India and China are headed for more conflicts – Claude Arpi

Xi Jinping

Claude ArpiWhile Beijing is going full steam to build infrastructure on its side of the McMahon Line, it complains about Delhi building roads on India’s borders. … While China is getting ready for another standoff, Beijing deeply dislikes Delhi developing its side of the border. Amazing double standards! — Claude Arpi

On New Year’s Eve, President Xi Jinping delivered an 11-minute televised speech to extend his greetings to all Chinese and … friends all over the world. Xi said that Beijing is dedicated to safeguarding peace. “China will act as a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and an upholder of the international order.”

Will this translate in peace on the border in 2018? Probably not! Rumours are circulating that troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have intruded in Gelling sector in the Siang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.

Stand-off

China has not fully digested the fact that India stood up for Bhutan when the PLA was trying to build a road in June near the trijunction between Sikkim and Chumbi Valley in Tibet.

Quoting “experts”, a PLA website admitted that China will be better prepared “next time”: “the recent Doklam standoff had propelled China to perfect its strategy in its western part” said chinamil.com.cn.

Zhao Xiaozhuo, a research fellow at the Academy of Military Sciences is quoted by the same newspaper: “India never takes road construction as an opportunity… and only thinks about its own interest.”

Was the road on Bhutanese territory really an opportunity for India? It makes no sense.

During a recent press conference, the spokesperson of the China’s ministry of national defence said India “should strictly control its troops”.

While China is getting ready for another stand-off, Beijing deeply dislikes Delhi developing its side of the border.

The Global Times resented the recent visit of the Indian Union home minister Rajnath Singh to Nelong Valley in Uttarakhand; Singh spent the New Year with Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

“An Indian road construction project connecting all border posts along the China-India frontier could lead to new military standoffs between China and India,” warned another Chinese expert.

China is unhappy because Rajnath Singh asserted that “a number of border posts had already been connected with roads and many would soon be linked … this would enhance the operational efficiency of the officers and reduce mountain-related sickness among them.”

While Beijing is going full steam to build infrastructure on its side of the McMahon Line, it complains about Delhi building roads on India’s borders; amazing double standards.

Nelong Border Outpost, located at the height of 11,700 feet, is manned by the ITBP. Accompanied by ITBP director general, R. K. Pachnanda, the minister later visited Pulam Sumda (14,200 feet) and interacted with jawans and officers..

Investment

The area is disputed by the Chinese only because Beijing refuses to adhere to the universally accepted principle of “watershed” used for demarcating borders. In Nelang, the watershed in the area is located at Tsangchok pass, beyond Pulam Sumda.

At the same time, Beijing does whatever it wants on its side of the border.

The China Daily recently reported: “Investment in infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region is helping to lift 628 villages along the border out of poverty.”

The Chinese newspaper further asserted: “After getting access to electricity and the construction of new roads, tea farmers and herdsmen in a village some 200 kilometres southwest of Lhasa in Tsona county founded a cooperative that provides skills training and job opportunities for villagers.”

Lepo, a tiny village, north of Khenzimane, the last border post on the McMahon Line is said to have received several thousands of visitors last year and adequate lodging facilities have been provided to them.

China further admitted: “Starting last year, more than 100 million yuan (Rs 99.4 crore) has been invested in infrastructure in villages of less than 100 families as a part of a broader construction project to build model villages in the border area.”

Infrastructure

The China Daily estimated that by 2020, the road access rate in the area will reach 100 per cent and the per capita disposable income will double. Last week, Xinhua reported that China’s least populated township had been connected to the national grid. It is Yume (also spelt Yulmed), the first hamlet north of Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.Remember, at that time of the 19th Congress, Xi Jinping had written a letter to two young Tibetan herders who had introduced their village to the Chinese president. It was the same Yume.

The Global Times commented: “A sparsely populated township has been connected to the state electricity grid, ending life without electricity for its 32 residents.”

The contractor, a Xining-based electric power company who worked on the project is quoted saying: “The 15-kilometer 10-kilovolt power line, which took five months to complete, is connected via 108 electric poles over a 5,000-meter-high mountain.”

There are many such examples along the Tibetan side of the McMahon Line. Year 2018 may not be serene despite the peaceful vows of President Xi. – IDR, 22 January 2018

India and China face each other on the Tibet border

 

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Arunachal Pradesh: Aggressive proselytisation is killing indigenous faiths – Aravindan Neelakandan

Christians in Arunachal Pradesh

Aravindan NeelakandanConversions in Arunachal Pradesh are not mere problems of religion but of utmost strategic importance given the presence of Christian terrorist organisations in the region. … Losing ‘souls’ to aggressive religious bodies is a dangerous threat to the vibrancy and survivability of India’s mutli-religious fabric. – Aravindan Neelakandan

In August 2017 the Pema Khandu led BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh approved the establishment of the “Department of Indigenous Faith & Cultural Affairs” at a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister had stated that the indigenous communities of Arunachal Pradesh need to take “specific steps to preserve and protect them from disappearing into oblivion”.

According to news reports Christian lobbying organisations quickly began opposing the government move. They alleged that “through its move to create a department to protect the indigenous faiths, the state government was taking aim at the Church.”

The secretary of the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) was quoted as saying that the government’s aim was “to target the Church by putting pressure on it, but the government should not interfere in religious matters and treat all religious groups equally”.

Demographic data—as pointed out by many—has been largely pointing to an increasing number of conversions in the state.

