Saturday, October 31, 2015

Patel: why he died

I am posting today a letter from Sardar Patel to Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary-General of the External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations Ministry.
It is dated November 4, 1950, four weeks after the Chinese had entered Eastern Tibet.
This raises a serious question: very little research has been done on the last weeks of Patel's life.
It is highly regrettable.
One of the problems that all historical documents of this period remains classified in the MEA.
Why should the Modi Government follow a Congress policy is difficult to comprehend.

  
The Sardar passed away on December 15, two days after being 'shifted' to Mumbai (because 'Delhi was too cold').
What do we know about the last 2 months of Patel's life?
Practically nothing, except that he opposed Nehru's policy on Tibet.
His prophetic letter written 3 days after the note to Bajpai (posted below) raises further questions.
From where did Patel got the information cited in his letter to Nehru?
As the note to Bajpai shows, probably from Sir Girja himself, who was getting regular information from Dr. Sumul Sinha, the Head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa.
Another unanswered question: did Nehru acknowledge Patel's 'prophetic' letter addressed which raised number of serious security issues for India.
Probably not.
The last sentence of Patel's letter says: "I suggest that we meet early to have a general discussion on these problems and decide on such steps as we might think to be immediately necessary and direct,  quick examination of other problems with a view of taking early measure to deal with them."
Was a Cabinet meeting held?
Probably not.
Did Nehru inform Patel about his decision in early November, to radically change India's Tibet policy, as reflected in Nehru's note addressed to B.N. Rau, the Indian Representative to the UN on November 18.
Probably not.
On November 23, in a cable to Sinha, the Foreign Minister (Nehru) scolded the young IFS who had arrived in Tibet just 2 months earlier: “Government of India have noticed that certain communications from Lhasa and Sikkim regarding Tibet are dogmatic, disputatious and admonitory. We want of course our representatives to give us full information and appraisals of situation and to state their views frankly. But this should be done in accordance with accepted procedure of correspondence between head of a mission and Foreign Office. Once a decision has been taken by Government, it should be accepted gracefully and followed faithfully; any insinuation that Government have been acting wrongly or improperly is objectionable.”
The decision taken by the 'Government' (i.e. Nehru without informing Patel) was that 'Tibet can not be saved'; the young officer had probably dared to 'contradict' the Prime Minister.
Was Patel's informed? Probably not.
Sinha's cable being still classified, one can only guess what he wrote: he had expressed some sympathy for the Tibetan people, at a time when their nation was being erased from the world map and highlighted the dangers for India to have a new 'neighbour'.
The cable from Nehru continues in the same vein: “Tibetan [issue] and similar problems have to be fitted into proper framework of Government’s policy. While local officers may be experts in their field, they CANNOT be fully aware of the wide considerations involved and the repercussions of a particular course of action.”
Were these wider considerations discussed by the Cabinet?
Was Patel's opinion sought?
Probably not.
The issue of 'wider considerations' will come back again and again in Nehru’s dealings with sincere and competent officers (whether in the civil services or the Army); particularly those who tried to warn him of the possible consequences of India's ‘friendship at any cost’ policy with China.
Then the cable to Sinha mentions the famous ‘larger vision’: “India’s policy is primarily based on avoidance of war and maintenance of peace, as we consider world war most terrible of calamities for humanity.”
Under the altar of a new ‘political’ dogma, Tibet was sacrificed, so were India’s national interests in this affair.
Nehru then admonishes Sinha again: “For this reason we avoid as far as possible strong language and condemnation avoid as far as possible strong language and condemnation of nations which only increases international tension.”
China had started invading Tibet, but nobody should hurt the Chinese 'susceptibilities' with strong language!That was the Indian Government's new policy. There was no question of calling a spade, a spade, even in internal or top secret correspondence.
Poor Sinha, he was not aware that only 'darbari' (courtesan) can survive.
This reminds me of a remark made in a private (handwritten) letter written by Harishwar Dayal, the Political Officer in Sikkim (Sinha's boss) at the end of December 1950; while discussing the Chinese advance towards the McMahon Line with his Indian Trade Agent (ITA) in Gyantse, Dayal informed the latter of Sardar Patel’s death, “It is a heavy blow. He was the one person in this Government who had strong realistic view of things, including on foreign relations. Now, we are left at the mercy of the visionaries.”

To come back to Patel, by the end of November, he was a dejected man and he fell sick.
On December 13, after he had been 'shifted' to Mumbai, Patel was divested of all his portfolios by the Prime Minister, he was not even informed.
He was deeply hurt and he passed away 2 days later.
On that day, ministers were told to continue their business as usual.

Letter to Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai

New Delhi
4 November 1950

My Dear Sir Girja,

Thank you for your letter of the 3rd November 1950. I am sending herewith the note which you were good enough to send me. I need hardly say that I have read it with a great deal of interest and profit to myself and it has resulted in a much better understanding of the points at issue and general though serious nature of the problem.
The Chinese advance into Tibet upsets all our security calculations. Hitherto, the danger to India on its land frontiers has always come from the North-West. Throughout history we have concentrated our armed might in that region. For the first time, a serious danger is now developing on the North and North-East side; at the same time, our danger from the West or North-West is in no way lessened. This creates most embarrassing defense problems and I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.
Regarding Communists, again the position requires a great deal of thought. Hitherto, the smuggling of arms, literature, etc. across the difficult Burmese and Pakistan frontier on the East or along the sea was our only danger. We shall now have to guard our Northern and North-eastern approaches also. Unfortunately, all these approaches-Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and the tribal areas in Assam are weak spots both from the point of view of communications and police protection and also established loyalty to India. Even Darjeeling and Kalimpong area is by no means free from pro-Mongolian prejudices. The Nagas and other hill tribes in Assam have hardly had any contact with Indians. European missionaries and other visitors have been in touch with them, but their influence was, by no means, friendly to India and Indians. In Sikkim, there was political ferment some time ago. It seems to me there is ample scope for trouble and discontent in that small State. Bhutan is comparatively quiet, but its affinity with Tibetans would be a handicap. Nepal (we all know too well, a weak oligarchic regime based almost entirely on force) is in conflict with an enlightened section of the people as well as enlightened ideas of the modern age. Added to this weak position, there is the irredentism of the Chinese. The political ambitions of the Chinese by themselves might not have mattered so much; but when they are combined with discontent in these areas, absence of close contact with Indians and Communist ideology the difficulty of the position increases manifold. We have also to bear in mind that boundary disputes, which have many times in history been the cause of international conflicts, can be exploited by Communist China and its source of inspiration, Soviet Russia, for a prolonged war of nerves, culminating at the appropriate time, in armed conflict.
We have also so take note of a thoroughly unscrupulous, unreliable and determined power practically at our doors. In your very illuminating survey of what has passed between us and the Chinese Government through our Ambassador, you have made out an unanswerable case for treating the Chinese with the greatest suspicion. What I have said above, in my judgment, entitles us to treat them with a certain amount of hostility, let alone a great deal of circumspection. In these circumstances, one thing, to my mind, is quite clear; and, that is, that we cannot be friendly with China and must think in terms of defense against a determined, calculating, unscrupulous, ruthless, unprincipled and prejudiced combination of powers, of which the Chinese will be the spearhead. There might be from them outward offers or protestations of friendship, but in that will be concealed an ultimate hideous design of ideological and even political conquest into their bloc. It is equally obvious to me that any friendly or appeasing approaches from us would either be mistaken for weakness or would be exploited in furtherance of their ultimate aim. It is this general attitude which must
determine the other specific questions which you have so admirably stated. I am giving serious consideration to those problems and it is possible I may discuss this matter with you once more.

Yours sincerely,
VALLABHBHAI PATEL

Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, I.C.S.,
Secretary-General, External Affairs Ministry, New Delhi.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chini-Nepali Bhai-Bhai (Contd.)



(Video of the new Kyirong land port during the April earthquake)

Eighteen months ago, I mentioned on this blog the opening of Kyirong (Chinese: Gyirong) land port between Tibet (China) and Nepal.
I said that it will give a tremendous boost to Nepal's all-important economic relations with its giant northern neighbour.
At that time, the official China Tibet Online reported: "The Gyirong Port in southwest China’s Tibet bordered with Nepal will be formally opened in October this year [2014]. The opening of the Gyirong Port has been listed in the key work plan of national ports in 2014."
The website also announced that a cross-border China-Nepal Gyirong Port Economic Cooperation Zone would soon be established and the Gyirong Port would be built into a tourist destination.
The website affiliated with Xinhua gave some details: "The Gyirong Port enjoys a long history of being the largest land trading port between Tibet and Nepal. Many shop owners have expressed their hope that the opening of the port can help them get more involved in the border trade. From May 2007, the Shigatse Customs House will dispatch four officials to station at the Gyirong Port. A regular coordination system had been set up in order to seek support from the Gyirong county government, the Gyirong Customs and the Risur Customs of Nepal. Besides, the officials have been trying to promote preferential trade policies to encourage the local people to participate in the border trade."
The earthquake earlier in April this year delayed the operations of the land port, however, The South China Morning Post today reports that China will to provide fuel to Nepal via Kyirong ‘amid undeclared blockade by India’.
Quoting Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Kathmandu, the article says: “China will supply Nepal with 1.3 million litres of fuel to ease crippling shortages after protests over a new constitution blocked imports from India.”
The fact that trucks have been stranded at the India-Nepal border for a month, forcing fuel rationing across Nepal; but it is only a pretext.
Clearly Nepal will turn more and more towards Tibet/China for the supply of oil and other essential commodities.
According to Sushil Bhattarai, acting deputy managing director at the state-run Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC): “China has agreed to send us 1,000 metric tonnes, or 1.3 million litres of petrol, as a grant”.
AFP says the fuel will come via a land crossing which was repaired and reopened this month after suffering damage in the earthquake that hit Nepal in April; in other words, oil products will reach the Himalayan State via Kyirong.
The French news agency notes that it is “unclear whether China has donated fuel to Nepal in the past, but officials say the two countries have never commercially traded oil or gas.”
What means ‘grant’? It is another issue that Delhi should be worried about.
Let us remember that the trade between India and Nepal was blocked by protesters from the Madhesi ethnic minority, who have close cultural and linguistic ties to India.
The ‘opening’ up of Kyirong as a new land port for oil products is just a beginning. Soon the train will arrive in Kyirong and Chinese oil will then flow uninterruptedly to Nepal.
Does India have a Nepal policy?
China does!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A 'rebel' Panchen Lama?

