Doklam Standoff: Thoughts on the Endgame

       Sharing some ramblings on the way the standoff has played out so far. I say ‘so far’ because it is still not over. Far from it!

        Will not go into the background of it all. Have already shared my thoughts some days ago in this BLOG POST. For a historical and geographical background to the nature of the dispute, this short BLOG POST should suffice.

        Bottomline is that Dolam is indeed a vital piece of ground for China, not only because it will enable them to rapidly cut off the Siliguri Corridor during war, but also enable unhindered observation of the same during peacetime due to the commanding heights. So here’s what China did. Some years earlier, it offered to forego its claims on other parts of Bhutan in exchange for the Dolam Plateau. Basically China told Bhutan – We will let you retain your own lands in North if you let go of your lands in the South!

        Bhutan decided to graciously decline this ‘generous offer’! Regardless, China kept up its claims and poking Bhutan until the 2012 agreement to agree to retain the status quo on ground. And full marks to China that they stuck to this agreement for FULL FIVE YEARS! But the ‘inevitable itch’ soon shifted from its Eastern Bum (South China Sea) to its Western Bum(LAC). Soon the flag bearers of the so called ‘Peaceful Rise of China’ peacefully marched into sovereign Bhutanese territory with impressive road building equipment. The OBOR had arrived in Bhutan, so what if it was sort of uninvited!

        But this is where China realized that the warts on its Eastern Bum are a tad bit different from the warts on its Western Bum! Whereas the PRC could easily steamroll over its smaller neighbours in the SCS, in Doklam, however, the Chinese found themselves on the other side of the steamroller. Literally. Indian army came down and destroyed whatever road the Chinese had constructed thus far. The Chinaman was zapped. This was not what he was told would happen! He was told by his commie bosses that the Elephant would turn tail at the first sight of the Dragon. Now the Chinaman was confused. And enraged!

        How dare the barbarians to the West refuse to kowtow to the Middle Kingdom! Thus started the sabre rattling (or the noise of the empty vessels, if you will!) Enraged princelings revved their super car engines in anger in Sydney. VERY LOUDLY! (LINK)

        Then came a ‘cute’ little video on the Seven Scenes of India by the State Broadcaster. But full credit to them in taking pains to ensure it was NOT RACIST (India-China border dispute: Bizarre video mocks New Delhi with racist stereotype) at all! In fact they even put out a cute little Sardar!

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(I’m sure his photos must still be circulating in WhatsApp groups in the Land of Five Rivers, he is just so ‘cute’!).

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        However, all that huff and puff was met with a DEAFENING silence by India. So much so that a dozen page long ‘chargesheet’ let out by Beijing was met with a one line statement by the Indian MEA! Leave along kowtowing, the barbarians simply dismissed the Middle Kingdom with one sentence. Yes, ONE SENTENCE! The Dragon was now stuck riding the Tiger. It didn’t know how to get off without being devoured because, well, they are very well aware of how the PLA might fare in case bullets started to fly (People’s Liberation Army – Calling the Bluff)!

        So they decided to do a very ‘clever’ thing. They announced that the Indians had unilaterally started withdrawing from the ‘Chinese Territory of Dolam’! Bad move!

        The Tiger now replaced its deafening silence with a low growl. There was no such move by Indian troops, he said. Poor Dragon. Yeh daanv bhi fail!

        The Tiger was very clear on what he wanted – Chinaman OUT of Bhutan and restoration of status quo. Now the Winnie lookalike was worried!

(Who’s Winnie, you ask? Well this LINK should help :D)

        BRICS summit was fast approaching. And the barbarians, far from kowtowing, were making fun of him (LINK)!

        Didn’t they get the memo wherein they were supposed to roll over and die at the mere sight of the Chinaman? His plans for a grand ‘victory’ right before the BRICS Summit, and more importantly, the Chinese Commie Party’s Congress soon thereafter, where he was to proclaim himself the next Chairman, after Mao, were in danger!

        But just short of his moment of glory, not only was he being shown a middle finger by the Tiger, but also his much vaunted PLA was at the receiving end of flying karate kicks from the Indian Army at the other end of the border (Blow by Blow Analysis of the Pangongso Lake Incident)DIUBibyUwAAIGuE.jpg

        Finally, the Dragon realized he’d bitten off more than he could chew. His huff and puff wouldn’t work across the LAC. The Tiger was in no mood to humour him. Far from that, in fact,the Tiger threatened to devour him instead. Bottomline: Fatt Gayi (India Building up Troops and Supplies Along Border Amid Doklam Standoff: Alleges China)

        With the shrill antics (and of course the Video with the cute Sardar!), the Dragon had become the laughing stock of the world. One so called ‘gentleman’ by the name of Hu kept up the rambles, but the Tiger thought is was (LINK)!

(Note to self: Get eyesight tested to avoid reading Hu as Chu next time)

        Finally, the Middle Kingdom blinked. It huffed & puffed and quietly requested the Tiger – ‘Saar, galti se mistake ho gaya. Plizz adjust na thoda sa.’ The Tiger’s bottomline was clear. You and your road – Bugger Off.

        The Dragon meekly acquiesced in private even as the benevolent Tiger permitted it to continue huffing and puffing and saying we will keep patrolling and yada yada. Quietly though, the Dragon also said that it has ‘decided’ not to construct a road any more (LINK). (Translation: Even though it is MY territory, Tiger doesn’t want me to make a road here)

        But then there were some internet warriors who didn’t get the memo and kept bleating ‘China Win India Lose’! Some of them were quietly and ‘patiently’ explained facts in a language that they understood best – use of graphics (LINK). 🙂

        The Dragon left, all his fire extinguished. The Tiger got what it always said it wanted – NO FCUKING ROAD. Period

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This, folks, in a nutshell, is what happened to the Dragon’s ‘nutshells’ in .

Thank you for your patience 🙂

 

People’s Liberation Army – A History of ‘Valour’

Blogged about the Myths of PLA some days ago (Link). Now continuing from there.

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        Huge parades, shiny ‘toys’, rows and rows of it. The President, or as he would like to be addressed – The Chairman, inspecting the troops in an open jeep with FOUR mikes, exhorting them to be loyal to him (Yes, apparently the PLA needs to be reminded of it’s obligation to be loyal to the CPC over and over again!). A shiny new aircraft carrier with beautiful introductory videos that would put Top Gun to shame. Or was it the other way round (LINK : China copied not only the music, but also the choreography of Top Gun)?

            Then there was the ‘small’ issue of an officially released video of their BESTEST fighter jet, which ‘unfortunately’ was found to be a video from the same ‘Top Gun’ instead! (LINK: China red-faced after footage of new fighter ‘was from Top Gun’)

            The PLA, PLAAF and PLAN are the future of warfare, as the People’s Republic of China would like us to believe. Well, there’s only one way to find out the amount of truth in this ‘fact’ – and given the sabre rattling happening on the other side of the LAC (or is it empty vessels. Let’s leave that for later), it might not be too far in the future.

            But one thing that we CAN, and in fact MUST analyse is how the PLA has measured up when time has come to live up to their bombast. And there is plenty to talk about, given their ‘rich’ history of ‘valour’ too. Let us start with the PLA before the establishment of the PRC. They were actually raised as the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party, and continue to be so even today. Yes, China, the country doesn’t have an army. What they have is the ARMED WING OF THE CPC, enabling the CPC in ruling over China.

            The PLA was raised in 1928 to help the CPC ‘struggle’ in its endeavour to establish a communist regime in China. Since almost its very inception, it found itself fighting Chiang Kai Shek’s Koumintang for the right to rule over China. This fight was, however interrupted when the Japanese showed up from across the East China Sea. This is where Mao played a masterstroke – he withdrew from the fight, preferring to let the Koumintang fight the Japanese instead. The same template carried on during the second world war too. So basically, the PLA did NOTHING for the freedom of China when occupied by the Japanese. On the contrary, as soon as the Japanese were defeated with the combined efforts of the Allies and the Koumintang, the PLA attacked a weakened Chiang Kai Shek and drove him to Taiwan.

            PRC established, the PLA soon marched into Tibet. There was NO resistance worth the name. Tick first ‘victory’ for the PLA. Fast forward three more years. Gen Eisenhower marched into North Korea, threatening to reach the very doorstep of the PRC on the Yalu River. Mao committed the PLA to ensure the survival of the commie regime. The Americans were ultimately driven back to the 32nd Parallel, where they continue to be even today. This campaign was touted as a stunning victory for the PLA. But was is really a victory? Dig a bit deeper and what does one find? Waves after waves of PLA soldiers sent in to simply overwhelm the Americans by sheer numbers. No tactics. No manoeuvres. Nothing. Just keep sending them till the Americans run out of bullets to shoot them. Very smart, Mr Mao! I will let you google for the fatalities that the PLA as compared to those suffered by the Americans. It was a ‘victory’ indeed, or was it? Total lack of ingenuity. Just one resource that Mao had at his disposal aplenty – scores and scores of poor Chinese soldiers.

