Friday, February 27, 2015

Diverting Tibet's waters to China

A couple of days ago, China Tibet News reported that the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) will soon “launch a natural drinking water project on account of its large repository of freshwater.”
The information was given by Gangqen [Gangchen?], head of the TAR Work Forum on Science and Technology. Gangchen commented that the project will be carried after “carefully with consideration of ecological protection …and provide new impetus to the region’s steady economic growth.”
What does it mean?
Tibet is going to bottle its waters and export it to the Mainland.
Of course, there is no doubt that the plateau's waters are purer than Beijing's or Shanghai's.
The Chinese website explains: “Unlike the rest of the country, which is struggling with water shortages and deteriorating water environment, Tibet boasts a pristine environment and has a large repository of freshwater.”
The local government plans to exploit 28 mineral water springs. Tibet, with its 190 million tons of water reserves, could benefit from the ‘export’, say the Chinese authorities.
Already in January, Xinhua had announced that the TAR had identified its fresh water resources “as a new sustainable economic growth pillar, which has the potential to support efforts to reduce poverty and boost industrial development in the region.”
Lobsang Gyaltsen, the chairman of the TAR government stated during the Regional People’s Congress that Tibet has produced 300,000 tons of bottled water in 2014: “the sector was an important driver of economic growth,” he added.
Moreover, Gyaltsen suggested that “to fully exploit its potential, Tibet needed brand-driven strategies.”
According to Beijing’s statistics, the TAR’s growth was 12 % in 2014; and as the Chinese Government was keen to “strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection,” water bottling is the solution!
The local government in Lhasa has now decided to promote mineral water on a grand scale: “mineral water industry has been singled out as a suitable sector to boost the local economy”, said Gyaltsen.
Qiu Chuan, the deputy director of Tibet's industry and information technology bureau, told the media that the strong demand for high-quality mineral water “had upped investors' confidence in Tibet's mineral water industry”.
The TAR has today 30 mineral water production lines with a combined production capacity of 2 million tonnes a year, said Qui.
Mainland ‘water producers’ such as Nongfu Spring and Bright Food Group, already signed 16 agreements with the TAR government for mineral water exploitation; the companies promised to invest 3.6 billion yuan (5.79 million U.S. $) in the new bottling venture.
It is going to be big: the TAR government has made plans for a 40 billion yuan (6.5 billion US $) ‘water’ industry for 2019.
I wonder if any environment assessment for setting these huge bottling factories was done?
Probably not!
And this is while waiting to divert the Yarlung Tsangpo (Siang/Brahmaputra) … and the Indus.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Dalai Lama arrives in India

The Dalai Lama crossing the Indian border
Last week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin called the Indian Ambassador to China to lodge 'a stern representation’ after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visited ‘a disputed border region’.
Xinhua reported that Mr. Liu expressed "strong dissatisfaction and staunch opposition" to the Indian side's insistence on arranging the visit by its leader to the disputed area on China-India border.
The Chinese news agency said: “Modi visited a disputed area in the eastern part of China-India border to attend activities marking the anniversary of the so-called Arunachal Pradesh."
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added: “The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called Arunachal Pradesh."
The main problem is that the Government of India does not firmly answer these baseless statements.
Why can’t Delhi start taking up with Beijing the issue of Chinese officials visiting the Aksai Chin?
A question remains, does Beijing have any legitimacy in its claims over Arunachal?
In this connection, I have a question to the leadership in Beijing.

A historical question to Beijing
If Arunachal has always been ‘Chinese territory’ as Beijing pretends today, why did the PLA’s troops stationed in Lhoka and Kongpo areas of ‘Southern Tibet’ not follow the Dalai Lama when he crossed the Indian border in Khenzimane/Chuthangmu, north of Tawang on March 31, 1959.
The Chinese troops should have, if the Tawang and Bomdila districts (then Kameng Frontier Division of the NEFA) belonged to China!
They did not! Why?
Simply because, at that time China did not consider NEFA (today Arunachal) as part of its territory.
This claim is an after-thought following the incidents in Ladakh (and Longju in Subansiri Frontier Division) in August/September 1959.
Here are an extract from the Dalai Lama’s autobiography Freedom in Exile.
The Tibetan leader crossed the Indian border at Khenzimane/Chuthangmu where he was received by a detachment of the Assam Rifles, the Political Officer in Bomdila (Har Mander Singh) and his APO in Tawang (T.S. Murthy). The Assam Rifles had then a post at Chuthangmu, near the Nyangjang chu (river).

Here are an extract from the Dalai Lama’s autobiography ‘Freedom in Exile’:

From Lhuntse Dzong we passed to the small village of Jhora and from there to the Karpo pass, the last before the border. Just as we were nearing the highest point of the track we received a bad shock. Out of nowhere, an aeroplane appeared and flew directly overhead. It passed quickly - too quickly for anyone to be able to see what markings it had - but not so fast that the people on board could have missed spotting us. This was not a good sign. If it was Chinese, as it probably was, there was a good chance that they now knew where we were. With this information they could return to attack us from the air, against which we had no protection. Whatever the identity of the aircraft, it was a forceful reminder that I was not safe anywhere in Tibet. Any misgivings I had about going into exile vanished with this realisation: India was our only hope.
A little later, the men I had sent on from Lhuntse Dzong returned with the news that the Indian Government had signalled its willingness to receive me. I was very relieved to hear this, as I had not wanted to set foot in India without permission.
I spent my last night in Tibet at a tiny village called Mangmang.
o sooner had we reached this final outpost of the Land of Snows than it began to rain. This was on top of a week of appalling weather, which threw blizzards and snow glare at us by turns as we straggled along. We were all exhausted and it was the last thing that we needed, but it continued torrentially throughout the night.
To make matters worse, my tent leaked and no matter where I dragged my bedding I could not escape the water which ran in rivulets down the inside. The result was that the fever I had been fighting off for the past few days developed overnight into a case of full-blown dysentery.
The following morning, I was too ill to continue, so we remained where we were. My companions moved me to a small house nearby, but it provided little more protection than my tent. Moreover, I was oppressed by the stench of cows that rose from the ground floor to where I lay above. That day, I heard on the small portable radio we had with us a report on All-India Radio saying that I was en route to India, but that I had fallen off my horse and was badly injured. This cheered me up rather, as it was one misfortune that I had managed to avoid, though I knew my friends would be concerned.
Next day, I decided to move on. I now had the difficult task of saying goodbye to the soldiers and freedom fighters who had escorted me all the way from Lhasa, and who were now about to turn and face the Chinese. There was one official too who decided to remain. He said that he did not think that he could be of much use in India, therefore it would be better to stay and fight. I really admired his determination and courage.
After bidding these people a tearful farewell, I was helped on to the broad back of a dzomo, for I was still too ill to ride a horse.
And it was on this humble form of transport that I left my native land.

WE MUST HAVE BEEN a pitiful sight to the handful of Indian guards that met us at the border - eighty travellers, physically exhausted and mentally wretched from our ordeal. I was delighted, however, that an official I knew from my visit two years earlier was there to rendezvous with us. He explained that his orders were to escort me to Bomdila, a large town that lay a further week's travel away, for rest.
We finally reached it some three weeks after leaving Lhasa, though it seemed like an aeon. On arrival, I was greeted by my old liaison officer and interpreter, Mr Menon [father of former NSA Shivashankar Menon] and Sonam Topgyal Kazi respectively, one of whom handed me a telegram from the Prime Minister:
My colleagues and I welcome you and send greetings on your safe arrival in India. We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities to you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India, who hold you in great veneration, will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your personage. Kind regards to you. Nehru.'
I remained in Bomdila, where I was looked after very well by the family of the local District Commissioner, for about ten days.
At the end of which, I was fully recovered from my dysentery. Then, early on 18 April 1959, I was taken by jeep to a road camp called Foothills, where a small guard of honour was formed up on either side of a makeshift carpet of canvas leading to the camp overseer's house, my base for the morning. Inside, I was given a breakfast that included fresh bananas - of which I ate too many, with unfortunate consequences to my digestive system - and briefed by Mr. Menon about the arrangements that had been made by the Indian Government on my behalf.
Some pictures showing the Dalai Lama being received near the border, in Tawang and Bomdila.
Guard of Honour in Taawng (near the present DC's Office)
With Assam Rifles' officer and P.N. Menon
With PN Menon and Har Mander Singh
With Har Mander Singh (PO in Bomdila)


Guard of Honour in Bomdila
Accompanied by Assam Rifles in Kameng Frontier Divison
Arriving in Bomdila

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Can Modi Make it in India?

