Tuesday, July 31, 2012

China blowing hot and cold

China is blowing hot and cold with India.
Bonhomie first!
According to PTI, an Indian army delegation has made a rare visit to Tibet and interacted with the officers of a Chinese military regiment based in Lhasa.
It is good!
A couple of weeks earlier, Jaishankar, the Indian Ambassador to China had visited the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Regarding the military delegation, the news agency said: "A multi command Indian army delegation headed by a Major General made a day long visit to Lhasa on July 11 as part of efforts by both the countries to improve relations between the militaries."
That sounds a positive development, although PTI wrongly states: "This was perhaps the first time in recent years, an Indian military delegation visited Tibet." It is not factual.
In August 2009, Lt Gen V.K. Singh, then Army Commander, Eastern Command paid a week-long visit to Tibet and China. He was accompanied by the 4 Corps Commander (based in Tezpur-headquartered), responsible for the Arunachal Pradesh border. 
Further, Lt. Gen. Shu Yu Tai, Chief of the PLA’s Tibet Military District came three months later to India. General Shu was taken around the headquarters of the 33 Corps (deployed in Sikkim) in Sukna, north Bengal. 
At that time, The Telegraph reported: "China’s army commander for Tibet is being hosted by the Indian Army in its Eastern Command in Fort William, Calcutta, this week in a confidence-building measure that both sides hope will keep channels of communication open on border disputes."
But while these 'confidence-building' visits are happening, IDSA pointed to: "China’s People’s Liberation Army conducted a high altitude exercise with a new type of surface-to-air missile somewhere in the Tibetan plateau under its Lanzhou Military Area Command (MAC). ...the exercise was carried out at a mountain pass at an altitude of 5000 metres by a mobile PLA unit, and that three missiles were successfully fired at enemy aircraft targets in the 'South-east' direction."
The Indian think-tank added: "Apart from testing new equipment in the Tibetan environment, the exercise has reportedly helped the unit to gather more than a hundred technical data relating to topics like storage and maintenance of equipment, system coordination and troop mobility in the Tibetan plateau. The unit reportedly also collated ten kinds of tactical and training methods related to this missile in the terrain."
Another report from PTI stated that the Chinese opened fire on Indian Guards in Ladakh. The agency said: 

After creating a tense situation for the last ten days by encircling an Indian post in the Galwan Valley, the Chinese opened fire yesterday afternoon on Indian border guards at two other places in Ladakh. It was officially stated that the incidents took place in the Chip Chap river valley and Pangong Lake area. The situation is being reviewed at top level and a strong protest is being lodged by the Government of India in respect of these incidents involving 'provocative firing' by the Chinese. According to latest reports reaching here, while the Indian troops were forced to open fire in self-defence in the Chip Chap river valley, they showed considerable restraint and did not return the fire in the Pangong Lake area.
China is definitively testing  India's nerves by showing one day its 'peaceful' face and the next, the muscles of a powerful neighbour which can smash India 'like an egg on a rock' (image used by the Tibetans, when Col. Younghusband entered Tibet in 1904).
One should also remember that this area is extreme strategic for China.
When Vice-President Xi Jinping visited Tibet last year, General Chen Bingde, Chief of General Staff of the PLA (and member of the Central Military Commission) did not accompany Vice-President Xi Jinping to Nyingtri Prefecture, north of Arunachal. 
He headed for Ngari (Western Tibet) with some other military members of the delegation from Beijing. 
No report of his visit in Western Tibet (north to J&K and Himachal border) has appeared in the press, except for the caption of this picture:
Chen Bingde (R), chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, arrives in Ali [Ngari] of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, July 21, 2011. 
The caption just said: "Chen Bingde is in Tibet to attend celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the region's peaceful liberation."

India needs to continue to watch carefully and be prepared to any unpleasant eventuality. 

PLA Conducts Missile Tests In Tibet
Bijoy Das
July 30, 2012
Sometime in early July 2012, China’s People’s Liberation Army conducted a high altitude exercise with a new type of surface-to-air missile somewhere in the Tibetan plateau under its Lanzhou Military Area Command (MAC). This was reported by the PLA Daily Online and also by the Tibet Online news portal on 20 July 2012.1 The report says that the exercise was carried out at a mountain pass at an altitude of 5000 metres by a mobile PLA unit, and that three missiles were successfully fired at enemy aircraft targets in the “South-east” direction. The reported also noted that for the purpose of the exercise, the PLA unit covered thousands of kilometres across the Gobi desert, mountainous terrain and glaciers experiencing adverse weather conditions. Apart from testing new equipment in the Tibetan environment, the exercise has reportedly helped the unit to gather more than a hundred technical data relating to topics like storage and maintenance of equipment, system coordination and troop mobility in the Tibetan plateau. The unit reportedly also collated ten kinds of tactical and training methods related to this missile in the terrain.
The area described by the report is possibly located somewhere east or north of Ladakh. If located east of Ladakh, it may fall under Ali (Ngari in Tibetan) area of the South Xinjiang Military District. Ali is part of the Tibetan plateau (administered by the Tibet Autonomous Region), but comes under the jurisdiction of the Lanzhou MAC headquartered in the Gansu province (See Map.) The part of Tibet lying to the east of Ali comes under the Chengdu MAC headquartered in the province of Sichuan. The Lanzhou MAC covers the entire Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR). XUAR abuts eight countries in all—Mongolia and Russia in the North; three Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) in the west; and three South Asian countries in the southern direction viz. Afghanistan, Pakistan (actually the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) and India (the state of Jammu & Kashmir). If located north of Ladakh, it is also possible that the exercise was conducted somewhere immediately west of Ali, which too would be just north of Kashmir and in the Karakorams presently contiguous between China and Pakistan.
The “new” surface-to-air missile tested seems to be tailor-made for operations in the high altitude terrain and rarefied atmosphere of Tibet. Key information relating to its dimensions, target acquisition, radar, range and launch are unavailable. Intelligence agencies concerned need to collect and analyse such information from whatever signature the tests have emitted of a similar test earlier.
It is possible that this new missile is a truck mounted tactical weapon, which generally plays an air defence role for assets like airfields. As such, it is possible that a unit of the Artillery Brigade of the 21st Group Army from Zhongning, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, undertook the exercise.
Towards the end of September 2011, a similar test was conducted of two “new” missiles in Horqin grasslands, Tongliao, Inner Mongolia by an Air Defence Brigade of the Shenyang MAC. External factors like climate and topography were somewhat similar if not identical to Tibet’s. Reports suggest that these are the first of the third generation indigenous air defence missiles. Earlier generation missiles active in the PLA inventory are S300PMU2 and Hongqi series.
The news report also indicates that Indian aircraft have been assumed as “enemy aircraft” in the war exercise since the only country lying south-east of this area is India. Besides, there is no other “threat” from this direction other than India, according to Chinese perception, for which China might test a missile for in Tibet. The long distance covered by the unit undertaking the exercise is also reminiscent of the PLA’s STRIDE-2009 exercises. The troops must have taken back valuable lessons on mobility, mountain warfare and new weapon systems. Therefore, it would be fair to surmise that the PLA would in the near future induct this new missile along with a suitable unit of the Second Artillery in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
Nonetheless, this exercise and missile test throws up larger questions relating to regional security, mutual threat perception and bilateral relations between China and India. Although such tactical exercises are routine, it again reveals the security dilemma existing between these two neighbours. Earlier, the PLA has already twice carried out large military exercises in Tibet during 2012, once in March and later in June. The message which such exercises convey to India, needless to say, is that of belligerence. Development and deployment of the new missile in Tibet would definitely figure in the acquisition and deployment of matching defence hardware on the Indian side. Frequent tactical exercises and conventional force accretion cannot be equated with strategic defensive capacity building of a nation. Further, the exercise comes at a time when there are already rumours of a likely border skirmish between China and India, initiated by China. Against such a backdrop, what would eventually happen is the further intensification of the perception of an armed conflict and the militarisation of the Himalayan region. It has recently become known that the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking rapidly. The people on either side are also known to be languishing far below the national income averages. Ergo, militarisation is the last thing which the Himalayas need at this point of time.
India and China have been striving long to forge a peaceful solution to the disputed Himalayan border. However, military moves like the latest Chinese test run counter to such efforts for peace as also for China’s own assertion of its “peaceful rise”. When there are questions arising in the neighbourhood about its peaceful intentions, China ought to start more cooperative efforts of peace and harmony in every area of dispute rather than test and deploy machines of war. When the governments of both China and India have repeatedly stated their resolve to solve all outstanding issues including the boundary dispute through peaceful negotiations, it is difficult to fathom the rationale for such a missile test. The test and its publicity may indeed act as a dampener for the diplomatic process and its successes and go against the spirit of earlier resolutions of peace. The possible consequences would also undermine China’s efforts for a harmonious neighbourhood. India has already had to devote substantial resources for ramping up its defences along the border with China due to the latter’s military developments and exercises. While there is visible improvement of interaction between the two countries’ top level leaders, their military diplomacy and confidence building measures and cooperation in multilateral fora, such military activities reveal that their relations would take long to acquire the quantum of critical trust to say farewell to arms.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Indian Missions in Tibet

