Tuesday, September 19, 2017

China’s Strategic thinking: yesterday and today

This article was published in the Journal of the Army War College

'Strategic Leadership' often does not mean ‘Morals and Ethical leadership'. One of the best examples is Mao Zedong.
In Problems of War and Strategy, the Great Helmsman noted: “Some people have ridiculed us as the advocates of omnipotence of war. Yes, we are: we are the advocates of the omnipotence of the revolutionary war, which is not bad at all, but good and is Marxist.”
The moves of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the early days of the revolution are a testimony that Mao was one the great strategists of the 20th century, though an extremely amoral leader.
On October 1, 1949, the new People's Republic of China was proclaimed; Mao told a million Chinese assembled on the Tiananmen Square. “The Chinese people have stood up, long live the Chinese Communist Party.”
In the following months, the new regime never missed an opportunity to tell the world through the Chinese media that China would soon ‘liberate’ large areas at the periphery of the Middle Kingdom.
On the other side of the Asian chessboard, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister was an idealist, not to say a dreamer or a romantic, and for him, the means more than the goal to be achieved, were of supreme importance. At Mao’s opposite end, he did not see the importance of the Army and believed that India could be the peacemaker of the planet; the Indian Prime Minister had little inkling about ‘strategy’ while Mao was a master, as the story of the long March shows.
We shall take two examples, the annexation of Xinjiang and the occupation of Tibet, to see how Mao acted as a great strategist, once he had chose his objectives.
A comment from the Communist Party’s Chairman speaks a lot about Mao’s mindset: “People may ask if there is contradiction to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle. Does it mean that the heroic fighters shed their blood in vain and to no purpose? This is to put the wrong question. Does one eat to no purpose simply because he relieves himself later? Does one sleep in vain because one wakes up and goes about? I do not think the questions should be asked thus; rather one should keep on eating and sleeping or fighting. These are illusions born out of subjectivism and formalism and do not exist in real life. ”
Mao, the great strategist, never forgot what his final goal was; the fact that Nehru and his collaborators later talk about ‘surprise’ and ‘betrayal’ showed their lack of strategic culture.
In the second part of this article, we shall look at today’s strategic policies of the Communist regime.

Military Annexation of Xinjiang
On February 4, 1949, during a meeting with Soviet Foreign Trade Minister, Anastas Mikoyan, Mao Zedong raised the issue of Xinjiang and pointed to the Northwestern district of Iili district, where China had noted an independence movement, as well as the presence of a communist party. Mikoyan told him that he did not know about the existence of a communist party, but was aware of nationalist forces in the district: “This movement was triggered by the incorrect policy of the Chinese government, which does not want to take into account the national specifics of these nationalities, does not present rights of self-rule, does not permit the development of the national culture.”
He added: “If the nationalities of Xinjiang were given autonomy, the soil for the independence movement would likely remain [sic]. We do not stand for the movement of independence of the Xinjiang nationalities and do not have any claims on Xinjiang territory, considering that Xinjiang is and must be a part of China.”
After Mao had the green light he needed, he explained that China was planning “giving Xinjiang autonomy, in the same manner as for Inner Mongolia, which is already an autonomous region.”
Interestingly, he was interested “in whether there is a lot of oil in Xinjiang or a little.” He also suggested the construction “a railroad connecting the Chinese railroads with the Soviet railroads through Xinjiang. This would have great significance for joint defense in case of a new war.”
The above discussion is interesting; first, Mao gets the Soviet green light to annex Xinjiang (later in the year). While showing his interest in oil and trade with Central Asia, then under Soviet Union.
Three months after this discussion, Mao instructed the PLA to ‘liberate’ the entire country, which included Xinjiang and Tibet. “A History of the Counter Attack War in Self-Defence along the Sino-India Border” which relates the annexation of Xinjiang, says: “The PLA rapidly advanced towards the East, South-middle, Southwest and Northwest China with the power of toppling the mountains and overturning the sea.” While, during the following months, the remnants of the Nationalist forces were slowly and systematically annihilated in the mainland, in Xinjiang, Mao used two tactics: sending a large number of troops in two different directions, while inducing the surrender of the Nationalist forces. He had already the assurance from the Soviets that they would not only, not interfere, but would also support the annexation.

A Swift Strategic Move
By swiftly taking over the Western Dominion, as Xinjiang is called, the Communists would be controlling the Western borders of the Middle Kingdom; access the trade with Central Asia; block any possibility of Soviet advance in the region (in case they change their mind later) and come closer to the Indian frontiers, particularly in the Aksai Chin area.
During the Second Plenum of the Seventh Party Congress, Chairman Mao Zedong gave the task for the liberation of Xinjiang to the Commander of 1 Corps of the 1 Field Army.
On September 8, the 1 Field Army was ordered to advance towards Xinjiang, while the 6 Army was to remain stationed in the Northern Xinjiang till further orders and the 2 Army was instructed to advance in Southern Xinjiang.
By the end of September 1949, a large contingent of Communist troops started moving towards the Western Dominion where a 70,000 strong Nationalist force was still stationed.
following the Hexi Corridor , the PLA advanced toward Urumqi which was ruled by a coalition comprising the Nationalists (KMT) and representatives of the former Second East Turkistan Republic (ETR), supported by the Soviet Union. The ETR sympathizers were particularly strong in the three districts in northwestern Xinjiang, where they had retained some autonomy, while the KMT controlled most of Southern Xinjiang.

The Second Step, the Nationalists become Communists
After having obtained the Soviet support, the second phase saw the Nationalists turning coats. On September 25, Tao Zhiyue, the Nationalist Commander-in-Chief of the Xinjiang garrison and Burhan Shahidi, the Political Commissar, announced the formal surrender of the Nationalist forces in Xinjiang to the Chinese Communists. Several Kuomintang generals joined the PLA and began serving the Communists; those who refused to surrender fled to Taiwan or Turkey.
A second victory for Mao …without fighting!
Later the five ETR leaders who were to negotiate with the Communists died in an air crash in Soviet airspace over the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic; it was rumoured that there were murdered. Anyway, the way was opened for Mao’s troops.

The Two Pronged Advance

Starting from Yumen , east of Jiuquan, the Communist troops went through indescribable harsh terrain, deep gorges, cold desert, “they started a massive advance of forces towards Xinjiang along North and South of Tian mountain,” says the Chinese account.
The 6 Army (comprising 16 Division, 17 Division and troops of the 18 Division) under the leadership of Army Commander Luo Yuanfa and Political Commissar Jianyue marched “towards various places in North Xinjiang continuously adopting various tactics for air transportation, mobilization of forces, advances, etc.”
The Chinese account says that the 2 and 6 Armies had been motivated by the slogan given by their Political Commissars: "Not be afraid of any sacrifice, don't fear any difficulties, bravely advance and hoist the five star red flag on the plateau of Pamir”.
On October 12, 1 Army HQ left Jiuquan by road.
On the same day, the 2 Army also advanced towards South Xinjiang. Wang Enmao, a veteran of the Long March who later governed China's Muslim-dominated Xinjiang Province for three decades was the Political Commissar.
Two days later, supported by a tank Regiment, the main forces of 4 and 5 Division of the 2 Army reached Hami . Ten days later , the 4 Division ‘liberated’ Qarqan , where the troops stayed a couple of weeks to recover from the quick advance march.

