijing in November 2008. The Memorandum proposed that in the future, the Chinese Government should not intervene with the recognition and authentication of reincarnations. Today, for the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, it shows that “[the Dalai Lama’s] ulterior separatist intention is somewhat evident.”
The commentator added: “Seeing Dalai Lama keep sullying Tibetan Buddhism, many people sharply pointed out the most sacred reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism has become his tool of separatism. It is foreseeable that he will trample on the historical and religious rituals more savagely, and finally bring disrepute to Tibetan Buddhism. He should realize carrying out separatist activities through the reincarnation issue will only meet with public ridicule.”
History will decide who is the most ridiculous, but obviously, Beijing is nervous to think of what will happen after the death of the present Dalai Lama. This explained why a couple of years ago the Chinese government announced their new Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism.
Beijing was already preparing for the Dalai Lama’s departure (and return); the ‘measures’ clearly targeted the Tibetan leader. If Karl Marx could read some of the 14 articles of the ‘measures', he would be turning in his grave. They describe in great detail how “reincarnating living Buddhas should carry out application and approval procedures.” The Party threatened: “No group or individual may without authorisation carry out any activities related to searching for or recognising reincarnating living Buddha soul children.”
The Communist Party, who always treated religion as ‘poison’, has suddenly become an authority on the century-old tradition of ‘reincarnation’.
The People’s Daily comes back to the ‘Measures’ to state that “the reincarnation of Living Buddha shall not be interfered or dominated by any organization or individual abroad.” It is another way to say that the Dalai Lama has no business in deciding reincarnation.
At the end, the article becomes nastier: “Obviously, in order to fulfill his ‘cause’ of ‘Tibetan independence’, Dalai Lama does not hesitate to violate the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, tamper with religious rituals or go against the wish of the Tibetan people. Self-proclaimed as ‘an eminent monk of Tibetan Buddhism’, he intends to change the sacred reincarnation into an absurdity for his separatist cause. His deeds have not only seriously disturbed the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism, but also hurt a large number of Buddhists.”
In Tibet, the lineage system has never been rigid. For example, during the 13-14th century, the hierarchs of Sakya monastery ruled over the Land of Snows. Their succession was set up by way of ‘transmission' from father to son or uncle to nephew. Further, historians believe that at the beginning of the 17th century, two Dalai Lamas were alive at the same time (the 6th and the 7th). There was no fixed place  about where a Dalai Lama could be reborn. The Fourth, Yonten Gyatso was born in Mongolia while the Sixth, Tsangyang Gyatso, took birth in India (in Tawang district of today's Arunachal Pradesh).
The crux of the matter was given by the People’s Daily: “Keeping a living Buddha under control means keeping a temple under control” and one could add, ultimately a nation.
Through Tibet's history, the interregnum between two Dalai Lamas has been a weakness of the reincarnation system. The 19th century saw a succession of five Dalai Lamas. The Chinese, through their Ambans (or Ambassadors) in Lhasa, made full use of this weakness. Many surmise that the premature deaths of the Ninth up to the Twelfth Dalai Lamas were not a mere coincidence and the Chinese Ambans certainly took great advantage of their ‘timely departure’. It is clear that the problem is not only a spiritual issue, but also a political one and this explains the meddling of the Chinese Communists in what seems at first sight to be a religious affair.
The point remains that it is a timely debate and whether the Dalai Lama returns as a man or woman will not change the political situation.
Like the Gaulish tribe, one can hope that the Tibetans, under the able leadership of the Dalai Lama, will be able to resist (without magic potion as they have abjured violence), the cultural invasion of the mighty Empire and preserve their religious heritage, more particularly the tulku (reincarnation) tradition which should be acknowledged by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage.
In any case one could ask, is it befitting for a superpower to speak in such appalling manner? The leaders in Beijing should learn from the Dalai Lama how to remain cool in all circumstances.

A Thousand-Year War over Kashmir




Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari recently declared that Pakistan was ready to wage a thousand-year war with India over Kashmir.
The Daily Times quoted Zardari as saying that this was a war of ideologies and would last for generations.
Addressing a joint session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and the Kashmir Council, Zardari said democratic governments had played a key role in moving forward on the Kashmir dispute, he added: "When Zulfikar had spoken of waging a thousand-year war, he never said he would not do it through talks or negotiations."
You may have seen Zardari's father-in-law's video on YouTube when he addressed the UN Security Council, but what really happened  was later described by former Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan in his Memories and Reflections of a Pakistani Diplomat. 