Dekyi Lingka, the Indian Mission in Lhasa
The Indian media recently mentioned India's demand to reopen a Consulate General in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. 
For example, an article in The Business Standard affirms: "India and China are sparring over the opening of consulates in Lhasa in exchange for Chennai, in what amounts to a second round of diplomatic confrontation between Asia's largest powers, in the wake of their recent disagreement over an oil block in the South China Sea that is controlled by India, owned by Vietnam and counter-claimed by China."
Though the discussion over the opening of new consulates has, for the time being, remained within the confines of the Foreign ministries in Delhi and Beijing,it is an important topic for India, which always had and still has, 'interests' in Tibet.
One of these interests is trade.
Last week, the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies released a new report stressing the importance of increased economic engagement between India and China.
It argued that: "India should facilitate more border trade with China with better connectivity and more commerce opportunities including on the Natu La trading point in Sikkim."
The writers of the report strongly believe that India's attempt at facilitating economic exchanges with China will benefit all players in South Asia: "Moreover, intangible gains in terms of acquiring a substantial stature within the region will also be important for India."

The reopening of the Consulate in Lhasa should be seen in this context.
It is also interesting to quote from a note, written by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister when he visited Paro in Bhutan in September 1958.

The note was addressed to N.R. Pillai, Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth, Subimal Dutt, Foreign Secretary, M.J. Desai, Commonwealth Secretary, and B.N. Chakravarty, Special Secretary, MEA. A copy of this note was sent to Apa B. Pant, Political Officer in Sikkim and Bhutan, and J.S. Mehta, Deputy Secretary, MEA.
Some of Nehru's remarks, school teacher-like, may seem childish, but it nevertheless shows the importance of the Indian mission and the trade agencies in Tibet for the Prime Minister at the end of the 1950's

S. Sinha, head of the Indian Mission in the early 1950's

Indian Missions in Tibet 

During my brief stay at Yatung [Nehru stayed at Yatung ovenight on 18 September on his way to Bhutan], I met our representatives in Tibet that is, our Consul-General at Lhasa [S.L. Chibber] and our Trade Agents at Gyantse [R.S. Kapoor] and Yatung [K.C. Johorey].
At Yatung, I saw the land and buildings attached to our Trade Agency. In regard to the other two places, I was given some account of the position there.

2. We divide up our missions abroad on some basis of importance and according to the standard give amenities, etc. While this may be good enough as a general rule, it is obvious that some places require special attention. Thus, our mission in Tibet have to be considered quite apart from any other place in the world. I can hardly imagine a more dreary life, both climatically and to some extent politically, than has to be faced in Tibet. People have to live at an altitude of 10,000 to 12,500 ft or perhaps more. The winter is terribly severe and the long nights must be enough to try anyone's nerves. There is hardly any social intercourse or cultural activities.

3. The first thing to be sure about is that, in so far as possible, our representatives who are sent there are physically capable of supporting that altitude (I might mention that the present representatives did not complain to me about the altitude and apparently did not fare badly because of it). Twice at least in the past we have had trouble about our Ambassadors who were sent to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia because they had to live at an altitude of 9,000 ft. Tibet is generally much higher and the climate much more rigorous. Every person who is sent to these places must have his heart and blood-pressure examined carefully and only when he passes the test should he be sent there. On the whole, the term of a person's tenure there should not be too prolonged. I realise the difficulty of having short tenures because work in Tibet is of a very specialised kind and it may not be easy to find suitable men for it. If a person is healthy and does not suffer from the altitude or the climate, he may continue to remain there for a relatively longer period. But we should have reports about his health periodically. It should be remembered that this is not merely a question of health of the officer concerned but of his family also.

4. A certain minimum standard of comfort and conveniences should be provided. Comfort obviously includes proper residence, adequate heating and water supply and lighting. This is the barest minimum anywhere, but in these cold regions its importance is all the greater. The long cold nights require warm rooms and proper lighting for reading or other work or amusement. The water supply should include running hot water wherever possible.

5. I am suggesting the barest minimum for residential purposes. Without this life tends to become intolerable in these regions for any normal family with children. Another aspect of this is the provision of cultural facilities for all our staff and their families. These facilities include (1) radios; (2) films; (3) books and periodicals; (4) games.

6. I believe some kind of radios have been supplied through Shri Apa Pant to these places in Tibet. It is essential that properly functioning radios should be given to these missions. I should imagine that one radio is not enough. There should be one in our representative's house and one in some common room for the rest of the staff.

7. Films. These again are important, not only our documentaries which are much appreciated, but also feature films. Both these types of films are also very popular with the general population and are good publicity. Arrangements should be made for a regular and frequent supply of our documentaries. As for feature films also, more might be sent. The normal price charged by the film companies is based on some kind of competitive charges. This does not apply to Tibet at all and we ought to try to get some of these feature films at cheaper rates for Tibet especially. It would be good propaganda for them.

8. Books and periodicals. This again is very important for the long winter evenings for our people cut off from their homeland and living in an alien and sometimes even hostile atmosphere. We must build up good libraries there, principally in English and Hindi, and definitely set aside an adequate sum for this purpose. These libraries should also be available to the local residents should they require to use them. That is an important aspect, but I am thinking principally now of the members of our own missions and their families who should have not only a good basic library but new books sent to them from time to time.

9. I suggest that immediately a set of books worth about Rs 500/- each set should be sent to Lhasa, Gyantse and Yatung through our Gangtok Agency. This may form the base and should be added on annually. I am suggesting the figure of Rs 500/- as a minimum figure. I do not quite know how far that will help.

10. This Rs 500/- may be split up into Rs 300/- for English books and Rs 200/- for Hindi books. There are some very good cheap editions of English books appearing in Bombay and perhaps elsewhere too. Old Indian classics or their translations have been brought out and they cost from Re 1/- to Rs 2/ 8/- each. I suggest that full sets of these popular editions might be obtained. Once before I suggested that we should get these books to be sent to all our missions abroad. I do not know what was done about that. In any event, a full set should be obtained for these three missions in Tibet.

11. Another type of books which will of course be more expensive should be those relating to Tibet or problems of that area, travel books and others.

12. Among our books, children's books should always be included for the children of our people in the missions, both in English and in Hindi.

13. Dr Bachchan  should be asked to make a selection of the Hindi books to be sent to these three missions in Tibet.
I have suggested Rs 500/- as a beginning. It should by no means be thought that this is the ceiling.

14. Games. It is desirable to send some equipment for games, both indoor and outdoor. These are useful for the members of our missions and their families.
They are also very useful for other residents of the towns who I am told welcome them and take part in them.

15. At present, I am told, there are practically no suitable buildings for us in Lhasa and Gyantse. In Gyantse the terrible flood of two-three years ago destroyed our building and killed 60 or 70 of our people. Since then our Agent there has lived in a very unsuitable and uncomfortable hired place. I understand that there have been proposals for putting up some buildings and possibly also a dam to protect them in future from floods. As usual with such proposals, they take a mighty long time to materialise. We have to face two almost insuperable difficulties. One is on our side, the CPWD, etc. The other is on the Chinese side who even excel us in delaying matters.

16. In both Gyantse and Lhasa I understand that the land in our possession at present is both spacious and well-suited. In fact it is probably the best land in those towns. If we do not utilise it quickly, we might well find part of it slipping away from us. Therefore, early steps should be taken to finalise the buildings, etc., which have to be put up there. The plans for these buildings should be adequate and spacious, even though the en tire plan should not be given effect to immediately. We may build quickly the central part of it, leaving the rest for a future period as convenient. There is some importance in having good and solid buildings put up there. I do not attach much importance as a rule to prestige in such matters. Nevertheless, this aspect cannot be ignored in Tibet as things are.

17. This will require a competent engineer to be sent by us to these places, more especially for the proposed dam. Any such dam at Gyantse really should have been the business for the Chinese to put up. I have no idea of its extent or cost. I think that we should start at the house first and take a risk if necessary about the dam. After all the terrible accident that occurred at Gyantse was not the kind of thing which repeats itself perhaps in less than a century. It was due to a big lake in the mountains breaking its barriers and the water rushing down suddenly. So the dam may well be postponed for some time, though it must be kept in mind. The engineer could report on it.

