Sanskrit summer camp attracts 60 intellectuals in China

A general view shows the settlements of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Sertar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. (Reuters photo)
BEIJING: A group of 60 Chinese intellectuals have enrolled at a Buddhist Institute for a free summer camp to study Sanskrit to understand the religious and yoga texts better as the ancient Indian language is becoming popular among the new generation of Chinese in the Communist nation.

The trainees were selected from more than 300 candidates and cover a broad sphere of professions, including yoga instructors, mechanical designers, performers, hotel management and environmental protection personnel.

Their study at the Hangzhou Buddhism Institute in eastern China over the next six days will focus on reading and writing Sanskrit.

“The language has very complicated grammar. For the present tense alone, the inflection of one verb can have 72 alterations,” Li Wei, an instructor who holds a doctorate in Indology from the University of Mainz, Germany, said.

Sanskrit has gained prominence in China since Buddhist texts were brought by famous monks like famous Chinese Monk Xuan Zang after 17 year long journey to India in sixth century.

Since the several Chinese monks made their way to India, brought a number of religious and texts about ancient Indian medicine.

The Peking University has a separate department for Sanskrit where over 60 study the language. Renowned Indologist Ji Xianlin has been awarded Padma Shri for his contribution.

There is renewed interest in Sanskrit ever since yoga has become popular in recent years specially after UN designated June 21 as international yoga day. Many of the trainees in Hangzhou class have been required to work overtime beforehand to get the six days off, some used their annual vacation while others working night-shifts to save the day for study, state- run Xinhua news agency reported.

Trainee He Min, who graduated with an economics degree from Renmin University of China in Beijing and now works as a yoga practitioner in Hangzhou, says the chance was “too precious” to pass up.

“Sanskrit is a common language used by yoga practitioners across the world. Though many yoga textbooks are written in English, the postures we practice remain named in Sanskrit and the chants are also in Sanskrit,” the 39-year-old said.

Teaching herself Sanskrit for almost three years, she said she was “still a rookie” due to the lack of professional instruction.
Chinese schools began Sanskrit classes in the late 1940s. But the discipline has developed slowly due to the lack of proper textbooks and a teacher shortage.


China then and now: How a superpower fell, then rose again from the ashes of close-mindedness

Gautam Adhikari

NEW YORK: How important was China’s role in the growth and spread of civilisation? Clearly massive, as anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at the history of humankind knows. But has China ever been a trendsetter for the world? The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met as everyone here calls it, is housing a splendid exhibition displaying answers to the question.

Since the expansion of the silk trade between China and the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries CE, Western fashion has craved for Chinese silk. In the 16th century, when sea trade expanded the supply of Chinese goods, this appetite increased sharply to last another couple of centuries. It wasn’t a one way street. Designs and motifs moved between producer and consumer, as trade inevitably encourages. On silk and wallpaper, on paintings and pottery.

In the costume section of the Met’s exhibition, China: Through the Looking Glass, world-famous modern stylists, from Yves Saint Laurent through Ralph Lauren to a galaxy of other stars in the universe of fashion, have explored how China fuelled fashion’s imagination for centuries. The exhibition halls are overflowing with visitors, many of Chinese origin. Groups of Chinese schoolchildren, apparently from the mainland, listen raptly to their teachers explain intricacies of the art on display. They must feel proud.

So, how did China change from being an active participant in the early phases of globalisation to a more or less isolated civilisation that closed its mind to foreign influences? Historians suggest that the process began some time under the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) when an emperor, taking the advice of mandarins, called an end to sea voyages. Till then China’s seafaring technology, which included innovations like the magnetic compass unknown yet to European explorers, was superior to that of Europeans. China in many ways was then the world’s leading civilisation.

The Chinese were not alone in shutting themselves off. The Tokugawa dynasty (1603-1867) did the same for Japan, mainly to ward off Christian influences on their culture. In the process they closed the Japanese mind to the world until they were deposed by the Meiji in the mid-19th century.