In 2001 Christians formed 18.7 per cent of the population in Arunachal Pradesh. A decade later, in 2011 this number has been reported as 30 per cent, officially. The actual number is likely to be much higher.

The increase in Christian population is also accompanied by the diminishing of local spiritual traditions like Donyi-Polo, Rangfraa and Buddhist tribal groups. The Christian claim is that the teachings of Jesus Christ attract the tribals who face a lot of problems. Christianity is said to have “reformed” the tribes.

A look into the incidents of past one decade shows another picture which is not just different but much scarier than the benign picture provided by lobbyist groups.

In August 2004, months after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had come to power at the centre, four tribal villages in Tirap—Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh had some visitors. The visitors carried assault automatic weapons and told the villagers that they should either convert to Christianity or face execution. The visitors were secessionists belonging to the two rival factions of NSCN—appropriately named National Socialist Council of Nagaland, a terror group fighting for a Christian socialist theocracy. The villagers had to flee fearing torture and death. They belonged to the indigenous religious streams of Arunachal and a syncretic tradition of Buddhism. (The Assam Tribune, 23 August, 2004)

Such gun-point conversions were condemned by the joint Buddhist session of the Purvanchal Buddhist Bhikkhu Sangha and Purvanchal Buddhist Association of both the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They strongly condemned “the heinous atrocities committed by the militants on the peace-loving Buddhists and tribes” and issued a press release saying that aggressive proselytism in Arunachal Pradesh was a violation of human rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

What followed was a deafening silence from both the mainstream media and the government. Throughout the UPA government’s decade-long stint, aggressive proselytising continued in Arunachal Pradesh, so much so that in 2010 when Tikhak Buddhists of Changlang district in the state celebrated Buddha Purnima, security forces had to provide them protection. The NSCN had issued a threat to Buddhist villagers to convert to Christianity. They were also warned not to celebrate Buddhist functions and if they did, they would face dire consequences.

An agonised Venerable Aggadhamma, the highest Buddhist leader of the province, told reporters that the NSCN terrorists were setting seven day deadlines for villagers to convert to Christianity. Ven Aggadhamma even sent a memorandum to then prime minister Manmohan Singh, the Union Home Ministry, the President as well as the Minority Commission (The Indian Express, 28 May, 2010).

It is a telling comment on the nature of mainstream media that nothing except minimal reportage happened. No outrages, no op-eds and no cartoons were published against such aggressive attempts to convert people of indigenous faith. That the hyper-proselytisation drive in Arunachal Pradesh correlates with the UPA regime period may not be accidental at all. The rate of conversions has been high despite there being legal restrictions against aggressive conversions in the state.

The current Khandu government, meanwhile, has been made to bow to the pressures of international lobbying groups and bodies such as the ACF. It is apparently toying with the idea of using a different name for the body being set up for protesting indigenous culture and faiths.

That a strategically important border state of India has to go through such issues is a cause of deep worry. Conversions in this state are not mere problems of religion but of utmost strategic importance given the presence of Christian terrorist organisations in the region.

When we lose territory there is a possibility that we can regain it. But losing ‘souls’ to aggressive religious bodies is a far more dangerous threat to the vibrancy and survivability of India’s multicultural, mutli-religious fabric. – Swarajya, 27 October 2017

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, economist and psychologist. He is a post-socialist thinker of cultural evolutionism and Indian ethnogenesis. He is known for the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra.

St Joseph's Cathedral, Itanagar, Arunachal PradeshCatholic priest Itanagar Arunachal PradeshTribal Christian converts in Arunachal Pradesh

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China’s renaming tantrum is childish – Claude Arpi

Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama

Claude ApriBy renaming six places in Arunachal Praesh, Beijing wants to remind India of the 1962 war and the fact that the Dalai Lama “belongs to China”. – Claude Arpi

Tawang has been in the news in recent times. According to an article in the China Daily, published at the end of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh: “Under India’s illegal rule, the residents of Southern Tibet live difficult lives, face various kinds of discrimination, and look forward to returning to China.” The mouthpiece of the Communist Party says that the Dalai Lama “can’t wait to give away Tawang district … in exchange for India’s support for the survival of his separatist group.” Calling the Dalai Lama a “troublemaker”, the daily further affirms: “Depending on India for a living, the Dalai Lama’s eagerness to please his master is understandable, but he is going too far by selling Southern Tibet in exchange for his master’s favour.”A few days later, China Tibet Online, a website affiliated to Xinhua, referred to the Tibetan leader’s visit to “Southern Tibet”, particularly to “Dawang”, a pinyin transcription for Tawang. Renaming names is however not new. It has been done by all colonisers. More than anybody, India is aware of this. China has done it in a more systematic manner. After it invaded Tibet in 1950-51, Shigaste became Rìkazé or Xigatse, Sakya was Sa’gya, Metok, north of Arunachal’s Upper Siang district, Mutao or Medog.

Apart from the cases of pure pinyin-isation like the ones just mentioned, in many cases, names have been completely changed. Ngari province is now called Ali Prefecture (Chinese faulty pronunciation can’t pronounce “Ng” and “r”), Kyirong at the border with Nepal is now Jilong and worse, Barahoti in today’s Uttarakhand is called Wuje, while Demchok in Ladakh is termed Parigas. Humans too are subjected to similar renaming: the Panchen Lama selected by China, Gyaltsen Norbu, is Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu. All this shows that the recent announcement about the “official standardised names” for six places in Arunachal Pradesh is not a scoop; the only surprise is that it was not done earlier, which is simply because the claim itself on Tawang is an afterthought. In any case, today it looks like 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. The Global Times reported: “China’s ministry of civil affairs announced on April 14 that it had standardised in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of six places in ‘South Tibet’, which India calls ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, in accordance with the regulations of the central government.”

