Tuesday, January 17, 2017
the new roads being built in Western Tibet (Ngari) towards the Indian border (G564 and G565).
But that is not all.
According to Kangba TV, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has created a basic integrated transport network, with a total road mileage of 82,500 km, five airports, 71 domestic and international airlines, as well as the Qinghai-Tibet and Lhasa-Shigatse railway lines.
During a press conference, Sonam Chophel, director of the TAR transport department asserted: “Transport is the key role in economic development. Therefore, in order to break the bottleneck of economic development, we need to have good transport.”
Sonam Chopel also said, “In 2016, TAR has attracted a total investment and bank loan of 54.6 billion yuan [for infrastructure]. 44 key road projects are under construction.”
The TAR has spent 8.5 billion yuan in railway projects in 2016, and 7.5 billion yuan were used on the Tibet section Sichuan-Tibet Railway.
With the arrival of Che Dralha at the helm of the TAR government, this trend will probably accelerate, as one of his objectives is to develop tourism on a large scale.
China Tibet Online further announced that “the highest ring road is being built”.
With six lanes, the road will circle around Lhasa city. It will have a total length of 100km; it will include seven tunnels and 27 overpasses.
Once the road is opened in June, the drive around the capital city will only take two hours.
Loyalty to the core
On January 11, Wu Yingjie, Secretary of the TAR Party Committee, met a delegation of senior officers of the People’s Armed Police on the side of the Regional People’s Congress.
Lt Gen Xu Yong, the Commander of the Tibet Military Region was in attendance.
It is said that the atmosphere is very warm.
Wu asked the officers to pledge “absolute loyalty to the party under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, with the unselfish support of the people of the whole country.”
He urged the attendees to “consolidate the good situation of sustained harmony and stability, to maintain sound and rapid economic and social development and to achieve the objectives of the 13th Five-Year Plan.”
The Armed Forces have made outstanding contributions for the maintenance of the local stability, the economic development, the improvement the people's livelihood and the implementation poverty alleviation and national unity, he said.
He added that Tibet is located “in the southwest border of the motherland, in the first line of anti-separatist struggle; it is the main battlefield.”
This refers to the Tibetans living in India.
Wu insisted that he hoped that the PLA stationed troops will resolutely implement "the instructions of the Party Central Committee, the Central Military Commission and the President of the CPC while strengthening the army's objective under the new situation.”
He probably meant the in-depth reforms of the PLA.
Wu also repeated: “One must be absolutely loyal to the core. The central position of General Secretary Xi Jinping was established …to comprehensively promote reform, development, stability, internal affairs, foreign affairs, national defense and the rule of the Party.”
The integration of military and civilian development
Perhaps more importantly for India’s borders, Wu asked the troops and officers to “promote the integration of military and civilian development.”
It has serious implications for the infrastructure on the plateau, particularly for the new roads leading to the Indian border.
Wu remarked: “Party committees and governments at all levels should inherit and carry forward the glorious tradition of unity between the military and the army and the people, and further consolidate the military-military-civilian relations between the army and the people.”
Note that the building of the above-mentioned ‘integrated infrastructure’ relates to both the military and the civilian.
For the Party boss of Tibet, it is necessary to “conscientiously implement the economic construction and national defense construction.”
He further mentioned “the implementation and the integration of these views on development”, while urging the officers “to adhere to military and civilian joint construction” and take the initiative "to integrate national defense and military construction into local economic and social development planning.”
India could perhaps learn for Tibet and China.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
|Che Dralha (left) takes over from Lobsang Gyaltsen|
Che Drahla (or Qi Zhala in Chinese), who has served in Tibet areas for the past 35 years, was till recently the Party Secretary of Tibet’s capital Lhasa; since December, he is of the four deputy secretaries of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Che is 58 years old.
According to the same short announcement,the outgoing Governor Lobsang Gyaltsen was named Chairman of the regional National People's Congress.
What has happened to Pema Thinley (alias Padma Choeling) who officiated at this post is not clear.
Reuters commented on Che's new job: “Managing the remote Himalayan region of Tibet remains a difficult issue for China, which has struggled with decades of often violent unrest in protest at Chinese rule, which started when Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950.”
But Che has some experience.
|Lobsang Gyaltsen swearing on the Constitution|
Che Dralha behind (right)
Che come from the Tibetan-inhabited part of Yunnan province.
