Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Does India need to be invaded by China to wake up?

My article Does India need to be invaded by China to wake up? appeared today in

Here is the link...

Very few in India have heard of Taksing.
It is the last village on the Tibet (China)-Arunachal Pradesh border, and the first village likely to be invaded if Beijing retaliates.
Scarily, it takes jawans THREE days of walking to reach Taksing.
In all the noise surrounding the Doklam confrontation, Claude Arpi focuses on a crucial issue that has hardly been covered -- the construction of roads for the armed forces and the local population to reach the most remote border posts.

Very few incidents have triggered so many comments as the confrontation at the trijunction between Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.
On June 16, 2017, Chinese troops entered a stretch of land at the southern tip of the Chumbi Valley to build a road …on Bhutanese territory.
They were stopped by the Indian Army.
Beijing’s response was sharp, probably due to the surprise; China did not expect Delhi to militarily defend Thimphu. It is also true that the trijunction is a strategic hotspot for Delhi, and by occupying it, the Chinese would have a ‘view’ not only on the Chumbi Valley but also on the Siliguri corridor, which is India’s main strategic weakness in case of a military conflict.

Trying to change the historical posts
On June 30, 2017, the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi affirmed that in 2012, it had been agreed with China that the status quo would be maintained in this area: “The two Governments had in 2012 reached an agreement that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries.”
Probably getting upset with the delay in finding a solution, Beijing decided to take the matter in its own hand, as it had done earlier in the South China Sea. Beijing has a tendency to believe in the principle that it is better to first take ‘possession’ and then start talking.

The Infrastructure to the Frontiers
One issue has hardly been covered by the Indian media, though crucial for the defence of the borders: it is the construction of a decent infrastructure for the Indo-Tibet Border Police Force (ITBP), Army and the local population to reach the most remote border posts.
On July 18, it was announced in Parliament that some 73 roads were being built along the Sino-India border. According to PTI, Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha: “The government has decided to undertake construction of 73 roads of operational significance along Indo-China border. Out of these, 73 roads, 46 are being constructed by the Ministry of Defence and 27 by the Ministry of Home Affairs.”
The minister said 30 roads had been completed so far though all the roads had been scheduled to be completed by 2012-13. According to the government, the main reasons for the delay are: limited working season, logistical issues due to high altitude, rugged and difficult terrain, natural calamities, delay in land acquisition and forest/wildlife clearances.
The last justification is surprising as the Modi government had decided in 2014 to do away with the environmental clearance for road projects located within 100 km of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
This raises another issue: why cannot the private sector be involved, especially at a time when the Modi Sarkar tries its best to invite private players into the defense sector?

The Most Difficult Road of all
Very few in India have heard of Taksing.
It is the last village on the border with Tibet (China) in Upper Subansiri of Arunachal Pradesh. It is certainly the first village susceptible to be invaded in case the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) decides to retaliate after the confrontation in Sikkim. Here the villagers believe that it will take at least five to ten years to see a road.
It is not that nothing is happening.
On April 6, 2017, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) managed to open a new section connecting Tame Chung Chung (TCC) and Nacho. The inhabitants living in the vicinity of Tame Chung Chung (locally known as ‘The Land of Snakes’) had dreamed of seeing this road for decades, but like many other things for the border population, it had remained a dream.
A BRO’s communiqué explained: “The area is located in an extremely remote area with rugged terrains, thick vegetation and inhospitable weather. The place has remained inaccessible since 2009.”
In fact, the road was to be opened in 2009.
The same report noted: “The persistent efforts of BRO engineers have finally changed the scenario. The road comes under Project Arunank, run by the Indian Army in five districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Nacho-TCC section of the road is strategically vital due to the Chinese presence nearby. The road does not reach the LAC as yet, but the completion of this portion marks a major step towards Taksing, the last border village in Arunachal.”
In October 2014, The Deccan Chronicle reported that the Chinese PLA had been focusing on the Taksing area: “After the recent Ladakh incursions, frequent intrusions by China’s PLA in Arunachal Pradesh’s Taksing region have come to the notice of the security agencies… Security sources also confirmed this incursion had come to their notice about a month back, but the PLA had gone back after a brief stay.”
Around the same time, the Times of India noted: “Both armies undertake regular patrols to lay claim to 8-10 disputed areas like Asaphila, a remote 100 sq km.” PLA’s “heightened activity” had been witnessed in Asaphila area for months. “The PLA troops, with vehicles and other equipment, then tried to build a road till Point 2445. They were then stopped from doing so by our soldiers,” a source told the newspaper.
At that time, some local villagers had managed to shoot a short video on their phones of the PLA ‘visiting’ their village. The last Indian military outpost before the border is still some 35 km away from the newly-opened section, but the construction will hopefully be easier: “Due to the exceptionally hard rock and treacherous terrain, this portion of the road took many more years than expected,” said the BRO statement, adding that TCC is situated near the confluence of Subansiri and Tsari Chu river valleys: “(it) acts as a gateway to both the valleys and its connectivity was essential for further development of the area.” The Army organization admitted that a large number of personnel suffered severe injuries during the construction work and equipment worth crores of rupees was lost in landslides.
The question remains: have the Central and Arunachal authorities finally decided to undertake the construction of roads in border areas on a ‘war-footing’?
It is not sure. The work is frightening slow.