My article on the Aero India 2015 in Rediff.com

'It appears that Prime Minister Modi has to undo 50 years of State monopoly in the defence sector during which public undertakings like HAL or DRDO monopolised defence production and development with disastrous consequences.'
'It is high time the Indian private sector brings its dynamism into play and gives Mr Modi a boost to realise his Make in India dream,' reports Claude Arpi from Aero India 2015.


As Aero India 2015, organised on the theme 'Make in India', concluded at Yelahanka Airport in Bengaluru, it is perhaps time to take a fresh look at India's development and problems in aerospace, defence, civil aviation and defence manufacturing.
The 2015 show was a big one: More than 700 companies participated; big players like Israel, Russia, France and the United States came to Bengaluru with impressive armadas of equipment and staff.
A telling incident: As I was walking through the stands, a French exhibitor said how impressed he was by India. "Do you know in France, we have only a couple of publications devoted to aviation/defence. I am surprised to see so many here," he said.
I tried to enumerate a few and reached nearly ten. Later I enquired with a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Force, he smiled and told me: "You are wrong, we have 37 publications."
During the air show, some of them published a daily update of several pages, edited at night between Bengaluru and Delhi and printed in the IT City for free distribution the next morning at 9 am.
It does show the extraordinary vitality of the defence sector in India. It is true that the theme of the 2015 edition of the air show -- 'Make in India' -- was particularly exciting for the professionals.

Click here to continue reading...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trading Happiness for Watts and Climate Change

As many Himalayans celebrate their New Year (Wood-Sheep), the time has come to ponder on the future of the mighty mountain range.
A few weeks ago, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) hosted in New Delhi its annual event, it was the 15th edition of the 'Delhi Sustainable Development Summit' (DSDS). A TERI press release says:
The dawn of a new era in the global development arena is almost here. After 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are set to take over. At present, there is a global imperative as well as an opportunity for a more inclusive approach towards development, design and practice. DSDS 2015, themed on 'Sustainable Development Goals and Dealing with Climate Change', will focus on issues related to sustainable development, environment and energy access and security, and is expected to assess worldwide progress on critical issues pertaining to the SDGs, tackling climate change and reducing our carbon footprint, among other issues.
Apart from the grandiose declarations, nothing much seems to have been concretely decided, though climate is changing fast, very fast and the Himalaya will be the first to take the brunt of the future unfortunate changes. 
Every day, unseen-earlier events occur.
Take the blockage of the Phutkal river in Zanskar Valley in Kargil District of Jammu & Kashmir.
For the past 2 month, the Phuktal river, one of the tributaries of the Zanskar River has been blocked by a massive 200 ft high landslide ‒ equal to height of a 20-storey building. The landslide has created a lake, about 8 km long; its size is said to be increasing by the day.
The media reported: “The landslide dam is made of mostly fine-grained debris. While the lake is frozen right now, the threat of it breaching the dam is highly possible as soon as the melting season starts. The landslide dam was created on December 31, when a whole side of mountain soil landed on the Phuktal river. The landslide lake has been accumulating water.”
The situation is so serious that the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met on Feb 20, 2015 (under the chairmanship of the Union Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth) to take stock of the situation; it approved an Action Plan which will be implemented within the next 15 days; it has to be completed by end of March (as the snowmelt may cause the landslide dam to threaten the villages downstream in April).
According to the Action Plan, the following steps will be taken:
  • A temporary helipad and a control room would be set up near the landslide, equiped with satellite phones
  • Snow clearance of over 40 km of road from Padum to Purne, treking for about 43 km from Purne to the site of landslide
  • Installation of flow monitoring equipment by Union Water Resources Ministry
  • Satellite monitoring of the landslide is being done and data is being collected on daily/ hourly basis.
  • Action Plan will involve integrated efforts from the State and Central Government agencies including Central Water Commission, Survey of India, Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research, Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, National Remote Sensing Centre, NHPC, Survey of India, BRO, Army and Air Force.
  • A rehabilitation plan to ensure safety of life and property of the inhabitants.
Let us hope for the best. It is however necessary to ponder at the earliest about the future of the Himalaya and its populations.

Punasangchu Hydropower Project I
Another example: Bhutan, the Land of Happiness
How long the Kingdom of the Dragon will remain happy?
Probably not for long, in view of the developments taking place in Bhutan.
On the occasion of the Bhutanese (and Himalayan) New Year, Yeshey Dorji, a Bhutanese photographer and blogger (Bhutan Land Of The Thunder Dragon) spoke about ‘his wish’ for the Wood-Sheep Year. He wrote:

I WISH that the two governments of Bhutan and India would get together and take the only sensible decision they can - a decision to abandon the Punasangchu Hydropower Projects.
In his interview to the Kuensel of 21st September, 2013, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin of Druk Green Power Corporation has said that ‘indecision’ in the case of Punasangchu Hydropower Project I should be avoided. I would like to go one step further and add that ‘correct decision’ is even more important, than a hasty incorrect decision. And, in the face of what is increasingly becoming obvious that the geographical surprises that are being thrown up in the Punasangchu I & II project areas are insurmountable, the only correct decision, in my view, is to cut our losses and scrap the projects entirely!
Is this a preposterous idea? Not if you consider that given all the ‘geographical surprises’ that are being ‘discovered’ in the project areas, there is every likelihood that the Punasangchu Project I & II may eventually end up in the Bay of Bengal.
What then?
The gravity of the situation cannot escape any one - if one considers that the final cost of the two projects will be 3-4 times bigger than the country’s entire GDP. If these two projects fail, Bhutan can never recover from the ensuing debt!
Apparently, it is not just the Punasangchu I: Kuensel also reported in their April 16, 2014 issue that even Punasangchu II is faced with ‘geographical surprises’! To add to all that, Kuensel on 5th February, 2015 reported that the projects are now running out of budget!
Even if the two governments do not agree to scrap the Punasangchu projects, they should accept that WAPCOS (consultants to all the hydropower projects in Bhutan) has proven to be anything but competent to undertake any further investigations in the case of these or future hydropower projects in Bhutan. Thus, while we must ensure that WAPCOS is barred from future involvement in our hydro power projects based on their terrible record so far, we should now look at engaging consultants from third countries to investigate if the geographical make of the Punasangchu areas is suitable for large hydro power projects. Through the engagement of better-qualified consultants, we should ascertain whether it is wise to continue with the projects - or scrap it, to prevent further losses. If the government of India has the best interest of the projects at heart, they should agree to a second opinion from an independent consultant from a third country.
The Punasangchu Hydro Power Project I started with an initial cost estimate of Nu. 35.00 billion, in 2006. By 2013, the cost had escalated to Nu. 98.00 billion - almost three times the initial estimate [one nu equals one rupee].
The project was supposed to be completed by 2015. Latest date of project completion is now deferred to 2016. Regardless, if past records are anything to go by, we can be sure that the project will not be completed even by the end of 2018. And, in all likelihood, the cost will escalate to over Nu. 120 billion.
In my view the project is no longer economically viable. No one can convince me that a project that has seen cost escalation almost four times its original projection - can still be considered feasible and profitable.
The famous cost + pricing concept is no consolation at all. Have we considered the likelihood that the Indian state electricity boards that purchase our electricity may at some point turn around and tell us that the unit cost of our electricity is too high for them to purchase and redistribute to their consumers? This is most likely to happen - given that our cost of production has gone up so high. What then?
…The Bhutanese people have long been mislead into believing that the hydropower projects will make all of us rich.
Scrapping or not scrapping is a difficult decision to take, but one thing is sure, it is not worth ‘scraping’ happiness for a few megawatts more.
And as the cases of the Phutkal and the Punasangchu rivers show, the mighty Himalaya is an extremely fragile entity.
Next year, before starting their 'high' deliberations, the participants of the 16th edition of the 'Delhi Sustainable Development Summit' should be taken for a trek in the Himalaya and see for themselves the precarious situation in the remote valleys.
Their declarations will perhaps be less pompous and have the value of 'experience'.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Indian Border on the PLA's New Year Calendar

