Monday, March 27, 2017

How China could benefit from Pakistan's 'dream corridor'

My article How China could benefit from Pakistan's 'dream corridor' appeared in Mail Today/Daily Mail

Here is the link...

For Pakistan, it was a dream come true.
When President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad in April 2015, he pledged an eye-popping 46 billion dollars for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). While for Beijing the mega project was a vital element of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), it was a ‘game-changer’ for Pakistan which would bring prosperity to the entire region.
It is true that Xi brought with him munificent gifts for Pakistan: the Chinese billions would boost Pakistan’s flagging economy with massive energy and infrastructure projects. This included an additional 12,000 megawatts to Pakistan’s national grid through coal, hydro and renewable energy projects.
The Corridor would have railways, roads, optical fiber cables, dams, pipelines, you name it! Observers the marveled at Beijing generosity (and wealth), but lately, the ‘beneficiaries’ have started realizing that the project may first and foremost benefit Beijing!
The architects of CPEC plan to build a 2,700-kilometre corridor stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar, which will link Central Asia (via Xinjiang) to Europe and Africa (via the maritime route).
Is it a boon for Islamabad?
Not everyone agrees, even in Pakistan. Salman Rafi Sheikh, a research analyst wrote in Asia Times: “The CPEC continues to look like a mystery, wrapped in an enigma. In the absence of agreements stipulating and documenting both countries’ interests, the CPEC is creating problems that would strip Pakistan of whatever benefits the multi-billion-dollar project promises.”
He continued: “Claims about CPEC’s ability to change Pakistan’s economic outlook appear hollow and unreal. …The question remains: what’s the game changer for the region when CPEC is changing nothing in Pakistan?”
The author certainly has a point.

It is true that the Corridor faces several serious issues, security for example. Now, suppose the scheme becomes ‘unstable’ due to terrorism (presently localised in Pakistan, but which can be easily exported to Xinjiang), the cost of the project could tremendously shoot up. This deeply worries Beijing.
Last month, The Dawn reported that Pakistan has deployed 15,000 military personnel, “as part of the Special Security Division (SSD) and Maritime Security Force (MSF) to protect projects under the CPEC”.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC, noted: “Both forces will work under the interior ministry, in coordination with the provinces.”
The question is who is going to pay the bill?
Quoting military sources, The South China Morning Post affirms that the PLA would soon increase its fighting force to 100,000 personnel, “allowing for deployment in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan.” Chinese troops in Gwadar, the main entry to the CPEC, is worrisome, to say the least.

The economy of the corridor

Recently Pakistan’s Public Accounts Committee asked for the details of rate of interest for the loans obtained from China.
The secretary of the Ministry of Water and Power gave some figures: there were 19 power projects under the CPEC with the capacity of 12,114 MW; out of which 3,960 MW from coal, 2,714 MW from hydro projects, 900 MW from solar projects and 4,260 MW from imported coal.
The amazing part is that after the COP21 accords, the planet is abandoning coal, but China is financing new coal projects in Pakistan ….with Chinese coal!
Beijing has agreed to provide a $ 6 billion loan for road infrastructure and Rs 2.8 billion for Railways ‘on lowest interest rate’. While these loans are at a reasonable 1.6% interest, in some other cases, they can be as high as 6 or 7%. Will Pakistan be able to repay these loans?
By including the cost of insurance, also paid to a Chinese insurance company, the cost of borrowings could surge to 13%: “Adding insult to injury, the government has already exempted income of Chinese financial institutions from dividend income tax,” said The Pakistan Herald.
Another issue is regional disparity: on February 28, Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, president of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), accused Islamabad of getting funds for the project in the name of Gwadar while using them in one province only, Punjab. Mengal argued that the people of Balochistan, a province through which a major portion of the Corridor passes, have neither been consulted nor taken into confidence on CPEC projects. Other provinces, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (for the western route of CPEC) and Gilgit-Baltistan have similar views.

India’s position
As the project crosses Indian territory in PoK, the CPEC is unacceptable for India. Delhi cannot pretend that nothing is happening and forget about the legality of the accession of Jammu & Kashmir State to India.
Beijing has hinted that India should join the ‘global’ project, but China does not seem to be ready to implement what it is preaching.
After Tibet was invaded by China in October 1950, the traditional Himalayan trade routes were progressively closed down. An effort was done in 1954 to regulate the flow of people and goods through the 'Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India', i.e. the Panchsheel Agreement; however China was not ready to implement the letter or the spirit of the Agreement which eventually lapsed in 1962.
While China is adamant to not reopen the Himalayan land ports between India and Tibet, why ‘invite’ Delhi to join the CPEC bandwagon? There is no logic.
In any case, the Corridor is first and foremost a vital investment for Beijing, which is slowly ‘buying’ the strategic corridor; Beijing will soon control its new dominion, Pakistan. For India, it will be a game changer as it will then face China on two fronts, the northern and the western ones.
Modi Sarkar should ponder about this.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Trouble brews for China in Xinjiang

My article Trouble brews for China in Xinjiang appeared in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

Last week, Xinhua announced that the XUAR will train 1.2 million rural residents by 2020 as part of a new wave of infrastructure spending.