Already in the fifties
Already in the 1950s, there was a crying need for a road.
In 1957, Capt. LR Sailo, then assistant political officer in Taliha of Subansiri Frontier Division (NEFA), reached the administrative camp in Limeking and wrote in a superb account titled, “Report on an Exploratory Tour Undertaken in the Upper Subansiri Area and the Tsari Chu Valley”, “The location of Limeking vis-a-vis the international border has been determined; the exploration of the Subansiri westwards of Limeking upto the international border has been completed and the confluence of the Subansiri and the Yume Chu has also been ascertained (Taksing); the determination of the precise location of the confluence of the Subansiri and the Tsari Chu; the Tsari Chu valley has been explored upto the international border with Migyitun settlements (in Tibet); a sketch map of the area has been prepared with estimate of the locations of villages or settlements, the courses of rivers, mountains, and important routes.”
Capt. Sailo’s conclusions were clear: “The urgency and importance of constructing roads from Daporijo to the border settlements of Lower Na (Taksing) and Migytun (Maja) cannot be over-emphasised.”
Of course, since 60 years, babus from the MHA or the State Government have never set a foot in these areas.

The Present Situation
Unfortunately not much has been done during the following 50 years — a real tragedy for the defence of India and the border populations.
A few months ago, I received a message from Hiwak Chader, who lives in Taksing; he explained the difficult situation for the local population. After saying that he felt extremely proud to be an Indian, he noted: “During these 69 years our country has made tremendous progress in the field of science and technologies; we also joined the elite club of few selected country to have achieved a fate of sending the mission to Mars which raise our stature in international level. On the other hand, people of Taksing Village are deprived of all those developmental activities; still local peoples have to resort tiresome and risky three-day trek to reach nearest motorable road.”
He continued: “We have been sentinel of the country since time immortal but in return what we are get, underdevelopment and apathy attitude of the government.”
He blamed both the Central and State governments: “Taksing is a frontier village located at an advance position for the defence agencies near Indo-China border. When there is disruption in transportation, electricity and communication in capital complex for a single day, the people get irritate like anything, just think about the magnitude of hardship which dwellers of Taksing renders in a so called 21st century.”
Chader concluded that Taksing, which is naturally richly endowed in varieties of vegetable and fruits: “can easily feed entire population of Upper Subansiri district at least for one session. However in absence of road product perishes.”
He does not mention the hardship of the CRPF jawans and the Army who have to man the frontier. Though there is a helipad for emergency, it takes some three days for a jawan to walk from TTC to Taksing (while a local porter can make it in two days).
It is extremely doubtful that Takshing will see a road in the next 5 years; let us hope that it won’t be too late.
It is not that there is no solution: one would be to involve the private sector, or even ‘friendly’ foreign countries such as Japan in the road construction; also the BRO or any other contractor should give better salaries to the local workers to insure continuity in the laying of the road; more camps for road workers could be created en route between TCC and Taksing, etc.
But the main issue remains: is there the will to reach the frontier at any cost? Does India need to be invaded to wake up?
Let us pray not.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

India, China, Tibet and the curious case of the missing Sikkim Papers

Harishwar Dayal in front of The Residency in Gangtok
My article India, China, Tibet and the curious case of the missing Sikkim Papers appeared in The Mail Today, DailyO and Daily Mail (UK)

Here is the link...

The present standoff at the trijunction between Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, on the southern tip of the Chumbi, is a worrying development. While recently addressing the foreign diplomats in Delhi, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar rightly stated that China has been ‘unusually aggressive and articulate’.
Beijing seems to have only one argument, i.e. the 1890 Convention between the British and the Manchus, conveniently forgetting several other agreements, particularly the 1893 Trade Regulations (1890 twin accord) which allowed India to open a trade mart in Yatung in the Chumbi Valley.

