• Tibet in India-China Relations Tsari Pilgrimage
    Tsari has always been synonymous of ‘sacred place’ in the Tibetan psyche. With the Mount Kailash and the Amye Machen in eastern Tibet, the pilgrimage around the Dakpa Sheri, the Pure Crystal Mountain has, since centuries, been one of the holiest of the Roof of the World.
    The ‘Pure Crystal Mountain’ lies at 5,735 meter above the sea in the Tsari district of southeastern Tibet. As already mentioned, Toni Huber  is one of the foremost scholars who wrote a great deal about this region from which the Subansiri  and the Tsari Chu flow: “The area of the two rivers into which Tsarong  ventured for military and commercial reasons had for centuries defined a very significant territory for both Tibetans and neighbouring non-Tibetans ”.
  • The British Policy towards Tibet after World War II
    The first months of 1945 saw the end of World Word II’s hostilities in Europe. The War with its 60 million dead had come to an end.
    From February 4 to 11, a Conference was held at Yalta in Crimea between the heads of the government of the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union, respectively represented by President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and General Secretary Joseph Stalin. The objective was to discuss Europe’s post-war reorganization.
  • The Balipara Frontier Tract towards Tawang
    World War I was finished, five years had passed since the Simla Conference, but nothing much had moved on the India-Tibet border front. The district, known since 1919 as the Balipara Frontier Tract, was formed in1913, under the name of “Western Section of the North-East Frontier”. Captain G. A. Nevill of the Indian Police was its first Political Officer. He remained posted there for 17 years. Previously, the Deputy Commissioner of Darrang in Assam had been responsible for the relations with the hill tribes of the border areas. As a consequence of the events of 1911-19121 the administration of the NorthEast Frontier was reviewed and the Central and Eastern Sections (later known as the Sadiya Frontier Tract) of the North-East Frontier were placed under two separate Political Officers.
  • Advances in the Lohit Sector A promising trade route
    We have briefly mentioned the tours of the Assistant Political Officers1 posted in Sadiya in the Walong2 region at the beginning of the 20th century. These tours occurred mostly before the border between India and Tibet was fixed during the Simla Convention in 1914. During the following decades, this sector like the Siang and Subansiri valleys were not a priority for the administrators in Shillong and Delhi. However at the end of the 1930’s, the interest resurfaced.
    In his yearly report for 1936-37, W. H. Galvert, the Political Officer, Sadiya Frontier Track mentioned that he “carried out a tour in the Mishmi Hills so far as the Dou [Du] Valley (Unadministered). The object was to renew contact with the Taroan and Miju Mishmis who had not been visited for fifteen years, to inspect the suspension bridges over the Delei and Dou
    Rivers and to investigate the possibility of re-opening the Lohit Valley Road beyond Theroliang.”
  • China’s Ladakh Incursion: Is It All About the PLA & Coronavirus?
    June 1, 2020
    This article China’s Ladakh Incursion: Is It All About the PLA & Coronavirus? was published by The Quint.
    Experts and commentators all over the world agree on one thing: the times are difficult …and they will become tougher.
    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, in his address to the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing recently stated: “At present and for some time to come, China will face challenges like never before.”
  • The Naku La Incident
    May 16, 2020
    This article The Naku La Incident appeared in Mail Today
    As soon as China recovered from the dreaded Covid19, it started a new battle, an Information Warfare (IW) to change the way the world presently perceives the Middle Kingdom.
    In the process, Beijing found it sometimes necessary to show force, and the recent incident in Northern Sikkim and in Ladakh should be seen in this perspective.
  • A long hot summer is ahead on Himalayan heights
    May 14, 2020
    This article A long hot summer is ahead on Himalayan heights appeared in The Asian Age
    It is a fact that in early 2017, everyone in New Delhi thought the Sikkim border was a settled issue.
  • When China consolidated its grip in Tibet 
    December 15, 2019
    I posting today extracts from the Monthly Report for October 1960 sent by the Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim (Apa Pant) to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.
    We can see that the Chinese are fast consolidating their presence on the plateau (“the programme of mass settlement of Chinese in Tibet has started. There are rumours in Lhasa that about 2.1/2 lakhs Chinese civilians are to be brought in and settled in Tibet in the very near future. Even at the moment the Chinese population both at Lhasa and Gyantse has increased considerably”).
  • Neighbour’s border envy
    November 24, 2019
    This article Neighbour’s border envy appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.