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(Photo: TIME)       

    Less than a decade later came the 1962 war. Enough has been written about it. But still, I’ll add my own bit. As the Time Magazine wrote – ill armed, ill clad, ill trained, the only thing that the Indian Army didn’t lack was guts. The Indian army was thrust in a battle it was not prepared for. Couple that with questionable leadership and the result did NOT come as a surprise. BUT, one fact that is often left out is that wherever the local commanders did not panic, and actually LED their troops, the Indian soldier stood like a rock on his land. Till his very last breath. Names like Dhan Singh Thapa, Shaitan Singh, Jaswant Singh, Joginder Singh, Yog Raj Palta, Brahmanand Awasthi and the hundreds more became folklore.  A beautiful tribute to the Indian warriors who held on to Kibithu / Walong to their last breath appeared in the Pune Newsline on 07 Nov 1999. I still retain the original paper cutting. A must read piece.

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            The Chinese admit to fewer than 750 casualties in that war. Let us analyse that a bit. 750 casualties. Let that sink in for a moment! Here is how the Chinese fought. They got a peasants’ army to march from the plains of East / South China into the high Himalayas in September / October. That done, they told them to attack. Uphill, against a stubborn enemy. At altitudes ranging from 12 to 18,000 feet. Across a theatre ranging from Ladakh to Kibithu. And then, with the plains of Assam in sight, they called for a ceasefire and withdrew!. Back up the hills from where they’d just climbed down. Back into the icy Tibet. In the peak of winters. And less than 750 casualties? The souls of Maj Shaitan Singh and his Ahirs would be laughing their heads off .. they would have accounted for a tad more than that figure at Rezang La itself! Another ‘victory’, but at what cost once again? And what did they achieve? No new lands came their way. On the contrary, they made an eternal enemy of a large neighbour. One that has given them considerable grief on the battlefield subsequently.

            Talking of grief on the LAC, the first instance came soon after 1962, at NathuLa in 1967 when Brigadier Sagat Singh ensured that his Grenadiers killed 300+ Chinese in response to they wounding their commanding officer. Soon thereafter came the incident at Chola, again in Sikkim, less than a month later wherein the Gorkhas of 7/11 GR did a repeat of that. And guess what, Sikkim has been so peaceful since then!

            Two years later came the faceoff between the PLA and the Soviets at Usuri River. Close to 1000 PLA troops were accounted for by the Soviets. So alarmed was Mao that he almost vacated Peking!

            Fast forward to a decade ahead. This time it was Shri Deng Xiaoping who thought he should ‘teach a lesson’ to puny Vietnam for opposing the China backed murderous Cambodian regime. He launched the much vaunted PLA to teach the said lesson to Vietnam. But no points for guessing who got taught the lesson! The PLA lost close to 200,000 soldiers, claimed a victory and moved back. Very smart of them. Just that the Vietnamese tend to disagree, though!

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(Photo: Chinese POWs in Vietnam, 1979)

         Next decade came another standoff with India at Sumdorong Chu. Interestingly, Wikipedia has got it in good detail. Bottomline, the PLA tried to pre-emptively occupy some areas on the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh, but got the shock of their lives when the Indian army counter mobilised with an entire brigade! Thing is, the Chinese thought that this time too, the ghost of 1962 would prevent India from responding to them. But I guess they forgot that the ghost of 1962 was more than exorcised in 1967 itself. Something similar, in fact, happened at Dolam a few months ago, a standoff which carries on still. If only the PLA could learn from THEIR OWN FCUKING HISTORY!

            Then there was the ‘little’ incident in South Sudan some months ago, something that I blogged about earlier too (link at the top of this blog post), when the shiny toys failed to ‘persuade’ the PLA soldiers to hang on instead of running away in face of rag tag militias.

            At the end of it, I stand firm in my belief that the PLA is all huff and puff, but no WILL to prove that it is not mere bluster. Despite the shiny toys, the Chinese Emperor’s Army is Naked! I guess they know it too, ‘coz their aim seems to be to somehow win without fighting. And they just might succeed in doing so, atleast in the South – China, nay Indo – China Sea as it has historically been called. But they ran into a stone wall in Dolam, hoping for the same template to get repeated.

            To conclude all I will say is that this Indian Army is NOT the Indian Army of 1962, but the PLA soldier of today is STILL the same as the PLA soldier of 1962. He STILL cannot fight, esp when faced with a worthy enemy, and days of sacrificing him by the hundreds are gone for good.

Just my thoughts

State Sponsored Radicalization in Pakistan’s School Curriculum: Part 3 of 3

This is the concluding part of a three part blog series. Links to the first two parts are as under:-

Part 1

Part 2

EFFECTS ON PAKISTAN SOCIETY

        The rapid descent into chaos of Pakistan as a nation is amply documented. However, most of the times people make the mistake of putting the blame squarely on the education imparted in the Madrassas in the country, not realizing that public school education is equally to blame. The failed Times Square bomber in May 2010, Faisal Shahzad was the son of Air Vice Marshal Baharul Haq of the PAF and did his early schooling in Pakistan.[1]

        A subtle subversion of the generations post 1971 has already happened and will take a lot of effort to be undone. That is, however, beyond the scope of this paper. As regards the current school going generation too, the situation is bad, but salvageable with concerted effort. In words of Mr Karamat Ali, the executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, “I have heard of cases where Muslim students ask non-Muslim high achievers: Why don’t you convert to our religion? And it is not just Muslims and Hindus, but also Shias who are given this treatment. This is because of the horrifying myths about people of other faiths that we fill our children with.”[2]

        With a force feeding of religion in school curriculum despite the country’s constitution specifically forbidding it (as discussed in Part 1), the effect has been twofold. Firstly, it has resulted in a youth which has undergone subtle religious indoctrination at behest of its own govt for its own particular agenda, at times dictated by religious parties in the govt; and secondly, this has come at the cost of other, more relevant issues that the pupils might have been taught instead, in order to take their nation on the path of development and assimilation in the larger comity of nations.

Attempts at Reform

            ‘In the latest Class 10 Pakistan Studies textbook for Punjab, the section on the Musharraf years discusses his policy of ‘enlightenment’. The book states that “Musharraf changed the curriculum and tried to make it enlightened”. And earlier in that paragraph: “President Musharraf had also tried to introduce enlightenment in his country (like Ataturk in Turkey) but the religious people of Pakistan made it a failure.” Ironic that the textbook itself acknowledges the failure of the curriculum reform, given that it ostensibly follows the new 2006 curriculum.’[3]

        There continue to be many within Pakistan who are aware of the challenges posed by their school curriculum, and have made numerous attempts to reform the same. However, for most part, their attempts have failed on account of the inherent resistance by the clergy, sometimes from within the govt. During the early years of Musharraf regime, attempts were made to moderate the curriculum and subject matter experts approached for the same. One of the many changes made to the curriculum was the definition of the word ‘jehad’. Textbooks of the time defined it as ‘holy war against infidels’. This was changed to ‘fighting evils inside oneself’, a definition much closer to its actual meaning. The change was, however, short lived, and Musharraf had to bow to the diktats of the religious parties on whose support his govt was in power.[4]

        In 2006, Pakistan finally revised its curricula guidelines, removing a lot of negatives, while retaining others. However, new textbooks in conformity with the new guidelines have still not been created and published.[5] In fact, a review of curriculum indicated that more than doubled since the last time they were revised. For example, some 30 Grade 5 to 10 textbooks published in Punjab,  examined in 2009, were found to have 12 instances of biased material that could be considered “hate content.”  In 2012, the textbooks underwent a curriculum revision. After another review, the total number of quantifiable instances of questionable or factually incorrect material went up to 33.[6] In fact, in 2004 the Information Minister of the Govt of Pakistan was forced to apologise to the religious parties in the National Assemby after the Education Minister questioned the relevance of verses glorifying Jihad in Class XI Biology textbooks.[7] Such is the uphill battle that faces curriculum reform in Pakistan.