As Prime Minster Narendra Modi was on his way to Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing was at it once again, calling Arunachal a ‘disputed’ area.
Hua Chunying, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in a statement: “the act of the Indian side is not conducive to properly resolving and controlling disputes between the two sides, nor in conformity with the general situation of growth of bilateral relations.”
Has China ever thought of asking the people of Arunachal Pradesh on which side they would like to be?
No, in any case, China does not believe in democracy.
Xinhua further reported: “Modi visited a disputed zone in the eastern part of China-India borders to attend activities marking the founding of the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, a state that Indian authorities illegally and unilaterally declared in 1987.”
In an earlier posting, I mention: “Contrary to what China says today, the McMahon Line is very much legal: it was signed by the Prime Minister of Tibet (Lochen Shatra) and India’s Foreign Secretary (Sir Henry McMahon) in March 1914. As importantly, during the last two millennia, the Chinese have never set a foot in Arunachal Pradesh (formerly NEFA), except for one short visit in one particular location in 1910.”
Ms Hua’s affirmations does not make Arunachal a ‘disputed’ area, even though she said: “The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called 'Arunachal Pradesh’," adding “China's stance on the disputed area on the eastern part of the China-India border is consistent and clear. …it's an universally recognized fact that huge disputes exist on the eastern section of China-India borders.”
A ‘universal fact’ only recognized in China!
It is however true that the Middle Kingdom has always been under the impression that China and the Universe is the same thing!
Today, Beijing dares to affirm: “The so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ was established largely on the three areas of China's Tibet -- Monyul, Loyul and Lower Tsayul currently under Indian illegal occupation. These three areas, located between the illegal ‘Mcmahon Line’ and the traditional customary boundary between China and India, have always been Chinese territory. In 1914, the colonialists secretly contrived the illegal ‘Mcmahon Line’ in an attempt to incorporate into India the above-mentioned three areas of Chinese territory. None of the successive Chinese governments have ever recognized this line. In February 1987, Indian authorities declared the founding of the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’.”
These misplaced declarations are certainly not conducive to properly resolving disputes between the two sides ...nor it is in conformity with the growth of bilateral relations.
But does Beijing realize that?
Probably not!
Ms Hua may “demand the Indian side to pay attention to the strong concern of the Chinese side," but it is a fact No Chinese ever stepped in Arunachal (then NEFA) before 1962, nor had China claimed, what they today call a ‘disputed’ territory, before 1959 when the first incidents occurred in NEFA and Ladakh.
By the way, have you seen the new PLA calendar released in the occasion of the Chinese New Year?
On the first page, the Indian border in Ladakh figures prominently.
Is it an ominous sign for the Goat Year?
The top picture was taken at Shenxiawan, a few kilometers north of the Karakoram Pass (and Daulat Beg Oldi).
Here are a few photos of Shenxianwan in Summer.
 
 
 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dreadful Cascade on the Yalong River

Cascade of dams on the Yalong
A couple of days ago, Xinhua reported that a ‘New hydropower station in SW China gets hefty loans'.
This is ominous.
It appears that after a few years recess period, the ‘cascade’ frenzy of large hydropower plants on Tibetan river is on track again.
Xinhua says: “A hydropower station planned for southwest China's Sichuan Province received 53 billion yuan (about 8.5 billion U.S. dollars) in loans from seven domestic financial institutions.”
According to the Chinese news agency: “The planned hydropower station, in the middle reaches of the Yalong River in Sichuan's Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture, will have an installed generating capacity of 3 million kilowatts with a total reservoir capacity of 10.8 billion cubic meters.”
It is a big, very big dam at a time mega-dams are decommissioned elsewhere in the world.
Chen Yunhua, president of Yalong River Hydropower Development Co. Ltd, the project's developer, explained: “Construction will cost about 66.5 billion yuan and the loan agreement, signed in Chengdu; [it] covers about 80 percent of the total. …The seven lenders are China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Postal Savings Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, China Development Bank, Bank of China and Bank of Communications. They will provide long term, low-interest loans to support the project.”
It will be the largest powerplant on the Tibetan plateau; it is expected to start producing electricity by the end of 2021 and it should be completed in 2023 (Chinese companies usually complete their tasks on time, not like in India).
Chen affirmed that the project will “transform the river's hydropower resources into a new driving force for the regional economy and generate clean energy to fuel southwestern and eastern China.”
But it will probably destroy the Yalong river forever.
Though the name of the dam is not mentioned in the Xinhua release, it is clear that it refers to the Lianghekou Dam ("mouth of two rivers"), a concrete-face rock-fill dam on the Yalong River.
The Yalong originates in Qinghai Province, passes through Sichuan, and
joins the Jinsha (Yangtze) River.
  • Length: 1,571km
  • Natural head: 3,830m
  • Catchment area: 136,000km2
  • Annual runoff: 61 billion m3

The Lianghekou Dam is located at the confluence of the Yalong, Xianshui and Qingda Rivers. With its 295 m height, it will be the highest embankment dam in China and the power station should produce 3,000 MW.
Studies for the dam were completed between 2005 and 2009 with preliminary construction beginning soon after. However the ‘official’ construction only started in October 2014.
According to Chen, 21 cascade projects are planned on the Yalong river; their ‘technical developable capacity’ is 30,000 MW, (representing 24% of the capacity of Sichuan or 5% of China).
It will rank 3rd among China’s 13 ‘hydropower bases’.
Chen made the following points:
•    Hydropower development of the Yalong River is already in an expedited stage.
•    Key technical issues have been basically resolved.
•    An optimized pattern for joint operation of multiple stations is gradually taking shape.
•    Design and control of high earth-core rockfill dams will become the focus of further research.
Does it mean that the researches have not been completed?
The local populations have of course not been consulted ('Only' 4,900 people will be forcefully displaced).
Today, the Editorial of The South China Morning Post is consecrated to China's new environment chief, Chen Jining.
The Hong Kong daily says: “It is easy to assume that if no one - be it a high or low official - is beyond the reach of mainland graft-busters, then serial polluters should not present too much of a problem to environmental authorities. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. The latter may have the law on their side and, supposedly, the clout of a fully fledged ministry in recent years. But the mainland is almost as well-known for potentially calamitous degradation of its environment as for the breakneck pace of economic growth responsible for it. This is because serious air, water and soil pollution has accrued over decades, economic growth still gets higher priority and responsibility for protecting the environment is divided among various government departments.”
Don’t you think that the ‘cascade of dams’ is also a ‘serial killer’?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

1949: Tibet before the invasion

Soon after Zoru Bakshi's visit, Apa Pant also went to Lhasa (photo courtesy: A. Pant)
A few weeks ago, I posted on this blog a report of the covert mission of Maj. (later Lt. Gen.) Z.C. 'Zoru' Bakshi (5th Gurkha Rifles) to Tibet, in the summer of 1949.
(By the way, Maj, Bakshi was later awarded the MacGregor Medal 'for valuable military reconnaissance'; it is a medal instituted in 1888 in honour of the United Service Institution of India's founder, Maj Gen Sir Charles MacGregor).
I then commented: "the Government of India was still keeping all its options open."
I am posting today a complementary report of Maj. Bakshi on the situation in Tibet, a year before the Chinese invasion.
Particularly interesting are the recommendations.
Maj. Bakshi said: "The occupation or domination of TIBET by a potentially hostile power constitutes a grave threat to the security of INDIA. It is, therefore, important that we must watch the events closely and keep ourselves fully informed about the latest situation in TIBET."
He suggested that an intelligence officer from the Indian Army from should be posted in Lhasa.
The Indian Foreign Service was probably not keen to see the Army walking on its turf, but it would indirectly happen in the following years. 
Both S.L. Chhiber (Jat regiment) and P.N. Kaul (Rajput regiment), officers from the Indian Frontier Administrative Service, who served as Consul General of India in Lhasa between 1957-1959 and 1959-1961 respectively, had earlier served in the Indian Army.
They dutifully reported about the evolution (worsening) of the military situation on the Roof of the World during the years before the 1962 Chinese attack.
The fact that nobody in Delhi (including the 'illustrious' Intelligence Bureau Director, B.N. Mullick) was interested to listen is a different issue.
The Political Officer in Sikkim, Apa B. Pant visited Lhasa a few months after Maj. Bakshi. He is seen on the picture in Lhasa with Maj. S.L. Chhiber (with the cap on the right).
Lt. Gen. Zoru Bakshi