    While China has undertaken multiple development projects near the Indian border, Delhi has been very slow and remains hesitant to see tourists in restricted areas
    Recently, the Indian media was agog with news about the latest  deployment of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) close to the Indian borders. One website, the Indian Defence News, affirmed: “China strengthening military base near Uttarakhand’s Lipulekh Pass,” which is located near the tri-junction between Nepal, Tibet and India. It explained: “The new base has 20 parking hangars and also maintenance hangars. Medium-lift helicopters for the local Army aviation brigade have also been spotted… There are signs of a military build-up opposite Lipulekh Pass on the northeastern tip of Uttarakhand.”
  • Reopening the Old Borders
    July 29, 2019
    We are often hearing questions about what could be suggested as possible Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and China.
    I give here a few suggestions for the border in East Ladakh.
    One could add joint patrolling in ‘semi’ disputed areas; by ‘semi’ disputed, I mean areas where both parties agree on the area disputed (which is often not the case).
  • Chinese Trains are India’s Bane
    July 23, 2019
    This article Chinese Trains are India’s Bane appeared in Mail Today
    A Train to Yatung, near Sikkim?
    The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) walked into Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in September 1951. Immediately, the generals leading the ‘Liberation of Tibet’ put their troops to work; they had to build motorable roads on two main axes, Lhasa-Sichuan and Lhasa-Qinghai, as well as on feeder roads towards India’s border, particularly the southern route, Lhasa-Gyantse-Yatung, near the Sikkim border. The PLA managed this feat in five years.
  • The Importance of Yatung and Chumbi Valley
    June 5, 2019
    Yatung (called Yadong by the Chinese) has been in the news recently.
    One of the reasons might be the annual opening of the Nathu-la pass for trade between India and China (Yatung is also one of the routes for the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra for Indian pilgrims). China Tibet Online noted: “The Natho [Nathu] La Pass Trade Channel in Yadong [Yatung] County, Shigatse City, southwest China’s Tibet opened on the morning of May 1.”
    Note the compulsory ‘China’s Tibet’!
  • Sikkim’s political stability is crucial to India’s security
    January 22, 2019
    This article Sikkim’s political stability is crucial to India’s security appeared in South Asia Monitor and IANS
    In terms of India’s security, Sikkim remains a trend-setter and a model; India can’t afford to have insecure and ‘unhappy’ borders, when the northern neighbour is always ready to change the status quo, writes Claude Arpi for South Asia Monitor.
  • Building synergies
    December 20,2018
    The Dakpa Shelri (The Pure Crystal Mountain)
    My article Building synergies appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer
    The re-opening of new pilgrimage routes can strengthen people-to-people contacts between India and China. The present scope of the Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra must be extended.
  • Doklam redux?
    November 22, 2018
    This article Doklam redux? appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.
    Is China’s building of a large number of ‘model’ villages on the Tibetan side of the Indian border preparation for another stand-off? It’s time to discuss this issue with Thimphu
  • Tibet and the ‘Larger Issues’ 
    August 12, 2018
    Recently the Dalai Lama made some remarks on Jawaharlal Nehru and the Partition of India.
    Without going into the (unnecessary) controversy, it is interesting to see the views of the first Prime Minister of Independent India on what he called the ‘Tibetan émigrés’ in the early 1950s, three months after signing (without informing the Tibetans), The Agreement on trade and intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India (infamously remembered as the ‘Panchsheel Agreement’.
  • China woos the Tibetans 
    June 1, 2018
    This article China woos the Tibetans appeared in The Statesman
    Govern the nation by governing the borders; govern the borders by first stabilizing Tibet; ensure social harmony and stability in Tibet and strengthen the development of border regions.” Thus did President Xi Jinping speak of China’s relations with Tibet.
  • The Beauties of Sikkim
    May 22, 2018
    This article The Beauties of Sikkim appeared in Rediff.com
    ‘The Himalayan people may not represent a large or politically influential section of the population, but India’s security depends on them.’
    ‘Let us hope Sikkim remains a beacon of stability,’ says Claude Arpi after a recent visit to the picturesque north eastern state.
    A hundred years ago, a young French lady described thus her visit to North Sikkim: “Perched on a mountain slope, a humble monastery dominates the villagers dwellings. I visited it the day after my arrival, but finding nothing of interest in the temple, I was about to leave when a shadow darkened the luminous space of the wide-open door: a lama stood on the threshold.”
  • The Happy People of Ngari?