Where is Gyaltsen Norbu?
On October 25, the Fourth World Buddhist Forum (WBF) closed its doors at the Brahma Palace on the Lingshan Mountain in Jiangsu Province.
The Forum had previously been held in the mainland in 2006 and 2009, and in Hong Kong in 2012. At that time, the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu was the star attraction.
The official press in Beijing asserted that “one thousand Buddhist personages from 52 countries and regions attended the two-day forum, more than all previous years, fully reflecting the WBF’s internationalism and authority.”
This year, the WBF’s theme was “Common Aspiration, Common Action—Embracing Exchanges and Mutual Learning”. Xinhua said that it “embodied the consistent style of all previous WBFs in inheriting the past and ushering in the future.”
The participants spoke of “building a community of human destiny as the common aspiration and work hand in hand through exchanges and mutual learning to highlight the Buddhism’s force of purifying the people’s hearts and good deeds to benefit all.”
This sounds good.
But the most surprising aspect of the event was the extremely discreet presence of the Chinese Panchen Lama who just appeared in the group discussion to suggest stricter discipline measures for Buddhist monks.
Let us remember that Gyaltsen Norbu was selected by Beijing and groomed as the 11th Panchen Lama, while the candidate recognized by the Dalai Lama languishes for the past 20 years under house arrest, somewhere in China.
Why was Gyaltsen Norbu nowhere to be seen during the opening and closing ceremonies, while he had been the Chief Guest on the occasion of the previous Forum?
As I earlier mentioned on this blog, Beijing seems unable to fully ‘control’ their Panchen Lama candidate (see, Hot Summer on the Tibetan Plateau).

Is Gyaltsen Norbu not a good Communist?
In June, Xinhua announced that President Xi Jinping ‘accepted an audience’ with Gyaltsen Norbu at Zhongnanhai in Beijing on June 10. The term ‘accepting an audience’ is a euphemism to say the least, because the ‘audience’ seemed more like summon-cum-lecture.Was Gyaltsen Norbu not following the Party's diktats?
He had probably been speaking too much his mind for Beijing’s taste.
During the WBF, Norbu appeared only briefly during a round table discussion.
The Catholic news agency ucanews.com, reported that at the WBF, he called "for tighter controls over monks to ensure they follow Buddhist precepts.”
The Communist Party is uncomfortable with ‘roaming’ monks not enrolled in ‘official’ monasteries. These monks are believed to be the most subversive elements “particularly prone to breaking precepts. It would also be difficult for any other authority or the police to seize them if they do not break the law," said Norbu.
The Communist Party tightly monitors activities in the monasteries through hand-picked Monastery Committees, fierce watchdogs working for the authorities in Beijing.
Monks who follow the Buddha’s ‘wandering’ precepts are considered as extremely dangerous for the Party.
The same ucanews.com noted that “Norbu's remarks represent a return to the party line after a speech in March in which he warned that China's quotas on Tibetan monks and nuns – a rarely acknowledged open secret – meant a danger of Buddhism existing in name only," the news agency adding: “His comments were viewed by some observers as a jab at Beijing's Tibet policies. However, other analysts noted the Communist Party would have vetted his speech in advance.”
Probably not, and that is why he was summoned in Zhongnanhai in June by the President himself.
During the WBF, the Chinese protégé uttered some banalities: “Social changes have also resulted in changes in the system and orders within temples. It is important to adapt to the changes in time" or “it is important to train young talents, …as it would decide what kind of role Buddhism can play in society, …The key is to ensure the practice and doctrine learning of the young Buddhists.”
And he left…
China seems to have a serious problem with recalcitrant Tibetans, even when they are meticulously hand-picked by the Party.
It has been the case of the 10th Panchen Lama, it is now the case of Gyaltsen Norbu, and probably many more not well-known lamas.
According to the White Paper released in September, there are 358 living Buddhas (reincarnated lamas), of whom more than 60 have been selected according to the 2007 rules and regulations of the Party.
How many are fully under the control Party is a question difficult to answer.
Did you notice that Gyaltsen Norbu also missed the festivities held in Lhasa on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Tibetan Autonomous Region? Strange?
Sixty-five years after being ‘liberated’ Tibetans are still rebel. Beijing should find out why.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why did the British suck up to the Chinese?

Cartoon which appeared in The Times as Xi Jinping was leaving UK
My article Why did the British suck up to the Chinese? appeared in Rediff.com.


Have you heard of ‘Hollandisation?
It is a new concept in geopolitics.
The term is used to express “abandoning the pursuit of power, spending less on defence and stepping back from playing a role on the international stage.”
According to The Financial Times, this is what London did when it kowtowed to President Xi Jinping during his recent visit to the United Kingdom.
The FT commented that even “the US is worried about the ‘Hollandisation’ of Britain, [US] officials are particularly disconcerted with [Britain’s] stance on China.” The London-based paper added that British officials could just “haggle over whether the Sino-British relationship had entered a ‘golden decade’ or a ‘golden era’”.
But for Beijing, the visit was a resounding success.
President Xi and his First Lady Peng Liyuan were greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron at the Horse Guards parade ground in central London where the Chinese President inspected the Grenadiers in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats. Xi was then granted a 41-gun salute.
Xi, his wife and their royal hosts took a 1km ride in a gilded carriage drawn by white horses, from the Mall to Buckingham Palace.
First small hitch, as the coach moved through the Mall, lined with China’s fans with British and Chinese red flags (supplied by the Chinese embassy), supporters of Free Tibet waved Tibetan flags with banners reading ‘Don’t trade away human rights’ and ‘China: Buying UK’s silence on Tibet’. But this does not seem to have much bothered a smiling Chinese President.
It however showed the dichotomy of today’s China: the Emperors of the mighty Middle Kingdom can dictate their will to most of the world’s governments, but not always to the ‘masses’.
Even if Cameron’s spokeswoman said: “There is nothing off the table in our discussions with the Chinese,” very few believed her.

To continue to read...

Monday, October 26, 2015

To learn from history, declassify all the files

My article To learn from history, declassify all the files appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

It is a fact that there is no proper declassification policy in India. The greatest tragedy is that the ‘classified’ files are lying in the almirahs of various ministries, where no scholar, researcher or history-lover has access to