There is also general amnesia on the fact that the Tibetans never recognized the 1890 Convention as Lhasa and Paro were not consulted by the 'Great Imperial Powers'. Tsepon WD Shakabpa, the Tibetan historian explained: “In 1890 a convention was drawn up …without consulting the government of Tibet …and since [Tibet] was not represented at the Convention, those articles were not allowed to be put into practice by the Tibetans. The British were aware that China exercised no real power in Tibet at that time.”
To come back to the present day, Jaishankar told a panel of MPs that India has clearly outlined its position on the border though the Chinese have a differing position, “but they are misinterpreting it and so India was trying to clarify it. He said that India has been maintaining the same position since 1895 as per an Anglo-Chinese agreement.”
One can only hope that reason will prevail in Beijing, but a solution is bound to take time, certainly not before the leadership change in November during the Communist Party’s 19th Congress.
In this context, an anecdote came back to mind. A few years ago, an acquaintance who, as a young diplomat, was posted in Gangtok in the Political Officer’s office told me that in 1975-76, soon after the merger of the Himalayan State with India, he spent months going through all the historical records kept in Gangtok between 1889 to 1975; Delhi’s orders were to dispatch them to Delhi for safe custody. Once his work was over; the diplomat sent six truck-loads of old files to Delhi under CRPF escort. Since then, nobody seems to know where these Sikkim Papers are and if this archival treasure still exists.
It would have an immense historical value today to show that India and Tibet had a different relation than the one portrayed by China; further Beijing would be unable to bluff its way through with incorrect historical information.
The Political Officer (PO) was the Government of India’s eye over the entire Himalayan region. From the seasonal Indian Trade Agency (ITA) in Gartok in Western Tibet, to the ITA in Gyantse and Yatung, the Indian Mission (and later Consulate General) in Lhasa, all correspondence passed through Gangtok. It included the relations with Sikkim and Bhutan; the PO even overlooked the NEFA area in coordination with the Governor of Assam.
Gangtok has seen many remarkable personages serving as POs.
The first was Claude White, a British engineer who was send to Sikkim in 1887 to tackle the tense situation on the Sikkim–Tibet border in the north. A year later, White came back to Sikkim as an Assistant Political Officer of a British Expeditionary Force which defeated the Tibetans a year later; this resulted in the 1890 Convention. In the meantime, a post of Political Officer in Sikkim had been created, making Claude White, the Administrative head of the entire Himalayan region.

In his book Sikkim and Bhutan: 21 Years on the North East Frontier 1887-1908, the first PO wrote, “one of the first things to be done after his arrival in Sikkim was to build a house, the site for which was found in the midst of the jungles around Gangtok”; then called the Residency, it is today’s the Raj Bhavan. White also ordered a survey of the borders with Tibet, including the 1895 one.
Though South Block probably has copies of some of the Sikkim Papers, the entire set is not traceable (it is at least what I was told). It is a tragedy for researchers and it would undoubtedly help strengthen India’s case in the present circumstances.

Interesting officers occupied the Residency in Gangtok.
Amongst them, Sir Charles Bell who had developed a deep friendship with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, when the latter was living in exile in Kalimpong, but also Frederick Bailey who was instrumental in mapping the North-East, what became the McMahon Line in 1914; and Sir Basil Gould, who in the 1930s, travelled to Tibet to establish diplomatic relations with a then Independent Tibet or Arthur Hopkinson, the religious-minded ICS officer, who was asked by the Government of India to continue for a year after Independence as the First ‘Indian’ PO.
Harishwar Dayal took over from Hopkinson and was officiating when Tibet was invaded by the Chinese troops in October 1950.
Once in a cable to the Prime Minister, Dayal dared quoting a dispatch sent from Hugh Richardson, the Scottish-born ‘Indian’ representative in Lhasa; on June 15, 1949, he suggested that India might consider occupying Chumbi Valley up to Phari ‘in an extreme emergency’.
This did not go well with Nehru, but in November 1950, Dayal wrote: “This suggestion was NOT favoured by Government of India at the time. It was however proposed as a purely defensive measure and with NO aggressive intention. An attack on Sikkim or Bhutan would call for defensive military operations by the Government of India.”
Though it is history now, it is what China’s PLA strategists would today call ‘active defence’. Let us hope that the Sikkim Papers could soon be traced, they contain the history of Modern Himalaya.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beijing banks on history, India on new confidence

In one voice?
My article Beijing banks on history, India on new confidence appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