And India was never a major seafaring power. Hindu texts banned Brahmins and other upper castes from crossing the sea. Although outside the dominant castes and among non-Hindus there was a fair bit of sea travel and trade, most Indian rulers did not care for naval power and disdained ocean voyages for war, trade or exploration. All the while, European powers continued to develop their seafaring capabilities for exploration, trade as well as imperial expansion. The rest is history, from the 15th century to our present era.

China today has once again joined the world. Ever since the reformist Deng Xiaoping led the country away from Maoist insularity to a nation engaged in the economic sense with the rest of the world, China’s rise from the ashes of close-mindedness has been phenomenal. It is once again a leading power and asserts itself globally at every opportunity.

And there lies the rub. Although it is economically and culturally open to the world far more than ever, in this interconnected and technology hooked modern era it remains politically a woolly mammoth trying hard to manage the myriad forces let loose by the forces of that rapidly evolving technological advancement and economic interconnectedness.

Through its Confucius Institutes around the world and by placing opinion pieces by sympathetic intellectuals in global media, China’s leaders doggedly argue that growth based on Confucian social harmony is a superior form of political management than one founded on democratic dissent, chaotic as it so often seems in nations like India and the US. Alas, in an age of spreading challenges to authority and a growing sense of individual independence among the restless young, social harmony imposed by the diktat of a few is unlikely to remain feasible for long.

Openness can’t be partial or selective for long. China’s leaders would do well to read the tea leaves in the cup of their own history. The same goes for today’s Indian leaders, some of whom believe in an unexamined ancient wisdom that still has answers to all of life’s complexities.

Hazards of summit diplomacy

G Parthasarathy

Supplement direct pressure on Pakistan by regional action

THE recent terrorist attack in Gurdaspur district has outraged public opinion across India. There is now credible evidence that the terrorists came from across the international border. The modus operandi of the terrorists was clearly that of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. What is, however, significant is that the attack came in the wake of intensified shelling by Pakistani forces that followed the Modi-Nawaz summit in Ufa. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed was scathingly critical in describing the outcome of the Ufa Summit as a virtual surrender. The army, operating as always, from the background, got its protégés to accuse Nawaz of virtual betrayal of the “Kashmir jihad”. General Raheel Shareef, who has lost an uncle and brother in conflicts with India, is known to breathe fire about India and to have blocked moves for promoting economic ties.

No Indian Prime Minister has escaped unscathed from vitriolic criticism that virtually always follows a summit meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. If Jawaharlal Nehru was pilloried for the Indus Waters Treaty, Indira Gandhi was in the firing line for allegedly bartering away the fruits of military victory in Bangladesh, while at Simla, Mr Narasimha Rao was criticised for “doing nothing” to improve ties with Pakistan (he had a healthy distaste for Benazir Bhutto’s ravings and ranting). Mr Vajpayee was labelled as naïve when the Kargil conflict followed his Lahore Summit with Nawaz Sharif, and the attack on India’s Parliament soon followed his disastrous Agra Summit with General Musharraf. Dr Manmohan Singh faced flak, even from his own party, after the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit.

Mr Modi has faced a similar criticism after the Ufa meeting with Nawaz Sharif. But a close scrutiny of the joint statement and the post-summit remarks of Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz reveal that India largely got what it wanted from the summit. The most significant outcome of the Ufa meeting was an agreement to focus attention predominantly on ending cross-border intrusions, infiltration and terrorism. New Delhi thus succeeded in its aim of discarding the mindless Composite Dialogue process. Humanitarian issues like release of detained fishermen and promoting religious tourism — Hindus from India visiting sites like Katas Raj and Sadhu Belo and Pakistani Sufis visiting Ajmer — also figured in the Ufa talks.

