Monday, August 29, 2016

A new boss for Tibet: Wu Yingjie

Wu Yingjie presents a thanka of Tara to a European politician in 2103
Between two swims at the beach resort of Beidaihe, the top Communist leadership undertook a first round of reshuffles in the provinces.
Tibet has now a new boss, Wu Yingjie, 59.
Wu is the longest serving Chinese officer on the Roof of the World. He has been around for more than 40 years. Till yesterday's he was deputy party secretary (a post that he has been occupying since 2011).
The interesting aspect of the reshufle is that Wu supersedes two Tibetans (Pema Choeling, Chairman of the Regional Congress and Lobsang Gyaltsen, the head of the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s government).
But let us remember that the Communist Party follows a very strict rule, no Tibetan for the top slot.
By appointed Wu, the leadership in Beihaide has obviously played it safe, as he is not a controversial figure and has a long experience in Tibet (mainly in education).
Wu’s predecessor, Chen Quanguo, 61, is expected to become Xinjiang’s party secretary replacing Zhang Chunxian, who according to The South China Morning Post "will be reassigned to a semi-retired role similar to that of his predecessor in Xinjiang, Wang Lequan."
The Hong Kong paper says that China’s leadership reshuffle “in line with Xi’s plan to promote reformists.”

Other changes
Hunan party chief Xu Shousheng, 63, has been replaced by his deputy and governor, Du Jiahao, 61. Vice-minister of industry Xu Dazhe was named as Hunan deputy party chief.
Yunnan governor Chen Hao, 62, was promoted to replace the province’s party chief, Li Jiheng, 59.
Another change, Li Xiaopeng, son of former Premier Li Peng, will succeed Yang Chuantang as the transport minister.
Li Xiaopeng was Shanxi provincial governor.
As mentioned earlier on this blog, Yang Chuantang, a member of the Central Committee is an old Tibet hand. A native of Yucheng, Shandong province, he started working in June 1972 and he joined the CPC in June 1976. In 1993, Yang was transferred to Tibet, where he held the position of administrative vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government. He was elected vice-governor of Qinghai province in 2003. In 2004, he became party secretary. Two years later, he was transferred to Beijing where from 2006 to 2011, he served as Vice-Chairman of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission.
No new posting (or ‘demoting’) has been announced for Yang so far.
After the next round of swim?

Wu Yingjie
Wu Yingjie (Chinese: 吴英杰) is born in December 1956 in Changyi County, Shandong province.
He arrived in Nyingchi, Tibet, in October 1974 at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
In 1977 he began working for a power generation station in the western suburbs of Lhasa.
In August 1983 he joined the TAR's department of education where he worked for the next two decades.
In 1987 he began overseeing elementary and secondary education.
In 1990, he was put in charge of accepting donations of educational resources from other parts of the country.
In 1994 he joined the Autonomous Region Education Commission, rising to deputy secretary in May 1998.
In March 2000 he was named deputy head of the education department, then promoted to head in 2000.
In January 2003, Wu was named Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region;
In June 2005 he took on the regional propaganda portfolio, and joined the regional party standing committee next month.
In November 2006 he became Executive Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
In November 2011 he was named deputy regional party chief.
In April 2013 he was named executive deputy party chief.
In August 2016, he became the Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

I repost here an old piece on Wu

The Most Amazing Photo of the Year
As 2013 ends, it is time to distribute awards for the past year.

The Award for the Most Amazing Photo (which was went unnoticed by the French and Western press) is a picture of the senior Chinese Han cadre, Wu Yingjie offering a Tibetan katha (ceremonial scarf) and a thanka (scrolled painting) of Goddess Dolma (Green Tara) to a gullible Member of the French Parliament.
Wu Yingjie was heading a 'Tibetan' Han delegation from China's National People's Congress to Spain and France.
Wu is also Vice Executive Secretary of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and has become famous for spending months (without any tangligle results) in the restive Nagchu Prefecture of the TAR.
The French parliamentarian, Alain Rodet is the deputy (and mayor) of Limoges from the Socialist Party. Rodet is also Vice-president of France-China Friendship Group in the French National Assembly.
The duo met in Paris on December 17.
China Tibet Online reported: "After briefing French friends [about] the religious policies and conservation status of Tibetan culture, Wu detailed them the great changes in Tibet since its peaceful liberation carried out and the life of local residents who have the biggest voice on the real Tibet.
Wu also wished more French friends could pay a visit to Tibet."
Mr. Wu just forgot to speak the situation in Nagchu. I often wrote about Mr. Wu's activities in Nagchu Prefecture on this blog.
I can bet that Monsieur Rodet has never heard of Nagchu and Driru.
But the good deputy will probably soon rewarded a free jaunt to the Middle Kingdom where he will be lavishly received. Having received Wu in the National Assembly should be reciprocated and not asking embarrassing questions to a foreign host too.
A hard core Han Communist cadre distributing a thanka of Tara, considered by all the Tibetans as the Mother of the Tibetan Nation, is a novelty.
This justifies the Award of the Most Amazing Photo of the Year.