 

SUMMARY

        Awakening vs continued descent into chaos – these are the only two choices left for Pakistan now with respect to its school curriculum. As has been demonstrated earlier during the Musharraf refime, even if a correct choice is made, implementing it would mean overcoming the baggage of continued Islamization and radicalization that has been the norm in Pakistan over the past five decades. This is a matter which should equally concern India, since much of the bile is directed against it, including in the guise of Hindus.

        The real worry for India is that the current education system of Pakistan will continue to churn out young adults who will view India as a hegemon with the sole aim of subjugating Pakistan and its people. Over the past years, many generations have already been moulded by the system and are today in positions of influence wherein their individual / collective actions ensure continued enmity between India and Pakistan. Such a mind set can’t be reformed overnight. We must find a way to engage the Govt of Pakistan and encourage it to take corrective action at the earliest if there is ever to be any hope of a lasting India – Pakistan peace.

 

[1] Schapiro, Rich. ‘Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad ‘was just a normal dude’ before making neighbors suspicious.’ 05 May, 2010, ‘Daily News’. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/times-square-bomb-suspect-faisal-shahzad-normal-dude-making-neighbors-suspicious-article-1.444286

[2] Usman, Mashal. ‘Pakistan: Bias in the textbooks and education – report on a meeting in Karachi’. 19 Mar 2013, ‘South Asia Citizens Web’.  http://www.sacw.net/article3995.html

[3] Afzal, Madiha. ‘A Failed Curriculum Reform’. 16 Jan 2014, Brookings. http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2014/01/15-pakistan-curriculum-reform-afzal

[4] Siddiqui, Taha. ‘Pakistan textbooks raise debate about curriculum of hate’. 28 Feb 2013. CS Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2013/0228/Pakistan-textbooks-raise-debate-about-curriculum-of-hate

[5] Bandow, Doug. ‘The Problem of Pakistan: Teaching Intolerance and Violence.’  09 Jan 2012, CATO Institute. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/problem-pakistan-teaching-intolerance-violence

[6] Siddiqui, Taha. ‘Pakistan textbooks raise debate about curriculum of hate’. 28 Feb 2013. CS Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2013/0228/Pakistan-textbooks-raise-debate-about-curriculum-of-hate

[7] ‘Govt Apologises Over Remarks in NA.’ 13 Mar 2004, ‘The Dawn’. http://www.dawn.com/news/392528/govt-apologises-over-remarks-in-na

State Sponsored Radicalization in Pakistan’s School Curriculum: Part 2 of 3

(contd from Part 1)

MANIFESTATION IN CURRENT CURRICULUM

“Pakistani textbooks have preached falsehoods, hatred and bigotry. They have constructed most non-Muslims, especially Hindus, as evil and primordial enemies, glorified military dictatorships and omitted references to our great betrayal of the Bengali brothers and sisters who were the founders and owners of the Pakistan movement. It is time to correct these wrongs.”[1]

 

 

        The understanding and subsequent implementation of such directions was aimed at promoting a particular worldview in the minds of the children during their formative years, so as to enable the nation to progress on its chosen path. The path chosen was clear – towards more Islamization. It has manifested itself in various forms, with attendant effects on the state of the society today. Some of these are discussed in succeeding paragraphs.

Lack of Sensitivity to Religious Diversity of the Country

        In his first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, MA Jinnah said, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”[2] With this statement, he promised a more or less secular country with a population that was majorly Muslim. As a result of this demography, culture and life of the majority found similar echoes in the early school curriculum. However, with the govt mandated process of Islamization of the 80s, curriculum underwent a redesign, depicting a monolithic image of Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, with little or no understanding of the ways of life of religious minorities / minority sects within Islam. This is buttressed by the fact that the following basic principle occurs repeatedly in Pakistani curriculum policy documents:-

            “In the teaching material, no concept of separation between the worldly and

the religious be given; rather all the material be presented from the Islamic

point of view.[3]

Following four themes emerge prominently in curricula in Pakistani school textbooks:-

(1)        Pakistan is for Muslims Alone.       The processes wherein Pakistani and Muslim identities are merged together commences quite early. An objective of the National Early Childhood Education curriculum, 2002 is “to nurture in children a sense of Islamic identity and pride in being Pakistani”[4] However, there is no mention of what is required to be taught to non Muslim students. Even ostensibly non-religious textbooks contain significant Islamic content, and they are used by Muslim and non-Muslim children alike. For example, in grade 3, 4, 5 and 6, Urdu-language social studies textbooks used in all the four provinces, lessons with Islamic content comprise about one-quarter of the total.[5] Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful, and to whom religious minorities should be subservient. The contributions of religious minorities towards the formation, development, and protection of Pakistan are also largely absent from the curriculum.[6]

(2)        Compulsory Teaching of Islamiat to All Students Irrespective of Their Faiths.    Another aspect of the above mentioned policy objective manifests itself in the form of compulsory learning of part of the Quran by students of all faiths, not as part of Islamiat curriculum, but of the compulsory subject, Urdu.[7] This in fact, constitutes a violation of fundamental rights of minorities as per Article 22(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan, that says:-

No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.

(3)        Ideology of Pakistan.        MA Jinnah never used the words ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ in his lifetime. It was only in 1962 that a member of Jamaat-i-Islami, Maulvi Abdul Bari used this term for the first time when the political parties bill was under discussion. Chaudhry Fazal Ilahi, who later became President of Pakistan, objected to this construct and asked what he meant by this. On this the member who had moved the bill said, “Ideology of Pakistan is Islam.” Nobody raised any question or sought explanation and the bill under discussion was passed.[8] This ideology was at complete variance with that espoused by Jinnah in his 11 Aug, 1947 speech. Regardless, the curriculum documents mandate that pupils be taught the ideology of Pakistan as espoused by Jinnah, Identify concepts relating to Pakistan’s ideology in the pronouncements of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam.”[9] In Classes XI – XII, the same curriculum states the desired learning outcome as Students will be able to describe Islam as the ideological base of Pakistan.”[10]

(4)       Hate Material.           Together, the above mentioned factors create a sense of ‘exclusiveness’ in the students at a very young age. With the stage thus set, the curriculum goes about infusing a sense of hatred towards India and Hindus in the impressionable minds. This fits in perfectly with the stated policy of perpetual enmity with India and the ideology of Pakistan coupled with the Two Nation Theory that led to the creation of Pakistan in the first place. The following excerpts from Pakistani school textbooks illustrate a method in madness wherein the Nation State is actively feeding wrong information to its children, leading to a radicalized society[11]:-

(i)         Hindus worship in temples which are very narrow and dark places, where they worship idols. Only one person can enter the temple at a time. In our mosques, on the other hand, all Muslims can say their prayers together.

(ii)        This division of men [among Aryans] into different castes is the worst example of tyranny in the history of the world. In course of time the Aryans began to be called the Hindus

(iii)       The Hindus lived in small and dark houses. Child marriage was common in those days. Women were assigned a low position in society. In case the husband of a woman died, she was burnt alive with his dead body. This was called ‘sati’. The killing of shudras was not punished, but the murder of a Brahman was a serious crime.

(iv)       Hindus thought that there was no country other than India, nor any people other than the Indians, nor did anyone else possess any knowledge. 

(v)        Hindus very cunningly succeeded in making the British believe that the Muslims were solely responsible for the [1857] rebellion.

(vi)       The Quaid saw through the machinations of the Hindus.

(vii)      The religion of the Hindus did not teach them good things. The Hindus did not respect women.

(viii)     The Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation. Several attempts were made by the Hindus to erase the Muslim culture and civilization. Hindi-Urdu controversy, shudhi and sangathan movements are the most glaring examples of the ignoble Hindu mentality.

(ix)       The caste system of the Hindus had made the life of the common people miserable. They were treated like animals. Nobody could claim equality with Brahmins. 

(x)        The Hindus who have always been opportunists cooperated with the English

(xi)       The Hindus praised the British rule and its blessings in their speeches. The Hindus had the upper hand in the Congress and they established good relations with the British. This party tried its best to safeguard the interests of the Hindus. Gradually it became purely a Hindu organization. Most of the Hindu leaders of the Congress were not prepared to tolerate the presence of the Muslims in the sub-continent. They demanded that the Muslims should either embrace Hinduism or leave the country. The party was so close to the Government that it would not let the Government do any work as would be of benefit to the Muslims. The partition of Bengal can be quoted as an example. 

(xii)      The British confiscated all lands [from the Muslims] and gave them to Hindus [This is stated despite the fact that all the large feudal lords in the part that later formed Pakistan were Muslims]

(xiii)     Hindus declared the Congress rule as the Hindu rule, and started to unleash terror on Muslims 

(xiv)     While the Muslims provided all type of help to those wishing to leave Pakistan, the people of India committed cruelties against the Muslims (refugees). They would attack the buses, trucks, and trains carrying the Muslim refugees and they were murdered and looted

(xv)      The Hindus in Pakistan were treated very nicely when they were migrating as opposed to the inhuman treatment meted out to the Muslim migrants from India. 

