Posts tagged ‘Tibet’

06/01/2017

‘Yeti’ Prints Suggest Humans Settled in Tibet More Than 7,000 Years Ago – China Real Time Report – WSJ

A cluster of ghostly hand- and footprints on a mountain north of Lhasa offers evidence that humans scratched out a permanent existence in the thin air of Tibet much earlier than commonly thought, according to a new study.

Some locals believe the prints, pressed into an ancient slab of limestone located 14,000 feet above sea level near the present-day village of Chusang, were left behind by mythical beasts. A team of researchers say that the impressions were left by people and that they offer intriguing clues to the puzzle of Tibetans’ ethnic origins.The researchers, whose latest findings are published in the latest issue of Science, say they’ve now developed a clearer picture of the site’s significance. According to their calculations, Chusang was very likely used by inhabitants of a nearby year-round settlement between 7,400 and 12,700 years ago — at least 2,200 years before permanent villages are believed to have been established elsewhere on the Tibetan Plateau.The researchers used radiocarbon dating and other, more advanced tests to determine the age of rock and dirt samples taken near the prints, according to the report.

There are no other reliably dated sites on the central, high-elevation part of the plateau,” said Mark Aldenderfer, a University of California, Merced who lead the study along with geologist Michael Meyer, from the University of Innsbruck.

By positing an earlier date of settlement on the Tibetan plateau, the study is likely to be controversial in Chinese archaeological circles. It could also irk Communist Party officials, for whom the question of where Tibetans came from is freighted with political significance.

Pushing back against advocates for Tibetan independence, the Chinese government recently began arguing that Tibet has been a part of China, not just during the imperial era, but “since ancient times.” The effort to prove that claim has led state-affiliated scholars to reach past China’s first, and some say largely mythical, dynasty, the 4,000-year-old Xia, to a neolithic culture called the Yangshao that existed in China’s Yellow River basin between 7,000 and 5,000 years ago.

Some pottery shards and other artefacts found on the Tibetan Plateau appear similar to remnants of the late Yangshao — proof, these government-backed scholars say, that China and Tibet are branches of the same civilization.“Early history has abruptly become of far greater importance to the issue, and specifically to the Chinese side,” said Robert Barnett, director of the modern Tibet studies program at Columbia University. Previously, Mr. Barnett said, the government had dated its claims over Tibet to the Yuan Dynasty, established by Mongolian leader Kublai Khan in 1271.

A 2015 paper on human settlement of the Tibetan Plateau written by Chinese archaeologists, also published in Science, supports the Yangshao timeline. It says that people didn’t start living in year-round settlements on the plateau until the development of agriculture and herding in what is now Qinghai province around 3,000 B.C.The new paper, however, suggests that migrants bearing pottery and other elements of Yangshao culture into the Tibetan regions would have encountered indigenous inhabitants, according to Mr. Aldenderfer.

“Our argument is fairly simple: There were people on the Tibetan Plateau before these ceramics and other influences came in from lower elevation locations,” he said.

There are 19 handprints and footprints of various sizes pressed into the Chusang limestone, which is believed to have formed by deposits from a now extinguished hot spring. The site was discovered in 1996 by University of Hong Kong geographer David Zhang, who was not part of the Aldenderfer team.

An image of one of the hand prints, taken in 2006. PHOTO: MARK ALDENDERFER“

Locals took me there and said [the prints] were left by a yeti,” Mr. Zhang told China Real Time, referring to the mythical creature better known in the west as the Abominable Snowman.

Mr. Zhang, who said he had seen a copy of the report but not its supplementary material,  disagreed with the conclusions of the new study. He cited tests he conducted that measured when quartz crystals from an ancient hearth found near the prints were last exposed to light. From that, he concluded that the evidence of settlement is closer to 20,000 years old.

Chusang was most likely one of several seasonal sites that people traveled to from primary settlements at lower elevations, he said.

