Monday, April 30, 2012

Dam is Money

This article in The Hindustan Times makes it clear that 'dam is money'.
To quote from it: "From 2005 to January 2012, the Arunachal Pradesh government collected Rs 1,333 crore for as many as 199 projects as upfront premium and processing fees." 
Rs 1,333 crores without doing anything, except promises, that is easy money.
But it is  obvious that today the 'promoters' want 'their money back'.
One of the issues which is not often mentioned is the fact that this 'blue' (or 'gold') rush creates an excuse for the Chinese to build more and more dams on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra in Tibet, the Yarlung Tsangpo. 
They will eventually divert part of the waters of 'their Tibetan' rivers quoting this precedent.
Further, there are the social and cultural implications of building so many dams.
I quote here from a report Damming the Northeast: Juggernaut of hydropower projects threatens social and environmental security of region by Neeraj Vagholikar & Partha J. Das.
With the Northeast identified as India’s ‘future powerhouse’ and at least 168 large hydroelectric projects set to majorly alter the riverscape, large dams are emerging as a major issue of conflict in the region. Although the current scale of dam-related developments far outstrips anything which took place in the past, the region has been no stranger to dam-related conflicts. 
For example, the Kaptai dam, built in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the 1960s, submerged the traditional homelands of the Hajong and Chakma indigenous communities, and forced them to migrate into parts of Northeast India. Over the years, this has led to serious conflicts between the refugees and local communities in Arunachal Pradesh. 
In the 1970s, the Gumti dam in Tripura submerged large tracts of arable land in the Raima Valley and displaced the local tribal population, leading to unrest. Projects such as the Loktak hydroelectric project commissioned in the 1980s have impacted the wetland ecology of the Loktak lake in Manipur, seriously affecting the habitat of the endangered Sangai (the brow-antlered deer) and the livelihoods of local people. 
The impending loss of home, land and livelihood has led to many years of opposition to the Pagladiya project in Assam and the Tipaimukh project in Manipur on the Barak river. More recent times have seen major conflicts emerge in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh over the individual and cumulative impacts of over 100 dams planned in upstream Arunachal. 
Dam-induced floods from projects such as the 405 MW Ranganadi hydroelectric project in Arunachal and the intense people’s opposition to the under-construction 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project on the Assam – Arunachal Pradesh border have been major triggers for what has now emerged as a major political debate on the downstream impacts of dams in the region. 
Meanwhile, in the uplands of Sikkim and Arunachal, minority indigenous communites such as the Lepchas and Idu Mishmis have expressed concern about the impacts of multiple mega projects in their homelands. The large dams’ juggernaut promises to be the biggest ‘development’ intervention in this ecologically and geologically fragile, seismically active and culturally sensitive region in the coming days.
Let us hope that better sense will prevail over money power.
But it is not often the case in India or in China.

Arunachal dams: Despite issues, govt collected crores
Hindustan Times
Sanjib Kr Baruah,
New Delhi, April 29, 2012
Even as the mandatory public hearing for the massive 2,700MW Lower Siang hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh was postponed in the face of vociferous protests by local tribes, the Arunachal government seems hell-bent on building the controversial network of 168 dams.
From 2005 to January 2012, the Arunachal Pradesh government collected Rs 1,333 crore for as many as 199 projects as upfront premium and processing fees. The amounts were paid by different private companies engaged in building a controversial network of dams in the hilly state.
It also includes fees paid by PSUs like National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) by way of advances to the state government against free power, a RTI query has revealed.
'Upfront Premium' means one time non-refundable commitment fee to be paid by the intending power developer which is not part of the project cost.
The network of 168 dams aiming at generation of more than 63,300 MW of power, is reported to being built in brazen disregard for environmental, seismic, socio-economic and cultural issues. In seismic terms, Arunachal Pradesh lies in the Very High Damage Risk Zone, having seen 87 major and minor quakes in 67 years (1929 -1993).
More than 160 memorandums of understanding (MoU) and memorandums of agreement (MoA) have been signed between the Arunachal government and the dam builders.
A clause in one the bipartite MoU copies that is with HT, absolves the dam builders of any responsibility .
The state government is also absolved of all responsibility and accountability in a clause notified in a 2008 Arunachal government gazette.
“The State Government shall not be responsible in any manner for any losses arising out of the force majeure situation such as earthquake, flood, fire, external invasion, civil commotion; landslide etc and no claim on such accounts by the developers shall be entertained by the State Government,” the notification says.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

When Mao's train was bugged

According to The New York Times and several other newspapers, Bo Xilai was sacked because he taped the conversations of senior Party leaders, including President Hu Jintao.
Did Bo Xilai spied on Vice-President Xi Jinping’s when the latter paid a brief visit to Chongqing in December 20120?
We will probably never know.
In any case, bugging is not something new in China.
Dr Li Zhisui, Mao's Private Physician reported in his book, The Private Life of Chairman Mao that it happened to the Great Helmsman in 1961.

Extracts from The Private Life of Chairman Mao:
After a few days in Hangzhou, we headed west by train toward Wuhan, stopping briefly so Mao could meet with Zhang Pinghua, Hunan's first party secretary.
The meeting took place on the train, and Mao was late.
He was lingering in his compartment with the female teacher while Zhang and his deputy, Wang Yanchun, waited in the adjacent reception car. Wang was so rooted in his peasant ways that he squatted rather than sit on the sofa. When Mao finally emerged, I joined the teacher and several of his other female companions for astroll outside the train. The young technician responsible for secretly recording Mao's conversations, joined us in our meanderings.
"I heard you talking today," the young technician suddenly said to the teacher, interrupting our idle chatter.
"What do you mean you heard me talking?" she responded.
"Talking about what?"
"When the Chairman was getting ready to meet Zhang Pinghua. You told him to hurry up and put on his clothes."
The young woman blanched. "What else did you hear?" she asked quietly.
"I heard everything," he answered, teasing.
The woman was stunned. She turned and bolted for the train as the rest of us followed quickly behind. The other women were also distressed. If he had heard one conversation with Mao, surely he had heard others as well.
Mao's meetings were concluding as we returned to the train, and the teacher went immediately to his compartment, demanding to speak with him. She reported the entire conversation with the technician.
Mao was livid. He had never suspected the bugging. The revelation came as a shock. He called Wang Dongxing [Head of the Bodyguard Regiment] into his compartment, where the two stayed behind closed doors in intense conversation for an hour. Wang, so recently returned from exile, said he did not know about the bugging devices, either. When he emerged from the meeting, he ordered the train to proceed immediately, at top speed, to Wuhan.
As the train sped north, Wang called the technician and Mao's confidential secretary to meet with him, informing them that the Chairman wanted to know who had ordered the bugging. Wang claimed that since this was the first trip he had taken with the Chairman since his return, he simply took all the staff members who ordinarily accompanied the Chairman, including the recording technician. Wang began interrogating the young men and told the technician that Mao had ordered his arrest.
But Wang did not arrest the technician. "You have no place to ron," he told him. But he demanded to know who had ordered the bugging. ,
The confidential secretary pleaded ignorance. He said the bugging had started when Ye Zilong was in charge. Ye was the man to consult. But Ye was away doing labor reform. .
The technician also claimed not to know. He was just doing his job, he said, acting under orders from "the leadership”.
"And did the leadership order you to record the Chairman's private conversations, too?" Wang Dongxing demanded, glaring at the young technician. "Don't you have anything better to do? Why were you looking for trouble? Why didn't you tell Chairman you wanted to record his talks? You recorded all sorts of things you never should have. What am I supposed to tell Chairman?"
The young man was speechless.
By the time our train reached Wuhan and we had settled into the Plum Garden guesthouse, it was four o'clock in the morning. Wang Dongxing roused a local electrician and went immediately to remove all the bugging equipment from the train. I went to bed.
When I woke that afternoon, the bugging equipment — recording machines and tapes, speakers and wires — had been put on display in the conference room, and the staff was gathered around examining the paraphernalia. The Plum Garden guesthouse had also been bugged, and that equipment was on display, too. Mao ordered photographs taken as evidence, with Wang Dongxing, Kang Yimin, the secretary and the technician standing behind the table.
Kang Yimin, the deputy director of the Office of Confidential Secretaries who had worked just under Ye Zilong, had come from the General Office in Zhongnanhai [in Beijing] to discuss the matter with Wang Dongxing. Kang was a simple, honest, but uneducated man, and he and Wang quickly came to blows. Kang knew that the real decision to record the Chairman's conversations had come from higher up than Ye Zilong. Bugging the Chairman was far too serious a matter to be decided by Ye. Why they-or l-ever thought it could be gotten away with, I will never understand.
Confronted with Mao's discovery and not wanting to bring unknown higher levels into the dispute, Kang wanted Wang Dongxing to find some convincing way to explain the whole thing away. But Wang was determined to find out where the order had originated. Mao wanted an investigation, and Wang Dongxing was determined to conduct it.
In the end, though, the two men compromised. Wang Dongxing agreed to tell Mao that the bugging had been ordered to provide material for a party history.
Mao was infuriated. "So they're already compiling a black report against me, like Khrushchev?" he bellowed. A "party history" based on bugging his private conversations could only be used against him, and nothing bothered him more than ~he possibility of the type of attack Khrushchev had launched against Stalin. The attack against Stalin had also been full of damaging personal detail, and Mao did not want the details of his own personal life recorded on tape.
But it was not these revelations he most feared. His private life was an open secret among the party elite. His greatest fear was the potential threat to his power. Mao's frequent travel to other parts of China, where he met alone with local leaders, was part of his political strategy, a tactic designed to leap over the cumbersome bureaucratic machinery of the party and state and to maintain direct contact with local-level leaders. He did not want the central authority to know what he said to the provincial and local-level leaders. His role as the source of all policy would be diminished were representatives to carry his words back to Beijing, where central leaders could devise policy based on his conversations outside the capital. Mao wanted the central authorities to be more directly dependent on and loyal to him. If they knew what he said when traveling, they could pay lip service to their loyalty without having to be dependent. That was what he was trying to avoid.
He ordered Wang Dongxing to burn the tapes immediately. "Don't leave a single one," he commanded. "I don't want them providing material for any black report." Faced with Mao's fury, the technician confessed that other places, including the guesthouse in Hangzhou that we had just left, were also bugged. Mao ordered Wang to dispatch a team to remove that equipment and destroy those tapes, too.
Several people lost their jobs as a result of the incident. Ye Zilong's lieutenant Kany Yimin and Mao's confidential secretary were both fired. Kang went to work in the People's Bank. The latter was transferred to the Second Ministry of Machine Building and was replaced by Xu Yefu, the confidential secretary who had earlier lost his job when he talked openly about Li Yinqiao's accusation that Jiang Qing was running away to Hangzhou to avoid being criticized. The witless technician whose teasing of Mao's girlfriend had precipitated the discovery, was sent to Shaanxi for labor reform.
Mao never believed that the underlings who lost their jobs in 1961 were the real culprits. "They don't understand what this is all about," he said. "They don't know anything."
Mao, like Kang Yimin, believed that the orders to listen in on his conversations could have come only from leaders at the highest level. The Ministry of Public Security would have to be involved, too. Mao was convinced that they had been spying on him as part of a plot. His growing belief that there was a conspiracy against him within the highest ranks of the party dates from here. The differences between Mao and the other party leaders were still hidden, but the rift that would explode with the Cultural Revolution was quietly widening. Mao was biding his time.