[About 1965 War]
Messages coming to Ottawa [Sultan Khan is Pakistan High Commissioner in Canada] were upbeat, the entire country rallied round the Government, patriotic fervour was at a high point and the armed forces were giving a good account of their fighting qualities. For the first time, India had introduced its airforce into the conflict, and Pakistan's Airforce had responded magnificently, covering itself with glory, despite its limited resources. At one time, a message was received from Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmed, saying that talk of a ceasefire should be discouraged as Pakistan would soon be in a commanding position and would then negotiate from a position of strength. Within a few days, more sobering news was received: Pakistan's major thrust by its only armoured division had bogged down in fields which India had flooded, and from then on Pakistan had lost the possibility of being in the position of advantage. In fact, we lost considerable territory to the Indians on the Sindh-Rajasthan border.
The Security Council had met soon after the conflict began and was calling upon both sides to cease fire and withdraw to their own borders. This was being resisted by Pakistan in the earlier stages, but after the disaster suffered by its armoured division, there was little choice left and Bhutto was instructed to proceed to New York to accept the cease-fire proposal. I was a member of the Pakistan delegation and reached New York to await Bhutto's arrival, which was marked by considerable drama as New York airport was closed because of a snow storm, and his flight was diverted to Montreal. The Security Council session was postponed from hour to hour to enable Bhutto to participate in the proceedings, which finally began at 1:00 am.
Bhutto was brilliant in his address to the Security Council. With an American audience in mind, he talked of the Wilsonian principle of self-determination: quoted Jefferson and Lincoln on the theme of liberty and freedom; reminded the Soviets of their own struggle against the Nazis; referred the French to their Revolution when Liberty and Equality were the inspiration of their people and, in a voice breaking with emotion, asked, "Are the people of Kashmir some kind of pariahs to be denied the right of self-determination?"
Addressing Sardar Swaran Singh, the Indian Foreign Minister, Bhutto said: "Sardar Sahib, we are determined to see that the people of Kashmir are enabled to exercise their right of self-determination and we will continue to wage this struggle for a thousand years if necessary."
At this stage, in a prearranged melodrama, one of the aides came into the Security Council chamber and whispered into the ear of Syed Amjad Ali, Ambassador to the U.N., who, in turn, wrote a short note and placed it before Bhutto. He read it and asked the President of the Security Council for a brief adjournment as he had to receive an urgent phone call from the President of Pakistan. Bhutto went into one of the phone booths outside the Security Council chamber and pretended to be talking. We could see him gesticulating and expressing himself with vehemence. He emerged crestfallen and took his seat looking very subdued.
Addressing the Council, he said in a tearful voice: "I have been talking about waging war for a thousand years, but I have been over ruled by my President, who has just now instructed me to accept the ceasefire proposal on behalf of Pakistan, and I must submit to his decision." Sardar Swaran Singh who, until then, had had a very worried look on his face, smiled and relaxed, and other members of the Security Council looked relieved and the cease fire resolution passed with a unanimous vote.
Dawn was breaking when we walked to our cars, and as I rode with Bhutto to his hotel, he laughed and said: "Ayub will be furious, but when I land in Karachi, people will put garlands round my neck, and you my friend will be rebuffed by the Chinese when you reach Beijing."
What can one think of a performance like that? Was it cheap, theatrical or a calculated drama staged by a politician wanting to cash in on the gullibility of an unsophisticated home audience? Bhutto had come to the Security Council with instructions, (which he had himself advocated) to accept the cease fire resolution. By staging a drama about a phone call, Bhutto was distancing himself from Ayub; he did the same after the Tashkent Agreement and promised to reveal the secret one day, but of course nothing was ever revealed (because there was no secret). In retrospect, it is interesting to note that Ayub Khan lost his trust in Bhutto after this, but retained him to defend the Tashkent Agreement in the National Assembly and then sacked him.
I returned to Ottawa somewhat disillusioned about the way politics were being conducted at home, and also worried about the consequences which would follow the acceptance of the cease-fire resolution. It was obvious that Ayub Khan's unchallenged sway would be subject to domestic strains; our relationship with the U.S.A. would have to be restructured and the growing relationship with China would need to be carefully nurtured.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Incredible CCP