He was posted in this province before his transfer to Tibet in 2010 when he took over the Lhasa Municipality.
In one of the Wikileaks cables, in September 2007, John Hill, the Acting Consul General, Chengdu, Sichuan wrote: “Ethnic Tibetan areas of Sichuan and Yunnan are under increased security pressure from government authorities in the wake of demonstrations in the town of Litang in western Sichuan's Ganzi [Kartze] Prefecture that were set off by the arrest of a man calling for the return of the Dalai Lama at a major public gathering in early August. ...Despite the growth of the tourist economy in some towns, contacts stressed to us during our recent swing through the region their continued concerns over economic marginalization of Tibetans and environmental degradation."
But Che Dralha found the trick (he later applied it to Lhasa): bring millions of tourists to increase the local revenue and 'pacify' the the Tibetans.
Hill mentioned the visit of a US delegation in Tibetan areas of Sichuan and Yunnan from August 22-28, 2007. He was accompanied by a Bangkok-based USAID official and the representatives of U.S.-based NGOs Winrock International (Winrock) and The Mountain Institute (TMI).
The delegation went to Zhongdian (in northwest Yunnan's Dechen Prefecture)
The US Consul General reported: “The small city of Zhongdian (or Shangri-la) sits at an altitude of 3,340 meters (approx. 11,000 feet) in an alpine valley in northwestern Yunnan. The seat of the Diqing [Dechen] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it (and the county in which was located) was renamed Shangri-la in 2000, from the famous James Hilton novel of the 1930's, in an effort to market itself as a 'lost paradise' for tourists. According to local officials, the area attracted over two million tourists in 2006, about 90 percent of whom were Chinese domestic tourists on package tours.”
The report continue: “Both local officials and tourist industry contacts attribute Shangri-la's successful marketing to the Prefecture's Party Secretary and Governor, an ethnic Tibetan named Qi Zhala [Che Dralha]. Qi has been in the post of Party Secretary for only a few months, but has served as Governor or in other leadership positions in Zhongdian for a number of years. (Note: According to our information it is rare for an ethnic Tibetan to serve simultaneously as both the local party secretary and government head. End note.) By all accounts, early in his official career Qi focused on the development of Zhongdian as a natural tourist destination, and in testament to his efforts the streets of the town are filled with attractive souvenir shops and restaurants and bars catering to both Chinese and western travelers. Construction in and around the town is booming - in addition to numerous small wooden shops and houses in the old section of town, the city also boasts a brand-new five-story cultural center, a new prefecture administrative building, and a large horseracing arena.”
Che would only have to replicate this policy in Lhasa to boost his political career.
|Che Dralha visiting the site of the new airport in Lhasa|
But tourism is only one part of the recipe.
The other is discreet repression.
In March 2012, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) based in Dharamsala quoted ChinaTibetNews.com who announced that those wanting to enter Tibet were required to carry their government-issued identity cards.
Che Dralha, then Party Secretary of Lhasa, declared that the move was aimed at "establishing and improving coordination among the four provinces [Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Sichuan]".
While on an inspection tour around Lhasa on January 29, 2012, Che told the police officers that they should strive to realize the goal of “no big incidents, no medium incidents and no small incidents to occur” and to “strike hard at all the separatists.”
Che also mentioned the importance of stepping up security and increasing the number of police officials along national roads and 'key monasteries'.
TCHRD said that even the Beijing branch of Public Security Bureau had issued a notice asking all hotels and steam-bath houses in the capital to be more attentive about the presence of Tibetan clients. Hotel employees in Beijing are required to check the identities of Tibetans staying in the capital and to immediately inform the police station.In November 2015, when a group of journalists visited Lhasa, local officials (including Che) credited the peace in the city to the infamous grid management.
The Financial Times (FT) reported: “The mass troop deployment that followed a 2008 riot was no longer visible, although local residents said the heavy security presence was reinstated during Tibetan holidays or sensitive anniversaries. As well as small police booths that stud residential blocks in Lhasa, there are police booths at the entrance to villages around the city, as well as much larger checkpoints set up like tollbooths on the roads leading into larger towns.
The FT quoted Che Dralha “The masses manage themselves and serve themselves, this is a Chinese characteristic.”
He has now been rewarded.
Che Dralha is born in August 1958 in Shangri-La, Yunnan Province.