SECOND REPORT - TIBET

1. Political situation
The late Dalai Lama (Thirteenth) was a man of progressive ideas. This may have been due to the fact that he had lived in INDIA for a few years. For the first time in TIBET’s history he took 3 cars (carried in parts) to LHASA from INDIA. He built a special road between the POTALA and NORBULINGKA for these cars. He encouraged the officials to buy motor cycles. He electrified his palaces and LHASA city. He arranged to send some army officers to QUETTA and SHILLONG for training. He sent 4 boys to England for higher education. The other lamas were opposed to all this. But the late Dalai Lama was a very strong man who did not take much notice of opposition. When he died, a very young lama became the Regent and although he was also a man of progressive ideas, he found himself helpless against the other lamas. The cars and the motor cycles were locked up and the owners ordered not to use them. The trained army officers were removed from the army and given civil appointments. A general reaction started. All the favourites of the late Dalai Lama were removed from their appointments and demoted. But as time went on the young Regent gained more and more experience and became quite strong. The other influential lamas were very suspicious of his progressive ideas. They, therefore, advised him to go into seclusion for three years as otherwise great misfortune was likely to fall on him. The Regent decided to go and he thought that the best man who could officiate in his temporary absence was his own Guru. So after handing over the Government to his Guru he went to some secluded place for praying and meditation. At the end of three years he returned to LHASA. But when he asked his Guru to hand him back the Government, he was locked up in the POTALA by the Guru. All his favourites were demoted and disgraced. He died in prison under mysterious circumstances. The Guru is still the Regent. He is very old and is opposed to any type of reform. He is very unpopular and is dreaded by other officials. But he is firmly established. He will remain Regent till he dies. The cabinet consists of KALING [Kalon?] LAMA, SURKANG SHAPPE and RAGASHAR. KALING LAMA has been a ministry for a very long time. He is NOT very intelligent and is against all reforms. The next senior is SURKHANG SHAPPE, the son of SURKHANG DZASA, the Foreign Secretary. He is the most intelligent minister and has progressive ideas. He became a minister about four years ago by heavily bribing the Regent. His chief aim in becoming a minister was to make money. He is clever enough to realize that he must never come out in the open with his progressive ideas. RAGASHAR became a minister last month. He was C-in-C [Commander-in-Chief] before this. He is not so intelligent and looks very unimpressive. He is a quiet member of the cabinet. The lamas and all the officials from the lowest to the senior most minister seem to be worried about the recent success of the Communists in CHINA. Everywhere we went and every official and lama we met, asked us the same question “What news about the Communists”. I was told by the C-in-C that the Chinese Communists were building reads and aerodromes in SINKIANG. But this fear of Chinese Communists does not spur them to much action. A religious ceremony was being performed by the lamas in LHASA to ward off the evils. The abbots of DREPHUNG monastery said that the best they could do to keep the Chinese Communists away was to perform this religious ceremony!

2. Political Parties
There are no political parties as such in TIBET. Neither is there any likelihood of the formation of such parties in the near future- as such a move will be considered nothing less than an open rebellion against the Government. In TIBET no person can oppose those who are in authority. Even those who differ are severely punished.

3. Is the Government firmly established
It is difficult to say whether the Government is firmly established and has absolute support of the people. To understand this one has to study the structure of the Tibetan Society and also the system of the Government.
The Society can be broadly divided in three classes; lamas, ruling class and the poor. Lamas from 1/3 of the total population. It is generally believed that one can enter heaven only through a lama. For this reason lamas have got a strong hold on the population. The interests of the ruling classes are identical to those of the lamas. All the officials are either lamas or from the ruling class. The land, nearly the whole of which belongs to the Government, is given only to these two classes.
The poor are not at all associated with the Government. They can neither hold any official position in the Government nor do they possess any land. They work for their land-lords and are completely dependent on them. They are badly exploited by the lamas as well as the ruling classes.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual head as well as the King. When he is a minor, the Government is in the hands of a Regent who is also a lama. There is a cabinet of three to four ministers who are appointed by the Dalai Lama. The ministers do not hold separate portfolios. They all sit together and give their decisions on questions brought up before them.
There is no written law. The officials can award any punishment they like to the accused. The most common punishment is to clip off the ears of the accused. It is, therefore, not surprising that the poor people dread the officials and always obey them. A Government which is in the hands of a certain class and which has got absolute powers over it the people should normally be difficult to disrupt. But/is certain that when such a structure is shaken at the top by any outside power, the people will rise against the Government. The intelligent Tibetan officials are afraid that the masses will join the Communists and rise against them if they feel that the Communists are strong enough to throw away the present Government.

4. Chinese influence
For years the Chinese officials in LHASA have looked down upon the Tibetan officials and civilians and have openly said that the Tibetans were barbarious. The Tibetans strongly resented this and hated the Chinese. There is no influential Tibetan official who is pre-Chinese especially now when CHINA has turned Communists. All the Chinese except a few business men in LHASA, have been turned out of TIBET. Even the use of some of the favourite Chinese dishes like sea slugs has been banned.

5. Attitude towards INDIA
The members of the INDIAN Mission at LHASA have always treated the Tibetan officials with respect and maintained very friendly relations with them. As a result the Tibetans have developed a special regard for Indians. In my opinion the Tibetans were a bit suspicious of the British and other Europeans. But with Indians they are quite frank. There is, however, one important question which has created some doubt in the minds of some of the Tibetan officials. Our failure to supply all the arms and ammunition which the Tibetan Government had asked for is being viewed with suspicion.

6. Economic and industrial resources

TIBET is an agriculturist country. Sufficient barley to feed the whole population is grown in the country. Rice and peas are also grown, though in very small quantities, in certain parts of the country. The Government maintain reserve stocks of barley in LHASA, GYANTSE, SHIGATSE and eastern TIBET. Wool is the main export. Most of it is sent to KALIMPONG and GANGTOK. Some wool is used in making carpets. These are also exported to INDIA.
    Gold is extracted in eastern TIBET but not in considerable quantity. It is believed that a large number of other minerals can also be extracted. But there is a religious belief against extracting minerals from the earth.

7. Population
Though no exact figures are available, it is estimated that the population numbers between one and three millions inhabiting an area not far short of one million square miles. 1/3 of the total male population consists of lamas. There is wide spread polyandry and usually all the brothers in a family share one wife. The lamas do not marry. Most of the girls therefore cannot get married and are forced to become nuns. This is the cause of a low rate of birth in TIBET.
Nearly two-thirds of Northern and Western TIBET consists of high mountains and plateau country at an altitude of well over 11000 ft. this area is very sparsely populated by a people who live a primitive and nomadic life. The remainder of TIBET can be divided in two natural divisions. First, the tracts containing the upper valley of the INDUS, SUTLEJ and BRAHMAPUTRA. This area slopes gradually from West to East, and the lower parts are more populous. The valley of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries contains the three largest town of TIBET: LHASA (about 50,000), SHIGATSE (about 20,000) and GYANTSE (about 10,000).
The second division is the system of mountains and rivers of East TIBET. The southern parts of this division get greater rain fall and are wooded. This is the most thickly populated area of TIBET.
The desert and mountain barriers which isolate TIBET from its neighbours have preserved their unique way of life. The Tibetans are strong hardy people who look cheerful even amidst so many hardships. They are very hardworking and have a tremendous stamina. They have natural love for arms.