Incredible Communist Party! 
The Party have now become expert in reincarnation.  The People's Daily comments that the 'Dalai Lama's separatist group' would have said: "Keeping a living Buddha under control means keeping a temple under control, and keeping a temple under control means keeping a district under control." 
It is not clear who said this in the so-called 'Dalai Lama's group', but the Chinese Ambans (Ambassadors) in Lhasa during the nineteenth century knew the trick well. The Ninth to Twelfth Dalai Lamas died mysteriously before attaining majority. 
Closer to us, the late Panchen Lama 'passed away' a few days after criticizing the Party at a public function in Shigatse in 1989 (in presence of the then Tibet Party Secretary, Mr. Hu Jintao).  The Party had apparently lost control over the courageous Lama.



Dalai Lama's reincarnation tale indicative of separatism
People's Daily
January 7, 2010
A living reincarnation, reincarnated as a girl or a bronze-haired foreigner… all these absurd arguments by the 14th Dalai Lama on his reincarnation have made people in the Tibetan Buddhist circle feel furious. In the so-called memorandum, he emphasized that he Chinese Government should not intervene with the authentication of the reincarnation. Till now, his ulterior separatist intention is somewhat evident.
Seeing Dalai Lama keep sullying Tibetan Buddhism, many people sharply pointed out the most sacred reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism has become his tool of separatism. It is foreseeable that he will trample on the historical and religious rituals more savagely, and finally bring disrepute to Tibetan Buddhism. He should realize carrying out separatist activities through the reincarnation issue will only meet with public ridicule.
The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama are the two disciples of Tsongkhapa. Both adopt the unique reincarnation system in choosing successors. Thus reincarnation is a very serious and solemn ritual with a set of strict rules and ceremonies.
Meanwhile, according to the Management Measures for the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, the reincarnation of Living Buddha shall not be interfered or dominated by any organization or individual abroad. In addition, it regulates the reincarnation of living Buddha should fulfill the application and approval procedures.
The 11th Panchen Lama, who is much loved by both monks and lay believers, went through the procedure. However, Dalai Lama turns a blind eye to it, and intervenes in all kinds of reincarnation activities of living Buddhas instead. Among them, the most obnoxious was his intervening in the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama.
After December 1993, Dalai repeatedly sent people to Tibet, to collude with some people in the Tashilhunpo. What's more, he arbitrarily designated the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen. His acts were totally against the rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, against the wish of the 10th Panchen Lama and the wish of monks and lay people.
Besides intervening in the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, he also made up various "myths" on the reincarnation of himself.
In 2007 when visiting Japan, he said his successor, the 15th Dalai Lama, can also be chosen from eminent monks. This argument was so subversive that even the Western media felt confused. The New York Times reported, based on past practice, the search for the reincarnated soul boy should only start after the living Buddha passes away…the Dalai Lama's latest argument made those who believe in Tibetan Buddhism confused.
Then on November 23, 2008, Dalai Lama dangled another idea of reincarnation, "My successor may be a little boy or a little girl. Girls are more compassionate, but also become arbitrary more easily." This was a really eye-popping thing to say.
The Indian Express said the Dalai Lama's remarks were very interesting, how could a successor of the Yellow Sect Lama go so far as to make such deviant remarks? According to the basic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, "may be a girl" is simply an outrageous remark.
The Oriental Daily in Hong Kong pointed out Dalai Lama's remarks challenged the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. In the eyes of many Tibetan Buddhists, it was a blasphemy.
Obviously, in order to fulfill his "cause" of "Tibetan independence", Dalai Lama does not hesitate to violate the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, tamper with religious rituals or go against the wish of the Tibetan people.
Looking back to his remarks on reincarnation throughout the years, we can only feel they are inconceivable. However, for a man who is good at creating contentions, it is not surprising that he makes a fuss about his own death.
Self-proclaimed as "an eminent monk of Tibetan Buddhism", he intends to change the sacred reincarnation into an absurdity for his separatist cause. His deeds have not only seriously disturbed the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism, but also hurt a large number of Buddhists.
Why does he make up so many ridiculous arguments? The reason is obvious. The separatist group of Dalai Lama once said publicly, "Keeping a living Buddha under control means keeping a temple under control, and keeping a temple under control means keeping a district under control." Therefore, it is not difficult to understand the reason why the Dalai Lama is so keen on making up arguments on reincarnation.