In May 1982, he joined the Communist Party of China
In December 1979, Che graduated from the Central Party School.
He has served in different positions in the Tibetan-areas of Yunnan: Deputy Secretary of the Communist Youth League of Zhongdian County (Shangri-La); in Dechen Prefecture’s Standing Committee; Party Secretary of Zhongdian County; in the Yunnan’s Provincial Party Committee; Dechen Party Secretary.
Later he was shifted to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) where he served as major of Lhasa and in the Standing Committee of the regional Party Committee. He also worked with the United Front Work Department.
He is presently Deputy Secretary of the TAR’s Party Committee.
As Governor, he is the most powerful Tibetan in the TAR and the second-most powerful official, after Wu Yingjie, the TAR Party boss.
Wu, a Han Chinese, has spent 40 years of his career in Tibet.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
China's ruling Communist Party has cracked down on Tibetans who planned to attend the Kalachakra Puja in Bodh Gaya.
But the Tibetan people have dared the Communists by listening to the Dalai Lama's sermons on the Internet and sharing videos on social media, says Claude Arpi.
Here is the link...
Some say 100,000, others speak of 200,000 devotees, from nearly 90 countries around the world, assembled in Bodh Gaya, Bihar — the place where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment — to get the blessings of the Dalai Lama, who offered the Kalachakra empowerment.
Soon after the New Year, the Dalai Lama gave the devout crowd preliminary teachings on Buddhist texts such as Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life.
Though the preparatory teachings took place since January 2, the main puja lasted from January 11 to 13.
It did not amuse China, which became angrier with the Tibetan religious leader. These days, the Communist leadership systematically sees red when the Dalai Lama’s name is mentioned.
It could simply be because all religious activities in the Middle Kingdom are subordinated to the Communist Party’s diktats?
The Chinese Kalachakra
Xi Jinping and his colleagues say that they have nothing against religion; in fact they supported their own Kalachakra in Tibet in July 2016.
Gyalsten Norbu, the boy selected by the Party in doubtful circumstances as the Eleventh Panchen Lama, officiated in Shigatse, the second largest town in Tibet, while for the past 20 years. the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama still languishes under house arrest ‘somewhere’ in China.
At that time, The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Party reported: “Following strict religious traditions, the ritual lasted from July 21 through July 24. During this time, the Panchen Lama restored statues each morning, and from two o’clock in the afternoon began reading scriptures for the ritual for monks and believers. The Panchen Lama initiated the Kalachakra for more than 426,000 monks and believers during this time.”
The atheist Communist Party, recently greatly knowledgeable in religious affairs, explained: “The Kalachakra ritual is the highest level of rituals in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and only high monks and lamas with profound attainments in Buddhist philosophy can hold the ritual. Data shows that the Panchen Lama has received more than 1,000 tantric rituals including the Kalachakra ritual to date, and his tantric Buddhist philosophy knowledge becomes increasingly sophisticated.” The fact that Gyaltsen Norbu is highly inexperienced does not bother Beijing.
In Tibet, there was of course no mention of the Dalai Lama.
The farce was held outside the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lamas; the Chinese authorities built for the occasion a new palace, the Dechen Kelsang Phodrang on a 112,000 square meters areas.
The Chinese media reported that more than 100,000 Buddhist followers, some 100 ‘high’ lamas and 5,000 monks and nuns attended the function. Monks and lay people had come from the Tibetan Autonomous Region as well as from the adjoining provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai, and Yunnan. It is at least what the Chinese propaganda says.
The truth is that many ‘devotees’ were coerced to attend the rituals.
The Bodh Gaya Kalachakra
Do not be mistaken, Beijing has not become enamoured of religious practices. The Communist authorities were quick to denounce the Bodh Gaya event as ‘illegal’, the Tibetans (from Tibet) intending to attend it were threatened with dire punishment.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported: “Thousands of pilgrims from Tibetan-populated areas of western China who had hoped to attend have been forced to return home though, while others have been blocked from leaving China.”
While in Tibet, ‘devotees’ were forced to attend the Shigatse Kalachakra, in India, they are forbidden to participate.
RFA got hold of an official notification which was circulated in Dechen prefecture of Yunnan province: those who would not obey the orders could spend between 10 days to five years in jail, it says.