During his meeting with 35 members of Subhas Chandra Bose’s family, the Prime Minister announced that his government had decided to declassify all files related to Netaji.
Mr. Modi further tweeted that he will soon request foreign governments to declassify files on INA’s leader available with them: “Shall begin this with Russia in December."
PTI commented: “The demands for declassification of secret files have been growing lately, especially after the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal recently declassified 64 files which were in its possession.”
That is good news, but it is the tiny crest of a colossal iceberg.
Netaji’s disappearance in Formosa or Lal Bahadur Shastri’s strange demise in Tashkent, are ‘scoopy’ parts of the history of modern India; however, millions of files await ‘declassification’ in different ministries and nothing is said or done about it.
Incidentally, I always was wondered why Sardar Patel, who still could shoot sharp letters till December 12/13 of 1950, suddenly passed away 2 days later. Has any enquiry been made into this?
It was anyway heartening to read Mr. Modi’s tweet: “there is no need to strangle history. Nations that forget their history lack the power to create it."
This clearly raises the larger issue: the iceberg itself; i.e., the declassification of all historical documents older than 25 years, not just the ‘famous’ cases. Today, ‘classified’ files are lying in the record rooms of the Ministry of External Affairs, Defence or Home Affairs where no scholar, researcher or history lover has access.
This is one of the greatest tragedies of Independent India.
Why is it a tragedy for India?
India is unable to properly assess her own history as long as all these files remain locked in the respective ministries’ almirahs.
Why can’t Indian (or foreign) scholars be able to write India’s history from Indian archives and not from the British, US, Soviet (or even Chinese) declassified archival material, as it is the case today. The only history of Modern India has so far been written by ‘Court Historians’, not serving India, but their master(s).
A few days after meeting the Bose family, Narendra Modi addressed the 10th annual convention of the Central Information Commission; he stated: “Secrecy could have been the norm during some old times but I don't think there is need of such secrecy now. Transparency brings in simplicity and speed in the working of the government.”
He was of course speaking about the Right to Information Act, but his remarks could apply to history too.
After the proscribed time gap has elapsed, scholars and the public at large should be allowed not only to look into a few ‘famous’ cases, but all aspects of the Nation’s history should be transparently made easily available.
The Modi Sarkar has come with great hopes: many thought that the old policy of ‘political classification’ would change; but obviously, bureaucratic resistance, the general ‘tamas’ is not that easy to overcome.
For example, soon after taking over as the new Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley informed the Rajya Sabha: “The Henderson Brooks Report on 1962 Indo-China war is a ‘top secret document’ and disclosure of any information about it would not be in the national interest.”
When in the Opposition, he had himself vociferously been in favour of declassifying this very document.
Incidentally, very few politicians noticed that the famous report written by the Anglo-Indian general, had already been ‘released’ by the old Australian journalist Neville Maxwell and was online since March 2014.
One can only applaud when the Prime Minister speaks of Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability, but the fact remains, and it is quite appalling, that there is no proper professional declassification policy in India.
One could argue, why is it so important for a nation to know its past?
The simple answer is because a society is entitled to learn from its past mistakes …and past glory. For this, however, history has to be based on the nation’s own archival sources.
To give an example in which I have been personally involved: the history of modern Tibet; you can find plenty of books based on American documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which ensures public access to all US government records. The FOIA legally carries a presumption of disclosure; the burden is on the government - not the public - to substantiate why information should not be released.
One can also visit the India Office Records near London. The British have meticulously kept the records of the Raj, which are open to the general public for consultation and research.
As a result, one gets a version of history of the Indo-Tibet or Sino-Indian relations only from the Western and the Chinese points of view, and not India’s. Isn’t it shocking?
This example could be multiplied by any number of topics.
Today, the Indian version of the post-Independence history of India is full of political clichés, as it has been written by ‘eminent’ historians serving one party only.
Another drawback of the non-classification is that documents get lost in the ministries; for example the Himmatsinghji Report of 1951 on the defence of the Indian borders, is, according to a Government submission to the CIC, not ‘traceable’.
The Public Record Rules, 1997, state that records that are 25 years or more must be preserved in the National Archives of India (NAI) and that no records can be destroyed without being recorded or reviewed. Legally, it's mandatory for each department to prepare a half-yearly report on reviewing and weeding of records and submit it to the NAI.
This is valid for all the ministries including Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence.
While the personnel declassifying historical documents (fully or partially) should make sure that it does not jeopardize the security of the country, at the same time this should not be a pretext to block the due process of declassification, like it is often done.
One genuine problem is the lack of ‘professionals’ to do the job.
But there are certainly enough young talents in India, who could be trained and later assigned to work on declassification.
India has an open-minded Foreign Secretary, who recently introduced the concept of ‘lateral entry’ into the Ministry; under this scheme or a similar one, it should not be difficult to find young scholars, who could work in a time-frame under the supervision of a senior historian.
The first thing to do is to create a Historical Division in each important ministry; to put the Division under the care of a professional and reputed historian (with a team of concerned motivated youngsters) and give the latter full responsibility and the means to do the job.
But has the bureaucracy the will to come out of the prevalent lethargy?
As always, it is certainly easier to do nothing!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The sorry state of India’s Borders

Kiren Rijiju trekking to the border
Sometimes, though it is rare, one reads some good news in the national press. One of these refreshing items, for me at least, was the visit of the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) posts in Gunji and Kalapani of Pithoragarh District of Uttarakhand.
Another Rediff interview with Kiren Rijiju
According to Sushil Kumar, the District Magistrate, Rijiju went “to take stock of the defence infrastructure in these border areas.”
The young dynamic minister from Arunachal spent a night at Nabhidhang rest house, on the way to Lipulekh-la, no very far from the trijunction between India, Tibet and Nepal.
He is said to have walked the last eight kms from Kalapani to Nabhidhang to reach the last ITBP border post.
And guess what the minister discovered?
A ‘peculiar security concern’, said the local press.
Indian telecom services are not available in these remote areas; as a result, local villagers have to use Nepali SIM cards. Isn’t it shocking?
Rijiju said: “Villagers in this region walk for five days to reach a road. After Dharchula, only Nepal SIM cards work.”
He told The Indian Express: “It’s a shame that in 68 years of independence, we have not been able to provide over 20,000 villagers in this region with roads, electricity and telecommunication. People, including our jawans, use SIM cards bought from Nepal as Indian telecom signals do not reach here. There is no tower in the entire region.”
On his return to the capital, the minister wrote to his colleagues in the Department of Telecom and the Ministry of Defence asking them to immediately remedy this vital lacuna.
This raises several issues.
First, it is not a new phenomenon. Several years ago, I was told by a politician from Arunachal, who had earlier served as a minister, that when he went abroad and he received calls from Tawang, to his surprise, the identification number showed the Chinese ISD code: it meant that calls originating from Tawang were transiting via China. That was long ago, but the situation on the borders does not seem to have improved much.
Then, Rijiju was the first Union minister to visit these areas. Why? It is simply too far from Delhi’s comfort.
Further, Nabhidhang is not an ordinary border post: it is on the track followed by the MEA Yatra to Kasilash-Mansarovar and one of the 3 official landports (with Nathu-la and Shilpi-la) between India and China.
I would be curious to know how many times the Pithoragargh DM has visited this area. Usually, once in a tenure is enough; local officials prefer to dream of a posting in Dehradun.
A larger, but closely linked issue is the migration of populations from India’s frontiers.
A few weeks ago, The Times of India (TOI) reported from Dehradun: “As villages along the international border in Uttarakhand face out-migration on an unprecedented scale, uninhabited areas lie open to territorial claims by the Chinese.”
The journalist studied the case of Niti, the last Indian village, located 26 km south from the Niti pass, which demarcates the border between Tibet and India. For centuries, the village, situated at an altitude of 3,600 metres, saw traders, pilgrims and officials freely moving between the two countries and the area flourished. Unfortunately, all this stopped in 1962; today only 35 families remain in the village; a few decades ago, there were 250.
Trade with Tibet (today China) is dead and the area is virtually closed to outsiders; an Inner Line Permit is not easy to obtain from the local authorities.
Located 88 km from Joshimath, though the village could have been developed into an eco-tourism centre, it was not done. Even amongst the remaining 35 families, most of the young people have moved to the plains in search of a better life.
The Chinese have no qualms to develop their side of the Himalayan range and while Beijing has taken great leaps forward to built its border infrastructure, Delhi has worked at snail’s speed, struggling to create a semblance of infrastructure; migration is the direct outcome of this slow pace.
On the same subject, The Tribune quotes Dr Shamsher Singh Bisht, a social activist: “The rate of migration has increased after June 2013 as most of the people who lost their homes but received compensation preferred to relocate in safer plains.”
Dr Anil Joshi, a ‘gaon bachao’ advocate explains: “Over 3,000 villages in the hills have been abandoned due to policies of the respective state governments which kept neglecting villages when it came to development policies. …A silent migration from rural Uttarakhand is on.”
The 2011 census says that 1,065 villages of the state have been deserted.
Why should a farmer or a pastoralist, living in a remote village of Uttarakhand or near the LAC in Ladakh, remain in his native village when he can earn a decent living by running a small hotel in Dehradun or driving a taxi in Leh.
In one of his monthly radio programs, Maan ki Baat, Prime Minister Modi had announced that he was “deputing Central Government officials to find solutions to problems being faced by the region”. The Ministry of Development of the North-Eastern Region was to send officials to hold week-long camps. The outcome has never been made public.
Remember Verrier Elwin’s A Philosophy for NEFA, so dear to Nehru! Based on French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory: “Nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man,” the romantic view of the tribal folks ultimately amounted to the segregation of a large chunk of the Indian population and a total lack of development of these strategically important regions.
One of the decisions taken by Modi Sarkar has been to modify the guidelines of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) drafted some 10 years ago. The BADP is a 100 per cent centrally funded scheme covering in priority all Indian villages located within 10 km of the International Border.
The sucess is doubtful, because despite good intentions, how will the project be implemented on the ground, and crucially how soon?
Another issue is the stagnating petty trade between India and Tibet. Though border trade could have been a way to stop migration, the local babus are not really motivated, while China is not interested to reopen the traditional passes.
Milam village in Pithoragargh district
The serious strategic implication of the depopulation of the entire Himalayan belt is that it has opened wide the door to Chinese incursions.
Take the Barahoti grazing ground in Chamoli district; it was the first area claimed by China as ‘theirs’ in 1954. If there are no Indian grazers to go up with their herds at the beginning of the summer season, the Chinese are quick to send their own to ‘mark’ China’s presence. Recently, Indian district officials had to be sent for a few weeks to ‘stamp India’s presence’ as hardly any grazer from Niti is interested anymore.
Who in Delhi realizes that in case of a conflict, the ‘local’ population will play a crucial role?
Though Mr Modi’s initiative to send officers to the spot is certainly a great improvement in the right direction; a special ‘border’ cadre could also help reverse the tide.
Will Rijiju’s trip be followed by the visit of his colleagues of Defence (who obviously prefers the beaches of Goa for his weekends), Telecom or Road Transport ministries to India’s frontiers?
This would be a boon for the borders of India, but it may not happen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Legitimacy of Communist Party of China


My article Legitimacy of Communist Party of China appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