18. So far as the dam is concerned, we must necessarily act according to the advice of the Chinese. Our first attempt should be to ask them to make it. If this does not succeed, even so we should take their advice and our engineer should work in close cooperation with the Chinese engineers.

19. I have mentioned books above. Current periodicals are essential. Our Publications Division sends some of its published literature to Gangtok from where it is distributed to our Tibetan missions. It seemed to me that a very poor supply was sent even of this output of the Publications Division which should be increased.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Panchen Lamas' Tibetanness

The Chinese Panchen Lama paid his annual visit to Tibet. During his stay in Lhasa, the young Lama brought the ‘spiritual touch’ to the Party’s propaganda regarding 'stability'.
He spoke about the promotion of social stability in Tibet: “If a person does not protect social stability, he is not fit to be called a man of religion."
He was obviously targeting the Dalai Lama.
Stating that the responsibility for a religious person is to help people to do good deeds, he added: “religious people should abide by the laws and religious code of conduct themselves." He further affirmed that he was “confident to let Tibetan Buddhism play a more active role in promoting social harmony and China's development.”
Interestingly, in an interview with The New York Times, the Dalai Lama recently spoke about the Chinese Panchen Lama in connection with the riots which occurred all-over the Tibetan plateau in 2008: “Of course Beijing wanted the boy to denounce the uprising. …But some of his friends have told me that he remains a Tibetan deep inside and preferred to remain silent. Beijing couldn’t use him.”
But the Party is visibly still fully using their Panchen Lama (while keeping the one selected by the Dalai Lama under house arrest); perhaps not as much as Beijing would like. Difficult to say.
In this connection, it is worth quoting from the letter (a 'poisonous arrow' according to Mao)  that the previous Panchen Lama (the Tenth) wrote to the Communist leadership in 1962.
Though couched in Communist jargon, it indicted the Party for its attitude and actions in Tibet between 1959 and 1962. Here is an extract: 
The First Problem: On Suppression of the Rebellion
The rebellion in Tibet [in 1959] was counter-revolutionary in nature, being against the Party, the motherland, the people, democracy and socialism. Its crimes were very grave. Thus, it was entirely [feichang] correct, essential, necessary and appropriate for the Party to adopt the policy of suppressing the rebellion. Moreover, the Party wisely and properly pointed out that to suppress the rebellion required continuous and concurrent implementation of the three policies of military attack, political winning-over and mobilisation of the masses, from start to finish. Of these, concerning the political winning-over of rebels, the first point was to carry out the policy of the "Four Don’ts" towards those rebels who came to surrender, making no distinction between the leaders and the masses. The second was to carry out a thorough investigation of the specific circumstances of each individual, making distinctions between cases and dealing with each case as generously as possible, and offering them a way out. The third point was to expose the clandestine plans and cunning schemes devised for rebellion of the reactionary factions at home and abroad, to declare the criminality of the rebellion, and to examine whether there were any mistakes and defects in our work which could be used by the rebels for spreading rumours. If there were they had to be resolutely corrected and improved, and we had to strictly ensure that such things were prevented from happening again in order to gradually eliminate, by means of facts, the suspicions and anxieties of the masses of the people of all social stratas who were fooled for a time by the reactionaries. There were no further points apart from these.
However, when these points were implemented:
(1) Those who put down their arms and surrendered, having realised and regretted taking the wrong road, were not dealt with completely in accordance with the "Four Don’ts" policy, and many people were fiercely struggled against, arrested and imprisoned, and met with severe attack.
(2) When dealing with captured rebels, cadres adopted vengeful, discriminatory, casual and careless methods. Because they did not investigate the circumstances of the rebels with sufficient thoroughness or depth, they had no way to make rational distinctions in their treatment. As set out above, the reactionary factions at home and abroad launched the rebellion in the name of their religion and nationality. Therefore, among the rebels, there were many good people who had been deceived by the reactionaries, and there were also some people who were forced into joining the rebels by armed threats and because of the ruling power of the upper strata reactionaries. Most of the former and many of the latter were labelled as rebels and dealt with as such; they were not treated leniently.
(3) As for exposing the clandestine plans and cunning schemes of the reactionaries at home and abroad and declaring the criminality of the rebellion, of course [benlai] it was done well. However, as the reactionaries principally used the slogan "in order to save religion and in the interests of the nationality" to deceive the people, it is obviously of extreme importance for us to safeguard religion and the interests of the nationality, and to ensure that they are not damaged in the slightest. I shall discuss below how this area was the source of worry for us and pleasure for our enemies. Due to this, the work of political winning-over was not done well enough, which caused the rebellion to be large scale, to involve many people, to last a long time, to be stubborn in its stance and to rebel to the end. This caused unnecessary difficulty in the suppression of the rebellion. 
You may think that it is rather mild, but the Panchen Lama was 'purged' for 14 years for having dared writing this.
Will the recent Dalai Lama's words about Gyaltsen Norbu, the candidate selected by Beijing prove prophetic?
Will the Chinese=selected Panchen Lama speak one for the Tibetans?
It may take some time, in the meantime, one can only hope that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the candidate selected by the Dalai Lama will soon be freed. Seventeen years in confinement is long for a kid.

Panchen Lama calls on monks to abide by law
LHASA, July 26 -- A spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism on Thursday visited the Tibet Buddhist Theological Institute and called on monks to love their country and abide by laws.
The 11th Panchen Lama arrived at the institute at around 9 a.m. He presented Hada [khata] to the statues of Buddha in the institute while saying prayers.
The institute, Tibet's only regional-level buddhist theological academy, is located in the township of Nyetang, Quxu County, which is administered by Lhasa.
Featuring a distinctive Tibetan architecture style, the institute opened in October 2011 and has 150 students including living Buddhas and monks from various Tibetan Buddhist sects.
After performing the head-touching ritual to bless the students, the Panchen Lama asked the students to promote Buddhism, abide by national laws and better serve the country and its people.

"I hope you can make good use of the sound learning conditions that the institute provides to learn the essence of Buddhism and safeguard our country and serve its people, so as to be the true Buddhists," the Panchen Lama said.
The Panchen Lama began this year's Lhasa visit on Monday. He visited Jokhang Temple -- the most revered monastery in "holy city" Lhasa -- on Tuesday, paying homage to statues of Buddhas and leading a prayer service.
In 1995, at the age of six, he was chosen as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Erdeni in Jokhang through the traditional method of drawing lots from a golden urn.

Friday, July 27, 2012

China’s top two obsessions — loyalty and Party

My article China’s top two obsessions — loyalty and Party appeared in the DNA yesterday.

In recent times, China has had two obsessions: stability and loyalty to the Party. China watchers know that when Beijing’s State machinery starts hammering a certain issue on the masses, it usually means that the leadership has a serious predicament.
Take the example of general Guo Boxiong, Politburo member and
vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC); he recently reiterated that the armed forces “must resolutely follow the Party’s command and remain absolutely loyal and reliable”...

To read click here...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Perspective on Tibet by Nehru