    May 20, 2018
    Ngari or Western Tibet has been in the Chinese news in recent weeks.
    It looks like a concerted effort from the Communist propaganda to promote the region bordering Ladakh, Himachal and Uttarakhand.
    And first of all ‘promote’ the happiness of the people in these borders areas.
    May 18, Xinhua published an article about The Happy life of a senior in Ali Prefecture of Tibet. ‘Ali’ is ‘Ngari’ (as the Chinese have difficulties to pronounce the ‘Ng’, it becomes ‘A’).
    The Chinese news agency mentions “a two-story house equipped with all kinds of household appliances where Cama Ciren [Karma Tseten], a 72-year-old Tibetan and his wife live.”
    Karma stays there for the past 34 years, says the article.
    Interestingly, the village is located in Tashigang in Gar County of Ngari Prefecture, near the Indian border (on the other side is Demchok in Ladakh).
  • Importance of Sikkim as a border State
    May 10, 2018
    This article Importance of Sikkim as a border State appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer
    The Himalayan people may not represent a large or politically influential section of the population, but India’s security depends on them. It is, therefore, essential to empower local residents
  • So, who has a Cold War mindset?
    February 4, 2018
    This article So, who has a Cold War mindset? appeared on Thursday in the Edit Page of The Pioneer
    It is ironical that while it is the Middle Kingdom which is getting ready for another stand-off, it loudly objects to New Delhi protecting its side of the border
  • The Middle Kingdom’s strategic miscalculation
    September 1, 2017
    This article The Middle Kingdom’s strategic miscalculation appeared yesterday in the Edit page of The Pioneer
    Though one can only rejoice about the disengagement in Doklam, one should not forget issues that are extremely disturbing: It is China’s non-respect of agreements and international rules
    On August 28, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a statement: The Doklam confrontation was over, both the Indian and Chinese troops had agreed to withdraw. Later in the afternoon, the MEA clarified further: “India has always maintained that it is only through diplomatic channels that differences on such matters can be addressed. Our principled position is that agreements and understandings reached on boundary issues must be scrupulously respected.”
  • For the CIA Batang La is the Trijunction
    August 23, 2017
    Yesterday the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson Hua Chunying continued to rant about India’s presence in Bhutan near the trijunction Tibet-Sikkim-Bhutan. Commenting on Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s declaration that a solution to the standoff in Western Bhutan was in view, she said:”We hope that India can match its words with actions and immediately withdraw its troops and equipment that have encroached into Chinese territory.”
    She was speaking of an area which is Bhutanese territory.
  • 1890 Treaty: Beijing’s trick of yesterday and today
    August 17, 2017
    This article 1890 Treaty: Beijing’s trick of yesterday and today appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer
    The Chinese trick of hammering the 1890 Convention is very old. But it is mistaken. Beijing cannot justify ‘fixing’ the tri-junction by quoting this ‘unequal’ Treaty, when nobody knew where this place ‘Gipmochi’ was
    Two months into the confrontation with China near the tri-junction in between Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan, the time has come to look at the lessons New Delhi can learn from the stand-off which may continue for several months. There is no doubt that India has won a battle; there will be no Chinese road on the ridge and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may never be able to peep over into the Siliguri corridor.
  • How can Xi speak of a ‘Chinese Dream’ and a ‘Peaceful Rise’ while threatening those who dare oppose China?
    August 5,2017
    My Article How can Xi speak of a ‘Chinese Dream’ and a ‘Peaceful Rise’ while threatening those who dare oppose China? appeared in The Mail Daily (UK)
    “You shall be unswervingly loyal to the absolute leadership that the party has over the army, heed the call of the party, follow the party,” asserted Chairman Xi Jinping, while officiating during a mega parade at the Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base in Inner Mongolia on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
  • China promotes …the Indian tribes: a dangerous move
    August 3, 2017
    The fact that China is promoting ‘Indian culture’ is dangerous. The Union Government has been ignorant about the issue. But for how long? India could lose a crucial battle on its borders… without a shot being fired
    Watching Chairman Xi Jinping officiating during the mega parade at the Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base in Inner Mongolia on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), this writer was struck by the Chinese martial air of the Chinese President driving in an open jeep, dressed in combat fatigue.
    He later ordered the PLA to be prepared for the battle and to defeat ‘all enemies that dare offend’ his country. Was India, who had dared to challenge the mighty PLA when Beijing tried to change the status quo at the tri-junction between Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim, targeted? It’s difficult to say.