The official names of the six places (transcribed in Roman alphabet) are Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidengarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bumo La and Namkapub Ri. Let us have a look where these places are located. Wo’gyainling is the new spelling for Urgyeling, the birthplace of Tsangyang Gyaltso, the sixth Dalai Lama, a few kilometers south of Tawang town. One understands the political reasons why China would be so attached to the place. Beijing is not ready to accept that a Dalai Lama could be born outside Tibet (China). The second place is Mila Ri. It is a lake known as Mila Nagula situated near the famous “Madhuri” Lake, north of Tawang and South of the Indo-Tibet border. The place is mentioned in the 1962 war records, advancing PLA troops passed the lake on their way to Tawang. As “Ri” means “mountain” or “ridge” in Tibetan/Monpa, Mila Ri is probably one of the ridges above the lake. The third place is Qoidengarbo Ri, for “Chorten Karpo” or “White Stupa”. It refers to Gorsam Chorten, the only large white stupa in the area (and the largest in Arunachal). It is not far from Zimithang, the tactical HQ of the 4th Infantry Division during the 1962 war.

The name may refer to one of the ridges around the stupa. Mainquka is Menchuka (or Mechuka, alternative Indian spelling) is a most strategic valley in West Siang district of Arunachal. It is the only of one the six places outside Tawang district. China is not happy that India recently landed a [Boeing C-17 Globemaster III] transport aircraft in the area. Menchuka was also occupied by the Chinese in October-November 1962. Bumo La is the border post of Bumla, 45 km north of Tawang, where the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA meet several times a year. “Bumo” means “girl” in Tibetan/Monpa. Namkapub Ri is linked to Namkha Chu river, the theatre of the first Chinese attack in October 1962. “Ri” is for one of the ridges above the river (perhaps Hathungla). By naming these six places, Beijing wants to remind India of the 1962 war and the fact that the Dalai Lama “belongs to China”. As the ministry of external affairs stated, renaming places can’t change the fact that the territory south of the McMahon Line belongs to India. What about the local population in Arunachal looking forward “to return” one day to China under the Communist banner? During the Dalai Lama’s visit, not only did the entire local Monpa population (some 35,000 to 40,000, according to police sources) throng to have a glimpse of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, but also large flocks of Buddhist pilgrims from the remotest villages of Upper Subansiri, West Siang or Upper Siang districts, who travelled for days to have a once-in-a-lifetime darshan.

Why did the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang trigger so much violence from the Chinese propaganda machinery? First and foremost, by allowing the Tibetan leader to visit Tawang, New Delhi has reasserted that the Land of Mon, as Tawang is known, is an integral part of India, whether China agrees or disagrees. This does not please Beijing, which lately has started adding Tawang to China’s “occupied territories”. Moreover, if China is under the impression that Delhi’s policy is going to change, it is mistaken; Beijing has to reconcile and live with it. The Chinese response is also a reaction to the Dalai Lama’s immense popularity in India’s border areas. This deeply irritates Beijing whose propaganda is unable to win over the “masses”, whether on the Tibetan side of the border or in the Indian Himalaya. Beijing does not know how to react to such reverence for the Tibetan leader; given that the Chinese leadership has been unable to win over the hearts of the Tibetans, more than 60 years after their so-called liberation. In these circumstances, how could the Communist leadership convince the population of Arunachal Pradesh to join the authoritarian regime? Another reason why Beijing has been so furious is that China has today become “bigger”; and it dislikes to be contradicted by “smaller” nations (like India). Despite using batteries of “experts”, including a wanted Ulfa dissident, to bolster its claims, Beijing has been unable to project its case and ended up by resorting to insulting the revered Buddhist teacher and threatening India. It will lead Beijing nowhere in the long run. – Deccan Chronicle, 27 April 2017

» Claude Arpi is French-born author, journalist, historian and tibetologist. He  is the director of the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture at Auroville, Tamil Nadu.

Boeing C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft

Tawang Town

India ruled by BJP is not India of the Dynasty – Rakesh Sinha

Prof Rakesh Sinha“Even if we were to adhere to the homilies of pro-Chinese Indian “experts” advocating voluntary amnesia of China’s illegal occupation of 48,000 sq km of Indian territory and PLA’s border adventurism, there are issues which can’t be downgraded. One of them is the Brahmaputra River. Flowing from Tibet, the Tsangpo River, also known as the Brahmaputra, enters India. China reportedly desires to build its highest dam there, which will adversely effect India, particularly Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Another Chinese irritant is its oft-repeated claim on Arunachal Pradesh, an integral part of India. There can be no peace if such policies continue. But China plays the public relations game with finesse.” – Prof Rakesh Sinha

Modi & XiFor Xi Jinping, this India visit has brought home the twin experiences of cultural exhilaration and realpolitik firmness, delivered by his host. The Chinese president enjoyed traditional Indian hospitality but also realised that India ruled by BJP is not India of the Nehrus. His country has to be now cautious and respectful in treating India. The present Indian leadership was groomed in the antithesis of Nehru’s China policy, which in the words of the late PM’s journalist friend—in the aftermath of the 1962 war—was “the road to dishonour”. War has never been India’s preference, irrespective of whoever is at the helm in South Block. However, India’s enhanced diplomatic hardball is a significant development now seen and felt in the international arena. Lest one mistakes diplomacy for soft talk, it bears iteration that diplomacy transcends mere “handling skills” pertaining to situations at hand. It is an outcome of politics and policies, and the leadership of a country.