(xvi)     After 1965 war India conspired with the Hindus of Bengal and succeeded in spreading hate among the Bengalis about West Pakistan and finally attacked on East Pakistan in December 71, thus causing the breakup of East and West Pakistan

(xvii)    Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam 

Historical Omissions

            “When petty officials carry the brief of writing history as victory, the imaginings of power can discard the stray ‘truths’ of pure inspiration and pretend to monopolize the enterprise of creativity. A sort of selective amnesia descends which can be resisted and breached but never quite dissipated.”[12]

        Having been created on the premise that Muslims were a different nation from Hindus, Pakistan faced a unique challenge – that of its identity. If Pakistanis were not Hindus, then what were they. Did their religion make them Arabs, or even Persians who were their immediate neighbours? But when they looked towards their Western neighbours, they found no similarities, be it in terms of language, culture, diet or even physical appearances. Yet, they could not acknowledge a common ancestry with a ‘Hindu’ India. Thus was complicated the onerous task of writing Pakistan’s history for its children to study.

        It is common to hear that Pakistan’s history, as per its textbooks, commences from 712 AD, when Mohd bin Qasim invaded Sindh. Almost all of history before that is either ignored, or glossed over. The lands that comprise Pakistan today find mention in the epic of Mahabharat, however this is not taught to the children who live on those lands. Neither are they told that their lands were once part of the mighty Mauryan empire.

        As a result of these omissions, the children of Pakistan grow up without any knowledge of their glorious heritage. Instead, they end up with a bigoted view of the region they live in which, coupled with the falsehoods being fed to them in other subjects, makes for a dangerous mix. When they encounter the world outside and realize it is at a variance with beliefs instilled in them, they either withdraw further into their exclusivist shells, or become disillusioned and unanchored.

Glorification of Armed Forces

        World over, govts use education as a means to assist in the process of nation building. However, Pakistan is a different case in that for much of its history it has been directly ruled by its military. Even the periods of civil rule saw the military retain a significant say in critical affairs of the govt. Add to this the fact that the Pakistani military’s record on battlefield is not much to talk about, and one can put into perspective the glorification of the armed forces being fed to the children of Pakistan from very young age.

        This process of glorifying the military commenced shortly after the 1965 war and gathered pace after the 1971 debacle. When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took over the Govt, the military was highly demoralized, its public image was very low and people had lost faith in its ability to defend the country. The Bhutto era curriculum is thus filled with war heroes, military values and the glorification of the army and its valiant exploits in the 1948 and 1965 wars with India.[13] In fact, Bhutto went so far as to introduce a two year course titled Fundamentals of War and Defence of Pakistan for Classes XI and XII respectively.[14] The process further intensified as Islam was added ‘to support the state‘s own militaristic policies in such a way that it appeared to the reader that Pakistan, the Pakistan movement, Pakistan‘s wars with India, the Kashmir issue were all connected not only with Pakistani nationalism but with Islam itself.’[15]

 

(Coming up in Part 3: Effects on Pakistani Society)

[1] Rumi, Raza. ‘Our Textbooks and the Lies They Teach’: The Express Tribune, 14 Apr 2011

[2] Jinnah, MA. 11 Aug 1947. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_jinnah_assembly_1947.html

[3] Sareen, Sushant. ‘The Jihad Factory: Pakistan’s Islamic Revolution in the Making.’ Pp 32

[4] National Early Childhood Education Curriculum (NECEC), Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan,

March 2002, page 4

[5] Mirin, Amir. ‘How Pakistan Pumps In Hatred Through Textbooks.’, 16 Nov 2011, Rediff

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] Chaudhary, BY. ‘The Quaid and the Ideology of Pakistan.’, 16 Aug 2009, ‘The Dawn’

[9] National Curriculum for Pakistan Studies, Grades IX-X, 2006, page 2. http://cdtp.gov.pk/userfiles/file/new_cur/Pakistan%20Studies%20%28IX-X%29.pdf

[10] National Curriculum for Advanced Pakistan Studies, Grades XI-XII, 2010, page 16. http://cdtp.gov.pk/userfiles/file/new_cur/Advanced%20Pakistan%20Studies%20%28XI-XII%29.pdf

[11] Rafiqui, Asim. ‘The Hindus Live In Small And Dark Houses Or Finding The Roots Of War In Textbooks – The Pakistan Episode’. http://www.asimrafiqui.com/blog/the-hindus-live-in-small-and-dark-houses-or-finding-the-roots-of-war-in-textbooks-the-pakistan-episode/

[12] Jalal, Ayesha. ‘Conjuring Pakistan: History as Official Imagining.’ Pp 5. http://www.tufts.edu/~ajalal01/Articles/conjuring.pdf

[13] Sabri, Zahra. ‘A Textbook Case’. 19 Mar 2015, ‘Herald’. http://herald.dawn.com/news/1152839

[14] ibid

[15] Rahman, Tariq PhD. ‘Denizens of Alien Worlds’. Pp 26

State Sponsored Radicalization in Pakistan’s School Curriculum: Part 1 of 3

Our education system must provide quality education to our children and youth to enable them to realize their individual potential and contribute to development of society and nation, creating a sense of Pakistani nationhood, the concepts of tolerance, social justice, democracy, their regional and local culture and history based on the basic ideology enunciated in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

– Vision, Ministry of Education, Pakistan

 

        Education of its children is perhaps the most vital investment a State makes in order to assure a steady ‘supply’ of ideal citizens that will further the State’s interests in future. Thus, each responsible Nation State strives to provide the best possible education to its young, depending upon factors such as demographics, economics and culture. At the same time, it is also true that Nation States at times also utilize this same, formalized education to perpetuate and disseminate their own political viewpoints, resulting in generations growing up with a blinkered view of their own history and flawed understanding of issues facing their nation.

        However, in the case of Pakistan, the Nation State sought to rid itself of the trauma of the events of 1971 by intensifying the use of education as a political tool. This was done mostly due to the identity crisis which faced the country after the loss of its Eastern Wing effectively nullified the Two Nation Theory on which the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was proclaimed during the independence struggle. Over the years, this has manifested itself in ways perhaps unimagined by the rulers of the day.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

       

      The war of 1971, which resulted in the breaking up of Pakistan, can be viewed as a watershed event in the life of the country. The population had been steadily fed on govt propaganda of Pakistan being a strong nation, able to hold its own against a much larger but weaker adversary, India. They were kept in dark by the State about the situation obtaining in East Pakistan after the recent elections. As late as a day before surrender, newspapers ran reports of glorious victories over India. And then out of the blue, came a jolt – Pakistan Army in East Pakistan had surrendered to an adversary that was supposed to be much weaker.

        It was at this moment in Pakistan’s history that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ascended to the highest office in the land. Though his personal lifestyle, politics and general outlook can be described as ‘liberal’, he decided to use the glue of religion to bring the country back together. Accordingly, a ‘Curriculum Wing’ was established in order to perform curriculum related activities.[1] Even as article 22 of the 1973 constitution promulgated by Bhutto emphasized that: no person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own, Bhutto introduced the subject of Islamiat (Islamic Studies) in the national curriculum vide Articles 31 (a) and (b) of the 1973 Constitution that required the State: to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language…[and] to promote unity and observance of the Islamic moral standards. Islamiat was devoted to imparting the fundamentals of Islam; the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad; his wives, companions and other important Islamic personalities; key events during Islam’s early history; and important passages from the Quran.

      The Islamic education thus introduced by Bhutto was made further rigid during the rule of Gen Zia ul Haq. Under Zia, education quickly became a tool of indoctrination and the means for the construction of a parochial Islamic/Pakistani identity. A National Education Policy and Implementation Program was announced in 1979, which stated: The highest priority would be given to the revision of the curricula with a view to reorganizing the entire content around Islamic thought and giving education an ideological orientation so that Islamic ideology permeates the thinking of the younger generation and helps them with the necessary conviction and ability to refashion society according to Islamic tenets[2]

        This process of subtle subversion via school curriculum carried on under the radar because international focus remained fixated on Madrassas as breeders of intolerance. The focus of Gen Zia ul Haq was clear. He said in his inaugural speech, Our curriculum must ensure that our children are brought up educated as good Pakistanis and good Muslims. They must imbibe the lofty ideals and principles of Islam.”[3] Under the new policy, study of Islamiat was made compulsory from classes I to X, later extended upto BA. During the same period, a section of the Islamiat syllabus was separated for Sunnis and Shias at the level of Class IX and X. Separate books were introduced for students of the two sects but a common book was reintroduced in 1999. However, they would still attempt distinct sections of the examination paper.[4]

        This process must, however be seen a part of the larger process of Islamization that was underway since 1971, gathering pace during the Zia years during which many new laws were introduced by the Govt of Pakistan, including the Zakat / Usr system, Hudood Ordinance and the Blasphemy Laws.