Mr. Aldenderfer said Mr. Zhang’s measurements, taken in 2002, came from a different part of the Chusang site and that his testing methods were outdated. He said it would have taken an improbably long time to travel on foot from Chusang to a base camp at a low elevation.

The existence of smaller handprints suggests children also spent time at the site, he said.

Life would have been hard, with people forced to survive by hunting and foraging wild barley in temperatures only slightly warmer than they are now, but the area also would have had its advantages, Mr. Aldenderfer said.

A view to the north of the valley below the hot springs.
A view to the north of the valley below the hot springs. PHOTO: MARK ALDENDERFER

“It’s a really cool place. It’s perched on a mountainside, and when you’re sitting at the hot spring that has the hand- and footprints, it has an absolutely fabulous view of the valley below,” he said. The hot spring would have offered warmth, and possibly even a chance to bathe, he said.

Source: ‘Yeti’ Prints Suggest Humans Settled in Tibet More Than 7,000 Years Ago – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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17/09/2016

The plateau, unpacified | The Economist

AN ELDERLY woman with long, grey plaits, wearing a traditional Tibetan apron of wool in colourful stripes, has spent her day weaving thread outside her home near the southern end of Qinghai Lake, high on the Tibetan plateau. She is among hundreds of thousands of Tibetan nomads who have been forced by the government in recent years to settle in newly built villages. She now lives in one of them with her extended family and two goats. Every few months one of her sons, a red-robed monk, visits from his monastery, a place so cut off from the world that he has never heard of Donald Trump. Her grandson, a 23-year-old with slick hair and a turquoise rain jacket, is more clued in. He is training to be a motorcycle mechanic in a nearby town. Theirs is a disorienting world of social transformation, sometimes resented, sometimes welcome.Chinese and foreigners alike have long been fascinated by Tibet, romanticising its impoverished vastness as a haven of spirituality and tranquillity. Its brand of Buddhism is alluring to many Chinese—even, it is rumoured, to Peng Liyuan, the wife of China’s president, Xi Jinping. Many Tibetans, however, see their world differently. It has been shattered by China’s campaign to crush separatism and eradicate support for the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader who fled to India after an uprising in 1959. The economic transformation of the rest of China and its cities’ brash modernity are seductive, but frustratingly elusive.

The story of political repression in Tibet is a familiar one. The Dalai Lama accuses China’s government of “cultural genocide”, a fear echoed by a tour guide in Qinghai, one of five provinces across which most of the country’s 6m Tibetans are scattered (the others are Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and the Tibet Autonomous Region, or TAR—see map). “We know what happened to the Jews,” he says. “We are fighting for our existence.” Less commonly told is the despair felt by many young Tibetans who feel shut out of China’s boom. They are victims of Tibet’s remote and forbidding topography as well as of racial prejudice and the party’s anti-separatist zeal. They often cannot migrate to coastal factories, and few factories will come to them. Even fluent Mandarin speakers rarely find jobs outside their region.

Yet Tibetans are not cut off from the rapidly evolving culture of the rest of China, where more than 90% of the population is ethnic Han. Mayong Gasong Qiuding, a 26-year-old hotel worker in Yushu in southern Qinghai, listens to Mandarin, Tibetan and Western pop music in tandem. He can rattle off official slogans but can recite only short Tibetan prayers. His greatest wish, he says, is to go to the Maldives to see the sea. Tibetan women in Qinghai use skin-whitening products, following a widespread fashion among their Han counterparts; a teenager roller-skates anticlockwise around a Buddhist stupa, ignoring a cultural taboo. Young nomads frustrate their elders by forsaking locally-made black, yak-hair tents for cheaper, lighter canvas ones produced in far-off factories.

Han migration, encouraged by a splurge of spending on infrastructure, is hastening such change. Although Tibetans still make up 90% of the permanent population of the TAR, its capital Lhasa is now 22% Han, compared with 17% in 2000. Many Tibetans resent the influx. Yet they are far more likely to marry Han Chinese than are members of some of China’s other ethnic groups. Around 10% of Tibetan households have at least one member who is non-Tibetan, according to a census in 2010. That compares with 1% of households among Uighurs, another ethnic minority whose members often chafe at rule by a Han-dominated government.