To the Modi government must rightfully go the credit of liberating the country from its diplomatic deficit. Earlier, a “treat us as you want” mindset passed off for policy in New Delhi. India’s policymakers were perfect examples of Gandhi’s three monkeys —ears, eyes and mouths shut. Needless to say, the Chinese leadership is not only perturbed by the growing India-Japan relationship but also by a strong likelihood of the emergence of a Hindu-Buddhist corridor. It would be too early to judge China, whose worldview is reflected by the proverb “it does not matter whether cat is black or white so long it catches the mice”.

Mutual economic interests in a neoliberal world are one of the most important determinants of foreign policy. There is no way China can ignore the emerging Indian market. Its emergence as India’s biggest trading partner is now a binding factor even as it eyes a $100 billion target for 2015.

Brahmaputra River MapYet, burgeoning economic entente between two countries apart, there are reasons for institutionalised suspicion of China. Even if we were to adhere to the homilies of pro-Chinese Indian “experts” advocating voluntary amnesia of China’s illegal occupation of 48,000 sq km of Indian territory and PLA’s border adventurism, there are issues which can’t be downgraded. One of them is the Brahmaputra River. Flowing [from] Tibet, the Tsangpo River, also known as the Brahmaputra, enters India. China reportedly desires to build its highest dam there, which will adversely effect India, particularly Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Another Chinese irritant is its oft-repeated claim on Arunachal Pradesh, an integral part of India. There can be no peace if such policies continue. But China plays the public relations game with finesse. Chinese lobbying among Indian experts, academics, intellectuals, parties of all ideological hues is alarmingly successful. Most of them are Chinese propagandists and refuse to even listen to anything against China, using the cliché of “inevitability of interdependence”. When I raised the question of Arunachal Pradesh in a TV debate, my co-panelist dubbed it “old jingoism”. A fortnight later in another TV discussion, a senior journalist accused the Indian media of “jingoism” by “unnecessarily telecasting the Chinese army’s border violations”.

It has become difficult to even discuss Tibet. Mutual trade interests notwithstanding, Tibet cannot be ignored or forgotten. India is morally bound to support their cause. Tibet’s invasion by China, to use C Rajagopalachari’s phrase, was brutal colonialism. The loss of Tibet’s independence delivered strategic benefit to China. But Indian consensus on this issue is best represented by Jayaprakash Narayan: “Is Tibet lost forever? No. A thousand times no. Tibet will not die because there is no death for human spirit.”

China needs India more than India needs China. Our diplomacy cannot be a victim of the pro-Chinese leanings in public discourse. – The New India Express, 21 September 2014

» Prof Rakesh Sinha is Honorary Director of India Policy Foundation. E-mail him at Rakeshsinha46@gmail.com

Chinese are building dams across the Brahmaputra in Tibet

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The Christianising of Arunachal Pradesh – Max Bearak

Max Bearak“In the 1980s and earlier, barely any convents or Christian institutions existed in Arunachal as missionary work was, as it still is, outlawed under the Freedom of Indigenous Faith Act of 1978. These days, in spite of the law, Christian schools, hospitals and churches abound, particularly in central Arunachal, where the state’s most populous and powerful tribe, the Nyishis, live.” – Max Bearak

India Crossed-Out: Christian missionaries meet no opposition from Hindu organisations today.Though the event they advertised had passed a month earlier, the neon-colored posters remained, clinging to the state capital’s walls, lampposts and store-fronts. On them were invitations to Indigenous Faith Day celebrations on Dec. 1, with slogans like “Culture without faith is body without soul,” and, more pointedly, “Imitation of alien faith is slavery.”

Implicit in the slogans for the event, which began in 2011, is the idea that this northeastern state, populated mostly by tribal people, is being stripped of its distinctive religious identity as hundreds of thousands have converted to Christianity.

Most outsiders hear about this remote Himalayan state in the context of tensions with China over repeated border incursions and blueprints to build hundreds of dams on its icy, blue rivers. But most Arunachal Pradesh residents are more concerned with adapting to a society increasingly drawn along religious rather than tribal lines.

In Itanagar’s residential neighborhoods, most households identify themselves with religious markers — a star lantern for Christians, and a white flag with a red sun, for animists. “We’re at a junction where we are dichotomizing,” said Toku Tayu Stephen, the catechist at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Itanagar.

Hundreds of thousands in this mountainous and sparsely populated state have converted to Christianity in recent years, and the trend has accelerated exponentially over the past four decades. The 1971 census showed less than 1 percent of Arunachal Pradesh’s residents called themselves Christian, but in 2001, 19 percent of the state’s total population and 26 percent of the tribal population put themselves in that category.

St Joseph's Church in ItanagarWhile religious data for the 2011 census hasn’t been released yet, many observers say that it is likely that Christians now form a majority of the approximately 1.4 million people in the state, with some tribes almost fully converted.