Sartaj Aziz made it clear that the meeting in Ufa was “not the formal start of any dialogue process”. He referred to setting the stage to “identify areas where the two countries could promote cooperation right away, in order to reduce tensions and hostility”. It was agreed that the NSAs of India and Pakistan would soon meet and to have early meetings of heads of paramilitary border personnel and DGMOs, to ensure peace and tranquillity along the LoC and International Border. This enables India to stick to an agenda primarily designed to meet its concerns on terrorism. It is, however, clear that Sartaj Aziz will dwell substantively on Pakistan’s allegations about Indian actions on this score. While this issue will take time to address and may involve future contacts between the ISI and R&AW, one hopes that meetings between senior representatives of military and paramilitary forces will bring an end to infiltration. But a note of caution on this is required. There is nothing to suggest that the hawkish General Raheel Shareef will be in a hurry to rein in the likes of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

While the Modi government has made it clear that it will respond in more than ample measure to cross-border intrusions and infiltration, this is not a new phenomenon. It is often forgotten that the Indian response to infiltration, between 2000 and 2003, was so devastating that in areas like Neelum River Valley life was regularly brought to a standstill. It was this policy that forced General Musharraf to ask for a ceasefire in November 2003. But rather than exult about this development, Mr Vajpayee got pressure mounted by the Americans for General Musharraf to pledge that “territory under Pakistan’s control” would not be used for terrorism against India. This is a lesson that those who loudly articulate a policy of “uninterrupted dialogue at all costs” would do well to understand and learn from.

The US and China are now playing an active, behind-the-scenes role in shaping the discourse between India and Pakistan. They are also working together in getting Pakistan to encourage its Taliban protégés to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the all-too willing and subservient regime of President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Both the US and China are engaged in boosting Pakistan’s military capabilities, supplying submarines, attack helicopters, F16s and JF 17 fighters. It is no wonder General Shareef is confident that US protestations about Pakistan-sponsored terrorism are not to be taken seriously.

Since the dialogue process agreed to in Ufa focuses exclusively on infiltration and terrorism, the proposed meetings between NSAs, DGMOs and the heads of paramilitary border forces should be held, while making it clear that there can be no discussions on other issues till there is substantive movement forward on these concerns. At the same time, measures need to taken, which need not be spelt out explicitly, to raise the costs for the Pakistani establishment, within and beyond their country’s borders. The message to powers like the US and China should be that whatever their compulsions, we will take all necessary steps to safeguard the sanctity of our borders.

Direct pressure on Pakistan needs to be supplemented by regional action. India should ensure that other South Asian neighbours will make it clear to Islamabad that SAARC will become institutionally irrelevant if Islamabad pursues its narrow objectives of undermining India, in the lead up to the Islamabad SAARC Summit, by advocating membership of SAARC for China or resisting efforts to promote connectivity and economic integration. India has substantial and expanding cooperation, both bilaterally and sub-regionally, and common borders with all its eastern SAARC neighbours. Pakistan has neither the resources, nor connectivity, nor capabilities, to match Indian influence in the region. Its duplicity is legendary in its western Islamic neighbours.


Claude Arpi 

While China has developed Tibet’s infrastructure by leaps and bounds, India has been building up its border infrastructure at snail’s pace. The Modi Government has promised a change but this is easier said than done

The Indian electronic media has developed the art of inconsequence: They take an irrelevant issue and for days at the time, go on and on, repeating the same clichés, while ignoring the vital issues facing the nation. One of the subjects which has been grossly neglected is India’s borders, particularly with China in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

While China has taken a great leap forward to develop Tibet’s infrastructure (using the great excuse of having to cater every year for 15 millions Han tourists visiting the Tibetan plateau), India develops its border areas at snail’s pace, struggling to create a semblance of infrastructure.

Soon after he took over as the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, this writer had interviewed Kiren Rijiju, a native of Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh; he had then said, “My immediate concern is to concentrate on the India-China border. That concern means securing our territory. When I say that we must strengthen our position on the India-China border, it’s not in offensive terms. We don’t want any kind of confrontation; by not developing or strengthening our area along the India-China border, we are indirectly conceding these areas to the other side.”