In this Note sent from Darjeeling on December 26, 1957 to the Foreign Secretary, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister speaks of his Tibet's policy [see, SWJN, Volume 40, Series II, (November 1- December 31, 1957), p 615].
Unfortunately, we do not have the note of Apa Pant, the Political Officer in Sikkim, then responsible for Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet which triggered Nehru's comments.
Apa Pant had visibly a more sympathetic approach towards the Tibetans than the Prime Minister. In particular, Pant considered Buddhism as practiced in Tibet as a high form of spirituality; it was not the case of Nehru. 
It is one of the reasons why Nehru did not want Apa Pant's views to be circulated. Nehru says: "I have no doubt that its factual part gives a correct representation of the present situation in Tibet. But the note goes much further than this and gives one the impression of the writer being so much impressed by certain facts as to lose perspective. The note thus ceases to be completely objective."
Pant ceases to be objective only because he admires what he has seen in Tibet.  
Nehru however admits that "Tibet is under the forcible occupation of Chinese armed forces and that a considerable majority of the Tibetans resent this."
The Prime Minister had a resigned attitude from the start, he writes: "I have no doubt that any Chinese Government, whether Communist or non-Communist, would have the same basic policy though it may adopt different means to carry it out. That indeed has been the historical policy of China towards Tibet."
It always surprises me that Nehru, a man who fought against the British and colonial powers everywhere in the world, accepts so readily the 'imperialist' attitude of the Chinese in Tibet as a fait accompli
Nehru makes then a rather surprising statement: "the very existence of national independent states may not continue. We live in a world where national boundaries become more and more anachronistic."
Well, 55 years later, borders still exist and India has still a serious border issue with China. 
The Prime Minister then speaks of the colonization of Tibet by migrants. In this case, he is absolutely right, over the years, Tibet has been invaded by 'seas of Han migrants'. He writes: "Communism apart, the tremendous pressure of Chinese population will inevitably bring large numbers of Chinese to these valleys".
But for Nehru, "Tibet is obviously completely out of date". 
For any independent observers, there was no doubt that reforms were needed and the young Dalai Lama was very much aware of it. Ironically, it is the Chinese who stopped him to undertake these reforms in the 1950's.
As often in his notes, Nehru was judgmental without really knowing the situation. He writes: "Shri Apa Pant appears to be enamoured of this 'traditional way of life', which is completely feudal under a garb of religion. If one thing is certain, it is this that this traditional way of life cannot continue, now that Tibet has come face to face with the modern world."
Did the Chinese represent the 'modern world'?
Probably, in Nehru's mind. 
Interestingly, Apa Pant seems to have foreseen the "enormous power resources being available from the Brahmaputra". Nehru dreams when he says: "This power could be made available not only to Tibet but to India."
The Political Officer in Sikkim seems to have pointed in his note "the pressures we [India] may have to feel or to resist on our frontiers in the future."
Here again, he is not followed by Nehru. It is however not clear what the Prime Minister means, when he says: "If these pressures come, other and new forces will also arise in India or in the rest of the world."
Fifty-years later, the pressures are today  stronger than ever.
One of Nehru's conclusions is: "The various factors referred to in the note are important. There appears to be, however, little thought given to the understanding of social forces or to the dynamic situation in the world today."
The problem was that the Prime Minister believed that the 'socialist world' brought by Mao Zedong was far superior to the  'feudal' society of the Roof of the World.
Nehru's views on defence were very well known. He applies them to Tibet when he says: "In Tibet there may well be fairly high development of individuals in some spiritual plane. Yet, these very individuals are driven to talk of armed resistance, etc., without knowing much about conditions in the world today. They cannot have it both ways. Spirituality by itself, if widely acknowledged, may well be a strong shield."
It was Tibet's right to defend its civilization, its culture and the Buddha Dharma, but Tibet needed support. 
Further, Nehru should have understood that it was in Delhi's interest to have a truly autonomous nation between India and China. Unfortunately, he missed the opportunity with the consequences visible to all today.

Note from the Prime Minister to the Foreign Secretary 
December 26, 1957
1- I have read Shri B.K. Acharya's  [Joint Secretary, MEA] summary as well as the full note of Shri Apa Pant.  The note is interesting not only because of what it tells about conditions in Tibet, but also because it gives us an insight into the mind of Shri Apa Pant and his broad approach to these problems.

2. I might say at the outset that I agree with the Foreign Secretary that this note should not be circulated. I do not think the full note should even be sent to our Ambassador in China. Many parts of this note are such that I should like extreme care to be taken that they do not reach unauthorized persons. Any circulation involves the risk of the wrong persons also seeing them. If that happens, it might well involve us in difficulties. Even authorized persons tend to talk about these matters rather loosely.

3. What might be done, if it is considered necessary, is to prepare a brief summary which can be sent to our Ambassador in Peking. For this purpose I do not think that Joint Secretary's summary is the kind of thing that I should circulate. In preparing such a summary only the broadest reactions of our Political Officer should be given in regard to the major developments in Tibet.

4. Shri Apa Pant's report is both important and interesting, and I have no doubt that its factual part gives a correct representation of the present situation in Tibet. But the note goes much further than this and gives one the impression of the writer being so much impressed by certain facts as to lose perspective. The note thus ceases to be completely objective.

5. There can be no doubt that Tibet is under the forcible occupation of Chinese armed forces and that a considerable majority of the Tibetans resent this. Also that the Chinese Government is anxious, as any suzerain power would be, to weaken this opposition and, insofar as possible, to gain the goodwill of the Tibetan people. But even if that goodwill is not gained, the Chinese control and occupation will continue. I have no doubt that any Chinese Government, whether Communist or non-Communist, would have the same basic policy though it may adopt different means to carry it out. That indeed has been the historical policy of China towards Tibet. It is only when China has been weak that it could not enforce it. It is also, I believe, true that Tibetans have never really reconciled themselves in the past to Chinese sovereignty or even suzerainty.

6. In the past, the problem had an entirely different aspect, because however powerful the Government in China, it could not really interfere in the internal affairs of Tibet. A Chinese army could come there and subdue the Tibetan authorities and compel them to recognize Chinese sovereignty. But, in the circumstances, there could not be any effective control from China. Now conditions are different.

7. The Chinese Government is proceeding warily in Tibet. It has even lessened its interference in internal affairs because of the difficulties they had had to face. This policy may continue for some time. But it is clear that the basic policy of China will be to absorb Tibet more and more and make it accept the major pattern, in political and economic matters, which is in line with China. Whether this can be successfully done or not I do not know.

8. I would hazard the guess, however, that it will be an exceedingly difficult task for China to bring about this process of absorption and acceptance. No one can say what will happen in twenty or thirty years time because conditions in the world are changing so rapidly that the problems of today will take an entirely different shape later. For ought I know, the very existence of national independent states may not continue. We live in a world where national boundaries become more and more anachronistic.

9. I think that it is becoming increasingly difficult for communism to be imposed on people against their will just as it is equally difficult for a colonial regime to be re-imposed. Tibet is perhaps one of the most inhospitable countries that exist in the world today from the point of view of an unwanted foreigner going there. This is due more to the terrain and the climate than anything else. I have been a little surprised to read in Shri Apa Pant's note that there are "innumerable fertile and well watered valleys in the vast areas of Tibet east and south-east of Lhasa which are almost empty of human habitation and which are excellently suited for settlement." If this is so, then I might have to change my opinion about the difficulties of colonization in Tibet. Communism apart, the tremendous pressure of Chinese population will inevitably bring large numbers of Chinese to these valleys, if they are so suitable for colonization. I say this just as I might say that in the long run large areas of Australia might be colonized. Under pressure of an increasing world population, empty spaces are not likely to remain empty or uninhabited for long.

10. Shri Apa Pant repeatedly refers to the Tibetans maintaining the purity of the message of the Buddha and their attachment to dharma. The average Buddhist outside Tibet will not accept the statement about Tibetan Buddhism or Lamaism being considered the essence of Buddhism. Religion apart, the social structure of Tibet is obviously completely out of date. It has managed to last so long because of its complete isolation from the rest of the world. That isolation cannot continue any longer. With the impact of other forces from the rest of the world, that social structure is bound to crumble. If Buddhism in Tibet is tied up with this out-of-date social structure, Buddhism also will suffer. This fact should be kept in mind regardless of Communism.

11. Reference is made in Shri Apa Pant's note to the absence of any real centralized authority in Tibet except in the vaguest sense. (I am not referring to Chinese authority.) Apparently, regional councils or elected headmen were practically independent except for acknowledging the overlordship of the Dalai Lama and paying him some tribute. It is pointed out by Shri Apa Pant that the fight there is not so much against the Chinese but against this new system of Government which he says would do away with the traditional way of life. Shri Apa Pant appears to be enamoured of this "traditional way of life", which is completely feudal under a garb of religion. If one thing is certain, it is this that this traditional way of life cannot continue, now that Tibet has come face to face with the modern world. This is not merely a question of modern amenities, but rather of the basic structure of the State. There is bound to be land reform. If the monasteries, who own vast estates, resist this land reform, they will fail in doing so ultimately, and the whole structure of Buddhism based on these monasteries will also suffer. If Tibet wants to keep the essence of Buddhism, it will have to give up these accretions which have nothing to do with religion and which are opposed to modern conditions, both capitalistic and communist.

12. Shri Apa Pant refers to the possibility of enormous power resources being available from the Brahmaputra. Our own experts gave us a note on this subject pointing out that nowhere in the world was there such a concentrated source of power as in the Brahmaputra at the place where it enters India. This power could be made available not only to Tibet but to India.

13. I must repeat that I do not understand what Shri Apa Pant means by saying that the Tibetan society has been built on the teachings of the doctrines of the Buddha. I do not think that society has any particular relation to Buddha's teachings.

14. Shri Apa Pant refers repeatedly to the pressures we may have to feel or to resist on our frontiers in the future. This may well be so. But on the whole, this seems to me rather a static and even out-of-date view of the forces that are at work in the world. If these pressures come, other and new forces will also arise in India or in the rest of the world.