Second Prize
A Second Prize to Le Louvre Museum for their knowledge of Tibetan painting.
The Chinese media announced that Han Shuli, 'a famous Tibetan artist' has earned rave reviews and won silver award in the 2013 Louvre International Art Exhibition with his work 'Foresight'.
Han Shuli, is the president of the Tibet Art Association.
The 2013 Louvre International Art Exhibition was held in the Louvre Museum in Paris between December 11 and 15.
Some 500 artists from over 10 countries participated in the contest.
The 'Tibetan' Han Shuli explained that his 'Foresight portrait' depicts "a goshawk perched high on the Marnyi stone".
One can presume that this 'Marnyi stone' is a sinization of 'Mani stone' on which the six-syllabled Tibetan mantra ' of Avalokiteshvara (Om mani padme hum) is engraved.
Han said that his black ink and wash painting has benefited from the Tibetan black thangka and the wall painting in the temples of Tibet, while 'integrating some representative elements of the central plain [Chinese] culture'.
For Han, his masterpiece 'Foresight' expresses blessing and rosy prospect for Tibet and the whole country.
Where is Tibet in Mr. Han's piece is not clear.
Anyway, Mr. Han is said to have brought fame to 'Tibet'.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A bad chess player: Wang Jianping arrested

Two years ago on this blog, I quoted General Wang Jianping, Commander of the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) as saying that “a good chess player always takes the initiative.”
While on a visit to Tibet in June 2014, he asked the PAPF to provide a strong support for “Tibet’s continuous stability, long term stability and comprehensive stability” (he borrowed these words from Xi Jinping).
While visiting the Potala Palace Square, Wang Jianping cordially “greeted the officers and men on duty, encouraged everybody to stand guard for the Party and the people and to be on alert.”
It was ominous.
Walking to the Potala Square’s Police Station, Wang Jianping said that the police should understand in detail the nature of the work in Tibet; for example, the duty of the Police Station, the range of service and  ...the dreadful the urban grid management.
According to The Tibet Daily, Gen Wang had come to Tibet to get a better understanding of the situation on the plateau, though he already knew Tibet well, having a few years earlier, commanded the local PAPF on the plateau,
The Chinese newspapers then reported that Wang Jianping acknowledged the success achieved by the Armed Police's Tibet Corps and the Armed Police Forces and asked the armed police officers and men to understand the serious and complicated situation facing Tibet.
He also told them to strengthen the police force for war preparation.

Wang Arrested
According to The South China Morning Post (SCMP), he has now been arrested “for violating party discipline, a euphemism for corruption.”
While he was on an inspection trip, he was taken away to Chengdu in Sichuan province, along with his wife and military secretary. The SCMP adds: “His former secretary Su Haihui, deputy director of the armed police’s training department, was also taken.”
The SCMP comments: “Wang is the first general still in active military service to be brought down since President Xi Jinping launched his massive crackdown against deep-rooted corruption in the military in 2013. He is the second top general to be arrested for corruption in recent weeks.”
Obviously Wang, the chess player, did the wrong move.
He chose a bad King, former Security Tsar and member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, himself behind the bars.

General Wang Jianping
Wang was born in Fushun, Liaoning province. He joined the military in 1969, and first served on the artillery force under the 40th Group Army.
In 1992, he became commander of the 120th Division of the 40th Group Army.
Thereafter he entered the People's Armed Police (PAP).
In 1996, he became head of the People's Armed Police contingent in Tibet.
In June 2009, he was promoted deputy commander of the PAPF and later in June 2012, PAPF commander.
In December 2014, he was transferred back to the PLA to become deputy chief of joint staff. It was obviously a demotion.
In January 2015, Wang became deputy head of a coordinating group on military training.
He was also a member of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Friday, August 26, 2016

It was billed as a victory, but non-Indians saw India's Rio Games as a defeat

My article It was billed as a victory, but non-Indians saw India's Rio Games as a defeat appeared in Mail Today.

Here is the link...

