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Ten thousand methods to safeguard India’s rich tribe

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Ten thousand methods to safeguard India’s rich tribe

The fact that China is promoting ‘Indian culture’ is dangerous. The Union Government has been ignorant about the issue. But for how long? India could lose a crucial battle on its borders… without a shot being fired

Watching Chairman Xi Jinping officiating during the mega parade at the Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base in Inner Mongolia on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), this writer was struck by the Chinese martial air of the Chinese President driving in an open jeep, dressed in combat fatigue.

He later ordered the PLA to be prepared for the battle and to defeat ‘all enemies that dare offend’ his country. Was India, who had dared to challenge the mighty PLA when Beijing tried to change the status quo at the tri-junction between Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim, targeted? It’s difficult to say.

It was indeed a huge display of military power; Chinese state agencies reported that some 40 per cent of the weapons on show had never before been seen by the public. Xi, who is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, by far the most powerful organisation in the Middle Kingdom, inspected 12,000 combat troops.

Well, Chairman Xi has a problem; a serious problem. Can he speak of a ‘Chinese Dream’ or ‘Peaceful Rise’ while threatening to go to war against those who dare to oppose China? Would war take place, the Chinese Dream and its attendant mega projects such as the One-Belt-One-Road or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would be over in no time; the myth of ‘Peaceful Rise’ would be busted.

Is it what China wants? True, India dared putting a spanner in China’s wild expansionism, and it is a national feature that the Chinese leadership does not like to lose face, especially at a crucial time when a new leadership is supposed to take office. So what is the solution?

It can perhaps be found in a book written soon after the Gulf War by two senior Colonels (corresponding to brigadiers in India); Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui wrote a modern war treatise entitled, Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America. Their book was widely read among the strategic community who saw in it the way China would fight tomorrow’s war. One chapter is consecrated to ‘Ten Thousand Methods Combined as One: Combinations That Transcend Boundaries’.

Forget about the new 40 types of war gadgets, while China knows that a conventional war would bring chaos in its economic development, the leadership in Beijing believes that a few ‘cuts’ here and there, could teach India a severe lesson; one of the ‘methods’ could be to influence Tibet’s Southern neighbours.

Beijing is already working on the Dragon Kingdom. Some ‘Bhutanese liberals’ are discretely told to reject India’s help. Just go to Thimphu, you will see a huge statue of Buddha dominating the entire valley. Ask who financed it? People usually remain vague: “Probably money from the North”, some Bhutanese will finally tell you; it gives the direction! And there are other ways to defenders of the ‘freedom of speech’ in Bhutan; Beijing knows this.

When one studies the history of the relations between India and China, one realises that Beijing has often tried to create an edge between India and the Himalayan region. One example, in the Prisoners of War (PoW) camps in Tibet after the 1962 conflict, the Gorkhas got a preferential treatment; they were kept in separate barracks: “you are like us, just look at your features, we belong to the same family,” hammered the Chinese propaganda. Maj Gen KK Tewari, who was one of the Commanding Officers kept as PoW in Tibet, recalled: “(the camp) was organised into four companies. The prisoners were segregated in accordance with ‘Chinese logic’.

No 1 company was all officers, junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and non-commissioned officers. Field officers (Majors and Lieutenant Colonels) were completely segregated from the JCOs and men. No. 2 and 3 companies were jawans of various units. No 4 company consisted only of Gorkhas and was given special privileges, for obvious political reasons. There are indeed many more ‘methods’.

In 2003, China’s Central Military Commission approved the concept of ‘Three Warfares’; one is “the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations.” In recent months, Beijing has been intensifying the implementation of this military doctrine. The border populations are particularly susceptible to be targeted by China.

In contradiction with an advisory notice issued by the Chinese embassy in Delhi, an article published in July in the China Travel Guide magazine promotes Ziro as a tourist destination for Chinese travelers. Why ‘promote’ Ziro, headquarters of the lower Subansiri of Arunachal Pradesh?

The answer is simple: For Beijing, Ziro is part of southern Tibet and the local population is hence Chinese. Six pages of the magazine describe in detail the ‘Chinese’ tribe, the Lhoba Apatanis.  Lhoba are usually diverse Tibetan-speaking tribes living around Pemako, a region in south-eastern Tibet, north of the McMahon Line. Wikipedia says: “The term is obscure …largely promulgated by the Chinese Government, which officially recognises Lhoba as one of the 56 ethnic groups in China.”

In its introduction, the article explains that the Apatanis are “the most beautiful ethnic people” …of China of course. It says: “In the Tibetan area of southern Tibet, there is a tribe named Apatani. The women of this tribe are known to be the most beautiful of all Tibetan tribes. But their beautiful appearance can also become a burden. In order to protect themselves from other tribal intruders’ attack, they make themselves less attractive, by plugging a big cork into the nose. …but for the Apatanis in southern Tibet, this is considered as a protection to live a longer life.”

The article describes the most important Apatani settlements “in the valleys of the southern mountainous region of Tibet, where 26,000 Apatanis live.” It means that though a part of Arunachal Pradesh, China considers Ziro as Chinese. This article seems a determined step toward the assimilation of Aruanchal.

That is not all, in recent weeks, China has produced a series of professionally produced films on the ‘tribes of southern Tibet’. It makes many in the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh envious: “Why is China promoting our culture better than our own Government?” This has been passionately debated on the social media.

The fact that the Union Government has so far ignored the issue, is dangerous to say the least. While thebabus in Delhi have no clue of the existence of the Tanis or other tribes of Arunachal (or elsewhere in India), in the meantime China is slowly scoring crucial points and winning battles in propaganda/information warfare. How long can India complacently ignore the danger?

Why can’tDoordarshan start documenting the rich culture of Arunachal (and the North-East in general) and invite Indian and foreign visitors to come and see for themselves the beauty of the people, their culture, their villages …and their wiser sustainable way of life. For this, New Delhi would have to liberalise the antiquated Inner Line Permit/Protected Area Permit system. There is, however, a grave risk that India could lose a crucial battle on its borders …without a shot being fired.

(The writer is an expert on India-China relations and an author)  

 
 
 
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