While India is debating the interference by one of the 3 pillars of democracy into another’s domain, China does not face such problems as all the pillars of governance, i.e. judiciary, legislative, executive and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have to obey the diktats from the Communist Party of China (CPC), namely the Politburo of its Central Committee.
It is a fact that for nearly 7 decades, discussing the legitimacy of the Party’s supremacy has been forbidden in China.
However, with the changing economic scenario and as the cadres prepare to hold the 5th Plenum of the 18th Party Congress next week, we may soon witness changes.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) recently reported: “Open discussion by top graft-buster Wang Qishan about the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party - a topic long deemed unquestionable - has raised the eyebrows of some commentators.”
While addressing the Party and World Dialogue 2015 in Beijing last month, Wang, a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee asserted: “The legitimacy of the Communist Party of China derives from history, and depends on whether it is supported by the will of the people; it is the people's choice."
It is a new discourse, especially in front of a gathering which included overseas participants.
Though the Hong Kong newspaper said that many analysts did not agree with Wang's interpretation of ‘legitimacy’, it indeed marked a change of wind. The SCMP quoted Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based commentator, who believed that Wang's remarks mark “a shift of attitude in the party as a result of intensified social conflicts and increasing pressure from an underperforming economy.”
Zhang added: “In the past, the issue was not allowed to be discussed, because the Party thinks its rule is justified unquestionably.”
Many China watchers believe that since Mao’s death and the advent of Deng Xiaoping at the end of the 1970s, the Party's legitimacy mainly relied on economic growth, which was supposed to suffice for the masses. That was the ‘to get rich is glorious’ policy of Deng.
Earlier, during the Great Helmsman’s days, political power grew out of the barrel of a gun. Today, China cannot depend anymore on the ‘gun’ to impose its rule over the masses and with the power of Xiaoping’s mantra receding with the economic slowdown, is the Party’s ‘legitimacy’ fading away?
It is where India has a great advantage over the Middle Kingdom, and this, despite the dysfunctional ups and downs of the democratic process.
In March, the Qiushi, the CPC’s organ mentioned that development has brought about new challenges for the Party to maintain its relationship with the public. It listed some of these challenges.
One is income disparity which increased the public's complaints: “If not resolved, these complaints will weaken confidence and trust in the Party,” the article says.
Then, the open market economy has brought “laissez-faire and a multicultural ideology”, and the Party’s publication concludes: “This has weakened and diluted the Party's education of the public.”
Further, the plurality in the social structure makes it difficult to lead and guide the people, asserts the Qiushi, while, “economic globalization and the Internet make it easier for the West to achieve a cultural infiltration of China.”
It is always easier to blame a ‘foreign hand’, but it does not change the fact that the Party is facing more and more problems of ‘legitimacy’.
The Party organ also quotes the disintegration of some regimes (‘coloured’ revolutions), “all have had a disturbing psychological impact on the people of China,” before concluding: “some people no longer trust and follow the propaganda of the Party the way they used to.”
And what about the large scale corruption in the Party and in the PLA?
Many feel that the possibility of a revolution could not be ruled out in China today. The situation in the Armed Forces is particularly worrying for the leadership in Beijing.
In April, Xinhua reported that Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), approved a Notice titled, “Opinion to Develop a Political Team of Cadres That Will Demonstrate Absolute Loyalty to the Party, Has a Strong Capability to Fight in Wars, and Displays a Good Work Style and Image.”
When this type of ‘order’ is issued in China, it usually means that the opposite is happening; in other words, senior officers are no more loyal to the Party.
The Notice directed that all levels within the PLA should focus on “strengthening the ideology work to build a strong Party spirit; strictly abide by the political rules and requirements; display devotion to the Party; and ensure absolute obedience to the Party’s directions, to the PLA’s Political Department, and to Chairman Xi.”
The anti-corruption campaign has targeted scores of PLA officers (more than 50 generals are said have been investigated).
In June, Reuters quoted the PLA Daily affirming that ‘enemy’ forces were trying to infiltrate the ranks to push for the ‘de-politicisation’ of the military and reduce the Party's role in the Army.
The PLA publication admitted: “With a changing society, younger officers were now entering the forces without a proper understanding of the party's role and its discipline requirements.”
It cited Mao: “When political discipline is firm, then the ruling party prospers; when political discipline is weak, the ruling party falls … Liberalism has always been the great enemy."
The military is deeply shaken with two former CMC’s deputy chairmen Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou being charged with corruption.
In a separate analysis, the SCMP affirmed, “Without a more durable basis for power, challenges loom.”
It cites some facts of history: 3,000 years ago, the House of Zhou overthrew the Shang dynasty in the battle of Muye and became the Middle Kingdom’s new ruler. At that time, the Duke of Zhou came up with the concept of the Mandate of Heaven: a bad ruler will be thrown away by Heaven and replaced by a virtuous one: “but the new king, whose legitimacy came from heaven, must have good conduct for it to continue endorsing his status as the rightful ruler.”
Historically, dynasties which have not been able to deliver the goods to the masses have been overthrown. Rebellions or revolts are a sign that the divine approval was been withdrawn and that it is time for the Kingdom to give way for a new dynasty, which will have Heaven’s legitimacy.
Sensing the changing winds in the midst of China’s economic difficulties, Wang Qishan decided to break the taboo and mention the Party's legitimacy: “For things to work in China, we have to see whether the people are happy or not, satisfied or not, whether they would approve of our work”, he said.
At the same time, Xinhua reported that President Xi Jinping's push for reforms has “come up against unimaginably fierce resistance.”
The news agency said that “the in-depth reform touches the basic issue of reconfiguring the lifeblood of this enormous economy and is aimed at making it healthier …the scale of the resistance is beyond what could have been imagined.”
Reuters, which reproduced the article, commented: “the commentary suggested the reforms had not achieved the desired results and were opposed by various factions.”
According to Xinhua, the strength of the CPC is still growing, it would have gained 1.1 million members last year, taking the Party’s membership to some 88 million, (more than the population of Germany), but, at the same time, disillusion has also exponentially grown amongst the masses.
Xinhua may speak of the strengthened vitality of the Party under Xi, but the fact remains that in China today, less and less ‘aam aadmi’ believe that the Communist Party can solve the issues facing the Chinese Nation.
A rather worrying challenge for the Party and its current leadership.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Modern Tragedy

Deserted Milam village in Phitoragarh district of Uttarakhand
My article A Modern Tragedy appeared yesterday in The Asian Age and The Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

The migration of populations from the frontiers, particularly the borders with China in Ladakh, Uttarakhand or Arunachal Pradesh, is a modern tragedy.
It is rarely mentioned in the Indian press, though a few weeks ago, The Times of India (TOI) reported from Dehra Dun: “As villages along the international border in Uttarakhand face out-migration on an unprecedented scale, uninhabited areas lie open to territorial claims by the Chinese.”
The journalist studied the case of Niti, the last Indian village, located 26 km south from the Niti pass, which demarcates the border between Tibet and India. For centuries, the village, situated at an altitude of 3,600 metres, saw traders, pilgrims and officials freely moving between the two countries and the area was flourishing. Unfortunately, all this stopped in 1962; today only 35 families remain in the village; a few decades ago, there were 250.
Trade with Tibet (today China) is dead and the area is virtually closed to outsiders; an Inner Line Permit is not easy to obtain from the local authorities.
Located 88 km from Joshimath, though the village could have been developed into an eco-tourism centre, it was not done, probably due to the ‘sensitivities’ of the Chinese authorities on the other side of the pass.
Even amongst the remaining 35 families, most of the young people have moved to the plains in search of a better life.
The Chinese have no qualms to develop their side of the Himalayan range and while Beijing has taken great leaps forward to built its border infrastructure, Delhi has worked at snail’s speed, struggling to create a semblance of infrastructure; migration is the direct outcome of this slow pace.
Soon after he took over as the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, this writer had interviewed Kiren Rijiju, a native of Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh; he had then said, “My immediate concern is to concentrate on the India-China border.” The young and dynamic Minister added, “It means development of infrastructure, roads, communication, other basic amenities; facilities for local people living in the border area. They should be provided with electricity, water, food.”
But it is not a glamourous process; indeed perseverance and an unshakable will are required to change the tide. Migration is today one of the major issues facing the populations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh or the McMahon line in Arunachal Pradesh.
Why should a farmer or a pastoralist, living near the LAC in Ladakh, remain in his native village with the risk of being harassed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, when he can earn a decent living as a taxi driver or by running a small hotel in Leh?
Defence analyst, Nitin Gokhale, who visited most of these borders areas, wrote about the sad situation in Ladakh: “Chushul, an important village very close to the border did not have a single landline telephone and the lone mobile tower in the vicinity was more a showpiece than a functional facility. The anger among the villagers at the lack of what is now a basic necessity was palpable.”
It is not an easy challenge. In one of his monthly radio programs, Maan ki Baat, Prime Minister Modi had announced that he was “deputing Central Government officials to find solutions to problems being faced by the region”. The Ministry of Development of the North-Eastern Region was to send officials to hold week-long camps. The outcome has never been made public.
Remember Verrier Elwin’s A Philosophy for NEFA, so dear to Nehru! Based on French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory: “Nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man,” the romantic view of the tribal folks ultimately amounted to the segregation of a large chunk of the Indian population and a total lack of development of these strategically important regions …and today, irreversible migration.
One of the decisions taken by Modi Sarkar has been to modify the guidelines of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) drafted some 10 years ago. According to the new notification, “The main objective of the BADP is to meet the special developmental needs and well being of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border.”
The BADP is a 100 per cent centrally funded scheme covering in priority all Indian villages located within 10 km of the International Border. Within the 10 km, some villages are identified by the Border Guarding Forces for most immediate help.
This is one way to counter the Chinese claims, which regularly translates into deep incursions into Indian territory; depopulation plays into the Chinese hands. Will the BADP scheme reduce the migration from the borders? It is doubtful, because despite good intentions, how will the project be implemented on the ground, and crucially how soon?
Another issue is the stagnating petty trade between India and Tibet. While Nathu La is better organised, the traders at Shipki La (Himachal) and Lipulekh La (Uttarakand) face many bureaucratic hurdles. Though border trade could have been a way to stop migration, the local babus are not really motivated, while China is not interested to reopen the traditional passes.
Whether in Uttarakhand, Ladakh or Arunachal, life is hard on the borders.
The serious strategic implication of the depopulation of the entire Himalayan belt is that it has opened wide the door to Chinese incursions.
Take the Barahoti grazing ground in Chamoli district; it is the first area claimed by China as ‘theirs’ in 1954. If there are no Indian grazers to go up with their herds at the beginning of the summer season, the Chinese are quick to send their own to ‘mark’ China’s presence. Recently, Indian district officials had to be sent for a few weeks to ‘stamp India’s presence’ as hardly any grazer from Niti is interested anymore. The TOI admitted: “Barahoti had begun emptying out around eight years ago. Ever since, district officials have been marking the territory at regular intervals.”
And in Delhi, very few ‘strategists’ perceive that in case of a conflict, the ‘local’ population play a crucial role to play.
One possible solution would be to replace the present IAS cadre in these areas by dedicated officers, like it was done in the 1950s and 1960s with the Political Officers (POs) of the defunct Indian Frontier Administrative Service.
Every year, the POs would tour these remote border areas, meet the ‘locals’, get to know their problems and dutifully report in long notes to the ‘durbar’.
One can’t expect young IAS officers, dreaming only of a Delhi posting, to be of the caliber of the old Pos.
Though Mr Modi’s initiative to send officers to the spot is certainly a great improvement in the right direction, a special ‘border’ cadre could help revert the tide. It may soon be too late.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Xinjiang : The Thorn in China’s Might