15. It seems to me that Shri Apa Pant has been emotionally moved so powerfully that his broad judgement of the present and the future has been somewhat affected, even though his general conclusions are correct. The danger in Tibet arises more from the false steps that the Tibetans might take than from the deliberate policy of the Chinese Government. Shri Apa Pant has himself hinted at this fact. While it is clear that the Tibetans are intensely averse to Chinese dominance, their ideas about any steps which they might take to end this are extraordinarily confused and immature. Foolish steps taken might well injure them greatly. We are naturally very friendly to the Tibetans and we are going to continue to be so. But we cannot allow ourselves to be dragged into wrong courses, wrong both from our point of view and that of Tibet. We should take every opportunity of maintaining and developing our cultural and like contacts with Tibet. But, at the same time, we should take care not to be pushed into some wrong activity because of our sympathy for the Tibetans, or under their pressure.

16. Shri Apa Pant's report is full of exclamatory marks. Presumably these denote a state of continuous surprise and wonder at what he saw or came across. This approach rather comes in the way of the balanced consideration of events. Also there is a good deal of repetition in his note. This note could have been improved if it was made more concise. The various factors referred to in the note are important. There appears to be, however, little thought given to the understanding of social forces or to the dynamic situation in the world today. These social forces, emerging out of the progress of science, technology, communications, etc., dominate the world, and Capitalism and Communism as well as intermediate forms of political or economic structures, are ultimately progressively more and more governed by them. There is no particular reason why the ethical and moral side, as represented by religion, should come in conflict with these social urges or forces. But if religion becomes too closely associated with static social conditions and vested interests, then its moral and ethical value lessens greatly and there may be a direct conflict with those social forces.

17. In Tibet there may well be fairly high development of individuals in some spiritual plane. Yet, these very individuals are driven to talk of armed resistance, etc., without knowing much about conditions in the world today. They cannot have it both ways. Spirituality by itself, if widely acknowledged, may well be a strong shield. Combined with primitive weapons, it ceases to be spiritual or effective.

18. The reference in Shri Apa Pant's note to weapons and hand-grenades being smuggled into Tibet, presumably from Nepal, deserves further enquiry.

19. As I am seeing Shri Apa Pant in another two days in Gangtok, I am giving him a copy of this note.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

French connection or a Greek tragedy?

My article French connection or a Greek tragedy? was published in The Pioneer on July 19.

Hit by an economic slowdown, India has to choose between tough decisions to mend the situation or simply dawdle in misplaced hope and worsen the crisis. Europe provides a lesson for our policy-makers.

The refrain is, ‘Ça va mal’ (it’s bad). This is something that you can often hear in France these days.
Even the serious New York Times admitted: “In France, austerity reaches Government cars and wine”, signs for the ‘common Frenchman’ that the situation is not rosy.
No more glamorous ‘bling-bling’ in the Elysée Palace, like in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s days!
Pointing to the hungry crowds of aam aadmis, the last Queen of France Marie Antoinette would have said: “Give them brioche, if they don’t have bread”. Did she really say it? The slogan nevertheless remains the hallmark of the Ancient Regime.
Today, the ‘new regime’ of President François Hollande has decided to impose a ‘sober’ regime to give bread to all.
It is even rumoured that Champagne, the sacrosanct beverage to celebrate important Republican occasions, will be replaced by Muscadet, a white French wine produced in the Pays de Loire region. C’est la vie!
The Hollande presidency will certainly lack Sarkozy’s glamour.
It started when Mr Hollande left his Paris residence for the swearing-in ceremony at the Elysée Palace. Instead of a long convoy with tens of luxurious cars, blaring sirens and a motorcade opening the road, Mr Hollande had a mini convoy which stopped at the red lights in Paris.
The cartoonists loved the story; the next day Mr Hollande was shown on cartoons arriving at his new residence, driving a ‘deux-cheveaux’, the emblematic 1950’s Citroen ‘car of the people’.
This made me dream: When the Indian Prime Minister recently visited Puducherry (where I live), the traffic was blocked for  nearly two days, creating an incredible nuisance to the general public. But our leaders in India are not bothered about these ‘details’.
Today in France, thanks to the economic crisis, Ministers of State no longer have bodyguards, even the staff in charge of the President’s security has been reduced by a third.
Another sign of the ‘bad’ times: Mr Hollande used the Thalis, the fast train between Paris and Brussels, to attend a meeting of the European Union’s Heads of State. His Ministers are also strongly advised to use the train, whenever it is possible. The well-equipped presidential jet (at one time nick-named, Sarko One, in comparison to the Air Force One), will now often remain parked on the tarmac of an Air Force base near Paris.
The President has also stopped using the fancy Presidential Citroen C6; he drives in a far cheaper Citroen DS5 diesel hybrid. He has even reduced the number of his official drivers from three to two.
Cecile Duflot, the Minister for Environment, has ordered four ‘official’ bicycles for her and her staff. It is difficult to imagine the  Indian Union Minister for Environment and Forests moving around on an electric bike in Delhi. One can always argue that the roads are more dangerous in India. It is true.
On June 28, the French Prime Minister’s Office published a communique on the ‘budget framework’: The Government staff will have to be reduced by 2.5 per cent per year from 2013 to 2015. Only four priority Ministries are exempted (education, police, justice and paramilitary forces).
In 2013, general expenses of the ministries (staff quarters, vehicles, equipment etc) will be reduced by seven per cent in comparison to the 2012’s budget, then four per cent in 2014 and 2015. It practically means a cut of 19 billons Euros for 2012.
The French will obviously grumble confronted with such a tough situation. In any case, most surveys rate the descendants of the Gaulish tribes as the greatest grumblers in the world. The situation is however quite alarming.
In India, some will say, it is their Karma; the colonisers pay today for exploiting Africa or Asia in the past. The messy economic situation in India is also blamed on the present predicament in Europe; even the Indian Prime Minister recently declared: “The world is passing through troubled times. The financial and economic crisis that has gripped Europe in recent years has many important lessons and implications for us.”
When he attended the G-20 in Mexico, Mr Manmohan Singh linked the downfall of the rupees and India’s economic slowdown to the difficulties in Europe.
This is wrong. Europe is in the sluggishness mostly due to mismanaged fiscal policies, simply spending more than it earned. Is India doing differently?
Pierre Sellal, the French Foreign Secretary (Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) paid a discreet visit to Delhi at the time of the G-20 meet.
In a speech organised by the ORF Foundation, he explained: “All in all, despite the scale of the challenges it was facing, the eurozone was able to take the required decisions on fiscal discipline to address the difficulties experienced by some of its members and to avert contagion and a negative impact on world growth.”
Take another example. Mr Hollande has cut the salaries of his Ministers by 30 per cent; including his own (from $26,000 to $18,000 per month). It might be laughable, but it is a mathematical certitude that the present ‘crisis’ can only be solved by a better fiscal discipline; whether it is in Europe, in America or India.
Laurence Parisot, the boss of the MEDEF, the main French federation of industries however fears ‘a programmed strangulation’. It is a difficult dilemma.
India has not yet faced these thorny questions, though Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services recently downgraded India to a poor ‘BBB’. A report titled “Will India Be the First BRIC Fallen Angel?” was dismissed by the then Finance Minister.
According to Standard & Poor’s, India could lose its ‘investment grade’ status because of a “divided leadership at the Centre unable to usher economic reforms to spur growth and boost investments”. The agency added that the Prime Minister often appears “to have limited ability to influence his Cabinet colleagues and proceed with liberalisation policies”.
Whether the new Finance Minister is able to unleash ‘animal spirits’ is to be seen. The fact, however, remains that India will have to do some efforts to rein in its fiscal deficit. It is of course difficult to conceive today a 30 per cent cut in the MPs’ and MLAs’ salaries as it has been done in France (although surveys show that amongst 2,322 out of 4,835 MPs/MLAs, 48 per cent are crorepatis), Government wastage could certainly be looked into (and will be have to be looked into).
This means that the ‘Centre’s allocations’ to unruly and greedy regional satraps will have eventually to be reduced.
In the years to come, no country, no region will escape a better management of the ‘collective’ assets of the nation or region.
It is better to start early than late in the day, like Greece.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Propaganda at the Indian Borders