The young and dynamic Minister added, “It means development of infrastructure, roads, communication, other basic amenities; facilities for local people living in the border area. They should be provided with electricity, water, food.”

It is not a glamourous process; indeed perseverance and an unshakable will are required to change the tide. One of the major issues facing the local population along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh or the McMahon line in Arunachal Pradesh, is migration. Why should a farmer living near a LAC in Ladakh, remain in his native village, with the risk of being harassed by the People’s Liberation Army, when he can earn a decent living as a taxi driver or by running a small hotel in Leh? The question of migration is indeed most vital to secure India’s borders.

To change this trend is difficult for the Modi sarkar. It is a long complicated process, not thrilling or ‘scoopy’ enough to be heightened by the media. Despite the declared resolve from the present Government, it may take years for proper roads to reach the remotest districts of Arunachal Pradesh…and stop the Chinese ‘visits’ in what Beijing considers its own territory (they call it ‘southern Tibet’).

It is not an easy challenge, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi had the wisdom to realise that the North-East cannot be developed from Delhi. In his latest monthly radio programme Maan ki Baat, he announced that he was “deputing Central Government officials to find solutions to problems being faced by the region”. He announced that the Ministry of Development of the North-Eastern Region will send officials to hold week-long camps. Mr Modi believes that these officials will realise how beautiful the region is and how warm the people are.

We are far from Verrier Elwin’s A Philosophy for NEFA, so dear to Nehru. Based on French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory: “Nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man.” This philosophy prevailed in the 1950s. In his foreword to the book, Nehru said that he had “began to doubt how far the normal idea of progress was beneficial for these people and, indeed, whether this was progress at all in any real sense of the word.”

This romantic view of the tribal folks ultimately amounted to the segregation of a large chunk of the Indian population and a total lack of development of the region. Nehru had written, “I am not at all sure which is the better way of living, the tribal or our own. In some respects I am quite certain theirs is better. Therefore, it is grossly presumptuous on our part …to tell them how to behave or what to do and what not to do.” Sixty years later, the population in the North-East remains gentle and special, but like the rest of their countrymen, they aspire to a better material life.

One of the decisions taken by the Union Government has been to modify the guidelines of the Border Area Development Programme drafted some 10 years ago. According to the new notification, “The main objective of the BADP is to meet the special developmental needs and well being of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border and to saturate the border areas with the entire essential infrastructure …(with a) participatory approach.”

The BADP is a 100 per cent centrally funded scheme covering in priority all Indian villages located within 10 km of the International Border. Within the 10 km, some villages are identified by the Border Guarding Forces for most immediate help.

This is one way to counter the Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh, which regularly translates into deep incursions into the Indian territory (migration plays into the hands of the Chinese as it then becomes easier for them to intrude). The BADP scheme could hopefully help to reduce the migration from the IB.

Despite these good intentions, one will have to watch during the coming months and years, how the project is implemented in the spot. Delhi has added some of its own ‘central’ schemes to the BADP: The Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, skill development programmes; promotion of sports activities, promotion of rural tourism, protection of heritage sites, construction of helipads in remote and inaccessible hilly areas, etc. This is good.

Another issue is the stagnating petty trade between India and Tibet. While Nathu La is better organised, the traders at Shipki La (Himachal) and Lipulekh La (Uttarakand) face many bureaucratic hurdles. Though border trade is a way to stop migration, the local babus are not really motivated. Recently, a Kinnaur India-China Traders’ Association was formed to seek the Government’s help to address the traders’ problems, in particular their demand for setting up of a single window for clearing their permits and also provision for medical facilities on the way to Tibet, but the local Government often remains insensitive.