Ousted Chinese Leader Is Said to Have Spied on Other Top Officials
The New York Times
April 25, 2012
By JONATHAN ANSFIELD and IAN JOHNSON
BEIJING — When Hu Jintao, China’s top leader, picked up the telephone last August to talk to a senior anticorruption official visiting Chongqing, special devices detected that he was being wiretapped — by local officials in that southwestern metropolis.
The discovery of that and other wiretapping led to an official investigation that helped topple Chongqing’s charismatic leader, Bo Xilai, in a political cataclysm that has yet to reach a conclusion.
Until now, the downfall of Mr. Bo has been cast largely as a tale of a populist who pursued his own agenda too aggressively for some top leaders in Beijing and was brought down by accusations that his wife had arranged the murder of Neil Heywood, a British consultant, after a business dispute. But the hidden wiretapping, previously alluded to only in internal Communist Party accounts of the scandal, appears to have provided another compelling reason for party leaders to turn on Mr. Bo.
The story of how China’s president was monitored also shows the level of mistrust among leaders in the one-party state. To maintain control over society, leaders have embraced enhanced surveillance technology. But some have turned it on one another — repeating patterns of intrigue that go back to the beginnings of Communist rule.
“This society has bred mistrust and violence,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, a historian of Communist China’s elite-level machinations over the past half century. “Leaders know you have to watch your back because you never know who will put a knife in it.”
Nearly a dozen people with party ties, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, confirmed the wiretapping, as well as a widespread program of bugging across Chongqing. But the party’s public version of Mr. Bo’s fall omits it.
The official narrative and much foreign attention has focused on the more easily grasped death of Mr. Heywood in November. When Mr. Bo’s police chief, Wang Lijun, was stripped of his job and feared being implicated in Bo family affairs, he fled to the United States Consulate in Chengdu, where he spoke mostly about Mr. Heywood’s death.
The murder account is pivotal to the scandal, providing Mr. Bo’s opponents with an unassailable reason to have him removed. But party insiders say the wiretapping was seen as a direct challenge to central authorities. It revealed to them just how far Mr. Bo, who is now being investigated for serious disciplinary violations, was prepared to go in his efforts to grasp greater power in China. That compounded suspicions that Mr. Bo could not be trusted with a top slot in the party, which is due to reshuffle its senior leadership positions this fall.
“Everyone across China is improving their systems for the purposes of maintaining stability,” said one official with a central government media outlet, referring to surveillance tactics. “But not everyone dares to monitor party central leaders.”
According to senior party members, including editors, academics and people with ties to the military, Mr. Bo’s eavesdropping operations began several years ago as part of a state-financed surveillance buildup, ostensibly for the purposes of fighting crime and maintaining local political stability.
The architect was Mr. Wang, a nationally decorated crime fighter who had worked under Mr. Bo in the northeast province of Liaoning. Together they installed “a comprehensive package bugging system covering telecommunications to the Internet,” according to the government media official.
One of several noted cybersecurity experts they enlisted was Fang Binxing, president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, who is often called the father of China’s “Great Firewall,” the nation’s vast Internet censorship system. Most recently, Mr. Fang advised the city on a new police information center using cloud-based computing, according to state news media reports. Late last year, Mr. Wang was named a visiting professor at Mr. Fang’s university.
Together, Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang unleashed a drive to smash what they said were crime rings that controlled large portions of Chongqing’s economic life. In interviews, targets of the crackdown marveled at the scale and determination with which local police intercepted their communications.
“On the phone, we dared not mention Bo Xilai or Wang Lijun,” said Li Jun, a fugitive property developer who now lives in hiding abroad. Instead, he and fellow businessmen took to scribbling notes, removing their cellphone batteries and stocking up on unregistered SIM cards to thwart surveillance as the crackdown mounted, he said.
Li Zhuang, a lawyer from a powerfully connected Beijing law firm, recalled how some cousins of one client had presented him with a full stack of unregistered mobile phone SIM cards, warning him of local wiretapping. Despite these precautions, the Chongqing police ended up arresting Mr. Li on the outskirts of Beijing, about 900 miles away, after he called his client’s wife and arranged to visit her later that day at a hospital.
“They already were there lying in ambush,” Mr. Li said. He added that Wang Lijun, by reputation, was a “tapping freak.”
Political figures were targeted in addition to those suspected of being mobsters.
One political analyst with senior-level ties, citing information obtained from a colonel he recently dined with, said Mr. Bo had tried to tap the phones of virtually all high-ranking leaders who visited Chongqing in recent years, including Zhou Yongkang, the law-and-order czar who was said to have backed Mr. Bo as his potential successor.
“Bo wanted to be extremely clear about what leaders’ attitudes toward him were,” the analyst said.
In one other instance last year, two journalists said, operatives were caught intercepting a conversation between the office of Mr. Hu and Liu Guanglei, a top party law-and-order official whom Mr. Wang had replaced as police chief. Mr. Liu once served under Mr. Hu in the 1980s in Guizhou Province.
Perhaps more worrisome to Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang, however, was the increased scrutiny from the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which by the beginning of 2012 had stationed up to four separate teams in Chongqing, two undercover, according to the political analyst, who cited Discipline Inspection sources. One line of inquiry, according to several party academics, involved Mr. Wang’s possible role in a police bribery case that unfolded last year in a Liaoning city where he once was police chief.
Beyond making a routine inspection, it is not clear why the disciplinary official who telephoned Mr. Hu — Ma Wen, the minister of supervision — was in Chongqing. Her high-security land link to Mr. Hu from the state guesthouse in Chongqing was monitored on Mr. Bo’s orders. The topic of the call is unknown but was probably not vital. Most phones are so unsafe that important information is often conveyed only in person or in writing.
But Beijing was galled that Mr. Bo would wiretap Mr. Hu, whether intentionally or not, and turned central security and disciplinary investigators loose on his police chief, who bore the brunt of the scrutiny over the next couple of months.
“Bo wanted to push the responsibility onto Wang,” one senior party editor said. “Wang couldn’t dare say it was Bo’s doing.”
Yet at some point well before fleeing Chongqing, Mr. Wang filed a pair of complaints to the inspection commission, the first anonymously and the second under his own name, according to a party academic with ties to Mr. Bo.
Both complaints said Mr. Bo had “opposed party central” authorities, including ordering the wiretapping of central leaders. The requests to investigate Mr. Bo were turned down at the time. Mr. Bo, who learned of the charges at a later point, told the academic shortly before his dismissal that he thought he could withstand Mr. Wang’s charges.
Mr. Wang is not believed to have discussed wiretapping at the United States Consulate. Instead, he focused on the less self-incriminating allegations of Mr. Bo’s wife’s arranging the killing of Mr. Heywood.
But tensions between the two men crested, sources said, when Mr. Bo found that Mr. Wang had also wiretapped him and his wife. After Mr. Wang was arrested in February, Mr. Bo detained Mr. Wang’s wiretapping specialist from Liaoning, a district police chief named Wang Pengfei.
Internal party accounts suggest that the party views the wiretapping as one of Mr. Bo’s most serious crimes. One preliminary indictment in mid-March accused Bo of damaging party unity by collecting evidence on other leaders.
Party officials, however, say it would be far too damaging to make the wiretapping public. When Mr. Bo is finally charged, wiretapping is not expected to be mentioned. “The things that can be publicized are the economic problems and the killing,” according to the senior official at the government media outlet. “That’s enough to decide the matter in public.”
Edward Wong contributed reporting.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where is the Panchen Lama? Not in Hong Kong!