A few days ago, I mentioned  Li Changchun on this blog.
Li is no. 5 in the Standing Committee of the Politburo of CCP. He is in charge of the Propaganda. One of his objectives is to 're-popularize Chinese-style Marxism'. As Chairman of the CPC Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilization, Li is also de facto responsible for the Party's image and media relations.
The functions of the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party under the responsibility of Li Changchun are:
  1. directing the propaganda about Marxism;
  2. guiding the public opinion;
  3. directing the production of culture products;
  4. planning overall ideological and political work;
  5. managing leadership personnel in the propaganda area;
  6. creating propaganda policies and coordinating propaganda organizations;
  7. providing public opinion intelligence to Party leadership;
  8. leading cultural system reform, including the publication and broadcasting industries.  
In other words, the censure of whatever is not in line with the Party's 'Marxist' ideology.
Li Changchun is the second member of the all-powerful Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CCP to visit Tibet in one year (Vice President Xi Jinping visited in July last year).
Xinhua reported: "A senior official of the Communist Party of China has stressed ethnic unity and cultural development in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, as well as building an 'ideological basis' for anti-secession and stability maintenance".
These days China has two obsessions: stability and loyalty to the Party.
To give an example, General Guo Boxiong, Politburo member and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, recently stated that the armed forces “must resolutely follow the Party’s command and remain absolutely loyal and reliable.” 
He made these remarks at the University of National Defense, urging to the University's authorities to increase the ideological education as the Party should keep the absolute leadership on the armed forces. 
The senior general said that this will “ensure that the armed forces, ideologically, politically, and in action maintain consistency with the Central Military Commission and resolutely follow the command of the Party Central Committee, the Central Military Commission, and Chairman Hu.” He also spoke of stability.
The fact that the leadership stresses so much on these two issues, tends to  prove that the Party is facing a serious problem here.
Li Changchun near the Indian border
Li's five-day visit to Tibet should be seen in this perspective.
While visiting the Potala Palace (was he told that it is the residence of the Dalai Lamas?), Li spoke of the importance of "safeguarding national unification and ethnic unity".
Again, when he went to the Jokhang Cathedral, Li encouraged the monks to be patriotic and devout and make contributions 'to ethnic unity and the ethnic cultural development'.

Patriotic has perhaps another meaning for the Tibetan monks who are still longing of the return of the Dalai Lama.
Li said that "Ethnic unity, social harmony and stability is the lifeline for Tibet", as the result the "ethnic unity education and the anti-separatism battle should be deepened".

This is ominous.
As China's Propaganda Boss, he had to see the headquarters of the
Tibet Daily, the local mouthpiece of the Party. He asked the staff to "introduce a real and changing Tibet to the whole world."
Well, that it not easy, when Tibet is still close to foreign tourists.
If Tibet is 'changing' for the best, why not open to all to see these changes?
But perhaps, more importantly for India, Li Changchun was the second member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo to visit 'Southern Tibet' and particularly Nyingchi (Tibetan: Nyingtri) Prefecture, north  of the McMahon Line. He had a 'talk' with local villagers in Lunang town (known as the  Switzerland of Tibet), near the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) gorges.
During his last-year visit to the same area,  Vice-President Xi Jinping had described Tibet “as an important national security screen for the country”.
Two members of the Standing Committee visiting the border areas in one year! It is a premiere. India should carefully watch.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Democracy comes to China ...by sea

A runway of 2700 meters for tourists or the military?
The Chinese media recently reported about 'a tiny Chinese prefecture coming out of the water' (in South China Sea).
On July 17, probably in response to Vietnam's advances in the area, China officially created a new prefecture, responsible for administering 'its' territories in the South China Sea.

The prefecture is called: Sansha, 'san' meaning three and 'sha' is an abbreviation for the three groups of islands in the area, Xisha (Paracel Islands), Zhongsha and Nansha (Spratly Islands). 
The new administrative center is located on the island of Yongxing (also known as Woody Island), the largest of the Paracel Islands, occupied from 1932 by the French and then by the Japanese, and finally by the Chinese. It is also claimed by Vietnam as part of its territory.
The particularity of the new town: it has an area smaller than a Chinese university campus (2.13 km2) and a population of 444 inhabitants (in 2010).
It will however admister the largest and most southerly area of the People's Republic of China.
Residents of Sansha are mostly military and government officials. 

According to Xinhua, Beijing has set up an organizing committee to create a legislative body for Sansha.
The committee was set up by the Standing Committee of the Hainan Provincial People's Congress in Haikou, capital of China's southernmost island province. Xinhua says that the Committee will organize the elections for the first municipal congress which will have 60 'directly elected' delegates.
Can you believe it!
It is the State Council, China's cabinet, which approved the establishment of Sansha to "improve China's management of the region and help coordinate efforts to develop the islands and protect the marine environment".

Wu Shicun, the Director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies told the Chinese news agency that the fishermen, the oil-gas, and tourism resources in the South China Sea would thus be better protected.
Beijing would like Sansha to administer some 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs of the
Paracel, Zhongsha and Spratly Islands, covering 13 km2 in island area and 2 million km2 of water.

But there is another story.
Xinhua also reported that China's central military authority has approved to form and deploy a military garrison in the newly established city of Sansha.
It affirmed: "Sources with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Guangzhou Military Command said that the Central Military Commission (CMC) had authorized it to form a garrison command in the city."
It added: "The garrison command will be a division-level command under the PLA's Hainan provincial sub-command, responsible for managing the city's national defense mobilization, military reserves and carrying out military operations. The PLA's Sansha Garrison Command will be under the dual leadership of the Hainan provincial sub-command and the city's civilian leaders."
Does it mean that the PLA in Sansha will be under an 'elected' government?
It would be a first in China.
Why not to replicate the experiment in the Tibetan autonomous prefectures?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stabilizing the borders

Xinhua reported today that Zhou Yongkang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) addressed a national conference in Beijing on the theme of maintaining social stability .
Zhou Yongkang called for more concrete methods to ensure social stability before the upcoming 18th National Congress of the CPC.
He said that maintaining stability was "the highest priority for the Party and government organizations at all levels" and he urged the government "to coordinate the domestic and international situations". 

He mentioned the conflict-prone areas: "Campaigns against separatism and terrorism should be deepened and any sabotage attempts by domestic and overseas groups must be dealt with in accordance with laws and regulations so as to ensure the stability in key regions such as Beijing, Xinjiang and Tibet."
Radio Free Asia (RFA) had also reported about the 'stability drive' ahead of the Party Congress at the end of the year in China. RFA says:
China announced in March a rise of 11.5 percent in its domestic security budget to 701 billion yuan (U.S. $111 billion), with premier Wen Jiabao pledging a full modernization and expansion of the country's main riot-quelling force, the People's Armed Police.  Official documents leaked to the Chinese media have revealed that officials are typically ordered to step up intelligence activities among the local population and to focus in particular on "hostile foreign forces" who might try to collaborate with local activists to organize "subversive" gatherings during major events. 
But more interesting is the 'stabilization' of the Middle Kingdom's border areas.
For the purpose, the railway to Lhasa (and soon Shigatse) will be extended in three directions to the Indian borders: one line to Chumbi Valley, close to Sikkim; one line to Nyingtri (Chinese Nyingchi), north of Arunachal Pradesh and finally a line towards Xinjiang through the disputed Aksai Chin. 
It will be one way for China to reassert Beijing's claim on the high plateau of J&K State; it also be a link between the conflict-prone Tibet and Xinjiang  provinces.
A long way since, the PLA started building its first road in Tibet.
Xinhua News Agency reported on 29 November 1954: “The two large armies of road builders from the eastern and western section of the Sikang-Tibet Highway joined hands on November 27. Sikang-Tibet Highway from Ya-an [capital of the now defunct province of Sikang] to Lhasa is now basically completed.” 
The communiqué further mentions that “gang builders and workers, including about 20,000 Tibetans, covered over 31,000 li on foot in the summer of 1953 and began construction of the 328 km of highway eastwards from Lhasa.”
Three weeks later, another report stated: “The Tsinghai-Tibet Highway is now open to traffic. The first vehicles reached Lhasa on the afternoon of December 15. Over 2000 km long, the highway passes through Mongol, Tibetan, Hui and Khazak brother nationality districts, traverses 15 large mountains… crosses 25 rivers, grasslands and basins at an average elevation of over 4,000 meters above sea level.”

The objective was already to 'stabilize the borders'.