YU Zhengsheng and delegation arrive in Urumqi
My article Xinjiang: the thorn in China’s might appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

The dust had hardly settled down on the Potala Square in Lhasa where the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) were he, that the Chinese leadership moved to Xinjiang to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
According to the Chinese media, everybody rejoiced in Tibet, but it was not the case in the restive far-western region of China.
In Tibet, the Communist leadership openly said that Tibet had entered the Golden Age, it is not the case in Xinjiang.
On September 10, an article in China Daily had proclaimed: “The now-50-year-old Tibet autonomous region has every reason to rejoice: The national regional autonomy mechanism is working well and benefiting ordinary Tibetans,” adding that even though: “the 14th Dalai Lama and those in Dharamsala of India will not be sharing the festive mood.”
In Xinjiang, the situation is more difficult, in fact extremely thorny for the Communist Party. Though like in Lhasa, a large delegation of Party cadres landed in Urumqui for the ‘festivities’, nobody spoke of the Golden Age.
Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee led the delegates, without fanfare.
Vice-Minister Liu Yandong was also there like in Lhasa, but the other lady member of the Politburo Sun Chunlan was ‘missing in action’, though she is the powerful Director of The United Front Work Department which overlooks Xinjiang affairs. Why she was missing is not clear.
Surprisingly, Zhang Qingli, a former infamous Party boss in Tibet, who had called the Dalai Lama ‘a wolf in monk’s garbs’ had come as a CPPCC’s Vice-Chairman. Zhang Chunxian, current party chief of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was the host of the party, though nobody was in a festive mood.
A few days earlier, Reuters had reported a fatal attack which occurred in a coal mine, in which 50 Chinese Hans lost their lives. As he arrived, Yu Zhengsheng warned that everything was not under control in the region. He stated: “We must fully recognise that Xinjiang faces a very serious situation in maintaining long-term social stability, and we must make a serious crackdown on violent terror activities the focal point of our struggle,” and he invited the local cadres ‘not to rest on their laurels’, while Beijing faces a grave ‘threat from militants and separatists’.
In recent years, the energy-rich Muslim province has witnessed hundreds of deaths in ‘separatist’ violence.
Mid-September, Radio Free Asia (RFA) had reported that “at least 50 people died in an attack on a Chinese coal mine in the far-western region of Xinjiang”. The incident occurred at the Sogan colliery in Aksu; all the casualties belonged to the Han Chinese majority.
Although local police have immediately blamed the attack on knife-wielding separatists, the incident was not reported by state media; at that time the Chinese television beamed happy ‘ethnic minorities’ dressed in colourful outfits dancing and celebrating the great Chinese Motherland.
While the Chinese government put the blame on a handful of Muslim fundamentalists, Uyghur exiles and rights groups point out that Beijing “never presented convincing evidence of the existence of a cohesive militant group fighting the government, and that much of the unrest can be traced back to frustration at controls over the culture and religion of the Uyghur people who live in Xinjiang”.
According to Radio Free Asia, when police officers arrived at the mine, attackers “rammed their vehicles using trucks loaded with coal”.
One police officer, Ekber Hashim later told RFA: “Nearly all the workers who were not on shift at the time were killed or injured. …Some workers were sleeping, while others were preparing to work when the attackers raided the building after killing the security guards.”
According to RFA, the colliery has 3 separate coal mine shafts with a six-storey dormitory to house some 300 or 400 workers - around 90 per cent being Han.
This new incident shows that gravity of the situation.
Despite the extremely tight security in place since weeks for the 60th anniversary’s celebrations and the announced visit of Yu and his colleagues in Urumqi, the attack could still occur.
It is not the first time that this has happened.
Last year, in May, as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up a high-profile four-day visit to the restive region, a bomb attack in Urumqi railway station killed three people and injured 79.
It was the third major incident in seven months targeting civilians, following earlier fatal attacks in the heart of Beijing and Kunming
A few weeks later another terrorist attack in Urumqi, left 31 people dead and a large number of Han Chinese was injured. At that time, Xi ordered troops in Xinjiang to deliver a ‘crushing blow’ to terrorism.
This time, Xinhua quoted Yu as saying In Urumqi: “Firmly fighting violent terrorist activities should be the priority of our battle at present.”
Yu was accompanied by General Zhao Keshi, a member of the all-powerful Central Military Commission, also head of PLA's General Logistics Department, and Lt Gen Peng Yong, Commander of the Xinjiang Military District.
Yu, who oversees the United Front Work including the Xinjiang affairs addressed the troops and highlighted the role of the PLA for Xinjiang stability, saying troops should play a bigger role in fighting separatism, terrorism and extremism.
During the special meeting, Yu spoke to all senior military officers from the Xinjiang Military Area Command, the Xinjiang Division of the Chinese People's Armed Police and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), an economic and semi-military organization, about the gravity of the situation. Yu even spoke of a protracted war.
Already last month, Yu had announced a government-backed aid programme to send professionals to Xinjiang whose aim would also be to curb ‘terrorism’.
Interestingly, General Zhao Keshi did not visit the Indian border (let us remember that the Xinjiang Military district borders Ladakh/Aksai Chin of India); he only went to Turpan, in Xinjiang’s northwest on September 29 to meet the ‘local residents’.
The Indian border is clearly not the priority in Xinjiang, like it is for Tibet. Zhao’s colleague, General Zhang Yang, a member of the ‘central leaders’ delegation to Tibet for the TAR’s 50 anniversary had visited the ‘border’ a few weeks earlier.
It is worth noting that the PLA posted in the unruly region has been recently ordered to ‘teach folk dances and songs as part of efforts to improve relations with the minority people’ (i.e. the Uyghurs).
Reuters, quoting the People’s Liberation Army Daily, says that the PLA in Xinjiang are at the ‘centre of the storm’ when it comes to fighting militants and separatists: “Their job is more than just fighting,” said the article, “pointing to the thousands of activities they have arranged in the last five years going into villages to ‘explain the party’s ethnic and religious policies ... and refute rumours.” It is not an easy task to force Communism down the Uyghurs’ throats.
Another telling sign: on the occasion of the Grand Parade for the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, Xi Jinping had announced a cut in China’s military forces and a readjustment of the ratio between its army, navy and air force.
WantChinaTimes, published in Taiwan says: “If the adjustment is made, the number of troops in the navy and air force will be increased while the army will be reduced from 1.6 million to 1 million,” adding, “Sources claimed the troops to be cut may be transferred to form ten armed police tactical units and 100 armed police warfare groups, with both likely to be stationed in the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
The situation is definitively not rosy in the restive ‘Autonomous Region’, especially with a neighbour like Pakistan at the door.
The giant Chinese Dragon is indeed terribly unstable.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Nomads: An endangered species?

My article Nomads: An endangered species?, a review of Himalaya Bound, an American's Journey with Nomads in North India, written by Michael Benanav and published by Harper Collins, appeared in the Agenda section of The Sunday Pioneer

Here is the link...

This book traces the trials of Van Gujjars, a forest dwelling tribe of vegetarian Muslims, writes CLAUDE ARPI

The book of Michael Benanav, Himalaya Bound: An American’s Journey with Nomads in North India, touches a chord. Not just because I, like most humans, still carry nomad’s DNA, but also because it deals with a much deeper issue: The struggle of our ‘modern world’ vs a more traditional way of life. The author, a writer and photographer, perhaps witnessed one of the last journeys of an endearing itinerant Himalayan community.
During the summer season, Benanav follows a nomadic family, belonging to a tribe known as the Van Gujjars. At a time when it is fashionable to speak of climate change, stake-holders and local empowerment, this tribe is truly an endangered species. Van (forest in Hindi) Gujjars are a forest-dwelling tribe, who migrate every spring to higher grazing grounds. The peaceful vegetarian Muslim community has for generations survived on the milk-products of their buffalos. During 42 days, Benanav documented the tribulations of ‘his’ family, who migrate from their forest in the Shivalik range of Uttar Pradesh to the heights of the Govind National Park in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.