In August 2016, at the end of the annual closed-door meeting held at the beach resort of Beidaihe, an official statement announced that Zhang Chunxian would be replaced by Chen Quanguo as party secretary of the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Mr Chen was then serving as party boss in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), where he had shown his skills to “pacify” the restive Tibetans.
Six months after his appointment, it appears that Mr Chen is ready to use the “Tibetan” recipe, a good dose of repression mixed with an opening to “tourism”.
But what is happening in Xinjiang? In January, the Chinese media reported that eight people were killed in a violent attack in Pishan County of Hotan Prefecture in southern Xinjiang. According to the local government, three knife-wielding men attacked and stabbed several people. Subsequently, the police shot dead the three attackers and 10 others were injured. The Chinese media asserted: “Order has been restored and an investigation is ongoing. The identity of the attackers was not disclosed,” but they were obviously Uyghurs.
A few days earlier, Radio Free Asia (RFA) had reported that Uyghurs had been called to several meetings to confess their “crimes”. According to RFA, this was part of a campaign called “Revealing Errors”; the meetings were held in Aksu Prefecture “to uncover behaviour considered politically destabilising”. The same source added: “Residents are called to a podium one by one to confess these errors after they have listed them on a 39-question form. They are also told they will face legal consequences if they attempt to cover up their own or anyone else’s anti-state activities.” Is it not sounding like the return of the Cultural Revolution? The situation is undoubtedly serious in the Western Dominion, as Xinjiang was historically known. On March 11, a rare event took place in Beijing: the seven members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee led by President Xi Jinping dined together. According to Xinhua, they attended “a gathering on the sidelines of the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and
the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People.” The seven big bosses met with the deputies of the “ethnic minorities” elected to the NPC and the CPPCC.
Is it an indication that something is boiling in Tibetan, Uyghur and other minorities’ areas of China? Xinhua said that Mr Xi and his colleagues “arrived at the banquet hall of the Great Hall of the People at 7.45 pm to the enthusiastic applause from lawmakers and political advisers in ethnic costumes”. According to the news agency, Mr Xi sat next to a Tibetan delegate; the President was pleased “to learn about improved life in her village, where big changes in education, medical services, elderly care and housing have taken place”. The other leaders had “cordial conversations with the lawmakers and advisers, encouraging them to contribute to the Chinese nation’s rejuvenation,” commented Xinhua. But the fact is that today the Middle Kingdom’s periphery is unstable and Beijing does not know how to handle the situation (except by increasing the repression and offering a few economic carrots). And more repression automatically brings more resentment; a vicious circle!
Another indication of Beijing’s uneasiness has been recently reported by RFA: “Authorities in north-western China’s Xinjiang region are offering hefty sums of cash to would-be tipsters on terrorist activities.”
RFA’s Uyghur service quoted an official announcement issued by the regional authorities on February 23: the Hotan Prefecture government had set aside 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) to reward residents reporting “suspicious” acts after a knife attack in Pishan.
The announcement says: “Our region will create an anti-terror defence front composing every 10 families as a unit, and an anti-terror reward fund in order to encourage the masses to actively provide tips related to terrorism.” The authorities guaranteed the anonymity of the informants and promised to secretly transfer rewards to their bank accounts. People are encouraged to report on “double-faced” cadres, party members or “double-faced” religious clergy. Added to this, all cars in the region will need to be fitted with a GPS system, directly connected to the government’s servers.
It should be noted that the most restive areas are located close to the Indian border north of the Aksai Chin; recent large military parades in Hotan and Kashgar were synchronised with the one in the capital, Ürümqi.
At a time when Beijing has decided to demobilise several group armies (corps), the XUAR is recruiting. The Jamestown Foundation noted that the party “has built a multi-tiered security state with, among other components, the recruitment of nearly 90,000 new police officers and a 356 per cent increase in the public security budget.”
It described the hardening of the repression in four stages: response to the 2009 Ürümqi riots; expanded policing and surveillance in the south; grid-style community policing and big data surveillance and, finally, in 2016, convenience police stations and the massive expansion of surveillance manpower.
The latest is the most deadly development: “A total of 31,687 security-related positions were advertised, more than a threefold increase over the previous year. This unprecedented recruitment drive sought to boost the party-state’s surveillance capabilities across all regions of Xinjiang, as only 35 per cent of advertised positions were designated for regions with a Uyghur population of 40 per cent or higher.” The local media have praised these convenience police stations as “bringing zero-distance service” to the people of Xinjiang.
And “tourism” will be the ultimate weapon like in Tibet.
Last week, Xinhua announced that the XUAR will train 1.2 million rural residents by 2020 as part of a new wave of infrastructure spending.
Why so much infrastructure? Apart from the fact that all infrastructure developments in China have a dual use, military and civilian, Mr Chen plans to develop tourism, as he did in Tibet, which last year saw 23 million visitors.
According to The Global Times: “Xinjiang’s fixed asset investment will surpass 1.5 trillion yuan (around $217 billion) in 2017, up more than 50 per cent year on year.”
The mouthpiece of the party speaks of a training programme “to meet labour demand in various projects, mainly in infrastructure sectors such as transport, water conservancy, energy and telecommunication.”
The new trainees will mainly be used in the tourism sector. In other words, the same formula as in Tibet: tourism = infrastructure = wealth = stability.
During the recent NPC session, some 25 proposals were submitted by the Tibet delegation; it included infrastructure construction projects such as railways, highways, water conservancy, electric power, ecological zones and logistics parks. Similar schemes will be taken up in Xinjiang.
Millions of Han tourists will soon visit the Western Dominion, before that, some minimum level of security needs to be insured by the authorities to reassure the tourists. The Han tourists are not a very brave lot; they stopped en masse coming to France after the terror attacks last year.
It is a tricky job for Mr Chen.