Core features of Tibetan culture are in flux. Monasteries, which long ago played a central role in Tibetan society, are losing whatever influence China has allowed them to retain. In recent years, some have been shut or ordered to reduce their populations (monks and nuns have often been at the forefront of separatist unrest). In July buildings at Larung Gar in Sichuan, a sprawling centre of Tibetan Buddhist learning, were destroyed and thousands of monks and nuns evicted. Three nuns have reportedly committed suicide since. Of the more than 140 Tibetans who have set fire to themselves since 2011 in protest against Chinese rule, many were spurred to do so by repressive measures at their own monastery or nunnery.

Cloistered life is threatened by social change, too. Families often used to send their second son to a monastery, a good source of schooling. Now all children receive nine years of free education. “The young think there are better things to do,” says a monk at Rongwo monastery in Tongren, a town in Qinghai, who spends his days “praying, teaching [and] cleaning”. New recruits often come from poorly educated rural families.

Mind your language

In the TAR (which is closed to foreign journalists most of the time), the Tibetan language is under particular threat. Even nursery schools often teach entirely in Mandarin. A generation is now graduating from universities there who barely speak Tibetan. Some people have been arrested for continuing to teach in the language. In April last year Gonpo Tenzin, a singer, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for his album, “No New Year for Tibet”, encouraging Tibetans to preserve their language and culture.

In some areas outside the TAR, however, the government is less hostile to Tibetan. Since the early 2000s, in much of Qinghai, the number of secondary schools that teach in Tibetan has risen, according to research there by Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology at Korntal, Germany. The range of degrees taught in Tibetan has expanded too. Unlike elsewhere, someone who has studied mainly in Tibetan can still get a good job in Qinghai. A third of all government roles advertised there between 2011 and 2015 required the language. Despite this, many parents and students chose to be taught in Mandarin anyway, Mr Zenz found. They thought it would improve job prospects.

Karma chameleon

But work can be difficult to get, despite years of huge government aid that has helped to boost growth. Government subsidies for the TAR amounted to 111% of GDP in 2014 (see chart), according to Andrew Fischer of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Eleven airports serve Qinghai and the TAR—they will have three more by 2020. A 156-mile train line from Lhasa (population 560,000) to Shigatse (population 120,000), which was completed in 2014, cost 13.3 billion yuan ($2.16 billion). A second track to Lhasa is being laid from Sichuan, priced at 105 billion yuan.

Better infrastructure has fuelled a tourism boom—domestic visitors to the TAR increased fivefold between 2007 and 2015—but most income flows to travel agents elsewhere. Tourists stay in Han-run hotels and largely eat in non-Tibetan restaurants (KFC opened its first Lhasa branch in March). Tibetan resentment at exclusion from tourism- and construction-related jobs was a big cause of rioting in Lhasa in 2008 that sparked plateau-wide protests. Other big money-spinners—hydropower and the extraction of minerals and timber—are controlled by state-owned firms that employ relatively few Tibetans. The Chinese name for Tibet, Xizang, means “western treasure house”. But Tibetans have little share in its spoils. The rehousing of nomads has helped provide some with building jobs, but has also brought suffering: those relocated sometimes find it harder to make a living from herding.

In most other parts of China, villages have been rapidly emptying as people flock to work in cities. In the country as a whole, the agricultural population dropped from 65% to 48% as a share of the total between 2000 and 2010. On the plateau it fell only slightly, from 87% to 83%. It is hard for Tibetans to migrate to places where there are more opportunities. Police and employers treat them as potential troublemakers. In 2010 only about 1% of Tibetans had settled outside the plateau, says Ma Rong of Peking University. They cannot move abroad either. In 2012 Tibetans in the TAR had to surrender their passports (to prevent them joining the Dalai Lama); in parts of Qinghai officials went house-to-house confiscating them.