“2016 Olympics: the Indian giant, the Olympic dwarf” was the title of a recent article in the French daily Le Monde.
The daily writes: “The day, the time, the venue; each and every Indian journalist had ticked [in their agenda] Friday August 19. And too bad for the latecomers, they won’t find a place in the temporary structures of the Riocentro. That morning, India was playing for its first gold medal. Missed! Sindhu lost two sets to one, the final against the Spanish Carolina Marin.”
It is how a non-Indian saw Sindhu’s ‘historic’ defeat.
Back in India, everyone saw a great victory for India. Coach Gopichand and the player made the front pages of the press and despite getting ‘silver’, Sindhu became the “Golden Girl of India”.
In the euphoria of the ‘victory’, India’s pitiful overall results were forgotten!
At the end of the 19th century, Baron Pierre de Coubert decided to revive the old Olympics Spirit by emulating the ideals of Ancient Greece: body, mind and spirit should be developed simultaneously to produce complete beings. That was the purpose of education in ancient India too.
Coubertin's interpretation of the Olympic motto, Fortius, Citius, Altius, is fascinating. Fortius (stronger) referred to the body which had to be trained by repeated exercises to become healthier and stronger.
Citius (swifter) was connected with literary and scientific studies and the domain of the mind.
Altius (higher) had a deeper meaning connected with the sacred. All three levels had their importance; in common was the centrality of the 'effort' to reach the determined goal.
The mastery of oneself, generosity and respect for others are essential not only on the sports ground, but in life as well.
All this has totally been forgotten in modern India where education is just a mean to get a diploma and ultimately a lucrative babu’s job or a more creative one for the lucky ones.
It is not that Indians do not have the physical capacity to shine, Sakshi, Dipa or Sindhu and others have proved it.
While watching the Indian girls on TV, the story of Capt Bana Singh came to mind. On 26 June 1987, Bana Singh climbed the steep 457 m high wall of ice and despite the blizzard, the altitude and the freezing cold, he reached the ‘Quaid post’ (now ‘Bana Post’); located at a height of 6500 metres it is the highest peak on the Siachen Glacier. What an incredible physical feat! Who said that Indians are not physically fit and resistant?
Apart from the system of education which should be totally revamped, India should take an honest look at the octopus called cricket which is sucking most of the sports energies of the country. Can you imagine what could happen if even 50% of the funds available to cricket (not an Olympic sports) would be invested to create ‘sports academies’ like Pullela Gopichand as done for badminton in Hyderabad or Bishweswar Nandi in the NE for gymnastic.
A revolution in the mindset is however required if India does not want to be called a ‘dwarf’ anymore. Juvenal, the Roman poet spoke of ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ (‘a sound mind in a sound body’); it should be the new motto for education.
Indians (the media to start with) should not shout ‘victory’ when India fares so poorly, though the merit and the talent of all those who made it for the Games should be acknowledged as the Prime Minister did: “India is phenomenally proud of all our athletes in Rio & their hardwork that got them there. Victory & setbacks are all a part of life,” Modi tweeted.
There is no doubt that if medals were awarded ‘for merit’, India’s tally would be full. The fact remains India as a State is not doing enough, a tsunami of new sports initiatives/policies is necessary.
The Olympic motto may say: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part”, but it is also important to win.
One first step could be that politicians should be banned to run Indian sports federations. Only competent people, scrupulously honest and dedicated with a background in competition at the highest level, should look after sports affairs in India. Would India nominate as the head of a department of ISRO, someone without any knowledge in space sciences?
Has sycophancy helped a nation to get medals in the past?
All this will mean a long effort, a ‘marathon’.
Plans for the next 10, 20 or 40 years will need to be ‘scientifically’ prepared; financial support will be required not only from the Central and State governments but also from the private sector which has in the past, showed that with its dynamism it can make India a giant. Imagine if each large business house would sponsor a few sports academies of high excellence.
In 1920, in a letter to his brother Barin, Sri Aurobindo spoke of the strength of the Shakti “which has been swallowing up the [rest of the] world, like the tapaswins (ascetic) of our ancient times, by whose power even the gods of the world were terrified, held in suspense and subjection.”
India needs to recover that Shakti.
The Government of India decided to celebrate during the coming year, ‘Azadi 70’; what is required is a Second Azadi, in which India will not only be clean (swachh), but will not need to run to the West for its intellect to bloom; an India which will be a giant in sports, like it is today in economy.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

PLA Unit 77656 at India's Chumbi gate

My article PLA Unit 77656 at India's Chumbi gate appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer


Here is the link...

By honouring the PLA Unit closest to India's vulnerable Siliguri Corridor, Beijing has responded to Delhi's efforts to assert itself along the border through improved military presence and development of border areas