Friday, March 24, 2017

We shut our eyes once, let’s not do so again

My article We shut our eyes once, let’s not do so again appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Nobody dares to question the viability of President Xi Jinping's dream of a ‘Revitalised China' through the mammoth OBOR initiative. But all the ancient trade routes between India and Central Asia remain closed

China is pressing India to jump on board the mega One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. The Global Times recently complained: “New Delhi has yet to sign up for the OBOR, and has claimed that there is a sovereignty issue with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).”
The mouthpiece of Communist Party of China contemptuously added: “It should also be noted that New Delhi cannot prevent the growth of the OBOR’s influence. If India wants to exclude itself from the OBOR at a time when the initiative is receiving widespread support from the global community, India will end up simply watching the rise of China’s international reputation.” Beijing forgets to mention that for centuries, trade was flourishing between India and Central Asia, though not through a far-away corridor, but via the Himalayan passes.
Historians rarely mention an event which had the most serious strategic consequences for India. It is the 1953 closure of the Indian consulate in Kashgar (Xinjiang), which for centuries was the main trade hub between the sub-continent and Central Asia. China’s unilateral decision to close the consulate (and the trade) should have been seen as an ominous sign by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues. Unfortunately, it was not.
As in several other cases, the Indian Prime Minister tried to justify the Chinese diktats, without taking any retaliatory or compensatory measures or even protesting. India’s interests were lost to the ‘revolutionary changes’ there.
In December 1953, Nehru declared in Parliament: “Some major changes have taken place there [Kashgar]… But when these changes, revolutionary changes, took place there [we had to close our consulate], it is perfectly true that the Chinese Government, when they came to Tibet, told us that they intended to treat Sinkiang [Xinjiang] as a closed area.” India had traded with Central Asia and more particularly Kashgar, Yarkand or Khotan for ages. But just because ‘revolutionary changes’ had occurred in China, New Delhi accepted the end of the trade as a fait accompli, without even a discussion. At that time, the Karakoram Pass still witnessed a large numbers of caravans carrying goods from Kashmir to Central Asia and back.
In April 1954, a few months after the closure of the consulate, India did not use the opportunity of the negotiations for the Panchsheel agreement to clarify the stoppage of the Central Asian trade, and the Chinese were allowed to walk away with making a vague statement. It was Beijing’s victory.
One of the main reasons for forcing Delhi to close its consulate in Kashgar was the road that China was building across the Aksai Chin area — on Indian territory. The communists did not want any witnesses. The Government of India never acknowledged it, but it had information about the Aksai Chin road as early as 1954-55. So did the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which recently released several lakhs of historical documents.
One of communist China’s main objectives was to control the trade routes to Central Asia. Two CIA Information Reports dating from 1953, throw some light on the issue. On July 15, 1953, a note deals with “Chinese Communist Troops, West Tibet” and “Road Construction, Sinkiang to Tibet and Ladakh”. It says that in late 1952, the 2 Cavalry Regiment, commanded by one Han Tse-min, had set up his headquarters at Gartok (the main trade centre in Western Tibet). It mentions that the regiment had 800 camels and 150 men garrisoned at Rutok, in the vicinity of the Pangong lake, shared with Ladakh. The same report affirms that another PLA regiment was stationed on the Tibetan side of the Tibet-Ladakh border, near Koyul in the Indus Valley in Ladakh.
The local Chinese commander, Han Tse-min, asserted that “when these roads were completed, the Chinese Communists would close the Tibet Ladakh border to trade”. They did it a few months later, by forcing India to close its Kashgar consulate. According to the same CIA source, Han had declared that “the Chinese Communists in Sinkiang [Xinjiang] were telling the people that Ladakh belongs to Sinkiang.” The Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai wave was most likely too strong; Nehru and his colleagues (BN Mullick, the IB chief in particular) had ‘more important’ isuses to deal with than a road!
Ten days later, another CIA note detailed the trade between Ladakh and Xinjiang, giving the coordinates for each place: “The Tibetan traders who visit Leh, are from the Chang Tang area, an arid plateau region in northern Tibet [plain between Xinjiang and Tibet]."
This shows how trade was still thriving in 1953. All this ended once the Aksai Chin road became fully operational. The CIA remarked: “The only Chinese in northwestern Tibet are the Chinese Communist troops, seven or eight hundred of whom are stationed along the Tibet-Ladakh border. They first appeared in northwestern Tibet in 1951, having come from the Khotan.” Though Delhi was still pretending not to know, the Aksai Chin road was opened on October 6, 1957. A Chinese newspaper, Kuangming Jihpao, reported: “The Sinkiang-Tibet has been completed. During the past few days, a number of trucks running on the highway on a trial basis have arrived in Gartok in Tibet from Yecheng in Xinjiang [near Yarkand]. The Xinjiang-Tibet Highway… is 1179 km long, of which 915km are more than 4,000 metres above sea level; 130 km of it over 5,000 metres above sea level, with the highest point being 5,500 metres.”
The reporter spoke of “thirty heavy-duty trucks, fully loaded with road builders, maintenance equipment and fuels, running on the highway on a trial basis” heading towards Tibet.
Once the Aksai Chin road officially opened, China did not need anymore the Indian trade; Tibet and Central Asia were linked.  It should have been obvious for everyone that India’s Kashgar consulate had been closed to hide the fact that the communists were building a road on Indian soil and that China did not want India to trade with Central Asia. In recent weeks, one question has often been raised by Indian think tanks: should India participate in the new trade routes initiated by China?
Nobody dares to question the viability of President Xi Jinping’s dream of a ‘Revitalised China’ through the mammoth OBOR initiative, which would connect Asia (read China) with Europe and Africa via the ancient trading centres of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. At the same time, all the ancient trade routes between India and Central Asia remain closed, particularly between India and Tibet and Xinjiang.
The time has perhaps come for India to ask China to re-open the Consulates in Kashgar and Lhasa, then India could sincerely think of participating in the Belt and Road project.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tibet’s Waters for Xinjiang: Another Diversion of the Brahmaputra?