China reaches at India’s doorsteps with strategic rails
Source: http://www.defence.pk/forums/
Even as Indian defence mandarins are tethering to give a go ahead to the construction of strategic railway lines at the Sino-Indian border, the dragon is working at a feverish pitch to get railway lines passing through Aksai Chin and lending right at India’s doorsteps.
When the Indian government is deliberating on the idea of who will finance the construction of 14 strategic railway lines in the inhospitable and inaccessible regions of Ladakh and North-eastern, China has started work on extending its railway line from Lhasa – the capital city of Tibet – to cities near the Sino-Indian border at a huge economic cost. Slicing through the geographical barriers, the railway line will cut the time taken for Chinese troop mobilization by half.
As per the intelligence gathered by the Indian armed forces the two lines connecting Lhasa to Yatung (a major trading town just about 30 kms from Sino-Indian border) and to Linzhi (about 70-80 kms from the border) will be complete by 2017. Yatung is situated at the mouth of the Chumbi valley and is connected to the Indian state of Sikkim via the Nathula pass.
“Work on two other proposed railway lines from Lhasa to Khasa near Nepal border and Kashghar in Aksai Chin will begin soon,” sources told The Sunday Standard. According to expert, this development will further tilt the strategic advantage in China’s favour as it gets cozy with the communist government of the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal and strengthen its foothold in Aksai Chin, a territory claimed by India as its own. The rail link to Khasa is likely to be aligned with the Friendship Highway from Shigatse to Khasa, and further till Kathmandu.
On the Indian side, the Finance Ministry is struggling to shell out Rs. 80,000 crore to construct six high priority strategic lines bordering China.
Coupled with this, China has been sprucing its Western, Eastern and Central highways. The 1900 km long Western Highway goes from Lhasa to Aksai Chin after running parallel to Nepal Border. The Central Highway from Golmud to Lhasa and the Eastern Highway from Kunming to Lhasa is also being upgraded to make the mobilization faster.
“The completion of rail and road networks will help Chinese in using a combination of air-road and rail network to transport troops and material from the interiors to the border areas at a faster pace, raising concerns for India,” sources added.
While the red tape is stalling the growth of infrastructure on Indian side, the Army has taken possible measures to counter the strategic leverage gained by China. “For us mobilizing troops at a faster pace will be difficult owing to the sloppy infrastructure. Keeping this in view we are bolstering our presence in the forward areas by taking our men towards the border,” said Indian Army officials.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stability overrides all

A report on Tibet of the Human Right Watch speaks of 'The Four Stabilities' for Tibet. It is apparently a brainchild of President Hu Jintao. 
In order to 'keep a tight hand on the struggle against separatism', the new motto is 'stability overrides all' (wending yadao yiqie).
It practically means:
  • monitoring the overall coverage of internet management in towns and in the rural areas
  • strengthening the management of news media
  • firmly striking against the criminal activity of creating and spreading rumors by using internet and mobile phone text messaging
  • Strict guidelines for foreign visitors.
Already in March, Jia Qinglin, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee mentioned stability as the first objective of the Party in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas: "We should consider both internal and external situations and firmly follow the gist of 'making progress while maintaining stability,' striving for a steady economic growth in Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces," Jia said.
He added: "Currently, the clique of the Dalai Lama are trying in vain to continuously create incidents in Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces, ...Authorities should implement the prescribed measures well to resolutely crush the Dalai Lama clique's conspiracy of making Tibetan-inhabited areas unstable, thus making the masses able to live and work there comfortably."

In the meantime new guidelines for foreigners wanting to visit Tibet have been issued:
1) All groups entering Tibet through Nepal can get Tibet travel permits, as long as the groups has 5 or more people
2) Travel to Tibet from mainland China: If a group contains 5 or more people the travel agency can apply for an invitation from the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa, then send a copy to the group members by email. After receiving the letter then a group visa can be obtained from the Chinese Embassy. In this way a group can enter Tibet through mainland China, but they must enter and exit China together, and all members of the group must be listed on the group visa. Individual travel is prohibited.
A website Explore Tibet
recently published this information.
The Tibet Travel Permit or Tibet visa is to be obtained from the Tibet Tourism Bureau; all travelers should deal with local registered agencies in advance to get the permit, as there are several different types of permit depending on where in Tibet the traveler plans to go. 
To apply for the permit, travelers should submit their valid passports and a copy of their China visa to an authorized travel agency. 
For travel to a restricted region such as Mt. Kailash, the permit must be applied for at least 20 days in advance. For travel to open areas like Lhasa and Mt. Everest, the permit should be applied for at least 10 days in advance.
The Chinese leadership seems today to live in fear, inventing everyday new restrictions, which in turn create more resentment amongst the Tibetan populations as well exacerbating the sense of identity of the Tibetans vis-a-vis the Hans. It is a loose-loose solution.

How long can Beijing seal off the Roof of the World from the rest of the planet? 
Historically, this type of restrictions have never lasted very long.

I forget to mention that 'Truth' has vanished from the Chinese internet. Bloggers recently discovered that the word had been blocked on the country's leading social media website.
Online messages began circulating claiming that the Chinese characters for 'Truth' could not be searched for on
micro-blog Sina Weibo, used by 300 million users. 
If you type 'Truth', you get the following message: "According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results for 'Truth' cannot be displayed."
In India, we still believe that 'Truth will prevail'.

China: Attempts to Seal Off Tibet from Outside Information
Escalating Restrictions on Media and Travel in Tibetan Areas
July 13, 2012
(New York) – Restrictions on news, media, and communications in Tibet have been stepped up by Chinese authorities in the lead-up to the 18th Party Congress, due to take place in late 2012.
The measures appear to be an effort to cut off Tibetans in China from news not subjected to the government’s domestic monopoly on information.
They are presented officially as an attempt to prevent the views of the exiled Dalai Lama and his followers from reaching Tibetans inside China, particularly those living in rural areas.
The new restrictions, described in the official Renmin Wang media outlet on May 31, 2012, as key to maintaining stability and national security, aim to “ensure the absolute security of Tibet’s ideological and cultural realm,” according to Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Party Secretary Chen Quanguo in a June 27 interview. The measures involve significantly increased controls, particularly in the TAR, on internet use, text messages, phone ownership, music publishing, and photocopying, as well as intensified government propaganda through new TV channels, village education sessions, film showings, distribution of books, and the provision of satellite television receivers with fixed reception to government channels. As a result, Tibetans have virtually no access to independent news, are being subject to intensifying political education and propaganda in villages, schools, and monasteries, and face increasing limitations on travel into the TAR from other provinces.
“Under the guise of combating ‘separatism’ the Chinese government is blatantly violating Tibetans’ rights to the freedom of expression, religion, culture, and movement,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “The authorities have a responsibility to uphold public order, but that cannot be used as a blanket justification for the kinds of measures to limit communications that the Chinese authorities are imposing in Tibet.”
According to a Xizang Ribao Online article on November 18, 2011, the measures follow an instruction by Party Secretary Chen to “promote full coverage by radio, television, publications, and networks to…enable the voice of the Party and government to cover the whole of this vast territory” of the TAR and to exert strict control over the media “to effectively purify the public opinion environment … and strike hard at separatist elements entering Tibet to carry out reactionary propaganda.”
In June 2012, Chen urged officials to “make sure that the Central Party’s voices and images can be heard across 120 thousand square kilometers,” and that “no voices and images of enemy forces and Dalai clique can be heard and seen.”
The scope of the new restrictions reflect a sharp change in official views about Tibetan unrest, which officials previously stated was caused by “a small number” or “a handful” of Tibetans, mostly monks and nuns plus a few urban laypeople, who were considered to have been influenced by the Dalai Lama or by exile groups. But following protests across the Tibetan plateau in 2008, leaders there have now acknowledged, at least in the domestic press, that the influence of the Dalai Lama is widespread among Tibetans, including in rural areas, where some 85 percent of Tibetans live.
These new measures are part of a Tibet-specific policy called “the Four Stabilities” that was announced by China’s leader Hu Jintao in an internal speech in early March 2012. They are being carried out in the name of the slogan “stability overrides all” (wending yadao yiqie) in order to “keep a tight hand on the struggle against separatism.” The goals include achieving “the overall coverage of internet management in towns and in the rural areas” (Xizang Ribao, March 19, 2012) and “strengthening the management of new media” (Xizang Ribao, March 18, 2012). On May 30, 2012, Hao Peng, a deputy party secretary of the TAR, told officials that, because of “the Dalai clique’s sabotage activity,” they must “strengthen the work of guiding the media,” “strengthen the supervision and management of new media such as the Internet,” and “firmly strike against the criminal activity of creating and spreading rumors by using internet and mobile phone text messaging” (Xizang Ribao, May 31, 2012).
Controls on travel from inland provinces into the TAR have also been tightened significantly since March 2012, with new limitations on travel into the TAR by monks, nuns, and lay Tibetans from outside the TAR. Additional restrictions on travel by foreigners to the TAR were introduced in May 2012 and again in early June.
These restrictions on movement into the TAR by Tibetans from outside the region appear to be designed to prevent protests taking place in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, particularly following the almost 40 self-immolations that have occurred in the Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan provinces since March 2011. These protests appear to have been in response to increasing limits on basic freedoms, increasingly punitive security measures, and other concerns.
Since two Tibetans from Sichuan and Gansu set themselves on fire in Lhasa on May 27, 2012, Tibetans from those provinces or from Qinghai who do not have permanent residence in Lhasa, including many with valid business permits and valid temporary registration permits, are reported to have been forced to leave the TAR.
In 2009, United Nations High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay urged that Chinese authorities “reflect on the underlying causes” of disturbances in the TAR and surrounding areas, “which include discrimination and the failure to protect minority rights.”
“The Chinese government refuses to even acknowledge the serious grievances of Tibetans,” said Richardson. “Trying to seal the region off will only lead to further frustration and greater international concern.”