Lord Curzon was a man in a hurry. In 1904, he decided to march to Lhasa to open negotiations with the Tibetan Government which had stubbornly refused to talk to the British Crown’s representatives. A year earlier, Colonel Francis Younghusband, accompanied by 500 troops had been dispatched to Khamba Dzong, which commanded the entry into Chumbi, the first valley in Tibet (bordering India’s Sikkim State and Bhutan).
The Tibetan Government tried to stop the young colonel near the border with Sikkim, but the small British Army continued to advance toward Khamba Dzong. Lhasa was living in the ‘white clouds’; wishful thinking, rhetoric andmantras weren’t enough to counter-balance imperial power. Lhasa had to ultimately listen to the British.
Khamba Dzong was again in the news this week when Xinhua announced that President Xi Jinping, Central Military Commission’s Chairman, presented honorary titles to two military units for their outstanding services.  One is Unit 77656, a ‘model plateau battalion’, which was awarded for its performance “in safeguarding borders, ensuring stability and helping disaster relief” (The other award-winner is the PLA Navy Submarine Unit 372 posted in the South China Sea). Xi said that the “whole Armed Forces should learn from both examples.”
The Press Trust of India commented that Xi had “conferred special honours on the PLA battalion posted near Arunachal Pradesh.” The news agency got it wrong. Khamba Dzong (Gangba County for the Chinese) is not located close to Arunachal Pradesh, which is bordered by the Prefectures of Shannan and Nyingchi, but near the strategic Chumbi Valley — and the Siliguri Corridor. China knows that the corridor is one of the weakest points for Indian defence, at least until such time as the 17 Mountain Strike Corps is fully raised.
Beijing’s move to honour Unit 77656 may also have been prompted by other developments on India’s side, which have raised alarm bells in Beijing. Equating the Chumbi Valley (and India’s Achilles heel, ie the Siliguri Corridor) with the South China Sea is a message to New Delhi about the importance that China gives to the area. The award to the PLA’s crack Unit 77656 should be read in this context.
Why would China want to send a strong message to India? Not only has Delhi decided to raise the 17 Corps (though facing serious financial difficulties, it will have a strength of 90,274 additional troops ‘dedicated’ to China), but, importantly, it has also finally started developing its border areas.
Additionally, on August 19, a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) landed at the Pasigath Advance Landing Ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh. The ALG’s reactivation comes a few weeks after the Indian Army’s Northern Command publicised the deployment of some 100 T-72 battle tanks in Ladakh.
At a time that China continues to claim the entire State of Arunachal Pradesh, the Pasighat ALG, located only 100km from the McMahon Line, has vital strategic significance. The ALG inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, along with Air Marshal C Hari Kumar, commanding the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command, is one of eight ALGs to be opened in Arunachal Pradesh at a cost of some Rs1,000 crore.
The other ALGs are at Menchuka, Ziro, Aalo and Walong; they have already been activated this year. Tuting is expected to be ready by the year-end, and Tawang and Vijaynagar will hopefully follow. This will be a game changer and China is obviously uneasy.
But that is not all. Remember in August 2013, the IAF landed a C-130J Super Hercules transport plane at the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) airstrip in Ladakh near the Line of Actual Control (LAC); DBO is the highest ALG in the world. The IAF said: “The achievement will enable the armed forces to use the heavy-lift aircraft to induct troops, supplies, improve communication network and also serve as a morale booster for maintenance of troops positioned there.” It added that the plane “touched down the DBO airstrip located at 16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area.”
In May this year, the Jammu & Kashmir Government approved construction of a 150km-long Chushul-Demchok road; Demchok is the last inhabited Ladakhi village area en route to Western Tibet — and Kailash. Once the National Board for Wildlife gives the final clearance, the road will be constructed by the Border Roads Organisation.
In June, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that the Government hopes to complete the construction of a new all-weather road to the Tibetan border in Uttarakhand by next year (“to make it easy for people to visit the abode of Lord Shiva”, said Gadkari). The Minister added: “We want to enhance tourism including religious tourism. We are cutting rocks through Himalayas to make a new alignment of highways through Uttarakhand for going to Mansarovar.” Whether China agrees to open the border to Indian pilgrims on a large scale is a separate matter, but for strategic purposes, the opening of the 75km route from Ghatiabagarh to Lipulekh is vital.
Back in the east, on August 6, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has given its nod for the Arunachal Frontier Highway, a 2,000km road which will mostly run parallel to the McMahon Line. Whether it is feasible or not, has to be seen, especially in an area where all the ranges stretch from east to west and the rivers flow from north to south.
Rijiju had apparently taken up the issue with MOD, but the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) had understandably raised serious objections. It appears now that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, after considering different alternatives, secured the agreement of the DGMO, which suggested a few changes in the alignment in some areas. Parrikar told Lok Sabha: “Based on the operational requirements of the Army, the proposal for the construction of the Tawang-to-Vijaynagar highway has been endorsed.”
And then there is the deployment of the intermediate-range ballistic Agni-III missiles with a range of 3,500 km-5,000 km; in December 2013, the missile was successfully tested by the Strategic Forces Command. They are now being inducted. Also, the indigenously-developed supersonic surface-to-air missile Akash, capable of targeting enemy aircraft, helicopters and UAVs from a distance of 25km, and six squadrons should be deployed in the North-East. The BrahMos cruise missiles based in Arunachal Pradesh are also a strong deterrent that’s irritating China, and China has said so in The PLA Daily.
And then let’s not forget there will be a few Rafale jets in a couple of years.
In these circumstances, one can understand that despite the massive infrastructure development on the Tibetan plateau, Beijing is deeply unhappy about India’s moves. The posting of the best troops in the Middle Kingdom at Sikkim’s door, so close to India’s weakest point, is China’s warning.
Younghusband, the great ‘imperial’ strategist who knew so well the terrain, must be watching from his grave these new formidable developments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

China scared of 17 Mountain Strike Corps?