The Chinese Panchen Lama has landed in Hong Kong. The Communist regime in Beijing is eager to show the world that Beijing is a Protector of Buddha Sakyamuni's faith.
A report from Xinhua-ANI states: "The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu attended the Grand Blessing Ceremony for worshiping Sakyamuni's parietal-bone relic held in the Hong Kong Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon."
Just the way Panchen (Bainqen) is spelled shows the imprint of a colonial power. Panchen means 'Pandita Chenmo' (the Great Pandit).
Is not 'Pandit' an Indian designation for someone 'knowledgeable'?
The press reports continues: 
This is the first time that the 11th Panchen Lama makes a public appearance outside the Chinese mainland. Earlier, the parietal bone of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, arrived in Hong Kong for its first public worship outside the Chinese mainland. A grand and solemn ceremony was held at the airport to welcome the shrine. Wang Zuo'an, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and Secretary for Home Affairs of the city's government Tsang Tak-sing presented flowers to the relic.
It appears that the Buddha's bone was 'unearthed' in 2008 when archaeologists discovered unexpectedly a crypt in the ruins of the Changgan Temple during the excavation works at the Nanjing Grand Bao'en Temple.
Xinhua says that: "Buddha's relics are usually well hidden in ancient temples and away from public. Buddha's remains are being highly venerated by Buddhist devotees as national treasure in many historically Buddhist countries and regions."
Are these relics genuine or fake like the Panchen Lama? 
Nobody can say. But it is certainly useful as an object of propaganda.
But more serious (or sad) is that this grandiose ceremony attended by 300,000 Buddhist followers coincides with the  23rd birthday of the Panchen Lama selected by the Dalai Lama. 
He disappeared at the age 6. Nobody has seen him since then.
Seventeen years in Chinese custody, it is long for a kid! 
I have often written on what I consider one of the greatest tragedy of modern Tibet.  
I post here the report from Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, based in Dharamsala, India.



17 Years and Counting: Disappearance of Panchen Lama
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
25 April 2012,
Today is the 23rd birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of the most important spiritual leaders of Tibet, who disappeared into the custody of the Chinese government 17 years ago.
On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama announced the then six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the incarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. Three days later, on 17 May 1995, the Chinese government secretly abducted the six-year-old boy and his parents who remain ‘disappeared’ to this day. There is no confirmed information on their well-being or if they are still alive.
Even after 17 years, no one - save the Chinese government - can confirm with reliable accuracy the current whereabouts and condition of the 11th Panchen Lama and his parents. Despite repeated interventions from the representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Council, UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations calling on China to disclose information on the Panchen Lama, the Chinese government has so far refused to share any detailed information that could shed important light on the Panchen Lama's current state. In its standard response, the Chinese government continues to maintain that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family are in perfect health and that they do not wish to be disturbed.
On 18 October 2009, Zhu Weiqun, the Vice-Minister of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party alleged in an interview with a German reporter that the Dalai Lama had destroyed the historical and religious rituals of the reincarnation system and so his recognition of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was illegal and invalid. Zhu also said, “As for the child recognized [by the Dalai Lama], he is our child, a Tibetan child and our citizen. So we will provide facilities to ensure his healthy growth."
The reporter then asked, “Where is this healthy growth of the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama happening? In Tibet? Will the Tibetan devotees recognize the [Chinese government] approved Panchen Lama?
Zhu replied, “The Dalai Lama’s illegally recognized child is of course growing up healthy in China. He will grow into a useful man to China and to the Tibetan people.”
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is now 23 years old and must have grown into a healthy young man, as Zhu Weiqun claims. According to the Chinese law, those who are 18 years old and above are considered adults, capable of making their own decisions, responsible for their own lives. For many years, the Chinese government has claimed that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is in "protective custody" of the Chinese authorities. Now that the boy is an adult, the Chinese government, in the true spirit of the law it drafted, should allow Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to exercise his right to self-determination and let him make his own decisions.
Ten years after the completion of his six-year prison sentence in May 2001, the fate of Chadrel Jampa Thrinley Rinpoche, the former abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the head of the Search Party to identify the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama remains unknown.
Chadrel Rinpoche was arrested on 14 May 1995, the day His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. After being detained incommunicado for two years, on 21 April 1997, the Intermediate Court of Shigatse Prefecture sentenced Rinpoche to six years’ imprisonment and three years’ deprivation of political rights on charges of “plotting to split the country” and “leaking state secrets” during his search for the 11thPanchen Lama.
There is no information on Chadrel Rinpoche except for an unconfirmed report in November 2011 that said Chadrel Rinpoche had died of poisoning.  The Chinese government continues to maintain a deafening silence on Chadrel Rinpoche's whereabouts and current condition.
On the occasion of Panchen Lama's 23rd birthday, TCHRD would like to offer our gratitude to individuals, organizations and governments who have worked tirelessly and offered their steadfast support for the release of the 11th Panchen Lama.
The Centre urges the Chinese government to respect and implement the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights if it wishes to be seen as a responsible, civilized world power.
The Chinese government should go beyond mere words on the condition and whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama and provide concrete, tangible evidence to back up its claims.
Holding the Panchen Lama and his family members incommunicado for years is a serious crime that violates multiple human rights enshrined in major international human rights instruments.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Karmic Dispute?

The government of Himachal Pradesh has finally decided to drop the name of the Karmapa from the charge sheet filed in the foreign currency case.
This move is welcome.
However, the dispute with the other 'candidate' is not over. It may take some more time.
As the Karmapa explained to me last year, it is not that simple. There is probably a 'karmic' factor.

My question: In your monastery of Rumtek in Sikkim I was told me that the dispute with Shamar Rinpoche (and Thagye Dorjee, the other 'candidate') is a 'karmic' issue; a time factor is involved and therefore it may take some time to be solved. Would you like to comment?

The Karmapa: You can try to reason it through in such way, but this issue is difficult to reason through. In fact, it is inconceivable for this to have happened. For those who know the history of the Shamar Rinpoche reincarnation lineage and the long history of the Karmapa reincarnation lineage, it seems simply impossible that a situation like this could occur. It is utterly unprecedented in the Karma Kagyu lineage. There was nothing indicating that something like this could happen. As far as the sanctity and integrity of the Karmapa lineage is concerned, it is impossible. Yet it has happened.
From this point of view, one could say that it is a karmic situation. In all fairness, it can't be blamed on one side or one situation exclusively. This could be opened for discussion, but I do not think all the fault lies entirely on one side. By this, I mean that if all people involved had proceeded with integrity, in accordance with the truth of karma, if they had remained harmonious in their vision, this would not have happened. But it has not been so, and thus this has happened.
As far as solving the issue, it cannot be solved as a technical problem by employing some [outer] techniques. The solution must come from "taming of the mind" or proper training of the mind. If one has the ability, one should recall the integrity of our predecessors, the highest standard of their spiritual ethics, and the spiritual vision that they have set for us. To recall this and bring it back into ourselves [His Holiness shows the gesture to bring down the wisdom of the lineage] is the solution. We have to reinstate this integrity [of the lineage] in our minds.



17th Karmapa cleared from currency case
Phayul
April 24, 2012
DHARAMSHALA, April 24: The Himachal Pradesh Government in a ruling today has decided to drop the name of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje from a charge sheet filed in connection with the recovery of currency case last year.
“The state government has decided to drop the name of Tibetan spiritual leader the Karmapa from the charge sheet filed in illegal foreign currency case on the recommendation of the Home and Law Ministry,” said an official of the Home Department.
The official further said the Himachal Pradesh government had directed Una's District Magistrate K.R. Bharti to plead the case in this regard through the Public Prosecutor for deleting the name of Gyalwang Karmapa from the charge sheet.
"We have decided to drop all criminal charges against the Karmapa," state Home Office official S.P. Singh was quoted by AFP as saying.
"The police and the government lawyers thoroughly investigated all the charges and found no real evidence to pursue a case against him," Singh added.
Speaking to reporters after the announcement, a senior official at the Karmapa’s office in Dharamshala said the Himachal government ruling was a vindication of their faith in the Indian legal system.
"From the very beginning, we expressed faith in the Indian legal system. We were confident that the truth would prevail," the official said.
The Karmapa Office of Administration has maintained that the 17th Karmapa “has no involvement, direct or indirect, in the financial administration of the office or trust.”
They have further clarified that the money seized by the Indian authorities from the monastery represented unsolicited donations offered by the followers of Gyalwang Karmapa from around the world to enable the substantial social and spiritual programmes of the Karma Kagyu order.
The 17th Karmapa who turned 26 last year has been living in Dharamshala, northern India since he made a daring escape from Tibet in 2000 after Chinese authorities increasingly restricted his ability to travel and teach his disciples, and to receive transmissions from his lineage teachers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

August 15, 1947: The saddest day in Pondicherry

The recent controversy around Peter Heehs' book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" prompted me to write this paper on the 'saddest day' of Pondicherry.
It was very unfortunate indeed!
From Day 1, goodaism was part of the Indian political life...