Less than a decade ago, Arunachal Pradesh was the only state in India to have a majority population adhering to tribal religions. Tribes in other northeast Indian states like the now-solidly Christian Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland converted much earlier, while Hinduism dominates the plains of Assam.

Anthropologists like Stuart Blackburn, who have chronicled social change in Arunachal’s tribes, contend that Christianity’s infiltration into Arunachal Pradesh began slowly, mostly through locals who descended into the Assamese plains to be educated in well-regarded missionary schools there, only to return with a new religious zeal, as well as English-language skills and new names like John and James.

In the 1980s and earlier, barely any convents or Christian institutions existed in Arunachal as missionary work was, as it still is, outlawed under the Freedom of Indigenous Faith Act of 1978. These days, in spite of the law, Christian schools, hospitals and churches abound, particularly in central Arunachal, where the state’s most populous and powerful tribe, the Nyishis, live.

The state’s chief minister, Nabam Tuki, who is both a Nyishi and a Christian, donated some of the funds used to build St. Joseph’s Cathedral where Mr. Stephen, 41, has been a catechist for two years.

“1978 didn’t matter,” said Mr. Stephen, who was the son of an animist priest but converted at a convent school in Assam as a boy. “Our first concern was to come back home and heal people. So much disease was there in our villages. We showed people that God could send miracles, and many people wanted to convert right away.”

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam TukiBut there were other reasons to convert – some practical, like the need for better education and healthcare, which churches promised to bring, and others more spiritual. “Our people are religious by nature,” said Mr. Stephen. “We’ve always believed in a supreme being who will smite you if you sin, and we’ve always had a mother figure like Mary.”

Mr. Stephen said that people, especially in rural areas, are still coming around to “the truth,” and that Christianity was largely a unifying force in a state that has dozens of tribes whom often fought each other.

He said that during Christmas and Easter seasons, pastors from cities like Itanagar visited villages where residents had been waiting for months to be officially converted, and performed mass baptisms. “People are just waiting,” he said, “especially to be freed from sickness.”

Nani Bath, a professor of political science at Rajiv Gandhi University near Itanagar, said many tribals converted out of a desire to be modern, since Christianity was often seen in the same boat as modernity.

“See, at these churches, you’d have guys playing guitar and pretty girls singing in English, and no one was allowed to drink, which was very rampant both then and now in this state,” he said.

Lisa Lomdak, a linguist and colleague of Professor Bath’s, said that for those with a 21st-century mindset, the traditional wedding practice of slaughtering dozens of mithuns, a type of mountain bovine, was disagreeable.

For others, she said, the ritual slaughter was just too expensive, and converting to Christianity was one way to save money.

Flag of the Donyi-Polo religionProfessor Lomdak, herself a follower of the Donyi-Polo faith, an organized form of animism that translates as “sun-moon,” lamented that conversions are part of a larger erosion of tribal culture and endangerment of local language.

“Even if our kids speak our language, they aren’t fluent,” she said. “They aren’t even competent. Wherever there is dish TV, you’ll see kids excelling in English and Hindi. And when kids sing old tribal songs, other kids tell them to stop because ‘those are not Jesus songs.’”

Tribal religion has adapted some of the modern forms of worship in response to its dwindling followers. Within the past five years, locals say, the Donyi-Polo faith has become more institutionalized in its practices, as its leaders have realized that it suffers from being seen as a disorganized and time-worn default religion.

From its age-old pantheon, the cosmic duo of Donyi and Polo have been promoted as the primary gods, while previously absent elements like prayer halls, designated holidays, chant books, the use of incense and ringing bells and the visual depiction of gods and goddesses have been introduced.

To many, these spiritual building blocks are eerily reminiscent of Hinduism’s. Professor Bath said right-wing Hindu organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or R.S.S., finance Donyi-Polo schools and cultural centers, promoting it as a unified Arunachali religion. The R.S.S. is aligned politically with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has lost ground in a state where Christians have gained increasing power through the Congress Party.

Tribal converts in an Itanagar churchLast month, Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of R.S.S., traveled to Pasighat, in the eastern part of the state, to address 600 members of his organization at the Donyi-Polo Vidya Niketan, one of the schools funded by the Hindu nationalist organization. At numerous R.S.S.-sponsored events, the life of Talom Rukbo, the father of modern, institutionalized Donyi-Poloism, has been memorialized.

Professor Lomdak said some Hindus may see tribal animist faiths simply as a substratum of their own. She acknowledged that the borders between her religion and Hinduism were blurry. All the same, she worried that Christianity, and not Hinduism, would prove most corrosive to her state’s indigenous culture.

Mr. Stephen, having just left a Mass given in the Nyishi language, presented a different take on the transformation. “Before criticizing, they should really ask themselves how ‘alien’ Christianity really is,” he said. “Already, in the towns and also the villages, this religion is becoming our tradition.” – The New York Times, 4 February 2014

Will India repeat the mistakes of 1962? – G. Parthasarathy

G. Parthasarathy“China today has moved far ahead of us, militarily and economically. It’s recent decision to depict the South China Sea, together with Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Ladakh as Chinese territory in maps on Chinese passports has to be seen in the light of growing Chinese readiness to use force to enforce territorial claims.” – Prof. G. Parthasarathy

Nathula Pass on the India-China border.In an age of “breaking news” and live television news coverage, public memory of past events is inevitably short. Who after all remembers, or is still outraged, by the corruption and mismanagement that characterised the conduct of the Commonwealth Games just over a year ago? Even worse, scandals have sadly come to public attention since then. Is there still institutional memory of the horrendous bomb blasts in Mumbai in 1993, when over 250 innocent people lost their lives? In these circumstances, it has been very heartening that as we mark the 50th anniversary of the national humiliation we faced in October/November 1962, when Chinese forces overran large portions of our territory, there have been wide-ranging national discussions and media focus on what really happened and what are the lessons we need to learn from the conflict of 1962.