Karma chameleon

For university graduates, the prospects are somewhat better. There are few prospects for secure work in private firms on the plateau. But to help them, the government has been on a hiring spree since 2011. Almost all educated Tibetans now work for the state. A government job is a pretty good one: salaries have been rising fast. Few Tibetans see such work as traitorous to their cause or culture. But the government may not be able to keep providing enough jobs for graduates, especially if a slowdown in China’s economy, which is crimping demand for commodities, has a knock-on effect on the plateau.

Many of the problems faced by Tibetans are common in traditional pastoral cultures as they modernise. But those of Tibetans are compounded by repression. They are only likely to increase when the Dalai Lama, now 81, dies. The central government will try to rig the selection of his successor, and no doubt persecute Tibetans who publicly object.

In private, officials say they are playing a waiting game: they expect the “Tibetan problem” to be more easily solved when he is gone. They are deluding themselves. They ignore his impact as a voice of moderation: he does not demand outright independence and he condemns violence. Tibetan culture may be under duress, but adoration of the Dalai Lama shows no sign of diminishing. Poverty, alienation and the loss of a beloved figurehead may prove an incendiary cocktail.

Source: The plateau, unpacified | The Economist

20/02/2015

In Tibet, two celebrations coincide – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

The streets are more crowed and business is booming in Lhasa at the approach of Losar, Tibetan New Year, which coincides this year with the traditional Chinese Spring Festival.

In Tibet, two celebrations coincide

This year, New Year falls on the same day, Thursday, in both traditions. Losar dates to about 100 BC, the time of the ninth king of Tibet, Pude Gungyal. The celebration runs as long as 15 days.

Although the heavy snow that fell in Lhasa two days ago has not melted yet, residents are gearing up for the festival. Many of the hot shopping spots, such as the Ramoche Road and the Barkhor Shopping Mall, are packed with customers.

“My business is much better than last year. With the New Year festivals together, I had more shoppers,” said Basang Lhamo, a stall owner in the Barkhor market.

“I did not have time to prepare for my own Losar,” said the 38-year-old, adding that she will close her business on Tuesday, one day before New Year’s Eve.

As hordes of shoppers prepared for the festival, some bus drivers find it difficult to avoid traffic jams. “Ahead of Losar, with buses and streets crowded with people, it is hard to keep the bus moving smoothly,” said Nyima Tsering, a driver in Lhasa.

Karma Sonam, 43, a restaurant owner in the city, said his business has boomed this month. “My restaurant has been so full that my wife and our staff don’t have time for lunch most of the time,” he said. His family will travel to Xigaze for the festival, and he will give the staff a 15-day holiday.

Sonam Droma is a Tibetan woman who married a Han. They plan to spend the festival on the grassland. “It is more fun to embrace Losar in a remote grassland, as we enjoy the evening bonfire dancing and singing,” Sonam Droma, 27, said. “It is happier on the grassland.”

via In Tibet, two celebrations coincide – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

25/11/2014

Massive Himalayan hydropower dam comes on stream in Tibet | South China Morning Post

Tibet‘s biggest ever hydropower project has begun generating electricity, state-run media reported, the latest dam developed on Himalayan rivers to prompt concern in neighbouring India.

tpbje20141123187_46897531.jpg

The first generating plant at the 9.6 billion yuan (HK$12.1 billion) Zangmu Hydropower Station, which stands more than 3,300 metres above sea level, went into operation on Sunday, Xinhua said.

The dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River, known as the Brahmaputra in India where it is a major waterway, will be 116 metres high when completed next year, according to reports.

It will have a total generating capacity of 510,000 kilowatts.

“The hydropower station will solve Tibet’s power shortage, especially in the winter,” Xinhua quoted an official from Tibet Electric Power Company as saying.