 

(Coming up in Part 2: Manifestation of the above in current school curriculum in Pakistan)

[1] ‘Pakistan Curriculum design and development’; http://www.ibe.unesco.org/curriculum/Asia%20Networkpdf/ndreppk.pdf

[2] Bandow, Doug. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/problem-pakistan-teaching-intolerance-violence

[3] Banuazizi, Ali. The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, pp 355

[4] Abbas Rashid, “Human Rights and Education” Open Society Institute: Education Conference 2005 (New York), July 2, 2005, pp 14-15

People’s Liberation Army – Calling The Bluff (Part II)

        So apparently, my previous blog on the PLA Peacekeepers running away under fire in South Sudan (LINK) gathered quite a few eyeballs, being shared on some other blogs, fora and WhatsApp too. This what follows, came as part of a WhatsApp message on my school classmates’ group, not particularly addressed to me. Won’t comment on the authenticity of the message ‘coz I have no way of confirming that. Posting it here for two reasons – Firstly, the tone doesn’t seem too different from the essence of my original blog post and secondly, the need to archive the message in some form.

:BEGINNING OF WHATSAPP MESSAGE:

        This is from the company commander of the 7 Kumaon company in UNMISS, reinforcing sect south. CHINBAT was part of sect south. Before I comment anything on the article (the ‘article’ refers to my blog post quoted above), I must inform you that I was very impressed of Chinese and their abilities when I was serving with scouts and used to assume Chinese as modern and well equipped army. Chinese had made an impression in my mind that they were superior to us. So when I reached Juba to reinforce Sect south we used to see Chinese soldiers in well equipped and modern attire with hi tech equipment. Therefore my belief of Chinese soldier being better to Indian soldier strengthened. So I always used to be afraid of its negative effects on our boys who used to compare own dress, equipment , vehicles, weapons and drills with that of Cinese, because some day same troops may face each other on LAC or the disputed territories.

        Nevertheless, it was the sincere endeavour of my company to practice tactical drills sincerely on daily basis. Focus used to practice reactions to unconventional situations. Hence we evolved non traditional drills. By the time the fighting erupted, each individual of my company was aware and trained in his task and role in his sub unit. During the civil war, Indian company was tasked to reinforce CHINBAT , who were holding the perimeter. By the time No 7 platoon of Indian Company reached the perimeter, Chinese had abandoned their posts and moved back to safer places exposing IDPs to fire from outside. When one of the Chinese officer was asked for the reason they have withdrawn, he said , “It’s not safe out there.” So, Indians had no choice but to plug the breach in perimeter defences, which was done by the Indians in most professional manner and without a scratch.

        Observing Indian tactical drills and there ability to outperform Chinese in holding the perimeter, Chinese were forced to hold balance of the perimeter. Next day, No 8 platoon was tasked to control the refugees who had jumped the fence and infiltrated inside UN compound. Third platoon was also sucked in reinforcing these two platoons and looking after other UN employees who were seeking shelter and food. Next day, When rebel forces were fighting the Govt forces at Northern perimeter, a CHINBAT soldier was busy shooting the war scenes. Ill trained militia aimed and shot a RPG at CHINBAT soldier recording ongoing war from BMP, killing two Chinese soldiers and injuring 5 others.

        But astonishingly, Chinese could manage international media. CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera were running clips of CHINBAT doing battle drills which were previously recorded. Own Media was highlighting the achievements of External Affairs Dept for successfully evacuating 325 Indians. It was known to every south Sudanese​ and UN employee in South Sudan that they were saved by Indian company. Unfortunately, achievement of Indians was neither highlighted by foreign media not own.

        Secondly, Chinese refused to perform the task assigned by force HQ. Task was to evacuate NGO workers who were threatened by south sudan Govt forces. Later on it was revealed that they were raped by Govt forces. I was bit perturbed by insensitive media who could not exploit this opportunity to expose Chinese or to flag achievement of Indian troops on foreign soil. But at the same time when I ask my boys of their opinion about Chinese troops, the war had changed their and my impression or opinion about Chinese. Chinese may be well equipped with technologically superior weapons but at the same time they lack camaraderie, tactical acumen to use / employ tech equipment, and above all fighting spirit. My faith in the abilities of Indian soldier has strengthened many fold. It is due to the abilities of Indian soldier to withstand hardships of war, superior tactics, camaraderie, fighting spirit for unit’s izzat and actual fighting experience in valley or north east.

:END OF WHATSAPP MESSAGE:

        Highlights and font colours are added by me. I thought of adding some comments at the end of the above message, but now I think I think I’d rather not. The message is a brutal commentary on the quality of the PLA soldier that threatens his Indian counterpart across the LAC.

        All I’ll say is that shiny toys are no good, if the boys don’t know how to ‘play’ with them when asked to.

        ’nuff said

SOUTH SUDAN – WHO KILLED THE CHINESE PEACEKEEPERS?

Continuing from my previous BLOG ..

          The previous blog mentioned that two Chinese soldiers were killed during the four days of violence in Juba, prompting the rest of the Chinese troops to run away from their posts. Well, the funeral of the two boys back home was a sombre affair indeed, esp since the Chinese populace is not very used to seeing body bags of their soldiers coming back home because, well, the PLA hasn’t fought at all for nearly four decades since the humiliation at the hands of Vietnam.

        One of the peacekeepers killed was merely 22 years old while the other one was 36 years, both of them, in all probability, the only children to their parents, thanks to the ‘One Child’ policy. This makes the losses even sadder. They would have had huge responsibilities towards their parents and both sets of grandparents who will now have to fend for themselves in their old age. More on that sometime later.

        Coming back to the topic at hand – who killed them? It would in all probability have been the SPLA, or the govt forces, since it is they who were reported to have destroyed the UN compound in vicinity of the Chinese manned post that was later abandoned by those manning it. But digging a little deeper, things get a bit ‘interesting’. Firstly, let us see why the Chinese are there in South Sudan in the first place. The answer? OIL.

        As of 2012, China was consuming nearly 80% of South Sudan’s oil production. This being the case, Chinese sending peacekeepers to South Sudan makes sense – the need to ensure stability and tranquillity in a major source of oil.  But why is Sudan STILL in turmoil despite Chinese outreach ever since the 90s – a time when the USSR no longer existed, and the US was busy elsewhere, getting interested only when its pursuit of terrorists brought Sudan into focus. Part of the answer lies in the previous question itself – CHINA.

        Ever since its outreach to Sudan, even before its partition, China has been arming various groups with reckless abandon and utter disregard to the human suffering brought about by the proliferation of weapons in the country, all in the hope of oil. The human rights violations perpetrated in Sudan are well documented. Human Rights Watch mentioned in a 2003 REPORT titled CHINA’S INVOLVEMENT IN SUDAN: ARMS AND OIL that China supplied not only small arms but even helicopter gunships and tanks, in the hope of recovering the costs in terms of access to oil (more on that later in this blog).

        Amnesty International has been even more pointed in its 2007 report, saying that “Africa has long been the victim of the greed of western governments and companies. Now, it faces a new challenge from China. The Chinese government and Chinese companies have shown little regard for their “human rights footprint” on the continent. The deference to national sovereignty, antipathy to human rights in foreign policy, and readiness to engage with abusive regimes, are all endearing China to African governments. But for those same reasons, African civil society has been less welcoming. The health and safety standards and treatment of workers by Chinese companies have fallen short of international standards. As the biggest consumer of Sudan’s oil and a major supplier of its weapons, China has shielded the Sudanese government against pressure from the international community

        It shows that far from wanting to help Sudan, China has explicitly hurt it instead, by using its membership of the UNSC to veto action aimed at stopping genocide in Sudan. Though in 2007, under threat of an Olympic boycott, China mellowed down its stand, how long that lasted is anyone’s guess. In fact, far from acting against genocide, China actively sold weapons with which humanity was slaughtered in Sudan, as were, sadly, its own soldiers.