...The British Consul General reported that he had heard “rumours of a clash between the Socialists and some passers-by and that some of the Ashram buildings were stoned.”
He informed Delhi that one unconfirmed report mentioned that one member of the Ashram had died as a result of injury inflicted by a stone.
This incident is the most tragic of a day otherwise marked by joy and patriotic fervor. The death of Mulshankar, Sri Aurobindo’s attendant deeply blurred the Independence Day celebrations.
Mulshankar, a young Gujarati had come to the Ashram in the thirties and soon started serving Sri Aurobindo as an attendant and a masseur.
On the fateful day, Mulshankar was stabbed in the neck by local goondas; when he reached the Ashram main door, he was profusely bleeding, and ultimately, he could not be saved.
The press reported: “In the evening of 15 August 1947, the day of India’s independence, armed rioters attacked the Ashram, killing one member and injuring several others.”

Click here to read the paper...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Where wild roses bloom

The Boss of Pakistan says: "It's time to resolve the Siachen issue", but what General Kayani forgets is that the Siachen issue was 'solved' long ago, in fact, in July 1949.
I reproduced here an article that I published 7 years ago on the subject. 

Where wild roses bloom
June, 4, 2005
Once upon a time, a small Yarkandi village stood guarding the entrance of a mighty glacier of the Karakoram range. It was a meeting place for Balti traders to barter their goods with Central Asian merchants.
One day the Yarkandis decided to visit their southern neighbours; they descended from the glacier, but before returning north, they could not resist taking away a beautiful Balti girl. The offense could not remain unpunished; the Yarkandi village had to pay for its crime.
The Baltis contacted a local cleric, who gave them a taweez (amulet) to be placed on summit of the Bilafond-la pass. The villagers were told to strictly follow the priest's instructions and come back via Nubra valley.  However, the Baltis performed only the first part of the ritual. After leaving the taweez on the pass, they did not use the Nubra track to return. Legend says that a terrible storm destroyed the Yarkandi village; only a few stones and wild roses remained.
The priest later explained why the roses did not disappear; his instructions had not been fully followed. Result: Wild roses could still grow in the area. This glacier is known as the Siachen ('Sia' is rose, 'chen' is place)-the place where roses bloom. This is one of the many myths around the area. But there are also political myths anchored to the 72 km long glacier. 
One such legend is that Pakistani troops are occupying the glacier. If you regularly read the Pakistani press, you are informed that Islamabad is ready to "withdraw its troops from the glacier" if New Delhi accepts to reciprocate. According to Islamabad, "demilitarisation" is the solution. General Pervez
Musharraf has even declared that he finds the issue "actually troublesome for both sides and it is an unnecessary irritant which can be resolved".  But the point is that Pakistan does not occupy the glacier and never did (though it did try in 1983-84). Later in 1984, India took full control of the area as well as most of the peaks of the Saltoro range.
Today, the legend of Pakistan occupying the glacier is even less credible than the Balti girl's story, but the disinformation continues.  The Pakistani President (and his predecessors as well) has been able to spread false propaganda travelling far and wide. Take, for example, a paper published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the US Library of Congress. Titled, 'Pakistan's Domestic Political Developments', which was updated on February 14, 2005.
It shows a map of Pakistan with the entire glacier as occupied by that country. The CRS is supposed to have been created by the US Congress "in order to have its own source of non-partisan, objective analysis and research on all legislative issues". Indeed, the sole mission of CRS is to serve the United States Congress.
What an objective and non-partisan service indeed! And of course, nobody in South Block bothers to complain to "our American friends"!  It is necessary to make a quick return to the past to understand the history of the LoC and the glacier. Following the ceasefire of January 1, 1949, the military representatives of India and Pakistan met in Karachi between July 18 and 27, 1949, under the auspices of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan. An agreement was reached and the Line of Ceasefire (today's LoC) was demarcated. The last point on the map was known as 'NJ 9842'. Nobody thought of going further north at that time. The agreement of July 1949, mentioned therefore that the Line extended "thence north to the glaciers" without going into the details.  The important point which is often forgotten now has been pointed out by General SK Sinha, the Governor of J&K, who participated in the Karachi
negotiations as the ADC to General Shrinagesh, the head of the Indian delegation. Before leaving for Karachi, the delegates had a briefing from Nehru and the Secretary General of the MEA, Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, who explained the legal position in detail to the delegates. He told them that the resolution of August 1948 "had conceded the legality of Kashmir's accession to India and as such no man's land, if any, should be controlled by India during the period of ceasefire and truce.
This meant that the onus of proof to convince the commission of any factual position, on the date of ceasefire, in any disputed territory, rested with Pakistan.  "In the absence of any such convincing proof, and even if India had no troops on the date of ceasefire in that area, the disputed territory should automatically come under Indian control. This convincing and legalistic argument proved a trump card in our hands at Karachi. Based on this, we obtained control of several hundred square miles of State territory where we were not in position on the date of the ceasefire."
This position was then accepted by Pakistan and the UN. It remains valid today. Even if not demarcated, the glacier legally belongs to India. More, the area (including the Saltoro range) has been in the physical possession of the Indian troops since in 1984. In the early '80s, Islamabad had tried to occupy the glacier under the cover of mountaineering expeditions, but the Indian Army intervened in time and took control.
This was the beginning of the conflict. What disturbs me most is seeing the Indian press biting the Pakistani propaganda bait. Take, for example, a reputed national weekly which regularly publishes the map of Jammu & Kashmir with a different colour for the Siachen¬as if the glacier is were disputed.  After the recent dialogue on Siachen between the defence secretaries of India and Pakistan which concluded without any agreement, many newspapers
spoke of "failure of the talks". Does it mean that a unilateral withdrawal from the glacier would have been a "success"? General Musharraf likes to quote the Fifth Round of talks in 1989: "Yes, indeed there was an agreement in 1989. And that Agreement was based on reallocation of the Siachen." This is far from true. The negotiations saw a hardening of the position of the Pakistan military and, finally, the talks broke down.
However, a communique was issued stating that "both sides would work towards a comprehensive settlement" in future talks. It was conveniently interpreted in Pakistan as meaning that India would unilaterally withdraw from the glacier. India's position has always been clear: Delhi is ready to concede a redeployment zone for the sake of a compromise; but, as General VR Raghavan who has been involved in the earlier negotiations, wrote: "First, each side should acknowledge its current position before a disengagement commences. Second, there should be a high level of assurance that neither side would breach the agreed formula."
This would require mutual verification and surveillance. It is what General JJ Singh, the Chief of the Army Staff, reiterated when he asked Pakistan to accept the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) along the 72 km long glacier before even talking of 'redeployment'. But Pakistan today, like 15 years ago, is not ready to admit that its troops are not positioned on the glacier. This is the reason why it refuses to acknowledge the AGPL.
The Indian negotiators, who have managed to remain "on their ground position" while agreeing to keep the ceasefire and "continue talks in the future", deserve to be complimented. It is true that the Pakistani intrusions in Kargil ordered by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 have helped New Delhi to better understand the mind of Pakistani leaders. To kidnap a beautiful girl is easy, it is not quite as easy to get her back home.

It's time to resolve Siachen, says Kayani
Pakistan Army Chief calls for peaceful coexistence with India
The Hindu
Anita Joshua
April 19, 2012

Calling for demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier for the development of Pakistan and environmental reasons, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Wednesday advocated peaceful coexistence with India, adding that the civil and military leaderships of the two countries should discuss ways to resolve the issue.
Interacting with journalists at Skardu after visiting Gayari — the site of the avalanche in Siachen that buried 124 soldiers of the 6 Northern Light Infantry and 11 civilians early on April 7 — General Kayani said Pakistan was not manning those treacherous heights out of choice. “The world knows why we are in Siachen,” referring to the Pakistani narrative that it was India which started this dispute in 1984.
“This conflict should be resolved. How it is done is to be decided by the military and civil leaderships of the two countries,” General Kayani said, pointing out that the issue had been discussed several times. “Sometimes we get close to a resolution but then issues come up.”

Defence budget
Maintaining that peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours was very important, the COAS said the Army understood well the need to bring down the defence budget. “We in the Army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development because ultimately security does not only mean secure borders but the welfare of the people. We would like to spend less on defence; any country should do the same way.”

Global problem
About the harm caused to the environment by the military occupation of the Siachen glacier, General Kayani conceded the point. “This is the glacier that feeds our rivers, particularly the Indus. We understand that physical deployment of troops will affect our rivers and water management is needed.” In fact, according to him, the effect of militarisation of Siachen on the environment was not just a local issue but a global problem.