8. Personalities in the Army
  1. DZASA KESANG TSULTRIM
    A small, unimpressive but cheerful man who has been Monk C-in-C for nearly nine years now. He seems to have great confidence in the fighting qualities of the Tibetan soldiers and is of the opinion that man to man the Tibetan soldier will always beat the Chinese soldier.
  2. DZASA KUNSANG-TSE
    A tough and aggressive looking man who was appointed lay C-in-C in October 1949. He was a salt tea tax officer before becoming C-in-C. He has also been a Depien (Bn Comd) [Depon or Brigade Commander] for some time in Eastern TIBET. Intelligence persons regretted his appointment as C-in-C at this critical moment due to his lack of influence in the army. He succeeded RAGASHAR who has been appointed a minister now.
  3. YUTHOK DZASA
    A strong, well built and intelligent man who is very influential in LHASA. He received training in QUETTA and SHILLONG. A man of progressive ideas who wants the army to be well equipped and well trained. He is himself a good gunner. He is NOT in the Army now and is holding a civil appointment in LHASA. He has refused repeated offers to become a minister as he wants to keep out of the intrigues of the other cabinet ministers. He can speak Hindustani.
  4. TERRING LACHAG [Jigme Taring]
    Educated at St. Paul School, DARJEELING. He was trained by Indian Army instructors at GYANTSE. He is believed to be the best gunner in TIBET. Speaks good English and Hindustani. Is now holding a civil appointment. I could NOT meet him as he was NOT in LHASA.
  5. TSARONG SHAPE
    A strong, well built intelligent man who joined the Army as a sepoy. He fought well against the Chinese and became a favourite of the late Dalai Lama who later appointed him C-in-C. The Dalai Lama married him to a very rich heiress. He became very influential and was appointed a cabinet minister. His popularity and influence increased so much that the Dalai Lama himself became jealous of him and demoted him to second rank (DZASA). TSARONG SHAPPE now is the Mint Officer. He has been offered cabinet post repeatedly by the present regime. But he has always refused such offers. He has been to MONGOLIA, CHINA, JAPAN and INDIA. He is a man of the most progressive ideas in TIBET. He controls most of the trade with INDIA and is the richest man in TIBET (excluding Dalai Lama who is not a man but the incarnation of GOD). He wants TIBET to establish trade with America and European countries. It is believed that he had asked LOWEL THOMAS, the American radio commentator to bring to the notice of American businessmen the tremendous opportunities for trade in TIBET.
9. Communist propaganda and infiltration
As I have said before, in TIBET no one can utter a word against the Government. I do NOT think that there are many people in TIBET who know what Communism is. And these who know a little about it are the Lamas and the ruling class. These people are strictly against Communism. As long as the present system of government remains, there can be no possibility of any Communist propaganda. So far the Communists have not succeeded in infiltrating anywhere in TIBET.

15. Recommendation:
With the establishment of a Communist Government in CHINA, the security of TIBET has been gravely endangered. There seems little doubt that sooner or later the Chinese Communists will invade TIBET. In fact their leaders have already declared that they intend to liberate TIBET which according to them belongs to CHINA. INDIA has got nearly 600 miles of common frontier with TIBET. The occupation or domination of TIBET by a potentially hostile power constitutes a grave threat to the security of INDIA. It is, therefore, important that we must watch the events closely and keep ourselves fully informed about the latest situation in TIBET. But at present we have got no source which can give our Defence Services infm [information] which may be of vital interest to them. There can be two methods by which we can establish such a source.
First, by keeping an army officer in LHASA. As things are at present this can be ruled out as the Tibetan Government will NOT agree to it.
Second, by transferring a suitable army officer to the Foreign Service and posting him to the INDIAN Mission in LHASA.
Even if we remain neutral and the Chinese Communists occupy LHASA, this officer can keep us informed of the latest op situation. He can report tp conc [troop concentration] and move, constr of rds [construction of roads] and air fds [air fields], reported intentions of the Communists and a lot of other infm of a military nature. I do NOT think that the Chinese will turn him out of LHASA. The INDIAN Mission has been functioning in LHASA for the past 10 years side by side with the Chinese Mission. If this proposal is accepted, the matter should be taken up with the Foreign Affairs Ministry at a high level as soon as possible as Mr. [Hugh] RICHARDSON who is at present the head of the Mission is due to retire next year.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Madam Sun meets the Chinese Panchen Lama

Sun Chunlan meets Gyaltsen Norbu
Madam Sun Chunlan is one of the two most powerful ladies in China today. She has recently taken over as the Head of the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China; she is also a member of the Politburo.
Interestingly the other lady member of the Politburo, Madam Liu Yandong served also in the United Front. From 1991 to 1998, Liu was deputy head of the organization; in 1998, she was promoted to a ministerial level post while serving in the same office.
Liu headed the United Front Work Department from 2002 to 2005.
Let us remember that the United Front Work Department manages the relations with the non-Communist Party groups, including individuals and organizations holding social, commercial, or academic influence and the ‘minorities’ such as the Tibetans, the Uyghurs as well as the relations with Taiwan.
As for Sun, from 2009 to 2014, she served as Communist Party Secretary of Fujian province, then Party Secretary of Tianjin. Her tenure in Fujian made her the second female provincial-level party chief since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
It is after the 18th Party Congress, in November 2012, that Sun became the party chief of Tianjin municipality, China's richest provincial-level jurisdiction; she occupied the post vacated by Zhang Gaoli, who became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. As Tianjin Party Secretary, Sun automatically became a member of the Politburo.
After the sacking of Ling Jihua, (see earlier postings on Ling) as head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, Sun took over on December 31, 2014. Incidentally, Ling Jihua was not a member of the Politburo, therefore Sun’s appointment can be seen as a promotion for the post.
Yesterday, Xinhua reported that “Sun Chunlan, head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee met with the 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, [Gyatsen Norbu] in Beijing, China on February 12, 2015.”
It is a significant encounter which shows that Beijing has decided to fully play the Chinese designated Panchen Lama.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dassault can also sign contracts

A Rafale during the Garuda exercises in Jodhpur in 2014
A few weeks ago, I mentioned on this blog, the long, very long negotiation process between Dassault Aviation and the Government of India to purchase 18 Rafales Multi Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) and later built 108 Rafales in India in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL).
Last week, a rather surprising development occurred.
A senior official of the Armament Procurement Agency (Direction générale de l’armement or DGA) of the French Ministry of Defence asserted that a 2012 agreement to provide Rafales to India never committed Dassault Aviation to guarantee aircraft manufactured in India.
For the first time, Paris openly sided with Dassault, a French family concern, in its talks with Delhi, the latter arguing that liabilities during the process of manufacturing 108 aircrafts in India, should be the French supplier's responsibility. For months now, this has been the main bone of contention between the 2 parties.
Laurent Collet-Billon, the DGA’s boss affirmed: “Dassault will not be responsible for the whole contract. It is a co-management setup.”
He also ‘clarified’ that France will not assume full liability for the HAL-built aircrafts: “It cannot be a problem, because it was not in the request for proposals (RFP),” he added. It is not what the Indian Ministry of Defence says.
Speaking to reporters on February 9, Collet-Billion also admitted: “A lot of progress has been made since 2012.” The French official however latter agreed that the negotiations should "give way to a contract for the 126 fighters plus 63 options".
After several failed attempts to export the French plane, the DGA has learned patience: “India has its own pace. ...It’s not useful to put pressure on the client. We have to live with our differences."
As far as Dassault is concerned, the French Air Force should be ordering 11 Rafales in 2015, but just four in 2016, and have a break of near 2 years due to budget constraint. Collet-Billon admitted that “Problems will [then] occur, if we don't export Rafales."
During the same press conference, the DGA's official mentioned a possible deal with Egypt for 24 Rafale fighters, a FREMM frigate and a number of missiles.
Nobody really took note of this.

Dwindling number of squadrons
In a meantime in India, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence expressed some concern “over the dwindling number of fighter squadrons in the Indian Air Force. The squadron strength has come down to 25 from the sanctioned 42.” The Committee’s report which was tabled in the Parliament, stated that the Indian Air Force (IAF) required at least 45 fighter squadrons to counter a ‘two-front collusive threat’, while the government has sanctioned  42 squadrons only: “The revelation is astonishing, and the committee feels that the paradox in the required and sanctioned strength needs to be rectified at the earliest,” commented the Committee.
The IAF should maintain 32 squadrons of 18 aircrafts each. The committee noted: “Moreover, 14 of these squadrons are equipped with MiG-21s and MiG-27s, which will retire between 2015 and 2024. Thus the strength will be reduced to just 11 squadrons by 2024. Our capability has already come down.”
The Committee added that though the IAF has inducted several ‘force multipliers’, such as airborne early warning systems (AWACS), mid-air re-fuellers and tactical airlift aircraft, the dwindling fighter strength operationally means that the supremacy that India has enjoyed over its neighbours is fast eroding.
The Parliamentary Committee particular expressed its concern about the ‘laxity’ of the Government which, according to the members, ‘compromises national security’. The government has been requested to take concrete steps expeditiously to address this.

The Rafale Mirage
On February 9, nobody had taken Collet-Billion’s declaration about the talks with Egypt seriously.
A few days later, an article in the daily, Le Monde compared the Rafale to a ‘mirage’ (also the name of the Rafale's illustrious predecessor). The writer asked “can the sale to Egypt change the tide”. He cited a ‘litany of disappointments’, i.e. Brazil (2103), Arab Emirates (2011), Switzerland (2011), Korea, Nederland (2002) or Saudi Arabia.
About Egypt, the journalist concludes « Nothing can be taken for granted; one of the specialties of the Rafale is to provoke ‘mirages of sale’: “first the tension mounts, then the negotiators get excited, the politicians are enthusiasts, the signature is programmed, 3, 2, 1 …” and plouf, nothing happens.
He quotes one of the characters of Gaston Lagaffe comic, Monsieur Aimé De Mesmaeker, a business man who always announces that he will soon sign an all-important contract with the comic publication Journal de Spirou ...and episodes after episodes, the contract is never signed.

This time Mesmaeker-Dassault has done it
A contract between Dassault and Egypt has been signed for 24 Rafales. French President François Hollande yesterday announced that Egypt will buy 24 planes and a frigate for an amount of Euro 5 billion ($5.7 billion).
Speaking at a news conference after a European summit in Brussels, the French president said the contract is 'a triumph for French industrial policy and the action of the state', which has intervened to guarantee part of the financial deal: “We’ve missed out on contracts several times over the last 10 years, probably because there wasn’t the will to accompany the talks, to finance and conclude a deal,” he added.
Mr. Hollande explained: “Egypt wanted this plane quickly because of the threats surrounding the country.” He also mentioned that France is also expecting an order from Qatar.
Interestingly, an extremely tired French President (after overnight marathon talks for Ukraine at Minsk and the EU summit in Brussels), first confused Egypt and India, announcing the contract for 24 jets was …with India.
He later rectified: “It’s confusion perhaps from tiredness, but also maybe from hope,” he commented on his own lapsus.
Regarding the differences between India and Dassault mentioned by the DGA’s boss, it is clear that if there is 'the will to conclude a deal' from both sides is present, a compromise can be found, as it was done in the case of the nuclear liabilities with the United States just before the visit of President Obama to India.
After all, it would in the interest of both, India and France to have the contract signed at the earliest (for example, during the visit of Mr. Modi to France in April, ).
The contract with Egypt is also interesting in the sense that one of the main arguments of the anti-Rafale lobby has been that Dassault has not exported any plane so far. Now, this argument is not valid anymore.
It perhaps explains that the deal was negotiated and signed in a record time (hardly 3 months); Dassault wanting probably to prove that it can also sign contracts.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

All is forgiven, let’s be friends. Good, but...

My article All is forgiven, let’s be friends. Good, but... is today in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.
Here is the link...

The US and West Europe have suddenly warmed up to the Indian Prime Minister, after having shunned and humiliated him through various actions. They are Modi’s friends today, but they are not all-weather friends

A friend of mine, wanting to emulate the Charlie Hebdo cover, suggested a cartoon replacing the Prophet by US President Barack Obama with similar words (‘On a tout pardonné’ (Everything is forgiven), but instead of ‘Je suis Charlie, to have ‘Je suis Modi’ (I am Modi). It is a fact that all those who condemned Mr Narendra Modi, banned him from visiting their countries, those who held him responsible for the so-called pogrom in Gujarat, have now ‘forgiven everything’; they lavishly praise him as the new messiah who opens opportunities for their struggling economies. It is true for the United States, but also for Old Europe, which has jumped onto the Make in India bandwagon.
If Mr Modi is wise (I am sure he is) and despite the trouncing he has got from a ‘Naxalite’ in Delhi, he will not attach too much importance to the ‘I am Modi’ slogan. The Prime Minister is surely aware that his new-found friends can at any moment revert to their old ideological position against India. The fact that he chose to have an ‘aligned’ foreign policy, even with a perennial foe like China, is certainly a positive development. However the question remains: Are India’s new ‘Je suis Modi’ friends, sincere? It is not difficult to find out. Take the United States. At the recently-held National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Beijing went berserk at Mr Obama praising his “old friend”, the Dalai Lama. If one looks at what Washington, DC, has done to improve the fate of the ordinary Tibetan, the answer is, ‘next to nothing’.
The New York Times explains how ‘politics’ often works: “China and the United States have worked out a reliable pas de deux over the Dalai Lama …It goes like this: Chinese leaders warn the White House against granting the Dalai Lama a public audience, and the American president …finds a way to hold a meeting that will result in the least offence to Beijing.”
So, Mr Obama did namaste to the Tibetan leader; he called him a “powerful example of what it means to practise compassion” — and that was it. The US is not a great defender of human rights and religious freedom, and the Tibetans will not receive more support from Washington, DC. Mr Obama’s public posturing was for internal public consumption (note that the ‘T’ word was not even pronounced). Take now his remarks about India in the same gathering. Mr Obama stated: “Acts of intolerance in India that would have shocked Gandhiji...”
Where was Mr Obama’s great understanding of India and the newly found India-US friendship? Whether at Siri Fort, where President Obama preached: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith”, or in Washington, his rebuff of India (and of China) is required for his public image. The Times of India termed the speech “an embarrassing smack down” for a country which received him “with euphoria”.
The morale of the story is that India’s Prime Minister should not be carried away by praises (or criticism); he should follow his own path, looking after India’s interests. In his address to the Heads of Indian Missions, the Prime Minister urged Indian diplomats to shed old mindsets and quickly adapt to changing global situations. Indeed, India should live in today’s world. Presuming that the Vedic rishis could build aircraft, today the indigenous fighter plane, the Tejas, has still not got its final combat readiness certificate — 32 years after its conception. Here lies one of India’s problems; her ‘glorious past'’ does not help make the nation a vibrant modern research centre.
Even when the Prime Minster says that “love for nature is part of Indian culture”, it is not enough to make Delhi a pollution-free city. It is fine to tell diplomats that they are “tejasvi, jeevant anshpunj” (shining vibrant representatives), but India has one of the smallest diplomatic corps in the world, compared to its population and ambitions. There is no harm in reiterating that India always stood for Vishva-Bandhutva (the brotherhood of the world), but common men and women should not be forgotten. Is it not a reason why Delhi voted the Aam Aadmi Party in?
Mr Modi does not have an easy task. After years of stagnation under successive Governments, his regime, with only a few talented ‘generals’, has to fight on many fronts: Corruption, dirt and general bureaucratic tamas etc. In one way, it was encouraging to see, perhaps for the first time, that the Ministry of External Affairs has explained one of its important stands. The ministry’s website published some 19 ‘Frequently Asked Questions and Answers’ on civil liability in the case of nuclear damage; the answer to the first question (on the understanding reached during the visit of President Obama to India) shows where the problem lies. It says: “India and the United States have reached an understanding on the issues related to civil nuclear liability and finalised the text of the Administrative Arrangement to implement the September 2008 bilateral 123 Agreement.”
Why was the issue not talked about earlier? For five years, why had nobody said that it was unacceptable to the foreign suppliers? Neither the Congress-led Government nor the then Opposition ever explained their positions (the then Opposition — today the Government — was unfortunately only interested in obstructing the ruling party).
France was the first country to sign a ‘US nuclear deal’ with India in September 2008, and two years later when President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Delhi, he triumphantly announced that two agreements had been signed between Areva of France and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. After this, there was a blank.
Mr Modi has inherited many such glamorous ‘breakthroughs’, without subsequent follow-ups. Let us hope that the new US ‘breakthrough’ will be different. Another problem of the present foreign policy is that New Delhi bites off more than it can chew. In one week, becoming the United States’ best friend and ‘aligning’ its position with China and Russia is probably not wise.
On February 2, Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj met her Russian and Chinese counterparts in Beijing for the 13th Russia-India-China; as The South China Morning Post said: “[It] is still a minefield to manoeuvre through in terms of diplomatic relations.” There’s nothing wrong in being a bridge between China and Russia, but had South Block fully digested Mr Obama’s visit?
Deng Xiaoping, the former Chinese paramount leader, once told his colleagues: “Keep a cool head and maintain a low profile. Never take the lead, but aim to do something big.” It is something that India must ponder over. In any case, in the months to come, Mr Modi’s Government will probably have to focus more on the common man’s policies, if it wants to avoid new deceptions.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Does Obama really want to split China?