Picture accompanying the Chinese article
I often mentioned on this blog, the different 'diversion' schemes, whether of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) or the Indus River.
Now, a new one has come to light.
According to an official Chinese website, during the 'Two Sessions', the China Railway Tunnel Group Co Ltd (CRTG), the largest specialized company in the field of underground works in China, which integrates design, construction, scientific research and manufacture, proposed to divert the Yarlung Tsanpo (Brahmaputra) from Tibet to Xinjiang.
CRTG is itself a subsidiary of the China Railway Group Ltd, with has 14 wholly-owned subsidiaries, 3 holding subsidiaries, 2 share holding subsidiaries and 8 branch companies.
The company likes to think big (money).
Whether it could trigger a conflict with India is not its concern.

The New Scheme
During the Second Session of the Twelfth National People's Congress (NPC), CRTG’s Deputy Chief Engineer Wang Mengshu submitted a project for the first phase of mega ‘a water diversion’ scheme.
Wang Mengshu stated that the water transfer project could not only help the ecological environment in the project area, but also greatly improve the social and economic development of the region, i.e. Xinjiang.
It would also improve the transportation, energy, communications and other infrastructure conditions in Southern Xinjiang, on a desert area covering 80 million square kilometers which could be transformed into an oasis.
It would later help ‘transferring’ of a large number of people to this strategic area of Western China.
In a long-term, it would have a great significance for the development of the region.
The ‘proposal’ has been worked out with the Hydraulics and Mountain River Development Department of the Sichuan University. Key national research laboratories are ready to provide further support.
Wang Mengshu introduced the first phase of the project to divert some 10 billion to 15 billion m3 from the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra) to Southern Xinjiang.
The main feature of the project would be that the transfer of flood waters would not require a hydropower station power generation required as the waters would flow downstream and the ecological environment of the basin would not be significantly affected.

The first hub: four features
The first hub would not used 'water diversion technology’ with a dam.
Gravity through a tunnel would be complemented by smart water management for the distribution system.
In his introduction, Wang Mengshu said that in the first phase of the project, there will four major technical features.
One, the first part will not use a dam for the diversion.
It will conform to natural and sustainable laws.
Second, the traditional Dujiangyan watershed, sand and diversion control technology and water flow control technology will be utilised.
What is a Dujiangyan irrigation system?
According to Wikipedia, it was originally constructed around 256 BC by the State of Qin as a water conservation and flood control scheme. The system's infrastructure is on the Min River (Minjiang) in Sichuan.
The area is situated in the western portion of the Chengdu flat lands at the confluence between the Sichuan basin and the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Originally the Minjiang rushed down from the Min Mountains, but slowed abruptly after reaching the Chengdu Plains, causing the watercourse to fill up with silt, making the surrounding area extremely prone to flooding. Li Bing, then governor of Shu for the state of Qin, took care of the construction of the Dujiangyan, which harnessed the river using a new method of channeling and dividing the water rather than simply following the old way of dam building. It is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land in the same area.
In the 'diversion' scheme, the principles will be to utilize ‘curved circulation’ to achieve secondary water flow and sedimentation, the use of ‘settling sedimentation’, and finally use of a shaft to control the water, according to the principle of using floods waters.
It could work even during the dry season, as well as meet the downstream ecological requirements while helping reduce the downstream floods.
The third feature the water supply will be the use of gravity through flow tunnel technology, it will avoid evaporation along the way.
All other technical issues will make the project safe and reliable.
Fourth and finally, the pressure-flow will be self-regulated by the shaft technology which can be used to divide the whole water delivery system into several relatively independent subunits.
It can reduce the ‘water hammer pressure’ of the whole water supply system and avoid the full range of diffusion and propagation of hydraulic oscillation.
And also it will reduce the 'vibration' of the water flow system and tackle other issues; it will be easy to control and will fully transfer the flood waters.
The structure is also relatively simple, according to Meng, though not easy to understand for the lay man.
Wang Mengshu said that this water transfer technology is feasible, the ecological impact is minimal; it has a low operating and maintenance costs.
With the use of tunnels for the water supply, water evaporation loss is minimal and water security is fully protected. The principle of taking away flood waters, will avoid the outflow of surplus water downstream and even will reduce the pressure on the river flood control.
Wang Mengshu suggested carrying a demonstration of the water diversion project. On this basis, the implementation of the first phase of the project is feasible, he said.
The translation of the article might not be perfect but it gives an idea of the concept of the project.

What about India?
No doubt that the ‘tunnel lobby’ is as powerful as the ‘dam lobby’ in the Middle Kingdom.
Like the other projects reported in this blog earlier, it is a dream of megalomaniac engineers, who forget that the Yarlung Tsangpo (the Siang in Arunachal Pradesh and later the Brahmaputra and the Jamuna in Bangladesh) is not the sole property of the the People's Republic of China.
India and Bangladesh have a say as far as the utilisation of its waters is concerned.
It is probably one of these projects to remind India that China, by controlling Tibet, also control the Tibetan rivers and can create a lot of trouble for the lower riparian States.
Can it go further than the drawing board?
It is doubtful.

Some previous posts

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An epic journey: The day the Dalai Lama came to India

A guard of Honour by the Assam Rifles in Tawang (April 1959)
My article An epic journey: The day the Dalai Lama came to India appeared in

Here is the link...

The Tibetan spiritual leader's upcoming visit to Tawang, the district through which he first entered India, is probably behind China's new desire to claim the area.
Claude Arpi recalls the Dalai Lama's arrival in Tawang in March 1959 and explains why His Holiness will once again receive a grand welcome, whether Beijing likes it or not.

China often double-speaks. At a press conference, a day before the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), Fu Ying, the articulate spokesperson of the Chinese legislature, said that China and India which have over the past decades witnessed rapid development of bilateral trade, should focus on enhancing mutual understanding and boosting cooperation rather than dwelling on disputes.
She forgot that just a few days earlier, Beijing planted a controversy in the Indian press. One of the mainstream Indian newspapers wrote, China ready to cede land for part of Arunachal Pradesh?; China wanted back Tawang: “This could pave the way for a settlement of the India-China boundary dispute” said to Dai Bingguo, one of the senior-most Chinese diplomats under President Hu Jintao. The article does not mention that it is the same Dai, who in 2005 drafted the Agreement between India and China ‘On the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question’. Had Dai, the then Special Representative for the border negotiations with India, forgotten the content of the 2005 agreement which referred to Tawang: “In reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas.” It clearly meant that Tawang area, which is heavily populated, would not be ceded or exchanged.
This is what China had agreed then.
The upcoming visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang is probably the reason for this new sudden claim. Though time and again India has said that the Dalai Lama is an honoured guest in India and is free to go wherever he wants, Beijing aggressively threatened India of dire consequence if the Tibetan leader is allowed to visit the area.
A firsthand account of the Dalai Lama arrival in Tawang in 1959
More interesting than endlessly arguing with China, is to look at some historical facts.
On March 17, 1959, the Dalai Lama left Lhasa in the dead of night in dramatic circumstances.
On March 26, 1959, he reached Lhuntse Dzong, a few days march from the McMahon Line, the border between India and Tibet.
The Tibetan temporal leader wrote to the Indian Prime Minister to seek refuge in India: “Ever since Tibet went under the control of Red China and the Tibetan Government lost its powers in 1951, I, my Government officers and citizens have been trying to maintain peace in Tibet but the Chinese Government has been gradually subduing the Tibetan Government.”
The Dalai Lama added: “In this critical situation we are entering India via Tsona. I hope that you will please make necessary arrangements for us in the Indian territory. Confident of your kindness…”
Tsona is the last town, north of the border.
Upon receiving the message, Delhi took immediately measures to welcome the Tibetan leader and receive the party (his close family, four of his Cabinet ministers and some attendants and bodyguards) at the first Indian post at Chuthangmu, north of Tawang, then part of Kameng Frontier Division.
Nehru replied to the Dalai Lama: “My colleagues and I welcome you and send you greetings on your safe arrival in India. We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities for you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India who hold you in great veneration will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your person.”
Since that day, the Indian Government and people have considered the Dalai Lama an honoured guest in the Land of the Buddha.
I have recently come across a “Top Secret report on the entry of His Holiness the Dalai Lama into India”; it describes the epic arrival of the Dalai Lama in India.
There was no doubt for anybody (including Beijing) that Chuthangmu/Khenzimane, on the McMahonLine was (and is) the border, with areas south being part of Indian territory.
The report said: “On the March 27, 1959, Shri T.S. Murthy, Assistant Political Officer [APO], Tawang, received instructions about the possibility of the Dalai Lama seeking entry into India. He reached Chuthangmu to receive the party at 09:00 hours on the March 31.”
At that time the Assam Rifles (AR) post was located four or five days walk north of Tawang, famous for having the largest Indian Buddhist monastery.
On March 29, an advance party, under a junior Tibetan officer, reached Chuthangmu; the AR platoon was informed that the main party “was expected to enter our territory at 1400 hours on the March 31, [and] that there was no sign of the Chinese pursuit.”
The messengers carried the original letter of the Dalai Lama’s letter to Nehru which was translated and transmitted to Shillong and Delhi via wireless.
At the appointed time, “the Dalai Lama and his party reached Khenzimane which demarcates the frontier in Chuthangmu area. His Holiness was riding a yak and was received by the APO, Tawang [Murthy]. They proceeded to the checkpost without halting at the frontier.”
The Tibetans knew where the border was. Everyone in the party was so relieved that the Dalai Lama was now safe in India.
In the evening, when the Lord Chamberlain met the APO “it was agreed that all porters brought by the party from Tibet would be sent back and that porterage arrangements thereafter would be made by us. It was also agreed that all pistols and revolvers, except those in possession of the Dalai Lama, his family and ministers (excluding their servants), and all rifles would be handed over to us for safe custody...,” noted the report. A list of the members of the Party was given to Murthy, a Chinese-speaking officer.
The next day at 9 am, the APO was summoned by the Dalai Lama. The circumstances of the flight were discussed: “The policy of the Chinese was becoming increasingly anti-religious; the masses of Tibet were restive and he was no longer able to make them put up with the Chinese rule; the Chinese had attempted to endanger his person; Tibet should be free; his people would fight to win their freedom; he was confident that India’s sympathies are with the Tibetans.”
The same day (April 2), the party moved to Gorsam Chorten (Stupa) located near Ziminthang, south of the border. At 3 pm, the Dalai Lama called Murthy again, he was curious to know “if he had received any news of international developments in regard to his escape, especially the line adopted by India, the UK and the USA in this regard. The APO said that he had no information.”
The next day the party moved to Shakti; after crossing the main bridge, they proceeded on the other side of the Namjiang chu river; the party accompanied by the AR finally reached Lumla, the first large village between the border and Tawang on April 3.
Har Mander Singh, the Political Officer (PO) responsible for the Kameng Frontier Division had left Tawang in the morning and reached Lumla in the evening: “The mother, sister and 12 years old brother of the Dalai Lama accompanied by 12 servants had reached Lumla from the other side a couple of hours ahead of us. I called on the mother and assured her of Government’s protection”, noted Har Mander Singh.
The PO further reported: “I received him [the Dalai Lama] and took him to his room. We discussed about his journey beyond Lumla.” Singh took the opportunity to acquaint himself with Dalai Lama’s the senior officers and personal staff: “Two of the three Shapes (ministers) who are accompanying the Dalai Lama arrived in the afternoon. The third Shape who is accompanied by his family and the two tutors of the Dalai Lama are travelling a stage behind.”
As the PO held his first formal meetings with the Tibetan ministers, a messenger brought a letter from a Bhutanese official posted in Tashigong not far from Lumla, in Bhutan. The missive stated that Bhutan was prepared to allow the Dalai Lama to pass through Tashigong district. Singh remarks: “I was rather taken aback to find that the Officer Commanding [of the local police platoon] had apparently been in touch with the Bhutan authorities to obtain passage for the Dalai Lama through [Bhutan].” It was later found that the OC had “exceeded his authority and gone over the PO’s/APO’s heads.”
On April 4, a ceremony was organized in the morning for the Dalai Lama to bless the local Monpa population of Lumla area.
After the ceremony, Singh went to the Dalai Lama’s room. To save face, the Bhutanese officials asked for an audience to say that in fact “it would be preferable if His Holiness would travel through the Indian territory during his entire journey.” That settled the issue.
The entire party left Lumla the next day (April 4) at 8 am: “During the journey the Dalai Lama asked questions about the tribes in the Division, the schools and the system of education, agriculture and self-sufficiency and medium of instructions to which I replied suitably,” wrote Har Mander Singh.
When he was alone with the PO, the Dalai Lama asked him, “although it was a delicate matter for India, he would like us to consider whether it was possible to give any kind of help to the Khampas and Tibetan troops fighting for the Tibetan cause.”
The PO answered that India was always prepared to give First Aid to the injured and the sick at the border check-posts: “The Government is sympathetically inclined towards genuine refugees, particularly women and children seeking asylum in India.”
The Dalai Lama informed the PO that he would like to spend a few days in Tawang and “a much longer period in Bomdila to recuperate from the strain of his journey before going down to the plains.”
Har Mander Singh readily agreed.
On April 5, the Dalai Lama told the PO that he had learnt from the radio that “fighting had broken out between the Chinese and the Khampas some 60 miles South of Lhasa. This area was inaccessible to the mechanized transport and was ideal for guerilla type of warfare. He was, therefore, confident that the Chinese would not be able to over-power the Khampas in this area.”
The party, which left at 7 am, attended the reception arranged by the Tawang Monastery en route and arrived in Tawang at noon.
The rest is history.
In Tawang, the Dalai Lama was given a guard of honour by the Assam Rifles, and could finally take some rest. Though the guard of honour infuriated the Chinese, they did not mention that Tawang was ‘Chinese territory’. It is only much later that Beijing started claiming these areas as Chinese. This was clearly an afterthought, a bargaining chip for their occupation of the Aksai Chin plateau.
As he arrives in Tawang 58 years later, the Dalai Lama will again receive a grand welcome, whether Beijing likes it or not.
The people of India still hold him in great veneration.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Xinjiang: relentlessly beat and strike hard

Two years ago, during the ‘Two Sessions’, a senior Uygur military official declared that “terrorist attacks would not affect the overall stability of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), nor would they hinder its fast economic development, ethnic unity or religious harmony.”
Major General Saimati Muhammat, a deputy commander of the Xinjiang Military Area Command also told Xinhua: "Everyone in Xinjiang is against terrorism and expects peace. Now those few terrorists have no support there, and people just hate them."
General Saimati spoke of the anti-terrorism campaign then conducted in Xinjiang “it has helped people realize that terrorists are their common enemies. Everyone is obligated to battle terrorism and maintain peace," he asserted.
Despite a new counter-terrorism Law, the situation has seriously deteriorated during the last two years in the restive province. Though in 2015, the Uygur general said that “terrorism shouldn't be blamed on any specific ethnic group, territory or religion,” Xinjiang is very tense today.
The fact that General Saimati was very silent during the last ‘Two Sessions’ is telling. Today, officials are not allowed to speak about Xinjiang.

Reward to denounce ‘terrorists’
In previous posts, I mentioned the nervousness in Beijing after recent events in Xinjiang. It was apparent with the dinner offered to the ‘minorities’ by the seven members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo at the Great Hall of People during the 'Two Sessions'.
Another indication of Beijing’s uneasiness shows in a report of Radio Free Asia (RFA) which says: “Authorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region are offering hefty sums of cash to would-be tipsters on terrorist activities.”
It quoted an official announcement issued by the regional authorities on February 23. According to RFA’s Uyghur Service, the Hotan prefecture government had set aside 100 million yuan (U.S. $14.5 million) to reward residents reporting ‘suspicious’ acts after a knife attack in Guma (Pishan) county.
The announcement says: “Our region will create an anti-terror defense front composing every ten families as a unit, and an anti-terror reward fund in order to encourage the masses to actively provide tips related to terrorism, …Tip providers will receive anywhere from 150 yuan (U.S. $22) to 500,000 yuan (U.S. $72,426), depending upon the importance and usefulness of the tip on suspicious terrorist activity or suspicious individuals.”
The authorities guaranteed the anonymity of the informants and promised to secretly transfer rewards to their bank accounts. Anyone exposing high-ranking members of the community involved in suspicious activity will be 'handsomely' rewarded for their information, says RFA: “Tip providers who report on ‘double-faced’ cadres, party members or ‘double-faced’ religious clergy will receive 200,000-500,000 yuan (U.S. $28,970-72,426).”
That is big money.

Xinjiang and Tibet
As mentioned earlier on this blog, the arrival of Chen Quanguo as Party Secretary has witnessed a hardening of the ‘anti-terror’ measures.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) also links the new measures to Chen.
Gabriele Battaglia writes in the SCMP: “The heat is on in Xinjiang. A string of deadly killings, blamed on Islamist separatists, have rocked China’s restive far western province and prompted authorities into an unprecedented show of force – and a social clampdown experts say has been imported from Tibet.”
Interestingly, the most restive areas are located close to the Indian border in the Aksai Chin. Military parades in Hotan and Kashgar were synchronized with the one in the capital, Urumqi.
Zhu Hailun, a XUAR’s deputy secretary announced that the authorities’ intent to “relentlessly beat, and strike hard against terrorism.”
According to the SCMP’s article: “The spate of violence coincides with the release this month of a half-hour video by Islamic State that features Uygurs issuing the terror group’s first threat against Chinese targets. The event has added credibility to warnings by Beijing of the potential for Xinjiang militants to link up with global jihadist groups.”
In Beijing, Xi Jinping spoke of building a ‘Great Wall of Steel’ to keep Islamic separatists out of the Muslim province.
The SCMP remarked: “The government has responded to the growing threat by bringing in new hardline security restrictions on Xinjiang residents – restrictions some experts say have been imported from neighbouring Tibet by Chen Quanguo, Xinjiang’s Communist Party leader, who previously held the same office in Tibet.”
The situation has undoubtedly worsened.  

New Recruitment Policy
At a time when Beijing has decided to demobilize several Group Armies (Corps), the XUAR is recruiting.

The Jamestown Foundation says that Party “has built a multi-tiered security state with, among other components, the recruitment of nearly 90,000 new police officers and a 356 percent increase in the public security budget.”
Researcher of the Foundation have map the development of the security state in Xinjiang from the beginning in 2006: “The figures reveal a massive spike in police recruitment since 2012, with Xi Jinping personally praising local constabularies as the ‘fists and daggers’ of China’s counter-terrorism effort. In fact, the number of advertised police jobs in 2016 exceeded the combined figures from 2008–2012 by 30,000. …Last year, the outgoing Xinjiang Party Secretary Zhang Chunxian declared success, claiming that the situation in Xinjiang is becoming ever more stable and the number of violent incidents has declined substantially as local authorities strengthen their ability to prevent and fight terrorist activities”.
In a Communist system, it is logical for the local Party boss to announce that he has succeeded, but the truth is probably the opposite; that is why Chen Quanguo has started implementing even more comprehensive and intrusive policies (such as the rewards).
The Jamestown Foundation describes for stages of hardening of the situation.
Stage 1 (2009–2011): Responding to the 2009 Urumqi Riots
Stage 2 (2012–13): Expanded Policing and Surveillance in the Rural South
Stage 3 (2014–2015): Grid-Style Community Policing and Big Data Surveillance
Stage 4 (from 2016): ‘Convenience Police Stations and the Massive Expansion of Surveillance Manpower
The latest is the most deadly development:  “A total of 31,687 security-related positions were advertised, more than a three-fold increase over the previous year. This unprecedented recruitment drive sought to boost the Party-state’s surveillance capabilities across all regions of Xinjiang, as only 35 percent of advertised positions were designated for regions with a Uyghur population of 40 percent or higher. Notably, 89 percent of these new hires were associated with so-called convenience police stations, which are currently being built across the XUAR in the tens of thousands.”
The Jamestown Foundation says that the local media have praised these convenience police stations as ‘bringing zero-distance service’ to the people of Xinjiang.
But in reality, the article concludes: “their real purpose is surveillance, cleverly designed to make Orwellian levels of securitization more palatable, while bringing 24-hour ‘zero-distance’ policing to an ever-increasing number of neighborhoods.”
It is quite frightening.
And will it work? Probably not, that is why Chen is playing the 'tourism' card at the same time.

Today, General Saimati is silent.
And whether the PLA’s soldiers demobilized under Mr Xi's new military reforms, will find their way to Xinjiang is a matter of conjecture, it remains however clear that the Core Leader is unable to fully control what is happening in his Western Dominion.
India should closely follow the developments in the region before deciding to join the Dream One Belt, One Road, so dear to Mr Xi.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mr Chen's recipe: tourism in Xinjiang

Repression before Tourism
At the end of August 2016, Wu Yingjie took over as Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from Chen Quanguo who was sent to ‘pacify’ Xinjiang.
The decision had been taken during the annual closed-door meeting at Beidahe.
An official statement released had then announced that Zhang Chunxian would be replaced by Chen Quanguo as secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Committee of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
This was indeed a promotion for Chen, given the fact that Xinjiang's Party Secretaries often serve in the Politburo (though Chen will have to wait until the 19th Party Congress later this year to find out if he has made it).
In the meantime, Chen has to deliver the goods.
A question on everybody’s lips: will Chen apply the same recipe to pacify the restive Muslim Dominion than he used in Tibet.
Six months after his appointment, it looks like Chen is ready to use ‘tourism’ as a weapon of mass destruction to eliminate the resentment of the Uyghur population against the Central Government in Beijing.

Large Scale Training
Last week, Xinhua announced that the XUAR will train 1.2 million rural residents by 2020 as part of a new wave of infrastructure spending.
Why so much infrastructure?
Let us not forget that all infrastructure developments in China have a dual use, military and civilian.
The civilian part is usually linked to tourism (at least it is so in Tibet).
According to The Global Times: “Xinjiang's fixed asset investment will surpass 1.5 trillion yuan (around 217 billion US dollars) in 2017, up more than 50 percent year on year.”
The mouthpiece of the Party speaks of a training program “to meet labor demand in various projects, mainly in infrastructure sectors such as transport, water conservancy, energy and telecommunication.”
Ming Hong, deputy head of regional department of human resources and social security told The Global Times: “Xinjiang will provide language and skills training to 800,000 farmers and herdsmen that have no working experience, over the next four years.”
Language skills refer to Mandarin and perhaps English.
Ming says that the government wants to offer training ranging from one to three months to 360,000 rural labors: “From this year to 2020, another 40,000 young people, mainly from southern Xinjiang, will enroll in vocational schools and be offered occupational qualification certificates after two to three years of study.”
The new trainees will mainly be used in the tourism sector.
The Global Times admits: “Addressing the employment of surplus labor is the key to Xinjiang's social stability and economic development.”
In other words, the same formula than in Tibet: tourism = stability = integration.

More planes for Xinjiang
Another indication of the direction Beijing has decided to move in Xinjiang is given by article in The China Daily.
It says that during the current year, Xinjiang will import 10 new aircraft from Switzerland to develop tourism, improve emergency rescue capabilities and boost its role in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Lin Haitao, head of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Aviation Business Administration told the media: “The first of the 10 aircraft - all of which are Pilatus PC-12 produced by Switzerland's Pilatus Aircraft Co - recently arrived in Shihezi in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the second one is expected to arrive soon.”
The aircraft will be operated by Xinjiang General Aviation Co Ltd, one of the country's biggest aviation service providers in China.
According to the same source, the 10 new airplanes will be mainly used to "transport tourists between scenic spots that are scattered across the vast autonomous region, as well as being chartered for emergency rescue missions. The fleet can also serve neighboring countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR), if needed.”
The OBOR initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to rejuvenate two ancient trade routes - the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road - regional connectivity is closely linked to the new strategy.
Liu Kuntong, director of planning in the local government explained: "The addition of the 10 airplanes is just the start of our efforts to improve regional connectivity. We will increase investment in the sector and support the goal of building an air passage along the Belt and the Road."
Apart from the OBOR which is a panacea for all problems in China today, tourism like in Tibet, can kill several birds with one stone …and its helps develop infrastructure for the PLA.
The most important initiative is the new link road between Tibet and Xinjiang already mentioned on this blog.
Tourism also provides employment; improve the living standard of local Uyghur population and gives opportunities for Han migration, etc.

Delegates to the 'Two Sessions'
According to China Tibet Online during the recent ‘Two Sessions’, representatives to the National People's Congress (NPC) from Xinjiang and Tibet stated that the OBOR, “expanded the vision of residents in remote and poverty-stricken regions and is bringing the northwestern region of the country into a well-off society along with the rest of China.”
Yang Qin, a representative from Xinjiang remarked: “Trading between Xinjiang and Central Asia are busier than ever. As long as we have good products, we never have to worry about sales."
As the chairman of a fruit products cooperative in Manas County of Changji Prefecture in Xinjiang, she said that she benefited from the opportunities provided by the OROB.
Yang Qin explained: “The cooperative members have reaped the rewards of cross-border trading. This year, we have brought in new species of specialty mushrooms and are trying to expand production. We're hoping to break into the international market by the end of the year.”
There is of course a large part of propaganda especially when a delegate from Tibet says: “Tibet is now becoming the relay point between China and South Asia. There is a nonstop stream of merchants incoming from India, Nepal, and other countries, and trading is becoming more and more robust.”
There is hardly any trade with India through the three official land-ports (Shipkila, Lipulekla and Nathula). But the ‘Two Sessions’ is first and foremost a propaganda exercise.
A Nepalese businessman who frequents China for business and opened an import/export company in Kyirong land-port between Nepal and Tibet said that “With the rapid growth of China-Nepal trading in the past two years, his business has also taken off and is earning 450 thousand Yuan (65 thousand US dollars) annually: “There are about eight thousand kinds of Nepalese products being sent to and sold in southwest China's Tibet every year.”
There is no doubt that a ‘good’ delegate should praise Xi Jinping, the Core Leader and its Dream Project, the OBOR.
It remains that the Xinjiang government under Chen Quanguo is decided to increase infrastructure construction “for transportation, irrigation, energy, and other infrastructure in Tibet”.
Whether it is part of the OBOR initiative or not is irrelevant.
According to Xinhua, some 25 proposals were submitted by the Tibet delegation to the National People's Congress; it included infrastructure construction, livelihood improvement, industrial development, environmental protection in the fields of “politics, economics, culture, education, ecology and other areas,” reported the news agency.
The proposals on infrastructure construction projects include railways, highways, water conservancy, electric power, ecological zones and logistics parks, “which are the most urgent problems needing high attention on the region's way to reform and development,” explained one delegate.
There is no doubt that the delegates from Xinjiang presented similar requirements.
Millions of Han tourists will soon visit the Western Dominion, before that, some minimum level of security needs to be insured by the authorities to reassure the tourists.
The Han tourists are not a very brave lot, they stop en masse coming to France after the terror attacks last year.
It is a tricky job for Mr Chen.