Wednesday, November 22, 2017

EU's defence partnership has lessons for India

My article EU's defence partnership has lessons for India appeared in Mail Today/DailyO.
Here is the link...

New Delhi must find strategic partners to prepare for tomorrow.

One man, Jean Monnet, has been central to the creation of the European Union. He had the vision to propose certain basic principles which became the bedrock of the multi-national institution. At the end of World War II, as Europe was going through one of the most traumatic periods, he created the "circumstances" under which a successful partnership could take shape.
The first principle on which Monnet worked was: Any association, partnership or union should be built among equals. Though at the end of World War II, Germany was the loser, from the first days of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), France and its neighbour acted as equals. This principle remained to date.

Principle
Another principle set by Monnet and his colleagues is that the association should be voluntary. In the summer of 1950, Monnet thought of an organised European defence on a supranational basis; he presented his proposal to René Pleven, the French Prime Minister. Pleven proposed to his European partners the plan to constitute a European army of 100,000 men (including German soldiers) which would operate under a European minister for defence, endowed with a common budget and placed under the supreme command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
In 1954, the European partners failed to agree to the European Defence Community (EDC); the loss of the national "independence" was probably a step too far, too early.
It would have been a first if independent states had agreed to create a supranational authority to which part of their national sovereignty was delegated. It had worked for the ECSC in 1951; and with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, it had gone a step further with the creation of supranational European institutions like the European Economic Community and the European Community for Atomic Energy; however, Europeans nations were not yet ready to trust their partners for their own defence.
Sixty-three years later, most of the EU states have agreed to create "the nucleus of a joint army". On November 13, 23 out of 28 EU member states signed a declaration in Brussels, which will become legally binding at an EU summit next month. Britain (which has historically opposed the EDC), Denmark, Ireland, Malta, and Portugal did not sign.
The EU’s foreign relations commissioner, Federica Mogherini, spoke of an "emotional moment"; she said that the move will help "dismantle the ghosts of the past" and demonstrate that "the taboo concerning EU defence could be broken". She added: “This could be an inspiration for other areas of EU integration.”
For those who have followed the European integration with its ups and downs, it is an elating moment, though it did not make the first pages of the world media. It is indeed revolutionary. According to the new agreement, the European nations will jointly manage a rapid reaction force and jointly develop new equipment. A single European logistics and medical support hub will be created. The participants will be bound to increase defence funds for R&D. A single hub for overseas military training missions will also be set up.
Some see this development as a reaction to an inward turn of the United States under President Donald Trump, but also the instability at Europe’s gates as well as the increasing number of Islamist terrorist attacks.

Project
The final project is less ambitious than some EU states, such as France and Italy, had wanted; but it is a promising beginning. Mogherini explained the rationale behind the move in simple words: “The world is changing.” Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO boss, meanwhile, considered the project "good for Europe and good for NATO".
French President Emmanuel Macron, whose visit to India has been postponed for a couple of months, in September, called for a "profound transformation" of the EU, requiring “deeper political integration to win back the support of disgruntled citizens.” He even suggested blocs moving forward at differing speeds which may help the UK to “one day find its place again”. Macron pleaded for the EU to return to its founders’ "visionary" ideas, “born out of the disaster of two World Wars”.

Collaboration
This comes at a time when Airbus Defence and Space (DS), itself the outcome of a close European collaboration, announced the concept of a new fifth-generation fighter plane which could replace the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault’s Rafale in the 2040s. Antoine Noguier, DS’s strategy head, affirmed: “Germany and France have taken the decision to develop a new combat aircraft to maintain sovereign and European capabilities.”
Florence Parly, the French minister of armed forces, who was recently in Delhi, commented on the European structure: “What France wished, it is the possibility to develop a strategic structure, common to all the States, which would have the capacity to intervene in extremely rapid conditions.”
In other words, joint operations.
A less ambitious German project ultimately prevailed. “Structured and permanent cooperation, as inclusive as possible”, it will have more chance to succeed.
The creation of the new European defence structure is a ground-breaking move, not only in terms of European defence, but also in the field of research and development. We could tomorrow see a new European aircraft carrier, new European drones or a breakthrough in quantum communication.
The French say, "l’Union fait la force" (union makes you strong). India should watch the happenings in Europe and definitively learn from it in terms of collaboration. The time has come for Delhi to find reliable strategic partners to prepare for tomorrow.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Look West again, towards Paris

My article Look West again, towards Paris appeared last week in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

A PMO release said Prime Minister Modi appreciated “the invaluable contribution” of business leaders from both countries.

The Narendra Modi government is well aware that it needs to diversify its diplomatic relations if it wants to play a major role in the world. While the Indian media regularly covers the “Look East” or “Act East” vision, which translates into closer contacts with nations like Japan, Vietnam and Australia, “Look and Act West” is often overlooked. Perhaps it’s happening in a more discreet manner, such as in the case of relations with France.
Besides the recent visit of French defence minister Florence Parly and the forthcoming visit of foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (seen as a precursor to the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to India in the second week of December), the last few weeks have seen important visitors, putting Indo-French ties on a new launchpad towards deeper collaboration in several fields.
In September, the president of the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF), Pierre Gattaz, visited India. MEDEF is the largest French employers’ federation, representing over 800,000 member-companies. Known as “boss of the bosses” (patron des patrons), Mr Gattaz was accompanied by a 60-member delegation to “help India innovate and create jobs with expertise in infrastructure, renewable energy, waste and water treatment and smart cities”.
The delegation toured New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, where it met government officials and business groups like Ficci and CII. In Bengaluru, Mr Gattaz asserted: “We want to be in India for the next 30 years and become one of the best partners in India’s development path. India needs the skills and expertise that French businesses can provide. Our objective is to create one million jobs a month in India.”
A PMO release said Prime Minister Modi appreciated “the invaluable contribution” of business leaders from both countries.
A few days later, the diplomatic adviser to the French President and the NSA’s counterpart, Philippe Etienne, visited New Delhi. On October 4, at his meeting with the PM, Mr Etienne briefed Mr Modi “on the strengthening ties between India and France in all sectors, including in the areas of defence and security”. At this meeting, Mr Modi fondly recalled his successful visit to France in June 2017. He told his interlocutor that defence and security were the two important pillars of the India-France partnership.
Mr Modi had paid a short visit to Paris on June 3 to acquaint himself with Mr Macron. The talks between the two leaders mainly centered around the Paris Conference on the environment as US President Donald Trump had just announced American withdrawal from the Paris Accord.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Modi declared that the Paris climate deal reflects “our duty towards protecting the mother earth and our natural resources. For us, protection of the environment is an article of faith”. Perhaps more important, a “current of understanding” had passed between the two leaders.
The recent visit of Ms Parly must be seen in this perspective: a special relationship, which already works, needs to bloom further. Of course, it includes the field of defence, particularly selling more Rafale combat planes, which is on the table, at least, for the French and the Indian Air Force.
Before the visit, a national newspaper noted: “After selling 36 Rafale fighter jets to India for $8.7 billion (`58,000 crores) last year, the French government is now pushing for a project to manufacture warplanes in India to give a boost to Prime Minister Modi’s push to encourage local manufacturing under ‘Make in India’.”
A defence ministry official said though Ms Parly’s visit “is aimed towards strengthening defence cooperation, offering a production line in India for Rafale jets will surely be on the cards”. It is not known if this was discussed between Ms Parly and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, but it is significant that the French minister travelled to Nagpur to launch a joint production facility between Dassault Aviation and Reliance to fulfil the Rafale deal’s offset obligation. Around Rs 20,000 crores need to be invested by the French. Ms Parly, along with Dassault Aviation chairman Eric Trappier and Reliance ADAG chairman Anil Ambani, laid the foundation stone of an aerospace park for manufacture of aircraft components.
The Dhirubhai Ambani Aerospace Park (DAAP), being set up in Nagpur’s Mihaan Special Economic Zone, will spread over 289 acres. It is due to be the largest greenfield aerospace project in India. The Dassault–Reliance Joint Venture (JV) has already shortlisted a large number of vendors, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, to be part of an indigenous supply chain for the Rafales. Its objective is to build a strong base for the success of the Rafale programme under the “Make In India” scheme. According to an official: “The production at the facility is expected to start in the first quarter of 2018 and phase one will be fully operational by the third quarter of 2018.”
The strengthening of Indo-French relations will greatly depend on the success of this JV. Another “test”, a difficult one at that, has been the collaboration for the construction of six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Dock in Mumbai. When asked by a reporter about France joining the Indian Navy’s project (Project-75-India) for the six new-generation submarines, Ms Parly said that the French naval group (DCNS) had proposed “a new submarine design and the associated weapons systems which are perfectly adapted to the high ambitions of the Indian Navy and incorporate cutting-edge technologies”.
Talking about the Scorpene experience, she remarked: “We already have in-depth experience of cooperation with Indian industry to build modern and effective submarines in India.” About the massive leak of confidential data in the Scorpene submarine project in Australia, she quoted Mr Macron and Mr Modi, who had said: “This matter is now behind us.”
Let us hope so.
Beyond these experiences in concretely working together, one can hope that Mr Macron’s encounter with Mr Modi in December will give a new impetus to a grand “Act West” policy.
It would also make economic and strategic sense for India to partner with France in more futuristic research projects like a fifth-generation plane or an armed drone.
Mr Modi spoke to Ms Parly about “greater cooperation in the ‘Make in India’ framework in defence manufacturing and joint research and development”. It would be beneficial not just for India, but for France as well as it would get the crucial financial support and market. Such a faraway possibility is worth thinking about.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why Vallabhbhai Patel strongly opposed Nehru's 'suicidal policy' of appeasement over China and Tibet

My article Why Vallabhbhai Patel strongly opposed Nehru's 'suicidal policy' of appeasement over China and Tibet appeared in Mail Today/Daily Mail (UK)

Here is the link...