A New Headquarter in Urumqi

With particularly poor communications, the advance of Communist forces into Xinjiang was extremely difficult and risky; the distances were long, from Jiuquan  to Urumqi it was 1,253 km and from it was 2,547 Km from Kashgar: “In order to overcome the communication and transportation difficulties, Soviet Union came for assistance with 40 transport planes so as to quickly transport soldiers from Jiuquan towards Urumqi,” notes the Chinese account.
On November 5, a forward battalion reached Urumqi by air. Two days later the PLA commanders met with the Nationalist Army and Tao Chuyue troops at three places; on the same day, a People's Government was set up, formalizing the Xinjiang province’s accession to Communist China.
The next day, the HQ of the 1 Corps was airlifted to Urumqi.
From November 20 to 26, the PLA took over most of Southern Xinjiang and Kashgar where the HQ of the 2 Army was established on December 1, had fallen by then; the annexation of Xinjiang was complete.
The PLA had to cross deserts, walk over high snow-capped mountains, suffer starvation; indeed, the Communists realized an unbelievable military feast. Marshal Peng Dehuai and Xi Zhongxun  praised and encouraged the troops in a telegram: "You have created an unprecedented record of the advance of forces".
The PLA walked some 3,000 kms in six months, to complete their mission “the main force, in more than two month's time, successively liberated each important town and city in the North and South of Xinjiang, pinned down uprising launched by reactionaries of Nationalist Party at many.”
Strategically, Communist China was at the Gate of Tibet …and of India; a couple of years later, the construction across the Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area started.
Retrospectively, nearly 70 years later, one understands the importance of the annexation of Xinjiang with its the natural resources such as oil, but also the trade routes such as One Belt One Road initiative or the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The ‘Liberation’ of Tibet
In his study on Communist China and Tibet, Ginsburg gives a strategic definition of the plateau: "he who holds Tibet dominates the Himalayan piedmont; he who dominates the Himalayan piedmont, threatens the Indian subcontinent; and he who threatens the Indian subcontinent may well have all the South-east Asia within his reach, and all of Asia.”
Mao the strategist knew this well (so did the British before him).
For China, it was necessary to establish a de facto suzerainty over Tibet; iIt was also the first step towards the South, and possibly the sub-continent, particularly areas such as Ladakh, Bhutan or Sikkim.

The First Warning
On December 31, 1949, the Government of India hurriedly pushed through the recognition of the Communist regime in Beijing. The next morning, a broadcast of the New China News Agency proclaimed: "the task for the PLA for 1950 are to liberate Taiwan, Hainan and Tibet... Tibet is an integral part of China. Tibet has fallen under the influence of the imperialist."
Who were the ‘imperialists’? Was it the few Indians posted in Tibet?
Brushing aside India’s interests in Tibet, Mao prepared detailed plans for a military operation to ‘liberate’ Tibet. During the following months, China never missed a chance to assert that Tibet was part of China's territory and it was "China's sacred duty to liberate Tibet." Very few understood the message in Delhi.
In the meantime, the Indian Government was torn between two sentiments: on the one side Tibet was a small  independent nation with rich and deep cultural and religious bonds with India and on the other side Nehru and some of his colleagues had an immense admiration for the new People's Republic, which like India, had to struggle against colonial powers to gain her freedom.
In early August 1950, Marshal Liu Bocheng again reiterated: “[The] People Liberation Army will soon march towards Tibet with object of driving out the British and American aggressive forces so as to make Tibetans return to the Great Family of the Peoples Republic of China. As soon as the Liberation Army enters into Tibet they will carry out the Programme of National Regional Autonomy, religious freedom …. The military and political systems prevailing in Tibet now will remain as they are and will NOT be changed; various ranks of officials and men will work as usual; the present Tibetan Army will become a part of the National Defence Force of the Peoples Republic of China.”
The plans were clear.
For months KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador in China regularly put the blame on the Tibetans for refusing to ‘negotiate’ with China. However for Mao, it was clearly a two-phase strategy; first a military take-over of the Chamdo area and then a ‘peaceful liberation’ after the Tibetans had been militarily defeated and forced to sign an agreement with the ‘Central Government’, i.e. the Communist regime in Beijing.
On August 23, 1950, the Chairman cabled the CPC Southwest and Northwest Bureaus: "If our army can capture Chamdo in October, this will urge the Tibetan delegation to come to Beijing for negotiation for peaceful settlement."
So much for the peace-loving Panikkar who for months tried hard avoiding putting the blame on Mao for Tibet’s invasion.
Even though the Indian government was informed in August via Hong Kong of the war preparations, he had refused to believe it.
Mid-October, Chamdo the capital of Kham Province fell and on October 17 Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the Governor of Kham capitulated without fighting and ordered the Tibetan army to surrender to the Chinese troops.
The four-direction attack on Tibet was a well-prepared military operation. The Chinese propaganda managed to put to sleep Delhi while the war preparations were going on full-swing.
The attached sketch shows how masterfully were executed the military operations (phase 1), which lasted hardly two weeks.
The history of Mao's China is a tale of well-planned and well-executed moves. All the events from 1949 onwards have been unfolded in a perfectly calculated sequence: the invasion of Tibet in 1950; after a very vague protest by the Indian Government and the adjournment of the Tibetan Appeal to the UN (at India's instance), the 1951 Sino-Tibetan ‘Agreement’ (forced on the Tibetans under duress); then the 1954 ‘Panchsheel’ Policy (neutralizing India under the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai bluff); the first incursions on Indian soil at the end of the fifties; the crushing of the Tibetan uprising in 1959, and finally the ‘teaching of a lesson’ to India in October 1962 for having given asylum to the Dalai Lama and his followers in March 1959.

The Situation in 1953
On February 13, 1953, AK Sen, the Indian Consulate General in Lhasa sent a report to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi assessing the advances of the PLA troops in the plateau. It gives a clear idea of the determination of the Chinese strategic planners to advance towards the Indian borders. The ‘Liberation’ of Tibet was just a pretext.
The report first discuss the total strength of Chinese troops stationed on the plateau. It is estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000; these figures exclude the road workers: “The Chinese admit it was their plan to have a force of 60,000 troops but the supply position forced them to abandon it for the time being although they said the present strength was NOT enough to guard the borders,” writes AK Sen.
For centuries, the Indo-Tibet border did not need any troops to guard its borders and all a sudden, a force of 25,000, with all the attendant problems (such as food shortage) is not ‘enough’ for the Communists.
Does it mean that the Southern neighbor, i.e. India has become aggressive or is Delhi planning to ‘invade’ Tibet?
The report does not go further in the analysis, it just notes: “with the completion of the Chamdo-Lhasa Road within the next two years, more troops would be brought in.”
The two main axes, namely the Tibet-Qinghai and the Tibet-Sichuan highways, would be completed in December 1954, less than two years after the report was written.
The Consul General notes: “concentration at the outposts cannot be considered to be heavy. They are well scattered in small detachments and are kept frequently on the move.” The figures however show that the deployment is quite massive, as the map shows.
Mobility was part of the usual PLA tactics: “This mobility would enable them to be concentrated at any place in an emergency with ease.”
Is it different today, when most divisions bank more on the excellent infrastructure than the sheer number of troops on the plateau?
More than sixty years later, the main change is the incredible improvement of the infrastructure in Tibet, especially since the arrival of the railway link in Lhasa in July 2006 and subsequent development towards the Indian border.