China appears to have miscalculated New Delhi’s response to its attempt to change the status quo at the tri-junction. It believed that a ‘weak’ New Delhi would back out of a confrontation
The best form of defence is attack, believed Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military strategist. This probably explains the new diplomatic offensive undertaken by China which would like to convince the foreign diplomatic community in Beijing that India was in the wrong to ‘occupy Chinese territory’ in the southern tip of the Chumbi Valley.
According to a national English daily, officials of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had closed-door briefings, giving their version of the events to several foreign diplomats posted in Beijing. A diplomat from one of the P-5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council) told the daily, “They have told our colleagues in Beijing that the Indian side has trespassed into Chinese territory and changed the status quo.”
In actual fact, the opposite happened.  On June 30, the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi clarified that, in 2012, it had mutually been decided that status quo would be maintained in the disputed area: “The two Governments had in 2012 reached an agreement that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries. Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points, is in violation of this understanding”, explained South Block’s statement, which asserted that it was essential that “all parties concerned display utmost restraint and abide by their respective bilateral understandings not to change the status quo unilaterally”.

A blunder
This raises a serious question. Despite the noise emanating from Beijing, it does appear that, by starting a conflict which will take months or years to cool down, someone, somewhere, in China has serious blundered. Whether it is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or the civilian leadership which miscalculated India’s resolve to militarily defend Bhutan, is irrelevant; but it has triggered a vicious circle (though India had a measured and mature response).
Nevertheless, it is a huge intelligence blunder on the part of Beijing which took India for granted. Of course, the deciders in Beijing had previous historical cases, particularly that of Tibet in the early 1950s, when India refused to defend ‘small insects being eaten by big insects’, as the 13th Dalai Lama termed an earlier Chinese invasion in 1910. This time, India did not hesitate to defend Bhutanese interests, especially in an area which is so strategic for New Delhi.
Could have the central Chinese leadership have taken such a risky gamble without a green signal from the ground — their representation in India? Though nothing will immediately change, in the months to come, we may see some heads rolling. Did the Chinese Ambassador in Delhi report that the ‘weak’ Indians would not react to the construction of a road? We may never know. But there is no doubt that the preparations for building a road in the disputed area started several months ago, if not earlier.
One issue which is usually not mentioned by commentators on the current stand-off is the tense situation in China, before the Communist Party’s 19th Congress, which will witness a significant change of guard. Could serious differences within the party have influenced the situation at the tri-junction Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan?
It is possible.

The case of Sun Zhengcai
Last Saturday, Sun Zhengcai, a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo, and a Xi Jinping heir-apparent, was removed from the scene. Sun was one of the top contenders for a seat in the Central Committee’s Standing Committee of the Politburo; serving as party boss of Chongqing megacity, Sun is apparently investigated by the anti-graft agency.
Quoting a source in Chongqing, The South China Morning Post wrote: “Sun Zhengcai, at 53, the youngest member of the party’s 25-strong Politburo, is suspected of serious violation of party discipline.”
After Sun lost his job, the Hong Kong newspaper commented: “The development could have a significant impact on the upcoming leadership reshuffle in the autumn... The internal briefing did not state whether he had been placed under official investigation.”
Sun was immediately replaced by Guizhou’s party chief, Chen Miner, a Xi Jinping protégé. Earlier in the day, on Saturday, a video footage on state-run CCTV showed Sun attending a high-level finance meeting in Beijing: Impermanence is the way of life in communist China.

The case of 1962
One can recall the deadly infighting during the first months of 1962. At a meeting known as the 7,000 Cadres’ Conference, in January 1962, President Lui Shaoqi stated: “…man-made disasters strike the whole country”. He was targeting Mao, who was sidelined for a few months. In the summer of 1962, Mao decided to stage a comeback against ‘Left adventurism’ and ‘capitalist roaders’.
One person stood up and supported Mao: This was Lin Biao, who had replaced Marshall Peng as Defence Minister. Lin, who would lead the attack on India a few months later, asserted: “The thoughts of Chairman Mao are always correct.” This new-found alliance between Mao and the PLA Chief was, no doubt, one of the most important factors in the 1962 conflict.
In September 1962, at the 10th Plenum of the party’s 8th Congress, Mao took back the fate of China into his hands, denouncing “the members of the bourgeoisie in the party ranks”. He even attacked his mild Premier Zhou Enlai and Foreign Minister Chen Yi, who were accused of trying to rehabilitate intellectuals and scientists: "The bourgeois spirit hangs over like a ghost over their heads.”
Nine years later, the heir-apparent, Lin Biao was ‘eliminated’ in mysterious circumstances in an air crash.