Jawaharlal Nehru & Krishna MenonThe broad conclusion which emerged from these discussions was that newly independent and overly idealistic India had bungled badly in the key areas diplomacy, defence preparedness and in intelligence gathering. Sardar Patel had sounded the alarm bells about the serious security implications of the new reality of a physical Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ignored this warning and surrendered all India’s rights in Tibet unilaterally, without even insisting that the Chinese should first reach agreement with us about the precise definition, delineation and demarcation of the border between India and Tibet. What followed was a steady Chinese ingress into areas which were hitherto regarded as Indian territory. When alarm bells rang throughout India, we adopted a “forward policy” of deploying troops in forward outposts with little or no logistical and material support. What followed was a superbly timed and planned Chinese attack which overran ill-equipped and ill-prepared Indian troops. Internationally, the Chinese moved even more skilfully and ensured that neither the US nor the Soviet Union backed us.

Chinese passportChina today has moved far ahead of us, militarily and economically. It’s recent decision to depict the South China Sea, together with Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Ladakh as Chinese territory in maps on Chinese passports has to be seen in the light of growing Chinese readiness to use force to enforce territorial claims. China has already seized territories claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam and is threatening Japan’s presence on disputed islands. With jingoistic propaganda, together with a military build-up, coercion is being used by the Chinese Communist Party leadership to assert territorial claims. It is evident that China is in no mood to show any flexibility on its territorial claims along the Sino-Indian border. As Chinese passports are generally valid for 10 years, there can logically be no change in its territorial claims in this period.

Bikram SinghIndia’s reaction to these developments has been surprising. While brushing aside the implications of these Chinese actions, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon voices optimism that “we are in the process of agreeing on a framework to settle the boundary”. More astonishingly, Army Chief General Bikram Singh describes bilateral ties with China as “absolutely perfect” and adds that mechanisms were now in place to solve any issues between the two countries. All this is taking place when there have been reports that because of the growing budget deficit, the government has been compelled to go slow in equipping the armed forces with crucial weapons and equipment. Moves to establish strike formations on the China border and improve border infrastructure are also reportedly not moving ahead as expeditiously as envisaged.

Brahmos Diplomatically, we seem averse to providing countries like Vietnam and Philippines with weapons like the Brahmos cruise missile to enable them to deter Chinese adventurism, or strongly insisting on respect for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. We may soon find that we have no friends to support us in our neighbourhood, as we did in 1962. Are we fated to repeat the mistakes of 1962?

» Prof. G. Parthasarathy is presently Visiting Professor in the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He is also a Senior Fellow and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and a member of the Executive Committee of the Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi. Contact him at dadpartha@gmail.com

1962 War: Chaos in Army HQ, no border map, disaster in the field – Claude Arpi

Dr. N.S. RajaramRajaram’s Introduction

No one in India has studied the tangled India-China-Tibet relations more comprehensively than the Auroville-based French-born scholar Claude Arpi. In a series of books beginning with the Fate of Tibet (1999) to his latest 1962 and the McMahon Line, he has laid bare the incompetence of Indian governments, beginning with Nehru and his hunger for international glory culminating in the disaster of 1962. Two chapters in his latest book — Chapter 15 on “Mao’s return to power passes through India” and Chapter 16 entitled “Why the Henderson Brooks report has never been released” — alone justify reading the book. His insight on the dynamics of China’s domestic politics leading Mao to launch the attack as a diversion from his problems is hardly known in India.

Nehru & Zhou EnlaiWhat is clear from Arpi’s monumental effort is that while the armed forces learnt their lessons, the Army today is much stronger than before, the politicians apparently have not. The India-China boundary was not demarcated then and it still is not. In the 1950s China was anxious for a boundary settlement but Nehru arrogantly dismissed Zhou Enlai’s repeated overtures. Since there is no official boundary India is in no position to say that the Chinese violated the boundary and is therefore the aggressor! This simple fact seems to escape the thinking of Indian politicians. I recently heard a senior politician thunder: “We are going to take back OUR territory in Aksai Chin!” How do we know what is OUR territory when WE have not demarcated any boundary? Pray how are we going to retake it? By sending kar sevaks but without maps? That is pretty much what Nehru asked the Army to do in 1962.

Nehru & Mao: Hindi-Chini bhai-bhaiAn official report observes: “Across the board, the biggest failure in 1962 war was the inability of our political leadership to visualise Chinese aims in both the Eastern and Western Sectors. Both the government and military hierarchy thought that the Chinese hordes will come down and cross Brahmaputra in the East and capture Leh in the Western Sector giving little thought to where the Chinese claim lines were. In the event the Chinese did not cross their claim line both in the East as well as in the West and withdrew unilaterally….”

In short, the Chinese had a clear idea of where their claim lines were while the Indians did not. Apparently they still do not. – Dr. N.S. Rajaram

Claude ApriTen truths about the 1962 War – Claude Apri

Here are some truths about the 1962 China’s War which are not often mentioned in history books or reports from the Government. Of course, this list is not exhaustive.