It was addressed to ‘all relevant departments at all levels, township, county, and prefecture’; it warned Tibetans not to share information — including audio or video clips — related to the Kalachakra either on the Internet or on social media: “Other related activities, such as organizing celebrations in support of the Kalachakra, are also forbidden.”
The notice added: “Anyone engaging in these acts will be in violation of Article 55 [pertaining to national security] of the Public Security Law and will face severe consequences,” the notice adds.
The notice was distributed in December asking each Tibetan household to immediately provide information about any county’s residents already in India. The families were further warned “that anyone found to have participated in the Kalachakra teachings will lose their passport and ration card after they return. If they are monks or nuns, their right to study Tibetan Buddhism will also be revoked.”
The message was clear: only the Kalachakra organized by the Party is legal.
The Chinese press had explained that Kalachakra means ‘Wheel of Time’; the ritual prepares devotees to be reborn in Shambhala, a celestial kingdom which will vanquish the forces of evil in a future cosmic battle.
An interesting program!
New Border Regulations
Probably related to the ‘Indian’ Kalachakra, reinforced border regulations were recently announced. According to The Global Times: “The designated border areas under the new regulation now include land ports, trade zones and scenic spots, expanding the scope of the old regulation that has been in effect since 2000.”
Badro, deputy head of the Tibet border police explained: “As Tibet further opens up with fast economic development, the border areas have witnessed more disputes and diverse criminal activities, including those involving separatism, illegal migration and terrorism.”
But the real purpose was the Bodh Gaya Kalachakra. .
The new regulation include a compulsory ‘Border Resident New Identity Card’ (BRNIC), issued for border residents.
A notification said: “Border residents can apply BRNIC for one time. ...Border Public Security Department is issuing BRNIC without any payment. …[Soon] the Border Public Security Department will make BRNIC procedure online to avoid difficulties. …Border residents can go through border check post with BRNIC without any difficulties.” BRNIC holders may be allowed to go through border check posts, but not to Bodh Gaya.
As a result of the new rules, some 7,000 Tibetans hoping to attend the empowerment had to cancel their plans.
RFA asserted: “Thousands of pilgrims from Tibetan-populated areas of western China who had hoped to attend have been forced to return home, though, while others have been blocked from leaving China.”
RFA quotes one of the organizers, Karma Gelek: “It is extremely unfortunate and sad that so many Tibetans who wanted to attend could not come, and that many others who were able to come have had to return to Tibet under strict deadlines,” Gelek added, “This raises serious questions concerning China’s claim that it allows religious freedom.”
The Dalai Lama’s influence
The Dalai Lama has still a tremendous influence on Tibetan crowds; a telling example: religious observances and prayers are held in Tibet while the function goes on Bihar. A source living in Tibet told RFA that this was done in open defiance to authorities’ warnings: “Residents of at least one Tibetan-populated county in Sichuan have been gathering in small groups to pray and to listen to the Dalai Lama’s teachings on the Internet.”
The source added: “They have also shared videos of the Dalai Lama’s teachings over social media, translating them from the [Dalai Lama’s] Central Tibetan dialect to the local dialect so that people can understand. …Several hundred elders have also gathered to recite mantras and say other prayers.”
More than one thousand Tibetans, who were ordered to return home, had a special audience of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, before their departure.
Mostly from Eastern Tibet, they received religious advice from the Dalai Lama. Though they had dreamt to be in Bodh Gaya for the Kalachakra teachings, the Dalai Lama told that they could get the same benefit wherever they are and that he would keep them in his mind.
But all this shows China’s double standards in the field of religion today.
In Tibet, people are forced to attend the ‘empowerment’; when it comes to India and the Dalai Lama, they are threatened if they dare to participate.
But the Tibetan people are no fools; they know which function carries the most Sacred Blessings.
Friday, January 13, 2017
Last week I had mentioned the construction of a 558 km-long highway connecting Xinjiang and Tibet, via Minfeng.
The deeply-worrying aspect of this project is that it crosses the highly eco-sensitive Changthang National Nature Reserve. It runs for 110 km in the main reserve, about 270 km in the buffer zone and some 100 km in the ‘experimental area’.
The new road will ultimately connect G216 to G219 highways and end up in Tibet, north of Rutok near Panggong Tso in Ladakh.
Two new highways and an one upgraded
Two new roads have also been announced through a EIA notification.
Further, the G219, the main artery connecting Tibet to Xinjiang should soon be upgraded. All this will be done during China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2010).