Reading Benanav’s account, one soon realises that these nomads are endangered, simply perhaps the ‘modern world’ does not like nomads, whether they lived in Uttarakhand, Tibet or elsewhere in the world. It is indeed easier for a ‘modern’ State to deal with sedentary populations, rather than ‘nomads’: This is the tragedy underlying the narrative. In recent years, the most serious predicament facing this Muslim family, led by Dhumman, the patriarch, has been Uttarakhand’s Forest Department, who repeatedly threatens to block the nomadic families, whose ancestral summer meadows fall within the National Park, from entering the area. The Indian law is strict, nobody is allowed to live or settle in a National Park; as a rule, it is fair, except that it comes into conflict with the ancestral practices of the Van Gujjars.

The book is the riveting story of a family stuck between the Park’s environmental regulations and the unyielding (and sometimes corrupt) babus, manning the ‘gates’ to the higher pastures. The author describes his journey and gives “an intimate picture of the hopes, fears, hardships and joys of people who wonder if there’s still a place for them on this planet.” In 2009, with his friends, Benanav lives difficult moments, as the family was not permitted to reach their traditional pastures and had no choice but to settle in a new place, higher in the Himalayas. In his Epilogue, Benanav notes that the following year (by then, he returned to the United States), the Forest Department once again banned the Van Gujjars and their buffaloes from the meadows of the National Park. Dhumman faced a familiar and difficult dilemma: “My friends had little faith that the gates to Govind would swing open at the last minute, and they were not eager to endure the kind of tension they’d experienced on the road last time, waiting and praying for mercy from those in positions of power.” They decided to not even try to go to the high meadows. Dhumman arranged with a farmer near Kalsi, “at the edge of the plains, where the Yamuna River emerges from the mountains — to stay near his fields from April through September.” Though at the last minute, Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister ordered the Forest Department to let the Gujjars into the Park; it was too late, the Dhumman family had to stay in Kalsi, despite the ‘unbearable heat’ for the humans and the buffaloes.

Eventually they returned to their traditional meadows in 2011 though they were told by the ‘authorities’ that the permission was not official, but on humanitarian ground only. The following years, the forest officials agreed to close their eyes, but the Gujjars are aware that their years of transhumance are counted. They certainly could be offered a hefty compensation, with a concrete house, to live in a village; the Forest Rights Act provides for such a scheme for forest-dwellers, but they are not interested. As the book was going to the press, the nomads were informed that “no decision had been made to block the nomads in 2015, neither would the forest department officially issue their seasonal grazing permits.” The status quo continues.

According to the author, the officials’ attitude toward the Van Gujjars “goes against current conservation trends. Over the past several years, the global conservation community has begun to embrace the possibility that nomadic herders can be important partners in environmental protection projects.” He cites UN reports, which “now support a diverse array of collaborations between tribes and environmentalists.” Benanav’s account raises larger issues than the ones faced by ‘his’ family. Tibetan nomads too have been facing tough Government policies; Beijing has decided that the nomads were over-grazing eco-sensitive areas on the plateau and should therefore be forcefully ‘settled’ in newly-built villages. As Human Right Watch explained: “Since 2006, the Chinese Government has implemented large-scale programs to ‘rehouse’ …under a policy called Comfortable Housing.” As a result, Beijing “has accelerated the relocation and sedentarisation of nomadic herders in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau, …and laid the round for similar policies [elsewhere].” In Tibet, the nomadic populations do not have the choice to refuse the ‘welfare’ measures from the Chinese Government.

When Benanav spoke about ‘resettlement’ with his friends, they wholeheartedly rejected the idea of leaving the forest: “They would lose virtually everything in their lives, including their buffalo herds, their intimate connection to the natural world, their sense of freedom, even their sense of themselves,  …the forest is the only thing [they] know.” Dhumman told his American guest: ‘We are part of it and it is part of us. It’s where we belong. … whenever I had to spend more than a few hours in a town, I would inevitably begin to feel sick.” I still remember my first visit in these remote areas more than 40 years ago. Travelling by bus on the Himalayan roads, one would often be stopped on our journey by Gujjars and their large herds (often sheep), I always wondered, from where are coming, where are they going? It is rare today to be blocked on these mountain roads: It simply means that such nomadic life is steadily disappearing. I feel that it is a great loss for humankind. But there is another aspect to the migration, which has serious strategic implications for India.

The entire Himalayan belt is getting depopulated; the villages in the high valleys are fast getting empty of their inhabitants. It is true for the border villages in Ladakh, but also in Uttarakhand or in Arunachal Pradesh; one of the ‘strategic’ consequences is that it has opened the door to Chinese incursions. A leading daily recently reported the case of Niti, the last Indian village, near Joshimath, a few km away from the Tibet border: “Years ago, it was a thriving village of about 250 families. Now, only 35 remain,” wrote the newspaper, adding: “As villages along the international border in Uttarakhand face out-migration on an unprecedented scale, uninhabited areas lie open to territorial claims by the Chinese... At Niti, villagers said life was hard, and many more could migrate. The State Government seldom heard pleas for better facilities.”There are many such examples. If Benanav’s book can bring some awareness about the Himalayan ‘migrations’, he would have rendered a great service to both our border people and the nomadic tribes.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Big Changes in the People’s Liberation Army?

General Zhao Keshi: he did not go to the border
A few weeks ago, The South China Morning Post had reported the possibility of sweeping reforms in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
One of these changes could be the phasing out of Soviet-style command structures which would be replaced by a US-style model.  the Hong Kong daily had further mentioned that the PLA’s seven Military Areas Command (MAC) could be merged into four only.
Till now, this was speculations only.
But this week, a Chinese military newspaper has openly called for the PLA to learn from the joint command system used by the US.
Writing in the Zhongguo Guofangbao (‘China National Defence News’), a publication of the PLA Daily group, a PLA officer, Li Wenqing said:
the PLA's outdated structure was the biggest obstacle to developing President Xi Jinping's vision of a modern army capable of defending the country and leading it to victory.
The South China Morning Post quoted a Beijing-based retired major general Xu Guangyu: "The article is so far the most explicit statement by a military news outlet to highlight the need to learn from the Western model."
Another analyst, a PLA senior-colonel noted:
It is almost certain the seven military commands will be remodelled [into] four, the air force and navy will be expanded, and some military departments and institutions will be integrated or even scrapped. …But it's foreseeable that such a big step would face strong resistance inside the army as many senior officials would be required to hand over powers.
Zhongguo Guofangbao attributed the US victory in the first Gulf war to its 'C4ISR' systems (computerised command, control and communications; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), saying that this was the model the PLA should follow, though it warned, “the overhaul would not only aggravate some existing disputes [within the PLA] but could also raise new problems. …[But] we should not stick to yesterday's paradigm when considering tomorrow's warfare."
Is it possible to make an omelet without breaking eggs, asks the French proverb.

Other reforms are in the pipeline.
As I already mentioned on this blog, during the September Grand Parade on the Tiananmen Square, Xi Jinping announced a 300,000 troops cut in the PLA (70 per cent of those cut would be officers in the land force).
Other 'reforms' are in preparation.
Earlier this week, The PLA Daily said  that the State Council and Central Military Commission (CMC) have approved a pension and insurance scheme under which all veterans decommissioned since last October would receive a one-off subsidy based on length of service. Local authorities would help them find new jobs and provide financial support.
Another big change is the large scale entry of the private sector in the development and production of military equipment and weapons. For the purpose, the license requirements for private companies to enter the defense sector, will be greatly eased.
The Beijing-based Economic Daily said that the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense of China recently released an updated catalog of military equipment and weapons that require a license for production or development.
WantChinaTimes, a Taiwanese website wrote: “The number of categories that require a license has been streamlined and reduced from 1,988 in the previous edition of the catalog, published in 2005, to 755.”
Xinhua also announced that China will recruit more civilian personnel who could play a role within the PLA and the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF): “The spouses and offspring of military personnel who have fallen in the line of duty, and the spouses of those still in service will be eligible to apply for certain posts.”
The news agency added: “More positions will be made available for candidates with relevant work experience. It is hoped that the drive will improve recruitment in remote areas and unpopular positions.”
Many more changes are in the offing.

