Monday, September 22, 2008

Annexation of Tibet by China and India's Himalayan security

Brahma Chellaney, Hindustan Times
September 22, 2008
First Published: 19:30 IST(22/9/2008)
Last Updated: 19:38 IST(22/9/2008)
Art of War

Are we deceiving ourselves again?
Arun Shourie
Rs 395 PP 214

India and China are both adept at playing with numbers. While China invented the abacus, India conceived the binary and the decimal systems. But India, having forsaken the Kautilyan principles, has proven no match to China’s Sun Tzu-style statecraft. From Nehru’s grudging acceptance of Chinese suzerainty to Atal Behari Vajpayee’s blithe acceptance of full Chinese sovereignty, India has incrementally shed its main card — Tibet.

As a result, India has found itself repeatedly betrayed. Indeed, it wasn’t geography but guns — the sudden occupation of the traditional buffer, Tibet, soon after the communists seized power in Beijing — that made China India’s neighbour.

Jawaharlal Nehru later admitted he didn’t anticipate the swiftness of the Chinese takeover of Tibet because he had been “led to believe by the Chinese foreign office that the Chinese would settle the future of Tibet in a peaceful manner”. Shourie’s well-researched, powerfully written book relies on Nehru’s letters, speeches, notes and other correspondence to bring out the significance, in Nehru’s own words, of the events from the 1950-51 fall of Tibet to China’s 1962 invasion.

The author then draws 31 lessons from those developments for today’s India. After all, there are important parallels, as Shourie points out, between the situation pre-1962 and the situation now. Border talks are regressing, Chinese claims on Indian territories are becoming publicly assertive, Chinese cross-border incursions are rising, and India’s China policy is becoming feckless.

Indeed, what stands out in the history of Sino-Indian disputes is that India has always been on the defensive against a country that first moved its frontiers hundreds of miles south by annexing Tibet, then furtively nibbled at Indian territories before waging open war, and now lays claims to additional Indian territories. By contrast, on neuralgic subjects like Tibet, Beijing’s public language still matches the crudeness and callousness with which it sought in 1962, in Premier Zhou Enlai’s words, to “teach India a lesson”. India’s crushing rout in 1962 hastened the death of Nehru, “a fervent patriot,” according to Shourie, who “misled himself and thereby brought severe trauma upon the country, a country that he loved and served with such ardour”.

The defeat transformed Nehru from a world statesman to a beaten, shattered politician. A classic example of Nehru’s selfdelusion cited by the author is the following note he wrote on July 9, 1949, to the country’s top career diplomat: “Whatever may be the ultimate fate of Tibet in relation to China, I think there is practically no chance of any military danger to India arising from any change in Tibet.

Geographically, this is very difficult and practically it would be a foolish adventure. If India is to be influenced or an attempt made to bring pressure on her, Tibet is not the route for it. I do not think there is any necessity for our defence ministry, or any part of it, to consider possible military repercussions on the India-Tibetan frontier.The event is remote and may not arise at all.”

What Nehru naively saw as a “foolish adventure” was mounted within months by China. What Nehru asserted was geographically impracticable became a geopolitical reality that has impacted on Indian security like no other development since the 20th century. Right up to 1949, Nehru kept referring to the “Tibetan government” and to Tibet and India as “our two countries”. But no sooner had China begun gobbling up Tibet than Nehru’s stance changed. He started advising Tibetan representatives, as Shourie brings out, to go to Beijing and plead for autonomy.

By 1954, through the infamous ‘Panchsheel Agreement’, Nehru had not only surrendered India’s extra-territorial rights in Tibet but also recognised ‘the Tibet region of China’ — without securing any quid pro quo, such as the Chinese acceptance of the McMahon Line. From Nehru’s grudging acceptance of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s blithe acceptance of full Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, India has incrementally shed its main card — Tibet — and thereby allowed the aggressor state to shift the spotlight from its annexation of Tibet and Aksai Chin to its newly assertive claims on Arunachal Pradesh.

The irony is that by laying claims to additional Indian territories on the basis of their purported ties to Tibet, China blatantly plays the Tibet card against India, going to the extent of citing the birth in Tawang of one of the earlier Dalai Lamas, a politico-religious institution it has systematically sought to destroy. Yet India remains coy to play the Tibet card against China.

The sum effect of failing to use Tibet as a bargaining chip has been that India first lost Aksai Chin, then more territory in 1962 and now is seeking to fend off Chinese claims to Arunachal Pradesh. And as Shourie reminds us, India has still to grasp that the Chinese modus operandi of promising a peaceful settlement and then employing force to change facts on the ground is an old practice.

The lessons he paints — from not running policy on hope to ensuring peace by building capability to defend peace — are words of warning no leadership ought to ignore. Shourie’s book is a call for a downthe-earth Indian policy which, without pushing any panic buttons, begins to build better Himalayan security and countervailing leverage to ensure that China’s growing power does not slide into arrogance and renewed aggression. After all, China’s dramatic rise as a world power in just one generation under authoritarian rule represents the first direct challenge to liberal democracy since the rise of fascism in the 1930s.

But just as India has been battered by growing terrorism because of its location next to the global epicentre of terror, it could bear the brunt from its geographical proximity to an increasingly assertive China.

Brahma Chellaney is a political commentator

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The imperative of free Tibet

September 4, 2008

Chinese Tufan

Tibet is a in Central Asia and the home to the indigenous Tibetan people. With an average elevation of 4,900 metres , it is the highest region on Earth and is commonly referred to as the "Roof of the World."

Tibet was once an independent kingdom but today is part of the People's Republic of China while a small part, according to the government of the People's Republic of China, is controlled by India. Currently, the PRC government and the Government of Tibet in Exile still over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether the incorporation into China of Tibet is legitimate according to international law . Since what constitutes Tibet is a matter of much debate neither its size nor population are simple matters of fact, due to various entities claiming differing parts of the area as a Tibetan region.

A unified Tibet first came into being under Songts& in the seventh century. The government of the Dalai Lamas, a line of Tibetan spiritual leaders, nominally ruled a large portion of the Tibetan region from the 1640s until its incorporation into the PRC in the 1950s. During most of this period, the Tibetan administration was subordinate to the Chinese empire of the Qing Dynasty. As a measure of the power that regents must have wielded it is important to note that only three of the fourteen Dalai Lamas have actually ruled Tibet. From 1751 to 1960 regents ruled for 77 percent of the time.

Definitions of Tibet


In English

The English word ''Tibet'', like the word for Tibet in most European languages, is derived from the word ''Tubbat''. This word is derived via from the word ''Töbäd'' , meaning "the heights".

PRC scholars favor the theory that "Tibet" is derived from ''tǔbō''.

In Tibetan

Tibetans call their homeland ''Bod'' , pronounced in Lhasa dialect. .

:"The name Tibetans give their country, ''Bod'' , was closely rendered and preserved by their Indian neighbours to the south, as Bhoṭa, Bhauṭa or Bauṭa. It has even been suggested that this name is to be found in Ptolemy and the ''Periplus Maris Erythraei'', a first-century Greek narrative, where the river Bautisos and a people called the Bautai are mentioned in connexion with a region of Central Asia. But we have no knowledge of the existence of Tibetans at that time."

In Chinese

The present Chinese name for Tibet, 西藏 , is a phonetic transliteration derived from the region called Tsang . The Chinese name originated during the Qing Dynasty of China, ca. 1700. It can be broken down into “xī” 西 , and “zàng” 藏 .

The pre-1700s historic Chinese term for Tibet was . In modern Standard Mandarin, the first character is pronounced "tǔ". The second character is normally pronounced "fān"; in the context of references to Tibet, most authorities say that it should be pronounced "bō", while some authorities state that it should be pronounced as "fān". A reconstructed Medieval Chinese pronunciation would be /t'obwn/, which comes from the word for “heights” which is also the origin of the English term “Tibet”.

:"The Chinese, well informed on the Tibetans as they were from the seventh century onwards, rendered Bod as Fan . Was this because the Tibetans sometimes said 'Bon' instead of 'Bod', or because 'fan' in Chinese was a common term for 'barbarians'? We do not know. But before long, on the testimony of a Tibetan ambassador, the Chinese started using the form T'u-fan, by assimilation with the name of the T'u-fa, a Turco-Mongol race, who must originally have been called something like Tuppat."

When expressing themselves in Chinese, many exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama's government in Dharamsala, now use the term 吐博 Tǔbó.

The PRC government equates Tibet with the Tibet Autonomous Region . As such, the name “Xīzàng” is equated with the TAR. Some English-speakers reserve “Xīzàng”, the Chinese word transliterated into English, for the TAR, to keep the concept distinct from that of historic Tibet.The character 藏 has been used in transcriptions referring to Tsang as early as the Yuan Dynasty, if not earlier, though the modern term "Xizang" was devised in the 18th century. The Chinese character 藏 has also been generalized to refer to all of Tibet, including other concepts related to Tibet such as the Tibetan language and the Tibetan people .


The Tibetan language is generally classified as a Tibeto-Burman language of the Sino-Tibetan language family although the boundaries between 'Tibetan' and certain other Himalayan languages can be unclear. According to Matthew Kapstein:

From the perspective of historical linguistics, Tibetan most closely resembles among the major languages of Asia. Grouping these two together with other apparently related languages spoken in the Himalayan lands, as well as in the highlands of Southeast Asia and the Sino-Tibetan frontier regions, linguists have generally concluded that there exists a Tibeto-Burman family of languages. More controversial is the theory that the Tibeto-Burman family is itself part of a larger language family, called , and that through it Tibetan and Burmese are distant cousins of Chinese.

The language is spoken in numerous regional dialects which, although sometimes mutually intelligible, generally cannot be understood by the speakers of the different oral forms of Tibetan. It is employed throughout the Tibetan plateau and Bhutan and is also spoken in parts of Nepal and northern India, such as Sikkim. In general, the dialects of central Tibet , Kham, Amdo and some smaller nearby areas are considered Tibetan dialects. Other forms, particularly Dzongkha, , , and , are considered by their speakers, largely for political reasons, to be separate languages. However, if the latter group of Tibetan-type languages are included in the calculation then 'greater Tibetan' is spoken by approximately 6 million people across the Tibetan Plateau. Tibetan is also spoken by approximately 150,000 exile speakers who have fled from modern-day Tibet to India and other countries.

Although spoken Tibetan varies according to the region, the written language, based on Classical Tibetan, is consistent throughout. This is probably due to the long-standing influence of the Tibetan empire, whose rule embraced the present Tibetan linguistic area, which runs from northern Pakistan in the west to Yunnan and Sichuan in the east, and from north of the Kokonor lake south as far as Bhutan. The Tibetan language has its own that it shares with and , which is derived from the ancient Indian script.


The general history of Tibet begins with the rule of Songts& who united parts of the Valley and ruled Tibet as a kingdom. He also brought in many reforms and Tibetan power spread rapidly creating a large and powerful empire. In 640 he married Princess Wencheng, the niece of the powerful Chinese emperor Emperor Taizong of Tang China.

Under the next few kings who followed Songsten Gampo, Buddhism became established as the state religion and Tibetan power increased even further over large areas of Central Asia while major inroads were made into Chinese territory, even reaching the Chinese capital Chang'an in late 763. However, Tibetan troops occupied Chang'an for only fifteen days.

Nanzhao remained under Tibetan control from 750 to 794, when they turned on their Tibetan overlords and helped the Chinese inflict a serious defeat on the Tibetans.