Read more at: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/07/13/china-attempts-seal-tibet-outside-information

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Will China attack India again in 2012?

Quoting a note from India's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Indian weekly, India Today affirms that "there was a possibility of a skirmish or an incident triggered by China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). ...Beijing was contemplating such an action to divert attention from its own domestic trouble."
While not going into the details of the RAW's analysis, such action could only be achieved after a military coup in China. Today, it is clear that the Big Nines (the Standing Committee member of the CCP's Politburo) are not in position to reach a consensus on an issue which may have the gravest consequences  for the Indo-China relations and this for the next fifty years
Analysts have spoken about a Kargil-type operation, but can a new 'Chinese Kargil' remains 'Kargil' only'? 
A military coup is however always possible.
A few moths ago, I cited a rumor circulating in China, reported on the Foreign Policy's blog.
Armed chaos in Beijing.
Rumor: Yesterday saw gun-battles in Beijing, the airport has been sealed, and martial law had been imposed on the Avenue of Eternal Peace (the street perpendicular to Tiananmen Square and that runs alongside many important government buildings).
Really? There appears to be something strange afoot in Beijing, but fears of a return to June 4, 1989 -- when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and the capital fell under martial law, a response both to a student protest movement and disagreements among members of the Politburo Standing Committee -- seem outlandish.
Source: Chinese articles published on overseas websites, trying to explain and debunk the current rumors floating around the Internet. Mostly they're just adding to them. As Foreign Policy's Christina Larson pointed out, this is when a Chinese Peter Jennings would be useful.
Likelihood: It's possible there was sporadic gunfire in Beijing -- though it's a city where guns are heavily restricted. But sealing the world's second-busiest airport and imposing martial law on a major thoroughfare in a city filled with millions of bloggers, hundreds of foreign journalists, and thousands of international observers without any credible source reporting this seems, well, impossible.
Though the Foreign Policy's blog dismissed the possibility, it has since then been confirmed that 'something' happened in March in Beijing. 
It was linked with the power struggle between Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing's Party Chief and Zhou Yongkang, the powerful security boss of China on one side and the rest of the Standing Committee of the Politburo on the other side. The Epoch Times, the mouthpiece of the Falun Gong group reported:
Over the night of March 19 and early morning of March 20, Bejing local time, a message about a large number of military police showing up in Beijing spread widely across microblogs in mainland China.
The key figures in the action are said to be: Hu Jintao, the head of the CCP; Wen Jiabao, the premier; Zhou Yongkang, who has control of the People’s Republic of China’s police forces; and Bo Xilai, who was dismissed from his post as head of the Chongqing City Communist Party on March 15 by Wen Jiabao, after a scandal involving Bo’s former police chief. 
Li Delin, who is on the editorial board of Securities Market Weekly and lives in Dongcheng District of Beijing, wrote on his microblog a report that confirmed unusual troop movements: “There are numerous army vehicles, Changan Street is continuously being controlled. There are many plainclothes police in every intersection, and some intersections even had steel fences set up.”
According to the message that went viral on China’s Internet, a military force with unknown designation quickly occupied many important places in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound in Beijing, and Beijing in the early morning of March 20, with the cooperation of Beijing armed police.
The troops entered Beijing to “get and protect Bo Xilai,” according to the message.
I also mentioned on this blog an article of the South China Morning Post saying that Bo Xilai was in close relation with the 14th Group Army based in Kunming, Yunnan Province (part of the Chengdu Military Region). The Group is responsible of the Tibetan 'stability' and the border with India.
It is said that early February,  Bo Xilai paid a visit to Kunming to inaugurate an exhibition organized by the 14th Group Army, founded by his father Marshall Bo Yibo. It was Bo Xilai's 8th visit to Yunnan and the 14th Group Army. There are different definitions of a Group Army, but it usually corresponds to a Corps. The People’s Liberation Army has 18 regular 'Group Armies'.
Two to 3 group armies are assigned to each of the PLA’s seven military regions. 
With the arrest of Bo Xilai and sidelining of Zhou Yongkang, India may have escaped an attack against her territory. 
The India Today's article does not mention the fact that President Hu Jintao may retain his job as Chairman of the Central Military Commission for one of two years more. In his eyes, this could avoid the 'chaos' of a too quick change of guard.
In the present circumstances, either the People's Liberation Army takes over China, or the 'Beijing consensus' will continue; in which case, the risk on an attack on India remains minimal.
It is however true, that Beijing has overdeveloped the border areas, mainly the Nyingtri (Chinese: Nyingchi) Prefecture bordering Arunachal Pradesh (by the way, Nyingtri and Tsona Dzong belong to the Chengdu Military region, while Western Tibet, bordering Ladakh is administrated by Lanzhou Military Region).
There is no doubt that if there is a threat, it will come from the East. 
Ziminthang and Sumdorong Chu valley, north of Tawang could, like in 1962 bear the brunt of a Chinese attack.
But the question is, is it worth for Beijing 'civilian' rulers to open a front with India which would certainly retaliate an asymmetric manner (for example by recognizing officially the Tibetan Government in exile or targeting Bayi, the PLA's headquarters, north of the McMahon Line).
In the meantime, the leadership in Beijing is busy fighting for the control of the Middle Kingdom; they do not seem to have time for India.
It is good for them.
And presuming that Beijing believes that India has a non-performing government, it could the ideal occasion for Delhi to prove that it can sometimes perform, when required.

Threat of Sino-Indian battle looms large ahead of 50th anniv of 1962 war
India Today
Saurabh Shukla
New Delhi, July 10, 2012
A RAW report cites an increase in Chinese activity along the border with India.While Beijing spars verbally with New Delhi on a regular basis over Arunachal Pradesh and, more recently, displayed belligerence on the issue of oil hunting in South China Sea, the Communist neighbour could now be spoiling for an actual fight.
The threat of a Sino-Indian skirmish that may push the two Asian giants to the brink of war is so real that it has set the alarm bells ringing in the top echelons of the Union government. And, uncannily, the warning about the gathering war clouds comes just a few months before the 50th anniversary of the real war that had broken out between the countries when China launched simultaneous offensives in Ladakh and across the McMahon Line on October 20, 1962.
Last week, India's external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) informed the government in a secret note accessed by Headlines Today that there was a possibility of a skirmish or an incident triggered by China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Beijing, the input stated, was contemplating such an action to divert attention from its own domestic trouble.
The assessment, shared with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior national security officials and the brass of the armed forces, is now being discussed at the highest levels of the government and has raised concern.
The RAW note substantiated its claim by pointing to increased Chinese activity along the LAC. For the first time, China had stationed fighter aircraft in the Gongga airfield in the Tibet Autonomous Region throughout the winter months. It also activated new surveillance and tracking radars in the Lanzhou Military Region bordering India as well as in Tsona to monitor Indian activity, the RAW said.
According to the agency, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a large-scale India specific exercise in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Plateau Region on June 14.
The threat assessment was made against the backdrop of these developments, coupled with the perceived threat to China's domestic stability owing to internal political developments, economic problems and social issues in the run-up to the 18th party congress, which would determine a power transfer in March next year.
Ahead of this event, a tectonic shift will be witnessed in China's political landscape in 2012. President Hu Jintao will step down later this year as the general secretary of the Communist Party and hand over the reins to current Vice-President Xi Jinping.
Xi, who is now 58, will take charge as the Chinese President in 2014. Along with Hu, seven out of the nine members of the party's highest decision-making body - the Politburo Standing Committee - are expected to retire. This includes current Premier Wen Jiabao, who is likely to be replaced by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.
"The Chinese leadership could be tempted to galvanise inherent xenophobic fervour to divert domestic attention to an external threat. In this context, there are two potential areas of tension. The first is the ongoing stand-off in the Scarborough Shoal area and the other is Tibet," the note stated.
Scarborough Shoal, located in South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, is being claimed by three countries: China, the Philippines and Taiwan. Tension between Manila and Beijing grew when the governments of the two nations accused each other of illegally occupying territorial waters near the shoal. It sparked nationalist sentiments in both countries and the word "war" was mentioned by several commentators.
But diplomatic sources disclosed that the Indian assessment was based on the fact that Beijing may not risk a war in South China Sea because it could lead to the US and other Western countries coming to the Philippines' rescue. In the case of the Sino-Indian boundary, however, the possibility of a skirmish was much higher because it was disputed, they explained.
Sources said this assessment took into consideration China's displeasure over the role of the Dalai Lama in allegedly fomenting trouble, including immolations, in Tibet. Provoking a skirmish with India may be part of a deliberate strategy to teach India a lesson, they added.
"A prolonged conflict is, however, unlikely," the report concluded.