Mr RS Tolia, who served as the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand, has suggested regular visits by the Domain Controller and Additional Domain Controller to the border posts. It is what the Political Officers and Assistant POs of the defunct Indian Frontier Administrative Service used to do in the 1950s and 1960s; and they sent long and most informative reports about local issues to the ‘babus’ in Delhi. One can’t expect young Indian Administrative Service officers to be of the caliber of the old POs, but Mr Modi’s initiative to send officers on the spot, is certainly a great improvement in the correct direction. Even if we don’t read anything in the news, let us hope for the best for Indian borders.

Xi Jinping is a Worried Man


During the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summits at Ufa, the capital of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Bashkortostan, President Xi Jinping of China looked tired.

True, he spoke of a new international order, of a multi-polar world while asking his colleagues from the BRICS and SCO to look at their relations from a ‘strategic and long-term perspective’, but the Chinese President had certainly China’s difficult internal situation in mind, while delivering his speeches of the New Silk Road and other Chinese mega projects.

The state of affairs in the Middle Kingdom is indeed worrisome, most immediately, because of the collapse of the Chinese stock exchange. But that is not all.

On July 2, 2015, several overseas Chinese websites published an article which had appeared in the Cheng Ming Monthly magazine in Hong Kong on the possible collapse of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

It argued that the Party is

“so corrupt that it has come to the verge of disintegration. Even top Party leaders could not avoid speaking of the possibility of the death of the Party.”

Accordingly to the same source, mid-June, the Politburo’s Standing Committee held a two-day expanded meeting to discuss the stern political and economic situation facing the Party.

Though it is difficult to confirm the information contained in the article, it appears that the Standing Committee was joined by the State Councilors (cabinet ministers), senior members of the Central Committee’s Secretariat, members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the People’s Political Consultative Conference, members of powerful Central Military Commission and top bureaucrats of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), responsible for the anti-corruption campaign; in other words, the cream of the Party.

Xi Jinping asserted,

“We must have the courage to face, acknowledge, and accept the harsh reality that the Party has become so corrupt and degenerated that it could trigger the Party’s downfall.”

The same source said that a report was distributed during the meeting. The research listed six ‘crises’ in the fields of politics, economy, society, faith (religion), which could lead to the Party’ collapse.

The report showed that only 25% of the senior officials of the Central Committees and local governments have successfully gone through the CCDI’s review; 90% of Party committees at grass-roots or county levels have failed in the review of their performance and needed to be ‘reorganised’, whatever that means.

The next day, China Gate, a Chinese website based in the US, republished another article from Cheng Ming Monthly magazine, this time about the power struggle between different factions within the CCP.

Apparently former President Jiang Zemin and his close associate, Zeng Qinghong, will be the next target of Xi Jinping’s and Wang Qishan’s anti-corruption campaign. Once Zhou Yongkang, the former Security Tsar was arrested, the unspoken rule, that no punishment could be imposed on members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, did not exist anymore.

All this comes at the time of the worse crack in the short history of the Chinese stock exchanges. The South China Morning Post in a commentary said: ‘Future shock: China’s market turmoil poses a challenge for Xi Jinping’, adding that “the market instability threatens to be a major setback for President Xi Jinping and his authority.”

The Hong Kong daily rightly argued “stock market crashes inevitably lead to unwanted consequences” and it quoted the Black Tuesday in Wall Street on October 29, 1929 which sent the US into the Great Depression and the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, which left deep scars on the economy of the Asian nations involved.

The SCMP asserted:

“Analysts cannot accurately assess the damage that the mainland’s stock market turmoil will cause while it continues to roil despite the government’s rescue efforts. Yet they all agree that it will have a profound impact on the future of the nation’s economy, society and politics.”

Since the stock market started crashing, the loss has been evaluated at $3 trillions; it means that some 30% was lost since June 12, when the exchange was at its peak value.

One of China’s problems is that it is not the institutional investors which hold most of the shares; the stock market is dominated by small individual investors, holding more than 80 % of shares.