A new highway, known as G564 will connect the G219 to Purang/Taklakot located near the tri-junction Nepal-India-Tibet.
The G564 will branch off from the G219, near Mount Kailash (Tharchen) and head south, passing between Manasarovar and Rakshas lakes before continuing towards Purang/Takalkhot.
The length of the road will be 107 km, it will have a width of 12 m; it is designed for a speed of 80 km/h. The construction should take 36 months; it would have started in September 2016 and it is supposed to be completed by August 2019.
The second highway, the G365, will connect the G219 (in Kunsha/Gunsa Township) to Tholing (Zanda in Chinese). It will probably continue to the famous religious complex of Tsaparang; the ruins of the Guge Kingdom are presently being restored to bring a large number of Chinese tourists.
The length of the road is about 117 km. It will be slightly narrower than the G564, with a width of 10m. It is designed for a speed of 60km/h. Construction schedule is the same as for the G564.
|Highway G564 passes between the lakes|
Upgrading the G219
Some 207 km of the G219 will be upgraded between the Mt. Kailash area and Kunsha, where the new highways respectively branches to the G564 and the G565 (see map above).
The G219 will have a width of 12 m and it is designed for a speed of 80 km/h.
According to a Chinese website, the objectives of the two new highways are: “to improve the Tibet Autonomous Region road network infrastructure and improve the highway traffic conditions.”
But the main objective is clearly to develop tourism.
The ruins of the ancient Kingdom of Guge are the main attraction around Tholing (which is incidentally very close of the Indian border – Chamoli district of Uttarakhand).
The Chinese are also planning a railway line along the G564 to Purang, hoping to develop trade with Nepal on a large scale.
Before undertaking the rail line, the section towards Kyirong (from Shigaste) will have to be extended towards Ngari. It will probably happen after 2020.
A Chinese website says the three highways (G219, G564, G565) will pass through the Mabian Yongmu (?) Wetland Nature Reserve, the Kailash National Forest Park, the Manasarovar scenic area, the Tholing Forest Nature Reserve, the Tholing County Geological parks and the Guge scenic area (Tsaparang).
The project has been entrusted the Chongqing Design and Research Institute Co., Ltd. of the China Coal Industry Group.
The coal companies are everywhere in China.
On the Indian side of the border
In July 2016, Union Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that the Modi government was “hopeful of completing by next April  the construction of highways through Uttarakhand for Kailash-Mansarovar to make it easy for people to visit the abode of Lord Shiva. “
The Minister told PTI: “Kailash-Mansarovar is the identity of our rich ancient culture and heritage. …We are cutting rocks through Himalayas to make a new alignment of highways through Uttarakhand for going to Mansarovar.”
Mr Gadkari claimed: "We can reach Mansarovar directly through Uttarakhand,” it is not certain that Beijing, in its present mood, will agree to receive hordes of Indian pilgrims.
In any case, let us see if the minister keeps his promise. It is doubtful.
But for sure, a highway to Mt. Kailash will be opened on the other Tibetan side by 2019.
The Construction of Sichuan - Tibet railway accelerates
In the meantime, a publication affiliated with Xinhua reported yesterday that "the epic Sichuan-Tibet railway is accelerating construction at both ends -- the section between Chengdu to Ya’an, Sichuan province, and the section between Lhasa to Nyingchi, Tibet Autonomous Region."
As mentioned earlier, the 1,900-km line starts from Chengdu and ends in Lhasa; it passes through Ya'an, Kartze, Chamdo and Nyingchi.
The same publication said: "The Jin Jiguan No.2 tunnel in Ya’an is the first tunnel from the hilly region of Sichuan to Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and is expected to be completed in March this year."
The Chengdu-Ya’an section should be the first section opened to traffic in June 2018.
Once completed, the travel time from Chengdu to Lhasa will be reduced to 13 hours, with a speed limit of 200 km/h.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Here is the link...
This year, the international scene will witness, if not global ‘impermanence’, at least a sea of changes. World leaders, be it Chinese, Russian, French or American, will have to learn to live with anitya (impermanence)
More than 2,500 years ago, Lord Buddha spoke of ‘impermanence’ or anitya in Sanskrit. For the sage, conditioned existence is without exception “transient, evanescent, inconstant”; all temporal things, whether material or mental, are objects in a continuous change of condition, subject to decline and destruction, taught the Buddha.