The present power struggle
There is no doubt that times have changed, and it is difficult to conceive today a full-fledged conflict between India and China, but the fact remains that the Chinese leadership tends to become irrational when there is an intense power struggle within the party.
Recently, when Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong, unprecedented security measures, including a last-minute decision of shifting hotels, was due to fierce in-fighting in the party, according to Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s second best selling newspaper: “The threat to Xi’s safety is, for sure, not from Hong Kong demonstrators, the non-existent Hong Kong separatists, or the overseas extreme religious or separatist forces. Rather, it is from the communist party’s power struggle.” It was at the last minute that Beijing decided to change hotels, creating utter chaos for the media and the Hong Kong police. “This arrangement let the outside world realise that the communist party’s power struggle has come to the point of life or death for its leaders” commented Apple Daily.
Presuming that the tension on the border will continue till after the 19th Congress (when the winter will set over Dokala), it may become more and more difficult for China to extricate itself from its own rhetoric, which is not based on facts. In any case, this makes the situation dangerous. Incidentally, China will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the PLA on August 1; other crucial date.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Little Bhutan in Tibet

Darchen, one of the Bhutanese enclaves in Tibet
My article Little Bhutan in Tibet appeared today in The Statesman.

Here is the link...

China quite amazingly is able to deny even the most undeniable facts.
Geng Shuang , spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was recently asked by an Indian correspondent, about the details of the meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi on the side of the G 20 Summit in Hamburg. Geng replied: “According to my information, the two said leaders did not hold any bilateral meetings.”
When asked by another correspondent “Are you saying this did not happen?” He answered: “The two leaders of China and India did not hold any meetings on the sidelines of any meeting in Hamburg.”
He thrice repeated his contention.
This was an event which took place only a few days earlier, with a photo tweeted all over the world; one can imagine the scenario when something occurred several decades or centuries earlier; historical events can never be in China’s disfavour.

The Doklam plateau
Moving to the Doklam plateau, the same spokesman quoted a letter written by Nehru on September 26, 1959 in which he would have acknowledges the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China; the fact that this agreement was never implemented simply because the main stakeholders Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim were not signatories or even represented, has been forgotten. Here too Geng has selective memory.
The same para (no 17) of Nehru’s quoted letter speaks about the Tibet-Bhutan border, the object of the present stand-off.
The Indian Prime Minister tells the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai: “It is not clear to us what exactly is the implication of your statement that the boundaries of Sikkim and Bhutan do not fall within the scope of the present discussion. In fact, Chinese maps show sizeable areas of Bhutan as part of Tibet.”
This relates in particular to Doklam plateau.
Nehru continues: “Under treaty relationships with Bhutan, the Government of India are the only competent authority to take up with other Governments matters concerning Bhutan's external relations …The rectification of errors in Chinese maps regarding the boundary of Bhutan with Tibet is therefore a matter which has to be discussed along with the boundary of India.”
Not only was the boundary line never rectified, but China has recently tried to change the status quo.
A year later (1960), the prime ministers of India and China agreed to participate in a Conference with ‘Officials’ of the two sides to sort out the boundary issue. China conveniently refused to discuss the Tibet-Sikkim and the Tibet-Bhutan borders.
The Indian Officials nevertheless filed a separate statement about Bhutan; at that time, the main issue was the eastern part of Bhutan, adjacent to Kameng Frontier Division (today’s Tawang district). The Report of the Officials stated: “As far as India and Bhutan are concerned the valid boundary in this sector is known and recognised.”

Darchen and Mt Kailash

The Bhutanese enclaves
But more interestingly, the Report mentions several Bhutanese enclaves in Tibet, it notes: “Chinese officials have illegally dispossessed the designated authorities of the Government of Bhutan in the following eight villages situated in western Tibet over which Bhutan has been exercising administrative jurisdiction for more than 300 years: Khangri, Tarchen, Tsekhor, Diraphu, Dzung Tuphu, Jangehe, Chakip and Kocha.”
Minsar, the Indian enclave in Tibet is better known, but these villages too did not belong to Tibet, they were part of Bhutan’s territory.
The Report continues: “Bhutan has for centuries appointed the officers who governed these villages, collected taxes from them and administered justice. Tibetan authorities consistently recognised that these villages belonged to the Bhutan Government. The villages were not subject to Tibetan officers and laws; nor did they pay any Tibetan taxes. There has thus been a violation of Bhutan's legitimate authority over these villages.”
On August 19 and 20, 1959, at the request of Bhutan, official Notes were sent by Delhi to Beijing, in which the Chinese Government was requested “to restore the rightful authority of the Bhutan Government over their enclaves.”
A scholar, John Bray, who is President of the International Association of Ladakh Studies, wrote a fascinating research paper on the ‘Bhutanese enclaves’ in Tibet. He explained that until the 1950s “both Ladakh and Bhutan governed small enclaves of territory in Western Tibet. Ladakh’s enclave consisted of the village of Minsar, near lake Manasarovar, and its surrounding land, while Bhutan governed the Darchen Labrang and several smaller monasteries and villages near Mount Kailash …and Bhutan continued to raise revenue there for some 300 years.”.”
For centuries, the inhabitants of Minsar, although surrounded by Tibetan territories, paid their taxes to the kingdom of Ladakh. During in the 19th century, when Ladakh was incorporated into Maharaja Gulab Singh’s State, Minsar de facto became a part of the Jammu & Kashmir State.
In October 1947, after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession, Minsar became Indian territory. This lasted till the mid 1950s.
Bray remarked: “Both sets of enclaves share a common origin in that they date back to the period when the Kings of Ladakh controlled the whole of Western Tibet. The link with Bhutan arises because of the Ladakhi royal family’s association with the Drukpa Kagyupa sect.”
This school of Buddhism, different of the Dalai Lama’s Gelukpa has been influential in Ladakh and Bhutan for centuries.