India has previously expressed concern about damming the Brahmaputra, one of the largest Himalayan rivers and a lifeline to some of India’s remote, farm-dependent northeastern states.

India’s Foreign Ministry last year urged China “to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas” of the river after state media reports that China planned several more dams there.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said yesterday that New Delhi had been aware the dam was “coming up”.

“The Chinese have told us that it should have no implications for us,” he said.

Dam construction in China has been blamed for reduced flow and sudden flooding on the Mekong River, which flows into Southeast Asia, claims Beijing has denied.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters: “The hydropower stations China builds will not affect the flood prevention and ecological system of downstream areas.”

via Massive Himalayan hydropower dam comes on stream in Tibet | South China Morning Post.

03/10/2014

China Focus: Nation rises after 65 years of development – Xinhua | English.news.cn

One need look no further than China’s railways to see the enormous development of the country since its foundation on Oct. 1, 1949.

At the 65th anniversary of that formative moment, every Chinese citizen has access to a modern train service. In 1949, the nation’s railways extended only 22,000 km, with half the track in poor condition.

In comparison, the mileage had expanded to 100,000 km by 2013. More than 10,000 km was high-speed infrastructure, and another 12,000 km was under construction at that time.

This modernization is transforming the lives of Chinese people. For Tsering Dekyi, for example, his wish to send his children from their remote home to far-off schools for a better education is no longer a wild dream.

“I heard that the trains are very fast and safe. It takes only two hours from here to Lhasa. I really hope that my three kids will be able to attend schools in Lhasa or inland cities by train in the future,” Tsering Dekyi said from Xigaze City, some 200 km west of Lhasa in southwest China’s Tibet.

This is possible after an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was put into operation in August, linking Xigaze and Lhasa like never before.

Via the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, launched in 2006 as the world’s highest plateau rail track, Xigaze locals can even travel further off to major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Train track mileage is not the only data that makes clear the positive changes in China since 1949. In 2010, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy. China is the world’s top goods trader. The nation also ranks third in global investment…

Meanwhile, the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting will come to Beijing in November, with leaders gathering in the Chinese capital to discuss important economic issues for the Asia-Pacific region. China will take center stage once more.

Behind the huge economic achievements made especially since the reform and opening-up policy was introduced in 1978, the nation has made huge, unprecedented strides in providing basic education and welfare for its population of 1.3 billion, the world’s largest.

Sixty-five years ago, a shocking 80 percent of the population were illiterate, but by 2008, free nine-year compulsory education programs were fully implemented across the country. This year, 7.27 million university students will graduate, marking a historical high.

Nutritious meals are being provided to students from poor families with billions of yuan budgeted each year by the government.

About 32.29 million rural students have benefited from the 46.23 billion yuan (7.52 billion U.S. dollars) in subsidies the central government has allocated since 2011, when it launched the nutrition improvement program. Also, more than 10 million university students have completed their studies after being granted student loans under programs adopted since 1999.

The 660 million people that China has lifted out of poverty since 1981account for more than 70 percent of the world’s total.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has worked hard to provide basic healthcare for its people, with over 95 percent of the population covered by different sorts of healthcare programs by 2011.

However, there remain problems among the achievements, and they must be dealt with increasingly urgently. The issues include restraints on future development from the environment and resources, wide gaps between the wealthy and the poor, industrial overcapacity and imbalanced regional development.

Meanwhile, the Chinese economy must also brave challenges imposed from an economic slowdown after a boom over the past decade, as employment and structural control are key agendas for the government.

In order to cope, the Chinese leadership has showed political courage in pushing comprehensive reforms, including fighting corruption. Overhauls of administrative management, fiscal and financial systems are steadily being carried out as well.

There is no doubting the truth of Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s assertion that today’s China is nearer to its great goal of rejuvenation than at any period in history.

via China Focus: Nation rises after 65 years of development – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

30/09/2014

Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State | Stratfor

“Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China’s classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China’s would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history — but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity.