        More recently too, China has been called out for fuelling the fire by supplying arms to South Sudan by THIS 2015 report from the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan. The report says places on record that China had continued to supply arms and ammo to South Sudan despite recent violence. And what was the ‘violence’ like? The reports says, “..all parties to the conflict have been targeting civilians as part of their military tactics… Scores of civilians have been killed, maimed, tortured, burned alive inside their homes, displaced, raped and abducted, and children have been recruited and used as part of the war effort..”

        The situation has deteriorated dramatically since April 2015, when South Sudan’s military began a major offensive in the oil-rich (Yes, once again, OIL) Upper Nile region.  “Since the offensive in the greater Upper Nile area began in April 2015, the intensity and brutality of the violence aimed at civilians are hitherto unseen, even in what has already been, without a doubt, an exceedingly violent conflict,” the report says. The report suggests that South Sudan’s government was emboldened by access to new military technologies – specifically helicopters and amphibious vehicles – and was trying to overwhelm the rebel forces.”

       And guess where did bulk of that ‘new military technology’ come from.

        Bottomline – China has played a huge role in destabilizing Sudan, all in the hope of access to its oil. For a country with perhaps the maximum clout in Sudan lately, China has come up short on its respect for humanity and the lands that feed its growing thirst for oil.

        Not making a statement here, but just wondering whether the bullet / shell that killed the Chinese peacekeepers and the weapon that fired it was, in fact, supplied by the Chinese themselves?

        Oh, in the end, talking about oil, the conflict has taken a predictable toll on oil exports, with the UN panel saying oil production had dropped from 245,000 barrels per day in late 2013 to 163,000 bpd in July 2015. So much for tactical brilliance in the quest for oil.

 

People’s Liberation Army – Calling the Bluff

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        So I came across THIS 2015 news report, some days ago. A piece that I found V.E.R.Y interesting. The headline is catchy enough – ‘UN peacekeepers refused to help as aid workers were raped in South Sudan’. But it is the second part of the headline that caught my eye – Chinese troops abandoned their posts rather than engage in fighting and protect civilians.

        Interesting, I thought. Did a little more digging around on the www and came across another nugget of V.E.R.Y interesting information. Will come to that in the latter part of this blog post. But first let me share some thoughts on the piece above.

Firstly let us talk about the facts listed out in the news report above:-

  • The Chinese peacekeepers were entrusted with the responsibility of a one civilian protection site in Juba.
  • In the month of July 2015, fierce attacks were mounted by one of the rebel groups in Sudan, leading to ‘tens of thousands’ of civilians seeking safety from successive bouts of fighting, at that site.
  • However, the Chinese peacekeepers stayed on in their bases rather than protect civilians. Heck, even the Ethiopian troops had done far better, helping evacuate wounded civilians and returning fire when needed.
  • On the last day of the fighting, about 80 to 100 government soldiers attacked a compound in Juba where they raped and gang-raped at least five international aid workers and physically or sexually assaulted at least a dozen others.
  • All this happened when there was a UN Base manned by Chinese peacekeepers only a few hundred metres from the compound. However despite dozens of appeals for help from the besieged aid workers and personal visits from at least one who escaped from the compound, the Chinese peacekeepers simply REFUSED to leave the safety of their base.
  • During four days of fighting between the rival forces, artillery rounds and gunfire hit two UN bases, killing two Chinese peacekeepers. And what did the vaunted PLA troopers do? They not only failed to return fire, but in fact, RAN AWAY FROM THEIR POST. To add insult to injury, in their haste to save their skins, they even left behind their weapons and ammo – something a professional soldier would not even dream of doing. EVER.

        So here is what I make of the entire issue – The PLA soldier didn’t move out of the safety of his compound, favouring his personal safety over his responsibility to his fellow human beings. To some extent (and I say this ‘coz I am not entirely aware of the rules of engagement they were bound by), this might be explained by the rules of engagement that MIGHT have prevented them from interfering in the factional fighting in the area. MIGHT have, ‘coz I am not sure it actually prevented them. More on that in the latter part of this blog. However, even the refusal to fire back in self defence, more so when two of their comrades had been fatally wounded, reeks of cowardice. And then the biggest ignominy a professional soldier can heap upon himself – they fcuking abandoned their posts and ran away. Not only that, they left behind their weapons and ammo.

        An entire post cowering behind the apparent safety of their compound walls instead of discharging their duty when humanity is being raped and murdered all around. When the compound too becomes unsafe, they emulate their Pakistani friends’ favourite battlefield tactic – they run away! And this is the bunch of (fill in the blank) with which the PRC threatens the battle hardened Indian Army today!

        Now coming to another interesting nugget I discovered when searching for more info on this incident. I came across THIS report. It was the Indian Army that saved their sorry backsides. The report itself doesn’t mention the abandonment of posts by the PLA peacekeepers. Very ‘convenient’ omission, I say.

        However, as per the report, INDBATT II, comprising of the men of 7th Battalion The Kumaon Regiment, who were held in reserve, were asked to take charge and restore the situation, which they did with extreme professionalism and ruthlessness. Here’s a typically modest way the news report chose to describe their actions – ‘It was learnt that troops also secured the perimeter which was smashed by the IDPs and ensured the armed militiamen were weeded out.’ Yes, they ‘secured’ the perimeter and ensured the armed militiamen were ‘weeded out’. Typical Indian media’s way of underselling themselves. Or perhaps, something that they are so used to from the Indian Army, that they take it as a matter of fait accompli – Send in Indian troops, job will be done.

        Btw, it was the same militiamen who had scared the hell out of the famed PLA troops and routed them that the Kumaonis calmly ‘weeded out’. Rest of the report makes for an interesting read too.

        So here it is. An Army that fought its last war in 1979, an army that has ‘won’ against an outsider only once in 5000 years of its nation’s history, in 1962, was exposed for what it was – shiny toys and scared brats afraid to wield them when time comes. (Regarding the ‘war experience’ of the PLA, that is a blog post which will come in another few weeks, btw)

        Sabre rattling in front of apparently weaker neighbours is fine, but god save you if the ‘weaker’ neighbour draws out his own sword!

(Oh, btw, the title of the photograph of PLA Peacekeepers posted on top of this blog, in The Guardian report is – Peacekeeping troops in South Sudan ‘underperformed’ during violence in July.’)

        ’nuff said!

ADDED LATER: 1 Executive Summary of the Independent Special Investigation into the violence which occurred in Juba in 2016 and UNMISS response (A very diplomatically worded report, with some tight slaps to those concerned)

(Next blog: Story of the two PLA soldiers in South Sudan and who killed them.)

Bhutan and Its Neighbours: The Tango

(Continued from my previous BLOG on Bhutan China Border Dispute. This post should not be seen in context of the ongoing standoff at Dolam, but from a detached perspective. Views are my own. Feel free to disagree)

        Although India’s influence over Bhutan is acknowledged by China, New Delhi is keen to keep an eye on the Sino-Bhutanese negotiations, which would definitively have repercussions on India’s own engagement with China. History as well as geography have given India a huge advantage in Bhutan. In addition, India’s own rise has reduced the relative disparity in military and diplomatic power with China. This blog post attempts to look into the interplay between India, Bhutan and China as each jockeys for position relative to the other two.

Chumbi Valley

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        India’s concerns centre on the Chumbi Valley, a narrow protrusion of a part of Southern Tibet separating Bhutan from the Indian state of Sikkim. It is a tri-junction of China, India and Bhutan and enjoys unparalleled strategic imp in the region. Being close to the Siliguri Corridor, any Chinese thrust down the Chumbi Valley will cut off India’s only land link with its NE states. It will also pose a threat to Kolkata as well as the plains of North Bihar.

        The Chumbi Valley is extremely narrow, only 40km wide in its narrowest stretch, thus making it a Chicken’s Neck for China. This is the reason why China seeks to extend its expanse by incorporating the neighbouring Doklam Plateau of Bhutan (Mentioned as Dokham in the map above). Doing so will marginally improve the Chinese position by increasing the width of the area it controls.

        Ever since the boundaryy dispute with Bhutan, Doklam has been their primary focus, as is evident by repeated incursions into the area and the 1996 offer to let go of Chinese claims in North Bhutan in lieu of the Doklam Plateau. In addition, the Chinese have constructed new roads in the Zuri and Pheetogang ridges overlooking the Charithang Valley (SOURCE), a recent addition to Chinese claims across the Chumbi Valley. An area of concern for India in this respect is the recent joint technical survey of disputed boundary in North Bhutan which has not yet been declassified. India is apprehensive that this might follow in the Doklam Plateau as well, as a precursor to a possible settlement in future which might be detrimental to Indian interests.