The SCMP reported:

“It is believed that many of the 90-million-strong investors were burned because they often increased their stakes when prices were high. …Some might well have lost their entire life savings as they used margin loans to bet on the wild market.”

This explained why Xi is a worried man; economic instability could bring along political instability, the ‘investing’ middle-class on which the leadership was banking to bring economic, political and social stability in the Middle Kingdom, may become dissatisfied with the regime; after losing most of their life-earnings in the present crash, will they invest again?

The deep-rooted corruption, the vested interests in the Party and the dissatisfaction of the masses, could make an explosive cocktail.

Today, sorting out the economy in a sustainable manner will need much more than a reform here and there: the future of the Party is indeed at stake.

The Wall Street Journal sees the crash triggering ‘rare backlash’ for President Xi: Jeremy Page explains:

“Vibrant stock markets are at the center of Mr. Xi’s plans for an economic makeover, intended to help companies offload huge debts, reinvigorate state enterprises and entice more foreign investment. …Investors talked of ‘the Uncle Xi bull market.’ …the government appearing to panic in its response to the drop, some people are starting to voice doubts about Mr. Xi’s autocratic leadership style.”

And this is happening at a time when Xi faces resistance in the anti-corruption campaign and a serious slowdown of the economy.

Chinese-language news portal Aboluowang commented:

“China’s struggling stock market could turn into a major collapse …If China’s stock market continues to nosedive, it could spark a chain reaction that may lead to a political crisis threatening the authority of the Communist Party and the stability of the country’s top leadership.”

It is too early to predict what will happen in the months to come, but the situation is perilous, even if the latest news speaks of a stabilisation of the markets.

A compounded element is the new draconian national security law which creates fears among foreign companies; it was openly mentioned by Michael Clauss, the German ambassador to China in a recent interview.

On July 1, the National People’s Congress passed a controversial national security law defining threats to the Chinese State’s power and sovereignty. For example, a vetting scheme will be introduced to scrutinise any foreign investment that posed a risk to national security’. The NPC is also debating three other laws on foreign investment, cyber security, and foreign NGOs.

Clauss explains that

“Foreign companies feared the laws might be used to keep certain overseas competitors out of the market. …In China the notion of national security [covers] a very wide range – from culture, technology, food safety up to religion. You can hardly find a field that is not relevant to national security concerns.”

This too does not help to create an atmosphere of trust, which China needs so desperately, if it wants to be a ‘normal’ country.


Claude Arpi

One wonders why the White Paper on Tibet attacks the Dalai Lama when he is China’s best bet. But a perusal of the lengthy document makes it clear that, for the communist regime, there is no ‘Tibetan issue’; all is fine

The State Council Information Office (China’s Cabinet) recently released a White Paper, ‘on the development path of Tibet’. It is not the first WP published by the Chinese Government on Tibet; in fact, it is the 13th since 1992, when the State Council, tried to justify its position about ‘ownership and human rights’. The characteristic of the latest avatar is best described by the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala: “[it] tries to belittle His Holiness the Dalai Lama by questioning his sincerity in dealing with China. His Holiness admired around the world and revered by the Tibetan people, does not need any certificate on his motivation from the Chinese Government.”

One wonders: Why such a violent attack on the Tibetan leader, when many in China realise that he is undoubtedly the best bet if Beijing wants to find a solution to the Tibetan issue. But reading through the longish paper, it is clear that for the communist regime, there is no ‘Tibetan issue’; everything is fine and wonderful on the roof of the world. Beijing, however, warns: “The wheels of history roll forward and the tides of the times are irresistible. …Any person or force that attempts to resist the tide will simply be cast aside by history and by the people.”