    It was indeed a huge display of military power; Chinese state agencies reported that some 40 per cent of the weapons on show had never before been seen by the public. Xi, who is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, by far the most powerful organisation in the Middle Kingdom, inspected 12,000 combat troops.
  • The Truth from the Dragon’s Mouth
    August 3, 2017
    Recently a book Spying Against India (Chinese Military Intelligence from 1962 to 2012) Volume 1, written by one Ben Keiler (probably a nom de plume) was published by Amazon Kindle.
    It is difficult to verify the veracity of the content.
    However it complements the above map that I posted a few weeks ago on this blog (China ties to alter the status quo in Bhutan).
    One Chapter of the book is entitled: The Western Territories of Bhutan
    It explains that the above map is a copy of Top Secret Chinese Intelligence map.
    (it copy was probably published to hide the embarrassing information about the Indian and Bhutanese camps inside the area today claimed by China)
    The book publishes the originals along the translation of the accompanying texts and provides its own comments.
    For example, this Chinese Intelligence map provides an overview of the disputed areas in Western Bhutan with detailed textual explanations. The map is said to have been compiled by Chinese intelligence some 30 years ago.
    The original maps with the positions of the Bhutanese and Indian Armies were obviously not published in China, as they contradict China’s version of the historical background of the present standoff with India near the trijunction.
  • The Doka La Confrontation
    July 28, 2017
    This article appeared in the BBC website (Hindi)
    After independence, India chose to be represented in Lhasa by a British ICS officer, Hugh Richardson; the Scot was Indian Mission-in-Charge from 1947 to 1950. On June 15, 1949, in a communication addressed to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, he suggested that India might consider occupying Chumbi Valley up to Phari ‘in an extreme emergency.’ The Chumbi Valley is the highly strategic ‘finger’ sandwiched between Bhutan and Sikkim.
    Sixteen months later, Chinese troops invaded Eastern Tibet and Harishwar Dayal, who had replaced another Britisher as the Political Officer in Sikkim, made again the same suggestion: “[Richardon’s] suggestion was NOT favoured by Government of India at the time. It was however proposed as a purely defensive measure and with NO aggressive intention. An attack on Sikkim or Bhutan would call for defensive military operations by the Government of India,” he wrote to Nehru.
  • Does India need to be invaded by China to wake up?
    July 26, 2017
    This article appeared in Rediff.com
    Very few in India have heard of Taksing.
    It is the last village on the Tibet (China)-Arunachal Pradesh border, and the first village likely to be invaded if Beijing retaliates. Scarily, it takes jawans THREE days of walking to reach Taksing.
    In all the noise surrounding the Doklam confrontation, Claude Arpi focuses on a crucial issue that has hardly been covered — the construction of roads for the armed forces and the local population to reach the most remote border posts. Very few incidents have triggered so many comments as the confrontation at the trijunction between Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.
    On June 16, 2017, Chinese troops entered a stretch of land at the southern tip of the Chumbi Valley to build a road …on Bhutanese territory.They were stopped by the Indian Army.
  • India, China, Tibet and the curious case of the missing Sikkim Papers
    July 23, 2017
    The present standoff at the trijunction between Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, on the southern tip of the Chumbi, is a worrying development. While recently addressing the foreign diplomats in Delhi, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar rightly stated that China has been ‘unusually aggressive and articulate’.
    Beijing seems to have only one argument, i.e. the 1890 Convention between the British and the Manchus, conveniently forgetting several other agreements, particularly the 1893 Trade Regulations (1890 twin accord) which allowed India to open a trade mart in Yatung in the Chumbi Valley.
  • When the Chinese confuse the issues
    July 15, 2017
    The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has purposefully created a lot of confusion about the trijunction between India, Tibet and Bhutan. He quoted time and again the 1890 which was not a valid agreement as the main stakeholders (Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim) had not been consulted. I explained why on this blog and mentioned the Tibetan reactions and the non-acceptance of the 1890 Convention by Lhasa.
  • China is on a sticky wicket in Bhutan
    July 13, 2017
    This article China is on a sticky wicket in Bhutan appeared last week in the Mail Daily/Mail Online (UK)
    Has China lost its gamble on a Himalayan ridge in Sikkim? It is too early to say, but some lessons can already be drawn from the scuffle between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army in Doka La, near the trijunction between Tibet (China), India and Bhutan.
    The episode started when China began building a road on Bhutanese territory without informing Thimphu.