Khamba Dzong (Chinese Gangba), next to Chumbi Valley
Yesterday Xinhua announced that Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, presented honorary titles to two military units for their outstanding services.
One is Unit 77656, which is termed a ‘model plateau battalion’, was awarded for its outstanding performance “in safeguarding borders, ensuring stability and helping disaster relief”.
The other award winner is the PLA Navy Submarine Unit 372 which was honored as a ‘model submarine for performing marine missions with excellence’.
Xi said that the “whole armed forces should learn from both examples.”
Xi also awarded ‘merit citations’ to four military units and 15 persons for outstanding services.
Troop 66114 was given a first-class merit citation for its outstanding contribution to completing tasks, and units 91515, 94669 and 96261 were given second-class merit citations for their outstanding performance in strengthening fighting capacity.
PTI, with its poor knowledge of geography, commented that Xi Jinping “conferred special honours on PLA battalion posted near Arunachal.”
The PTI piece says: “Chinese President Xi Jinping bestowed special honours on a PLA battalion posted in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh for its “outstanding performance in safeguarding borders”, adding that: “While the news report has not identified the battalion, Indian defence officials and strategic think-tanks have said it is Gangba 2nd Independent Battalion.”
PTI further elaborated: “It is based in Shigatse City, Gangba County in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh and is one of the six battalions functioning under the Tibet Military Area Command.”
Well, Gangba County (Khamba Dzong in Tibetan) is located north of Sikkim, west of the strategic Chumbi Valley, where for decades an Indian Trade Agent was posted (in Yatung).
The move to honour Unit 77656 is probably due to Beijing’s nervousness; remember that Delhi has decided to raise a Mountain Strike Corps in the area (17 Corps).
While India is aware of the difficulty of defending the Siliguri Corridor, China knows that the Chumbi Valley is one of their weakest points on the plateau.
This probably explains the award to Unit 77656.
India should take note that the PLA's crack unit is posted at the gate of Chumbi Valley ...and India.
Incidentally, Khamba Dzong entered in the history in 1903, when Col Francis Youngbushand attempted to negotiate a treaty with the Tibetans.
Only after talks failed, the 1904 Tibet operation was mounted.
I am posting here extracts of my book, The Fate of Tibet.
Khamba Dzong

Curzon was a man in a hurry and he had decided to act.
In June 1903, Colonel Younghusband was dispatched with some troops to Khamba Dzong, inside Tibetan territory. This small British army consisted of five officers and 500 troops. On hearing news of the approaching British army, the Tibetan Government immediately sent two negotiators with the brief to stop the advancing army and to hold talks at a border post called Giagong. A Tibetan-speaking British officer, Captain O’Connor advanced to Giagong to be told by the Tibetan representatives that talks should be held on the spot.
This was refused by the British who continued to advance toward Khamba Dzong arguing that they had permission from the Manchus in Beijing to hold negotiations. The Tibetan Representatives tried in vain to block their path.
In the meantime the Tsongdu, alerted by the ominous news from the border, sent an urgent message to their representatives on the border, instructing them not to allow a single British soldier or civilian into Tibetan territory.
It sounds just like the Indian Parliament instructing the Indian Army, some 58 years later, not to let an inch of Indian territory be occupied by the Chinese in the high Himalayas. History sometimes repeats itself and the debacles in Khamba Dzong or in NEFA prove that one has to be militarily prepared for it when one decides that “not an inch of our territory should be occupied.” In 1904, Tibet was no match for a marching modern army.
But the Tibetan National Assembly was living in the ‘white clouds’ of the Roof of the World. Wishful thinking, rhetoric and Mantras were not enough to balance the woefully poor preparedness of the Tibetan troops. More was needed to block the decisiveness of the Viceroy and his young Colonel who had decided to force the Tibetans to sit at the negotiating table.
The stubbornness and intransigence of the Tibetan Assembly in refusing any contact with the ‘foreigners with yellow eyes’ did not help the matters to unfold smoothly.
When more knowledgeable elements, such as Kalon Shatra, tried to make the Kashag aware of the power of the British in the world and the consequences that refusing to deal with them, even to open their letters might have, he was accused of being a spy for the Crown and of having received some bribes from his ‘masters’ when he was the Resident Representative in Darjeeling.
To be fair to the Tibetans, one should recall their blissful ignorance of the world outside.
At this crucial time, the Tsongdu took over the decision-making power from the Kashag, which was considered to be pro-British; the Great Monasteries were convinced that the British were the enemy of Buddhism and only interested in extending their empire. This may not have been totally untrue.
Once in Khamba Dzong, representatives of the three great monasteries as well as senior Tibetan officers came to meet the British officers. However they immediately got stuck as both parties could not agree on a place where the negotiations could take place. The Chinese Representative in Shigatse also appeared on the stage but he turned back when he was told by the Tibetans and the British that his presence was not necessary.
The British troops were also visited by the Panchen Lama’s representative and the Abbots of the Tashi Lhunpo who unsuccessfully tried to mediate.
Many visitors dropped by, mainly out of mere curiosity.
Younghusband had arrived at Khamba Dzong, but the negotiations remained at a standstill with the Tibetans still refusing to discuss commercial or any other agreements.
Younghusband began to feel that he was being taken for a ride.
When he asked for the Ambans to be witness to the discussions, the Tibetans retorted that the Ambans had nothing to do with commercial matters.
The ‘negotiations’ on the location of the negotiations went on for a couple of months. The British troops had, in the meantime, started enjoying the countryside: “The British passed their time carrying out impressive military exercises, taking photographs, hiking in the hills, mapping the surrounding countries, botanizing, and geologizing.”
Finally after three months the British troops received orders to return to India. The advent of the winter was the main reason for this temporary retreat.
In Lhasa, the power struggle between the conservative forces in the Tsongdu and some of the more liberal (at least better informed) ministers intensified. As a result, four Kalons ended up in jail, accused of supporting the British. One even committed suicide. The Tsongdu was more determined than ever to stop any advance by ‘British devils’ into Tibet.