For several reasons, scarce scholarly research has been done on the internal history of the Congress; the main cause is probably that a section of the party would prefer to keep the history under wrap.
Take the acute difference of opinion between Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister and ‘Panditji’, how Nehru was then called by Congressmen.
In the last weeks of Patel’s life (he passed away on December 15, 1950) there was a deep split between the two leaders, leading to unilateral decisions, for which India had to pay the heaviest price.
The most serious apple of discord was Tibet’s invasion by the Chinese ‘Liberation Army’ in October of 1950. In the course of recent researches in the Indian archives, I discovered several new facts. Not only several senior Congress leaders, led by Patel, violently opposed Nehru suicidal policy, but many senior bureaucrats too, did not agree with the Prime Minister’s decisions and objected to his policy of appeasement, which lead India to lose a peaceful border.
It is usually assumed that on November 7, Sardar Patel wrote a ‘prophetic’ letter to Nehru, detailing the implications for India of Tibet’s invasion. In fact, Patel used a draft given by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth.
A month after the entry of the People’s Liberation Army in Tibet, Patel sent Bajpai’s note under his own signature, to Nehru, who decided to ignore thes Deputy Prime Minister’s letter. Bajpai, the most seasoned Indian diplomat, even lost his cool, witnessing the nefarious influence of KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador to China, who ceaselessly defended the Chinese interests.
On October 31, in an internal note, Bajpai detailed the sequence of events which followed Tibet’s invasion and the role of Panikkar, whose attitude was compared to the one of Sir Neville Hendersons toward Hitler.
Bajpai’s anger demonstrates the frustration of many senior officers; the account starts on July 15, when the Governor of Assam informed Delhi that, according to the information received by the local Intelligence Bureau, Chinese troops, “in unknown strength, had been moving towards Tibet from three directions, namely the north, north-east and south-east.” Mao was preparing to invade Tibet. The IB had reported that “one column was moving from Jyekundo in Qinghai Province, the second one from Derge in the Sikang [Eastern Tibet] Province. …The third column, which came from the Yunnan Province, had reached the Shukla Pass.”
Not only Panikkar was unable to get any confirmation, but he virtually justified Beijing’s military action by writing: “in view of frustration in regard to Formosa, Tibetan move was not unlikely.”
During the next three months, the Indian Ambassador would systematically take the Chinese side.
Sir Girja, Panikkar’s direct boss, became more and more frustrated with the Ambassador who reported to ‘Panditji’ only; after the Tibetans lost Chamdo, the capital of Kham province, Panikkar argued: “I should like to emphasise that the Chinese firmly hold that Tibet is purely an internal problem and that while they are prepared in deference to our wishes to settle question peacefully they are NOT prepared to postpone matters indefinitely.” Beijing was hinting that the Tibetans were been ready to seat at the negotiating table. It was a pure lie.
After receiving Bajpai’s note, Patel wrote back: “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. …I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.”
Bajpai then prepared a draft for Patel to write to Nehru.
Some more details of the seriousness of the situation filter through Inside Story of Sardar Patel: The Diary of Maniben Patel, the daughter of the Sardar.
An entry on October 30 shows Patel deeply disturbed by Nehru constantly interfering in his ministry: “Jawaharlalji now trying to interfere in States' Ministry! If he has no confidence, why doesn't he tell Bapu [Patel] directly to quit,” writes Maniben.
The same day, Patel tells VP Menon, the Secretary of his Ministry, "You tell Rajaji that I don't want to keep the States Ministry".
On November 2, 1950, Maniben reports: “Rajaji and Jawaharlal had heated altercation about Tibet policy. Rajaji does not at all appreciate this policy. Rajaji very unhappy — Bapu did not speak at all.”
Later in the afternoon, “Munshi complained about Tibet policy. The question concerns the whole nation — said he had written a personal letter to Panditji on Tibet.”
Later Patel tells Munshi: “Rajaji, you [Munshi], I, Baldev Singh, [CD] Deshmukh, Jagjivan Ram and even Sri Prakash are on one side, while Gopalaswamy, Rafi, Maulana [Azad] on his side.”
There was a vertical split in the Cabinet; and it was not only about Tibet. The situation would deteriorate further during the following weeks.
On December 12, Patel was divested on his portfolios. Nehru wrote: “In view of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s ill-health it is absolutely necessary that he should have complete rest and freedom from worry, so as to be able to recuperate as rapidly as possible. …no work should be sent to him and no references made to him in regard to the work of these Ministries.”
Gopalaswami Ayyangar was allotted the Ministry of State and Nehru kept the Ministry of Home.
The Sardar was only informed after the changes were made. He was deeply upset. Three days later he passed away.
The question is why nobody has ever research these important historical issues.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Why all this fuss for a few Indian tunnels?

Rongme Ngatra Tunnel, stretching 13 kms on National Highway No 317
The meaning of ‘double standards’ is unknown in China.
After The Economic Times reported that India plans to construct 17 highway tunnels totaling 100 kilometers along the line of actual control, The Global Times bitterly complained.
The Party mouthpiece quoted Xie Chao, an ‘expert’ at Tsinghua University's Department of International Relations, who said that: “boosting border infrastructure has been Indian's consistent policy.”
A poor joke, when one knows the reality.
Another ‘expert’, Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies stated that "the tunnel building along the border is a further fermentation after the Doklam standoff."
He reiterated China’s baloney stand: “One June 18, Indian troops illegally crossed the border and trespassed into Chinese territory in Doklam.”
Fermentation or not, India is far behind China in the field of infrastructure.
Zhao dared to tell The Global Times: “Although some Indian senior officials made a friendly gesture toward China after the standoff, India has pursued its previous policy along the border - developing infrastructure as well as troop mobility.”
The Global Times commented; “The Indian government is playing two cards over the border issue, the situation of which will be a ‘new normal’ for the China-India border.”
Xie Chao warned: "It is the Chinese government's responsibility to safeguard border safety and China won't take the initiative to seek military force to tackle border problems. But a balanced force along the border will make China cope with the tensions."
Is it not ‘double standards’?
While India is 20 or 30 years behind China is terms of development of border infrastructure, the slightest improvement on the Indian side is shown by Beijing and its ‘experts’ as an aggressive move.

Infrastructure on the Tibetan side
Just read the Chinese press, you will understand.
On October 28, China Tibet News announced that the newly-built runway of Chamdo Bangda Airport was officially put into use, “ushering in a new period of rapid growth.”
A total of 19,000 flights took off or landed at Bangda Airport; it boasts of 1.876 million passenger throughput. The new runaway will improve further the traffic: “In 2015, with a total investment of 849 million yuan [150 million US dollars], the airfield renovation project was started and it was built on 4C standard,” said the website.
Chamdo Bangda Airport has already flights to Lhasa, Chengdu, and Chongqing; soon planes will be able to fly to Tianjin, Fujian, and other Mainland cities.
At the same time, the reconstruction project of the highway from Shigatse Peace Airport to Shigatse City has begun, Shigatse will become “a comprehensive transportation hub”.
It will be an important part “for Tibet's export-oriented economic development,” said the website. Practically it will be a next stage towards opening a road and railway to Nepal.
According to China Tibet News: “After this project is completed, it will improve the regional traffic conditions and play a key role in meeting Tibet's high grade highway demand.”

On October 23, another website, China Tibet Online affirmed: “China's central government continues to increase support for infrastructure construction in southwest China's Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan Province, striving to break the bottleneck that constraints the social development and people's livelihood improvement in those regions.”
According to the Chinese website: “Since 2012, Tibet has opened the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway, and the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway also enters its construction, starting a new era in railway construction. Highway distance increased from 62,500 kilometers in 2012 to 82,100 kilometers in 2016, an increase of 25.9 percent. There are 71 domestic and international air routes connecting Tibet with 41 cities.”
And the list goes on.

Developments in Tibetan-inhabited areas
The fast-track infrastructure development is not limited to the Tibetan Autonomous Region; it extends to the Tibetans-inhabited provinces.
So why this fuss for a few Indian tunnels, which will take years to materialize?
In the power fields too, giant steps are taken on the plateau.
China Tibet Online provides details on the Sichuan-Tibet Power Interconnection Project which has recently been put into operation, “eliminating serious power shortages in Chamdo City in the Tibet and the southern part of the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The total power installation capacity is 2.65 million kilowatts, 1.3 times more than that in 2012.”
It is said that it for the first time Tibet achieved net electric power transmission of 200 million kilowatts hour outwards.

More infrastructure in Sichuan
The same website further asserts that “Sichuan implemented two rounds of the ‘three-year transportation battle’, while completing and opening the Yading airport in the Daocheng County in Garze and the Hongyuan airport in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, construction on the Gesar Airport in Garze, the Chengdu-Lanzhou Railway, the Chengdu-Ya'an part of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway and the Ya'an-Kangding as well as Wenchuan-Markham Highways have also begun. At the end of 2016, the total distance of the highway in Tibetan-inhabited areas in Sichuan reached 45,200 kilometers.”
Does India complain each time, China open a dual-use airport on the plateau?

In Yunnan too
At the same time, in Yunan Province, “1,142 projects have been completed of the 1,344 major projects implemented over the last five years, and a total of 103.9 billion yuan (15.7 billion US dollars) have been invested.” While Gansu Province opened in 2013 the Xiahe Airport and the Linxia-Hezuo Highway, respectively the first civil aviation airport and the first highway in its Tibetan-habited areas, the first railway line, from Lanzhou to Hezuo, has also been under construction in 2016. There are currently 10,046 kilometers of highway, and 95 percent of villages are accessible to modern transportation in the Tibetan-inhabited areas.”
The highway coverage in Tibetan-inhabited areas of Qinghai Province reached 65,117 kilometers in 2016, increasing by 11,367 compared with 2012. The 251 townships and 1,659 villages in its Tibetan-inhabited areas are all accessible to highways.
This is not called ‘double standards’ when so-called experts complained after India struggling to provide genuine communication facilities for the border population in the Himalaya.

In the meantime, a combined army brigade under the PLA's 77th Group Army (former 13th Group Army) practiced at an altitude of 4,700 meters on the plateau area on November 7, 2017.
India is not making a fuss.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

China is reinforcing its border with India

Choekar and Yangzom wrote to Xi Jinping
My article China is reinforcing its border with India appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.


Here is the link...

The Middle Kingdom is winning the trust of the locals to safeguard its border. This must worry India. But can China win over the Tibetans who have largely been sympathetic towards India?

At the end of the 19th Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to emerge the winner on most fronts. First and foremost, the 19th Congress approved an amendment to the Party Constitution, enshrining ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Er’.
Though the new Central Committee and Central Commission for Discipline Inspection were more or less along the expected lines, the Politburo and the Standing Committee brought some surprises. Apart from these party issues, in his three and half hour speech, President Xi mentioned several times “border” and “minorities” areas.
Xi particularly asserted: “We will devote more energy to speeding up the development of old revolutionary base areas, areas with large ethnic minority populations, border areas, and poor areas. We will strengthen measures to reach a new stage in the large-scale development of the western region [ie  Tibet and Xinjiang].”
To start implementing his policy, the Chinese President sent a personal letter to two young Tibetan herders soon after the conclusion of the Congress. They had written to him introducing their village, north of Indian border.
According to Xinhua, Xi “encouraged a herding family in Lhuntse County, near the Himalayas in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown.”
Safeguarding China’s territory against whom? India obviously!
Xi acknowledged “the family’s efforts to safeguard the territory, and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area. Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families,” he wrote.
The two Tibetan girls, Choekar and Yangzom, had told the Communist Party of China’s (CCP) Secretary General about their “experiences in safeguarding the border area and the development of their township over the years.”
Interestingly, the girls’ village, Yume, is located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line, not far from the remote Indian village of Taksing.
Xi also hoped that the girls’ family could “motivate more herders to set down roots in the border area ‘like kalsang flowers’, and become guardians of the Chinese territory and constructors of a happy hometown.”
Yume is said to be China’s smallest town in terms of population. In the years to come, Beijing will undoubtedly put pressure on India not only by using Tibetan populations living north of the McMahon Line, but also by influencing the Indian tribes south of the Line, enticing them with a better life on the Chinese side.
Can this letter from Xi Jinping be considered as an acknowledgment of the McMahon Line, as the Indo-Tibet border? From the reporting of Xinhua, it seems so. Xi clearly thanks the two herders for ‘guarding’ the border?
Already in November 2016, China Tibet Online had mentioned Yume ‘town’ on the southern slope of the Himalayas as the border area of China and India: “If driving, you had to go south 400 km from Lhasa to Lhuntse in Shannan (‘Lhoka’ for the Tibetans) City, then there was another 200 km of muddy mountain roads before you reached Yume.”
The official website asserted that “It is the least populous administrative town in China. With an area of 1976 square km, Yume has one subsidiary village, and only nine households with a total of 32 people. Yume has very few residents, but it is not impoverished, nor backward.”
The article concluded: “For a long time, there was only one family in Yume. After the Tibet Autonomous Region Government dispatched officials and doctors, built the roads, and added a power station and a medical clinic, Yume became more and more lively. In 2015, the annual average per capita disposable income in Yume was 26,000 yuan.”
On October 12, 2016, the powerful Tibetan Autonomous Party Secretary, Wu Yingjie, surprisingly landed in the area. According to The China Daily, Wu met frontier troops posted in this remote area: “[Wu] conducted a field survey on how to promote development and stabilisation of the border region, people’s livelihood, grass-root-level Party building and poverty alleviation.”
Wu told the local residents: “You defend the border areas of our country and protect our country from being nibbled or divided. I salute you.” A flag raising ceremony was held in Yume on the occasion of the party boss’ visit.
Why so much interest in this tiny border community? Just to protect the border against India?
The China Daily notes: “Frontier soldiers and local residents patrol in the township. Every resident of the township has a strong awareness of border defense and make it part of their life.”
On the other side of the McMahon line is Taksing; it is the last village in Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh and …certainly the first place susceptible to be invaded in case the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) decides to retaliate after the recent confrontation in Doklam.
The problem is that the village still has no access road and the local inhabitants believe that it will take at least five to 10 years to see a road reaching Taksing.
It is not that nothing is happening. On April 6, 2017, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) managed to open a new section connecting Tame Chung Chung (known as TCC) and Nacho. The inhabitants living in the TTC' vicinity had dreamed of seeing this road for decades, but like many other things for the border population, it had remained a dream.
A BRO’s communiqué explained: “The area is located in an extremely remote area with rugged terrains, thick vegetation and inhospitable weather. The place has remained inaccessible since 2009.” The road was to be opened in 2009.
As an aftershock of the Doklam incident and the subsequent ‘speeding’ up of the border projects, the TTC-Taksing road may hopefully be opened in two years.
In October 2014, The Deccan Chronicle reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been focusing on the Taksing area: “After the recent Ladakh incursions, frequent intrusions by China’s PLA in Arunachal Pradesh’s Taksing region have come to the notice of the security agencies.”
At that time, some local villagers had managed to shoot a short video on their phones of the PLA ‘visiting’ their village.
In the meantime, China is building up pressure by enticing and cajoling the Tibetan population on their side of the McMahon Line.
In several places, China has started developing ‘border’ infrastructure on fast track, bringing large number of Chinese tourists; not only to Yume, but also in Metok County, north of Upper Siang district or Lepo village, near Khenzimane on the McMahon Line.
Xi’s letter tends to show that Beijing has decided to use more and more the local Tibetan populations in border areas to ‘defend’ the Middle Kingdom’s borders. This should deeply worry Delhi; so far the Tibetan population has been sympathetic towards India, can China manage to change this?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tibet: When Patel and Bajpai opposed Nehru

About my latest book

It is usually assumed that Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister of India wrote the ‘prophetic’ letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister, detailing the implications for India of Tibet’s invasion. A new book proves that Patel used a draft given by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth.
On November 7, 1950, a month after the entry of the People’s Liberation Army in Tibet, Patel sent Bajpai’s note under his own signature, to Nehru, who decided to ignore Patel’s letter. The next day, meeting Bajpai in the corridors of South Block, the Prime Minister told his General Secretary: “you are marshalling the big shots”. Bajpai, deeply upset by the turn of events (which were influenced by KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador to China, who ceaselessly defended the Chinese interests), had also written to President Rajendra Prasad and C Rajagopalachari.
Reproduced below are extracts of Tibet: The Last Months of a Free Nation: India Tibet Relations (1947-1962). It deals with a first note of Bajpai on the sequence of events and the nefarious role of Panikkar.
The October 31’s note written by Bajpai is historically important for several reasons; first and foremost because after it was sent to Sardar Patel, the latter asked for a draft for a letter to be sent to Nehru; Bajpai’s note also shows the frustration of many senior officers in the Ministry and provides a precise chronology of the tragic events of Summer and Fall 1950.


[Extracts] 
G.S. Bajpai’s Note of October 31
…Bajpai first noted that on July 15, 1950, the Governor of Assam had informed Delhi that, according to information received by the local Intelligence Bureau, Chinese troops, “in unknown strength, had been moving towards Tibet from three directions, namely the north, north-east and south-east.” The IB had reported that one column was moving from Jyekundo in Qinghai Province, the second one from Derge in the Sikang Province. …The third column, which came from the Yunnan Province, had reached the Shukla Pass.”
The same day, the Indian Embassy in China reported that rumours in Beijing had been widely “prevalent during the last two days that military action against Tibet has already begun.”
Though Panikkar was unable to get any confirmation, he virtually justified Beijing’s military action by writing: “in view of frustration in regard to Formosa, Tibetan move was not unlikely.”
…[A few days later], Bajpai remarked that the Ambassador [Panikkar] had “answered [Delhi] that he did not consider the time suitable for making a representation to the Chinese Foreign Office. Panikkar gave the following reasons:
  1. The Chinese have been anxious to settle the question by peaceful negotiations and had offered Tibetans autonomy and invited Tibetan representations to Peking;
  2. Tibet had been stalling negotiations on one excuse or another.
  3. Since military action was reported to have already started, ‘any such suggestion now will only meet with rebuff’.
…Bajpai is more and more frustrated with Panikkar’s surrender to Chinese interests and perhaps also by the support that the ambassador gets from the Prime Minister. The Secretary General is clearly in a difficult position.
…Already on July 20, Panikkar’s attention had been drawn by South Block to the fact that Beijing’s argument that the ‘Tibetans had been stalling the talks’, was wrong.
Panikkar had been informed by Delhi that the Tibetan Delegation should not be blamed for something they are not responsible for “…The Tibetan Delegation have been awaiting a reply to the communication of their Government to the Chinese Government.”

Panikkar brings in philosophical issues

…India [Panikkar] attempted to change the Communist regime’s decision to ‘liberate’ Tibet, by bringing a philosophical angle to the issue: “In the present dangerous world situation, a military move can only bring a world nearer [to a conflict], and any Government making such a move incurs the risk of accelerating the drift towards that catastrophe.”
Mao was not in the least bothered about such niceties.
…As the preparations on the Chinese side continued, Panikkar wrote to Delhi on August 13 to inform the ministry that he has been unable to meet Zhou Enlai, who is ‘ill with dysentery’, but he had met Chang Han-Fu, the Vice Foreign Minister: …”Unfortunately, nothing is mentioned by the Ambassador, either about the inappropriateness of military operations in the prevailing international situation or the absurdity of General Liu Bosheng’s reference to an imperialist control over the Tibetan authorities”, comments Bajpai.

Another Aide-Memoire
…Delhi again repeats its ‘philosophical’ position: it would be bad for Beijing to invade Tibet: “The Government of India would desire to point out that a military action at the present time against Tibet will give those countries in the world which are unfriendly to China a handle for anti-Chinese propaganda at a crucial and delicate juncture in inter-national affairs.”
…Delhi is convinced that ‘the position of China will be weakened’ by a [Chinese] military solution.

The Chinese plans are clear

… the objective of Mao and the Southwestern Bureau in Chengdu is to occupy Chamdo, it is therefore clear that the PLA is preparing to enter ‘Tibet proper’. Though the plans for the military action are ready, the logistic is not. The objective remains the fall of Chamdo before the winter, ambassador or no ambassador, negotiation or no negotiations.
On the front, the preparations are going on full swing.

On October 7, 1950, Tibet is invaded
On October 11, The Statesman in Kolkata publishes a report saying: “Communist forces had penetrated 50 miles into Tibet from the Sino-Tibetan border.” The Ministry in Delhi had not heard anything.
…Panikkar is told that if there had been Chinese military movement in Tibet recently, “he should draw the attention of the Chinese Government to our grave concern about this development.”

Sir Girja’s narrative continues
On October 17, the Indian Ambassador receives the full details of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. South Block confirms that Tibet has been invaded, it was “brought to our notice at the request of the Tibetan Government in a message sent through our Mission in Lhasa,” says a cable from Delhi.
…The next day, Panikkar continues to argue against the invasion having happened; he says that out of the incidents to which Lhasa has drawn Delhi’s attention, only one appears to be new. He adds that the telegram from the Indian Mission “did not indicate whether Changtu [Chamdo] was definitely identified as Changtu in Tibet.” Handwritten in the margin is “the suggestion was that there was another Changtu in the Chinese Province of Sikang.”

Bajpai more and more upset
…Sir Girja Bajai is obviously upset; he writes that the rest of the ambassador’s telegram deserves quotation in full. We can understand why.
Panikkar first argues: “Further I should like to emphasise that the Chinese firmly hold that Tibet is purely an internal problem and that while they are prepared in deference to our wishes to settle question peacefully they are NOT prepared to postpone matters indefinitely.”
This is written by the Ambassador of India.

On October 22, Nehru writes to Panikkar
…Nehru cables the Ambassador in Beijing: “Our information from Lhasa is that Chinese forces are still advancing and Riwoche, Dzokangdzong, Markhan and Chamdo have fallen. Also that Lhodzong is expected to fall soon. Unless it is clear that these forces are halted and there is no imminent danger of invasion of Tibet, there is little chance of Tibetan delegation proceeding to Peking.” …The Prime Minister continues: “I confess I am completely unable to understand urgency behind Chinese desire to ‘liberate’ when delay CANNOT possibly change situation to her disadvantage.”

Another aide-memoire is presented

Finally on October 24, the Ambassador presents an aide-memoire to the Chinese Foreign Office. Bajpai notes “The contrast between the tone and content of the instructions sent to the Ambassador, and his feeble and apologetic ‘note’ deserves notice.”
This raises a question, how could the ambassador present an aide-memoire without its content being vetted by South Block?
It is a mystery.
…Bajpai could only conclude that “from the foregoing narrative which I have been at some pains to document, that ever since the middle of July, at least, Peking’s objective has been to settle the problem of its relations by force.”
…As we shall see from Chinese archives, particularly from Mao’s cables, the invasion (or ‘liberation’ for the Chinese side) did not at all depend on ‘negotiations’ or ‘talks’ with Tibetans. The army action had been decided since months.
…Though Bajpai, a seasoned diplomat is aware of what is going on, he is caught up in the system with the strong-willed Prime Minister (and Foreign Minister) dominating the scene and a ‘darbari’ Ambassador.
Remains the fact that Chinese excuses or pretexts (or the one advanced by the Indian Ambassador in China) do not make sense, Bajpai admits it: “What justification there is for Chinese fear of American aggression must remain a matter of opinion. What, in my opinion, is not open to dispute is that however well-founded such fears, they cannot justify either Peking’s invasion of Tibet or Peking’s discourtesy to and suspicion of us.”
Though Bajpai says that he is not interested to find ‘scapegoats’, he finally blames his ambassador to China: “In examining the larger implications of China’s policy towards Tibet, the role of any individual must have relatively minor significance. The search for scapegoats is neither pleasant nor fruitful, and I have no desire to indulge in any such pastime. Before concluding this paper, however, I feel it my duty to observe that, in handling the Tibetan issue with the Chinese Government, our Ambassador has allowed himself to be influenced more by the Chinese point of view, by Chinese claims, by Chinese maps and by regard for Chinese susceptibilities than by his instructions or by India’s interests. Ample justification for this comment exists in the telegram from which I have quoted.”
This is a strong, though late indictment of Panikkar.

Patel replies to Bajpai
…When on October 31, a copy of Bajpai’s note goes to Sardar Patel, the latter writes back to Bajpai: “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. …I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.”

A few days later, Bajpai would write a draft for Patel to shoot his famous letter. Nehru would not even acknowledge it…
Patel passed away five weeks later.
The rest is history.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Did Xi Jinping acknowledge the McMahon Line?

Soon after the conclusion of the 19th Congress, President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to two young Tibetan herders who had written to him introducing their village, Yume, north of Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.
According to Xinhua, Xi “encouraged a herding family in Lhunze [Lhuntse] County, near the Himalayas in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown.”
Xi acknowledged “the family's efforts to safeguard the territory, and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area. Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families," he wrote.
The two Tibetan girls, Choekar and Yangzom had told the CCP’s Secretary General about their “experiences in safeguarding the border area and the development of their township over the years.”
Interestingly, the girls’ village, Yume (or Yumai or Yulmed) is located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line, not far from the remote Indian village of Takshing.
Can this letter from Xi Jinping be considered as an acknowledgment of the McMahon Line, as the Indo-Tibet border? Xi clearly thanks the two herders for 'guarding' the border?
From the reporting of Xinhua, it seems so.
Xi further hoped that the girls’ family could “motivate more herders to set down roots in the border area ‘like galsang flowers’, and become guardians of the Chinese territory and constructors of a happy hometown.”
Galsang or Kelsang Flower
The report also explained that Yume is China's smallest town in terms of population.

Yume on this blog
I had mentioned Yume several times on this blog, mainly because Yume Gompa was the last stage of the Tsari pilgrimage (see map below).
Already in November 2016, China Tibet Online spoke of Yume ‘town’ on the southern slope of the Himalayas as the border area of China and India: "If driving, you had to go south 400 km from Lhasa to Luntse of Lhoka (Shannan) City, then there was another 200 km of muddy mountain roads before you reached Yulmed.”
The Chinese site then asserted that “It is the least populous administrative town in China. With an area of 1976 square km, Yulmed has one subsidiary village, and only nine households with a total of 32 people. Yulmed has very few residents, but it is not impoverished nor backward.”
It added: “For a long time, there was only one family in Yulmed. After the Tibet Autonomous Region government dispatched officials and doctors, built the roads, and added a power station and a medical clinic, Yulmed became more and more lively. In 2015, the annual average per capita disposable income in Yulmed was 26,000 yuan.”

Four conclusions
By Xi Jinping admitting that Yume is a 'border' village, can it be concluded that Xi has acknowledged the McMahon Line? Probably not, but he has admitted that it was the present border (Line of Actual Control).
Another issue that I already brought up earlier on this blog: why not reopen the Tsari Pilgrimage and use it as a Confidence Building Measure between India and China?
Another conclusion is that China will develop very fast the 'border' areas in the years to come, I have often mentioned Metok County, but also Lepo village, north of Khenzimane on the McMahon Line.
Finally, it looks like the Communist Party has started to more and more use Tibetans in border areas and elsewhere yo defend the Middle Kingdom’s borders.
Delhi should be worried!