The Tibetans were allied with the and eastern . In 747, the hold of Tibet was loosened by the campaign of general Gao Xianzhi, who tried to re-open the direct communications between Central Asia and Kashmir. By 750 the Tibetans had lost almost all of their central Asian possessions to the . However, after Gao Xianzhi's defeat by the and at the Battle of Talas river , Chinese influence decreased rapidly and Tibetan influence resumed.
In 821/822 CE Tibet and China signed a remarkable peace treaty. A bilingual account of this treaty including details of the borders between the two countries are inscribed on a stone pillar which stands outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. Tibet continued as a Central Asian empire until the mid-9th century.

Tibet and the Mongols

At the end of the 1230s, the turned their attention to Tibet. At that time, Mongol armies had already conquered Northern China, much of Central Asia, and as far as Russia and modern Ukraine. The Tibetan nobility, however, was fragmented and mainly occupied with internal strife. G&, a brother of , entered the country in 1240. A second invasion led to the submission almost all Tibetan states. In 1244, Göden summoned the Sakya Pandita to his court, and in 1247 appointed Sakya the Mongolian viceroy for Central Tibet, though the eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo remained "under direct Mongol rule". When Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty in 1271, Tibet became a part of the Yuan Dynasty.

Between 1346 and 1354, towards the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the House of Pagmodru toppled the Sakya. The following 80 years were a period of relative stability. They also saw the birth of the Gelugpa school by the disciples of , and the founding of the important Ganden, Drepung, and monasteries near Lhasa. After the 1430s, the country entered another period of internal power struggles.

In 1578, Altan Khan of the Tümed Mongols invited Sonam Gyatso, a high lama of the Gelugpa school. They met near , where Altan Khan first referred to Sönam Gyatso as the ''Dalai Lama''; ''Dalai'' being the Mongolian translation of the Tibetan name Gyatso, or "Ocean".

Events leading to Qing control

In the 1630s, Tibet became entangled in the power struggles between the rising Manchu and various Mongol and Oirad factions. Ligden Khan of the Mongolian Chakhar tribe, retreating from the Manchu forces, set out to destroy the Yellow Hat Gelug school in Tibet but died on the way near Kokonor, in 1634. His vassal Tsogt Taij continued the fight but was defeated and killed by Güshi Khan of the Khoshud in 1637, who, in turn, became the overlord over Tibet, and acted as a "Protector of the Yellow Church". Güshi helped the to establish himself as the highest spiritual and political authority in Tibet and destroyed any potential rivals.

In 1705, of the Khoshud used the 6th Dalai Lama's refusal of the role of a monk as an excuse to take control of Tibet. The regent was murdered, and the Dalai Lama sent to Beijing. He died on the way, also near Kokonor, ostensibly from illness. Lobzang Khan appointed a new Dalai Lama, who, however, was not accepted by the Gelugpa school.

A was found in the region of Kokonor. The Dzungars invaded Tibet in 1717, deposed and killed a pretender to the position of Dalai Lama , which met with widespread approval. However, the Dzungars soon began to loot the holy places of Lhasa which brought a swift response from Emperor Kangxi in 1718, but his military expedition was annihilated by the Dzungars not far from Lhasa.

Emperor Kangxi finally expelled the Dzungars from Tibet in 1720 and the troops were hailed as liberators. They brought Kelzang Gyatso with them from Kumbum to Lhasa and he was installed as the Seventh Dalai Lama in 1721, though they did not make Tibet a province, allowed it to maintain its own officials and legal and administrative systems, and levied no taxes. However, the Manchu put Amdo under their control in 1724, and incorporated eastern Kham into neighbouring Chinese provinces in 1728. The Qing government sent a resident commissioner, namely ''Amban'', to Lhasa. In 1751, installed the Dalai Lama as both the spiritual leader and political leader of Tibet leading the government, namely ''Kashag''.

Tibet under Qing and the Republic

While the ancient relations between Tibet and China are more complex, there is generally little doubt regarding the subordination of Tibet to Manchu-ruled China following first decades of the 18th century. In 1788, Gurkha forces sent by Bahadur Shah, the Regent of Nepal, invaded Tibet, occupying a number of frontier districts. The young Panchen Lama fled to Lhasa and Qing Emperor Qianlong sent troops to Lhasa, upon which the Nepalese withdrew agreeing to pay a large annual sum. In 1791 the Nepalese Gurkhas invaded Tibet a second time, seizing Shigatse and destroyed, plundered, and desecrated the great Tashilhunpo Monastery. The Panchen Lama was forced to flee to Lhasa once again. Emperor Qianlong then sent an army of 17,000 men to Tibet. In 1793, with the assistance of Tibetan troops, they managed to drive the Nepalese troops to within about 30 km of Kathmandu.

The first Europeans to arrive in Tibet were missionaries in 1624 and were welcomed by the Tibetans who allowed them to build a . The 18th century brought more Jesuits and from Europe who gradually met opposition from Tibetan lamas who finally expelled them from Tibet in 1745. However, at the time not all Europeans were banned from the country — in 1774 a Scottish nobleman, , came to Shigatse to investigate trade for the British East India Company, introducing the first potatoes into Tibet.

However, by the 19th century the situation of foreigners in Tibet grew more tenuous. The British Empire was encroaching from northern India into the Himalayas and Afghanistan and the Russian Empire of the tsars was expanding south into Central Asia and each power became suspicious of intent in Tibet. Sándor K&, the Hungarian scientist spent 20 years in British India trying to visit Tibet. He created the first Tibetan-English dictionary.

By the 1850s Tibet had banned all foreigners from Tibet and shut its borders to all outsiders.

In 1865 Great Britain began secretly mapping Tibet. Trained Indian surveyor-spies disguised as pilgrims or traders counted their strides on their travels across Tibet and took readings at night. Then, in 1904 a mission under the command of Colonel Francis Younghusband, accompanied by a large military escort, invaded Tibet and reached Lhasa.

The principal pretext for the British invasion was a fear, which proved to be unfounded, that Russia was extending its power into Tibet and possibly even giving military aid to the local Tibetan government. But on his way to Lhasa, Younghusband slaughtered many Tibetan troops in Gyangzê who tried to stop the British advance.

When the mission reached Lhasa, the Dalai Lama had already fled to Urga in Mongolia, but Younghusband found the option of returning to India empty-handed untenable. He proceeded to draft a treaty unilaterally, and have it signed in the Potala by the regent, Ganden Tri Rinpoche, and any other local officials he could gather together as an ''ad hoc'' government. The treaty made provisions for the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet to be respected, for free trade between British and Tibetan subjects, and for an indemnity to be paid from the Qing court to the British Government for its expenses in dispatching armed troops to Lhasa. The provisions of this 1904 treaty were confirmed in a 1906 treaty signed between and China. The British, for a fee from the Qing court, also agreed "not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet", while China engaged "not to ''permit'' any other foreign state to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet".

The position of British Trade Agent at Gyangzê was occupied from 1904 until 1944. It was not until 1937, with the creation of the position of "Head of British Mission Lhasa", that a British officer had a permanent posting in Lhasa itself.

André Migot, a French doctor who travelled for many months in Tibet in 1947 described the complex border arrangements between Tibet and China, and how they had developed:

:"In order to offset the damage done to their interests by the treaty between England and Tibet, the Chinese set up about extending westwards the sphere of their direct control and began to colonize the country round Batang. The Tibetans reacted vigorously. The Chinese governor was killed on his way to Chamdo and his army put to flight after an action near Batang; several missionaries were also murdered, and Chinese fortunes were at a low ebb when a special commissioner called Chao Yu-fong appeared on the scene.
:Acting with a savagery which earned him the sobriquet of "The Butcher of Monks," he swept down on Batang, sacked the lamasery, pushed on to Chamdo, and in a series of victorious campaigns which brought his army to the gates of Lhasa, re-established order and reasserted Chinese domination over Tibet. In 1909 he recommended that Sikang should be constituted a separate province comprising thirty-six subprefectures with Batang as the capital. This project was not carried out until later, and then in modified form, for the Chinese Revolution of 1911 brought Chao's career to an end and he was shortly afterwards assassinated by his compatriots.
:The troubled early years of the Chinese Republic saw the rebellion of most of the tributary chieftains, a number of pitched battles between Chinese and Tibetans, and many strange happenings in which tragedy, comedy, and religion all had a part to play. In 1914 Great Britain, China, and Tibet met at the conference table to try to restore peace, but this conclave broke up after failing to reach agreement on the fundamental question of the Sino-Tibetan frontier. This, since about 1918, has been recognized for practical purposes as following the course of the Upper Yangtze. In these years the Chinese had too many other preoccupations to bother about reconquering Tibet. However, things gradually quieted down, and in 1927 the province of Sikang was brought into being, but it consisted of only twenty-seven subprefectures instead of the thirty-six visualized by the man who conceived the idea. China had lost, in the course of a decade, all the territory which the Butcher had overrun.
:Since then Sikang has been relatively peaceful, but this short synopsis of the province's history makes it easy to understand how precarious this state of affairs is bound to be. Chinese control was little more than nominal; I was often to have first-hand experience of its ineffectiveness. In order to govern a territory of this kind it is not enough to station, in isolated villages separated from each other by many days' journey, a few unimpressive officials and a handful of ragged soldiers. The Tibetans completely disregarded the Chinese administration and obeyed only their own chiefs. One very simple fact illustrates the true status of Sikang's Chinese rulers: nobody in the province would accept Chinese currency, and the officials, unable to buy anything with their money, were forced to subsist by a process of barter."

In 1910, the Qing government sent a military expedition of its own to establish direct Chinese rule and deposed the Dalai Lama in an imperial edict. The Dalai Lama once again fled, this time to British India, in February 1910. The Dalai Lama returned to Tibet from India in July 1912, and by the end of the year the Chinese troops in Tibet had returned, via India, to China Proper.

Independence proclaimed

Upon his return to Tibet in 1913, the Dalai Lama issued a proclamation that stated that relationship between the Chinese emperor and Tibet "had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other." "We are a small, religious, and independent nation," the proclamation stated. signed a in , proclaiming mutual recognition and their independence from China. The 13th Dalai Lama later told a British diplomat that he did not authorized Agvan Dorzhiev to conclude any treaties on behalf of Tibet.

In 1914, representatives of Tibet, Britain, and China negotiated a treaty concerning Tibet's status called the Simla Convention. The convention included a map delineating a boundary between Tibet and India later called the McMahon Line. It affirmed Chinese suzerainty and stated that Tibet was "part of Chinese territory". When the Chinese government refused to ratify, Tibet and Britain concluded the treaty as a bilateral agreement and attached a note denying China any privileges under it.

The subsequent outbreak of World War I and the ruled by warlords caused the Western powers and the infighting factions within China to lose interest in Tibet, and the 13th Dalai Lama ruled undisturbed until his death in 1933. At that time, the government of Tibet controlled all of and western , somewhat larger than the Tibet Autonomous Region today. Eastern Kham, separated by the Yangtze River, was under the control of Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui.

In 1935 the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso was born in Amdo in eastern Tibet and was recognized as the latest reincarnation. He was taken to Lhasa in 1937 where he was later given an official ceremony in 1939. In 1944, during World War I, two Austrian mountaineers, Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter came to Lhasa, where Harrer became a tutor and friend to the young Dalai Lama giving him a sound knowledge of western culture and modern society, until he was forced to leave in 1959.