Smashing an Egg on the Rock
But Curzon had decided to return. In December 1903, Claude White, the Political Officer in Gangtok sent a letter to the Tibetan Government informing them that Younghusband would be proceeding towards Gyantse to open the negotiations; the Tibetans were requested to send their representatives
The first days of 1904 saw a British expedition led by Col. Francis Younghusband and Claude White with five thousand Sikh and Gurkha soldiers begin their march to Gyantse. They had brought with them rifles, machine guns and artillery.
When the troops reached Tuna, between Phari and Guru, some negotiations started again without much success. The Bhutanese Raja, known as the Tongsa Penlop also tried to mediate at Phari and suggested that talks should start in Gyantse, but he was unable to convince the Lhasa authorities.
The Choegyal of Sikkim, a relative of the Tibetan General who was the military commander in Yarlung valley, advised the latter to negotiate with the British. Dapon Lhading was already aware of the strong reinforcements stationed in Sikkim as support for the troops of Younghusband: “For the Tibetan army to challenge the British was like throwing an egg against the rock - the egg could only be smashed,” wrote the Choegyal. But the Tibetans were not ready to listen.
In the meantime, the Tibetan troops entrenched themselves behind a five-foot wall at Chumik Shinko between Tuna and Guru. 
In Asia, one does not start a war before having tea; Younghusband paid a visit to the Tibetan camp at Guru and later received Dapon Lhading at his camp in Tuna; but despite the courtesy calls and offering of scarves, tea and refreshment, the stalemate continued.
The tea parties could have gone on too, but Younghusband was a young man in a hurry; during the course of his final visit to the Tibetan camp, he informed the Tibetan General that he would be advancing towards Gyantse the next day.
An Englishman later wrote: “In 1903 the position of Britain and Tibet, was like that of a big boy at school who is tormented by an impertinent youngster. He bears it for sometime, but at last is compelled to administer chastisement.”


The rest is history…

Sunday, August 21, 2016

UT Status for Ladakh?

1842 Treaty with Tibet
Violence has again erupted in Kashmir.
More than ever, Islamabad seems determined to create problems for India in the Valley. And it is not covert anymore!
On the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day (August 14), the Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit declared: “Struggle for independence will continue till Kashmir gets freedom; sacrifice of the people of Kashmir will not go in vain."
He openly said: “We dedicate this year's Independence day to struggle of Kashmir.”
A day later, in a speech from the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi counter-attacked and referred to Pakistan's human rights abuses in Balochistan as well as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Modi hinted that if Pakistan continues to instigate demonstrations and strikes in the Kashmir Valley, India will be compelled to expose Islamabad elsewhere.
Let us be clear, as long as Pakistan exists, the situation will not stabilize and violence is bound to erupt from time to time.
Though not a final solution, a step could help localize the abscess: trifurcate J&K State into 3 parts, namely Jammu, Ladakh and the Valley.
It has been a long standing demand of the people of Ladakh (and Jammu as well) who do not want to have anything to do with the anti-India movement in the Valley.
A resolution passed by the All Religious Joint Action Committee (ARJAC) of Ladakh goes a long way in this direction.
The ARJAC leaders, including Tsewang Thinles, president, Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), Ashraf Ali Barcha, president, Anjuman Imamia and Sheikh Saif-ud-Din, president, Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam, demanded during a press conference, the Union Territory (UT) status for Ladakh. They remarked that since Independence, the mountainous region has always kept a special strong bond with the Union of India.
In a memorandum to the Prime Minister, the ARJAC explained that Ladakh was once an independent Himalayan kingdom: “The political history of Ladakh dates back to 930 A.D. when several small, sovereign principalities outlying the Western Himalayas were integrated and given a unified polity by Lha-Chen-Palgigon.”
The memorandum continues: “Ladakh as an independent kingdom gained political status during 15th–16th century when the Namgyal dynasty came into power;” this lasted until 1842 when General Zorawar Singh integrated Ladakh into the Dogra Empire. In October 1947, Ladakh acceded to India after Maharaj Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession for his State.
The ARJAC further points out that Ladakh has been linked to the Dogras (and Kashmir) for hardly 105 years: “Ladakh is fundamentally different from Kashmir in all respects – culturally, ethnically and linguistically. Over the years the successive governments of the State have adopted a policy of discrimination and subversion towards the region with the sole objective of stifling its people and marginalising its historical, religious and cultural identity.”
The ARJAC notes with some bitterness: “In the modern times, when the whole subcontinent has passed through the process of decolonisation to enjoy the fruits of national independence, we, the people of Ladakh, and our land still continue to suffer under the old concept of colonial administrative structure, which suited the imperial interests and feudal rulers under the name of the pseudo-State of Jammu & Kashmir.”
The ARJAC strongly affirms: “Nationalism remained a dominant ideological creed and became a rallying force among the Ladakhis to fight back the Pakistanis and the Chinese who made frequent bids of conquer our land in 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars. The jawans of Ladakh Scouts played an exemplary role in decisively foiling the enemy’s misadventures,” before concluding: “Our humble submission is that we are neither the problem nor part of any problem involving the state. Rather we are the solution. We firmly believe that all of us live only if India lives. Our commitment to patriotism is firm and unequivocal. Our people and soldiers have never hesitated to make supreme sacrifices in the discharge of their duties towards the country. We shall never fail the nation.”
The bifurcation (or trifurcation) would have other advantages not mentioned in the memorandum.
Today the Ladakh region has two districts, Leh and Kargil and two Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Ladakh (LAHDC ) and Kargil.
Though Ladakh is India’s largest district, with ‘disputed’ borders and two belligerent neighbours, it is administrated by a very junior officer.
The present District Commissioner (DC) Prasanna Ramaswamy is a young IAS officer from the 2010 batch. Without doubting his personal competence, such a border district with large numbers of Army and ITBP personnel posted in the area, makes it one of the most sensitive districts of the country.
Further, can only one officer visit the 19 blocks of Ladakh, some of the extremely remote? He can’t. As a result, some blocks have often been neglected.
Ladakh needs a special status; a Joint-Secretary rank officer or above should be posted in the district. Just think that the Army 14 Corps Commander responsible for Ladakh’s defence, is headed by an officer of Lieutenant General rank, with nearly 40 years of experience in the Indian Army. He deals with someone (the DC) who would be ranked a captain, or a major at the most, in the Army. Incidentally, the DC is also the Chief Executive Officer of the LAHDC, which makes the situation even more ridiculous.
The granting of Union Territory Status would solve many of these anomalies: a Lieutenant Governor representing the Center would sit in Leh (or Kargil) and a Chief Secretary would head the administration. Further, the elected MLAs and Ministers would not depend on the mood of Srinagar to develop the Union Territory.
Last but not least, it will probably force China to clarify its position vis-à-vis Ladakh.
Beijing has always been ambiguous on Kashmir and Ladakh.
In July 2016, Beijing called for a “proper settlement of Kashmir clashes”, Under the pretence of neutrality, China’s position on Kashmir has indeed conveniently remained extremely hazy.
Defence analyst Monika Chansoria recently pointed out: “Nothing could be further from the truth than this duplicitous and outrageous statement [about neutrality]. In fact, Beijing has shifted its position on Kashmir, gradually, yet firmly, with each passing decade. Recall China’s response during the 1999 Kargil conflict with its commitment to a policy of neutrality, which compelled the Nawaz Sharif government, who was already under immense international pressure, to look for an honourable retreat from Kargil.”
Remember the issue of stapled visas for the J&K’s State subjects?
Another issue is Beijing’s refusal to reopen the Demchok-Tashigong road to Kailash-Manasarovar. It is the fastest and easiest route for pilgrims wanting to visit the Holy Mountain. Beijing does not want the route to be reopened, because they would not be ‘neutral’ anymore and would have to recognize the fact that Ladakh is part of India (by setting up a custom house at the border for example).
Already back in 1954, when India and China were negotiating the Panchsheel Agreement, China adamantly refused to acknowledge, let alone reopen the Demchok route, simply because it considered and probably considers Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’.
The reopening of the ancient pilgrim route would be a great Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and China, but perhaps Beijing is not ready to give up the ‘disputed territory’ label for Ladakh.
Making Ladakh a Union Territory would (peacefully) kill many birds with one stone; it would help localized the so-called Kashmir issue in the Valley; it would provide a better administration to the mountainous region, streamline the security of the area and force China to drop its ‘neutrality’ stance.
But where is the political will?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It's time to stand up to China over Ladakh

My artcile It's time to stand up to China over Ladakh appeared in Mail Today.