The entire Tibet in Chengdu MAC
Let us come back to the reform on the MACs.
When General Zhang Yang, a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) visited Ngari (Western Tibet) after ‘celebrating’ the 50th anniversary of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region, he was accompanied by Lt. Gen. Xu Yong, commander of the Tibet Military District.
This surprised me as Ngari falls under the jurisdiction of the Lanzhou MAC, while General Xu is posted in the Chengdu MAC.
Before departing for Ngari (the Ladakh and Himachal border), Lt Gen. Xu Yong said in Lhasa that after 50 years of vicissitudes, thanks to the region's rapid economic development and social progress, the living standards of the masses have markedly improved and social stability has overall been sustained: “During these 50 years in the same boat, the troops stationed in Tibet and police staff always depended on the Party's to write the bloody battles to defend Tibet, carve a new chapter the history of Tibet.”
Which 'bloody battles to defend Tibet' is General Xu referring to, is not clear.
However, Xu Yong lavishly praised his boss, CMC's Chairman Xi: “All the troops stationed in Tibet and police officers must resolutely obey the Central Military Commission and Chairman Xi command.”
More importantly, why was Xu in Ngari?
It can only be seen in the context of the reorganization of the MACs.
Could Tibet, i.e. the border with India, be regrouped under one MAC only (Chengdu?) instead of two presently.
It is what the presence of Lt Gen Xu Yong seems to indicate.
And militarily, it would make sense for China.
General Zhao Keshi in Xinjiang

Another sign of the forthcoming changes?
A couple of weeks after General Zhang Yang’s visit to the Indian border in Ladakh, one of his colleagues of the all-powerful CMC, General Zhao Keshi, head of PLA's General Logistics Department attended the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
He accompanied Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee (No 4 in the Party).
Though General Zhao met senior military officers from the Xinjiang MAC, the Xinjiang Division of the PAPF and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC - an economic and semi-military organization), he did not go to the border.
During the same meeting with the troops and officers, Yu spoke of a 'protracted war' against terrorism, but nothing about the border with India (it was soon after the Burtse incident).
Instead of visiting the Ladakh/Aksai Chin area, falling under the Xinjiang Military District of Lanzhou MAC, General Zhao Keshi went to Turpan, in Xinjiang’s northwest to meet the ‘local residents’.
Reuters, quoting The PLA Daily, says that the PLA in Xinjiang are at the ‘centre of the storm’ when it comes to fighting militants and separatists: “Their job is more than just fighting,” said the article, “pointing to the thousands of activities they have arranged in the last five years going into villages to ‘explain the party’s ethnic and religious policies ... and refute rumours.”
It is certainly not an easy task to force Communism down the Uyghurs’ throats.
This could be one more reasons why Beijing is thinking of bringing the entire Tibet under the same MAC? We may not have to wait too long to know if it is Xi's intention.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The First Days of the Dalai Lama in India

Har Mander Singh, the Dalai Lama, Mrs Singh
I am posting here a fascinating report sent Har Mander Singh, the Political Officer (PO) of the Kameng Frontier Division (FD) to K.L. Mehta, the Adviser to the Governor of Assam on April 16, 1959.
Mehta, Har Mander's boss posted in Shillong, was looking over the entire NEFA.
As the PO of Kameng FD, Har Mander Singh was responsible to receive the Dalai Lama in March/Avril 1959, when the Tibetan leader and his party sought refuge in India.
The Tibetan leader crossed the Indian border on March 31, 1959 at Khenzimane/Chuthangmu where he was received by T.S. Murthy, the Assistant PO in Tawang.
Har Mander Singh came later and met the Dalai Lama at Lumla, a few days march from Tawang.
This is the final report sent by the Political Officer before the Dalai Lama proceed to the plains of Assam and Mussorie, his first residence in India.
Nehru's special envoy, P.N. Menon (father of former Foreign Secretary and NSA, Shivshankar Menon) came to meet the Dalai Lama is Bomdi La with a message from the Indian Prime Minister.
P.N. Menon had earlier been posted as Consul General of India in Lhasa (1954-1956).


Here is the Report:

NORTH EAST FRONTIER AGENCY

Bomdi La, April 16, 1959
D.O. No. CON.56

My dear Shri Mehta,
This is possibly my final despatch on the entry of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in this [Kameng] Division.
His Holiness left Tawang on the 8th April, 1959, halted at Jang on the 8th April, Sengedzong [Senge Dzong] on the 9th April, Dirang Dzong on the 10th April, Rahung on the 11th April and reached Bomdi La on the 12th as already reported. People in very large numbers gathered along the route to see him throughout the journey. He held blessing ceremonies in almost every village where he stopped during his trek.
On the 10th April, while travelling between Sengedzong and Dirang Dzong His Holiness mentioned that as a rule he did not listen in to the Lhasa Radio but had done so the previous evening and had learnt that the Chinese had set up a new enlarged Preparatory Committee under the Chairmanship of the Panchen Lama with four Vice-Presidents. They were Gen Chang Kuo Hwa [Zhang Guohua], one of the two Shapes [Ministers] (in-charge of Armed Forces) left behind in Lhasa and two incarnate Lamas. The second Shape [Ngapo Ngawang Jigme] had been included in the Preparatory Committee. The Panchen Lama had issued a statement condemning the rebel Forces and stating that those who indulged in rebel activities should be severely dealt with.
I noticed that from the time he listened in to this broadcast, the attitude of the Dalai Lama towards the question of giving asylum to the Tibetans seeking entry in India underwent a change. Heretofore, he seemed to be of the view that the Government of India should be liberal in giving asylum to the Tibetan officials and members of the rebel Forces fleeing the Chinese. After listening in to this particular broadcast the Dalai Lama seemed to have formed the view that the Government of and the rebel Forces should stay on in Tibet to fight the Chinese and agitate against the Preparatory Committee set up under the Panchen Lama and that they should seek asylum in India in those rare and extreme cases where they felt convinced of being persecuted.
The same day His Holiness happened to ask me about policies of the various political parties of India to which I gave non-committal replies.

Guard of Honour with Commandant, Assam Rifles, behind Har Mander Singh and PN Menon
On the 10th April, 1959, the Dalai Lama expressed appreciation for the services rendered to him by the Assam Rifles an escorting him from Chuthangmu [first Assam Rifles post in India] and wanted to give some cash to the riflemen. I submitted to him that although we felt deeply touched by his gesture of kindness it was not the normal practice to give gash to the Government servants for the services rendered by them and that a word of appreciation would be as valuable for us as any gift.
The Dalai Lama was presented a Guard of Honour and was given a rousing reception on arrival in Bomdi La. He very kindly consented to have all his meals with us and was accommodated in our house. He had two brief meetings on the 12th with [P.N.] Menon where Dave and I were also present in which he repeated the background already reported in the earlier despatches leading to his escape. The Kashag [Cabinet of Ministers] also met Menon briefly the same day while having tea with us but did not make any special point.
The Dalai Lama and his officers had a six-hour meeting with Menon on the 13th afternoon where Dave [Intelligence Officer] and I were also present. In this they reiterated the stories of atrocities and lack of religious freedom and internal autonomy. The Dalai Lama confirmed that he had written three letters to the Chinese authorities between the 11th and the 17th March with the aim of re-establishing relations with them. They said that the new Government at Yul Gyal Lhuntse [Lhuntse Dzong, where the Dalai Lama had denounced the 17-Point Agreement] had full spiritual and temporal powers under the Dalai Lama, that the new flag of the State had not been devised and that the system of the new Government was 'democratic according to the genius of the people'. The object of the Government was to have a common mother land 'for the people who eat Tsampa and chant mantra of Chenrezi'. They re-iterated forcefully that internal autonomy was not acceptable to them and they wanted full freedom including control over External Affairs and Defence and would fight to the last to attain their objective. They said that their immediate requests were as follows:-
  1. The veracity of the stories about atrocities in Tibet may be got verified by India by sending a Fact Finding Commission.
  2. India should mediate and ask China to stop bloodshed and release persons arrested in connection with political activities.
  3. India should espouse the cause of Tibetan Independence, as she had been doing in the case of other dependent countries of the world.
In the meeting, Menon emphasised the need to exercise discretion in giving statements to the Press till the meeting of His Holiness with our Prime Minister. He has telegraphed a report on these discussions to the Ministry and intends to follow it up with a detailed despatch.
Later His Holiness attended a reception in his honour in the Bomdi La Club. I delivered a brief speech welcoming him to the Division to which he replied and gave a brief religious sermon.

On the 14th April, His Holiness gave blessings individually to about 4000 people, sitting on the throne which we had got made for him, in our drawing room. He also paid visits to the School, the Hospital, the Cottage Industries Training-cum-Production Centre, the Women's Welfare Centre and the Co-operative Stores appreciated development work being done by us.
In the evening he attended a Cinema Show which was followed by a Dinner Party given by me in honour of His Holiness and the senior members of his entourage.
Following films were shown:
  1. A Documentary on Bapu.
  2. A Documentary on our Prime Minister.
  3. A Newsreel feature on the Republic Day 1958 celebration in New Delhi.
  4. A Documentary on the Himalayas.
  5. A NEFA Documentary on the Kameng Frontier Division.
Har Mander Singh introduces local officials to the Dalai Lama
In the documentary on Gandhiji there was a scene in which the Union Jack was shown being hauled down and the Indian National Flag being raised on the mast, on the 15th August, 1947. His Holiness and the members of his entourage cheered when this scene was exhibited on the screen and His Holiness said with deep emotion in his voice that there were similarities in the struggle for Independence of his own country and that which India had undertaken against the British Raj and that he hoped that one day they too would be able to fly their own flag in their country
His Holiness will be leaving Bomdi La for Khelong on the 17th April. The first party consisting of the members of his family and his tutors left on the 15th April and the second party left today. The entire party will concentrate in Khelong by the 17th evening, spend the night there, breakfast at Foothills on the 18th morning and leave for Tezpur to entrain at 1330 hours the same day from there.
The members of the entourage have endeavoured to sell off their ponies and other articles such as spare blankets, during their stay in the Kameng Division. The Dalai Lama's mother is reported to have done good business in Tawang.