Supporters of the PRC have characterized the socio-economy of Tibet prior to Communism as 'feudal serfdom'. However, supporters of an independent Tibet objected to this assessment. For a discussion of the debate see Serfdom in Tibet controversy. For a description of the traditional social structure see Social classes of Tibet.

Tibet under The People's Republic of China

With the in 1950 and the subsequent , the PRC asserted control over Tibet.

A rebellion against the Chinese occupation was led by noblemen and monasteries and broke out in Amdo and eastern Kham in June 1956. The insurrection, supported by the American CIA, eventually spread to Lhasa. It was crushed by 1959. During this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed and the 14th Dalai Lama and other government principals fled to exile in India.

Chinese sources generally claim progress towards a prosperous and free society in Tibet, with its pillars being economic development, legal advancement, and peasant emancipation. These claims, however, have been refuted by the Tibet Government-in-Exile and some indigenous Tibetans, who claim of genocide in Tibet from the Chinese government, comparing it to Nazi Germany. The official doctrine of the PRC classifies Tibetans as one of its 56 recognized ethnic groups and part of the greater ''Zhonghua Minzu'', a national concept with a complex definition. Independent scholar Warren Smith, whose work became focused on Tibetan history and politics after spending five months in Tibet in 1982, portrays the Chinese as chauvinists who believe they are superior to the Tibetans, and claims that the Chinese use torture, coercion and starvation to control the Tibetans.

The Central Tibetan Administration states that the number that have died in the Great Leap Forward, of violence, or other indirect causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million, which the Chinese Communist Party denies. The Chinese Communist Party's official toll of deaths recorded for the whole of China for the years of the Great Leap Forward is 14 million, but scholars have estimated the number of the famine victims to be between 20 and 43 million. According to Patrick French, the estimate of 1.2 million in Tibet is not reliable because Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total. There were, however, many casualties, with a figure of 400,000 extrapolated from a calculation Warren W. Smith made from census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 "missing" from Tibet.

The following Cultural Revolution and the damage it wrought upon Tibet and, indeed, the entire PRC is generally condemned as a nationwide catastrophe. In the PRC government's view, the main instigators were the Gang of Four, who have since been brought to justice. Large numbers of Tibetans died violent deaths due to the Cultural Revolution, and the number of intact monasteries in Tibet was reduced from thousands, to less than ten. Tibetan resentment towards the Chinese deepened. Tibetans participated in the destruction, but it is not clear how many of them actually embraced Chinese ideology, and how many participated out of fear of becoming targets themselves.

Projects that the PRC government claims to have benefited Tibet as part of the China Western Development economic plan, such as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, have roused fears of facilitating military mobilisation and Han migration. There is still ethnic imbalance in appointments and promotions to the civil and judicial services in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, with disproportionately few ethnic Tibetans appointed to these posts.

The PRC government claims that its rule over Tibet is an unalloyed improvement, and that the China Western Development plan is a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the wealthier eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards. But foreign governments continue to make occasional protests about aspects of CCP rule in Tibet because of frequent reports of human rights violation in Tibet by groups such as Human Rights Watch. The government of the PRC maintains that the Tibetan Government did almost nothing to improve the Tibetans' material and political standard of life during its rule from 1913–59, and that they opposed any reforms proposed by the Chinese government. According to the Chinese government, this is the reason for the tension that grew between some central government officials and the local Tibetan government in 1959.

The government of the PRC also rejects claims that the lives of Tibetans have deteriorated, and states that the lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to self rule before 1950. Belying these claims, some 3,000 Tibetans brave hardship and danger to flee into exile every year.

These claims are, however, disputed by many Tibetans. In 1989, the Panchen Lama,finally allowed to return to Shigatse, addressed a crowd of 30,000 and described what he saw as the suffering of Tibet and the harm being done to his country in the name of socialist reform under the rule of the PRC in terms reminiscent of the petition he had presented to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1962.

In 1995 the Dalai Lama named 6 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama without Chinese approval, while the PRC named another child, Gyancain Norbu in conflict. Gyancain Norbu was raised in Beijing and has appeared occasionally on state media. The PRC-selected Panchen Lama is rejected by exiled Tibetans and anti-China groups who commonly refer to him as the "Panchen Zuma" . Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family have gone missing — believed by some to be imprisoned by China — and under a hidden identity for protection and privacy according to the PRC.

The Dalai Lama has stated his willingness to negotiate with the PRC government for genuine autonomy, but according to the government in exile and Tibetan independence groups, most Tibetans still call for full Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama sees the millions of government-imported Han immigrants and preferential socioeconomic policies, as presenting an urgent threat to the Tibetan nation and culture. Tibetan exile groups say that despite recent attempts to restore the appearance of original Tibetan culture to attract tourism, the traditional Tibetan way of life is now irrevocably changed. Tashi Wangdi, the Representative of the , stated in an interview that China's Western China Development program "is providing facilities for the resettlement of in Tibet."

In 2001 representatives of Tibet succeeded in gaining accreditation at a United Nations-sponsored meeting of non-governmental organizations. On August 29 Jampal Chosang, the head of the Tibetan coalition, stated that China had introduced "a new form of apartheid" in Tibet because "Tibetan culture, religion, and national identity are considered a threat" to China.

In 2005, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's offered to hold talks with the 14th Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue, provided he dropped the demand for independence. The Dalai Lama said in an interview with the South China Morning Post "We are willing to be part of the People's Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality and our environment." This statement was seen as a renewed diplomatic initiative by the Tibetan government-in-exile. He had already said he would accept Chinese sovereignty over Tibet but insisted on real autonomy over its religious and cultural life. The Tibetan government-in-exile called on the Chinese government to respond. The move was unpopular with many Tibetans.

In January 2007 the Dalai Lama, in an interview on a private television channel, said, "what we demand from the Chinese authority is more autonomy for Tibetans to protect their culture". He added that he had told the Tibetan people not to think in terms of history and to accept Tibet as a part of China.

Talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government began again in May 2008 and again in July, but with little results. The two sides agreed to meet again in October.


Geographically, UNESCO and ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' consider Tibet to be part of Central Asia, while some academic organizations consider it part of South Asia.

Tibet is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the world's highest region. The world's highest mountain, Mount Everest, is on Nepal's border with Tibet. The average altitude is about 3,000 m in the south and 4,500 m in the north.

Several major rivers have their source in the Tibetan Plateau . These include, Yellow River, Indus River, Mekong, Brahmaputra River, Ganges, and the . The Indus, Brahmaputra rivers originate from a lake in Western Tibet, near Mount Kailash. The mountain is a holy pilgrimage for both Hindus and Tibetans. The Hindus consider the mountain to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The Tibetan name for Mt Kailash is Khang Rinpoche. Tibet has numerous high-altitude lakes referred to in Tibetan as ''tso'' or ''co''. These include Lake Manasarovar, Namtso, Pangong Tso, Yamdrok Lake, Siling Co, Lhamo La-tso, Lumajangdong Co, Lake Puma Yumco, Lake Paiku, Lake Rakshastal, Dagze Co and Dong Co

The atmosphere is severely dry nine months of the year, and average annual snowfall is only 18 inches, due to the rain shadow effect whereby mountain ranges prevent moisture from the ocean from reaching the plateaus. Western passes receive small amounts of fresh snow each year but remain traversable all year round. Low temperatures are prevalent throughout these western regions, where bleak desolation is unrelieved by any vegetation beyond the size of low bushes, and where wind sweeps unchecked across vast expanses of arid plain. The Indian monsoon exerts some influence on eastern Tibet. Northern Tibet is subject to high temperatures in the summer and intense cold in the winter.

Historic Tibet consists of several regions. These include Amdo in the northeast, incorporated by China into the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan., Kham in the east, divided between Sichuan, northern Yunnan and Qinghai., Western Kham, part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and & , part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Tibetan cultural influences extend to the neighboring states of Bhutan, Nepal, adjacent regions of India such as Sikkim and Ladakh, and adjacent provinces of China where Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion.

On the border with India, the region popularly known among Chinese as South Tibet is claimed by China and administered by India as the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Cities, towns and villages

There are over 800 settlements in Tibet, Lhasa is Tibet's traditional capital and the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. Lhasa contains the world heritage site the Potala Palace and Norbulingka, the residences of the Dalai Lama. Lhasa contains a number of significant temples and monasteries which are deeply engrained in its history including Jokhang and Ramoche Temple.

Shigatse is the country's second largest city, west of Lhasa. Gyantse, Chamdo are also amongst the largest.

Other cities in Historic Tibet include, Nagchu, Nyingchi, Nedong, Barkam, , Gartse, Pelbar, Lhatse, and Tingri; in Sichuan, Kangding ; in Qinghai, Jyekundo or Yushu, , and Golmud. There is also a large Tibetan settlement in South India near Kushalanagara. India created this settlement for Tibetan refugees which had fled to India.


According to Chinese sources, Tibet's GDP in 2001 was 13.9 billion yuan . The Central government exempts Tibet from all taxation and provides 90% of Tibet's government expenditures. The Tibetan economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to limited arable land, livestock raising is the primary occupation mainly on the Tibetan Plateau, among them are sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks and horses. However, the main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes and assorted fruits and vegetables.

In recent years, due to the increased interest in Tibetan Buddhism, tourism has become an increasingly important sector, and is actively promoted by the authorities. The Tibetan economy is heavily subsidized by the Central government and government cadres receive the second-highest salaries in China.

Tourism brings in the most income from the sale of handicrafts. These include Tibetan hats, jewelry , wooden items, clothing, quilts, fabrics, Tibetan rugs and carpets.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway which links the region to Qinghai in China proper was opened in 2006. The Chinese government claims that the line will promote the development of impoverished Tibet. But opponents argue the railway will harm Tibet. For instance, Tibetan opponents contend that it would only draw more Han Chinese residents, the country's dominant ethnic group, who have been migrating steadily to Tibet over the last decade, bringing with them their popular culture. Opponents believe that the large influx of Han Chinese will ultimately extinguish the local culture.

Other opponents argue that the railway will damage Tibet's fragile ecology and that most of its economic benefits will go to migrant Han Chinese. As activists call for a boycott of the railway, the Dalai Lama has urged Tibetans to "wait and see" what benefits the new line might bring to them. According to the Government-in-exile's spokesmen, the Dalai Lama welcomes the building of the railway, "conditioned on the fact that the railroad will bring benefit to the majority of Tibetans."

In January 2007, the Chinese government issued a report outlining the discovery of a large mineral deposit under the Tibetan Plateau. The deposit has an estimated value of $128 billion and may double Chinese reserves of zinc, copper, and lead. The Chinese government sees this as a way to alleviate the nation's dependence on foreign mineral imports for its growing economy. However, critics worry that mining these vast resources will harm Tibet's fragile ecosystem as well take valuable resources away from the Tibetan people.

The Government of Tibet in Exile questions all statistics given by the PRC government, since they do not include members of the People's Liberation Army garrisoned in Tibet, or the large floating population of unregistered migrants. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is also a major concern, as it is believed to further facilitate the influx of migrants.

The Government of Tibet in Exile quotes an issue of ''People's Daily'' published in 1959 to claim that the Tibetan population has dropped significantly since 1959. According to the article, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics of the PRC show that the autonomous region of Tibet was populated by persons. In the Tibetan sectors of Kham, Tibetans were counted. In Qinghai and other Tibetan sectors that are incorporated in Gansu, Tibetans were counted. According to the total of these three numbers, the Tibetan population attained in 1959.

In 2000, the number of Tibetans as a whole of these regions was about according to National Bureau of Statistics.

The Tibetan exile Government's analysis of these statistics originating from National Bureau of Statistics shows that in between 1959 and 2000, the Tibetan population decreased by about one million, a 15% decline. During the same period, the Chinese population doubled, and the world-wide population increased by 3-fold. This analysis gives an additional argument concerning the estimation of the number of Tibetan deaths during the period between 1959 and 1979. It also suggests the existence of a demographic deficit of the Tibetan population and the precise time course and causes must be specified.

The accuracy of this 1959 Tibetan population estimate quoted by the Government of Tibet in Exile is in conflict with the findings of the 1954 Chinese census report. The census states that the total population of the autonomous region of Tibet was 1,273,969; the total population of Kham was 3,381,064; and the total population of Qinghai was 1,675,534. These numbers were taken by the Government of Tibet in Exile as the population of Tibetans in each province.

View of the People's Republic of China

The PRC government does not view itself as an occupying power and has vehemently denied allegations of demographic swamping. The PRC also does not recognize Greater Tibet as claimed by the government of Tibet in Exile. The PRC government claims that the ethnically Tibetan areas outside the TAR were not controlled by the Tibetan government before 1959 in the first place, having been administered instead by other surrounding provinces for centuries. It further alleges that the idea of "Greater Tibet" was originally engineered by foreign in order to divide China amongst themselves .

The PRC gives the number of Tibetans in Tibet Autonomous Region as 2.4 million, as opposed to 190,000 non-Tibetans, and the number of Tibetans in all Tibetan autonomous entities combined as 5.0 million, as opposed to 2.3 million non-Tibetans. In the TAR itself, much of the Han population is to be found in Lhasa. Population control policies like the one-child policy only apply to Han Chinese, not to minorities such as Tibetans .

Jampa Phuntsok, chairman of the TAR, has also said that the central government has no policy of migration into Tibet due to its harsh high-altitude conditions, that the 6% Han in the TAR is a very fluid group mainly doing business or working, and that there is no immigration problem.

With regards to the historical population of ethnic Tibetans, the Chinese government claims that according to the First National Census conducted in 1954, there were 2,770,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 1,270,000 in the TAR; whereas in the Fourth National Census conducted in 1990, there were 4,590,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 2,090,000 in the TAR. These figures are used to advance the claim that the Tibetan population has doubled since 1951.

This table includes all Tibetan in the PRC, plus Xining PLC and Haidong P. The latter two are included to complete the figures for Qinghai province, and also because they are claimed as parts of Greater Tibet by the Government of Tibet in exile.

P = Prefecture; AP = Autonomous prefecture; PLC = Prefecture-level city; AC = Autonomous county.

Excludes members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.

Human rights

According to the non-government Save Tibet website, the Tibetan people are denied most rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights to self-determination, freedom of speech, assembly, movement, expression, and travel. Elliot Sperling, an Associate Professor of Tibetan Studies at Indiana University, in a statement to the Human Rights Watch, also detailed human rights violation in Tibet. The Tibet claims that according to UN Development Programme data, Tibet is ranked the lowest among China’s 31 provinces, and is ranked 153 out of the 160 countries on the Human Development Index.

Amnesty International has stated that political prisoners are often beaten and tortured, and sometimes summarily executed. Since the 1988 ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture by China, 69 Tibetans are recorded as having died as a result of torture in Chinese prisons. Human rights groups have confirmed by name over 700 Tibetan political prisoners in Tibet, many of them detained without charge or trial.

Journalist Thomas Laird claims that there is no evidence to support China's claim that Tibet is autonomous, as all local legislation is subject to approval of the central government in Beijing.

The Tibetan exile government claims that China does not allow independent human rights organisations into Tibet, and foreign delegations invited to Tibet are denied independent access to meet with Tibetans. The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy claims that more than 11,000 monks and nuns have been expelled from Tibet since 1996 for opposing "patriotic re-education" sessions conducted at monasteries and nunneries under the "Strike Hard" campaign.

Thomas Laird also claims that China continues to encourage the transfer of Chinese settlers into Tibet. This threatens the survival of the Tibetan religious, cultural and national identity. The Free Tibet website claims that unemployment in schools, discussion of Tibetan cultural, religious and social issues is discouraged, and Chinese culture is promoted.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy claims that unemployment among Tibetans is high. An unequal taxation system further exacerbates the conditions of poverty for Tibetans in rural areas. Many basic rights, such as the right to housing, education and health, remain unfulfilled.



Tibetan Buddhism

Religion and spirituality is extremely important to the Tibetans and has a strong influence over all aspects of lives; ingrained deeply into their cultural heritage. Bön is the ancient traditional religion of Tibet, but following the introduction of Tantric Buddhism into Tibet by Padmasambhava this became eclipsed by Tibetan Buddhism, a distinctive form of Vajrayana. Tibetan Buddhism is practiced not only in Tibet but also in Mongolia, parts of northern India, the Buryat Republic, the Tuva Republic, and in the Republic of Kalmykia.

Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions :

* , ''Way of Virtue'', also known casually as ''Yellow Hat'', whose spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and whose temporal, the Dalai Lama. Successive Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid-17th to mid-20th centuries. This order was founded in the 14th to 15th century by Je Tsongkhapa, based on the foundations of the Kadampa tradition. Tsongkhapa was renowned for both his scholasticism and his virtue. The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa school, and is regarded as the embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

* , ''Oral Lineage''. This contains one major subsect and one minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu schools that trace back to Gampopa. In turn, the Dagpo Kagyu consists of four major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, headed by a Karmapa, the Tsalpa Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. There are further eight minor sub-sects, all of which trace their root to Pagtru Kagyu. Among the eight sub-sects the most notable of are the and the Drukpa Kagyu. The once-obscure Shangpa Kagyu, which was famously represented by the 20th century teacher Kalu Rinpoche, traces its history back to the Indian master Niguma, sister of Kagyu lineage holder Naropa. This is an oral tradition which is very much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was Milarepa, an eleventh century mystic.

* , ''The Ancient Ones''. This is the oldest, the original order founded by Padmasambhava.

* , ''Grey Earth'', headed by the Sakya Trizin, founded by Khon Konchog Gyalpo, a disciple of the great translator Drokmi Lotsawa. Sakya Pandita 1182–1251CE was the great grandson of Khon Konchog Gyalpo. This school very much represents the scholarly tradition.


In Tibetan cities, there are also small communities of , known as Kachee , who trace their origin to immigrants from three main regions: Kashmir , Ladakh and the Central Asian Turkic countries. Islamic influence in Tibet also came from Persia. After 1959 a group of Tibetan Muslims made a case for Indian nationality based on their historic roots to Kashmir and the Indian government declared all Tibetan Muslims Indian citizens later on that year. There is also a well established Chinese Muslim community , which traces its ancestry back to the ethnic group of China. It is said that Muslim migrants from Kashmir and Ladakh first entered Tibet around the 12th century. Marriages and social interaction gradually led to an increase in the population until a sizable community grew up around Lhasa.

Buddhist monasteries in Tibet

Tibetan art

Tibetan representations of art are intrinsically bound with Tibetan Buddhism and commonly depict deities or variations of in various forms from bronze Buddhist statues and shrines, to highly colorful thangka paintings and mandalas.


Tibetan architecture contains Oriental and Indian influences, and reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, can be seen on nearly every Gompa in Tibet. The design of the Tibetan Ch&s can vary, from roundish walls in Kham to squarish, four-sided walls in Ladakh.

The most distinctive feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south, and are often made out of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heat or lighting, so flat roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed to let in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area.

Standing at 117 meters in height and 360 meters in width, the Potala Palace is considered as the most important example of Tibetan architecture. Formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama, it contains over one thousand rooms within thirteen stories, and houses portraits of the past Dalai Lamas and statues of the Buddha. It is divided between the outer White Palace, which serves as the administrative quarters, and the inner Red Quarters, which houses the assembly hall of the Lamas, chapels, 10,000 shrines, and a vast library of Buddhist scriptures.


The music of Tibet reflects the cultural heritage of the trans-Himalayan region, centered in Tibet but also known wherever ethnic groups are found in India, Bhutan, Nepal and further abroad. First and foremost Tibetan music is religious music, reflecting the profound influence of Tibetan Buddhism on the culture.

Tibetan music often involves chanting in or Sanskrit, as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Other styles include those unique to the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the classical music of the popular Gelugpa school, and the romantic music of the Nyingmapa, Sakyapa and Kagyupa schools.

Nangma dance music is especially popular in the karaoke bars of the urban center of Tibet, Lhasa. Another form of popular music is the classical style, which is performed at rituals and ceremonies. are a type of songs that feature glottal vibrations and high pitches. There are also epic bards who sing of Tibet's national hero Gesar.


Tibet has various festivals which commonly are performed to worship the Buddha throughout the year. Losar is the Tibetan New Year Festival. Preparations for the festive event are manifested by special offerings to family shrine deities, painted doors with religious symbols, and other painstaking jobs done to prepare for the event. Tibetans eat Guthuk on New Year's Eve with their families. The Monlam Prayer Festival follows it in the first month of the Tibetan calendar, falling on the fourth up to the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month. which involves many Tibetans dancing and participating in sports events and sharing picnics. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order.


The Potala Palace, former residence of the Dalai Lamas, is a World Heritage Site, as is Norbulingka, former summer residence of the Dalai Lama.

Since 2002, Tibetans in exile have allowed a Miss Tibet beauty contest in spite of concerns that this event is considered a Western influence. The beauty contest is condemned by the Tibetan government in exile.


The most important crop in Tibet is barley, and dough made from barley flour called tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet. This is either rolled into noodles or made into steamed dumplings called . Meat dishes are likely to be yak, goat, or , often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet, and therefore features heavily in its cuisine. Yak yoghurt, butter and cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yoghurt is considered something of a prestige item. Butter tea is very popular to drink.

Tibet in popular culture

In recent years there have been a number of films produced about Tibet, most notably Hollywood films such as '''', starring Brad Pitt, and ''Kundun'', a biography of the 14th Dalai Lama, directed by Martin Scorsese. Both of these films were banned by the Chinese government because of Tibetan nationalist overtones. Other films include '''', ''The Cup'' and the 1999 ''Himalaya'', a French-American produced film with a Tibetan cast set in Nepal and Tibet. In 2005, exile Tibetan filmmaker Tenzing Sonam and his partner Ritu Sarin made ''Dreaming Lhasa'', the first internationally recognized feature film to come out of the diaspora to explore the contemporary reality of Tibet.

'''', is a film made by National Geographic about a Chinese reporter that goes to Tibet to report on the issue involving the endangerment of Tibetan Antelope. It won numerous awards at home and abroad.


Further reading

* Allen, Charles . Duel in the Snows: The True Story of the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa. London: John Murray, 2004. ISBN 0-7195-5427-6.
* Bell, Charles . Tibet: Past & Present. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Dowman, Keith . ''The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide.'' Routledge & Kegan Paul. London, ISBN 0-7102-1370-0. New York, ISBN 0-14-019118-6.
* Goldstein, Melvyn C.; with the help of Gelek Rimpoche. ''A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State.'' Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers , ISBN 81-215-0582-8. University of California , ISBN 0-520-07590-0.
* Grunfeld, Tom . ''The Making of Modern Tibet.'' ISBN 1-56324-713-5.
* Gyatso, Palden . "The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk". Grove Press. NY, NY. ISBN 0-8021-3574-9
* Human Rights in China: ''China, Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions'', London, Minority Rights Group International, 2007
* McKay, Alex . Tibet and the British Raj: The Frontier Cadre 1904-1947. London: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-0627-5.
* Norbu, Thubten Jigme; Turnbull, Colin . ''Tibet: Its History, Religion and People.'' Reprint: Penguin Books .
* Pachen, Ani; Donnely, Adelaide . ''Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun.'' Kodansha America, Inc. ISBN 1-56836-294-3.
* Petech, Luciano . China and Tibet in the Early XVIIIth Century: History of the Establishment of Chinese Protectorate in Tibet. T'oung Pao Monographies, Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 9-00403-442-0.
*Powers, John. ''History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China'' Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195174267
* Samuel, Geoffrey . ''Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies.'' Smithsonian ISBN 1-56098-231-4.
* Schell, Orville . ''Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood.'' Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-4381-0.
* Shakya, Tsering . The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11814-7.
* Stein, R. A. . ''Tibetan Civilization.'' First published in French; English translation by J. E. Stapelton Driver. Reprint: Stanford University Press , 1995. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1.
* Thurman, Robert . ''Robert Thurman on Tibet.'' DVD. ASIN B00005Y722.
* Wilby, Sorrel . ''Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's Trek Across the Rooftop of the World.'' Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-8092-4608-2.
* Wilson, Brandon . ''Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith.'' Pilgrim's Tales. ISBN 0977053660, ISBN 0977053679.
* Wang Jiawei . "The Historical Status of China's Tibet". ISBN-7-80113-304-8.
* by Venkatesan Vembu, Daily News & Analysis, 22 February 200

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Terrorism and counter-terrorism in Xinjiang, China

Uighurs and China's Xinjiang Region

Preeti Bhattacharji
Council on Foreign Relations
Friday, August 1, 2008; 9:20 AM


The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), a territory in western China, accounts for one-sixth of China's land and is home to about 20 million people from thirteen major ethnic groups. The largest of these groups is the Uighurs [PRON: WEE-gurs], a predominantly Muslim community with ties to Central Asia. Some Uighurs call China's presence in Xinjiang a form of imperialism, and they stepped up calls for independence -- sometimes violently -- in the 1990s through separatist groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The Chinese government has reacted by promoting the migration of China's ethnic majority, the Han, to Xinjiang. Beijing has also strengthened economic ties with the area and tried to cut off potential sources of separatist support from neighboring states that are linguistically and ethnically linked with the Uighurs.

Intermittent Independence

Since the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, Xinjiang has enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy. Turkic rebels in Xinjiang declared independence in October 1933 and created the Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (also known as the Republic of Uighuristan or the First East Turkistan Republic). The following year, the Republic of China reabsorbed the region. In 1944, factions within Xinjiang again declared independence, this time under the auspices of the Soviet Union, and created the Second East Turkistan Republic. But in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party took over the territory and declared it a Chinese province. In October 1955, Xinjiang became classified as an "autonomous region" of the People's Republic of China.

Some Uighurs, nostalgic for Xinjiang's intermittent periods of independence, call for the recreation of a Uighur state. "The Central Asian Uighurs know a great deal about the two East Turkestan periods of sovereign rule, and they reflect on that quite frequently," says Dru C. Gladney, president of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College. Many of these Uighurs say China colonized the area in 1949. But in its first white paper on Xinjiang, the Chinese government said Xinjiang had been an "inseparable part of the unitary multi-ethnic Chinese nation" since the Western Han Dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC to 24 AD.

Economic Development

Xinjiang's wealth hinges on its vast mineral and oil deposits. In the early 1990s, Beijing decided to spur Xinjiang's growth by giving it special economic zones, subsidizing local cotton farmers, and overhauling its tax system. In August 1991, the Xinjiang government launched the Tarim Basin Project (World Bank) to increase agricultural output. During this period, Beijing invested in the region's infrastructure, building massive projects like the Tarim Desert Highway and a rail link to western Xinjiang. In an article for The China Quarterly, Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says these projects were designed to literally "bind Xinjiang more closely to the rest of the PRC."

Since 1954, China has also used the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) to build agricultural settlements in China's western periphery. Locally known as the Bingtuan, the XPCC is charged with cultivating and guarding the Chinese frontier. To achieve this mission, the corps has its own security organs, including an armed police force and militia. Over the past fifty years, the XPCC has attracted a steady stream of migrant workers to Xinjiang.

Beijing continues to develop Xinjiang in campaigns called "Open up the West" and "Go West." These economic programs have been relatively successful: Xinjiang has become one of the wealthiest parts of China."If you look at the general per capita income of Xinjiang as a region, it's higher than all of China's except for the southeast coast," says Gladney. International development bodies like the Asian Development Bank say that despite Xinjiang's growth, there are high levels of inequality (PDF) in the area. But the Chinese government has launched a series of programs to alleviate poverty in Xinjiang, and in March 2008, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao emphasized harmonious development of the region in a government report.

Han Migration

Growing job opportunities in Xinjiang have lured a steady stream of migrant workers to the region, many of whom are ethnically Han. The Chinese government does not count the number of workers that travel to Xinjiang, but experts say the local Han population has risen from approximately 5 percent in the 1940s to approximately 40 percent today. These migrants work in a variety of industries, both low tech and high tech, and have transformed Xinjiang's landscape. In June 2008, the BBC produced a photo report called Life in Urumqi, which said Xinjiang's capital had recently witnessed "the arrival of shopping centres, tower blocks, department stores and highways."

In its 2007 annual report to the U.S. Congress, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said the Chinese government "provides incentives for migration to the region from elsewhere in China, in the name of recruiting talent and promoting stability" (PDF). Since imperial times, the Chinese government has tried to settle Han on the outskirts of China to integrate the Chinese periphery. But the Communist Party says its policies in Xinjiang are designed to promote economic development, not demographic change. Xinjiang's influx of migrants has fueled Uighur discontent as Han and Uighurs compete over limited jobs and natural resources.

Ethnic Tension

The Chinese government says Xinjiang is home to thirteen major ethnic groups. The largest of these groups is the Uighurs, who comprise 45 percent of Xinjiang's population, according to a 2003 census. Like many of these groups, the Uighurs are predominantly Muslim and have cultural ties to Central Asia.

As Han migrants pour into Xinjiang, many Uighurs resent the strain they place on limited resources like land and water. "Uighurs feel like this is their homeland, that these resources should be more devoted to them," says Gladney. In 2006, Human Rights in China said population growth in Xinjiang had transformed the local environment, leading to "reduced human access to clean water (PDF) and fertile soil for drinking, irrigation and agriculture."

Ethnic tension is fanned by economic disparity: the Han tend to be wealthier than the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Some experts say the wage gap is the result of discriminatory hiring practices. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China reports that in 2006, the XPCC reserved approximately 800 of 840 civil servant job openings for Han. Local officials say they would like to hire Uighurs, but have trouble finding qualified candidates. "One common problem of the western region is that the education and cultural level of the people here is quite low," said Wang Lequan, Xinjiang's Communist Party secretary, in an interview with the BBC. Gladney says Han applicants tend to have better professional networks because they are more often "influential, children of elite Party members and government leaders."

According to Bequelin, Uighurs are also upset by what they consider Chinese attempts to "refashion their cultural and religious identity." In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Rebiyah Kadeer, a prominent exiled Uighur, condemns China for its "fierce repression of religious expression," and "its intolerance for any expression of discontent." Beijing officials respond to these accusations by saying they respect China's ethnic minorities, and have improved the quality of life for Uighurs by raising economic, public health, and education levels in Xinjiang.

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

During the 1990s, separatist groups in Xinjiang began frequent attacks against the Chinese government. The most famous of these groups was the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). China, the United States, and the UN Security Council have all labeled ETIM a terrorist organization, and Chinese officials have said the group has ties to al-Qaeda. Concern about Uighur terrorism flared in July 2008 -- two weeks before the Beijing Olympics -- when a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party took credit for a series of terrorist attacks (Xinhua), including two bus explosions in Yunnan province.

The Chinese government has taken steps to combat both separatists and terrorists in its western province. According to the U.S. State Department, Chinese authorities raided an alleged ETIM camp in January 2007, killing eighteen and arresting seventeen. China also monitors religious activity in the region to keep religious leaders from spreading separatist views. Since September 11, 2001, China has raised international awareness of Uighur-related terrorism and linked its actions to the Bush administration's so-called war on terror.

But many experts say China is exaggerating the danger posed by Uighur terrorists. China has accused the Uighurs of plotting thousands of attacks, but Andrew J. Nathan, chair of the political science department at Columbia University, says, "You have to be very suspicious of those numbers." Gladney notes that many of the "terrorist incidents" that China attributes to ETIM are actually "spontaneous and rather disorganized" forms of civil unrest. Most experts say ETIM has no effective ties to al-Qaeda, and Bequelin goes so far as to say, "ETIM is probably defunct by now, as far as we know." In a 2008 report, Amnesty International accused Chinese officials of using the war on terror to justify "harsh repression of ethnic Uighurs." But in Xinhua, a state-run newspaper, Chinese rights organizations refuted the Amnesty report, saying it was designed to slander China under the pretense of human rights.

Experts disagree on the efficacy of China's counterterrorism measures. Some, including Bequelin, say China's anti-separatist campaign actually provokes more resentment, which can lead to more terrorism. But other Western outlets say China's counterterrorism measures have been relatively successful. A review of U.S. State Department documents shows a decrease in Uighur-related terrorism since the end of the 1990s.

Tough Neighborhood

Xinjiang shares a border with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Because of the Uighurs' cultural ties to its neighbors, China has been concerned that Central Asian states may back a separatist movement in Xinjiang. According to Nathan, these fears are fueled by the fact that the Soviet Union successfully backed a Uighur separatist movement in the 1940s. To keep Central Asian states from fomenting trouble in Xinjiang, China has cultivated close diplomatic ties with its neighbors, most notably through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. According to Bequelin, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was created "to ensure the support of Central Asian states," and to "prevent any emergence of linkages between Uighur communities in these countries and Xinjiang."

Many experts believe China's diplomatic efforts have been successful. Adam Segal, senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says China's neighbors "are now fighting their own Muslim fundamentalist groups," which makes them more sympathetic to China's plight. According to the U.S. State Department, Uzbekistan extradited a Canadian citizen of Uighur ethnicity to China in August 2006, where he was convicted for alleged involvement in ETIM activities. Nathan says cases like these are evidence that China's neighbors are cooperating with China's anti-secessionist policies. In contrast, the United States refused to hand over five Uighurs who had been captured by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2001, despite Chinese calls to do so. After their release from Guantanamo Bay in May 2006, the Uighurs were instead transferred to Albania.

None of China's neighbors have expressed official support for the Uighurs, but the region's porous borders still worry Chinese officials. In the 1980s and 1990s, many Uighurs traveled into Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they were exposed to Islamic extremism. "Some enrolled in madrassas, some enrolled with [the anti-Taliban opposition force] the Northern Alliance, some enrolled with the Taliban, some enrolled with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," says Bequelin. Chinese officials worry that militants who slip in and out of Xinjiang can promote anti-state activity.

International Disinterest

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, protests in Tibet reaped international attention. But protests in Xinjiang (IHT) went relatively unnoticed. "People aren't threatening to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony for the Uighurs," says Segal. Because Tibet gets more global attention than Xinjiang, some reporters have referred to Xinjiang as "China's other Tibet" (al-Jazeera).

International interest in Xinjiang is muted for a variety of reasons. According to Nathan, the Uighur community lacks an effective leader. "For the Uighurs, their most prominent spokesperson is Rebiya Kadeer in Washington, who really doesn't have the infrastructure and the Nobel Prize that the Dalai Lama has," he says. Bequelin adds that the Chinese government has effectively branded Uighur separatists as terrorists, which has reduced international sympathy for their mission. Amidst international apathy, most experts say the human rights situation in Xinjiang is likely to get worse before it gets better. "There's no international pressure to change policy in Xinjiang right now," says Segal. "So why would China make any changes?"

From The Times

August 5, 2008
Delicate China
With only four days to the start of the Olympics, China is growing nervous about political challenges from within the country
The deadly attack by Islamist separatists on a police barracks in China's Muslim-majority north west has left the Chinese authorities aghast. Only four days before the start of the Olympics, the daylight bombing of border police, leaving sixteen people dead, seemed to fulfil the warnings given by nervous officials that Uighur separatists would use the Games to attempt a publicity-seeking attack.

For China, the stakes could not be higher. The Olympics in Beijing are planned as the biggest, most lavish, most spectacular ever held. China has poured in huge sums of money, and invested enormous national pride. The Games are seen as a way of showing the world that China is a mighty power and one that has emerged as a global economic powerhouse.

The city of Beijing has been transformed in a way that few other cities have been by the event: daring new architecture dominates the skyline, the infrastructure has been revamped, buildings cleaned, factories relocated or even closed and the city's population given extensive tips, lectures and orders on how to behave.

Patriotism has combined with nervousness to make these Games highly political. It is the first time since the 1980 Olympics in Moscow that they have been staged in a communist country, and the party is determined to show not only that it is in full control but that it runs an effective and popular government. Any challenge, whether political or logistic, therefore assumes unusual importance as it is seen to reflect on the party's boast and on Chinese pride.

Not all has been smooth-running, however. The run-up to the Games has proved increasing vexed for the party as challenges have appeared on all sides. Getting the organisation right has been the least difficult. The environmental problems have proved far harder to resolve, and the cost of a traffic ban and virtual closedown of industry in a desperate attempt to clear the leaden skies will prove enormous.

Western criticism of China's human rights record was probably also expected, and has drawn two contradictory responses. On the one hand, China has attempted to defuse attacks on its foreign policy by taking steps to put pressure on governments in Sudan, Burma and North Korea. On the domestic front, however, it has bristled defiance, cracking down on critics and cutting off websites, only grudgingly restoring some access after Western complaints.

But the bigger challenges have been emotional - the terrible earthquake in May - and political, especially the uprising in Tibet in March. This coincided with the ill-fated Olympic torch relay to cause huge embarrassment and anguish in Beijing, while rallying Han nationalism. Security was stepped up and the authorities realised that the Games had become a target for the demonstrators. For Beijing, the real danger never came from the distant and sparse Tibetan plateau but from a lesser known but far more disaffected region: China's restive Muslim provinces.

The Uighurs of Xinjiang in the far north west are Turkic-speaking Central Asians who have long complained of religious and political oppression under nearly six decades of Chinese Communist rule. Numbering around eight million, they have recently been the target of infiltration and agitation by al-Qaeda and extremist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. Chinese authorities claim to have foiled a series of plots, although a militant group has claimed responsibility for explosions in four cities, including two bus bombings.

The latest attack has put Beijing on full alert. The Olympics will go ahead with panache. But beneath the glitter lurk ingredients all too common nowadays: worry, a security alert and overreaction. The Games come at a high price.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

China changes in the face of foreign religious devils

On December 18, the party's politburo, the highest ruling body in the country, held a plenary collective study session. It was the second one since the 17th Communist Party Congress that ended in October last year. For the first time in the history of the People's Republic, the party's top echelons met to discuss a once-taboo subject - religion.

The Chinese Communist Party, like many other communist parties, is patently atheist, to the point that religious affiliation is forbidden for party members. However, right in Congress there was the first sign that things could be moving in a different direction.

Broadcasting from the cavernous Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the 17th Party Congress was in session, TV screens showed the slim and attentive face of the young Panchen Lama (the second-highest ranking Lama after the Dalai Lama), who was following the speech of party general secretary Hu Jintao. The badge on his chest said "guest". [...] Indeed, Hu's keynote speech devoted a paragraph to religion [2]. He said religious people, including priests, monks and lay-believers, played a positive role in the social and economic development of China. Furthermore, Hu did not talk about religions as such, thus establishing a form of respect and non-interference in purely religious affairs. That is, the party is not interested in religion per se, but it values the positive social contribution of religious people.

At the study session on December 18, the politburo explored the issue. Two experts introduced the subject. One was Zuo Xinping, a specialist on Christianity from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the other was Mou Zhongjian, a scholar on Confucianism from the Central University of Nationalities in Beijing. It seemed the party wanted two perspectives, one about new Christian faiths coming from abroad and one from the country's own native traditions.

Hu presented some introductory remarks, reported in a Xinhua article in Chinese [3], and it was indeed an historic event. Two facts are extraordinary.

It was the first high-level meeting of the party fully devoted to religion. That was a sign that party leaders recognized the great political significance of religion in building a "moderate, affluent and harmonious society". Religion is no longer an issue of public security that can be handed over to the police - it is a top social and political issue involving all aspects of society, and therefore all politburo members must be aware of it.

Secondly, in all of the Xinhua reports, there were no negative, derogatory remarks about religion, as one would expect to find about the "opiate of the masses". There were not even "ifs" or "buts" to indicate that the party would handle religion with diffidence. The English version stresses that there must be freedom of belief, and in the Chinese version, Hu is quoted as saying that the party must mobilize the positive elements of religion for economic and social development. Thus, religion can play an important role in realizing the "harmonious society" that is the new political goal of the party. [...]

However, Chinese history tells party leaders that religion is also an extremely volatile element. Major uprisings in the past were organized by religious groups. For instance, the Taiping, who almost brought to an end the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century, were pseudo-Christians. Similarly, extreme radical Islam now mobilizes millions worldwide. Religion has to be handled with care, but it cannot simply be ignored or looked down on like some kind of feudal leftover.

"China's massive wrench: Change in the face of foreign devils" (Francesco Sisci), Asia Times Online (03 July 08)

[Rest of this thread at Sunthar V (Jun 6, 2008 )

China's New Confucianism by Daniel A Bell / Reith lectures on China]

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mt. kailas, abode of Shiva; Manasarovar, world's greatest water tower

Mt. kailas, abode of Shiva; Manasarovar, world's greatest water tower

Thanks to Tarun Vijay ji for this exquisite article. The abode of Shiva is Mt. Kailas. At the foothills of this stunner is Manasarovar glacier, which is the world's greater tower in the Himalayas yielding glacier melts which service 10 of the greatest perennial rivers of the world. This water tower, if managed well, can make every river in Bharatam a jeevanadi, and in the process help create a National Water Grid which will be a revolution for abhyudayam of Bharatam -- adding 9 crore acres of additional wet land with assured irrigation and over 60,000 kms. of national waterway, complementing the highway-railway networks. So, a form of Shiva is a S'ivalingam as the metaphor for the summit of Mt. Kailas, the water-giving divinity, devatatmaa himalaya; hence, the perpetual abhishekam in the jyotirlinga sthalams in Bharatam venerating the water-giving, life-giving Mahes'wara, paramaatman.

This is the cultural capital of Bharatam. Ask China to vacate Tibet.


Abode of the gods

June 20, 2008

As devotees prepare for the arduous annual trek to Kailas Manasarovar, Tarun Vijay reflects on that most sublime of spiritual experiences -- a pilgrimage to Shiva's home.

A group of atheists had accompanied us during an earlier pilgrimage to Kailas Manasarovar. I still recall them standing, frozen in place by their first glimpse of Mount Kailas; I saw tears of pure joy running down their faces -- and I was not surprised.

If there is one place on this planet where God can be touched and felt, it has to be the Kailas Manasarovar region -- it is indescribable, beyond the power of words to capture; it is perhaps the one experience that defines the state of being.

The trek is often called a pilgrimage, but it is so much more -- the fulfillment of a dream, a realisation of life's highest aspirations. People let themselves in for uncertainty, for incredible hardship, year after year because they know that what is in store for them is not simple anand, joy, but sachidanand, sublime joy.

It is for this experience that people wait a lifetime, offering up prayers to god to grant them an opportunity to go on this journey of self-realisation. That is one of the unique aspects of this trek -- unlike routine pilgrimages to even venerated sites, which you make when you want to, the trek to Kailas is not about your schedule. Trite though it seems to say this, the 'call' has to come; for some, it never does during their lifetimes; for others, who dream of this for years, suddenly it all falls into place and often in completely unexpected fashion, they find themselves readying for an experience they have dreamt about. I had the good fortune to get such a 'call', to go on a pilgrimage that brought me such bliss at the time, and that now feels like a dream.

Image: For pilgrims, this first frontal view of the legendary abode of Lord Shiva is the culmination of a lifetime's hopes and dreams.

The MEA has made this year's yatra possible

June 20, 2008

When news appeared earlier this year that China has cancelled this year's yatra, thus, it cast a pall of gloom not merely on those who had planned to make the trek this year, but on the community at large -- for even those who cannot go derive a measure of satisfaction from the knowledge that the experience is there, that others are savoring it, and that sooner or later, their turn will come.

Thanks largely to the efforts of our Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, the Chinese government has agreed to allow the yatra to proceed in batches, on a revised schedule -- irrespective of the nature of government in New Delhi, our external affairs ministry boasts dedicated officers like Menon, who leave no stone unturned to ensure that the yatra is always on schedule. It needs pointing out that though the Chinese have cancelled all batches originating in Kathmandu, for fear of Tibetan infiltration into the group, they have allowed Indian pilgrims to make the journey.

I guess we need to thank the Chinese for allowing us to continue with our most revered pilgrimage -- though Shiva is a Hindu god, Tibet falls in their territory. Then army chief in Kashmir General Zoravar Singh had tried in 1841 to bring Kailas back to India; he in fact won the first phase of the battle and annexed the Kailas Manasarovar region into Maharaja Ranjit Singh's territory - but then winter intervened, and the enemy got the better of him in the treacherous climate.

Such was his bravery, however, such the heroism he displayed before dying in battle, that the Tibetans were moved to build a monument for him at Toya village near the Kailas route, adjoining Taklakot. The flag that General Zoravar Singh's soldiers brought back from Tibet is called the flag of Mantalai (Manasarovar), and forms part of the glorious heritage of the Jammu Kashmir Rifles. A military fort near Leh has also been named after General Singh.

Image: Clouds that shround the north face of Mount Kailas shift, in answer to pilgrims' prayers, to afford a clear view.

The quest for salvation

June 20, 2008

It takes two days to complete the 54-kilometre long parikrama (circumambulation) of Kailas -- 24 hours of immersing yourself in the spirituality that envelops this abode of Shiva, God of Gods. To the south of Kailas is Lake Manasarovar, whose circumference of 90 kilometres can be circumambulated in two days. The Tibetans call the lake Tso Mapham or Tso Mawang.

To the south of Manas is the Gurla Mandhata mountain named after Mandhata, a great king of yore who reportedly did penance here. The region finds numerous mentions in Indian scriptures, in the Ramayan and Mahabharat. The great poet Kalidasa beautifully described Kailas and Manasarovar in his masterpiece Kumarsambhavam: 'In the northern part there is a mighty mountain by name Himalaya -- the abode of perpetual snow -- fittingly called the Lord of mountains, animated by Divinity as its soul and internal spirit; spanning the wide land from the eastern to the western sea, it stands, as it were, like the measuring rod of the earth. At the direction of King Prithu, the selfsame mountain was used as a calf by all other mountains, while Mount Meru (Kailas) stood as an expert milker of cows and milched from Mother Earth the milk of shining gems and medicinal herbs of wonderful virtue and supreme efficacy.'

Image: Pilgrims on yaks make the two-day parikrama of Mount Kailas.

None to equal that transcendent moment when you stand at the threshold of Shiva's abode

June 20, 2008

Of all the many memories pilgrims carry away, and nurse for a lifetime, there is none to equal that transcendent moment when you stand at the threshold of Shiva's abode. I remember my own experience as if it were yesterday: The sun shone bright and high in the clearest blue sky I had ever seen. The peak of the holy mountain, alone, was shrouded in clouds, like a white silken curtain.

We were a group of 30 pilgrims, who came out of our base camp rooms to offer obeisance to the mountain. With folded hands and prayers on our lips, we waited for the clouds to move away -- and in that icy cold silence, pierced only by the prayers of the pilgrims, magic happened. The clouds suddenly moved away, and Mount Kailas appeared in full majestic effulgence, even as our voices rose in the chant of the Mahamrityunjay, the supreme mantra of victory over death.

You felt the tears roll down your faces; you looked around, and realized that everyone was crying in sheer bliss. There were some who said they had waited through several lifetimes for this chance to stand, head bowed in veneration, before the 22,028 feet high Mount Kailas, abode of Lord Shiva and the 'Navel of the Earth'.

Tarun Vijay, director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, is the author of books on Kailas Manasarovar, available in English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi.

Image: On the Chinese side of the pilgrimage, the signs of Indian culture are everywhere.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dalai Lama 'selling out' Chinese territory?

China: Dalai Lama accused of “selling out” Chinese territory with Intention to Sow Discord in Sino-Indian Relations


C3S Paper No.169 dated June 11, 2008

Reacting to Indian press reports (4 June 2008) about the statement made for the first time by the Dalai Lama that the “McMahon line”, fixed by the 1914 Simla Convention is legal and accordingly, “ Arunachal Pradesh” including Tawang, is a part of India, a report in the People’s Daily- affiliated Global Times (Chinese language, 10 June 2008), recalled that the Indian Government ‘forcibly occupied’ the Chinese territory south of “McMahon line” in 1951 and formed “Arunachal Pradesh” in 1987. According to the Chinese paper, the Indian despatches contrasted the present statement with the evasive reply given by the exiled leader on the subject earlier in 2003 during his visit to Tawang, saying merely that “Arunachal Pradesh” is a de facto part of Tibet, along with the remark that what the spiritual leader has said now, can certainly influence the Sino-Indian border talks.

Global Times quoted an authoritative India specialist associated with the Institute for Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Sun Shihai, as saying to the paper’s correspondent that the change in the attitude of “Dalai” on “Arunachal Pradesh” reflects the fact that the “ Tibet Independence” forces are facing bad days more and more, in the background of improving Sino-Indian relations. The change has more or less brought out the “worries” on the part of such forces, as China and India get closer. The Olympic torch could pass through India and New Delhi arrested the ‘head of the Tibet independence organisation’. No activity of “Tibet Independence” forces can influence the overall situation in Sino-Indian relations. The Chinese scholar asserted that on Sino-Indian border talks, the “Dalai” cannot represent anybody and that the change in his attitude, will not affect that talks.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has described the Tibet issue as a ‘sensitive’ one in Sino- Indian ties. Beijing reportedly took up the issue of the Dalai Lama’s ‘free use’ of the Indian media, when India’s Minister for External Affairs visited China recently. Now comes the Chinese allegation, perhaps for the first time in recent years, on the exiled leader’s ‘sowing discord’ in Beijing-New Delhi relations. Beijing’s motives are not difficult to see – it intends to apply more and more pressure on the Dalai Lama to accept Central Government’s conditions for dialogue as well as give a subtle warning to New Delhi about the risks for bilateral relations coming from any encouragement under the pretext of democracy, to what it feels, the ‘anti-China’ activities of the Dalai Lama and his followers in India. Secondly, Beijing seems to be trying to kill two birds with one stone- using the attack on the Dalai Lama to drive a wedge between him and the Indian Government as well as to reinforce its claim on Arunachal Pradesh.

Interestingly, the latter is being carried out through an unending publicity drive and it is happening at a time when New Delhi is taking care to use every occasion to satisfy China by declaring that the Tibet Autonomous Region is an integral part of China. Obviously, China, for its own reasons, does not feel any necessity to maintain restraint in reciprocation to such attitude of India.

The recent Tibet unrest is widely being seen outside China as a factor, which could contribute to erosion of China’s bargaining position in the border talks with India. Adding strength to such views, are the Dalai Lama’s latest observations on Arunachal, which may find acceptance of the Tibetan population inside China. Contrary to what China is telling, it should therefore be Beijing, which should “worry” about what the Dalai Lama has said.

(The writer, D.S.Rajan, is Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai,India,

Friday, May 16, 2008

China’s nuke arsenal targets India and Russia; Free Tibet.

China’s nuke arsenal targets India and Russia; Free Tibet.

India’s strategic, forein-policy pundits to note and introspect: one reason why India should ensure Tibet’s independence.

Do the pundits know that Tibet has been nuclearised already? Why do you think Chinese chose to occupy the roof of the world? To save on lift-off height for their nuke-tipped missiles.

Read on…


Michael Arnold Says:
May 15th, 2008 at 10:42 am

This a serious issue United States should keep a close eye on, it could be military exercise, or movement of missile locations, or new launch sites. A show of strength to the United States intentionally, to set the intelllegence agency off. Your call.

Reply: I see this differently. First, deployment of DF-21 at Delingha and Da Qaidam is neither new nor does it affect the United States directly. The sites are for targeting Russia and India. Besides, these deployment areas have been known to U.S. intelligence analysts for year; the “new” is that it is now possible for the public to “look over their shoulder” and make up its own ideas about what this means. HK (hkristensen)

India in China's nuke crosshairs
17 May 2008, 0049 hrs IST , Rajat Pandit , TNN

NEW DELHI: China has more worrying news for us. Latest satellite pictures have identified a large area in central China with 58 launch pads for nuclear-capable ballistic missiles which apparently target north India and south Russia.

Coming soon after the discovery of the sheer extent of China's underground nuclear submarine base at Hainan Island in South China Sea, it's yet another reality check for the Indian defence establishment.

TOI had highlighted earlier this month how Hainan had jolted the Indian establishment, with navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta expressing concern about the number of nuclear submarines and long-range missiles "in our neighbourhood".

The new satellite pictures show 58 launch pads and command and control facilities spread over a 2,000 sq km deployment area near Delingha and Da Qaidam in the northern parts of Qinghai province.

An analysis of the photos by the Federation of American Scientists, a reputed US non-governmental organization which works on nuclear and arms control issues, holds "the sites are for targeting Russia and India".

But while China has been swift to resolve disputes with Russia, even importing weapon systems worth an estimated $13 billion from Moscow in the last seven-eight years, it continues to adopt an aggressive border posture as far as India is concerned.

Moreover, Russian missiles and counter-missile measures are more than a match for the Chinese ones. In sharp contrast, India has stark asymmetry vis-a-vis China in terms of strategic and military capabilities.

"It's foolhardy for India's political leadership to assume all is hunky-dory with China by citing the $40 billion bilateral trade figure. With the boundary dispute showing no signs of being resolved amid tussle for energy resources, China clearly remains India's long-term threat," said an official.

Though India has steadily improved its relationship with China, with several military CBMs being implemented along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, the armed forces remain concerned about Beijing's "continuing deep linkages" with Islamabad in the nuclear and missile arenas.

Tibet build-up, PLA modernization cause for worry

Moreover, there is worry about the rapid modernization of the 2.5-million strong People's Liberation Army, with its active nuclear submarine, missile and anti-satellite weapon programmes, as also the real intentions behind the massive build-up of military infrastructure in Tibet.

The FAS analysis of the deployment area near Delingha and Da Qaidam, done by Hans M Kristensen, on its part, says, "From these launch pads, DF-21 missiles would be within range of southern Russia and northern India (including New Delhi), but not Japan, Taiwan or Guam."

Kristensen writes that deployment of the solid-fuelled DF-21 medium-range nuclear missiles at the sites has been known to the US for some time now. And India and Russia have more to worry from the development since it does "not affect the US directly".

The US, of course, is more anxious about the new Chinese road-mobile DF-31A missiles, which can hit targets 11,200km away, and the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which have a reach beyond 7,200-km. Pentagon, on its part, has dubbed China "the country with the greatest potential to compete militarily with US".

Incidentally, India and US had come together last year to discuss China's massive military modernization and its spreading arc of influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

India wants to be viewed as a "neutral" player rather than being projected as a counterweight to China or being an "axis of democracy" to "contain" China. India is now taking some steps to build a "minimum credible nuclear deterrent" against China. The China-specific 3,500-km range Agni-III missile, however, will be ready for operational deployment only by 2010 or so, with the 5,000-km Agni-V getting ready for its first test around the same time.,prtpage-1.cms

Extensive Nuclear Missile Deployment Area Discovered in Central China
Posted By hkristensen On May 15, 2008 @ 7:00 am In China, Hans Kristensen, Nuclear Weapons, United States | 3 Comments

More than 50 launch pads for nuclear ballistic missiles have been identified scattered across a 2,000 square kilometer (772 square miles) area of central China, according to analysis of satellite images. Click image for full size. Also download GoogleEarth KMZ file.

By Hans M. Kristensen
Analysis of new commercial satellite photos has identified an extensive deployment area with nearly 60 launch pads for medium-range nuclear ballistic missiles in Central China near Delingha and Da Qaidam.
The region has long been rumored to house nuclear missiles and I have previously described some of the facilities in a report and a blog. But the new analysis reveals a significantly larger deployment area than previously known, different types of launch pads, command and control facilities, and missile deployment equipment at a large facility in downtown Delingha.
The U.S. government often highlights China’s deployment of new mobile missiles as a concern but keeps the details secret, so the discovery of the deployment area provides the first opportunity for the public to better understand how China operates its mobile ballistic missiles.

Description of Deployment Area
The deployment area is located in the northern parts of the Qinghai province and consists of two areas west of Delingha and Da Qaidam. In total, 58 launch pads have been identified scattered over an area stretching roughly 275 kilometers (170 miles) along highway G315 leading from Delingha through Da Qaidam to Mahai (see banner image for details). Nearly all launch pads detected so far are located on the north side of the road. Combined, the deployment area covers approximately 772 square miles (2,000 square kilometers).
Figure 1:
Delingha Deployment Area

36 launch pads and the 812 Brigade Base have been identified in and around Delingha. Click on image to see full size
The Delingha (德令哈) deployment area stretches approximately 52 kilometers (32 miles), covering 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) west of the city of Delingha (see Figure 1). A total of 36 launch pads have been identified along three side roads extending north from the main road. The three strings of launch pads are separated by 16-20 kilometers (10-12 miles). This area appears to be very active with missile operations detected in 2005 and 2007, and several facilities in downtown Delingha associated with missile operations are identified below.
Figure 2:
Da Qaidam Deployment Area

22 launch pads have been identified northwest of Da Qaidam. Click on image for full size
The Da Qaidam deployment area stretches for more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the city of Da Qaidam Zhen all the way past Mahai, covering an area of 1,100 square kilometers (424 square miles). A total of 22 launch pads have been identified alongside and to the north of the main road (see Figure 2). This deployment area shows clear wheel tracks at several of the pads, including what might be construction of new pads or maintenance of existing ones. Unlike in Delingha, no missile related facilities have yet been identified in or around Da Qaidam itself, except for what appears to be a surface-to-air missile (SAM) site in the city itself and what might be a command and control facility further south near Xiao Qaidam.
There are probably more launch pads and facilities between Delingha and Mahai, but satellite photos of a couple of areas are not yet available on Google Earth.
From these launch pads DF-21 missiles would be within range of southern Russia and northern India (including New Delhi), but not Japan, Taiwan or Guam.
Figure 3:
Launch Pad Designs

Four basic launch pad designs have been detected ranging is size from 15-70 meters.
Launch Pad Designs
The 58 launch pads include four basic designs: a 70-meter full circle; a 40-meter T-shape, a 15-45 meter rectangular, and a 30-meter pull-out (see Figure 3). The 15-meter rectangular is by far the most common design. There are two full circle pads and four T-shape pads.
The large circular pads are probably older designs for the liquid-fuel DF-3 and DF-4, which require a large number of fuel trucks on the pad until shortly before launch. The liquid-fuel missiles are now being phased out and replaced with the solid-fuel DF-21 and DF-31, which require fewer support vehicles. The DF-31 has not been reported in the Delingha and Da Qaidam areas, but its smaller predecessor the DF-21 has deployed there for several years and can be launched from the small 15-meter pads. Two of the pads in Figure 3 show what are estimated to be DF-21 launchers, a 2006 deployment previously described here.
The pads could potentially also be used by short-range missiles such as the DF-11 and DF-15. But the DOD has repeatedly stated in its annual reports on China’s military that “all of [China’s] SRBM units are deployed to locations near Taiwan.”
Several of the smaller 15-meter launch pads appear to have a small infrastructure consisting of a tiny building located approximately 150 meters from the pad. A few also have larger structures nearby.
Command and Control Facilities
The satellite photos also show what appear to be buried command and control (C2) facilities at each deployment area. They are hard to find because they blend in with the other pads, but a closer look reveals that they are very different and so far two have been detected (see Figure 4).
The two C2 facilities have the same dimensions, 20 x 16 meters, and each has a tall antenna at either end of what looks like a concrete pad. The pads might cover buried facilities used for C2, or be used by C2 vehicles that deploy with the missile launcher.
The facilities face the same direction, and lines drawn from each antenna parallel to the end of the facilities run through Delingha as well as Wulan (Ulan) further to the southeast, a rumored location of the headquarters for the missiles in this area.
Figure 4:
Command and Control Facilities

Two of the pads (sites A4 and D1) have twin antennae and appear to be command and control facilities.
Likewise, a string of facilities with antennae south of Da Qaidam near Xiao Qaidam might also be related to command and control operations.
Missile Activities Downtown Delingha
Traveling through Delingha a few years ago, a group of hikers described the encounter: “While trying to find accommodation we got stopped by police, one of them did some cell phoning and then offered to find a hotel for us, we were impressed! Once in the hotel there was a knock on the door- and we were confronted with ‘Alien Police’ who informed us we were in a closed city where no foreigners were allowed.”
Whether the hikers were deported because Delingha houses a nuclear missile brigade is unknown, but in the past it has been difficult to identify facilities in the city related to missile operations. A satellite photo taken on February 28, 2008, however, shows structures similar to those observed on remote launch pads outside the city in 2005 and 2006. The structures can be seen at three locations inside a 1.5 x 0.5 kilometer (0.7 x 0.3 mile) compound (see Figure 5), and appear to reveal the location of the 812 Brigade Base Headquarters for the first time.
Figure 5:
812 Brigade Base in Delingha

Missile related facilities and equipment reveal the location of the 812 Brigade Base in downtown Delingha. Click on the image for full size.
A square fenced section in the western part of the base compound is dominated by two large c-shaped structures. Closer inspection reveals that they consist of five tent-like structures, two of which are about 70 meters long and three that are 40 meters. At the end of the two larger tents is what appears to be a gate or portal. Next to the tents are two small buildings and a truck (see Figure 6).
Figure 6:
Possible Missile Launch Brigade Tents

Tent-like structures visible in downtown Delingha appear to be used by the missile launch brigade when it deploys to remote launch pads (see also Figure 7).
These structures are hard to identify by themselves, but when comparing with earlier satellite photos from the same area they become significant because they are very similar – if not identical – to structures seen on dispersed launch pads near Delingha in 2005 and 2006. Two of those cases are reproduced in Figure 7, showing an 80-meter tent, 43 crew tents/huts, a gate, and six fuel trucks at Launch Pad B1 in 2005, as well as a DF-21 launcher with a crew tent/hut at Launch Pad B10 in 2006.
Figure 7:
Possible Missile Launch Brigade Tents

Tent-like structures similar to the ones detected in downtown Delingha (see Figure 6) were deployed to missile launch pads in 2005 (right) and 2006.
At the eastern end of the compound is another large open facility with what appears to be camouflage nets covering unidentified vehicles. The relatively low resolution of the photos conceal many details, and it’s difficult to say whether they are vehicles or stacked equipment, how long they have been there, and whether they’ve just arrived or are being shipped out. Yet their sizes (27-56 meters) and shapes are particularly interesting because the length of the DF-21 launcher is approximately 13 meters and the DF-31 launcher is about 23 meters. At the south end of this facility are two large buildings that might be service garages for missile launchers (see Figure 8).
Figure 8:
Camouflaged Mobile Launchers?

Equipment similar in size to launch platforms is covered by camouflage nets. Two buildings at the south end of the facility resemble service buildings for launchers.
Immediately to the west of this facility, separated by a canal, a triangle-shaped section of the main compound appears to be associated with servicing the missile units and their equipment. Clearly visible are several tents of the same basic design as those seen in the western facility and on launch pads, as well as three smaller huts and the shadow of what seems to be a gate/portal (see Future 9).
Figure 9:
Possible Missile Brigade Service Section

Tent-like structures, red huts, and a gate/portal similar to those observed at launch sites B1 and B5 in 2005 and 2006 identify this section of the Delingha base as a possible service facility for mobile ballistic missile launchers.
Implications of a Mobile Missile Force
The current head of China’s Second Artillery Corps, General Jing Zhiyuan, reportedly served as commander of the Second Artillery Base 56 in Xining, the headquarters for the Delingha missile brigade, from 1993 to 1997. As such he would have overseen the preparations for the transitioning from old liquid-fuel missiles at Delingha and Da Qaidam to solid-fuel missiles.
This change, one all the other nuclear powers made decades ago, is in full swing through the Chinese missile force. Several of the small pads detected at Delingha and Da Qaidam have been added since 2005. At that time approximately 33 of China’s deployed 91 ballistic missiles were solid-fuel, corresponding to 36 percent. Today the share is 67 out of 121 deployed missiles, or 55 percent. The share will increase in the next several years as more DF-31s and DF-31As are deployed and the DF-3As and DF-4s are retired. JL-2 missiles on Jin-class submarines will increase the percentage even more.
Similarly to the other nuclear weapon states, China is trying to reduce the vulnerability of its nuclear deterrent, and much of the debate about the new mobile missiles centers on their ability to disperse and launch quickly, making them harder for others to destroy. The small 15-meter launch pads are indeed easy to overlook compared with the larger 70-meter pads, and it is not known which of he pads will be used by launchers in a war; they might even be capable of launching from the main road. The tire tracks visible in the images and the absence of paved roads to most of the launch pads suggest the DF-31 launchers have some off-road capability.
Even so, the relatively low-resolution satellite images show that even mobile missile leave fingerprints such as tire tracks and rely on a highly visible infrastructure that includes the launch pads themselves, command and control facilities, and bases. Moreover, targeting Chinese mobile systems is far from a new and untested challenge for U.S. military planners because China and Russia have deployed - and the United States has routinely targeted - their mobile ballistic missiles since the early 1980s. Indeed, the DOD’s determination that all of China’s smallest mobile missile units - those that are hardest to detect and the most numerous - are confined to one region and nowhere else in this vast country suggests that a considerable detection (and thus targeting) capability exists today.
Mobile missiles might make it more difficult to carry out a successful first strike to destroy all of the launchers, but it doesn’t make the force invulnerable. If hidden inside a cave it is relatively simple to seal off the entrance and trap the launchers inside. Once out in the open mobile launchers can move and try to hide, but they are highly vulnerable to the blast effect of a nuclear weapon. The specific targeting and damaging requirements for U.S. nuclear forces tasked with targeting Chinese mobile missiles are not know. But the following excerpt from The U.S. Nuclear War Plan: A Time For Change (NRDC 2001, p. 54) about targeting Russian mobile SS-25 ICBMs might be a good illustrative example for targeting Chinese mobile missiles as well:
“The 1969 Defense Intelligence Agency Physical Vulnerability Handbook—Nuclear Weapons assigns a vulnerability number of 11Q9 to road-mobile missiles with ranges of 700, 1,100, and 2,000 nautical miles or with intercontinental ranges. The damage level for this vulnerability number is defined as “transporter overturned and missile crushed.” The kill mechanism has been likened to flipping a turtle on its back. For a 100-kt weapon [the W76], the optimum height of burst to attack a target with a vulnerability number of 11Q9 is approximately 1,250 m (no local fallout would be expected), and the corresponding damage radius is 2,875 m. Thus dispersed SS-25 vehicles can be threatened over an area of approximately 26 square kilometers by a single W76 air burst. If, for example, a MAZ vehicle is traveling at 20 kilometers per hour, then one W76 explosion must occur within about 15 minutes of noting the location of the moving vehicle. While this time interval is roughly consistent with depressed-trajectory launches of SLBMs, it would require additional time to communicate the SS-25 locations to the SSBNs and retarget the missiles. The fact that Trident I or Trident II SLBMs are MIRVed, with up to eight [now estimated to be six] warheads per missile, means that a group of moving SS-25 launcher vehicles could also be pattern-attacked with W76 warheads over an area of some 200 square kilometers.”
Using this example as a guide, it would require at least 24 100-kiloton W76 warheads - the load of four Trident II D5 missiles - detonating at a height of burst of 1,250 meters to ensure destruction of all the 58 launch pads identified in these satellite images, plus several more warheads to destroy the bases. Rather than aiming at each pad, warfighters would more likely try to hit the launchers before they dispersed.
The mobile nuclear cat and mouse game is on: Chinese planners are trying to hide and U.S. and Russian planners are trying to catch them.
Additional information: Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning | GoogleEarth KMZ File
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