Here is the link...

Does Beijing still consider Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’. If not, why not open Demchok? Pictured: Chinese president Xi Jinping
 
As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in Delhi for his second visit to India, it is interesting to recall one of the most unknown episodes of the history of modern India.
Let's recall the negotiations which, in 1953-54, preceded the signature on the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India”, known as the Panchsheel Agreement for its lofty preamble.

Negotiations
The negotiations ended with India giving away all its rights in Tibet (telegraph lines, post offices, dak bungalows, military escort in Gyantse and Yatung, etc), while getting no assurance on the border demarcation from the Chinese government.
The talks were held in Beijing among Zhang Hanfu, China’s Vice- Minister of Foreign Affairs, N. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador to China, and TN Kaul, his Chargé d’Affaires.
It lasted from December 1953 till April 1954.
Why so long? One reason appears in a cable sent by Raghavan to Delhi in which he informs the Foreign Secretary that Zhang was “virulently objecting to inclusion of Tashigong in Agreement.”
For centuries, the trade and pilgrimage route for the Kailash-Manasarovar region (and then onward to Lhasa) followed the course of the Indus, passed Demchok, the last Ladakhi village, and then crossed the border to reach the first Tibetan hamlet, Tashigong, some 15 miles inside Tibet.
Not only did Zhang refuse to mention Demchok in the agreement, but also bargained for nearly five months to not cite Tashigong.
Retrospectively, one can find two main reasons for the Chinese dragging their feet.
One was the proximity of the National Highway 219, later known as the ‘Aksai Chin Road’, cutting across the Indian territory in northern Ladakh. Though China had started constructing the highway, Delhi was to discover its existence only four years later.
In 1954, Indian border forces visiting Demchok could have noticed what was clandestinely being built; though the road was not within firing range for the Indian artillery, Beijing did not want to take a risk.
It did not occur to the Indian negotiators that something momentous was happening on the other side of the range.
The second reason is also grave and presently very relevant. After months of infructuous exchanges, Zhang Hanfu conceded that “traders customarily using this route might continue such use but an oral understanding to that effect between two delegations would suffice, (China) would not like in writing, even by implication, to have any reference to Ladakh.”
But why to not name this ancient route in the agreement, as it was done for the passes elsewhere? The answer is that China considered Ladakh a ‘disputed area’.
Kaul told Delhi: “We have taken (the) position that Ladakh is Indian territory and route should be mentioned as its omission would be invidious.”
But China did not accept the Indian contention and “after considerable argument (Zhang) agreed, but subsequently withdrew (his agreement). (He) suggests we would consider exchange of letters which will not form part of Agreement...”
Bargaining continued. India had finally to concur to the Chinese formulation. Demchok was mentioned nowhere, but article IV of the agreement says: “Traders and pilgrims of both countries may travel by the following passes and route: (1) Shipki La pass, (2) Mana pass, (3) Niti pass, (4) Kungri Bingri pass, (5) Darma pass, and (6) Lipu Lekh pass. … Also, the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus river may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom.”

History
You may think that it is past history, but it is not. China today continues to adamantly refuse to reopen the Demchok-Tashigong route to the abode of Lord Shiva, while insisting on a long and tortuous route via Nathu-la in Sikkim.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj should definitely raise this question with her Chinese counterpart when they meet.
The people of Ladakh have for years asked for the reopening of the ancient route.
Why is Beijing so reluctant to let people and goods flow again over the Himalaya?
Why can’t China allow the devotees wanting to visit Kailash-Manasarovar to use the easiest route, i.e. via Demchok?

Smuggling
It is not that there are no ‘exchanges’ along the Line of Actual Control.
Not far from Demchok, a place called Dumchule witnesses a good deal of smuggling happening between Tibet and Ladakh.
Local herders visit a Tibetan mart on the other side of the range, bringing back Chinese goods to Ladakh. If while visiting the bazaar in Leh, you wonder how there are so many Chinese bowls or other cheap stuff, the answer is Dumchule.
But the situation is not healthy; apart from the fact that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can gather intelligence on what is happening on the Indian side, (that is why they close their eyes on the traffic) and worse, Indian pilgrims are not allowed to cross into Tibet and proceed to Mt Kailash.
To officially reopen the Demchok-Tashigong road would be the best confidence building measure (CBM) between India and China.
After all under its One Belt, One Road scheme, China constantly speaks of opening new routes or corridors.
Does Beijing restrict these projects to its ‘friends’ only (i.e. Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or Nepal in Zham and Kyirong)?
Let us hope that Wang will understand that it is in China’s interests to regularise the situation in Ladakh.
He should also clearly spell out China’s position: does Beijing still consider Ladakh a ‘disputed territory’.
If not, why not open Demchok?