1. No precise location of the border: In the Army HQ in Delhi as well as locally in the NEFA, nobody was really sure where exactly the border (the famous McMahon Line) was. It is the reason why the famous Henderson Brooks report has been kept out of the eyes of the Indian public for fifty years. Till the fateful day of October 20, 1962, the Army bosses in Delhi were unable to tell the local commanders where the border in Tawang sector precisely was? [Sic: Releasing the report would expose Nehru’s incompetence in not having a boundary demarcated despite repeated efforts by China. – NSR]

2. There was no map: Lt. Gen. Niranjan Prasad, GOC 4 Infantry Division wrote in his memoirs (The Fall of Tawang): “It is hard to understand how any purposeful negotiation could have been conducted with Communist China [in 1960] when even such elementary details as accurate maps were not produced; or, if they were in existence, they were certainly not made available to the Army, who had been given the responsibility for ensuring the security of the border.”

When Lt. Gen. Kaul was evacuated from the Namkha Chu on October 8, having fallen sick due to the altitude, he was carried pick-a-back by ‘local’ porters. It was later discovered that one of them was a Chinese interpreter in a PoW camp in Tibet. The secrets were out!

McMahon Line is still disputed.The Army had no map: There is the story of Capt. H.S. Talwar of the elite 17 Parachute Field Regiment who was asked to reinforce Tsangle, an advance post, north of the Namkha Chu on October 16. Without map, he and his men roamed around for 2 days in the snow; they finally landed a few kilometers east at a 2 Rajputs camp (and were eventually taken PoWs to Tibet along with Brig. John Dalvi on October 21).

3. Some troops fought extremely well: Take the example of the 2 Rajputs under the command of Lt. Col. Maha Singh Rikh who moved to the banks of the Namka Chu river by October 10 as part of 7 Infantry Brigade. The brigade was stretched out along nearly 20 kilometers front beside the river. It was a five-day march to walk from an end to the other (the confluence with the Namjiang Chu). Not a single man from the Rajputs was awarded any gallantry medal, because there was no one left to write the citations; all the officers or JCOs who were not killed or seriously wounded were taken POWs. Out of 513 all ranks on the banks of the river, the 2 Rajput lost 282 men, 81 were wounded and captured, while 90 others were taken prisoners. Only 60 other ranks, mostly from the administrative units got back.

Major B.K. Pant of 2 Rajput displayed exemplary heroism while wounded in the stomach and legs. Though his company suffered heavy casualties, he continued to lead and inspire his men, exhorting them to fight till the last man. When the Chinese finally managed to kill him, his last words were: “Men of the Rajput Regiment, you were born to die for your country. God has selected this small river for which you must die. Stand up and fight like true Rajputs.” Ditto for 4 Rajputs under Lt. Col. B. Avasthi in the Sela-Bomdila sector

The Indian troops fought pitched battles in the Walong sector of the NEFA and Chushul in Ladakh inflicting heavy losses on the Chinese. [Sic: The credit for this should go to the superior leadership in the Western sector compared to what was given in the east. (See below.) – NSR]

Gen. B.M. Kaul4. A complete intelligence failure: The flamboyant new Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul planned Operation Leghorn to ‘evict’ the Chinese by October 10. Kaul took over Corps IV, a Corps especially created ‘to throw the Chinese out’. On his arrival in Tezpur, Kaul addressed the senior officers: “The Prime Minister himself had ordered these posts [near the Thagla ridge] to be set up and he had based his decision on the highest Intelligence advice.” The ‘highest intelligence’ inputs from Mullick turned out to be a sad joke on the 7 Infantry Brigade.

[Sic: It was the same B.M. Kaul who had himself admitted to a New Delhi hospital on the verge of the Chinese attack due to altitude sickness. A good organizer and staff officer, Kaul had no field experience and should not have been placed in command of a Corps (Corps IV) at such a strategically important theater. But Kaul was related to Prime Minister Nehru and his appointment as Corps Commander was seen as a stepping stone towards his eventual elevation to the post of Army Chief. He was made Commander of Corps IV replacing his senior General Umrao Singh and superseding half a dozen better qualified officers. The Chinese attack and the disintegration of the Corps IV under his ineffective leadership put an end to Kaul’s meteoric career. I (NSR) write this with mixed feelings, even a twinge of regret, for Kaul was a very nice man and a staunch patriot who took his downfall with exemplary grace. Only he was unfit for command. – NSR]

Until the last fateful minute, the arrogant IB Chief, B.N. Mullick said the Chinese would not attack, they don’t have the capacity. Such a blunder! The Prime Minister himself, at Palam airport on his way to Colombo told the waiting journalists that he had ordered the Indian Army “to throw the Chinese out”. He generously left the time to the discretion of the Army. This was on October 12, 1962, just 8 days before the fateful day. He had received intelligence inputs from Mullik.

Chinese hackers5. Chinese spies: Just as today Beijing can hack into any computer system, in Mao’s days, the Chinese intelligence knew everything about Kaul’s and his acolytes’ plans.

The Chinese had infiltrated the area using different methods. In his memoirs, Prasad recalled: “From our own Signals channels I had received reports of a pirate radio operating somewhere in our area, but when we referred this to higher authorities the matter was dismissed: we were curtly told that there was no pirate radio transmitter on our side of the border. Subsequently it was confirmed that the Chinese had indeed sneaked in a pirate transmitter to Chacko (on the road to Bomdila) in the Tibetan labour camp. The aerial [antenna] of their transmitter was concealed as a tall prayer-flagstaff so common in the Buddhist belt of the Himalayas.”