Retrieval of bodies
As to how long the Army proposed to continue with the ongoing operations to recover bodies of the men buried under 80 feet of snow, the COAS said that till every man was located. “If we have to take out this mountain, we will do that. It is not time-bound. We are not going to give up on this,” he asserted, pointing out that the highest Pakistani post in Siachen was at a height of 22,300 ft, where the soldiers survive without oxygen and proper heating.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

L'Affaire Bo and India's Security

As this article of the South China Morning Post shows, Bo Xilai, Chongqin former Party boss has (had?) very close relations with the 14th Group Army based in Kunming in Yunnan as well as the Chengdu Military Region looking, amongst others, over  the Tibetan 'stability' and the border with India (see map).
Early February,  Bo Xilai paid a visit to Kunming to inaugurate an exhibition organized by the 14th Group Army, founded by his father Marshall Bo Yibo.
It is said that it was Bo Xilai's 8th visit to Yunnan and the 14th Group Army.
There are different definitions of a Group Army, but it usually corresponds to a Corps. The People’s Liberation Army has 18 regular 'Group Armies'. Each of the PLA’s seven military regions is assigned with 2 or 3 group armies. 
The fact that General Guo Boxiong , vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, had to go to Chengdu and speak to the senior Army staff there tend to prove the seriousness of the situation.
On March 28, 2012, the People’s Liberation Army General Political Department and China’s National Defense University issued a communique about the importance of utmost discipline in the PLA.
The article stated that regardless of the changes and new challenges ahead, the military must be under the absolute leadership of the Party and “firmly follow the orders of the Party’s Central Committee, the Central Military Committee, and President Hu, under all circumstances.” If the military is not politically correct, “it will likely lose direction amidst complex and confusing political struggles. … For every Party member, following the Party’s discipline is a political requirement; the most important requirement is to be in compliance with political discipline.”
India should closely follow L'Affaire Bo which has a lot of ramifications for its own security.



Bo's links to armed forces probed
South China Morning Post 
Choi Chi-yuk
Apr 15, 2012
Bo Xilai has long had a close relationship with the military.
Links between senior officers in the Chengdu military region and the disgraced Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai are being investigated by five inspection teams sent in by the Central Military Commission, which controls China's armed forces.
Bo, who is embroiled in China's most serious political scandal in decades, is well known for his close ties with the People's Liberation Army.
Last week he was suspended from the powerful politburo for "serious violations of party discipline" and his wife and an aide are being investigated for the murder of a Briton, Neil Heywood, with whom she had business dealings.
The Sunday Morning Post has also learned that two more senior police officers in Chongqing have been detained for their roles in an alleged cover-up of the Heywood case.
The Chongqing Daily, mouthpiece of the municipal government, meanwhile hinted Bo could face criminal charges - the first time the state media has said as much.
Xinhua yesterday reported that General Guo Boxiong , vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, visited the Chengdu Military Command recently and delivered a strongly worded warning to military personnel not to listen to or circulate political rumours.
Guo called on the military to "closely rally behind the party's central leadership led by Comrade Hu Jintao ". Guo also said the army should take precautions against "any serious incident that may disturb the overall situation".
It remains unclear if Guo's visit was related to the probe.
A source in Chengdu said: "Five task forces have been sent to the Chengdu Military Command to look into whether, and to what extent, any senior officers and troops were involved in Bo's case."
The source gave no details of who was being investigated, but there has been speculation that several generals in the Chengdu command are close friends of Bo.
The Chengdu Military Command oversees the southwest, including Chongqing; the provinces of Sichuan , Yunnan and Guizhou ; and the politically sensitive Tibet Autonomous Region .
The same source said there was intense speculation that senior officers of the 14th Group Army, based in Kunming , the capital of Yunnan, were being investigated by the Central Military Commission.
The 14th Group Army was founded by Bo's late father, Bo Yibo , one of the so-called eight immortals of the revolution, a title granted because of his influence and status in the Communist Party.
Bo Xilai made a high-profile visit to the 14th Group Army the day after the attempted defection of Wang Lijun , the Chongqing police chief and vice-mayor, at the United States consulate in Chengdu was made public. Wang's visit to the consulate on February 6 triggered the crisis surrounding Bo.
Bo has a close relationship with the army. Chongqing journalists said Bo stayed in a PLA garrison for his own safety during the early stages of his crackdown on organised crime in the municipality two years ago. Last month, when Bo made his last public appearance in the National People's Congress, PLA delegates shook his hand and saluted him as he stood on the podium in front of hundreds of journalists, hours after Bo gave a two-hour press conference that turned out to be his swan song.
The Chongqing Daily yesterday ran a commentary saying both Bo and Wang Lijun had broken the law - the first hint that Bo may face criminal charges. "People like Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun have violated the law and party discipline … and seriously tarnished the image of the country and the party," it said.
Meanwhile, Guo Weiguo , the deputy police chief of Chongqing, along with the head of the municipal criminal police team, Li Yang , were detained for investigation early this month on suspicion of covering up details of the Heywood murder case, according to a source in Chongqing, who said officials above county level were notified.
British newspaper the Daily Mail has reported that Wang Lulu, Heywood's widow, visited the British embassy in Beijing seeking its help to leave for Britain with her two children because she feared for her safety.
In a written reply yesterday to the Post, Britain's Foreign Office said: "We are continuing to provide the full level of consular assistance we would in the case of a British national's death overseas. However, we are not able to comment on the personal details of Mrs Heywood."
At the same time, there are conflicting reports as to the whereabouts of Bo Guagua , the Oxford- and Harvard-educated son of Bo Xilai. The Daily Telegraph in London reported that Bo had been taken away by US law enforcement officers from his residence at Harvard on Thursday. But he is also said to have returned to Beijing some time ago.
chiyuk.choi@scmp.com Copyright (c) 2012. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sarkozy set to lose race

My article Sarkozy set to lose race appeared in The Pioneer.
Click here to read...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Aksai Chin and Ngari

The article quoted below is full of inexactitudes.
First it mixes the names of the places. 
Ali Prefecture is not the Aksai Chin.  It is the traditional area known as Ngari Khorsum.
Shiquanhe (Coordinates: 32°31′N 80°04′E) or Sênggêzangbo Town (Tibetan: Tibetan: སེང་གེ་ཁ་འབབ་, Wylie: seng-ge-gtsang-po kha-'bab, named after Sênggê Zangbo, a river in Ngari), or Shiquanhe Town (Chinese: 狮泉河镇, i.e. "Lion Spring River Town") is the capital of Ngari Prefecture, and of the Gar County of that prefecture.
According to Wikipedia:
The name Shiquanhe is originally the name of the river; in Tibetan, it is Sengge Zangbo or Senge Zangbu (Chinese: 森格藏布) or Sengghe Tsangpo (in a transcription used in Western books).The source of that river, a hot spring, supposedly, looks like the lion's mouth; thus the name, interpreted as "river flowing from the lion's mouth 
Further, the Aksai Chin was not invaded in 1962, but the Tibet-Xinjiang road was built in the early 1950's.
The fact that Nehru chose to close his eyes is another issue.
I am posting here an extract of my book: The Panchsheel Agreement: born in sin which gives a background of the Aksai Chin road.

By the way, do you want a ride on the Aksai Chin?
Click here...

The New Roads
Soon after the PLA entered Lhasa, the Chinese made plans to improve communications and built new roads on a war-footing.  The only way to consolidate and ‘unify’ the Empire was to construct a large network of roads. The work began immediately after the arrival of the first young Chinese soldiers in Lhasa. Priority was given to motorable roads: the Chamdo-Lhasa , the Qinghai-Lhasa  and the Tibet-Xinjiang Highway (later known as the Aksai Chin) in the western Tibet. The first surveys were done at the end of 1951 and construction began in 1952.
We already discovered that the construction of one of the feeder roads leading to Nathu-la, the border pass between Sikkim and Tibet had some strange consequences. India began feeding the Chinese road workers in Tibet, sending tons of rice through this route. John Lall, posted in Gangtok, witnessed long caravans of mules leaving for Tibet.
The official report of the 1962 China War prepared by the Indian Ministry of Defense  gives a few examples showing that the construction of the road cutting across Indian soil on the Aksai Chin plateau of Ladakh was known to the Indian ministries of Defense and External Affairs long before it was made public.
To quote the Report: “B.N. Mullik, who was then Director, Intelligence Bureau, has, however, claimed that he had been reporting about the road building activity of the Chinese in the area since as early as November 1952. According to B.N. Mullik the Indian Trade Agent in Gartok also reported about it in July and September 1955, and August 1957.
The different incidents which occurred in the early fifties should have awakened the Government of India from its soporific Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai dream-like world. It was not to be so.
Instead of alarming Nehru, these disturbing reports reinforced his determination to bolster the friendship with China. The first of these incidents was the harassment of the Indian Trade Agent posted in Gartok in Western Tibet. Though Nehru wrote to Zhou Enlai about it , no following action was taken and no proper analysis of Chinese motivations was made. Nehru barely brought the matter to Zhou’s notice: “Recently, some incidents have taken place when the local authorities in Tibet stopped our Trade Agent in Western Tibet from proceeding on his official tour to Rudok and his staff to Taklakot, both important trade marts for Indian traders and pilgrims. There has been a forcible seizure of his wireless set which is essential for the performance of his duties. We learnt of this incident with surprise and regret, because it did not seem to us in consonance with the friendly relations between our two countries...”
The harassment of the Indian Trade Agent in Western Tibet was without doubt linked with the work which had started on the Tibet-Xinjiang highway. Rudok, located midway between Lhasa and Kashgar is the last small town before entering the Aksai Chin. The presence of an Indian official there was embarrassing for the Chinese as they had started building a road on Indian soil. Did Nehru see the implications of the incident or did he still believe in Chinese goodwill? It is difficult to say.
His letter concludes thus: “I would invite Your Excellency’s Government to confer with our Government at the earliest suitable opportunity, either in Delhi or in Peking, on all such matters affecting relations between our two countries.”
The Official report also mentions S.S. Khera, a Cabinet Secretary in 1962, who later wrote that “information about activities of the Chinese on the Indo-Tibetan border particularly in the Aksai Chin area had begun to come in by 1952 or earlier.” 