India’s Increasing Clout

        With increasing clout in international affairs, any Chinese gains in Bhutan – diplomatically or militarily – would be inimical to India’s international standing. China too is aware of the same, and of the unsaid, but implicit guarantee of protecting Bhutan’s sovereignty by India. Given the rapidly closing gap between relative power of the two nations, China might be tempted to utilize a ‘victory’ in the boundary dispute with Bhutan to undercut India’s international as well as regional standing.

Bhutan as a Buffer

        As with Nepal, Bhutan too is a buffer state between India and China. Recent events in Nepal have highlighted the growing Chinese clout in the country and the consequent failure of Indian diplomacy, along with the setback to Indian interests. In case the same is repeated in Bhutan, implications for Indian interests will be far worse. Apart from making defence of Siliguri Corridor difficult, India’s fight against the insurgent groups in North East will also suffer a setback. Thus, Bhutan’s position with respect to China makes its border resolution decisions key from a security point of view for India.

        For much of recent past, Bhutan and India have enjoyed extremely cordial relations. This continues even today due to past legacy and a pragmatic understanding of mutual benefits. At the same time, India has huge economic and security stakes in Bhutan. However, there is also a growing understanding amongst Indian policy makers that Bhutan has the right to calibrate its stance with respect to its neighbours. Long used to being its window to the world, New Delhi now is coming to terms with the fact that Bhutan is more likely to make choices apart from India. This is more evident in light of the recent transition of Bhutan from monarchy to democracy, potentially giving a platform to the tiny minority that advocate closer relations with China, even if at cost of Indian goodwill.

Indian Outreach to Bhutan

        India has huge economic and military stakes in Bhutan. Bhutan has traditionally been the largest recipient of India’s foreign aid. In FY 2013-14, India’s budgetary support to Bhutan was $600mn. It rose to reach #985mn in FY 2015-16. In addition, Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay also secured and additional aid package from India worth $819mn during his visit to New Delhi in Aug 13. This included approx $100mn worth of economic stimulus package for Bhutan’s slowing economy by India. Apart from financial assistance, India also operates three hydel power projects in Bhutan, with another three under construction at present.

Visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

        Bhutan was the first country visited by the PM, within a month of assuming office. This sent out a message to all concerned that India valued its relationship with Bhutan as one of the most important ones in the neighbourhood. The visit was also partially necessitated after misgivings within Bhutan by a massive reduction of Indian oil and gas subsidies that was said to be attributable to suspicion that Bhutan’s former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley was carrying out parleys with China. However, the outcome of the visit was positive and termed by the media as a ‘charm offensive’ that would further cement the close ties between the two countries. In fact, PM Modi tweeted on his trip, “World talks GDP but in Bhutan its about National Happiness. Am sure having India as a neighbour would be 1 of the reasons for the happiness.” Thus he underlined the special relationship between India and Bhutan.

ANALYSIS

        While Bhutan and China have common interest in the normalisation of bilateral relations, their perspectives remain different. Yet, it is logical to assume that China – Bhutan outreach that started in 1984 may eventually result in establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations. However, both sides are also thought to have reached an understanding that this can only follow in wake of the resolution of the boundary dispute. Indian factor will also remain a key element in Bhutan’s China policy.

Trade

        China would, no doubt, seek to normalise its relationship with Bhutan at the earliest. On possible methodology of achieving the same could be through a boost to Sino-Bhutan trade through non disputed parts of the IB. A template already exists wherein Mongolian economy was reoriented towards trade with the PRC after the collapse of the USSR. However, at present Bhutanese economy is primarily geared towards trade with India, both as a source of its imports as well as exports. Thus, Bhutan will have to assess the potential consequences for its own economy if it reaches out to China. Additionally, increased trade with China would necessitate construction of roads in the Northern part of Bhutan. China is likely to be ready to finance such projects as it did in case of Nepal. But given the disputed nature of parts of IB, such construction will have military implications as well.

        Despite the expected betterment of relations, it is unlikely that Bhutan will explore the possibility of using China to balance the influence of India. Bhutan’s China policy is likely to have limited objectives in short to medium terms, primary amongst them being securing a comprehensive agreement on the boundary dispute. At some level, Bhutanese apprehensions over the ultimate objectives of Chines policy in the region is somewhat based on India’s own apprehensions on the issue. Though not related technically, discussions on Sino-Bhutan boundary dispute and those on Sino-Indian boundary dispute seem to be politically related.

        Bhutan seems to be coming round to the conclusion that it is indeed a buffer state between India and China and that its own boundary dispute with the latter is partly due to the state of relationship between the two. This is underlined by the amount of interest shown by China in the Doklam Plateau region. As a result, it is likely that Bhutan may seek to reach out to China on its own terms instead of being ‘guided’ by India, in order to seek a settlement favourable to Bhutanese interests, in case a government suitable oriented comes to power in Thimpu, though that seems far from likely at present. The annual border talks and increasing interactions between Bhutan and China has been creating a positive environment that could result in a normalisation of their relationship in some form.

        India too appears to be coming round to the conclusion that Bhutan has every right as a sovereign nation to establish diplomatic / bilateral relations with any country, including China, if situation so permits. Opening of trade and tourism with China would result in Chinese investments and the consequent increased in Chinese clout. However, Bhutan is unlikely to agree to any settlement with China that will be detrimental to Indian interests. It may be attributable to the following factors:-

  • Historical legacy of bilateral relations.
  • Huge Indian influence in Bhutan in all spheres.
  • Resurgent Indian military power in the region, leading to a closing of the relative disparity with China.
  • Geographical constraints which result in Bhutanese dependence on India for outreach to rest of the world.
  • A perceived ‘fear’ of China in Bhutanese minds, given the aggressive posturing by the PLA in disputed areas.

CONCLUSION

        Bhutan’s relationship with either India or China cannot be viewed in isolation from one another. Bhutan has a complex trilateral relationship with both its large neighbours, leading at times, to it getting caught up in the adversarial relationship between the two. Historical legacy as well as current state of relations indicate that Bhutan is more comfortable with India, and increasing contacts with China are merely an assertion of Bhutanese independence and a desire to maintain cordial relations with all its neighbours, without distinction.

        China too realizes its limited leverage in Bhutan, given critical Indian centrality in Bhutanese affairs, due as well, to the sheer geographic advantage that India enjoys. As of now, all that China seems to want from Bhutan is for it to follow an ‘independent’ foreign policy. As a sovereign nation, Bhutan has every right to establish diplomatic relations with any country, including China. However, given the nature of Sino – Bhutan relationship in past, it is unlikely that Bhutan will take any decision on its boundary issue without taking into account Indian concerns.

        Thus, it can be safely assumed that while Bhutan may eventually open up to China and the rest of the world, India as of now, has no cause for concern. Diplomatic engagement between Bhutan and China is unavoidable, in fact it is beneficial in that it may serve to reduce tensions on account of the boundary dispute and prevent a military misadventure which might see India get involved on the Sino-Bhutan border, assuming that Bhutan will continue to remain aligned with Indian interests on the same.

Bhutan – China Boundary Dispute: A Historical Perspective

 

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(Note: The location of current standoff on the India – China – Bhutan trijunction will be referred to as ‘DOLAM’, with ‘DOKLAM’ referring to the area claimed by China West of Thimpu hereafter)

            It is amazing what wealth of knowledge exists on the www, esp when you go looking for answers to something you had no clue about. Did some digging around on the www on to get a perspective about the current standoff, which most people forget that Bhutan too is a part of!

            At first glance on a world map, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan would not seem to be a nation that would factor in the geopolitical calculus of major regional powers. Its relatively small size, population and economy compared to its neighbours India and China, alongwith stated policy of neutrality with respect to both would imply lack of interest by its large neighbours. However, very often Bhutan has increasingly found itself caught up in a discrete, yet high stakes diplomatic battle between India and China. This time round, the battle has moved from being a discrete diplomatic one to an open military standoff between the two large neighbours, on Bhutanese territory.

            The genesis of this dispute lies in two major factors. Firstly, the Indo – Bhutan Treaty of Friendship, which gave India a foothold into the Kingdom of Bhutan much before China and Bhutan became neighbours. Second factor is Chinese claims over Bhutanese territory in three different sectors, which has kept the relationship difficult for more than half a century.