In conclusion I would like to record some further observations connected with the visit of His Holiness.
  1. The people of the Division showed deep devotion towards His Holiness and came from distant places in large numbers to see him. The visit has helped the people to realize that as Indians living in the Frontier lands, they have liberty to acknowledge the Dalai Lama as their spiritual head without prejudice to their nationalism. The gesture of the Government in giving asylum to His Holiness has made a deeply favourable impression on the minds of our people.
  2. His Holiness was impressed by the religious devotion and simplicity of the people but said that our monks were not well versed in religious affairs. He mentioned once that during his previous visit to India he had made a suggestion to the Prime Minister that besides Ladakhi monks who already go to Lhasa, Indian monks from other areas also should be sent to the three principal monasteries in Tibet for religious training but that nothing had come of it so far.
  3. Our people brought gifts of foodgrains, fodder and cash for the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama invariably refused cash gifts but accepted foodgrains and fodder to the extent required. His party offered to pay for the porterage but I explained to them that Government of India had already accepted responsibility for expenses on their travel. In most cases however, the people insisted in carrying his personal loads free of charge and refused payment inspite of considerable persuasion by me and other officials. I have been issuing rations from the … for the Dalai Lama and his entourage to the extra required and be submitting accounts separately to the administration for sanction.
  4. Two or three junior officers of the entourage struck us as being uninterested in the Tibetan movement and seemed keen to settle down in India.
  5. It seems that the Tibetan officials would like to make more frequent use of the Tawang route for movement from and to Tibet and to maintain contact with Yul Gyal Lhuntse and the Rebel Forces. They might seek facilities from the Government of India in this regard.
  6. The point on which I need further guidance is as to what should be done with the stragglers from the party who are unable to join the entourage before the party leaves the Division. There are two or three attendants who are being left behind in Bomdi La due to their illness and there are some others who have not been able to move fast enough and have still not reached Bomdi La. We would also like to know as to whether any change of policy is envisaged in regard to giving asylum to the refugees from Tibet whose number is likely to increase considerably once the Bumla route opens.
It has been a great experience and privilege for us all here to receive and look after the Dalai Lama during his journey through this Division and our task was made easier by his grace, charm and informality.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
Sd. Har Mander Singh

To Shri K L Mehta, ICS
Adviser to the Governor of Assam,
Shillong.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nepali-Chini Bhai Bhai

Chinese soldiers in Nepal after the eathquake
Nepalese Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay asked India not to ‘push it to the wall’ by blocking petroleum and other essential supplies, otherwise the landlocked country would have to find alternatives: i.e. China …‘despite logistical difficulties’.
According to The Economic Times, Upadhyay asserted that, though India had assured Nepal that the present difficult situation will be resolved ‘at the earliest’: "They (India) should give a time frame. Does it mean hours, weeks or months?"
While one can only hope that the constitutional issues will soon be resolved to the satisfaction of all (and not only a section of the Nepalese population), China enjoys the situation.
According to Xinhua, on September 21, Beijing congratulated Kathmandu on the promulgation of its new constitution made public on the previous day.
During his daily press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei stated: “We expect Nepal to use this as an opportunity, [for] achieving the nation's unity, stability and development.”
Hong added: “China attaches great importance to the China-Nepal ties, and is willing to continue the friendly cooperation between the two nations.”
Further, China is ready to provide “as much help as it can for the economic and social development of Nepal.”
In this atmosphere of Nepali-Chini bhai bhai, the relations between Nepal and Tibet are upbeat too.
On the day the new Constitution was promulgated in Nepal, Dadhiram Bhandari, Section Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in Lhasa.
He remembered that when first arrived in Lhasa in 2011, he thought that “Tibet was a marginalized and a primitive place, that was both barren and underdeveloped.”
Four years ago, his image of Tibet changed ‘within the blink of an eye’.
Bhandari was posted for four years in the Nepali Consulate in the Tibetan capital “every four months, I noticed significant changes,” he told Xinhua.
He recalled: “Development of Tibet is incredible. Despite the topographical harshness and climatic conditions, the Chinese government has made development a reality. We have so many things to learn from them."
Like most of the Nepali officials, Bhandari lavishly praises China for its role in Tibet: “Despite having a similar topography, Tibet has taken a heightened step in development whereas Nepal is still crawling, with political instability and minor issues.”
The Nepali official conveniently forgets that ‘stability’ was the main theme of the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Yu Zhengsheng and others senior Chinese leaders stressed again and again on ‘stability’.
Why?
Simply because Tibet is not stable!
The Nepalis are blind to this.
Bhandari told Xinhua that Nepal should learn the dedication of the Chinese government and its commitment towards the development of Tibet.
This is of course propaganda, but the fact remains that Nepal and Tibet (and China) are getting closer by the day, at a time when the relations between Kathmandu and Delhi are rather frosty (understatement!).
Naindra Prasad Upadhyay, Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies of Nepal, earlier posted as Consul General in Tibet, sings the same song than Bandari, "Tibet has done an impressive job with education and health development. Even in rural areas, we can find every facility. The living standard of people is high."
Upadhyay served in Tibet from 2007 to 2011; it was “a wonderful experience full of hospitality and cooperation,” he recalls.
Nepal is clearly enamoured of China: “Socio-economic development is taking place very rapidly in Tibet. The infrastructure development has provided a good opportunity for the people," believes the former Consul.
Nepal is eying at the tourists’ waves invading Tibet (17 million are expected in 2015).
Kathmandu calculates that it could greatly benefit if only 10 percent of Tibet's tourists could be diverted to Nepal.
Rajesh Kaji Shrestha, President of Nepal's Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in an interview with Xinhua affirms: "We need to develop a strong cooperation with Tibet, especially with the nearest city [like] Lhasa for trade and tourism."
He adds "Tibetans are curious to do trade with Nepal. We can import anything from there but we need to make an environment for export focusing on specific goods."
Today Nepal get some 8 lakhs of tourists every year, nearly half of them Chinese, but the proportion of the latter is increasing fast.
Xinhua regrets: “the April 25 earthquake has diminished [the inflow of Chinese tourist in] Nepal, [which is] eager to draw more tourists and boost the country's economy.
Kathmandu would like to learn more from Tibet in order to achieve a more significant growth in tourists’ inflow.
What does it mean for India?
Last year on this blog, I reported the opening of the Kyirong (Chinese: Gyirong) landport.
I then quoted from a report of the official China Tibet Online:
The Gyirong Port in southwest China’s Tibet bordered with Nepal will be formally opened in October this year. The opening of the Gyirong Port has been listed in the key work plan of national ports in 2014."
The creation of a cross-border China-Nepal Gyirong Port Economic Cooperation Zone was then announced. The website continued:
The Gyirong Port enjoys a long history of being the largest land trading port between Tibet and Nepal. Many shop owners have expressed their hope that the opening of the port can help them get more involved in the border trade. From May 2007, the Shigatse Customs House will dispatch four officials to station at the Gyirong Port. A regular coordination system had been set up in order to seek support from the Gyirong county government, the Gyirong Customs and the Risur Customs of Nepal. Besides, the officials have been trying to promote preferential trade policies to encourage the local people to participate in the border trade. And some training has been provided to the port officials in Zham Customs House, another Class A port next to Gyirong in south Tibet’s Shigatse Prefecture.
What will be the outcome of the opening of a new port between Tibet and Nepal?
What will be the consequences of the arrival of the train in Kyirong in 3 or 4 years?
It first means new infrastructure on both side of the border, not only for tourists but also commodities, including oil, food products, etc.
In the long-term, it signifies that Tibet (read China) can replace India as the main supplier of commodities.
This will have serious strategic implications for India.
And the Tibetan refugees will further suffer in Nepal.
On 29th September, on the occasion of the second China Tibet International Tourism and Culture Expo, Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, Nepal’s Secretary of Culture, Tourism and Aviation asserted:
Since our two countries [Nepal and China] established formal diplomatic relations in 1955, both sides have entered a new era of cooperation and development; high-level visits from both sides have increased as has mutual understanding; bilateral relations have forged ahead, deepening the multifaceted cooperation between the two countries. Both countries have cooperated in many areas internationally; further promoting peace, development and prosperity. The Nepal government’s stance towards the ‘One China’ policy is firm and unwavering; we will not allow, under any circumstances, any force to use our territory to encroach on the interests of our northern neighbor.
In another words, Nepal will stand with China in a ‘firm and unwavering’ manner.
Thapaliya said the Expo provided “an important opportunity for the promotion of tourism and culture in Nepal and Tibet, which will help further cooperation in this area.”
He ‘fondly’ recalled that Nepal and the People’s Republic of China have a long history of friendly relations: “Tibet has always been the gateway connecting Nepal to Mainland China; therefore Nepal and Tibet have a special relationship. Both sides have the same values based on the Buddha’s teachings and the towering Himalayas provide an important link between the two civilizations.”
It is good to know that China's Tibet is a Buddhist nation.
Thapaliya added: “China and Nepal share similar ideas and values and are geographically close.”
‘Similar values and ideals’?
What about democracy, now that Nepal has a Constitution?
The Nepali minister called for an improvement or the interconnection via land and air between China and Nepal, in particular Tibet and Nepal, adding that it will help promoting “mutual benefit, especially with respect to cultural tourism.”
India is nowhere is this new scheme.
Thapaliya even recalled: “In April this year Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake, but thanks to the strength of the Nepalese people and the powerful support of a friendly nation, normal life has been restored in Nepal.”
Nepal is presently so obsessed with China, that Kathmandu even forgets India’s help during the tragic post-earthquake days.
How to revert the trend is not an easy task.