The closure of the Consulate in Kashgar
If the Indian government had been ready to read beyond the Chinese rhetoric and Zhou’s assurance of friendship, it would have seen many more ominous signs. One of them was the closure of the Indian Consulate in Kashgar.
Here again, as in several other cases, Nehru justified the Chinese actions without taking any retaliatory measures or even protesting. India’s interests were lost to the ‘revolutionary changes’ happening in China. He declared in the Parliament:
Some major changes have taken place there [Kashgar]. As a result of those changes, which have nothing to do with India at the moment… our Consul went there – I speak from memory – probably in 1948, maybe even later, in 1949. But when these changes, revolutionary changes took place there, it is perfectly true that the Chinese Government, when they came to Tibet, told us that they intended that they wanted to treat Sinkiang as a closed area. They told other State Government, too. Well, nothing happened. Our Consul remained there. But because of those changes, because of many factors – among them being what happened in Kashmir – the trade ceased... Kashgar is important to us as a trade route. The trade went over the Karakoram, passed though Ladakh and Leh on to Kashmir. Various factors, including developments in Kashmir led to the stoppage of that trade... The result was, our Consul remained there for some time, till recently… but there is now no work to be done. So we advised him to come away and he did come away.
India had been trading with Central Asia and more particularly Kashgar and Yarkand for millennia. Just because ‘revolutionary changes’ had occurred, the Government of India accepted the closure of its trade with Sinkiang as a fait accompli. The reference to Kashmir is not relevant. Since the winter of 1948, India controlled the Zoji-la pass  as well as Ladakh. At that time, the Karakoram Pass was still open to the caravans.
More Reports
Another indication came during the negotiations for the Panchsheel Agreement (or Agreement between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India). Instead of the planned three or four weeks, the talks went on for four months. One of the objections by the Chinese was the mention of Demchok as the border pass for traders between Ladakh and Western Tibet. Very cleverly, Chen, the main Chinese negotiator ‘privately’ told T.N. Kaul, his Indian counterpart, that he was objecting because they were not keen to mention the name ‘Kashmir’ as they did not wish to take sides between India and Pakistan. This argument is very strange and though Kaul could see through the game, the Indian side gave in once again. Later Kaul wrote:
However, their real objection was, I believe, to strengthening [their] claim to Aksai Chin (in the Ladakh province of Kashmir) which they needed for linking Sinkiang with Western Tibet. An agreed formula "the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus river may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom was worked out and Delhi approved it.
This formulation would have very serious consequences, instead of using the opportunity to clarify the already contentious border issue, the Chinese were allowed to walk away with a vague statement which was open to future contestation. It was indeed a great victory for Beijing while they were building the road in the Aksai Chin. It seems as though the Indian side was just not aware of the reality on the ground.
More authors have mentioned the building of the Aksai Chin road and the fact that it was known during the mid-fifties to the Ministries of Defense and External Affairs. In his book The Saga of Ladakh,  Maj. Gen Jagjit Singh mentions that in 1956, the Indian Military Attaché in Beijing, Brig Mallik received information that China had started building a highway through Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area. Mallik had reported the matter to Army Headquarters in New Delhi and a similar report was sent by the Indian Embassy to the Foreign Ministry.
D.R. Mankekar  gave similar information. He said that Brig S.S. Mallik, the Indian Military Attaché in Beijing made a first reference to the road-building activities of the Chinese in a routine report to the Government as early as November 1955. Five months later, in a special report to Delhi, the Military Attaché drew pointed attention to the construction of the strategic highway through Indian territory in Aksai Chin. Simultaneously, he also sent a copy of the report to the Army H.Q..
The Official Report of 1962 War states:
The Preliminary survey work on the planned Tibet-Sinkiang road having been completed by the mid-1950’s, China started constructing motorable road in summer 1955. The highway ran over 160 km across the Aksai Chin region of north-east Ladakh. It was completed in the second half of 1957. Arterial roads connecting the highway with Tibet were also laid. On 6 October 1957, the Sinkiang-Tibet road was formally opened with a ceremony in Gartok and twelve trucks on a trial run from Yarkand reached Gartok. In January 1958, the China News Agency reported that the Sinkiang-Tibet highway had been opened two months earlier and the road was being fully utilised.
Another interesting account about how the Indian army already knew in 1955 that the Chinese were building a road across Indian territory, has recently been published in the UK.  In 1955, Wignall, a British mountaineer went on an expedition inside Tibet with the knowledge of Indian Military Intelligence. The Army Chief, General K.S. Thimayya seriously suspected that the Chinese were building a road on Indian territory. Wignall was asked to get proof of it.
He was eventually caught by the Chinese Army, interrogated and kept as prisoner for several weeks. He was later released in the midst of winter in a high altitude pass. The Chinese thought he would never survive the blizzard or find his way back to India. After an incredible journey, he managed to reach India and was able to report about the road to the army authorities who, in turn, informed the Prime Minister and V. K. Krishna Menon, the Defense Minister.
Wignall was later told by his army contact:
Our illustrious Prime Minister Nehru, who is so busy on the world stage telling the rest of mankind how to live, has too little time to attend to the security of his own country. Your material was shown to Nehru by one of our senior officers, who plugged hard. He was criticised by Krishna Menon in Nehru's presence for ‘lapping up American CIA agent-provocateur propaganda.’ Menon has completely suppressed your information.”
'So it was all for nothing?' I [Wignall] asked. 'Perhaps not,' Singh  responded. 'We will keep working away at Nehru. Some day he must see the light, and realise the threat communist Chinese occupation of Tibet poses for India.
The Government of India has never acknowledged that it had information about the Aksai Chin road as early as 1954-55. It will be discussed for the first time in the Lok Sabha only in August 1959.
General Thimayya, the Indian army chief who was forced to retire in 1961, one year before the Chinese attacked India, is supposed to have said in his valedictory address to the Indian Army Officer Corps: “I hope that I am not leaving you as cannon fodder for the Chinese communists.”

The Opening of the Road

On October 6, 1957, a Chinese newspaper Kuang-ming Jih-pao reported:
The Sinkiang-Tibet – the highest highway in the world – has been completed. During the past few days, a number of trucks running on the highway on a trial basis have arrived in Ko-ta-k’e in Tibet from Yehch’eng in Sinkiang. The Sinkiang-Tibet Highway… is 1179 km long, of which 915 km are more than 4,000 meters above sea level; 130 km of it over 5,000 meters above sea level, with the highest point being 5,500 meters.
Thirty (“liberation” model and Chissu 150) heavy-duty trucks, fully loaded with road builders, maintenance equipment and fuels, running on the highway on a trial basis, headed for Ko-ta-k’e from Yehch’eng. In addition two trucks fully loaded with Hami melons, apples and pomegranates, all native products of Sinkiang, headed in the same direction. These fruits were gifts brought specially by the road builders of Sinkiang for the people of various nationalities.”
The circle was closed. The two newly-acquired western provinces of Communist China were linked. It took nearly two more years for the news to become public. In August 1959 Nehru dropped the bombshell in Parliament: what the Chinese called the ‘Tibet-Sinkiang highway’ was built through the Indian territory.
It appears that one cause for the delay to make the news public was that for a few years, New Delhi had doubts on how to react. Already in 1957, when the Indian Ambassador to China and his Military Attaché  had been invited to a special function to celebrate the opening of the road, they politely refused. They had refused to fall into the Chinese trap and give the stamp of the Indian Embassy to the event.
It took another year for the Nehru Government to officially complain to Beijing about the ‘intrusion’. In an Informal Note given by the Foreign Secretary to the Chinese Ambassador on 18 October 1958, New Delhi finally decided to take some action:
The attention of the Government of India has recently been drawn to the fact that a motor road has been constructed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China across the eastern part of the Ladakh region of the Jammu Kashmir States, which is part of India. This road seems to form part of the Chinese road known as Yehchang-Gartok or Sikiang-Tibet highway, the completion of which was announced in September, 1957.
The road enters Indian territory just east of Sarigh Jilgnang, runs north-west to Amtogar and striking the western bank of the Amtogar lake runs north-west through Yangpa, Khitai Dawan and Haji Langer which are all in indisputable Indian territory. Near the Amtogar Lake several branch tracks have also been made motorable.
2. The India-China boundary in the Ladakh sector as in others is traditionally well-known and follows well marked geographical features. The territory which the road traverses has been part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries and the “old established frontiers” have been accepted by the Chinese in the treaty of 1842 as the International boundary...
The Indian Government here refers to the Treaty signed  between the Jammu and Kashmir State of Gulab Singh and Ladakh. The contradiction is that Tibet, forgotten in the Panchsheel, is used in this case when it is convenient for the Indian argument. The Note concluded that it was a matter of ‘surprise and regret’ that the Chinese Government had built a road through “indisputably Indian territory without first obtaining the permission of the Government of India and without even informing the Government of India”.
The Note continued, raising a strange point: it accused the Chinese officials, workers and travelers using the road to “enter India territory without proper travel documents and visas.” It stated: “No applications for visas from Chinese personnel working on the road or from Chinese travelers traversing this road have ever been received by the Government of India.”
In conclusion, the Note stated: “the Government of India are anxious to settle these petty frontier disputes so that the friendly relations between the two countries may not suffer. The Government of India would therefore be glad for an early reply from the Chinese Government.”
The ‘petty dispute’ is still not solved today and the issue has become even knottier.
At the end of the letter, another issue was raised: for some time an Indian patrol had been reported missing. Delhi wanted to know if the Chinese had seen “an Indian party consisting of three Military Officers and four soldiers together with one guide, one porter, six pony owners and thirty-four ponies … out on a normal patrol in this area near Shinglung in Indian territory.”
Indeed, they had been seen and captured by the Chinese border guards on Indian soil. Beijing admitted immediately that they were in their custody, but according to the local Chinese commanders the Indian jawans had trespassed on Chinese side of the frontier at the time of their arrest .
This was the first of a long series of incidents. Hundred of letters and notes would be exchanged on the subject.