This is true for politics too, though in this sphere, things seem to move faster than in other realms. Take for example, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For several years, he was the devil personified; he was a ‘criminal’; no name was bad enough to define the Gujarat Chief Minister; it went so far that foreign embassies in India forbade their diplomats to undertake projects in Gujarat or even visit the State.
Calculated in political eons, this was long ago. Today, foreign heads of state or Government are rushing to Indian to do business with Vibrant Gujarat. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Global Summit saw the participation of President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa, Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister of Poland Piotr Glinski, France Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Japan’s Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko and delegations from other nations.
Not so long ago, I remember speaking to the Ambassador of one of the countries mentioned above (not France), who swore that his country would never set foot in Modi’s state. But past is past.
It must, however, have been pleasing, not to say a sweet revenge, for the Indian Prime Minister to ‘receive’ so many dignitaries. Take the example of France; Ayrault, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development came with a 147-member French delegation to attend the summit.
A French communiqué said, “Reflecting its prominent position among leading foreign investors in India, France, a partner country of the summit, is committed to partnering with the Indian Government and the Government of Gujarat.”
Even a Nobel Laureate, Serge Haroche, expert in atomic physics, quantum optics, and laser spectroscopy, participated in the Nobel Laureates Conclave. How this will make Gujarat vibrate is not clear, but it is more symbolic of the new world’s state of mind vis-à-vis India and Modi in particular.
The central focus of the summit being ‘Sustainable Economic and Social Development’, the French delegation was said to have expertise in energy, power, urban development, water and waste management, aviation and logistics, agrifood industry, multimodal transport, IT, you name them.
I, however, wonder: Do the delegates really understand Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision? It is a billion rupee question. And the foreign delegates should remember that Gujaratis are among the best businesspersons in the world, can they be a match? Do the delegates to the summit realise that ‘Make in India’ means a new type of partnership and that will have to ‘share’ the best technologies they have?
Launched in 2003, the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit aims at attracting investment in the State, but foreign delegates should not forget that Modi’s India is not the same country as in the 1980s or 1990s.
The Indian Space Research Organisation will soon launch PSLV C 37, (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) which should lift three big and 100 small satellites in a single mission off from Sriharikota. A world record. Could you have imagined this 20 years ago?
The summit was not ‘business’ only, it was also the occasion for high politics. With the world scene in global flux, particularly after the arrival of a new US President, Modi made sure to use the forum to discuss politics, especially when he met Rogozin, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister (himself accompanied by a large business delegation).
Talks between the two were crucial as it was the first high-level encounter between India and Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India last October. It was also an occasion for Delhi to get clarifications from Moscow whose position on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (cutting across the Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) has been ambiguous, with Beijing and Islamabad trying to lure the Russians into the mega scheme.
In a first stage, Russia said that it was interested in participating in activities of the port of Gwadar, but later the information was denied. Indrani Bagchi wrote in The Times of India, “If Russia enhances its relations with Pakistan, particularly in the defence sector, India would take a very different set of measures, which could even include reducing its buy of Russian weaponry. Indian officials say they understand Russia is looking for new markets for its weapons but selling to Pakistan must not be among them...”
The other issue is the uncertainty about Donald Trump’s stand on US-Russia relations. The President-elect is bound to have more ‘normal’ relations with Putin than his predecessor who was obsessed about real or imaginary interference from Moscow on American soil, forgetting that in the past, the Chinese have harmed the US interests many times more than the Russians (in hacking for example). What will Trump tweet next on Russia?
It would certainly be a good thing for India (and for America) to balance Moscow’s dependence on Beijing, in the Middle East crisis and elsewhere. Though French Foreign Minister met Modi during the Global Summit, the attention-grabbing news concerning the French diplomacy in the changed times, came from another side of the globe. Three French MPs, one of them associated with François Fillon, who in a few months has good chances to be the next French President, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Though Fillon’s campaign manager denied sending Thierry Mariani, one of the MPs, it is clear that this heralds radical changes in the months to come. Mariani said that al-Assad told him that he was willing to negotiate with rebel groups fighting against his Government, with the exception of thejihadi organisations.
According to Mariani, al-Assad was “optimistic and ready for reconciliation with them on the condition that they lay down their arms”. Furter, he was ready to negotiate ‘on everything’ during the forthcoming talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, brokered by Russia and Turkey.