Modern Strategic Thinking
Let us jump nearly 70 years in history and come to the recent Two Sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) which took place in Beijing in March. The Sessions are always an occasion to take stock of the new directions in which Beijing plans to go. While presenting his government’s Work Report, Premier Li Keqiang gave a comprehensive idea of China’s objectives in the defense sector; he asserted that “China will strengthen its maritime and air defense as well as border control amid efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and security,” adding that China would continue “to deepen military reforms, while upholding the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China over the armed forces.”
Li also remarked that Beijing will ensure the organization of important operations related to countering terrorism, safeguarding stability, international peacekeeping, and providing escort in high seas, while China would “enhance its capacity of innovation in defense-related science and technology and step up development of advanced logistics and equipment …military-civilian integration will be intensified.”
These were the great lines of the strategic choices of today’s China.

PLA’s budget increase
A day before the NPC’s opening, a 7% military budget increase was announced. In an interview with China Military Online, Maj Gen Chen Zhou, Deputy Commander of the Military Strategy Department of the PLA Academy of Military Science explained the rationale of the increase during a press conference.
When asked how the incremental military budget would be used, Gen Chen said that it would support the national defense and the military reforms; he also spoke of updating China's military equipment, improving the training, the working and living conditions for grassroot-level troops, and cultivating high-caliber military talents.
He mentioned the in-depth military-civilian integration, dear to Chairman Xi Jinping. Gen Chen Zhou further explained that the military budget was “based on objective and rational judgment. China won't change the scope of increase simply because of sudden changes in external factors unless there is a large-scale war.” He added: “For a very long time to come, China doesn't face the threat of a large-scale war,” though he admitted that China could face local “warfare and armed conflicts caused by external factors.”
He described the military budget as consisting of two parts: “the need of national defense and the suitability with national economic development level. …China's military budget is coordinated with the growth of GDP and fiscal deficit and revenue.”
Giving an indication of the strategic choices confronting the People’s Republic, Gen Chen explained that the China’s armed forces still remain “an Army-based, defensive and labor-intensive military, and China's geopolitical environment requires it to maintain a strong army. …However, with the deepening of reform and the changes in China's security environment and the form of warfare, China needs to intensify the construction of other services too, including the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force.”
These are the new strategic changes.
Accordingly, the Central Military Commission (CMC) has decided to downsize the Army and phase out some troops while increasing the strength of the PLA Navy (PLAN): “China has set the strategic goal of building a maritime power, which is why the PLAN has developed so rapidly recently.” When questioned about China’s second aircraft carrier, he answered that it is “a benchmark in China's naval development. The Liaoning [the first Chinese carrier] has performed superbly both in testing and training. The second aircraft carrier is also in smooth progress and equipment is being installed on it."
He concluded by saying that China would continue to adhere to the peaceful development path and uphold the defensive national defense policy: “China's naval development and military development will be limited and appropriate," Chen Zhou emphasized, reiterating the main lines of the 2015 White Paper on Defence.
Let us look at the main strategic changes recently undertaken by the PLA.

Increase of the Marine Corps
On March 13, The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported an increase of the size of the PLA Marine Corps (PLAMC), working under the PLAN, from 20,000 to 100,000.
According to unnamed PLA insiders, part of the expanded Marine Corps would be stationed abroad, including Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan.
The Mission of the PLAN has been expanding from conducting operations in China’s coastal areas — including defending Chinese ‘assets’ in the East and South China Seas — to play a larger role and prepare for a possible amphibious assault on Taiwan.
The SCMP explained “The PLA marines will be increased to 100,000, consisting of six brigades in the coming future to fulfill new missions of our country”. The size of the navy would grow 15 per cent from its estimated size of 235,000 personnel.
Two combat brigades have already been transferred to the PLAMC, increasing the size from about 12,000 to around 20,000. Each PLAMC brigade has two marine battalions and an armored regiment equipped with ZBD05 Tracked Amphibious Infantry Fighting Vehicles and ZLT05 Tracked Amphibious Assault Guns. This shows the rapid expansion of the Chinese interests beyond its coastal areas.

China to Reduce Army Reserves
The Global Times announced that Beijing planned to reduce its Army (PLAA) reserve while increasing reserves for other services. General Sheng Bin, the head of the National Defense Mobilization Department stated “while the army reserve will be reduced, the reserves of other military services including the navy, air force and the rocket force will be increased in a bid to keep up with China's military buildup.”
The structure of the reserve forces would have to adapt “to information warfare from traditional combat-oriented and mechanized ones,” he said.
A new structure is being established, the CMC would take care of the overall administration of the PLA, the People's Armed Police (PAPF) and the militia and reserve forces, while the five Theater Commands would focus on combat preparedness.
China had already announced a cut of 300,000 troops by the end of 2017 to build a more efficient military. In The Global Times, Major General Chen Zhou of the PLA Academy of Military Science is quoted saying that many officers would retire and be assigned to new positions; the CMC would “step up efforts on the national level to help retired servicemen resettle to civilian life by adopting a series of laws and regulations.”
It may be easier say than done.

Improved Military Training

An important aspect approved by the CMC is the military training. China Military Online reported that “the Training Management Department and the Discipline Inspection Commission of the CMC have jointly issued a notification of punishments for 28 cases of violations of military training regulations.”
The PLA and Armed Police Force have been urged “to conscientiously implement the important instructions of President Xi Jinping and the strategic decisions made by the CMC, and execute the combat effectiveness standards in the whole process of military training.”
It is obvious that the PLA has suffered of laxity and corruption in the recent past; this is not the case anymore under the Chairmanship of Xi.
The notification says: “In order to push forward the real combat-oriented military training, related departments of the CMC will conduct supervision over the implementation of the interim provisions on strengthening real combat-oriented military training in the PLA and Armed Police Force.”
And this applicable at all levels.
‘Training’ is the new leitmotiv of the Chinese armed forces.

Xi underlines innovation in military upgrading
On March 12, 2017, President Xi Jinping ‘joining’ a panel discussion with the PLA deputies at the NPC, called “for deepening military-civilian integration, while highlighting sci-tech innovation as the key to military upgrading.”
Xi said that efforts should be made to provide greater science and technology support for the PLA. He added that since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, “historic breakthrough in national defense and military reform has been made, significant progress in combat readiness has been achieved, and crushing momentum in fighting corruption has been realized.”
Xi spoke about one of his favorite topics, ‘military-civilian integration’ for national defense technology and military equipment. He emphasized strengthening military and civilian cooperation by training high-quality military personnel.
The CMC Chairman also said that “civil technologies should better serve military purposes, and defense technologies should be adapted and applied well for civil use.”
He noted that the Party’s decision to establish a central commission for integrated military and civilian development whose objective is to reinforce centralized and unified leadership.


Though it is not possible to compare the ‘strategic’ skills of Mao Zedong with those of his successors, particularly the present CMC Chairman, Xi Jinping, it is obvious that Beijing, today like yesterday, masters a clarity of goals to achieve for the revival of the Chinese nation; and it never hesitates to use the necessary means to materialize this vision. In strategic terms, the swift actions in Xinjiang and Tibet are still paying rich dividends, more then 60 years later.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Division of Heaven and Earth

My book review of The Division of Heaven and Earth titled The Tibet factor appeared in The Statesman.

Here is the link...

The Division of Heaven and Earth: On Tibet's Peaceful Revolution 
1st Edition
by Shokdung (Author), Matthew Akester (Translator)
ISBN-13: 978-1849046770
ISBN-10: 1849046778 

The Division of Heaven and Earth not only relates to the struggle of the courageous Tibetan people who took part in a large-scale uprising in the Spring of 2008 on the Tibetan plateau, but it also brings a different perspective on the tragic fate of the Land of Snows.
Though Tagyal, writing under the pseudonym Shokdung, has lived his entire life under an authoritarian regime, he is convinced about some positive aspects of the Marxist revolution.
On 2 May 1999, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the 4 May student revolution in China, he published an article in Qinghai Tibetan News, titled Blood-letting to kill the tumour of ignorance, using the Marxist theory to argue that “the new cannot be established without destroying the old”. For him Tibetan society and culture were backward, and in order to evolve further “the ingrained influence of Buddhism on Tibetan attitudes must be wiped out.”
At that time, the article provoked a fierce debate in Tibetan society.
But when The Division of Heaven and Earth was published in China, the government was displeased; it immediately banned the book and Shokdung was arrested. As the preface puts it, “But now that he has antagonised the Chinese state and Tibetan society in different ways, this book can be seen as a milestone marking his move into political opposition.”
This makes Shokdung’s work all the more interesting. An important issue, which has been ignored by most students of history of the 1962 India-China War, is the Tibetan factor, which greatly hampered a longer conflict with India. In early 1962, the population of the high plateau had begun showing strong signs of discontent. It was manifested by a 70,000-character petition sent by the Panchen Lama, then the most senior Lama in Tibet, to the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in April 1962.
In September, one month before the war, during a CCP Conference, Mao denounced the “poisonous arrow” sent by the Lama and called him “an enemy of our class”. Tibet was in a state of unrest and that certainly shortened the war.
Already on 11 March 1959, the entire population of Lhasa had revolted to protect the Dalai Lama who had been “summoned” by the Chinese General commanding the PLA in Lhasa to attend a play inside the Chinese camp “without his escort”.
A week later the Dalai Lama, escorted by a band of some 200 brave Khampas, took the road to exile in India. In September 1987, a few days after the Dalai Lama presented his Five Point Peace Plan to the US Congress in Washington DC, riots erupted again in the Tibetan capital.
Unrest continued sporadically during the following two years, to deteriorate further in March 1989 after the massacre of more than 400 Tibetans near the Central Cathedral on 6 March. Martial law was subsequently imposed for a year. The Chinese State learned its lesson; it installed sophisticated video cameras strategically all over Lhasa and other large cities in Tibet.
That did not stop 500 monks of the Drepung monastery, commemorating the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising, to demonstrate on 10 March 2008. Shokdung analysed this important event using historical examples to argue his views.
At the end of the 1940s, “Finally the Tibetans, who seek spiritual perfection for all living beings, became aware of the rest of the world, and arranged to send a delegation abroad. …The land and people of Tibet appeared to stand for nothing and no one in particular, like a fox riding on a tiger’s back, at which anyone could aim a kick, and so it has remained until now: a country of nobodies, sitting idle after banging the drum in celebration of their own defeat.”
He has strong words for the prevailing political system at that time, “a history of repeated capitulation, sectarian conflict, priestpatron alliances and closure to the outside world.”
While the world around spoke of “liberation”,“the Tibetans were stuck in their pursuit of religion, and through seeking protection in the political sphere, failed to secure their own political interests.”
The authoritarian system imposed by China and the Tibetan “aspirations” eventually led the author to jail.
His ideas are unusual for an outside reader – “our large-scale peaceful revolution …is a sure sign of a new awareness of nationality, culture and territory.This revolution … was like a stone thrown into a pond, sending ripples out in all directions.”
He sees the spontaneous 2008 uprising as a waking up of the Tibetan nation to its own identity, which was earlier centered on Buddhism alone. Shokdung claimed that for a thousand years, the Tibetan people had been taken in by the “Non-Self” doctrine of Buddhism, thereby losing their own “Self”, “Therefore, unless the engrained influences of the Buddhist ‘Non-Self’ on the Tibetan psyche were erased, they would never realise the ‘Self’ of imperial territoriality and ancestry.”
The Communist regime was obviously not pleased by this hidden nationalism, but interestingly his beliefs are also far away from the discourse of the Tibetan diaspora.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Post-Doklam, Chinese aggression not yet over

My article Post-Doklam, Chinese aggression not yet over appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

The renewed Chinese aggressiveness, including against India's Army Chief, is probably triggered by a great sense of insecurity, not to say instability. The battle for Chairman Xi is far from over
The Doklam incident is over and one could say, ‘All’s well that ends well’, to paraphrase the title of Shakespeare’s play. Lessons should, however, be drawn from the nearly three-month long confrontation near the tri-junction Tibet-Sikkim-Bhutan. Even once a bilateral agreement has been found, China has remained belligerent. Aggressiveness is still over-present in the Chinese official media.  Can it be due to the fact that China lost face and had to withdraw from the disputed area without building a road?
Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat had just to say that India needed to be prepared for a two-front war and The Global Times went ballistic. The communist party’s tabloid asserted, “While many people believe it is time to leave the episode of the border stand-off behind, Rawat has sent the completely opposite message.”
Verging on vulgarity, The Global Times wrote, “Rawat has such a big mouth that he could ignite the hostile atmosphere between Beijing and New Delhi. He not only turns a blind eye to international rules, but also made us see the arrogance probably prevailing in the Indian Army.”
Incidentally, who broke ‘international rules’ in the first place? There was nothing wrong in the Army Chief’s remarks, but the tabloid added: “Generals in India need to form some basic knowledge about the current situation. …It seems that there are two India(s), one that is thriving and …the other that keeps provoking and tangling with China. Should we embrace the first India or teach the second India a lesson? Let the first India discipline the second one and the Indians with dignity should take care of the mouths of senior officials like Rawat.”
The party mouthpiece then invites India to reflect.

Why such aggressiveness?
One answer is that all is not well for Chinese President Xi Jinping, especially within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). His in-depth reforms are not appreciated by all. Just a few weeks before the party’s 19th Congress (scheduled to start on October 18), an important reshuffle of the PLA’s generals has taken place, not only at the Group Army (Corps) level, but at the top of the hierarchy too.
US-based publication, Quartz, wrote: “As the big day nears, lots of the behind-the-scene political struggles are gearing up,” adding that Xi has promoted favorites to top posts in the PLA. In the process, two top generals got the sack hardly a month before retiring.
Bloomberg explained the move: “Two generals who sit on China’s top military body have been excluded from a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle next month, setting the stage for President Xi Jinping to carry out a further shake-up of the world’s largest Army.”
General Fang Fenghui, the equivalent of the US Chief of Defence Staff, was one of China’s most visible officers — he accompanied Xi to Florida to meet US President Donald Trump in April and received his US counterpart last month. Soon after, he was replaced as Chief of the PLA’s Joint Staff Department by General Li Zuocheng, a Xi favorite. His name and General Zhang Yang’s, another member of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), were not on the list of the delegates to the Congress.
The rumour mill said that they were being ‘investigated’, a term not usually auguring well for the targeted person. This may indicate disciplinary probes and bad days ahead for the generals.
Bloomberg asserted: “As many as five members of the top military body were already expected to step down under an unwritten rule marking senior officials for retirement after 68. Fang and Zhang are [were] among five members below the threshold, which would put them in contention for a powerful vice chairman post.”
Hong Kong’s publication, Sing Tao Daily, usually well informed, quoted sources in Beijing, to say both were investigated for suspected breaches of party discipline.
Indian analyst, Brahma Chellaney suggested that the reshuffle was linked to the Doklam issue: “pullbacks suggest that the removed chief, General Fang Fenghui, was an obstacle to clinching a deal with India and probably was responsible for precipitating the stand-off in the first place.”
To support his argument, he quoted the Chumar incident in Ladakh which happened as President Xi landed in India on a state visit in September 2014; a theory difficult to confirm. It is, however, clear that a younger generation is taking over. This reflects the deep changes in the PLA…and this may have triggered resentment amongst the ‘retiring’ officers.
On September 1, General Han Weiguo, only 61, was appointed commander of the PLA Army and 60-year old General Ding Laihang, commander of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF). General Han served in Fujian in the 1980s at the time Xi was Deputy Mayor of Xiamen, while Gen Ding’s career also overlapped with Xi’s term in Fujian. He was Chief of Staff of the eighth corps based in Fuzhou in 2001 and later head of the PLAAF in Fuzhou; Xi was then Governor of Fujian Province.
The list of PLA’s delegates to the 19th Congress has some surprises. The 303 ‘elected’ members belong to 31 different units, compared with 19 in 2012; one example, the new PLA rocket force is now represented. While the PLA itself has 253 delegates, the People’s Armed Police has 50.
According to The Global Times: “The number of units increased due to the ongoing military overhaul launched in 2015, which split the former four military headquarters — staff, politics, logistics and armaments — into 15 new agencies.”
Interesting are the general statistics. More than 90 per cent of those ‘elected’ will be first time attendees, representing a new generation of officers who will owe their rise to Chairman Xi, who heads the CMC.
According to The Asia Times, the ethnicity factor plays an important role in promotions: “while sweeping military change is on the cards at China’s upcoming communist party Congress, few expect ethnic minority officers from unstable regions to make top brass.”
Though there is a slight rise in the number of ‘ethnic’ delegates (six per cent of PLA delegates are ethnic minority officers, from 4.6 per cent at the 18th Congress), their number is relatively small and they don’t occupy important post.
Asia Times noted: “The Manchus and Tibetans will each send three delegates, while the Uyghur, Hui and Tujia will each put forward two. The Zhuang, Xibe, Korean, Qiang, Bai and Naxi ethnicities will each send one delegate to the Congress.” Incidentally, two of the three Tibetan delegates are lady officers.
‘Ethnic representation’ has always been limited to junior ranks “but thins out considerably at higher levels. There are comparatively few generals of ethnic minority backgrounds,” writes The Asia Times. It is telling that the PLA has never seen Uyghur or Tibetan commanders posted in their own military districts.
The renewed Chinese aggressiveness, including against India’s Army Chief, is probably triggered by a great sense of insecurity, not to say instability. The battle of Chairman Xi is far from over.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Tibet: The Last Months of a Free Nation — India Tibet Relations (1947-1951)

My book Tibet: The Last Months of a Free Nation India Tibet Relations (1947-1951) published by Vij Publishers for the United Service Institution of India (USI) was released  by Ambassador Shiv Shankar Menon (former National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary) on September 7 at the USI.

This is the first of a series of four books on the India-Tibet Relations between 1947 and 1962.
The four volumes will cover the following periods:
•    Volume 1 (1947-1951) ending by 17-Point Agreement
•    Volume 2 (1951-1954) ending by Panchsheel Agreement & foods in Gyantse
•    Volume 3 (1954-1957) ending by Dalai Lama’s visit to India
Volume 4 (1957-1962) closure of the Consulate General in Lhasa

The book is based on Indian archival materials only.

It is available on Amazon.com.

I am posting here the concluding remarks of the first volume.

A few concluding remarks
At the end of this first volume on “The Relations between Tibet and India between 1947 and 1962”, it is important to draw some lessons from the tragic happenings of the Year 1950 which led to the signature of the 17-Point Agreement in May 1951. The end result was that Tibet lost her independence and India lost a frontier.

Strategic thinkers vs ‘visionaries’
A first observation: India had some of the best strategic thinkers, but the government did not use their competence.
Though their conclusions were not accepted by the Prime Minister Nehru, I have tried to pay homage to some of these foresighted Indian thinkers. One should not forget that India is still suffering from some of the decisions taken in 1950-51.
The hundreds of letters, cables, telegrams, notes that I could access show that two factions emerged during the tumultuous last six months of 1950: one led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and K.M. Panikkar, his ambassador in Beijing, both obsessed by an imaginary friendship with New China and fixated on the ‘larger implications for World Peace’; the other, which immediately saw the strategic implications for India, would Delhi let Tibet down, was led by Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minster with Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations as his main adviser. They were fed by reports ‘from the ground’ by Harishwar Dayal, the Political Officer in Sikkim and Sumul Sinha, the Head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa. At that time, India had a full-fledged Mission in Tibet as well as three Trade Agencies in Gyantse, Yatung and Gartok.
The ‘Chinese’ Ambassador Panikkar had opposite views. In one of his lengthy reports, Panikkar explains to Nehru: “Tibet is now in the process of being ‘liberated’. The word ‘liberation’ (Chieh fang), it may be made clear, does not in Chinese signify a military conquest. It means the introduction of new life and the elimination of misery, moral degradation, inequality of sexes, etc. - in fact liberation from the oppression of tradition. The ‘liberation’ of Tibet is, therefore, being attempted mainly through education and propaganda.”
Sixty five years later, the Tibetans have still not understood from what they needed to be ‘liberated’. China, however gained not only a huge landmass, the access to the ‘water tower of Asia’, large mineral resources and a strategic position dominating the subcontinent.

Who were the ‘visionaries’?
Unfortunately, Sardar Patel, who articulated so presciently the dangers of the Chinese invasion for India’s frontiers, passed away on December 15, 1950, barely two months after the entry of the People’s Liberation Army in Eastern Tibet. Thereafter, Nehru’s line prevailed, with the disastrous consequences which still can be seen today on the Indian borders, whether in Ladakh, Uttarakhand or Arunachal Pradesh.
In the text, I have quoted a personal letter written by Dayal to Maj S.M. Krishnatry, then posted as Trade Agent (ITA) in Gyantse. While discussing the Chinese advance towards the McMahon Line, the PO informed the ITA of Sardar Patel’s death, “It is a heavy blow. He was the one person in this Government who had strong realistic view of things, including on foreign relations. Now, we are left at the mercy of the visionaries.”
In hindsight, Patel, Bajpai, Dayal or Sinha were the real ‘visionaries’.

Tibet: a temporary setback for India’s ‘peace’ policy
An important factor in our story was the role that India wanted to play in the Korean conflict. It greatly influenced Delhi’s Tibet policy. By January 1951, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Beijing had started to spend most of their time and energy on ‘peace-making’; in the process: Tibet was abandoned.
In fact by the beginning of 1951, the ‘Tibetan incident’ was over for the Indian Ambassador in China. India could start dreaming of an eternal friendship with China. In the Annual Report of the Indian Embassy for 1950, Panikkar wrote: “The exchange of Notes on Tibet, following the Chinese attack on Chamdo gave a temporary setback to our relations, but the reaction of the Chinese Government to the Indian protests was restrained and neither country permitted this incident to have more than a temporary effect. India consistently supported Chinese claims in the United Nations and her sustained efforts to settle the Korean issue have been fully appreciated in China. There is every reason to hope that the next year will see even better relations established between the two countries.”
But India had lost a peaceful border and a friendly neighbour.

Three phases towards a so-called liberation
If one analyses the events, the period covered in this first volume could be divided in the three phases.
•    Phase 1: August 1947- September 1949
•    Phase 2: October 1949- August 1950
•    Phase 3: September 1950 – May 1951
During the first two phases, the policy of the Government of India towards Tibet remained as it had been during the British period.
Through Phase 1, life on the Roof of the World continued as in the past several decades.
The Dalai Lama was growing into a bright adolescent and nobody bothered much about the revolutions happening in the world …and the decolonization.
Nehru’s government had reappointed two Britishers to their jobs: Arthur Hopkinson, who had served as the last British Political Officer in Sikkim (Hopkinson continued to officiate till mid 1948) and Hugh Richardson, as the head of the Mission in Lhasa. Both played an important supporting role with their great clarity of mind; they understood the importance to maintain relations with Tibet ‘on the old basis’, and more particularly for India, they realized the implications of an eventual Chinese ‘adventure’ on the plateau.
It must be noted that Dayal and Sinha would be treated very differently by the Indian Prime Minister than Hopkinson and Richardson. Had Richardson received from Nehru one of the reprimands that Sinha received a few months later, he would have immediately returned to his native Scotland. But Sinha had no island to leave for; after his tenure in Lhasa, he was a broken man.
July 1949 saw the preemptive expulsion of all Chinese living in the Tibetan capital. But all was to change on October 1, 1949 when the Communists took over the Middle Kingdom.
Independent India primarily sought to maintain a kind of status quo, i.e. Tibet continuing to be a buffer between China and India, while trade and religious exchanges through the Indian borders flourished. By June 1948, Lhasa had accepted the past treaties and conventions between British India and Tibet, but there were no efforts to delineate, demarcate and secure the northern boundary as Buddhist Tibet was a friendly neighbor.
All was well.
The second phase (from October 1, 1949 till August 1950) was marked by the emergence of an irredentist New China. The relations between India and Tibet however remained unchanged even when the Communist propaganda started announcing the ‘liberation’ of Tibet. Very few in Delhi took it seriously. What was the Indian Intelligence doing? Did they ever read the speeches or declaration of the Chinese leaders? It is a question which needs to be answered.
India clearly failed to evolve a strategy to deal with Communist China, or at least a pragmatic policy; further, leaders like Panikkar or V.K. Krishna Menon thought that the arrival of Mao on the stage was the best thing which could have happened to China …and Tibet.
The third phase starts with the beginning of the military operations in Tibet. It was officially announced by a letter of Marshal Liu Bocheng which was dismissed by the ‘visionaries’; around the same time (August 1950), Panikkar changed ‘suzerainty’ into ‘sovereignty’, giving a green card to Communist China to invade (or ‘liberate’ in Red jargon) Tibet.
Indian policy during this period was marked by accommodation and shameless appeasement towards China.
The strategic interests of India were sacrificed on the altar of ‘wider world views’ such as the ‘World Peace’ or the fear of jeopardising the chances of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) gaining entry into the United Nations Security Council. From the Western powers’ point of view, the main concern was “let us not rock the boat”, as in any case, “it is India’s business”.

Military as an Instrument of State Policy

Another dimension of India’s Tibet policy is the fact that the Prime Minister often disregarded the military as an instrument of State policy. Of course, this was in strong contrast with what was happening in China.
In the Chinese account of the so-called Liberation published as an annexure, during a meeting in Chengdu in August 1950, Deng Xiaoping, the Political Commissar of the Southwestern Bureau mentioned the importance of both the military and civilian factors to liberate the Roof of the World.
Some strategic notes of Lt Gen Nathu Singh, GOC-in-Chief, Eastern Command are quoted in the last chapter; they were regularly discarded by the Indian civilian leadership.
Even the attempt by the Indian Military Intelligence to send an officer to Tibet was thwarted; instead, Maj (later Lt Gen) Z.C. Bakshi was sent to Tibet on behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs. He nevertheless gave interesting suggestions, which were never implemented.
As I completed this first volume, these words of Sri Aurobindo came to mind: “There are moments when the Spirit moves among men and the breath of the Lord is abroad upon the waters of our being; there are others when it retires and men are left to act in the strength or the weakness of their own egoism. The first are periods when even a little effort produces great results and changes destiny; the second are spaces of time when much labour goes to the making of a little result. It is true that the latter may prepare the former, may be the little smoke of sacrifice going up to heaven which calls down the rain of God's bounty. Unhappy is the man or the nation which, when the divine moment arrives, is found sleeping or unprepared to use it, because the lamp has not been kept trimmed for the welcome and the ears are sealed to the call. But thrice woe to them who are strong and ready, yet waste the force or misuse the moment; for them is irreparable loss or a great destruction.”
An occasion was definitively missed for Tibet and India too.
Some call this Karma.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Shutting down of old Silk Road exposes China's OBOR hypocrisy

The Indian Consulate in Kashgar, now a restaurant
My article Shutting down of old Silk Road exposes China's OBOR hypocrisy appeared in Mail Today and DailyO.

Here is the link...

When Beijing today speaks of One Belt One Road, it omits to say there was once a flourishing commerce which it closed.

In the fall of 1950, PN Kaul, a young colonel, was posted in Leh. In his memoirs, he wrote about his life in Ladakh and mentioned a curious incident. He saw thousands of refugees arriving from Xinjiang (then Sinkiang or Eastern Turkestan): “(They) came with what little they could carry on their ponies. Many had lost family members in their journey over Karakoram or neighbouring passes. I had a hard time trying to see that they weren’t fleeced by those connected with their evacuation from Leh.”


They were fleeing Kashgar, which a few months earlier had been taken over by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Kaul recalls, “Our consul general in Kashgar, Captain RD Sathe of the Indian Foreign Service and an ex-army officer, and his wife also arrived in Leh during the winter of 1950, after their difficult journey from Kashgar.”
This small sentence is fascinating, because the closure of the Indian consulate in Kashgar is one of the least-known historical facts, but which had tremendous consequences. Strangely, nothing can be found in the Indian archives about it.
However, I once came across a cable from KM Panikkar, the Indian ambassador in Beijing, to KPS Menon, the foreign secretary. Dated August 14, 1950, a few months before Captain Sathe reached Leh; Panikkar writes, “Re-opening of the consulate in Kashgar may take considerable time. In fact, I have serious doubts whether the Chinese government will agree to a consulate there, as even the Soviet have not so far been given permission to re-establish their consulate general. If we press for it, multiple-month negotiations will be unavoidable.”
Does it mean that in August 1950, the Indian Consulate in Sinkiang was already closed? Incidentally, in Kashgar, India and Pakistan shared the same building, the erstwhile British consulate.
To figure the background of the closure of the Indian Consulate in Kashgar, one has to fish into the Johns Hopkins University’s archives in the US.
On November 14, 1950, Isa Yusuf Alptekin, the former secretary general of the defunct Government of Turkistan, at that time a refugee in Srinagar, wrote to Owen Lattimore, an influential American scholar.
The Uyghur leader explained, “Lue Meng Cheng (Liu Mengqun), who was secretary general of the headquarters for military and political affairs, joined hands unofficially with the Chinese communists in 1949. General Tao Chih Yao (Tao Zhiyue), commander-in-chief of the nationalist army in Turkistan also joined hands with him and became party to his activities. Governor Burhan (Shahidi) also joined them.”
It means that the main nationalist leaders defected to the communists, who were received with open arms in Sinkiang; Alptekin said, “This surrender meant Russian control over our land again, the consequences of which were still fresh in our minds.”
He had no alternative but to escape to India over the most arduous pass, the Karakoram.
The Uyghur leader reached Leh on December 12, 1949. “After reaching Ladakh we came to know that 789 of our countrymen had also reached Ladakh as refugees after surrendering arms, ammunition, valuables and extra clothing to the ruthless Chinese soldiers at the border.”

Communist rule
In the following years, tens of thousands of refugees would flee the communist rule. It’s probably at this time that the new leadership in Sinkiang decided to close the Indian, Pakistani and Soviet missions. The latter would soon be reopened and by 1953, it was thriving with 300 "advisors" directing operations in the New Dominion; India’s consulate, however, would never reopen.
It was only in December 1953 that Nehru declared in Parliament, “Some major changes have taken place there (Kashgar). But when these revolutionary changes took place there, it is also perfectly true that the Chinese government, when they came to Tibet, told us that they intended to treat Sinkiang as a closed area.”
The communists’ decision, accepted by India, had tremendous implications: The entire trade with Central Asia from Srinagar and Leh, the lifeline of these regions, suddenly ended. When Beijing today speaks of the One Belt One Road, or an Economic Corridor, it omits to mention that there was a flourishing commerce which was deliberately closed by China itself.

Construction of the Aksai Chin Road

According to a CIA report of July 15, 1953, the PLA was busy with road construction (across the Indian territory in Aksai Chin area). “In late 1952, the 2 Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Han Tse-min, had its headquarters at Gartok (Western Tibet). This regiment had 800 camels. A unit of this regiment, with 150 men, was garrisoned at Rudok (near the Pangong lake). Han Tse-min said when these roads were completed, the Chinese communists would close the Tibet-Ladakh border to trade. The Chinese communists in Sinkiang were telling the people that Ladakh belongs to Sinkiang.”
It was definitively a premeditated action to close down the Indian consulate in Kashgar and then, the trade between Sinkiang and Kashmir and central Asia.
The conclusion? First, it’s ironic Beijing pretends to be upset about India’s non-participation to its OBOR project when the century-old Silk Road was closed more than 60 years ago and remains so today.
Next, like in 1950, China puts its neighbours in front of fait accomplis and later announces that it’s ready to "talk"; though in that particular case, the Indian consulate in Kashgar never came to the negotiating table. It’s perhaps high time it does.

And finally, why can’t Delhi declassify these old files, which would show the world how China acted and still acts?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Chinese troops intrude in Ladakh: a coincidence?

Yesterday while announcing the appointment of new PLA Army and Air Force Chiefs, Han Weiguo and Ding Laihang respectively, The Nikei in Tokyo pointed out:
[about] the rest of the 11-member Central Military Commission, Gen Fang Fenghui, Li's predecessor as head of the Joint Staff Department, and General Political Department chief Gen Zhang Yang were reportedly arrested in late August on suspicion of ‘disciplinary violations’. The allegations are believed to involve graft, though details have not been disclosed.
The Japanese newspaper added:
Though such arrests are extremely unusual, the two officers are not the only Central Military Commission members ensnared in Xi's anti-corruption campaign. Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both loyal to former President Jiang Zemin, were previously ousted over bribery allegations. Fang and Zhang reportedly had close ties to Guo and Xu, respectively.
Reuters asserted that during his monthly news briefing, Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang declined to comment on Fang, who turns 67 next year, usually around the age at which Chinese officials retire.
It is getting hot in Beijing.

I re-post here a piece posted in September 2015 about Gen Zhang Yang on the Indian border.

September 13, 2015
Was it a coincidence?
Just the day before the new stand-off between the Indian and Chinese defence forces in Ladakh started, a senior member of the Chinese Central Military Commission visited the region.
Let us look at the facts.
As it already happened before the visit of Premier Li Keqiang to India in April/May 2013 and also as President Xi Jinping arrived in Ahmedabad in September 2014, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intruded on India’s territory.
The face-off is currently happening in Burtse area, a few miles east of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), where the 2013 confrontation occurred.
According to The Times of India, “the bone of contention is a surveillance structure being erected by the PLA very close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).”
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police apparently objected to the construction of the structure and, with the help of the Army, stopped the PLA.
Subsequently, the PLA called for reinforcements, followed by a massing of more Indian forces in the area.
The Times of India said: “The two forces are still locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation and efforts are being made to defuse the situation.”
General Zhang Yang 'inspects' a farm in Ngari

The Coincidence
On September 9 and 10, a member of the all-powerful Central Military Commission visited Ngari Prefecture, which borders Ladakh, in Western Tibet. General Zhang Yang was in Tibet to ‘celebrate’ the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
At the end of the main function held in Lhasa, the ‘Central’ delegation divided itself into different groups. As mentioned in a previous post, Yu Zhengsheng went to Shigatse and visited the Tashilhunpo.
Vice-Premier Liu Yandong went to Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture, while Jampa Phuntsok ‘inspected’ Nagchu. Another ‘sub-delegation’ led by Du Qinglin, Vice-chairman of the CPPCC, went to Nyingchi.
General Zhang Yang headed for a two-day tour of Ngari Prefecture. He went to convey the ‘loving care’ and the ‘deep feeling’ of the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, and the Military Commission to the ‘cadres and masses of all nationalities’.
Note that ‘of all nationalities’, just means ‘Tibetans’.
Like his colleagues, General Zhang brought along a banner carrying President Xi’s words, ‘Strengthen National Unity and Construct a Beautiful Tibet’.
Zhang was accompanied by Lt. Gen. Xu Yong, commander of the Tibet Military District.
Speaking at the main function in Lhasa, Lt Gen. Xu Yong had, a day earlier, declared that after 50 years of vicissitudes, with the region's rapid economic development and social progress, the living standards of the masses’ have markedly improved and social stability has overall been sustained: “During these 50 years in the same boat, the troops stationed in Tibet and police staff always depended on the Party's to write the bloody battles to defend Tibet, carve a new chapter the history of Tibet.”
What does General Xu refer to, when he speaks of ‘bloody battles’? It is not clear. The 1962 conflict with India?
Xu lavishly praised his boss, CMC's Chairman Xi: “All the troops stationed in Tibet and police officers must resolutely obey the Central Military Commission and Chairman Xi command; conscientiously implement the Sixth Tibet Work Forum’s spirit; vigorously carry forward the heritage of the ‘Old Tibet Spirit’ and faithfully fulfill our mission of responsibility,… and make new and greater contributions for the great prosperity of the motherland and border stability.”
Nothing new!
Also in the delegation, was Wang Yongjun of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). A year ago, WantChinaTimes had reported that the CCDI’s boss, Wang Qishan had started ‘parachuting’ CCDI officials into key posts around China in order to strengthen the party's anti-graft campaign and bring new blood to certain regions.
In January, 2014, Wang Yongjun, formerly deputy dean of the China Discipline Inspection and Supervision Institute was transferred to head the Tibet regional branch of the dreaded (by the corrupts) CCDI.
The Political Commissar of the Tibet Armed Police Corps, Xiao Tang was also in attendance in Ngari.
Meeting the 'masses'
After the customary photo sessions with the ‘cadres and the masses’, (i.e. herders, farmers, toilers, etc.), the General who also heads the PLA’s Political Department, stressed “the need to thoroughly study and implement the spirit of the important speech Xi Jinping, in particular, his speech at the Sixth Work Forum and implement the good advices given by Yu Zhengsheng during the 50th anniversary function.”
He concluded, “seize the opportunity, work hard and continue to strive.”
This is the usual stuff.
But during his visit to Ngari, General Zhang Yang and his delegation “made a special trip to lay a wreath on the revolutionary martyrs’ cemetery.”
Which martyrs? 1962 again?
And perhaps more importantly, one line in the local press mentions that Zhang 'visited the troops'.
Was the 'political' general informed that the PLA was planning to build a structure in an area considered by India to be within her territory?
If Zhang was not informed, the PLA has a serious problem of command.
If he was informed, it is a serious issue for India.

PS: By the way, where was Lt. Gen. Peng Yong, the commander of the Xinjiang Military District, who looks after Ngari area?  Can a Yong (Xu) replace a Yong (Peng)?

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Middle Kingdom’s strategic miscalculation

My article The Middle Kingdom’s strategic miscalculation appeared yesterday in the Edit page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Though one can only rejoice about the disengagement in Doklam, one should not forget issues that are extremely disturbing: It is China's non-respect of agreements and international rules
On August 28, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a statement: The Doklam confrontation was over, both the Indian and Chinese troops had agreed to withdraw. Later in the afternoon, the MEA clarified further: “India has always maintained that it is only through diplomatic channels that differences on such matters can be addressed. Our principled position is that agreements and understandings reached on boundary issues must be scrupulously respected.”
This was a reference to the 2012 agreement between India and China to not change the status quo. Delhi explained once more its position: “India’s policy remains guided by the belief that peace and tranquility in the border areas is an essential pre-requisite for further development of our bilateral relationship.”
Despite the agreement, Beijing’s propaganda continued. Answering a question fromPTI, on whether the disengagement is mutual, Hua Chunying, the Chinese spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, affirmed: “China will make adjustments based on actual situation.”
On whether the issue had amicably been settled, she answered: “The settlement of issue shows sincerity and attitude of China as major country; will continue develop friendly relations with India.” She, however, urged “India to earnestly abide by historical conventions and international law. … China will continue to uphold sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with historical conventions.”
Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, had told off Mao Zedong in 1959, “China can’t ever be wrong.” Nearly 60 years later, this has not changed. Many observers, however, feel that the important outcome is that the tension has been diffused. Though the shadow of a war has receded, there is no doubt that Bhutan is at the heart of China’s strategic miscalculation.
Beijing has never admitted (or accepted) that Thimphu could have a special relation with Delhi. This is not new. Soon after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Lhasa in September 1951, Beijing started threatening the Land of the Dragon. A recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report dating from February 1953 describes in detail how the Chinese tried to frighten the peaceful Buddhist kingdom. The CIA noted: “(during) the latter part of November 1952, the Chinese communists stationed some two thousand Sino-Tibetan troops along the northern border of Bhutan.”
The CIA continued: “These troops were stationed in groups, numbering approximately 200 each, in the various passes between Bhutan and Tibet, from the pass lying between the Haa Valley and Yatung as far east as the pass between Punakha and Tibet.”
A footnote explained the geographical position of the Chinese troops: “According to available maps, a route extends from Haa Dzong to Chumbi. (It) shows two routes from Punakha to Tibet, the more direct via Gasa Dzong, and a longer routevia Wangdu Phodrang and Byakar Dzong.”
Hardly a year after the PLA’s entry in Lhasa, the Chinese troops were already positioned to bully Bhutan; communist China could not accept the special relation India had with the Kingdom. The information received by the CIA is usually quite accurate; the latitude and longitude of the passes are even given: “Detachments were stationed in the passes between the Paro Valley (and Chumbi)” It speaks of roads from Paro Dzong extending west to Haa Dzong and thence to Chumbi, and east to Tashi Chho Dzong and Phari Dzong, and between Tashi Chho Dzong and the Dochen Plateau (north of Phari), as well as at intermediate passes.”
Note that Beijing was not as yet aware of the tri-junction where the present confrontation took place. The CIA noted that in the opinion of Bhutanese circles, “the disposition of these troops on the border was for the purpose of intimidating Bhutan, and not a preparation for the invasion of that country.”
The Royal Government reacted by sending a letter of protest to the Chinese while accelerating the training of Bhutanese soldiers.
As a result of the Chinese bullying, Bhutan became “actively engaged in training Bhutanese citizens in the art of modern warfare. Recruits are taught to handle and fire the British Lee-Enfield caliber .303 rifle and the British .45-caliber Sten gun. …By so trainings large percentage of the population, the Bhutanese hope eventually to have an Army modeled after the one in Switzerland.”
Another aspect of the Chinese ‘calculation’ in 1952/53, is provided by the CIA analysts: “It may also be anticipated by the Communists in Tibet that the presence of these troops along the border may influence the Bhutanese to export to Tibet more rice, butter, meat and other foodstuffs.” During the first months of Tibet’s occupation, the PLA was starving and Beijing badly needed India …and Bhutan to supply foodstuff (mainly rice) to the occupying forces.
One could say that it is a miracle that despite the tremendous pressure from the north, Bhutan has remained an independent nation, still striving for ‘happiness’. Sixty five years later, seeing that intimidation did not work, China stepped onto Bhutan’s territory while trying to make the world believe that it is India which ‘miscalculated’. Hopefully today, the Bhutanese are grateful to India to have come to their rescue.
Another issue remains extremely disturbing, it is China’s non-respect of agreements, international rules and normal behaviour, whether it is for the supply of data for the Sutlej or the Yarlung Tsangpo, the Kailash Yatra, the implementations of border agreements or in the South China Sea (SCS): For years, China vociferously screamed that from time immemorial the sea belonged to the Middle Kingdom. When the issue was examined by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, it ruled differently.
The court said that China had no legal basis to claim any historic right to the natural resources in most of the areas of the SCS. It also ruled that such rights must not exceed what’s permitted by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Further, there was no evidence China had historically controlled the waters or its resources exclusively. The court maintained it had jurisdiction to consider historic rights and maritime entitlements.
The ruling was a terrible blow for the land (and sea) grabbing Middle Kingdom. Of course, this did not stop Beijing to continue with its claims and the reclamation of several islands.
An Indian scholar, Namrata Goswami, pointed out in The Diplomat: “China has strategically preferred to act in ways that go contrary to its signed commitments in the framework agreements. …why does China sign ‘guiding principles’ and ‘framework agreements’ with countries with which it has territorial disputes and then violates the commitment to the status quo enshrined therein? …the pattern in these three cases reflects China’s inability to meet its ‘framework agreement’ commitments, thereby throwing in doubt its seriousness as a reliable negotiator.”
Though one can only rejoice about the disengagement in Doklham, one should not forget these issues which remain alive. More than ever, India should be on its guard.