China invites Japan, South Korea to build observatory in disputed Aksai Chin
Times of India
Monday, 16 April 2012
BEIJING: China is pushing Japan and South Korea to establish an astronomical observatory in Aksai Chin, a remote part of Jammu & Kashmir that Beijing occupied after the 1962 war and had Islamabad cede parts of the region to it a year later.
A Chinese scientist on Sunday said the East Asia Core Observatories Association -- with China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as it members - has recommended the site for the observatory. Yao told the official Xinhua news agency that the association had also surveyed sites in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, but the new observatory is likely to be established in Tibet (Aksai Chin) this year.
The association's website shows one of its proposed sites in Aksai Chin (Shiquanhe in Chinese) in Tibet.
"EACOA directors reached a consensus that a review and evaluation meeting are urgently needed among regional excepts, aiming to update EACOA on relevant site survey progress, particularly focus on the site-testing metrology, instrumentations, procedures and data analysis performed on the candidate site at Ali (Aksai Chin) Tibet," it said about a recent meeting.
Ali in Tibet's Ngari Prefecture falls within Aksai Chin, which India claims to be its own territory.
The move comes as Beijing has been asking India to pull out of oil exploration from the disputed areas of the South China Sea off the Vietnamese coast. Both China and Vietnam claim the South China Sea.
China feels that the presence of India and Russia, which recently entered the area, will further complicate the territorial dispute. Experts see the Chinese proposal for the observatory as an attempt to complicate the Aksai Chin dispute by drawing in Japan and South Korea, who are members of the Japan-based EACOA.
The observatory will carry out research on planetary science, star formation, gamma-ray bursts and other astronomical projects. It will conduct around-the-clock observations of certain celestial bodies.
The move, if successful, will legitimize Beijing's claim over the disputed area and make it difficult for New Delhi to establish its rights over it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Longing for Greater Autonomy

During an interview with the Dalai Lama’s Representative who headed the Tibetan fact-finding delegation in Tibet in 1979, he recalled his arrival on the Roof of the World: “The Chinese definitively did not expect that we would be received with so much enthusiasm”.
In fact, they Chinese were bewildered by the reception offered to the delegation some thirty years after the so-called Liberation of Tibet during which “the Chinese administration had done everything to denounce and put down the Dalai Lama, the Chinese authorities thought that the Tibetan people had lost their faith in their leader”.
The Tibetan official continued: “When we arrived in Tibet, the Chinese thought that the people might spit on us because we were the Dalai Lama’s representatives, or throw stones at us”. The Chinese authorities had forbidden the Tibetans to do so.
As they arrived in Tibet, the Tibetan delegates were mobbed; people waited for hours or days to have their darshan, to touch them or to grab a piece of their dress as a relic. The Chinese officials were utterly shocked.
Another delegate recounted that the local Tibetans even collected the dust from the tyre prints of the envoys’ car, to keep it as prasad.
These delegations from Dharamsala in the early 1980’s helped the leadership in Beijing to realize that the Tibetans, like the Mongols or Uyghurs, had their own identity; trying to eradicate it could only be counterproductive.
As a result, after CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang visited Tibet in May 1980; ‘softer’ policies were introduced. Unfortunately, Hu was soon sidelined by the ‘leftist’ hardliners who re-imposed the harsh assimilation policies of the 1960’s.
Nearly 30 years later, in 2008, the resentment which had simmered underground, resurfaced through a series of demonstrations/riots all over Tibet (including areas administered by Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces.) The unrest lasted nearly two months and once again, severe repression was the only answer that the Party could find to solve the issue. It only exacerbated the situation further.

A new way to express resentment: Immolations
In 2011, it started again, this time, mainly in Eastern Tibet. A series of self-immolations began on March 16, 2011 when Phuntsog, a 21-year old monk of Kirti Monastery set himself on fire in Ngaba. It continued on 15 August with Tsewang Norbu of Tawu Nyatso Monastery. Since then more than 23 cases of self-immolation have been reported.
If one looks at the profiles of those who did the supreme sacrifice, one is surprised to see how young some of these monks or nuns were; for example, Tenzin Choeden who immolated herself on February 11 was a young 18-year old nun of Ngaba (Eastern Tibet).
All these ‘protestors’ had not witnessed the uprising of 1959, the Martial Law in Tibet in 1988/89 or the Tiananmen Square events a few months later.
So where does the problem come from?
Sonam Wangyal Sopa Rinpoche, a Senior Lama who immolated himself recorded a message to his countrymen to explain his gesture: “I am giving away my body as an offering of light to chase away the darkness, to free all beings from suffering, and to lead them …to the Amitabha, the Buddha of infinite light. My offering of light is for all living beings… I offer this sacrifice as a token of long-life offering to our root guru His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all other spiritual teachers and lamas.”


The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) which follows closely the human rights situation in Tibet, gave a rationale for the extreme step taken by these monks and nuns: “Movement is controlled and religious practices are either limited or completely forbidden. Several laws and policies are specifically aimed to control Tibet’s Buddhist institutions.”
The Dalai Lama commented: “these incidents of self-immolation are very very sad. The leadership in Beijing should look into the ultimate cause of these tragic incidents. These Tibetans have faced a tremendously desperate situation, otherwise nobody will commit such drastic acts”. He requested the Chinese leadership to pay serious attention to their minority policies: “Relying on force is counter-productive. Force can never bring unity and stability.”
But is Beijing’s leadership ready to listen?
The renowned dissident and poetess Tsering Woeser (now under house-arrest) recalled on her blog that in 1963, Quang Duc Thich, a Vietnamese monk burnt himself in Saigon. Woeser said that the 67-year-old monk’s last words were, “before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to the Vietnamese President to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality.”
Woeser believes that similar aspirations and feelings pushed Tibetan monks and nuns to set themselves on fire.

What do the Tibetans want?

On June 18 1988, the Dalai Lama dropped a bombshell in Strasbourg. Addressing the Members of the European Parliament, he declared: "I have taken the initiative to formulate thoughts which we hope, may serve as a basis for resolving the issue of Tibet.” He elaborated: “The whole of Tibet should become a self-governing democratic political entity founded on law by agreement of the people for common good and the protection of themselves and their environment, in association with the People's Republic of China."
From that day, he stopped claiming independence for his country, pleading only for a genuine or meaningful autonomy.
Thus was born the “Middle Path” approach.
What were the reasons which motivated the Dalai Lama to walk on this unpopular (for his people at least) Middle Path?
Being a Buddhist monk, it seems logical that the Dalai Lama emulates his Master who was the first to propagate the ‘middle path’.
A more immediate reason was a meeting that Gyalo Thondup, the Tibetan leader’s elder brother, had with Deng Xiaoping in 1979. China’s new boss told Thondup that "the door to negotiations remains wide open… except for the independence of Tibet; all other questions can be negotiated".
This encounter between Deng and the Dalai Lama’s emissary triggered the rapprochement: as already mentioned, it translated into the visit of the fact-finding delegations from Dharamsala who travelled through the three main provinces of Tibet and later by two rounds of talks with officials of the United Front Work Department in Beijing.
Another reason which pushed the Dalai Lama to choose the ‘Middle Path’ was what he himself called the ‘vast seas’ of Chinese migrants who “threaten the very existence of the Tibetans as a distinct people”. In 1985 in an article in The New York Times, he had explained: “In the eastern parts of our country, the Chinese now greatly outnumber Tibetans. In the Amdo province, for example, where I was born, there are, according to Chinese statistics, 2.5 million Chinese and only 750,000 Tibetans. Even in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (i.e., central and western Tibet), Chinese government sources now confirm that Chinese outnumber Tibetans.”
Since then, the situation has considerably deteriorated and especially after the arrival of the railway line to Lhasa in July 2006.
However his ‘Middle Path’ approach has never been accepted by the Chinese leadership. In April 2008, when Chinese President Hu Jintao met the visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, he told him: “Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem… It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland.”
He however reiterated that Beijing was “ready to meet the Dalai Lama, but only if he met certain pre-conditions, such as desisting from trying to split the motherland". A meeting is no longer on the cards today.
It is worth mentioning that the Chinese leadership has not always been so rigid on the question of autonomy.
Phuntsok Wangyal, a veteran Tibetan Party leader who was the first Tibetan Communist in the forties recounts: “One day in 1955 in Beijing, Mao unexpectedly came to visit the Dalai Lama at his residence… During their conversation, Mao suddenly said, ‘I heard that you have a national flag, do you? They do not want you to carry it, isn't that right’?" Phunwang continues: “The Dalai Lama just replied, ‘We have an army flag’. Mao perceived that the Dalai Lama was concerned by his question and immediately told him, ‘That is no problem. You may keep your national flag.’ This remark had a deep impact on Phuwang who was arrested in April 1958; to 'cleanse his thinking'. During the following 18 years, while he was tortured and jailed in the most atrocious conditions, he continued to ponder over the issues of the ‘nationalities’ issue and their place within the People’s Republic of China. His personal belief was that the relationship between nationalities in a multiethnic state was supposed to be one of complete equality and autonomy.

