Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gateway to Nepal via the roof of the world

Kyirong welcoming China
My article Gateway to Nepal via the roof of the world appeared today in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Chinese plans to improve connectivity between Tibet and the Himalayan nation, by extending the railway network and building a new land-port at Kyirong, should be of concern in Kathmandu and New Delhi

Next week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Nepal. Can you believe that he will be the first Indian Prime Minister to pay an official bilateral visit to Kathmandu in 17 years? Press reports say that Mr Modi may also travel to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and Janakpur, where legend has it, Lord Ram wed Sita.
This is good: India needs to re-establish her cultural, historical, economic and strategic links with Nepal as the Chinese are descending fast on the former Himalayan Kingdom. In September 2013, according to the Nepali publication The Republica, Mr Lobsang Gyaltsen, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, told some Nepali officials visiting Tibet that China would extend a rail service to Nepal once the train reaches the southern city of Shigatse. At that time, the Nepali delegation seemed more interested in a Chinese-built railway line from Kathmandu to Lumbini.
Mr Hari Basyal, the Nepalese Consul General in Lhasa, said that Mr Gyaltsen, though non-committal about Lumbini, announced: “Feasibility study is underway for expanding rail service between Nepal and Tibet.” Mr Gyaltsen also expressed China’s commitment “to extend a meaningful support to Nepal for achieving the common goal of socio-economic development.” This is ominous for India. This month, The Global Times made the train story official: “Sky rail to run from Lhasa to south Tibet; further railway expansion to connect Nepal, Bhutan, India by 2020.”
The rail line, linking Lhasa and Shigatse (poetically termed by China as the ‘closest stretch of railway to the sky’), will be open in August. The construction of the extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which started in September 2010, will be 254km long and have 13 stations. Trains will run at a speed of 120kmph and it will take only two hours from Lhasa to Shigatse, the TAR’s second largest city.
Kyirong (Chinese Gyirong) landport
According to Mr Yang Yulin, Deputy Director of the TAR’s railway office, it is the largest infrastructure project in Tibet during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), with an investment of more than $1.7 billion. The train to Shigatse has three basic purposes: One, to bring more tourists, the TAR’s main source of revenue (15 million will visit the region in 2014); two, to take away minerals to the mainland to feed the Chinese economic machine and three, to ‘strengthen’ the borders with India by allowing quick movement of troops and armament.
But Mr Yang also announced that during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) period, construction will start on railway line connecting Shigatse with Kyirong in northern Nepal and with Yatung, in the Chumbi Valley located between Sikkim and Bhutan. Xinhua also affirmed that Beijing will soon upgrade the road network in Tibet “to make travels on The Roof of the World much easier”. The Chinese Ministry of Transport said that it will expand its road network to 1,10,000km by 2020 in TAR alone. Should India not be worried? The MOT acknowledged that the development of transport in Tibet was “crucial to China’s national security… and the lasting prosperity in the autonomous region.” ‘National security’ here means the strengthening of the borders with India.
In the meantime, Nepal’s vital economic relations with its giant northern neighbour will receive a tremendous boost when the new Kyirong land-port opens later this year. On April 11, the official China Tibet Online reported: “The Kyirong Port in southwest China’s Tibet bordered with Nepal will be formally opened in October this year.” The opening of the Kyirong Port has been listed as a key element of the Plan for national ports for 2014. A cross-border China-Nepal Kyirong Port Economic Cooperation Zone will soon be established; further, the Kyirong Port will be promoted as a tourist destination for mainland Chinese.
Zham is currently the main land-port between the TAR and Nepal, though historically Kyirong has been important; Xinhua explains: “The Kyirong Port enjoys a long history of being the largest land trading port between Tibet and Nepal. Many shop owners have expressed the hope that the opening of the port can help them get more involved in the border trade.”
Very few remember that during the 1792 Tibet-Nepal War, the Manchu troops called by the Tibetan Government to defeat the Gorkhas used the Kyirong route to invade Nepal. Will the opening of Kyirong mean another ‘invasion’ of Nepal with lakhs of Chinese tourists (and cheap goods!) arriving in Kathmandu?
Economically, the new border infrastructure will undoubtedly benefit both sides of the border. On April 11, Mr Dong Mingjun, a Vice Chairman of the TAR’s Government told the media, “By the end of July this year, construction of roads, [provision for] energy and medical facilities will be completed at the port.” The Kyirong Port will also be equipped with special facilities for monitoring eventual smuggling. Mr Dong also affirmed that, “the Kyirong Port will serve as a link between China and the South Asian countries.” Geographically, it does not make sense for Kyirong to be the link between China and South Asia, but a railway line to Yatung could be this potential link.
It would explain the announcement that the train is being planned for Yatung too. Today the border trade between India and Tibet is minimal, despite the great hopes generated in 2006, when Nathu-la was opened between Yatung and Gangtok. Since then, border trade has stagnated (partly due to the restricted list of items allowed to be traded). Does the new announcement mean that China will like to open the Yatung-Nathula-Gangtok route in a big way? Has Beijing consulted New Delhi on this or is it a unilateral decision?
A Chinese official asserted: “The opening of the Kyirong Port will become a key trading port next to Zham Port, and an important destination for international trekking, folk activities and visitors’ driving tours.” Till now, the transactions in Kyirong represented only a small percentage of it; this will change with the opening of the new land port. The opening of Kyirong will certainly boost border trade between Nepal and Tibet (China).
Chinese tourists and goods will be poured into Nepal through the Lhasa-Shigatse railway line and then the highway between Shigatse and Kyirong (a branch of the highly-strategic G219 highway linking Tibet to Xinjiang, known in India as the Aksai Chin Road) and in a few years, the train will be available.
This will also have serious strategic and security implications for India, as military exchanges are bound to increase between Beijing and Kathmandu. During his visit, Mr Modi will have a hard time balancing the Chinese presence in Nepal, but the fact that he has chosen Kathmandu as his second bilateral destination, shows that he is determined to start on a new footing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Developing Western Tibet, China secures its border with India