Apart from the MPs, a group of French journalists from France Info, La Chaîne parlementaire and RTL television interviewed the Syrian President: “We don’t consider it [re-taking Aleppo from the rebels] as a victory. The victory will be when you get rid of all the terrorists,” said al-Assad.
Asked about heavy bombing raids that ravaged the city and claimed large numbers of civilian lives, Assad told the French journalists: “But you have to liberate, and this is the price sometimes.”
In 2017, the international scene will indeed witness, if not global ‘impermanence’, at least a sea of changes, and not just in the field of business. World leaders, whether they are Chinese, Russian, French or American will have to learn to live with anitya.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
This came back to mind when I read the recent editorial of The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.
India had just successfully conducted its fourth experimental flight of an Agni-V missile from Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha. The indigenously developed intercontinental ballistic missile is said to have a strike range of 6,000 km.
The fact that Agni V can reach the northernmost parts of China deeply irritated Beijing; The Global Times quoted The Times of India which had pointed out that the missile range could ‘covers the entire China’ , concluding ‘Agni-V can deter China’. It wrote: “India has broken the UN's limits on its development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile. The US and some Western countries have also bent the rules on its nuclear plans. New Delhi is no longer satisfied with its nuclear capability and is seeking intercontinental ballistic missiles that can target anywhere in the world and then it can land on an equal footing with the UN Security Council's five permanent members.”
One should read ‘equal footing’ …with China.
But is it a crime for India to seek a seat in the Security Council or to develop a deterrent policy against belligerent neighbours?
In a condescending manner, the article asserted that India should realize that Beijing will not block India's development of long-range ballistic missiles, as “Chinese don't feel India's development has posed any big threat to it.”
The Global Times added that India couldn't be considered as “China's main rival in the long run,” because there was “a vast disparity in power between the two countries”.
China may be far more ‘powerful’ than India today, but this is without taking into account the obvious weaknesses of the Middle Kingdom, whether its huge internal debts, its highly unstable ‘minorities’ areas (i.e. Xinjiang and Tibet), everyday deeper disparities, a repressive regime or the independentist tendencies in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The article advised Delhi ‘to build rapport’ with Beijing.
Beijing could not resist bringing its all-weather friend in the story: “Pakistan should have those privileges in nuclear development that India has.”
Delhi was arrogantly lectured: “China is sincere in developing friendly ties with India. But it will not sit still if India goes too far. Meanwhile, New Delhi understands that it does little good to itself if the Sino-Indian relations are ruined by any geopolitical tricks.”
It shows that the Chinese leadership’s utopian dream is to forever keep India at Pakistan’s level. According to The Global Times, it is in any case not difficult to produce such missiles: “If the UN Security Council has no objection over this, let it be. The range of Pakistan's nuclear missiles will also see an increase.”
The final conclusion was “India should realize that owning several missiles does not mean it is a nuclear power. Even though India does become a nuclear power, it will be a long time before it can show off its strength to the world.”
When the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of National Defence was asked about the Agni V, he redirected the questioner to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which “already stated clearly China’s position”.
He however emphasized the good relations between the two countries: “The defense ministries and militaries of the two countries have conducted a series of important exchanges and activities. For example, the 8th meeting of China-India Defense and Security Consultation and the 6th joint anti-terrorism exercise held by the Chinese and Indian armies were held in India. Zhao Zongqi, Commander of the Western Theater Command of the PLA visited India this year.” He also mentioned the visit of Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and Chief of the Army Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhag to China in 2016.
What to conclude of this?
There is no doubt the China is far ahead of India in many fields, but the deterrence effect of the latest test is an important strategic factor.
Beijing today prides itself of J-20 stealth fighters which made their maiden public flight on November 1 on the occasion of the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zuhai. Xinhua then affirmed that the J-20 is expected to boost the fighting capacity of the Chinese PLA Air Force (PLAAF). This is fine, but China forgets to say that it is today unable to develop its own engines and still depends on the Russians.
Several other great achievements are regularly highlighted in the Chinese media: the Y-20 military transport aircraft which officially joined the PLAAF in July 2016; the Liaoning aircraft carrier which for the first time ventured in the Pacific along with several destroyers and frigates and a few J-15 carrier-based aircrafts; the AG600, said to be the world's largest amphibian aircraft or the Type-96B tank, “a pillar of China's tank force. …The handsome, sturdy and durable tanks made a lasting impression.”
China’s achievements might be real but Beijing should refrain to comment on India’s.
It seems that Beijing regrets the time when India was docile and weak.
On December 28, 1949, two days before India became the second nation to officially recognize Communist China, Nehru strongly reprimanded General KM Cariappa, the Indian Commander-in-Chief that the defence budget was too high. The Prime Minister wrote: “To my great surprise I have learnt recently that, instead of going down, the defence expenditure has gone up with a jump and Rs. 171 crores [from 157 crores] are now being claimed for next year’s estimates. I just cannot understand this and it seems to me that there is no appreciation at all of the country’s present serious condition or of the grave dangers of our allowing our defence expenditure practically to swallow up most other forms of expenditure. I am alarmed.”
Nehru had a ‘formula’, for the security he believed in “defence services plus the productive machinery of the country plus the spirit of the people. “
He banked on the ‘spirit of the people’: “After all the army is to defend the people and if the people go to the wall, there is not much left to defend.”
Today, India believes in deterrence and even if India is not a ‘big country’ like China, India is ready to face any challenge. The present Indian leadership knows that even if the ‘spirit of the Nation’ is necessary, but not enough.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
On January 4, the official news agency reported: “While Tibet evokes images of ancient traditions for many tourists, people are discovering they don't have to give up modern conveniences when they travel in the far western region.”
The article cites a tourist from Fujian Province who was able to pay through Alipay at a fast food chain in downtown Lhasa. Xinhua adds: “The restaurant opened in March, and within a month, customers no longer had to pay in cash.”
Alipay.com is a third-party online payment platform launched in 2004 by Alibaba Group and its founder Jack Ma.
A store manager explains: “Mobile payments have not only improved efficiency, but also save tourists a lot of time withdrawing money from the ATM."
For Xinhua, “Going cashless has become the new normal for Tibetans,” adding “restaurants, souvenir shops, and movie theaters all provide online payment services.”
The number of Internet users in Tibet would have reached 1.639 million in March 2016.
According to Alipay, 83.3 percent of payments in Tibet were conducted via mobile phones in 2015, topping the country for four years in a row.
Norbu, a Tibetan who works at the Lhasa branch of the People's Bank of China is quoted as saying: “This year's online transactions rose significantly compared to previous years. Partly because more stores accept online payments, but more importantly, it shows a change in consumption and payment habits among the public in Tibet."
In another article, Xinhua quotes Alibaba's financial branch Ant Financial saying that the company's 2016 annual report shows that 90 percent of online payments in Tibet were made on mobile devices.
It is far higher than in the more developed coastal provinces of China.
China now boasts that due to communication signal coverage, farmers and herdsmen, even the remotest villages in Tibet can use cell phones to purchase daily necessities online.
It is probably an exaggeration.
Xinhua also said that over 80 percent of mobile payment users were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Shigatse Township ranked first in online shopping in Tibet, with consumption per person exceeding 10,000 yuan (1,430 U.S. dollars) for the year. QR codes are used for payment are common in restaurants and shops.
In the meantime, Chinese statistics, for what they are worth, say that in 2016, the Tibet civil aviation set a new record with more than 4 million passengers flying to Tibet. According to the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s Bureau of Civil Aviation Administration, the number of passengers had crossed 3 millions in December 2014.
The same statistics say the airports have grown from one to five, airline companies increased from one to nine, airline routes from one to 71, cities connections from one to 41 and staff from 16 to more than 2,300.
Wang Zhaojun, head of the TAR's Planning and Statistics Department stated that Tibet has now gained a valuable experience of operation on the plateau.
During the 13th Five Year Plan Period (2016-2020), the airports of Lhasa Gongkar, Nyingtri Mainling and Chamdo Bangda will be ‘reconstructed and expanded’.
I mentioned earlier on this blog, the design of Terminal 3 of Lhasa Gongkar Airport is ready. By 2025, the capacity of the new terminal will be 9 million passenger and 80,000 tons of cargo.
SF Airline should officially launch all-cargo flights from Chengdu to Lhasa in March 2017 “to meet the consumer demand for air cargo transport as the online shopping has become a part of Tibetan people’s lives.”
There is no doubt that Tibet is changing.
Is it for the good? It is another question.
New highway, Lhasa-Nyingtri and Gongkar-Lhasa.