This is probably how Mao became aware of Operation Leghorn.

Some war veterans recall that on the way to Bomdila, there was a dhaba manned by two beautiful ‘local’ girls. All officers and jawans would stop there, have a chai and chat with the girls. It turned out later that they were from the other side.

An informant told me that when Lt. Gen. Kaul was evacuated from the Namkha Chu on October 8, having fallen sick due to the altitude, he was carried pick-a-back by ‘local’ porters. It was later discovered that one of them was a Chinese interpreter in a PoW camp in Tibet. The secrets were out!

Indian Army on the NEFA border in 19626. Gallantry Awards: The entire operation theater was plunged in deep chaos due to contradictory orders from the Army HQ (Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul, the Corps Commander was directing the Operation from his sick-bed in Delhi). Ad-hocism was the rule before, during and after the Operations. [Sic: According to those who were with him at the time Kaul had a nervous breakdown when he heard the Chinese attacked or even earlier. His Corps IV virtually disappeared and the retreat became a rout with each man having to fend for himself. The consequences were far more serious than a few misinformed gallantry awards. (See below.) – NSR]

To cite an example, the GOC, 4 Division was not informed that Subedar Joginder Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for some actions in Bumla (he later died of a gangrenous foot in a PoW camp in Tibet). An officer who had run away was given the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award. The Government had distributed these lollipops to each regiment to show that everyone fought well. The awards were decided by Delhi without consulting the local commanders. [Sic: There were few local commanders left to consult. The topmost, Corps Commander Kaul had left the scene and was trying to direct operations from a hospital bed in New Delhi, while others on the scene, without a leader were either killed or captured by the Chinese. – NSR]

7. The role of some Monpas: A senior war veteran, Maj. Gen. Tewari who spent nearly 7 months as a PoW in Tibet wrote: “In Kameng Frontier Division (Tawang) itself, they had many local people on their pay roll. They had detailed maps and knowledge of the area, how otherwise can you explain that they were able to build 30 km of road between Bumla and Tawang in less than 2 weeks?”

Arunachal Pradesh locals fleeing the Chinese in 1962According to local Monpas only a few villages sided with the Chinese under duress (after all they were ‘chinky’ like us, said the Chinese). Tewari recalled: “I was in for a still bigger shock when it was discovered that almost all the secondary batteries had arrived without any acid. I presume that what had happened is that the porters must have found it lighter without liquid and they probably decided to lighten their loads by emptying out the acid from all the batteries.”  It was an indirect collaboration with China, though the majority of the Monpas were quite patriotic.

8. Pensions and pay: About 500 Indian jawans and officers were taken prisoner in the Tawang sector alone. As Brig. A.J.S. Behl says in his interview: “My family got two telegrams: ‘2nd Lt Behl missing, believed dead’.”  Till the Chinese authorities sent the names of the prisoners to the Indian Red Cross, all those killed and taken prisoners were considered as ‘missing-in-action’ and their salaries were cut. For no fault of theirs, their wives and families had to manage on their own.

9. Mao’s return to power: In early 1962, Mao was out of power due to the utter failure of his Great Leap Forward. Some 45 million Chinese had died after a 3-year man-made famine. Mao Zedong managed to come back on the political scene in September 1962. If he had not managed to return at that time, the war with India would have probably not taken place. Of course, with ‘if’ many sections of world history could be rewritten, but it is a fact that once Mao’s ideological hard-line prevailed in Beijing, it was difficult to avoid a clash. [Sic: This is new insight offered by the author— Mao launched the attack for domestic reasons, to divert attention from his failures. Interestingly, Chinese history books barely mention the 1962 war and 90 percent of the Chinese are totally unaware of what happened! Where mentioned at all the Chinese claim that India attacked and they fought in self-defence. – NSR]

B.R. Nehru & John Kennedy10. America’s dubious role: Averill Harriman, the US Assistant Secretary of State and Duncan Sandys, the British Secretary for Commonwealth Relations visited India on November 22, 1962. This was the day China declared a unilateral ceasefire in the war with India. The visit was supposedly to assess India’s needs to resist Communist China; but both envoys “made clear their governments’ willingness to provide military assistance to India but pointed out the related need for negotiations to resolve the Kashmir dispute.”

A clear signal was given to India who had hardly recovered from the blackest month of her history: she had to compromise on Kashmir. Consequently six rounds of talks between India and Pakistan were held to find a solution for the vexed issue, but to no avail. However, Ayub Khan, the Pakistani President, must have taken the Western intervention as an encouragement for his claim. The Kennedy and later the Johnson Administrations thought of ‘re-balancing’ the assistance to Pakistan, with the condition that India should accept to ‘settle’ the Kashmir issue.

[Sic: Kennedy who like many Western leaders had fought in World War II had nothing but contempt for Indian leaders. When the Indian Ambassador (and Prime Minister Nehru’s cousin) B.K. Nehru went to see Kennedy and appealed for help, Kennedy scornfully said: “The British fought the Germans for two years before we went to their help, and you couldn’t fight them for two days?” – NSR]

» Claude Arpi is French-born (1949) author, journalist, historian and tibetologist who lives in Auroville, India.