The two parts of Demchok
I have often mentioned on this blog, the unusually-long stay of Deng Xiaogang, Deputy Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Secretary of TAR’s Politics and Law Committee (in other words, responsible for the law and order, security and police in Tibet) in Ngari Prefecture “to inspect the border security and the People’s Liberation Army bases”.
During the past 2 months, he spent most of his time in Western Tibet, except for one or two times he had to rush to Lhasa to receive VVIPs.
On June 20, an article in The Tibet Daily mentions: "Deng Xiaogang comforts the rank and file of the police in border County", adding that Deng “inspected Rutok, the border county in Ngari Prefecture and conveyed to the rank and file of the border policemen, the Party’s cordial greetings. He cordially shook hands with the soldiers and comforted them.”
Rudok is located near the Pangong Lake (tso) stretching between India and China; it is where Chinese ‘water’ incursions often occur.
Addressing the border guards, Deng Xiaogang stressed: "Tibet is very special strategic location; it is an important barrier for the national security; development and stability in these border areas is an important part of the region's overall situation. In recent years, under the strong leadership of the CPC’s Central Committee, the regional Party committee [of the TAR] and the [local] government firmly requested people to unite and take a lead in the development of the region; they went all out to maintain stability, and improve people's livelihood as much as possible; to build prosperity, harmony, happiness, a place ruled by law, a beautiful new socialist Tibet and [finally] to work hard."
Apart from the usual Communist jargon, the question remains why should a senior, powerful leader like Deng spend weeks in such remote places.
One possibility is that China wants to reinforce its border with India, especially after the Modi Sarkar declared that one of its priorities was the development of infrastructure along the borders (see my interview with Kiren Rijiju).
Deng has not been the only Chinese official to visit the beautiful (and strategic) province of Ngari.
Zhang Yijiong, Deputy Director of the Central United Front Work Department, who is also the interlocutor-designate for eventual negotiations with Dharamsala, followed the footsteps of Deng Xiaogang.
Wu Yingjie, Deputy Secretary of the TAR, Deng Xiaogang and Dong Mingjun, one of the TAR’s vice-chairmen were on Zhang’s side.
When Zhang Yijiong particularly visited Purang County, at the trijunction India-Nepal-Tibet, near Mt Kailash, his trip was of course, not a spiritual one.
He met policemen, firefighters (for preventing immolations?), officers and troops manning the border with India, the SWAT (commandos) and lectured them on the different aspects of ‘counter-terrorism’ and ‘stabilization’.
He praised the troops for remaining ‘steady’ despite the cold and the lack of oxygen, the harsh environmental conditions and complimented them for fulfilling their duties conscientiously without being overtaken by fatigue.
He asked them to continuous keep their fighting spirit "to maintain a sustained harmony and stability of Ngari area and to work for the development and stability of Tibet".
He thanked the soldiers for their important contribution to the Chinese nation: “On behalf of the Central United Front Work Department, my heartfelt gratitude and highest respect for you, I hope you will continue to make persistent efforts, do a solid job for the long-term stability and the overall stability of Tibet”, he told the border troops.
The caring party leader asked the soldiers to look after themselves and pay attention to their health.
More importantly, General Xu Qiliang, a member of the Politburo of the CCP's Central Committee and one of the two vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC) ‘inspected’ the Xinjiang and Tibet garrisons.
According to a military website: "Xu Qiliang recently [when is not disclosed] inspected the troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) garrisoning Xinjiang and Tibet."
General Xu visited the soldiers and officers stationed in the Aksai Chin and Ngari opposite the Indian troops.
Note that there was a recrudescence of ‘intrusions’ into the Indian territorial waters on the Pangong lake and on the ground (Demchok) around the time of his visit.
No doubt just a coincidence!
On June 24 and 25, the powerful Commander of People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF), Wang Jianping had visited Lhasa and Ngari prefecture ‘to carry out investigations’. The boss of all paramilitary forces in China, an old Tibet hand (he was posted in Tibet between 1996 and 2000), emphasized that the troops should “resolutely complete every task keeping in mind the tasks that are more urgent, working hard to start the new phase of establishing the police team for a new achievement for the developmental breakthrough and long term peace and stability of Tibet.”
In Lhasa, he was accompanied by the TAR Secretary Chen Quanguo, Deng Xiaogang, Choedak (Qizha La), Wang Ruilian, Kelsang Tsering, Dorjee Tsedrub, Lobsang Gyurmey and others.
General Wang Jianping’s visit was followed by the arrival in Lhasa of Meng Jianzhu, Politburo Member and head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Central Committee. Meng spent five days in Lhasa and Lhoka. While in Tibet, he asserted that “local officials should have a profound understanding of the long lasting nature of the anti-secession efforts, and always take them as the primary political task, he said, vowing a harsh crackdown on separatist activities or terror attacks.”
It is not known if Meng had time to drop by Ngari.
Now, on the development side, Shaanxi Party Secretary Zhao Zhengyong also visited Ngari. Shaanxi is one of two provinces that have ‘adopted’ Ngari Prefecture by sending hundreds of cadres to carry out infrastructure and developmental projects.
On July 16, a Chinese website reported: “Zhao Zhengyong [downgraded by the website as Deputy Secretary of Shaanxi] led the team of the party government delegates to Gar [Gartok] county of Ngari prefecture to investigate the project of Shaanxi’s aid to Tibet. They visited and greeted the cadres aiding Tibet. He emphasised that Shaanxi will sincerely implement the orders of the Central Party, regarding the work of giving aid to Tibet. He said that they will incorporate Ngari’s development into the overall plan of the Shaanxi province, start formulating the 13th five-year plan of Shaanxi at the earliest and give impetus to Ngari Prefecture’s new developmental breakthrough.”
Zhao was accompanied by Padma Choling (Chairman of TAR people’s Congress and only Tibetan in the Central Committee) and Jiang Zelin (Standing committee member of CPC Shaanxi Provincial Committee and Vice Governor of Shaanxi Provincial People’s Government).
Lhasa TV showed Zhao’s visit in Ngari.
At the end of 2012, Shaanxi had allocated 4 million US $ to make Demchok, the border town with India [note the traditional Demchok village is in Ladakh, but the Chinese have built/renovated their own Demchok on their side of the LAC] into a ‘model village’.
CCTV showed new homes, a guest house (for future Indian visitors?) and a map of the nearby historical spots.
The TAR website explains: “The border line [with India] passes through Dian-jiao [Demchok] village of Tashigang township, Gar County .On Aug 2011, the Shaanxi Province fund for aiding Tibet donated 21million Yuan to Dian-jiao [Demchok] village for making it a model border village by promoting economic development of the border area, unity among the ethnic groups and consolidation of the border.”
The article continues: “Waking into the Dian-jiao [Demchok] model border village, one can see an irregular arrangement with charming effect which is filled with Tibetan characteristics. There are good water, electricity, road and communication facilities. Facilities like Solar energy street lights and gymnasium equipments are also available. Zhao Zhengyuan had close interaction with the village cadres, members of the working group stationed at the village, the security personnel responsible for guarding the border, to get a detailed understanding of the situation of building of the model village, the situation of the Party branch of the village and the village [Party] Committee. He pointed out that TAR party committee and the government is sincerely implementing every policy that is beneficial to the people and that will bring prosperity to the border areas.”
What to conclude from all this?
These high-profile visits are linked with the railway line soon reaching Shigatse. This will bring a tremendous boost to the region, first around Shigatse and particularly to the new landport in Kyirong which will become the most important link between Tibet and Nepal, but also to Western Tibet (Ngari prefecture).
Beijing seems keen to open the area to large-scale tourism like it was earlier done in Lhasa and Nyingchi.
It will be one way to get more revenues for the region; they can be reinvest later in the ‘development’ of the area.
This, of course, poses serious security problems to China, mainly due to the proximity of the border with India. This explains the visit of General Xu Qiliang [originally, an Air Force officer] and General Wang Jianping, responsible of the paramilitary forces on the border.
The last two visits mean that China remains in a state of alertness and preparedness on its frontier with India. Regular incursions (in the Western and Eastern Sectors, but in the Central Sector too - in Uttarakhand) will probably continue; it is one way for Beijing to test the Indian waters (and the Modi Sarkar).
The visit of Zhao Zhengyong demonstrates that China is keen to invest in the rapid development of the area with the help of other Chinese provinces.
The construction of a new guest house in Demchok is perhaps a sign that China may agree to open the traditional border between Tibet and India; on a very small scale in a first stage, but security issues have to be tackled first.
That is probably what Deng Xiaogang was inspecting.
From the Indian side, the situation is worth watching.

Monday, July 28, 2014

About Reincarnation in the Communist Party

Zhang Yijiong, Ling Jihua (centre) and Sitar (behind)
Communist China is changing very fast.
Even hardcore Marxists of the Central Committee are today interested in the reincarnation system.
In 2012, Hua Jintao's favorite, Ling Jihua did not get the seat in the Politburo which was promised to him.
In an earlier posting, I wrote about his son's Ferrari-accident in which two Tibetan girls (and the boy) were killed. That was the end of Ling's dreams.
He nevertheless became vice-chairperson of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and minister of the United Front Work Department, in charge of 'Tibetan affairs'.
On July 25, 2014, when he visited the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing, he showed particular interest in a special exhibition "The Living Buddha Reincarnation System of Tibetan Buddhism" organized by the Center.
Can you believe that the Old Communist Party is organizing exhibition on the reincarnation system? Is is new China?
Mao must be turning in his grave (or mausoleum).
At the Tibetology Center, Mr. Ling gave the usual speech quoting the speeches of his bosses, President Xi Jinping and Yu Zhengsheng, the Chairman of CPPCC. He said that both have given "a series of important instructions on Tibet-related work, pointing out the direction of further development for Tibetan studies".
Ling was accompanied by Zhang Yijiong (Dharamsala's interlocutor in case of talks) and Sitar (a Tibetan) of the United Front Work Department, who recently visited Tibet (particularly the popular Ngari region).
Ling told the officials that he hoped that the China Tibetology Research Center could make "deep investigations and studies, research with great concentration, blaze new trails in a pioneering spirit contribute wisdom and strength for the economic development and social stability of Tibet and Tibetan areas, as well as for the national reunification and ethnic unity."
Well, it is certainly good for today's China to learn about reincarnation.
The study of the reincarnation system might also be good for Mr. Ling.
His end seems to be coming fast.
The South China Morning Post reported last week: "Speculation grows that CPPCC vice-chairman Ling Jihua could be implicated in corruption inquiry as brother-in-law is held in custody."
The Hong Kong daily further believes: "The detention of a relative of Ling Jihua, a former senior aide to ex-president Hu Jintao, has led to speculation the authorities may be building a case against Ling himself."
Wang Jiankang, Ling's brother-in-law is a deputy mayor in Yuncheng in Shanxi province; he was recently been taken into custody.
According to the SMCP, Wang is the latest relative of Ling to be detained: "Last month, Ling's brother Ling Zhengce was taken into custody over allegations of corruption. He is a vice-chairman of the Shanxi CPPCC."
Another source says that Wang's wife, Ling's elder sister Ling Luxian, had also been detained.
Ling Jihua, Hu Jintao's former personal secretary, was once upon the time the rising star of the Party.
The SMCP asserts: "Ling Jihua comes from Shanxi and was said to be a founder of the 'Shanxi gang', officials who either worked their way up the ranks in the coal-rich province or traced their ancestry to there. Several senior officials with links to the province have been detained over allegations of corruption this year."
All this perhaps explains Mr. Ling's interest in 'reincarnation'.
His present political life is probably coming to a close.
It is time to think of 'next one'.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Chinese Train to Sikkim? For what?

On July 24, The Global Times run a story "Sky rail to run from Lhasa to south Tibet; further railway expansion to connect Nepal, Bhutan, India by 2020."
It announced that the railway linking Lhasa and Shigatse (poetically called by China as the 'closest stretch of railway to the sky') will be open to traffic in August.
In my yesterday's posting, I mentioned that the construction of the 254 kilometers line began in September 2010.
The new  extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway will have 13 stations between Lhasa and Shigatse,
According to Yang Yulin, deputy director of the railway office of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government, it is the largest infrastructure project (in Tibet) during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) with an investment of more than $1.7 billion.
Zhu Bin, a manager with a mineral company based in Lhasa told The People's Daily that "It will accelerate transportation of the mineral products, which could only be transmitted through highways that often risk being cut off during rainy seasons or see vehicle turnovers."
That is certainly one of the objectives of the train.
A Tibetan writer based in Lhasa, told the Communist newspaper that the railway will help local Tibetans to 'exchange with the outside world' and ...'tourists will be attracted to the area'.
It is clear that China is not investing 1.7 billion US $ for the Tibetans to 'see the outside world'.
The train to Shigatse has 3 basic purposes, one, to bring more tourists, the TAR's main source of revenue; two, to take away minerals to the mainland to feed the economic machine and three, to 'strengthen' the borders with India by allowing quick movement of troops and armament.
Now, more surprising, Yang announced that during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) period, the construction of a railway connecting Shigatse with Gyirong (Kyirong) in northern Nepal and with Yatung, in the Chumbi Valley between India and Bhutan, will start.
Kyirong is a logical extension of the line as China has extensively invested in this landport to make it the main link between Tibet and Nepal, but why Yatung?
The border trade between India and Tibet is minimal as I showed in a research paper last year.
Wang Chunhuan, professor at the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences in Lhasa told The Global Times that the railway network in Tibet will play the role of continental bridge in South Asia and promote economic and cultural exchanges.
Does it mean that China woud like to open the Yatung-Nathula-Gangtok route in a big way?
Has Beijing consulted Delhi on this or is it a unilateral decision? 
The Global Times quotes Liu Zongyi, an 'expert' on India, working for the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, saying that the "Indian authorities would certainly care about the operation of the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway that is very close to the disputed area [Arunachal?]. The Indians have lately been working on adding infrastructure in the South Tibet region, in order to strengthen control."
'Southern Tibet' is the Chinese name for 'Arunachal'!!
Liu explains that it is a bargaining chip.
If people on the Chinese side of South Tibet region (Arunachal) see better economic development in southwestern Tibet (Shigatse and Ngari) they will be tempted to join the People's Republic.
This is of course a Chinese Dream.
But the move towards Yatung is indeed a bargaining chip at another level.
Liu admits: "The growing railway network will increase Chinese activities in this area, balancing Indian moves."
China is nervous about the raising a 'mountain strike corps', XVII Corps, with its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal, not too far from Sikkim (and Yatung).
When fully operational (by 2018-2019), the Corps, costing some Rs 64,678 crore to the Indian tax-payers, will have 90,274 troops.
The Corps which will be spread on the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh; it will have two high-altitude infantry divisions (59 Div at Panagarh and 72 Div at Pathankot) with their integral units, two independent infantry brigades, two armoured brigades.
It will also include 30 new infantry battalions and two Para-Special Forces battalions.
Incidentally, the projected railway line to Yatung perhaps explains the inflated size of the Chumbi Valley in the newly published Chinese maps. Huge chunks of Bhutanese territory have been engulfed in the Chumbi Valley. 

It is a fact that XVII Corps makes China nervous.
China will not certainly not invest billions of dollars to built "a continental bridge in South Asia and promote economic and cultural exchanges", but balancing the developments on the Indian side, is worth a few billions dollars.
On the Indian side, the government is said to have cleared the construction of four militarily strategic railway lines in the Himalayas; 3 of them are in Arunachal Pradesh and one, to Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the Free Press Journal, the new rail lines will enable rapid deployment and movement of forces across the rugged, inhospitable and mostly snow-bound terrains. This is India’s first foray in the upper Himalayas to match the railway lines built by China connecting almost all areas on its side of the LAC.
The construction is expected to begin next year, though land acquisition and preparation of the detail project reports will be done during this financial year.
Also important to India, the railway linking Lhasa to Nyingchi Prefecture, located north of the McMahon Line, which is expected to start in a few months. It is also part of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).
India should watch and act fast.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

General Xu visits the Indian Border

The recent heavy traffic of VIPs/VVIPs in Ngari (Western Tibet)  was not only due to the presence of the Dalai Lama in Ladakh.
It has also to do with Beijing's decision to consolidate its borders, whether there are sea borders in the South China Sea or land borders with India (mainly in Aksai Chin region).
Yesterday, China Military Online reported that Xu Qiliang, a member of the Politburo of the CCP's Central Committee and also one of the 2 vice chairmen of the  Central Military Commission (CMC) inspected Xinjiang and Tibet garrisons.
According to the official website: "Xu Qiliang recently [when is not disclosed] inspected the troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) garrisoning Xinjiang and Tibet."
The article adds: "During the inspection, General Xu Qiliang visited the officers and men in frontier areas, and held talks with the leaders of the troop units garrisoning in Hotan [Xinjiang, near the Aksai Chin], Ali [Ngari or Gar] and Lhasa [in the Tibetan Autonomous Region or TAR] areas to discuss the development and reform of frontier troop units.
This means that General Xu inspected troops belonging to 2 separate Military Area Commands (Lanzhou and Changdu).
Xu Qiliang also visited sentries of the Shenxianwan (just north of the Karakoram Pass and the Depsang Plains) frontier defense company who were performing duties at the altitude of 5,380 meters.
Xu Qiliang went to the barracks of the Khurnak Fort frontier (opposite the Indian troops in Ladakh, north of the Panggong tso) defense company and Banmozhang (near Sirijp on the Panggong Lake where many incursions have taken place) to inspect a water [speed-boats] squadron and inquire about the soldiers’ work, study and life.
According to the same source: "Xu Qiliang also inspected weaponry and equipment and observed training and drills in a training base of a 'Red Army' regiment of the Xinjiang Military Area Command (MAC), an infantry brigade of the Tibet Military Command (TMC) and the First Detachment of the Tibet Contingent of the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF)."
He was accompanied by a battery of generals, amongst them, Gen. Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, Gen. Miao Hua, political commissar of the Lanzhou MAC and Gen. Zhu Fuxi, political commissar of the Chengdu MAC.
This visit is also probably linked to the arrival of the railway line in Shigatse.
Another official Chinese site announced a few days ago that the completion of an extension of the world's highest Qinghai-Tibet railway, Lhasa-Shigatse railway. The construction started on September 26, 2010 will be officially opened in August.
Test trains are already running on the newly-built line, which will have an overall length of 253 km; trains will be able to run at a speed of 120 km per hour. It will take only 2 hours from Lhasa to Shigatse, the seat of the Panchen Lamas' and the TAR's second largest city.
China Tibet Online says that the city already attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors each year: "In recent years, Panchen Lama's palace, Tashihunpo Monastery in Shigatse has received over 200,000 visitors from home and abroad annually. The opening of Lhasa-Shigatse railway will surely make the journey of worshippers to Tashihunpo Monastery safer and easier."
The first train reached Lhasa in July 2006, and though Beijing says: "it has positively impacted on Tibet's tourism, hospitality and manufacturing sectors", the main beneficiary has been the PLA.
The new line will be another progress for the PLA and PAPF stationed on Western Tibet.
To come back to General Xu's visit, did he come to distribute new accurate maps to the troops?
A Chinese military site recently reported: "A batch of new-version paper-made battle maps with a scale of 1:50,000 obtained by a motorized infantry brigade under the Lanzhou Military Area Command (MAC) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from a measuring and mapping information center under the PLA Lanzhou MAC were quickly transferred to the frontline troop units participating in the trans-regional base training on the morning of July 9, 2014, marking that the distribution of a total of over 15 million new-version paper-made battle maps to the troop units under the Lanzhou MAC has been completed."
The website added: "This is the first time for the PLA to completely update a single type of map in the past 30 years."
Now the time is ready for Beijing to exchange maps of its 'perceived borders' with Delhi, something it has refused to do till today.
Shenxianwan Frontier Sentry Post
Shenxianwan Frontier Sentry Post
Shenxianwan Frontier Sentry Post 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Missiles permanently stationed in Tibet

Medium range surface-to-air missiles (SAM) have been in the news after the Ukrainian tragedy.
A few months ago, I mentioned their arrival on the Roof of the World: "Recently China tested again its HQ-16/LY-80 Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Air Defense System  on the plateau and posted pictures of the exercise on its official websites."
I had also mentioned that on July 20, 2012, the PLA had staged a live-fire test of a new high altitude surface-to-air missile (SAM) somewhere in the Tibetan plateau  "in a move intended to prepare for potential US strikes against Chinese interests in the region."
Read my posting of the subject...
Today the China Defence Blog reported: "Back in May 2014, it was reported that the new HQ-16 has been deployed to Tibet for the first time during an anti-air drill, unfortunately the participating military unit was not spelled out...   Fast forward three months and now it is confirmed that the hosting unit was the 651st Independent Air Defense Brigade, organic to the Tibet MD. Yup, that means the HQ-16 is here to stay."
This is not good news!
Though it is not directly related, another news about China's military preparedness appeared today in The South China Morning Post (SMCP).
It says: "Twelve mainland airports, many of them among the busiest, will be hit by widespread delays until the middle of next month because of what are believed to be PLA military exercises."
Can you believe it?
The Hong Kong daily adds: "The mainland's civil aviation regulator yesterday told state radio that flights in and out of airports in the country's east - including Shanghai, Nanjing and Wuhan - would be affected until August 15 by the 'high-frequency drills of another user' [read ...the PLAAF]".
Other affected airports are in Hangzhou, Hefei, Jinan, Wuxi, Ningbo, Qingdao, Lianyungang and Zhengzhou.
The Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines alone is said to have cancelled 22 flights in and out of the affected airports. In 36 hours, more than 290 flights at Shanghai's two airports were delayed or cancelled.
And of course,  the State-run media was mum. Though 'it is widely assumed to be the PLA' says the SCMP which affirms: "Repeated calls made to the Ministry of National Defence and the Civil Aviation Administration of China were not answered."
Can you imagine this happening in India?


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Getting married in Tibet

This is a continuation of my earlier posting Disneyland of Snows: Hijacking Tibet.
CCTV reported last week that 'Couples head to Tibet for wedding photos'.
Can you believe it?
Lhasa has become the 'hottest' place to get married.
CCTV says: "More and more Chinese couples are having their wedding photos shot in Tibet’s stunning scenery, for the natural beauty, as well as the famous cultural sites."
I wonder where this new Chinese scheme figures in the Middle Path approach of Dharamsala.
Supposing that one Beijing agrees to negotiate one deal with the Dalai Lama's envoys, what will be Dharamsala's position for the new craze for 'seeing' the Roof of the World and getting married in front of Tibetan 'heritage' building?
CCTV give examples: "Ms. Liu and her fiance are planning to get married next year. They have decided to shoot their wedding photos at Norbulingka, a park in the city of Lhasa built in 1755. It is no easy task, and they must get up early in the morning to prepare, but they think it is worth it."
The Chinese state TV channel, quoting the same Liu, continues: "I really love this place, many of my friends had their photos taken here too. The photographers here are also very skilled."
Then, the CCTV program cites another couple who has decided to marry in front of the 'famous' Potala palace: "they have wanted to come to Tibet since their childhood. This place is just so beautiful and iconic, and my husband and I want it be a witness of our love."
CCTV says that according to photographers, "this time of year is a booming season for wedding photos, especially for Chinese couples. Photo studios are rolling out new package deals every year to include many of the famous sites in Tibet. Ethnic attire is also a popular feature for customers."
It is not mentioned if the photographers are Tibetans or Chinese.
CCTV concludes: "The booming season is expected to last until October, and that means a lot more hard work ahead for photographers."
The Middle Path is far away, simply because the Chinese are changing the posts every day.
Tibetans will be more and more work-on actors.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Interview Capt. Bharat Verma

My dear friend Bharat Verma is no more.
He left us yesterday morning.
I am republishing an interview which appeared in in 2009.

Here is the original link...

Fault Lines is the title of the latest book by Capt. Bharat Verma, the outspoken editor of The Indian Defence Review, the country's most prestigious defence publication.

The book, a collection of the Review's editorial pieces, demonstrates the depth and consistency of his vision over the last decade.

At a time when very few in the country think of India as a unified whole, and vote banks are the only preoccupation of politicians, Capt. Verma speaks to Claude Arpi about the fault lines, not only in the defence sector but also in the nation's psyche. Excerpts:

Could you explain what the fault lines you have discussed in your book are?

It is said that a long time back, a king with an excellent military machine at his disposal could not stomach the violence involved in winning wars. So he renounced war. This led to the rise of the pacifist philosophies, which created an 'extreme'-where the state either refused to defend itself or neglected the instruments that could defend it.

Pacifist philosophies may be good for the individual's soul, but are suicidal for the nation's security.

Any 'extreme' is dangerous, as it tends to create imbalance in statecraft. We saw that in the unjust unilateral aggression in Iraq. It diminished the American aura.

Pakistan's over-aggressive agenda in the name of jihad haunts it now to the point of fragmentation of the state.

China's compulsory one-child policy seems to be landing it in an extreme position where it will have 15 million young males who cannot find brides. This unnatural tilt in the male population could lead to war with its neighbours!

Similarly, pacifism is the other extreme. If it infects policymaking, then 26/11s will occur on a regular basis. Or a 'Tibet' will happen.

Would you say there is ONE original fault line [the Partition based on a faulty two-nation theory]?

Any thought process with an extreme edge would naturally create multiple fault lines in the subsystems of governance. Therefore, the creation of Pakistan based on an acute purity of thought process, vis-à-vis excessive pacifism of multi-cultural India, is contradictory. Such 'extremes' generate wars.

Armed with an aggressive Wahabi philosophy, Pakistan wants to destabilise a pacifist India. The latter's instruments of state-steeped in pacifism-are unable to rise to its defence!

Have you heard anything about defence matters during the present electoral campaign? If not, is it not worrying?

Mostly, it is in general terms and at a low tactical level of the spectrum. Of course, everyone promises to fight terrorism. But on the night of 26/11, if Home Affairs did not know that it could immediately request the military to activate the regular infantry battalion and the marine commandos stationed in Mumbai, then it is obvious nobody had done their homework in New Delhi!

So without a concrete road map, I doubt these leaders are capable of waging a war against terrorism. It's pure rhetoric meant for the consumption of the voter.

Similarly, exempting income tax of the defence forces or implementing one-rank-one-pension is merely vote bank politics. It does not generate a road map for securing the nation. Frankly, there are just two issues in front of the nation that need attention-the first is development and the second is security. All-round development will generate wealth that is required to be secure. The rest is peripheral!

There is an urgency to particularly ensure rapid development of states located on the international borders. Otherwise, the external actors will continue to undermine citizens' loyalty to the state with ease.

Where is 'India as a whole' in the current election campaign?

India is under major transition on two counts. First, the 'have-nots' are rising. They have been denied their fair portion of the pie for too long. Therefore, there is a major social churning taking place.

They are now fighting their way up-because the system, out of prejudices and lethargy, did not allow them space to grow. This will create a lot of turmoil and political fragmentation in the days ahead, if not handled intelligently!

Second, the change of generation taking place will witness an assertive India from 2012 onwards. The new generation is focused, self-assured, has better vision than the waffling elders of yore and is determined to see India as a strong country.

The first factor will dominate these elections and we will continue to see a fair amount of turmoil till 2012. I think as the national pie gets enlarged in years to come, social harmony will reappear.

Just take a look at America-it provides a great environment for working people. That environment propelled the Indian community to become the highest revenue earners in the United States. Such is the individual genius when given the right environment. China is scared of this Indian talent and has been trying to sabotage it with the help of its proxies!

The magic word for India, therefore, is 'governance'. If New Delhi can offer merely an average stable and secure governance for the next 10 years, India's success story will be unstoppable. In such an eventuality, India will emerge as the most influential power in Asia by 2020!

How do you see the evolution of defence preparedness over the last 10 years? Are you optimistic?

Honestly, we are in poor shape. Portions of meagre budgets that are provided are being returned to the treasury unspent every year because of cumbersome procurement procedures. The huge shortage of officers in the army is breaking down the bonding between the soldier and the officer. This, in turn, is impacting the discipline adversely and is hurting morale.

The lack of a grand strategy at New Delhi is pushing the battle-winning factor of India into a marshy land of insurgency for decades, with no end game planned. Unless we mainstream the military power by bringing it into the decision-making loop and ensuring lateral induction into the civil to keep the military young, I am afraid we will end up losing a fine war machine. The fault will be entirely ours!

Lateral induction will also help in beefing up the weak civil administration at the same time, with skills they badly need. However, I think the trend of declining military power will be reversed by 2012 with the younger generation taking over the reins of governance.

You said that Fault Lines "analyses the security issues that threaten the territorial integrity of the country due to the unstable neighbourhood", but is it not wrong to always point a finger at the neighbour, when Indian politicians and bureaucrats are not doing their own homework?

In Fault Lines, the first finger that I point is at us. I firmly believe in the Chinese proverb, "If he slaps you once, it's his fault. If he slaps you again, it's your fault!" Primarily, fault lines are highlighted to illustrate how we neglected our well-being and others took or may take advantage of our muddle-headed policies.

I am confident Sun Tzu was pointing to Indian politicians and bureaucrats when he said, "If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle!" The importance of this anthology, however, rests on the ability to pinpoint the inherent pitfalls in the strategy adopted by the various actors. Most of it appears to have come true.

That brings me to the last question. How do you view the new American policy on Afghanistan-Pakistan?

President Obama's effort to lower the social temperatures augurs well for the international community. By increasing the focus on Pakistan (where the battle really lies), rebuilding the relationship with Europe, trying to talk to Iran, increasing communications with Russia and many other countries to tackle serious problems the world faces today displays rare statesmanship.

However, it is not true when the Obama administration says that the United States, India and Pakistan face the same threat. The truth is that Pakistan is the threat that India, America, Europe, Russia and others face.

This is particularly true since the Pakistan Army, its ISI and the jihad factory recruit from the same area-Pakistan's Punjab. They also aim to achieve similar politico-religious objectives. The inter-connectivity with one brother joining the Army and the other the Jihad machine cannot be separated. Therefore, nuclear tipped Radical Islam is more dangerous than Nazi Germany.

The success will depend entirely on how honestly and decisively the world community is willing to address the problem. The problem obviously is Pakistan. Therefore, the next battlefield is Pakistan, too.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dharamsala Interlocutor visits Western Tibet

Zhong Yijiong visiting a Tibetan family
when he was posted in Jiangxi
The craze for Ngari continues.
Zhang Yijiong, Deputy Director of the Central United Front Work Department, who is also the interlocutor-designate for eventual negotiations with Dharamsala followed the footsteps of Deng Xiaogang, the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Deputy Secretary who has been spending weeks in the border areas of Western Tibet (Ngari).
Zhang, a member of the all-powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party came to give some guidance to the local cadres on terror issues, counter-terrorism and of course ‘stability' and also to 'encourage cadres and masses of all ethnic groups'.
I also wonder how many ethnic groups, apart from the Tibetans (and the Han soldiers) live in Western Tibet.
Zhang, who was posted in Tibet between 2006 and 2010, was accompanied by a high-level delegation.
Wu Yingjie, Deputy Secretary of the TAR, Deng Xiaogang, in-charge of the Politics and Law Committee (read law and order and security) and Dong Mingjun, one of the TAR’s vice-chairmen were on Zhang’s side.
Before leaving Lhasa, Zhang Yijiong called on Pagbalha Namgyal Rinpoche, the National Vice-Chairman of CPPCC and …oh surprise, on the Panchen Gyalsten Norbu.
It is surprising, because the Lama was supposed to have gone back to Beijing, at least according to The Tibet Daily.
Did he miss the plane?
Or did he decide to experience the blue sky of Western Tibet (or simply visit  'his' Tashilhunpo monastery monastery?) before returning to the polluted Chinese capital?
Or did he take a ride on the Lhasa-Shigatse railway which is expected to be officially inaugurated in August (a month earlier than earlier planned!).
It is not clear from the reports published so far.
Though Zhang Jiong visited Purang County at the trijunction India-Nepal-Tibet, near Mt Kailash, his trip was not spiritual in nature.
He met all the police officers, the firefighters (for preventing immolations?), the officers and troops manning the border with India, the SWAT (commandos) and lectured them on the different aspects of counter-terrorism and ‘stabilization’.
He praised the troops for remaining ‘steady’ despite the cold and lack of oxygen, the harsh environmental conditions and for fulfilling their duties conscientiously without being overtaken by fatigue.
He asked them to continuous remain in fighting spirit "to insure orderly activities, maintain a sustained harmony and stability of Ngari area and work for the development and stability of Tibet".
He thanked them for their important contribution for the nation: “On behalf of the Central United Front Work Department, my heartfelt gratitude and highest respect [to you], I hope you will continue to make persistent efforts, do a solid job for the long-term stability and the overall stability of Tibet”, he told the soldiers.
The caring party leader asked the troops to take care of themselves and pay attention to their health.
Zhang Jiong visited other border posts, always telling the soldiers on duty to fully understand the complexity of the current grim situation (does he refer to the presence of the Dalai Lama in Ladakh?); he asked the border guards to increase their sense of responsibility and their sense of mission.
He also visited some temple (Ke Jia?) and harangued the monks; he also asked about their living conditions and noted that the majority of monks devote themselves to Buddhist practices to improve their religious skills; they are patriotic and unswervingly oppose “the Dalai clique's separatist and sabotage activities” in order to resolutely safeguard the national unification and ethnic unity.
The Party cadres were told that they should make friends with the monks, fully mobilize the enthusiasm of the patriotic and law-abiding monks and nuns and actively help Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to a socialist society; this will be for the common good and create a safe and harmonious environment, he said. All the departments should attach a great importance to the conservation work of the temples in order to protect and promote the cultural heritage of the nation.
This obsession with 'stability' shows that Beijing is quite nervous about the 'stability' of its borders with India.
Later, Zhang Yijiong went to Ngari (Ali in Chinese) where he met the United Front local cadres and other Party workers. He asked them to conscientiously implement the Party's ethnic and religious policies, and comprehensively improve the level of ethnic and religious affairs.
In other words, be nice with the local Tibetans.
Why so much focus on Ngari?
One factor is of course the presence of the Dalai Lama in Ladakh.
Ngari and Ladakh were once upon a time, part of the same kingdom.
Another reason the arrival of Narendra Modi in power in Delhi. The 'Tibet Policy' of the new Government might be different from the one followed by the Congress.
The arrival of the train in Shigatse will also be a game-changer for Western Tibet. According to, with a total length of 253 kilometers, the Lhasa-Shigatse railway was completed in March 2014, after 4 years of construction, with the tunnels covering 115.7 kilometers, accounting for 45.7 percent of the line length. It will be inaugurated in August.
It means that millions of Chinese tourists will have an easier access to the beautiful 'heritage' sites of Western Tibet.
By the way, I mentioned on this blog that General Wang Jianping, the People's Armed Police Commander visited Lhasa a couple of weeks back. After 'leaving' Lhasa, he reappeared in Urumqi in Xinjiang a few days later. Where did he go in between?
Did he also take a ride on the new train or visit his troops on the border with Ladakh? Nobody knows.
The new Shigatse Railway Station

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Narendra Modi’s pragmatism reminds of Jean Monnet

My article Narendra Modi’s pragmatism reminds of Jean Monnet appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

On June 30, in presence of the Prime Minister, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C23 with five foreign satellites. A few minutes after the launch, all the satellites were placed on perfect orbit around the Earth. The main payload was a 714 kg French Earth Observation Satellite named SPOT-7.
After witnessing the launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the scientists and dignitaries present.
His most striking announcement (to me at least) was the possibility of a South Asian satellite. Modi said: “I ask our Space community, to take up the challenge, of developing a SAARC Satellite - that can be dedicated to our neighbourhood, as a gift from India. A satellite, that provides a full range of applications and services, to all our neighbours. I also ask you, to enlarge the footprint of our satellite-based navigation system, to cover all of South Asia.”
Modi’s pragmatic view to jointly develop something with the other 7 SAARC States reminded me of Jean Monnet, the father of Europe. Western analysts often ask: when Europe has gone so far on the path to unity (and peace), why has the Indian subcontinent remained divided, unable to share its basic resources, with its borders practically closed?
One of the answers is that Europe had the fortune to have Jean Monnet who, with sheer will, vision and obstinacy, worked towards making Europe a concrete reality, with common institutions which helped reducing to nil the possibility of conflict between the nations/units.
Regrettably, Jean Monnet is not well known in India.
Though a modest man, Monnet is a real hero of his time.
In June 1940 already, Monnet made a revolutionary proposal. He proposed the unconceivable, a Union between France and UK with one flag, one parliament, one people. Though Churchill and de Gaulle were rather reticent at the beginning, finally the British and the French Cabinet accepted the proposal. Churchill, like de Gaulle, was conscious of the historic importance of the gesture and of the effect such a declaration could have on the morale of the occupied countries. Once the text was approved, de Gaulle called Paul Reynaud, the French Prime Minister who had established his government in Bordeaux. Reynaud asked him whether Churchill had approved the text. Churchill grabbed the telephone and said: “Hold on! De Gaulle is leaving now; he will bring you the text. Everything can change with this proposal. Let us meet tomorrow in Concarneau [in Brittany]”. De Gaulle left by plane. Monnet was about to get on a train when he learnt that the French Prime Minister had resigned and that the defeatists in France had won the day. Pétain had been chosen as the new Prime Minister.
History is made by bold moves; though this particular one did not materialize, soon after the end of the war, Monnet was to make an even more revolutionary one. Monnet always believed that nice words were not enough, men’s deeply-entrenched attitudes needed to be changed.
His main trait was to always remain down-to-earth, pragmatic …and persevere. Both Germany and France had to rebuild their industry; it was bound to revive their old rivalry. To reverse the trend – what has been the seed of the war had to become the seed of unity— Monnet proposed to create a High Authority which could manage the resources in coal and steel for both nations.
This was the birth of the European Coal and Steel Community, the first embryo of the European Economic Community (EEC). It came into existence in March 1957, with the Treaty of Rome creating the EEC and Euratom (for atomic energy). The Treaties of Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1997), Nice (2000) and Lisbon (2007) saw new steps towards unification. Today, 27 nations share a common future.
Herve Alphand, a French Ambassador to the US, who worked closely with both Monnet and de Gaulle, used to call Monnet and de Gaulle, ‘the Inspirer and the Connétable [the Chief]’. Though opposite in character, the two great men had no choice but to tolerate each other, to work together. And they did, perhaps because “both are disinterested and entirely moved by ideas and ideal. And both have an extraordinary courage and perseverance,” wrote Alphand.
The tragedy is that history only remembers de Gaulle and has forgotten Monnet (at least in Asia).
The bold move of Narendra Modi when he invited the SAARC heads of State for his investiture and now his proposal to join hands to built together a satellite (why not a satellite studying the pattern of South Asian monsoons and climate in the region?) make me think of Monnet.
Can Modi be a Monnet for South Asia?
Is there a possibility to use some of Monnet’s experience (one could say techniques) to built a common future for South Asia?
Only the future will tell us, but the groundwork done by Jean Monnet for Europe demonstrated that perseverance can do miracles. The intelligence of Monnet also lies in the fact that he managed to set up mechanisms and institutions which do not depend on present and future politicians to function.
Monnet realized that history goes in one direction only: towards a greater unification of the people of the world. New technological and communication discoveries shrink the planet every day to the size of a small hamlet, and international institutions may have to adapt themselves to follow the process, but the evolutionary movement goes into this direction. Europe has shown the way. The preamble of the Constitution made clear that it is ‘‘drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe”.
Could a similar process happen in the Indian subcontinent, which has a longer shared history and culture?
The EU Constitution also recalls “the historic importance of the ending of the division of the European continent and the need to create firm bases for the construction of the future Europe.”
Can a small project such a common satellite be a first step?
Why not? Monnet analyzed once the Israel-Arab conflict thus: “I saw the Middle East conflict on the point of breaking out again; yet the hostility between Israel and the Arabs seemed to me no more insuperable than that between France and Germany had been for more than seventy years. Franco-German enmity was now a thing of the past; and what had ended it was neither warfare nor diplomacy, but a method which changed men’s attitudes by transforming the very reasons for their rivalry. What divided people could still bring them together, anywhere in the world …I was convinced that the union of Europe was not only important for the European themselves: it was valuable as an example for others, and this was a further reason for bringing it about.”
The subcontinent today needs men with Vision and ‘Inspirers’.
Can Modi be at the same time, the Inspirer and the Connetable for South Asia?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What was the Panchen Gyalsten Norbu doing in Lhasa?

Tibet is a popular destination these days, not only for tourism.
After General Wang Jianping, the People's Armed Police Force Commander last week, the Panchen Lama selected by Beijing visited Lhasa ...for 3 days.
Why such a short visit?
Difficult to say.
Officially, the Panchen Lama Gyaltsent Norbu had come for 'inspection' and for his 'religious duty'.
He went to pay homage to Jowo, the statue of the Buddha in the Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa. Is it considered as his 'religious duty'?
Gyaltsen Norby also went to Sera monastery where he met a few selected monks.
Xinhua later reported: "The 11th Panchen Lama concluded his religious duties in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region on Friday."
He had reached on Tuesday.
The news agency further elaborated: "The 11th Panchen Lama Panchen Gyltsen Norbu, one of the two most revered living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, visited monasteries in Jokhang and Sera, where he performed rituals, including sutra interpretations and blessings."
The name of the second 'most revered one' is of course not mentioned as he is presently in Ladakh performing the Kalachackra.
As a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, Gyaltsen Norbu met CPPCC regional members in Lhasa.
He told them: "As CPPCC members, we should work together on national development and people's interests in Tibet."
Xinhua says: "These visits have become an annual event in recent years."
The question is, why should the visit last 3 days only?
It is  rather strange.
Last year, Gyaltsen Norbu reached Lhasa on August 27 and left mid-October after visiting Tashilhunpo monastery and Sakya. Read my posting on "The Strange Case of the Panchen Lama".
The TAR website (in Chinese) gave more details, particularly about Gyaltsen Norbu's meeting with the Party's big shots in Lhasa on July 2.
The website says: "The Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chen Quanguo met with the 11th Panchen Erdeni Gyaltsen Norbu in the afternoon at Lhasa. The Vice minister of the United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee (UFWD) Sithar, leaders of the Autonomous Region like Padma Choling, Wu Yingjie, Gongpo Tashi, Qizha La, Tenzin Langjie, Thupden Kedup [Rinpoche?], Phagpalha Geleg Namgyal Rinpoche, etc. were present during the meeting."
It is interesting that the Lama was accompanied by Sithar, a Tibetan working for the United Front Work Department in Beijing (and earlier posted in Germany).
Chen Quanguo expressed a warm welcome to Gyaltsen Norbu "for returning to Tibet for investigation (research?) and inspection and for carrying out Buddhist activities".
The Party Chief added: "We are truly happy for your growth and progress and give you our heartfelt wishes.”
Chen Quanguo then gave a long lecture to Gyaltsen Norbu, giving a brief on the condition of Tibet’s economic society: "From this year onwards, the Party Committee of the Autonomous Region and the Governmental will lead masses and cadres from every ethnic group, further implement the spirit of the Second and the Third Plenum of the 18th Party Congress; implement the spirit of the series of the important talks delivered by Xi Jinping - especially the important strategic thought of 'To govern a country, we must govern the borders, for governing the borders, we must first make Tibet stable' and the instruction of working hard for Tibet’s sustained stability, long term stability and comprehensive stability."
Obviously, the Chinese leaders are nervous about the situation on the border.
That is the reason Deng Xiaoping is still in Rutok.
What was the real reason of Gyalsten Norbu's visit to Lhasa?
On one side the 'border', the Dalai Lama is revered by the 'masses' (1,50,00 people are attending the Kalachakra) while on a Tibet side, a few apparatchiks meets one Lama that they have selected themselves. There is here a problem for powerful China.
Incidently, Xinhua reported that the 14th Dalai Lama "is now holding the 33rd Kalachakra, or time-wheel, assembly, in Indian Kashmir. The Dalai Lama has recently held the assembly on a yearly basis."
One so-called Tibet expert, Li Decheng, head of the religious studies at the China Tibetology Research Center, explained that "the ceremony incited hatred, terror and extremist action, seriously tarnishing the Kalachakra's nature of solemnity and purity, and affecting the healthy development of Tibetan Buddhism."
To come back to Chen and Gyalsten Norbu, the Party Chief asked the Lama to "implement CPPCC Chairman Yu Zhengsheng’s 'Rule Tibet as per law, build Tibet for the long term, win the hearts of the people and ram the foundation', adhere to 'One Core', 'Two Major Tasks', 'Four Insurances' that have been clearly stated by the Party, innovate, do solid practical work, stick to scientific development, social stability, unity of nationalities, improvement of the nationalities, harmony in religion, good ecology and strengthen the building of the party."
The usual Communist jargon.
Chen Quanguo added that Xi Jinping and the Central Committes are "highly concerned about the growth and progress of the 11th Panchen Lama. The Tibetan compatriots and the Buddhist circles have high hopes about him. We sincerely wish that the 11th Panchen Lama would grow and make even more progress and work hard to become the model of the Great Tibetan Buddhist masters."
Chen then gave 6 advices to Gyaltsen Norbu to become a role model for the masses.
Gyaltsen Norbu gave the expected answer: “In the recent years the Party Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Government have sincerely implemented the religious policies of the government, strengthened and innovated the management of the monasteries, has shown concern for the monks and implemented a series of policies that were beneficial for the monastery and the monks. In this process, Tibetan Buddhism has found its roots once again."
Gyaltsen Norbu said that the development of a religion and the fate of a nation are deeply interrelated: “As a person from the religious background, I must have unwavering patriotism, I must unwaveringly walk on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and persistently harbour mercy in my mind to deliver the masses from difficulty. The world of Tibetan Buddhism must treasure and protect the good situation prevailing now, must promote and safeguard harmony and the stability of the society in a better manner, and must serve the China’s Dream of rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in a better manner."
Well, this does not explain, how his religious duties and his inspection tour could be completed in a record 3 days (compared to 6 weeks last year).
Sometimes, I think that the Communist leadership does not really trust 'their' Panchen Lama. Let us not forget that the late 10th Panchen Lama was also 'their' choice. He turned out to be one of the greatest Tibetan patriot.
And why to come to Lhasa, just to receive a lecture from Chen Quanguo?
Why did Sithar need to accompany him?
All these questions have no answer today, except perhaps that the leadership is nervous.
By the way, as Gyaltsen Norbu was leaving, guess who arrived in the Tibetan capital?
Zhang Yijiong, the head of the Office of the Central Work Coordination Leading Small Group on Tibet, and Deputy Secreraty of the UFWD.
He is the one who will eventually lead the Chinese delegation, if talks with Dharamsala are one day resumed.
Zhang is also the direct boss of Sithar.
The climate in Lhasa must be pleasant these days.
In Jokhang
Meeting the Party bosses
With Phagphala
In Sera Monastery
In Jokhang