    Beijing was certainly not expecting that India would come to the rescue and defend the small kingdom.  China, which dreams of becoming a ‘Big Power’, attempted to change the status quo south of the Doklam plateau on the Bhutan-Tibet border.
  • China believes the best form of defence is attack
    July 7, 2017
    This article China believes the best form of defence is attack appeared in Rediff.com
    ‘How can a State, which claims to be a responsible power, unilaterally grab a “disputed” area to build a road on it?’ asks Claude Arpi.
  • The Great Game over Sikkim
    July 5, 2017
    The spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been vociferously trying to convince the Indian correspondents in Beijing about the 1890 Convention (known as Convention of March 17, 1890 between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet).
    However, Beijing forgot to mention about the two main stakeholders, Tibet and Sikkim, who were not even consulted by the ‘Great Imperial Powers’.
    It is interesting to have the views of Tsepon WD Shakabpa, the Tibetan politician and famous historian.
    In his Tibet: a Political History, he explained : « In 1890 a convention was drawn up in Calcutta by Lord Lansdowne, the Governor-General of India and Sheng-t’ai, the Manchu Amban from Lhasa, without consulting the government of Tibet. The first article of the convention agreement defined the boundary between Tibet and Sikkim, and the second article recognized a British protectorate over Sikkim, which gave them exclusive control over the internal administration and the foreign relations of that country.
  • When China refuses to talk about Bhutan and Sikkim boundaries.
    July 4,2017
    Yesterday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Geng Shuang stated that the border in Sikkim was well demarcated, according to the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China and Doka La, the area of contention ‘belongs to China’.
    He added that Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru endorsed the 1890 Sino-British Treaty on Sikkim in a letter to Zhou Enlai in 1959. Geng also said that successive Indian governments have also endorsed this. This far from the truth.
  • A World War over some sheeps and a few yaks?
    July 3, 2017
    As I mentioned in my last post, ‘differences of perceptions’ on the Tibet-Sikkim-Bhutan and the Sikkim-Tibet borders are not new. China used fully these differences during the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1965, threatening to interfere in the War and opening a new front in Sikkim.
  • China tries to alter the status quo in Bhutan
    July 1, 2017
    China has recently tried to change the status quo in the Doklam area of the Bhutan-Tibet border.
    On June 29, the Royal Government of Bhutan, which had held 24 rounds of talks with China so far, had to officially clarify :
    On 16th June 2017, the Chinese Army started constructing a motorable road from Dokola in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri. Boundary talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China and we have written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959. The agreements also state that the two sides will refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary.
  • Six new places in Arunachal claimed by China
    April 21, 2017
    China has announced ‘official standardised’ names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh.
    It is a childish reaction to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the State earlier this month.
    The Chinese media said that Beijing’s objective was to reaffirm China’s claim over Arunachal, ‘South Tibet’ for the Chinese.
  • Monk in the midst of muck
    April 9, 2017
    This article Monk in the midst of muck is the Cover Page in the Agenda of The Sunday Pioneer
  • A Train to Chumbi Valley?
    February 24, 2017
    A Tibetan website has just announced that the Mila (spelt ‘Mira’ by the Chinese media) tunnel will be opened on June 30.
    According to Tibetonline.cn, at an average altitude of 4,740 meters, this will become the world’s highest highway tunnel. It will eventually cut the journey between Lhasa and Nyingchi (or Nyingtri) by some four hours.
    The website says: “The tunnel has a longer-than-average length with 5,727 meters on the left and 5,720 meters on the right.”
  • China loves some Dalai Lamas
    April 17, 2015
    As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the White Paper published by the Chinese State Council ‘on the development path of Tibet’, is violently anti-Dalai Lama.
    I wonder why?
    The Tibetan leader is certainly the best bet that China can find, if it seriously wants to find a solution to the Tibetan issue.
  • A British appreciation can Tibet be defended
    One often hears in Indian military circles that the ‘next war’ with Pakistan will be on Pakistani territory, though unfortunately, the ‘next’ one with China will be on Indian soil. With the successful launch of Agni V, it might now not be entirely true; the Chinese immediately realize the change.
    Soon after the test, the Chinese Government realized that the game might be different hereafter. The Global Times elaborated: “It seems India’s path for boosting its military strength has not met too many obstacles. India is still poor and lags behind in infrastructure construction, but its society is highly supportive of developing nuclear power and the West chooses to overlook India’s disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties.”