Minsar, the Indian enclave
Regarding Minsar, the Indian principality in Tibet, the rights to this small town were inherited from the Peace Treaty between Ladakh and Tibet signed in Tingmosgang in 1684. Besides the confirmation of the delimitation of the border between Western Tibet and Ladakh, the Treaty affirmed: “The king of Ladakh reserves to himself the village of Minsar in Ngari-khor-sum [Western Tibet]”. For centuries, Minsar has been a home for Ladakhi and Kashmiri traders and pilgrims visiting the holy mountain.
In 1953, wanting to sign his Panchsheel Agreement with China, Jawaharlal Nehru decided to abandon all Indian ‘colonial’ rights inherited from the British. Though he knew that the small principality was part of the Indian territory, he felt uneasy about this Indian ‘possession’ near Mt. Kailash in Tibet. Nehru was aware that Minsar had been providing revenue to maintain the temples around the sacred mountain and the holy Manasarovar lake, but believed that India should unilaterally renounce her rights as a gesture of goodwill towards Communist China.
He instructed the diplomats negotiating the Panchsheel accord in Beijing: “Regarding the village of Minsar in Western Tibet, which has belonged to the Kashmir State, it is clear that we shall have to give it up, if this question is raised. We need not raise it. If it is raised, we should say that we recognize the strength of the Chinese contention and we are prepared to consider it and recommend it.”
Eventually Minsar was not discussed in 1954 during the talks for the Tibet (also known as Panchsheel) Agreement and, the Bhutanese enclaves could not be brought up during the India-China talks in 1960, as China refused to deal with Sikkim and Bhutan.
It means that the fate of these enclaves has never been negotiated or settled. It remains so today.
On December 31, 1953, while opening the ‘Tibet talks’ (without the participation of the Dalai Lama’s government), Premier Zhou Enlai affirmed: “all outstanding problems between China and other countries could be solved on basis of mutual respect for territorial integrity, non aggression and non-interference in internal affairs so as to enable peaceful co-existence. I know Prime Minister Nehru Government and people of India also feel the same way. On basis of this principle all outstanding questions between us which are ripe for settlement can be resolved smoothly.”
Are the forgotten Bhutanese enclaves ‘ripe for settlement’ now?
Mr Geng has probably forgotten about their existence.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

When the Chinese confuse the issues

1910 Map showing an demarcated trijunction
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has purposefully created a lot of confusion about the trijunction between India, Tibet and Bhutan.

He quoted time and again the 1890 which was not a valid agreement as the main stakeholders (Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim) had not been consulted.
I explained why on this blog and mentioned the Tibetan reactions and the non-acceptance of the 1890 Convention by Lhasa.
During the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, China threatened to intervene and cross the border. It is probably at that time when the first incursions near the trijunction took place.
Later, Chinese incursions continued.
Already then, it was very clear for India that the trijunction was located at Batang La and not at Gyemochen as claimed by Beijing.
India and Bhutan have consistently claimed this.
The letter posted below is another proof of it.
In 1966, Delhi wrote:
The traditional frontier in this segment runs from a point east of Batang La along the ridge which forms the northern water parting of the Torsa stream up to Sinchel La and thence to height 4421 metres.
Here is the full letter.

Note given by the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi to the Embassy of China in India on 30 September, 1966 (No. C/14/66) as published in the White Papers on China.

The Ministry of External Affairs present their compliments to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China and have the honour to state that the Government of Bhutan have requested the Government of India to draw the attention of the Chinese Government to a series of intrusions in the Doklan pasture area which lies south of the traditional boundary between Bhutan and the Tibet region of China in the southern Chumbi area.
It is reported that on the 13th of April 1966, a patrol of the Royal Bhutanese Army observed that a Chinese patrol of 13 men had intruded about three miles south-west of Sinchel La.
  • On the 28th July 1966, another Bhutanese patrol found a party of 5 Tibetans with approximately 300 yaks encamped about two miles south of Sinchel La. The Tibetan graziers were informed by the Bhutanese patrol that they were in Bhutanese territory and asked to withdraw.
  • Again on the 8th of September 1966, a Bhutanese patrol found Tibetan graziers in the area in question. It was further discovered that two heaps of loose stones had recently been set up in the area with a view presumably to establishing a claim south of the traditional frontier.
  • Again on the 13th of September 1966, a Bhutanese patrol found not only that the graziers from the Tibet region of China were continuing to use these pastures but a part of Chinese troops had also intruded into the same area and had dug fresh trenches.
In view of the persistence of these intrusions by Chinese troops and nationals and the increasing strength of the intruders, the Government of Bhutan could no longer dismiss the incidents as accidental transgression of the frontier.

The traditional frontier in this segment runs from a point east of Batang La along the ridge which forms the northern water parting of the Torsa stream up to Sinchel La and thence to height 4421 metres.

The Government of India, on behalf of the Royal Bhutan Government, protest against these intrusions and urge that the Chinese personnel and troops should be withdrawn from Bhutanese territory and should refrain from future violations of this well-defined and traditional Bhutanese frontier.

The Ministry of External Affairs take this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China the assurances of their highest consideration.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

China is on a sticky wicket in Bhutan

Most of the maps show Batang-la as the trijunction Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan
My article China is on a sticky wicket in Bhutan appeared last week in the Mail Daily/Mail Online (UK)

Here is the link...

Has China lost its gamble on a Himalayan ridge in Sikkim? It is too early to say, but some lessons can already be drawn from the scuffle between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army in Doka La, near the trijunction between Tibet (China), India and Bhutan.
The episode started when China began building a road on Bhutanese territory without informing Thimphu.
Beijing was certainly not expecting that India would come to the rescue and defend the small kingdom.
China, which dreams of becoming a 'Big Power', attempted to change the status quo south of the Doklam plateau on the Bhutan-Tibet border.


On June 29, the Royal Government of Bhutan, which had held 24 rounds of talks on the issue with China so far, explained the situation in a statement: 'On 16th June 2017, the Chinese Army started constructing a motorable road from Doka La in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri.
'Boundary talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China and we have written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquillity in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question...
'The agreements also state that the two sides will refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary.'
Bhutan conveyed to Beijing that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of the agreements and that it would affect the ongoing demarcation process.
On June 30, 2017, the MEA too issued a press communiqué underlining that 'the two governments had in 2012 reached agreement that the trijunction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries.
'Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding.'
Beijing was well aware that the area has been under dispute for several decades; already some 50 years ago, nasty letters were exchanged between Delhi and Beijing on the issue.
The first lesson of the present episode is that India is eons behind China in terms of communication.
Though Beijing broke its pledge to Bhutan and India, the constant threatening statements by their spokesperson made it sound as if Beijing was the aggrieved party.
In 2003, China's Central Military Commission approved the concept of 'Three Warfares', namely: (1) the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations; (2) overt and covert media manipulation; and (3) legal warfare designed to manipulate strategies, defence policies, and perceptions of target audiences abroad.
The Chinese spokespersons efficiently demonstrated how, even when wrong, you can make it appear that it is the other parties, Bhutan and India in this case, who are the culprits.

Take the case of the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson managed to convince most of the Indian and foreign media of the importance of the treaty.
Beijing, however, forgot to mention that the two main stakeholders, Tibet and Sikkim, had not even been consulted by the then 'Great Imperial Powers'.
Tsepon WD Shakabpa, the famous historian, in his Tibet: a Political History, explained that in 1890, a convention was drawn up without consulting the government of Tibet: '…six articles related to Tibet, and since (Tibet) was not represented at the Convention, those articles were not allowed to be put into practice by the Tibetans.'
Shakabpa added: 'The British were aware that China exercised no real power in Tibet at that time; but it suited their interests to deal with the Manchus, because of the advantages they gained from the Convention.'
An unequal treaty in Chinese parlance! The Manchus agreed to 'offer' Sikkim to the British as they were afraid that Tibet and Britain might enter into direct negotiations with London; therefore, they signed the treaty to forestall such a possibility.
In 1904, Capt Francis Younghusband anyway mounted a military expedition to Tibet to make the recalcitrant Tibetans sign their first agreement with the Crown.
China has always been interested to create a wedge between India and Bhutan.
In 1966, in similar circumstances, for the same disputed place, the Dokham plateau, the Chinese government attempted to convince Delhi that Bhutan did not require India's support 'as it was an independent country'.
The Communists did not accept that Delhi could advise Bhutan; they crudely wrote: 'inheriting the mantle of British imperialism, the Indian Government has all along been pursuing an expansionist policy and bullying its neighbouring countries.'
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China (stock photo)
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China (stock photo)
As at present, the Bhutanese Government had issued a press statement on October 3, 1966: 'The Government of Bhutan have, for some time, been concerned with reports received from its patrols of a number of intrusions by Tibetan grazers and Chinese troops in the Doklam pastures which are adjacent to the southern part of the Chumbi Valley.'
It concluded that the area has been traditionally part of Bhutan, and China had never disputed 'the traditional frontier which runs along recognisable natural features.'
However, later, China started claiming large strategic chunks of Bhutan's territory.
Incidentally, Article 1 of the much quoted 1890 Convention placed the trijunction at Gipmochi: 'The line commences at Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nepal territory.'
According to Sikkimese records, Gipmochi is in Batang La, 5 km north of Doka La.
It means the territory south of Batang La is indeed Bhutanese, and therefore India did not 'trespass' into Tibet.
So, why all this fuss?

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Great Game over Arunachal

In 2003, China's Central Military Commission approved the concept of 'Three Warfares', namely: (1) the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations; (2) overt and covert media manipulation; and (3) legal warfare designed to manipulate strategies, defence policies, and perceptions of target audiences abroad.

In recent months, Beijing has been intensifying the implementation of this military doctrine.
It can be seen every day in the declarations of the Chinese spokespersons: even when on the wrong foot, China makes it sound that the other party is at fault making more noise.

No contradictions
In this ‘Warfare’, there is no such a thing as ‘contradiction’.
Take an example, a couple of days ago, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi asked Chinese people in India to ‘strengthen self-protection’.
The Global Times commented on the “travel notice released amid a fermenting military standoff on the border;” it was referring to the standoff on the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan border.
According to the Chinese tabloid the advisory notice had to be issued because India trespassed on China’s territory.
Though the premise is untrue (see in my different postings on the subject), the Chinese embassy nevertheless released the notice on its website, urging "all Chinese citizens in India and those who are going to visit India to pay close attention to the local security situation and strengthen self-protection.”
It added: “Reduce unnecessary travel to India, and leave travel information with family members, colleagues and friends. Keep a low profile, and respect the local laws and law-enforcement personnel," it says.

Promoting Ziro

Now, you may think that the Chinese do not encourage its nationals to visit India.
Though it seems a contradiction with the Embassy's notice, an article published in July in the Chinese Travel Guide magazine promotes Ziro as a tourist destination.
But you may ask, why to ‘promote’ Ziro, headquarter of the Lower Subansiri of Arunachal Pradesh?
The answer is simple, for Beijing, Ziro is part of Southern Tibet and the local Apatanis are a Chinese tribe.
The 6 pages of the last issue of ‘Travel’ magazine describes in detail the ‘Chinese’ tribe, the Lhoba Apatanis.
In its introduction, the article explains that the Apatanis are ‘the most beautiful ethnic people’ …of China of course.
It says: “In the Tibetan area of Southern Tibet, there is a tribe named Apatani. The women of this tribe are known to be the most beautiful of all Tibetan tribes. But their beautiful appearance can also become a burden. In order to protect themselves from other tribal intruders’ attack, they make themselves less attractive, by plugging a big cork into the nose.
It continues: “…In the eyes of ordinary people, it can only be regarded as an alternative beauty, but for the Apatanis in Southern Tibet, this is considered as a protection to live a longer life. The choice to insert a cock in the nose of those beautiful compatriots was a helpless choice, but fortunately today, in the new society such a tragedy has been discarded, let us hope that it will not appear again.”
It further comments: “Other beautiful world women could say in the past, it is fortunate that I was not born in Apatani.”
The article describes the most important Apatani settlements “in the valleys of the southern mountainous region of Tibet, where 26,000 Apatanis live.”
China probably considers Ziro, though a part of Arunachal Pradesh, ‘a territory occupied by India’.
This article seems a further and determined step towards a more concretely claim for the entire Arunachal Pradesh.
This can be also be seen as part of the 'Three Warfares'.
Let us hope that Delhi notices.
One response could be to liberalize the antiquated Inner Line Permit/Protected Area Permit system.