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Dalai Lama's Birthday and Beijing's dilemma

Huge crowds welcomed the Dalai Lama in Zanskar and Ladakh
The Dalai Lama is 79 years old today.
Surprisingly, China Tibet Online, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party in Tibet, remembered the date by publishing an appeal calling for his return China.
The language is relatively more moderate than usual (it does not speak of the 'Dalai Lama's clique', for example) though Beijing sticks to its old position, the Dalai Lama is welcome back ...if he gives up is 'separatist' stance ...and lives in Beijing.
Time and again, the Dalai Lama declared that he is not interested in his personal 'position'; he wants a solution for 6 million Tibetans.
The China Tibet Online article asserts that: "all successive Chinese leaders have stated very clear[ly] the consistent stance and policy towards the Dalai Lama and the contact and talk with his representatives, and even the future plan for his followers around him can be negotiated."
Beijing's conclusions is "Therefore, the way back home is clear. But how to come back and whether he wanted to come back could only depend on the 14th Dalai Lama himself."
The leadership in China probably realizes the immense popularity of the Tibetan leader on the south of the Himalayan range; it seems unable to deal with this phenomenon. 
Plain insults (like during the tenure of Zhang Qingli, the previous Party Chief in Tibet) did not work; repression is not working too; so, why not an invitation to come back 'home'?
However, it is not what the Dalai Lama is asking for.
He wants a 'genuine' autonomy for his people.
This is clearly unacceptable to Beijing; it would have serious implications for the Middle Kingdom. You just need to look at the neighbouring Xinjiang, to understand!
The fact that Deng Xiaogang has been roaming around Ngari for weeks, is a sign of Beijing's dilemma.
Where is the solution? 

Looking into Dalai Lama's way home upon his birthday
Lethe Guo
China Tibet Online
Born in 1935, the 14th Dalai Lama is celebrating his 79th birthday on July 6, 2014. The old monk has lived in a small town of Dharamsala in northern India for more than half a century since he fled from China's Tibet in 1959.
"Falling leaves return to their roots", as a Chinese saying goes. As a man gets older, he or she would inevitably think about returning home. On this occasion, it might be interesting to ask if the Dalai Lama has some genuine reminiscence and expectations on returning home besides using it as a political wager.
For the past 54 years, this homesickness, if any, could be fathomed from the name of Daramsala meaning "little Lhasa" since Lhasa is not only the capital of the current Tibet Autonomous Region but also the place where his Potala Palace stood in old Tibet.
The geographical distance between Dharamsala and Lhasa is 1,443 km. Yet, how long is the journey for Dalai Lama to cross the snow-capped Himalayas and return to China's Tibet?
The answer is clear in Chinese government's stance. For a long time, the Chinese central government has made it clear how the 14th Dalai Lama could return to his homeland, which can be noted in many top leaders' remarks.
In October 1959, seven months after the 14th Dalai Lama's flee from Tibet, Mao Zedong stated: "He (the 14th Dalai Lama) could come back as long as he admitted that Tibet is part of China and agreed democratic reform to be carried out in Tibet."
In December 1978, Deng Xiaoping said during an interview with the US Associated Press (AP) that the 14th Dalai Lama could return as a Chinese citizen, which meant he should behave like a Chinese citizen and stop persisting on a separatist idea or doing any such activities.
In 1998, Jiang Zemin made it clear in expounding China's principles and stance towards the contact and talk with the 14th Dalai Lama that, "As long as Dalai Lama drops his 'Tibet independence' position, stops any separatist activity, acknowledges officially that Tibet is an indispensible part of China…and recognizes the government of People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government to represent China, the door is open for talk."
In May 2005, Hu Jintao also pointed out that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet, socialist system, and the system of regional autonomy for ethnic groups in Tibet must be kept.
Therefore, what is common in all of these Chinese leaders' statements is that the idea of democracy, autonomy and national integrity can't be challenged by the Dalai Lama.
Recently, the Dalai Lama and his group managed to send radical representatives to spread such words and fan the flame of separatism to orchestrate self-immolations, according to the previous reports by Xinhua on the crackdown of such cases in Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Besides, what else has the 14th Dalai Lama done?
His calls for contact and talk always land on the proposal of the "Middle Way Approach" including the idea of "Greater Tibet" that schemes all Tibetan-inhabited areas as "Tibet" and asks to drive out people of all other ethnic groups from these areas, and the proposal of "high-degree autonomy" preceded by the "genuine autonomy".
The first is by no means practical or lenient, and to some degree undermines the wisdom of a religious personage. Above all, different ethnic peoples live in Tibetan-inhabited areas in the surrounding provinces such as Qinghai and Gansu historically. These places are as much rooting homeland for Tibetans as for other ethnic peoples. Besides, in an era of the "Earth Village", migration and national integration is the trend, which is inevitable throughout the human history if any global development is made. After all, historically speaking, the "Greater Tibet" has never existed in ancient China. Thus, it's not the "Middle Way" but rather an innovative and hegemonic way that against history and practice.
Second, the idea of "high-degree autonomy" proceeded by the "genuine autonomy" stands out rather as much ironic. The administration in Tibet is a regional ethnic autonomous one led and funded directly by the central government. Tibetan cadres and all civil servants in the administration account for 70 percent to make decisions for the Tibetan people's well-being and speak for them in attending the central government's conferences. Interestingly, the Dalai group did explain at times what they wanted, in particular the Tibetan army, the right to establish diplomatic relations with some international organizations or foreign countries. To what extent, are these rights not the rights of an independent country?
A little serious look at the two proposals as the wager bid for "promoting contact and talk with the central government of the PRC" could come to this conclusion of his insincer political motive.
Moreover, the mostly acknowledged and respected identity of the 14th Dalai Lama lies in his religious position as one of the two most influential rinpoches enjoying highest positions in the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism with the other one being Panchen Lama. However, the 14th Dalai Lama doesn't seem to value his holy title so much as to often wear the crimson robe to show around his religious identity for pitiful donations and publicity like a pop star.
He could hold four times the "Kalachacra (one of the most well-known meditational deities in Tantrism, or the wheel of time) Consecration Great Assembly" in one year. Buddhists all know that the "Kalachacra Consecration Great Assembly" is so divine that it could only be organized once a year or even once in several years for exceptionally special events. For example, Jamyang Gyatso, the sutra teacher of the 11th Panchen Lama, held a "Kalachacra Consecration Great Assembly" in the Labrang area in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gansu last summer, when nerly 100,000 people assembled to hear the highly esteemed lama Jamyang Gyatso chanted sutra and prayed for Buddha's blessings for people. Compared with Jamyang Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama indeed has a higher religious position, but does it mean he could do everything to his desire? Even his teacher, Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug sect, could simply conduct such great grand assembly once in his lifetime, which was in the Jokhang Temple in 1409 wen China was the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with more than one year's preparation, how could the 14th Dalai Lama play himself and Tibetan Buddhism like that to woo innocent westerners?
Likewise, he tended to play with his reincarnation issue as well. That might be why he could talk about incarnating into a woman, a foreigner, or a "bee" and even appointing a reincarnated soul boy while he is still alive. Words are indeed ironic, especially for "experts" to address "ignorance", aren't they? Yet, can the Tibetan Buddhism followers expect more respect towards Dharma from the 14th Dalai Lama?
According to Xinhua's recent report, the Chinese government invested 2.5 million yuan (some 410,000 US dollars) in October 2012 to restore the 14th Dalai Lama's old residency in Hongya Village of Shihuiyao Township in Pin'an County, Haidong Prefecture of Qinghai. In the family prayer room, statues of Shakyamuny the Buddha, Thousand-hand Avalokitesvara and the 14th Dalai Lama are consecrated.
The 14th Dalai Lama, or Tenzin Gyatso, was born into a farmer's family in Huangzhong County of Qinghai Province in 1934. After being confirmed as the 14th Dalai Lama, he became the top leader of old Tibet. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, he sent representatives to Beijing to talk with the central government's representatives and signed the "17-Article Agreement" to liberate Tibet peacefully under the leadership of the central government. In 1959, some Tibetan serf owners, the noble ruling class, launched armed rebellion, and then the 14th Dalai Lama flew to India.
As mentioned above, all successive Chinese leaders have stated very clear the consistent stance and policy towards the Dalai Lama and the contact and talk with his representatives, and even the future plan for his followers around him can be negotiated.
"If the Dalai Lama is to improve his relations with China's government, he must give up his separatist position…and stop making statements which disrupts the peaceful development of Tibet," said a China's top religious official on June 29, according to AFP.
Therefore, the way back home is clear. But how to come back and whether he wanted to come back could only depend on the 14th Dalai Lama himself.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Maps now and then