One can only agree with Beijing, except for the fact that they mistakenly judge the tides’ direction. Democracy, freedom of thought and speech are accepted concepts everywhere on the planet, except in a Middle Kingdom which seems to have passed into a reverse gear. The WP asks the Dalai Lama to ‘put aside his illusions’ about talks on Tibet’s future status. For Beijing, the Dalai Lama has little understanding of modern Tibet, but keeps ‘a sentimental attachment to the old theocratic feudal serfdom’.

The WP argues: “The only sensible alternative is for the Dalai Lama and his supporters to accept that Tibet has been part of China since antiquity, to abandon their goals of dividing China and seeking independence for Tibet. …The Central Government [Beijing] hopes that the Dalai Lama will …face up to reality in his remaining years.”

Tibet has been part of China since antiquity however raises a serious question: What is China? A few years ago, Ge Jianxiong, Director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography, Fudan university in Shanghai stated in an article in China Review: “If we ask: How big was eighth century China and if we speak about the borders of the Tang dynasty, we cannot include the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. [Tibet] was sovereign and independent of the Tang dynasty.”

Mr Ge went further and questioned the notion of ‘China’: “First of all, ‘China’ (Zhongguo) only officially became the name of our country with the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. Before this, the idea of ‘Zhongguo’ was not clearly conceptualised. The concept of ‘China’ has continued to expand. From referring specifically to the central plains of China, the concept has since grown to now refer generally to a whole nation…”

The timing of the WP’s publication is linked to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region. In 1965, Tibet was divided in five areas, with Southern and Western Tibet becoming the Tibetan Autonomous Region, while other parts of historic Tibet were officially integrated in the Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.

The WP categorically rejects the concept of a historic ‘greater Tibet’, as well as the Dalai Lama’s demand that all the Tibetan-inhabited areas should be incorporated into a unified administrative area. Beijing also condemns the Dalai Lama’s middle way approach which seeks a genuine autonomy for roof of the world, simply because China believes that the Dalai Lama’s ultimate goal is independence, which he has denied time and again. Beijing also can’t accept that the religious leader decides on his own to terminate the Dalai Lama Institution: It is for the party to decide!

In several cases, Beijing put in the Dalai Lama’s mouth statements that he never made: “The Red Han people were snakes in your chest and abominable, …the Han people are like psychopaths, …they tortured us Tibetans ruthlessly and treat us like beasts”.

More serious is the constant distortion of history. Take the Tibetan uprising of March 1959, in which the entire population of Lhasa participated to protect the Dalai Lama. Beijing says: “In 1959, the Dalai party launched a large-scale armed revolt against officials the Central Government stationed in Tibet, and massacred local Tibetans who supported democratic reform.”

The Tibetans remember the facts differently: “In a crackdown operation launched in the wake of the National Uprising, 10,000 to 15,000 Tibetans [by the People’s Liberation Army] were killed within three days.” Dharamsala quotes a Chinese source (a secret 1960 Tibet Military District Political Department report) which admits that “between March 1959 and October 1960, 87,000 Tibetans were killed in Central Tibet alone.”

Dharamsala affirms that according to the information that they compiled, over 1.2 million Tibetans died between 1949 and 1979. In its report on Tibet in 1960, the International Commission of Jurists confirmed these facts. A couple of decades ago, I remember seeing in Dharamsala the files documenting the casualties of these tragic years; it is perhaps time for the Central Tibetan Administration to come out of its shyness, show the world what really happened in Tibet and publish these records. But there is still some irony in Tibet.

As the WP was released, a Chinese official website,, reported the renovation of a palace in Tronkhang village of Nyingchi prefecture; the building is said to be the house where Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama was born. The Tibetan leader, who is reverently called “The Great Thirteenth” by Beijing, fought all his life to make Tibet an independent nation; this ‘detail’ has now been forgotten by Beijing. Another irony, Lhasa has been awarded by the ‘CCTV Economic Life Survey’, China’s highest happiness index for five years in a row; it is however not mentioned, if the ‘happiness’ is for the migrant Hans or local Tibetans! More sadly, as long as the tide does not change, the doors seem closed for the Dalai Lama.