My article Does Obama really want to split China? appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

When it was announced that President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama were both going to attend the US National Prayer Breakfast, an annual ‘religious’ gathering held in Washington, Beijing went berserk.
The White House had taken care to clarify that ‘no specific meeting with the Dalai Lama’ was scheduled; the President only expressed his strong support for Tibetan culture (a very diplomatic term).
It was then not clear if the President and the monk would meet face to face; the Chinese authorities were nevertheless already ‘mad’; The Global Times thundered: “In whatever form and on whatever occasion, should a president of the United States meet with the Dalai Lama, it will unquestionably step on China's toes and therefore cast a shadow over US-China relations. This should be clear to all US politicians.”
The English mouthpiece of the Party angrily added: “So Washington seems to play a political gimmick by inviting the Dalai Lama …We have no idea whether it was the US president's idea to invite him …but whatever the reason, Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama's attempt to split Tibet from China.”
Does Obama really want to ‘split’ China? It is doubtful.
Beijing explained that the reason for the Dalai Lama's flight from ‘China's Tibet’ in 1959 was because he had failed to maintain serfdom on the Roof of the World: “the majority of Tibetans were slaves leading a life of unimaginable misery.”
Unfortunately for Beijing, sixty-five years later, not only the ex-serfs, but also the ‘ethnic’ (read Tibetans) Communist Party’s cadres are still deeply unhappy to have been ‘liberated’. It explains why the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection recently decided to punish Party officials who ‘take an ambiguous attitude’ and are colluding with separatist organizations.
Tibetans with relatives in India are clearly targeted by this edict.
Xinhua also reported that the regional government in Lhasa will offer up to 300,000 yuan (48,000 US $) “to whistle blowers with clues concerning violent terror attacks in a move to promote stability in the region”.
The news agency quoted a document published by the infamous Public Security Bureau (secret police): “the reward will cover tip-offs on overseas terrorist organizations and their members' activities inside China, the spreading of religious extremism, terror related propaganda, those producing, selling and owning weapons, activities that help terrorists cross national borders [read India] and terror activities via the Internet.”
Obama went ahead with the ‘prayer meeting’, though he was warned: “some politicians in the US …have even gone so far as to echo his calls for an ‘independent Tibet’. Obama should not be that unwise.”
Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times saw the situation in a realistic manner: “China and the United States have worked out a reliable pas de deux over the Dalai Lama …It goes like this: Chinese leaders warn the White House against granting the Dalai Lama a public audience, and the American president either ignores the threats of diplomatic fallout or finds a way to hold a meeting that will result in the least offense to Beijing.”
So, Obama did ‘namaste’ to the Tibetan leader, waved and even smiled at him; later in his speech, he called him ‘his good friend’, a ‘powerful example of what it means to practice compassion … one who inspired us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings’.
The ‘T’ word was not pronounced, thanks to the White House’s good drafters.
Xinhua also played its role perfectly: “This action by the U.S. to drive a nail into the hearts of the Chinese people is harmful to the political trust between the two countries.”
At the same time, The China Daily tempered China’s pain: “US President Barack Obama acknowledged the Dalai Lama but did not meet directly with him at a religious event in Washington.”
It would be wrong to conclude that the US is a great defender of Human Rights and religious freedom and that the Tibetans will now receive some vital support from Washington. Obama’s public posturing is clearly for internal public consumption.
So were his remarks about India; he stated that “Acts of intolerance [in India] that would have shocked Gandhiji.” He added that India is “a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs.”
Where was Obama’s great understanding of India and the newly found Indo-US friendship?
Whether at Siri Fort, where President Obama preached: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith,” or in Washington, his ‘rebuff’ of India (and also China) is required for his public image.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley rightly said: “Aberrations don’t alter India’s history of tolerance,” he pointed out to the great example of India’s tolerance sitting next to President Obama: “That is His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is part of that tolerance that he found it comfortable [to stay in India since 1959].”
The Times of India termed Obama's speech ‘an embarrassing smack down’ for a country where he was received ‘with euphoria’ a few days earlier.
For Tibet, it is even sadder. It reminds me of another sad story: in the autumn of 1991, John Major, the British Prime Minister went to Beijing; he was the first Western leader to visit China after the Tiananmen events. Before leaving, Major had told the media that he would present to the Chinese leadership, a list of several hundred political prisoners prepared by Amnesty International. After meeting Premier Li Peng, Major confirmed that he had passed on the list to his Chinese counterpart; everyone praised Major’s moral courage. Later on, one of the British officials who attended the meet, admitted that Major had never shown the list to Li Peng, nor had he spoken a word about human rights; he had plainly lied.
Business was already business; it still is today.
Xinhua may call the US a ‘troublemaker’ interfering with China’s internal affairs in order to ‘contain, separate and Westernize’ the Middle Kingdom, but business will continue as usual …after a few days.
A commentator compared the present high drama to the Cham ritual dance of Tibet where different characters played different roles in a script written centuries ago (by an Indian sage). Despite the high tempo, Cham always ends up the same way.
I discovered this when I wrote my book, “The Negotiations that never were”, on the fruitless talks between Beijing in Dharamsala.
In the meantime, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, an NGO based in Dharamsala published last week the report affirming: “In 2014, the human rights situation in Tibet continued to deteriorate. Human rights violations continued …The PRC cracked down against Tibetans in response to mining protests, protests against forced displays of loyalty, religious practices, and the continuation of the self-immolations protests.”
Nothing has changed since Tibet was so-called liberated in 1950.
And neither Beijing nor Washington seems interested to find a remedy to the depressing situation.
By the way, a couple of days after the famous Prayer Breakfast, Xinhua announced that President Xi will visit Washington later this year.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How can we trust China?

My article How can we trust China? appeared in The Statesman.

Here is the lnk...

On Christmas Day, The New York Times reported: “Within a few days, water that has travelled more than 800 miles for two weeks in one of the world’s most ambitious, and controversial, engineering projects is expected to begin flowing through Beijing faucets.”
The objective of the scheme is to bring water from the upper reaches of the Han river, a tributary of the Yangtze, through the central route of the South-to-North Water Diversion project, the second of three routes planned to transfer water from China’s wet south to the dry north. Once fully functional, the Central Diversion is expected to provide a third of the capital’s water needs.
The project is estimated at $ 80 billion, says Xinhua, adding: “The completi on of the water sche me mar ked major prog ress in the na ti on’s enormo us south-to-nor th water diversion project, the largest of its kind in the world.”
The official news agency boasts: “It is ano ther engineering achi evement by the Chi ne se,” quoting the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the wor l d’s longest man-made river, opened in the 13th century for transporting grain.
The pros and the cons of the present project will continue to be debated in the months and years to come; in the meanwhile, some researchers in China have thought of another smaller ‘pilot’ project Rs to divert the Indus river towards Xinjiang. A detailed report on the scheme is posted by a blogger on the website ScienceNet.cn
Beijing will argue that this new project is merely the product of the fertile brain of some freelance scientists, and that it has ‘nothing to do with the government’.
You may ask, what is this ScienceNet.cn? According to Wikipedia: “ScienceNet.cn is a science virtual community and science blog,” launched by Science Times Media Group (STMG) and supported by the Chinese Academy of Scienc es, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China “with the mission of establishing a global Chinese science community.”
Since January 2007, more than 5,000 scientists and graduate students have posted their papers on ScienceNet. Its editorial board claims that it has been ranking first among Chinese science websites.
The blogger quotes Chinese researchers who argue that the other planned ‘diversions’ require extremely complicated construction plans, large investments, long building periods and face a lot of engineering problems due to the complexity of the issues involved (I would add, and ‘displacing millions of people’). It makes these projects difficult to undertake, while a small-scale one, with low investment and quickly realizable, could be an ideal pilot project.
The ‘researchers’ propose to add a South-Western segment to the Western Diversion Route (not yet started), which is the third part of the South-to-North Water Diversion project. It would involve the diversion of the waters from the Indus river in Western Tibet (before it enters Ladakh) towards the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang. According to the authors, the scheme would meet the requirements of a ‘pilot’ scheme.
In summary, the ‘scientists’ explain that the water diversion project referred to in their paper could be called “the South Western section of Western Route Project”; wa ter could be taken from the Tibetan Plateau in the West and brought by gravity to the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang. The text describes the preliminary survey of the South-Western part of the Western Route Project. The size of the diversion programme and a brief description of China’s north-west after the transfer of the Indus’ water, are given. The main conclusion is that the diversion will help maintain long-term stability in Xinjiang. The paper explains why and sugges ts deepening the research before an early implementation of the South-Western section.
According to the ‘resear chers’, the diversion of the Ind us could bring ten benefits to China:
  1. It could increase the total amount of water resources in the Tarim Basin, which is located in the hinterland of Taklima kan Desert and suffers from important sand dune mobility. In this highly arid region, which re ceives low precipitations, wa ter is extremely valuable.
  2. The diversion could increase the local hydropower capacity. Water would flow from the high Qinghai-Tibet plateau, at an elevation of over 3,000 [in fact 4,000] meters and at the receiving end, water would be at only 1,500 meters above sea level.
  3. Once this section is completed, the water could create an oasis in the desert. The Western section would transform an entire region into an oasis; it would further bring a great return on the investment.
  4. Once the project is fully implemented, the total amount of water resources locally available could greatly increase; it could provide a substantial increase in the amo unt of hydroelectric power; the desert could become an oasis, it could improve the ecological environment, which in turn could promote local economic development of the region and the living standards of the local people.
  5. According to some scientific hypotheses, the water brought by the diversion could also increase precipitations in the region.
  6. The research says that the new oasis could in turn ‘curb global warming’ [sic]. If the global warming argument is indeed correct, say the ‘scientists’, the South-Western section could increase the rainfall in China; this counter-measure could help curb global warming for the entire humanity; this is why the diversion project must be able to get the global support and backing of most countries (what about India?). China can then get a substantial increase in the local precipitation; the desert in the north-west (Xinjiang) would disappear; the desert would become an oasis which would be able to grow food and have power plants; humans would be able to reduce the need for fossil fuels; after additional diversion, the oasis would absorb large amounts of greenhouse gases each year, thus it would achieve the goal of curbing global warming. What an argument!
    But that is not all:
  7. It could contribute to China’s food and energy security. After the diversion, the desert turned-oasis could increase the country’s arable land for China to contribute to world food security.
  8. The western development could make a significant contribution by reducing regional disparities. China’s population distribution is unbalanced; the development gap between China and western regions and other regions is too large; it has been extremely detrimental to the country’s development.
    And now the cherry on the cake:
  9. The diversion could strengthen China’s actual control of Aksai Chin, and help to resolve the territorial dispute. The Sino-Indian border has not been formally delimited in the Aksai Chin and Pangong Lake areas; there are some territorial disputes (with India). The water diversion project, through Aksai Chin, could help the actual control of this region; the implementation of the project could also help to resolve the territorial dispute (with India).
  10. Finally, the project could promote national unity and maintain long-term stability of Xinjiang. This, according to the authors, is the main benefit of the South-Western section  the long-term stability of Xinjiang.
This ‘easy’ pilot project does not, of course, take into account what the neighbours (including China’s all-weather friend, Pakistan) would have to say. That may not make the pilot project so simple after all!
The question is, while Beijing is very quick to remove internet content which contests its rule, why is such a crazy and highly objectionable project allowed to be posted on a semi-government website?
Similarly, the website of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission of China’s Ministry of Water Resources has a 50-page report on the diversion of the Brahmaputra, and though Beijing denies any bad intention, the project remains on the ‘official’ website.
How can we trust China?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kailash via Nathu: not a Big Thing

150,000 Chinese visitors in Sakya in 2014
A few days ago, when Sushma Swaraj, the Indian foreign minister was in China to prepare the visit of Narendra Modi to Beijing in May (and rebalance India’s foreign policy after the visit of President Obama to Delhi), PTI reported: “India and China exchanged notes on modalities for opening the second route for people undertaking the Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra in Tibet via Sikkim, expected to benefit Indian pilgrims.”
The Indian news agency added: “The route through Nathu La Pass will facilitate comfortable travel for Indian pilgrims by buses.”
The same day, Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs tweeted (he is a great tweeter): “India-China exchange notes on modalities for additional route for Kailash Manasarovar Yatra in 2015.”
Swaraj had earlier stated that the opening of the new route would be a ‘big thing’.
The MEA presently takes 700/800 yatris (in 18 batches for a 22-day journey) via Lipulekh Pass in Pittoragarh district of Uttarakhand. This route is often subject to bad weather and floods like in 2013.
Always optimistic Indian Officials had announced that the number of pilgrims could rise considerably once the new route via Nathu-la is opened.
It was what was expected after the fanfare announcements and great tweets.
Unfortunately on February 2, the Sikkim Government clarified: “because of sufficient and inadequate infrastructure on both sides, only four batches comprising 50 yatris, five supporting staff and a nodal officer would be allowed.”
The statement added that this year, the Kailash Manasarovar yatra, via Sikkim through Nathula, would commence from June and end in September.
The Chinese authorities had earlier mentioned that several thousand pilgrims would be allowed to travel on the new route.
What a climb-down!
Merely 200 pilgrims between June and September!
Let us recall that the Sikkim government was given the responsibility of putting in place all the required infrastructure, as well as transport, accommodation, medical facility, acclimatization centres for the yatris.
The Sikkim government's statement also announced the MEA would soon invite applications from candidates for the yatra.
Before the arrival of President Xi Jinping for his maiden visit to India in September 2014, PTI had said that, as a ‘political gesture’, the Chinese President was to announce during his visit, the opening of a new route for Indian pilgrims wanting to go on the Kailash/Mansarovar yatra.
At that time, I questioned: “The question which needs to be asked: is it a ‘great gesture’ from Beijing or only a self-serving one?
According to the Indian news agency, the proposal was under serious consideration for some tome: “All announcements including the quantum of investments China plans to make in India are expected to be announced during Xi's visit.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested Xi to offer an alternative to the Lipulekh pass in Pittoragarh district of Uttarakhand for the Kailash yatra. Either Demchok in Ladakh, or Shipki-la in Himachal Pradesh was expected to be the new port.
It made sense in terms of access and 'comfort'.
During Xi's September visit, it was officially announced that Beijing had decided to open Nathu-la border point in Sikkim. PTI says: “The new route, though longer, takes pilgrims from Nathu La to Shigatse … [and] from there the pilgrims could comfortably travel to Mansarovar and Kailash using well laid out highway.”
It was obviously the Chinese argument as it will clearly take the Indian pilgrims for a long (and expensive) ride.
The news agency then added: “It would be part of the big gesture of friendship not only to strike chord with Modi but also the people at large, specially the Hindus and Buddhists considering its religious importance.”
I then asked: "But is it a gesture of friendship or a decision driven by self-interest?"
The Chinese foreign ministry had told PTI that “lodging and boarding facilities for pilgrims have been improved with new hotels and additional beds with additional investments. Pilgrims also can have access to over 2300 vehicles.  ...Indians pilgrimage to Tibet is an important content of bilateral relations. China's willingness is in accordance with the spirit of the agreement which has been signed by both parties...”
Merely two hundred pilgrims in 2015 shows that the new India-China friendship has not matured as yet.
It is difficult to believe that infrastructure is the issue.
The Chinese government announced in January that “The recently upgraded Shigatse city of Tibet wants to boost the tourism industry of Sakya county.”
The famous Sakya monastery is en route between Chumbi Valley (on the Tibetan side of the Nathu-la) and the Kailash area.
Zhang Xiuwu, vice-mayor of Shigatse and Party chief of Sakya county recently announced: “Sakya offers great opportunities for tourism right now along with Shigatse developed into a city. Sakya county has been called the second Dunhuang of China, and it is listed as one of the two Chinese historic cities in Tibet autonomous region.”
Zhang Xiuwu added: "Tourism is very useful for rural residents, and we look forward to welcoming more tourists in the future. Sakya is enriched with plentiful tourism resources, and he believes that tourism can generate big profits in a short period of time.”
Guess how many visitors Sakya received last year?
Zhang said: “Statistics show that the county mainly receives pilgrims and academic researchers, and it welcomed an average of 400,000 pilgrims annually in the past three years.”
In 2014, the county received 146,000 tourists, and tourism revenue reached US $ 2.6 million.
According to The China Daily, Ngari, where the Kailash is located, received 470,000 visitors ,during the Year of Horse (last year): an increase of more than 50 percent over the previous year.
It is said that an integrated tourist center in Sakya can provide a tour guide, tickets to attractions, banks, post office, communications facilities and a specialty shopping center.
Infrastructure is enough to receive 150,000 Chinese tourists in Sakya, 400,000 in Ngari and just 200 Indians to Kailash?
What to conclude?
That this Indian pilgrimage is not a Big Thing for Beijing!