Recently published Chinese Map
Large tracks of Indian territory are shown as Chinese

My article Map Now and Then appeared today in The Statesman.

Here is the link...
Why is Delhi so quiet? Probably because ‘China and India are friends’! Friends like in 1954? It is very ominous.  It is perhaps time for Delhi to distribute the maps of India's borders. It will be useful for the general public, the press and for the Indian officials 

Last week, Beijing published its first official vertical national map of China, incorporating vast areas of the South China Sea. The South China Morning Post (SMCP) commented that the new map gave “equal weight to both land and sea, in [Beijing’s] latest move emphasising its claims of sovereignty over the disputed waters.”
Earlier maps showed the islands in the South China Sea on a smaller scale, in a separate box-out in a bottom corner of the map. Mainly due to the prominence given to the South China Sea on the new map, during several days, most commentators concentrated on the South China Sea; finally, the MEA decide to take note of the new map.
Why? Probably because the Indian media had discovered that the new map showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. South Block could not keep quiet anymore, especially at a time the Indian Vice-President was visiting China …to celebrate 60 years of “peaceful co-existence”.
The MEA was, however, quick to dismiss the new map by saying that “cartographic depiction did not change the reality that Arunachal was part of India.” The MEA spokesman further elaborated: “The fact that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India has been conveyed to the Chinese authority on several occasions including at the very highest level.”
What is more shocking is the fact that the spokesperson forgot to mention the central sector (Uttarakhand and Himachal) where large chunks of Indian territory (such as Barahoti and Nilang) appear on the Chinese map also …and similarly not a word for the Aksai Chin and areas around the Pangong Tso in Ladakh!
Why has the MEA nothing to say about these vast areas of India’s territory? It is all the more difficult to understand after the Indian press had reported: “On June 24, four Chinese high-speed interceptor boats were spotted moving from Srijap I posts around 8.25 am to Srijap VIII, VI and V detachments on the northern banks of the [Pangong] lake. Twenty minutes later, Indian troops on the four American-made boats moved from Thukang base and intercepted Chinese vessels. The two sides first were locked in a face-off and then conducted a so-called banner drill to remind the other side of the Line.”
According to South Block sources, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) boats came 5.5 kilometres into the Indian side of the Pangong Lake (Tso) on 24 June. The incursion lasted over two hours, involving four high-speed Chinese interceptor boats that were pushed back by Indian troops, on their US-built interceptor vessels.
The Hindustan Times quoted government sources to affirm that the lake has seen 12 face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops this year alone: “In 2013, there were no less than 18 face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops in Pangong Tso due to serious difference in perception on the LAC and also due to massive Chinese infrastructure build-up close to the line.”
The non-reaction of the MEA is particularly surprising when one looks at the new Chinese map which shows large parts of Ladakh as belonging to China. China is a regular offender. A few months after the signature of the infamous Panchsheel Agreement, Nehru visited China. On his return, he wrote a note entitled ‘Implications of China Visit’; it was an internal note intended for the MEA officials. He described in detail his visit to Beijing (in October 1954): “During my visit to China, I had a number of talks with the Chinese leaders. I had long talks with Premier Zhou Enlai separately. I also had joint talks with Chairman Mao Zedong and his principal colleagues, Vice Chairman Zhu De, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Peoples’ Congress Liu Shaoqi; Premier Zhou Enlai...”
The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Secretary General of the MEA, NR Pillai, and India’s Ambassador in Peking, N. Raghavan.
In other words, it was a Sino-Indian Summit.
The maps of China were discussed. Like today, they showed several parts of India’s territory as belonging to China. Nehru writes: “I referred to Chinese maps which still showed portions of Burma and even of India as if they were within Chinese territory. So far as India was concerned, I added, we were not much concerned about this matter because our boundaries were quite clear and were not a matter for argument. But many people took advantage of these old maps and argued that China had an aggressive intent, or else why continue to use these maps. In Burma also this caused apprehension.”
Zhou Enlai cleverly replied that “these maps were old ones and China had not done any surveying to draw new maps. Their boundaries even with Mongolia and the Soviet Union were still not clearly demarcated and there were discrepancies. I [Nehru] pointed out that this might be so. So far as India was concerned, I repeated, there was no doubt about our boundaries and I was not worried about them. But I wondered how China would feel if a part of Tibet had been shown as part of India in our maps.”
Amazing (and sad), while Beijing still speaks about the Five Principles, 60 years later, the situation on the ground is repeating itself. Let us not forget that China’s Survey and Mapping Administration has approved the controversial map published by Hunan Map Press, which in its announcement said the map was of “great significance in safeguarding the nation’s water sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Why is Delhi so quiet? Probably because ‘China and India are friends’! Friends like in 1954? It is very ominous.
Another similarity with 1954:  60 years ago too, Beijing had ‘no problem’ with India; China’s problem was with the American imperialists.
During the Panchsheel commemoration, President Xi Jinping vowed that no violations of territorial integrity would be tolerated, adding though that no nation (read the US) should be allowed to monopolise global affairs. Xi however made it clear: “Sovereignty is the reliable safeguard and fundamental element of national interest. Sovereignty and territorial integrity should not be infringed upon. This is the hard principle that should not be cast aside at any time”.
And then, he started indirectly bashing the US: “All nations should be given equal footing in the global security framework, and share equal rights.”
Su Hao, a professor with China Foreign Affairs University, told SCMP: “The message is that China is not the source of the problem, and it is some external force violating principles of international relations and making chaos in the region.”
One more ‘detail’, but which is vital for India; on the new Chinese map, the size of the Chumbi Valley, located between Sikkim and Bhutan, is really bloated. Does China plan to grab more territory from Bhutan?
A few months before his 1954 visit to Beijing, Nehru had taken up the issue of Indian maps with the MEA Secretary-General. At that time, India was foolishly showing most of the Ladakh border as ‘undefined’. Nehru wrote: “All our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North-Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. These new maps should also not state that there is any un-demarcated territory. The new maps should be sent to our embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges etc.”
It is perhaps time for Delhi to distribute the maps of India’s borders. It will be useful for the general public, the press and for the Indian officials.