For India (which is never criticised in the WP), the publication is also significant as it shows that, despite its claim of becoming a ‘normal’ nation, a power which wants to lead Asia (for example in the two New Silk Roads project or with the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank), the Middle Kingdom remains rather feudal as far was freedom, plurality (and history) is concerned.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits China next month, he should go with pride: India has succeeded in growing and developing, with her citizens remaining free human beings. This is not the case in China.

India must be prepared to deal with China’s plans to divert Brahmaputra waters.

Recently, China announced the opening of the “central route” of the South-North Water Diversion Project, which is to transfer water from the Yellow River to the country’s arid north. The project, costing $33 billion, is supposed to carry 9.5 billion cubic metres of water (BCM) annually to meet the demands of Beijing and other areas. The “eastern route” of the project was opened last year to transport water north from the Yangtze River to Shandong province. According to Chinese officials, the entire project, which is slated to have three routes, namely, the eastern, central and western, would be able to address the chronic water shortage in the northern states.

China has uneven spatial distribution of water. As a result, for decades, the country has grappled with water and power shortages. During the 1970s, a Chinese general, Guo Kai, is even reported to have proposed that 200 nuclear warheads be launched at the Himalayas to blast a two kilometre-wide air tunnel that would divert the Indian monsoon and meet China’s water needs. Subsequently, he had even toyed with the idea of using Tibet’s waters, particularly from the Brahmaputra. The plan was to divert water from the “Great Bend” of the river.
With its burgeoning population, increased industrial development, higher demand from agriculture and pollution in the rivers aggravating its woes, the country turned its attention to exploiting the huge potential of the water-rich Tibetan region to overcome the looming crisis.

The proposal to divert waters from the south to the dry north was borne out of these compulsions and studies that grew out of them.

Of the three links envisaged by the the South-North Water Diversion Project, the central and eastern routes have already started functioning. At the moment, China is contemplating taking up the western route. This last route is a modified version of Guo’s dream project, which involved the construction of a mega structure at the Great Bend and a tunnel through the Himalayas to divert water and generate power, which could also be used to pump water. In 2003, the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, had detailed plans for the Tsangpo (which is the Brahmaputra in Tibet) Water Diversion Project. These plans had two components — first, a power plant with an installed capacity of more than 40,000 MW in the Medok area of the Nyingchi Prefecture to use the potential of the river at the Great Bend, where it takes a sharp u-turn before entering India, and second, diversion of water to the provinces of Xingjiang and Gansu.

Also, according to recent reports, China has constructed a highway, stretching 141 kilometres and linking Bome to Medok city, to facilitate the movement of heavy construction machinery and materials. It has also completed an airstrip in this prefecture, at an altitude of 2,949 metres. Though China has denied, all along, any plans for the diversion of the Brahmaputra, the fact that the South-North Diversion Project is slated to ultimately have three routes, with a total estimated cost of $81 billion, is indicative of the Chinese intention to take up the western route next. The State Grid Corporation of China’s map for 2020 also shows the Great Bend area connected to the rest of the country’s power supply.

Though our neighbour had been assuring us that its projects will not have any impact on Indian projects downstream, we should not rest easy with these assurances. India has to act fast to ensure that its riparian rights and other interests are protected.

Unfortunately, in spite of experts recommending the construction of a high dam across the Siang (or Brahmaputra) downstream to contain the impact of Chinese projects on our habitats and our development schemes, Indian authorities have been going slow on implementing this project. They cite the objections raised by a new breed of activists and environmental groups, which wage a relentless war against the project to protect their interests. But we should not lose sight of the strategic importance and disaster mitigation aspects of the Siang project just to appease these groups. We have to complete the project on a war footing in order to be prepared to meet any situation that arises from China’s plan to divert the Brahmaputra.

The writer is former member secretary, Indian National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage