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India, Tibet and China: The way forward

One sees a sinister Chinese expansionist plan which does not bode well for India. It needs a coordinated, consolidated and a sustained response since Indian sovereignty and integrity is at stake here. There should be no mistaking the danger India is facing.




When Indian and Tibetan flags were waved at the funeral of Company Leader Nyima Tenzin of the Special Frontier Force who died during the Kailash Range operations, there was widespread belief that the ‘Tibet’ issue will be leveraged. It was short-lived due to haziness in Indian thinking, absolute clarity in China and a return to resigned helplessness amongst Tibetans worldwide. The issue has morphed significantly from the last century and needs deep understanding of new issues and must be played with finesse. Undue military action or rebellious violence will end any action being snuffed out like the Khampa Rebellion in the 1950s. Relevant issues pertaining to India, China and Tibet need to be brought into focus for India to chart out a future course of action. In this part we will see the legality of Tibet being part of China and Chinese designs in Tibet.     

Army Chief General M.M. Naravane visits forward areas of Fire and Fury Corps, to have a first-hand assessment of the situation along the LAC, in Ladakh on Wednesday. ANI

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar (retd)


The Great Wall Frontier: Historically the outer frontiers of China were defined by the ‘Great Wall’. It was built by imperial China to keep outsiders at bay. In this context The Great Wall defines the outer limits of Chinese Boundaries. However there is no ‘Single’ Great Wall of China. There were a series of Walls raised by different dynasties depending on the extent of their empire and what they considered China. Taking into consideration all the Walls, the areas outside these are definitely outside China. Hence Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria were never part of China till such time the PLA under Mao and Communists usurped them based on mythical history.

Suzerainty: Tibet was never part of China. The relationship between Tibet and China was of suzerainty. Chinese suzerainty over Tibet has been internationally acknowledged since long but not sovereignty. Historically, Chinese control over Tibet waned and waxed depending upon the power of the prevalent Chinese Empire. Indian and Chinese civilisations, throughout history never had a common border. Tibet, with its own Flag and Government, was always a buffer state. This buffer evaporated with the Chinese occupation of Tibet. 

Illegal PRC Government: Till date the Government in Lhasa is that of PRC. It has not been accepted by all Tibetans. The Government of Tibet headed by the Dalai Lama is in exile in India. Also, Tibet has been governed  historically by the Dalai Lamas’ who have been  the religious, temporal and political heads of Tibet. That has not changed amongst the masses or in international understanding. Fundamentally occupation of Tibet by China remains a case of illegal 

2003 Agreement: Till 2003, India never recognised Tibet as part of China. The 2003 agreement which reads “The Indian side agrees to designate Changgu of Sikkim state as the venue for border trade market; the Chinese side agrees to designate Renqinggang of the Tibet Autonomous Region as the venue for border trade market” establishes recognition of Tibet as part of China and Sikkim as part of India. Nathu La pass is mentioned as an entry and exit point and hence is treated as the border by common understanding. In 2003, it was never contended by China that the Tibet Autonomous Region extended South of McMahon Line. The common understanding was that Tibet was generally north of the McMahon Line even if the line was itself in dispute at some places.  Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet started after 2003. In claiming so, the Chinese have actually violated their commitments of 2003. The Chinese have violated all Sino Indian agreements in their current aggression in eastern Ladakh. In view of both these facts, it is perfectly legal that India does not recognise Tibet as part of China. Look at it another way. The Tibet we recognised in  2003 is now in dispute due to additional claims by the Chinese and hence Tibet is not part of China till such time it is defined as to what is Tibet! When all these issues are taken into consideration holistically, there is no doubt that Tibet is not part of China and PRC is occupying it illegally.


Historical Design: Chinese occupation of Tibet in the last century is presaged by two factors. Firstly, there is their historical and convenient misperception that Tibet is an integral part of China. Secondly, occupation of Tibet along with the other outliers—Manchuria, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang will give depth and protection to Core Han China from future land based threats. Having occupied Tibet, and other outlying non Han areas any rebellion or uprising has been crushed lest it affect the stability of the PRC and CCP.

Expansionist Design: Reports keep surfacing about China wanting to annex Vladivostok in Russia, entire Mongolia and some parts of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. (A Chinese website claims that Kazakhstan historically is part of China and seeks to “return” to it. Kyrgyzstan is described by a Chinese website that it was part of China for thousands of years). In July 2013 China started propagating the six inevitable wars it must fight to regain so-called lost territories The six ‘inevitable’ wars are for unification of Taiwan (2020-2025), recovery of South China Sea Islands (2025–2030), recovery of southern Tibet (2035-2040), recovery of Diaoyutai and the Ryukyus (2040-2045), Unification of Outer Mongolia (2045–2050) and recovery of territory seized by Russia (2055–2060). In doing so it has signaled that these are its areas and it will go to war for them. So it is a combination of planned mythical claims and coercion.

The Himalayan Design: Along the Himalayas it wants to usurp Doklam and Sakteng in Bhutan, parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Parts of Nepal and Eastern Ladakh. It incrementally creeps forward as part of its salami slicing tactic. It is now widely propagated and discussed that Mao considered Tibet to be China’s right-hand palm, with five fingers—Nepal, Bhutan and the three Indian territories of Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh—that China was also meant to ‘liberate’. When seen holistically, Tibet and the other outliers are just a base for further Chinese territorial expansion in its quest to become a superpower and dominate the world. The  EU  sums it up by saying that the scale of Chinese power and global reach poses acute challenges to open and democratic societies, particularly because of that country’s trajectory to greater authoritarianism and an expansion of its territorial ambitions.

Water Issues: Tibet, is also known as the “Water Tower of Asia,”. It is the headwaters of Asia’s largest rivers, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Salween, Indus and Sutlej. It is the source of river systems flowing into 11 countries – China, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan. As  an upper riparian for Asia’s river systems, occupation of Tibet enables China to control the hydrological future of Asia. China is one of the planet’s most arid regions. Its own rivers are either too polluted or silted to meet its water requirement. Hence, in another context,  it must possess Tibet to meet its future water requirements also.

Dams on Brahmaputra: Building huge dams on Brahmaputra, upstream of where it enters India and diverting the river waters into mainland China meets Chinese water and energy security requirements. However, the consequences for India and Bangladesh will be disastrous and destabilising from any point of view—water availability, water variability, ecology and lifestyle change and locally induced climate change. As China develops an elaborate system on the Brahmaputra to meet its water requirements, it needs to be protected and provided depth. Hence the importance of usurping Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The ‘mythical’ five finger theory ascribed to Mao and depth for its water security are convergent issues. Either I must be daft or illiterate or reading about the wrong China all these years. The first time I have heard of this palm and five-finger theory is 2020. How ingenious and conveniently has history been manufactured and propagated! The Chinese seem to have brought out Mao’s Palm straight from his mausoleum to use it here for historical purposes. 

Communising Buddhism and Solidification of Tibet: In August 2020, China embarked on a Solidification of Tibet programme. Its multiple components were propounded by Xi Jinping: “solidify border defences and ensure frontier security”, “impregnable fortress for national security and enduring peace and stability” and “Tibetan Buddhism should adapt to socialism and to the Chinese way of life”. Hence what we are going to see is increased military activity along the Sino Indian LAC which will draw heavily on the lessons of its failed campaign in eastern Ladakh. This will be the base for Chinese military forays south of the Himalayas to continue its expansionist programme. Secondly, we will see replication of Xinjiang-style human rights abuses through detention centres where Tibetans will be used as forced labour as well as be imbibed with “patriotic education”, i.e., brainwashing with communist ideology. We will also witness mega projects being executed which will bring in Han settlements as part of the ongoing demographic change plan. There will be a detailed and sustained attempt to “Sinicising Tibetan Buddhism”. This could result in the evolution of a new religion based on communist Buddhism with Xi Jinping as its Dalai Lama! The pattern is familiarly Chinese.

Overall, one sees a sinister Chinese expansionist plan which does not bode well for India. It needs a coordinated, consolidated and a sustained response since Indian sovereignty and integrity is at stake here. There should be no mistaking the danger India is facing. A proper response will evolve only if we understand the issues related to Tibet and evaluate our own position. That will be in the next part(s) of this series.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit



The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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