What has been India’s position on the question of autonomy?
At the time of independence in 1947, the Government of India considered Tibet as an independent nation and dealt directly with Lhasa without referring to China which had a ‘vague and hazy’ suzerainty over it. But the situation changed after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in October 1950. Nehru was rather embarrassed. In a Note attempting to define India’s Tibet policy, he wrote that after the entry of the PLAs on the Roof of the World, for the Tibetans the “autonomy can obviously not be anything like the autonomy, verging on independence, which Tibet has enjoyed during the last forty years or so.”
Over the years, the Government of India’s position has evolved and today, Delhi does not even insist on an ‘autonomous’ status for the TAR or traditional Tibet.

The Poisonous Arrow: the situation in Tibet
This issue has a strategic side.
The present leadership probably remembers that before the start of the Cultural Revolution, resentment was at its peak in Tibet. In January 1962, during a speech at an important Party Forum, Mao brought up the issue of the Panchen Lama and the situation in Tibet. The Tibetan Lama who had been made Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region when the Dalai Lama left for India in 1959, had dared to criticize the Party policies in Tibet.
Mao’s physician, Dr Li recounted: “[After the 1959] crackdown, the Panchen Lama, ordinarily subservient to Beijing, was now arguing that Beijing's so-called ‘democratic reforms’ had moved too far to the left.”
The Tibetan issue became a factor which impeded longer military operations against India at the end of 1962; discontent was indeed brewing on the Roof of the World through which passed all supply lines for the border.
In the 70,000-character petition, (dubbed by Mao as a “poisonous arrow’) sent by the Panchen Lama to Zhou Enlai and Xi Zhongxun (the father of Vice-President Xi Jinping) in April 1962, the Panchen Lama listed several problems such the ‘suppression of the Rebellion’ in 1959.
This had serious military consequences.
On October 6, 1962, during a meeting summoned to decide to go to war against India, General Lou Ruiqing, the Chinese Chief of General Staff was authorized by Mao to start ‘a fierce and painful attack on Indian forces. …you should not only repel them, but hit them fiercely and make them hurt"
When the PLA started to work on the details of the military operations, they soon realized that the campaign could not be sustained for a long time. It was therefore decided to terminate the war “with a unilateral Chinese halt, ceasefire, and withdrawal”.
Historian Shi Bo believes that in view of “practical difficulties associated with China's domestic situation”, the PLA, after achieving its military objectives, had to “quickly disengage and end the fighting as quickly as possible”
‘China's domestic situation’ is obviously referring to the power struggle within the Party and the situation in Tibet.

Is there a way out?
Ultimately, the degree of autonomy that the Tibetans are given depends on the leadership in Beijing.
Today, the hardcore leftists are still at the helm, trying to impose policies reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.
For example, during the 5th Tibet Work Forum  in January 2010, it was apparently decided to send 21,000 Han and Tibetan Party officials in teams of four to each of the TAR’s 5,453 administrative villages; they had to remain for a period of 4 years. Each team member could rotate to a new location after 12 months, but was assigned to the same village for at least 25 days per month.
The objectives seem to be five‐fold:
(1) to strengthen the Party organization at the local level,
(2) to promote stability by persuading villagers to join the struggle against the Dalai Lama’s splittist activities and independence plans,
(3) to improve the economy of each village and create new jobs for the village youth,
(4) to educate the locals to appreciate and be grateful to the motherland and the Party, and
(5) to get each village to begin to more effectively carry out the plans and policies of the Party.
In addition teams are sent from the TAR to each of the seven prefectures “to oversee that prefecture’s work teams, receive their work reports and monitor their success or failure”.
The scale of the scheme, said to the largest since the Cultural Revolution can only bring further rancor and resentment.
To make things worse, an article written by Zhu Weiqun, the Deputy Director of CCP's United Front Work Department in The Study Times (Xuexi Shibao) raises the possibility of abolishing special privileges and preferential policies offered to minority nationalities, taking the nationality name off all IDs cards and passports and removing nationality names from provinces.
Zhu, who is the interlocutor of the Dalai Lama's Envoys in the so-called Beijing-Dharamsala negotiations, argues that China must change some aspects of its present political and educational system in order to achieve 'national cohesion'.
This would be a radically new policy bringing along fresh tensions on the Tibet plateau which could have serious strategic implications for India.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

French presidential elections: A lacklustre affair.

My article posted below appeared yesterday in the DNA under the title French presidential elections: A lacklustre affair.
Click here to read...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Non, Non, Non

Charlotte is a very sweet baby, but she always says ‘no’.
Her video uploaded in December 2010 on YouTube immediately went viral: it has been watched 14 million times.
She has now a French avatar; the chubby baby who always says ‘no’, has been adapted for the sake of the forthcoming French presidential elections.
The interviewer asks Charlotte: “Tu votes pour Nicolas Sarkozy?” (Do you vote for Sarkozy?” Charlotte says “Non!”. For François Hollande? “Non!” For Jean-Luc Mélenchon (the Communist Party’s candidate)? Non!” For Marine Le Pen (the aspirant of the far-right National Front? “Non!” Francois Bayrou? ‘Non!’
And so on, for all the 10 candidates! The 2012 two-round French presidential election will be held on April 22 and May 6; the two first candidates on April 22 being selected for the second round.
The President of the French Republic is the elected Head of State with extended powers in the fields of defence and foreign affairs and some control over a Prime Minister nonetheless answerable to the Parliament.
Charlotte has a point: since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, France has never witnessed such boring elections.
The new Constitution of the Fifth Republic which replaced the old parliamentary system, undoubtedly brought a stability to the institutions;, a majority of the electors is however aware that the future President will not be able to solve all the tough problems facing the country.
Sarkozy, once the hyper-President, has lost his halo. He even had to apologize for his ‘people’ (Page Three) period during the first years of his Presidency while less and less electors believe that he can deliver new miracles.
Hollande has never been an exciting postulant; further he does not have the charm of his ex-companion Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy’s rival in 2007; the Socialist candidate remains ahead in all surveys and will in all probability be the next President. He has the advantage of incumbency. But this does not make the campaign thrilling.
Bayrou, the eternal looser is unable to bring enthusiasm to a campaign becoming duller by the day; Bayrou, who wants to be the ‘alternative’ has been downgraded to the fifth place in the surveys.
Marine Le Pen, the daughter of the veteran extreme-right provocateur, Jean-Marie Le Pen is not doing as well as she expected. A few months ago, she thought that she could topple Sarkozy and reach the second round. She now arrives in the fourth place behind Mélenchon, the only candidate who keeps progressing, probably thanks to his wild populist promises. But one can’t expect a modern country to return to a Bolshevik system à-la-Chinese.
The less one speaks of the other candidates, the better.
Will the last days of the race, become more ‘sexy’ or at least slightly less boring? No, no, no would say Charlotte.
The real issue is that nobody has the solutions to sort out the economic and social problems facing the country. There is no readymade panacea.
More than 75 % of the French believe today that the globalization is something negative and that the concurrence of countries like India or China will affect further employment.
Very few believe today that a solution will come from the European Union, which is ‘too bureaucratic’ and excessively centralized in its decision process.

The British press never misses an occasion to make fun of the French. The Economist calls France 'A Country in Denial'. The cover story points out: “What is most striking about the French election is how little anybody is saying about the country’s dire economic straits. The candidates dish out at least as many promises to spend more as to spend less. Nobody has a serious agenda for reducing France’s eye-watering taxes. Mr Sarkozy, who in 2007 promised reform with talk of a rupture, now offers voters protectionism, attacks on French tax exiles, threats to quit Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone and talk of the evils of immigration and halal meat.”
Hollande will probably be unable to fulfill his promises “to expand the state, creating 60,000 teaching posts, partially roll back Mr Sarkozy’s raise of the pension age from 60 to 62, and squeeze the rich” charging them with an income-tax rate upto 75% of their revenue?
Many thought the gruesome killings of military personnel and Jewish kids in Southern France could bring some spice into the campaign, or at least open a real debate. Though each candidate presented his own recipe to tackle this tricky issue, the barometer of the surveys did not move.
When candidates have not much to promise, what is left to say?
In India, it is easier, you can always promise a fridge, a cycle (or a motorbike), a laptop or a grinder, but the French already have all this.
So what to promise? A brighter future?
But who can be certain to deliver the goods? 

One should ask Charlotte!