            Bhutan has historically had strong cultural, historical, religious and economic connections to Tibet. Despite these being strained when Bhutan sided with the British Empire in its war with Tibet in 1904, Bhutan continued to have a permanent representative in Lhasa. Bhutan and China never shared a common boundary till China’s annexation of Tibet in 1950. Following the 17 Point Agreement between the local Tibetan Govt and the PRC, Bhutan withdrew its representative from Lhasa. Relationship was further strained when in the aftermath of the 1959 rebellion in Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama escaped to India. An estimated 6000 Tibetans fled to Bhutan and were granted asylum, although the border was subsequently closed on account of fear of more refugees.

Sino – Bhutan Boundary Dispute

Bhutan recognized China as a significant threat for the first time after the joint Chinese / Tibetan invasion of Nepal in 1792-93. However, these concerns died down after China came under imperial rule and Bhutan became a protectorate of British India. Yet, in 1910, the Manchu Govt claimed Bhutan as Chinese territory, in the aftermath of the treaty between Bhutan and British India. Soon after annexing Tibet, in 1954 China officially laid its claim over Bhutan by publishing a map in “A Brief History of China” depicting a considerable portion of Bhutan as a pre-historical realm of China.

            This was followed up by publication of another map by China in 1958, again claiming large tracts of Bhutanese territory. However, this time China also physically occupied approx 300sq miles of Bhutanese territory. This forced an anxious Bhutan to take recourse to its decade old Treaty of Friendship with India with respect to advice regarding its external relations. The 1959 Tibetan rebellion and its aftermath soon followed, alongwith repeated claims by Chinese leaders over Bhutanese territory. Chinese claim over Bhutanese territories primarily constitutes Jakralung and Pasamlung Valleys on the North-Central part of the Sino – Bhutan border and the Doklam Plateau (As depicted in the map above) in Western Bhutan, along with Dolam near the trijunction.

 Military Provocations

            Military intimidation followed by diplomatic offensive was an important part of China’s policy towards Bhutan in initial days. After Bhutan closed its border, trade and all diplomatic contacts with Tibet in wake of 1959 rebellion, China resorted to significant military posturing in 1966.

            The incident occurred when on the tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and China, Tibetan grazers accompanied by Chinese troops entered the Dolam pastures (Also the site of the current standoff). China subsequently formally extended its claim to aprox 300 sq miles of Northeastern Bhutan and also substantial areas North of Punakha, former capital of Bbutan. When Bhutan requested New Delhi to raise this matter with Beijing, China rejected talking to India saying that the issue concerned China and Bhutan alone and ‘the Indian Govt had no right whatsoever to intervene in it.” A similar incident occurred in 1979 too.

            In the 1962 Sino – Indian war, Bhutan had permitted use of its territory for withdrawal by Indian troops. However, India’s defeat in the war raised concerns about her ability to defend Bhutan. This, in fact, led to an official policy of neutrality by Bhutan.

 Diplomatic Engagement

             The Chinese maintained a policy of carrot and stick with respect to Bhutan with the aim of reaching out to the King. In 1971, China voted in favour of Bhutan’s membership to the UN, thus implicitly recognizing Bhutan. However, Bhutan’s strong support to India in UN over the Bangladesh issue, accompanied by a tour of Bangladeshi refugee camps by the King and subsequent recognition of an independent Bangladesh, dissuaded China from further overtures.

            In 1974, China sent a high-level delegation for the coronation of the new King of Bhutan. Later, in 1977, Bhutan voted in favour of China over India on who should represent Cambodia. With the Janata Party govt that came to power in India in 1977 taking steps to normalize relations with China as part of its policy of beneficial bilateralism, China pushed ahead for commencement of border talks with Bhutan.

            Bhutan was unprepared for commencement of talks with China on the border issue and signalled unwillingness for the same. China upped the ante by large scale intrusions in 1979. Both India and Bhutan formally protested against this intrusion. However, Beijing ignored the Indian protest and responded to Bhutan’s complaint only. This finally brought Bhutan to the negotiating table in 1984.

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations

It leaked out that prior to commencement of talks, in 1983, Bhutanese Foreign Minister Dawa Tsering had met the Chinese Foreign Minister Wu Xeuqian in New York. Wu wanted a Chinese embassy in Thimpu where the only embassies at that time were those of India and Bangladesh. But India prevailed upon Bhutan to decline the request. The Bhutanese Monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk then opted for annual, direct bilateral talks over the border dispute. Countries sympathetic to China inferred that India had been hoodwinked by Bhutan. However, a counter view too existed that New Delhi preferred it this way, guiding and advising Bhutan from behind the scenes.

            In 1988, the two countries agreed on Four Guiding Principle for further talks. These included maintaining peace along the border, something China often violated to create pressure on Bhutan.

          In 1996, China offered a package deal to Bhutan. Beijing was ready to renounce its claim over the 495 sq km of disputed land in the Pasamlung and Jakarlung Valleys in exchange for the 269 sq km it claimed in the Doklam Plateau. This was rejected by Bhutan. In 1998, China finally signed a peace agreement with Bhutan to ‘maintain peace and tranquillity on the Bhutan-China border areas.’ The Bhutanese were encouraged to sign it since Beijing admitted as part of the text of the agreement that ‘China fully respects the territorial integrity and independence of Bhutan.’

Sino – Bhutanese Relationship in the New Millennium

The new millennium dawned with a resurgent and confident China, with enough military and economic clout at its disposal. The Chinese attempted to utilize this to force a favourable resolution of the large number of territorial disputes with neighbours, incl Bhutan. Chinese outreach to Bhutan is summarized as under:-

       Periodic incursions by PLA troops into disputed areas, alongwith threats to Bhutanese personnel manning the same that they are in Chinese territory, in order to maintain pressure on Bhutan.

        In Jul 2002, Bhutanese Foreign Minister Lyonpo Jigmi Y Thinley told the National Assembly that the Chinese had claimed to have documentary evidence on the ownership of the disputed tracts of land. When Bhutan asked them to be generous with a small neighbour like Bhutan, they said that, as a nation which shared its border with 25 other countries, they couldn’t afford to be generous with one particular neighbour. The Chinese Govt were unhappy and questioned why Bhutan was raising new issues after many years of talks. However, no details were released regarding these new issues.

Bhutanese Interpretation of International Boundary in Disputed Areas

           According to debates that took place in Jul 2002, there were four basic dispute areas described as: “Starting from Dolam in the West, the border goes along the ridges from Gamochen to Batangla, Sinchela, and down to the Amu Chu. The disputed area in Dolam covers 89 sq km. The disputed areas in Sinchulumpa and Gieu cover about 180 sq km. The boundary line in this area starts from Langmarpo Zam and goes along the stream up to Docherimchang and up the ridge to Gomla from where it goes along the ridge to Pangkala and then down to the Dramana stream. From Dramana, the boundary goes up to Zingula and then follows the ridge line down to Gieu Chu from where it goes to Lungkala. In the middle sector in Pasamlum, the boundary goes along the ridge to Dompala and to Neula. From Neula, the boundary follows the ridge line to Kuricchu Tshozam, and then follows the ridge line to Genla from where it goes to Mela and onwards to the East.” As a result, the disputed territory was reduced from 1128 sq km to 269 sq km in three areas in the north western part of Bhutan.

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       During his visit to Bhutan in Apr 2003, Hua Junduo, Chinese Ambassador to India, reiterated China’s friendly, good neighbourly stance towards Bhutan. He said that while there are no formal diplomatic ties between Bhutan and China, the relationship was developing in a positive way, and actual relationship was more imp than formal diplomatic ties.

       After a surprise meeting between Bhutanese PM, Jigme Y Thinle and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the Rio +20 Summit in Brazil in 2012, the Chinese media quoted Wen as saying, “China is willing … to establish formal relations with Bhutan, resolve the border issue between the two nations at an early date, strengthen exchanges in all areas and advance Sino-Bhutanese relations to a new stage.” However, there was no corresponding confirmation from Bhutan. It was later reported that Thimpu had clarified to New Delhi that they had not given any commitment to Beijing yet.

        In Apr 2013, Zhou Gang, a former Chinese Ambassador to New Delhi, was sent to Bhutan as a special envoy of the Chinese Govt, carrying with him a blunt message: ‘If you want to settle the boundary dispute with us, allow us to open our mission here.’

       In 2013, Thimpu had endorsed its acceptance of a technical survey instituted to settle the boundary dispute in the Pasamlung sector of the country. The same was acknowledged in the 23rd rd of bdy talks held at Bhutan in Aug 2015 and both sides spoke positively of it.

This, in a nutshell, is where the Sino – Bhutanese relationship stood with respect to their boundary dispute before the Chinese tried to force their way across the International Boundary in the Dolam plains near the Tri-Junction area.