Tibetan Settlement in India

This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements — from Spain’s Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq’s ethnic Kurds — are working in different directions. More than half a century after World War II triggered a wave of post-colonial nationalism that changed the map of the world, buried nationalism and ethnic identity movements of various forms are challenging the modern idea of the inviolable unity of the nation-state.

Yet even as these sentiments pull on the loose threads of nations, in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity — the status of Tibet — is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment. The long-running but frequently unnoticed negotiations have raised the possibility that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, may be nearing a deal that would enable him to return to his Tibetan homeland. If it happens, it would end the Dalai Lama’s exile in Dharamsala, India — an exile that began after the Tibetan uprising in 1959, nine years after the People’s Republic of China annexed Tibet. More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau.

Read rest of article via Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State | Stratfor.

20/09/2014

To engage with China, India must stop peddling myths about the Line of Actual Control

Nehru’s hubris about his own statesmanship, coupled with a refusal to discuss the matter reasonably since 1962, has led us to the present tangle.

Political commentators have been gushing over the possibilities of strengthened economic and strategic relations between China and India, but the unresolved border dispute remains alive and can always play spoiler in the future. A border is, after all, more than a line on the map or a series of military posts on the ground; it is a reflection of how the political elite of a nation-state thinks about its security.

Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin is claimed by India as part of Jammu and Kashmir, and Indian-controlled Arunachal Pradesh is claimed by China. The only feasible solution is to accept the status quo and transform the Line of Actual Control into an international boundary. There have been several rounds of talks since the 1990s, but a resolution remains distant. Despite its parliamentary majority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will be unable to sell a permanent boundary settlement without being accused of ceding territory in Aksai Chin, though in reality it will only be giving up its claim over a territory India never controlled.

This raises a pertinent question: what precisely is the border upon which India and China cannot agree?

New neighbours

Through history, China and India have not been neighbours. The current de facto border has its genesis in a line drawn on a map by Henry McMahon during a secret treaty between Britain and Tibet in March 1914. Both entities, British India and Tibet, are no more: one has been transformed into postcolonial India and the other was occupied and colonised by communist China. Yet India and China, both of whom have overthrown the mantle of Western imperialism, are jostling over the same imperialists’ line – and have completely militarised and destroyed the traditional zone of contact that the border regions were.

The border is a legacy of a few dynamics, including the expansionist policies of the British in the Himalayan regions of India, the disappearance of the traditional Tibetan state, which had political and sacral hegemony over much of the region, and the modern nationalisms in postcolonial India and revolutionary China, which are keen on implementing a rigid notion of sovereignty in the border regions and legitimising the primacy of militarised security over the religious, cultural and human rights of the people inhabiting the region.

Stuck in the middle

The primary loser in the dispute is neither India nor China but Tibet. China has occupied most of Tibetan territory, while India has occupied the Tawang tract, which was historically part of Tibet. The Tibetan state had given up the Tawang region to British India in 1914 on the understanding that they would get friendship and assistance to protect their independence from China. When China went on to occupy Tibet in 1949-’50, India reneged on that understanding, preferring the diplomatically attractive Hindi-Chini-bhai-bhai rhetoric over a strategically sound and morally defensible Indo-Tibetan friendship.

Despite reluctantly hosting the Tibetan exile community today, India did not offer any tangible help to the Tibetans in their struggle for independence. Today, as Modi and Xi plan collaborations on various fronts, Tibetans are reminded that in this world of realpolitik, morality and human rights are subservient. Tibetans are perceived as strategic assets or liabilities in bargaining with China, not people of an occupied land for whom India should raise its voice. For India, it is the border matters, not the border inhabitants.

Myths peddled by India

The popular as well as strategic approach of many in India towards the border dispute is jaundiced by the myths the Indian state peddled about the humiliating war of 1962. After the 1962 defeat, there was no credible reflection at the policy level in India. Indians accepted as real the myths that Indian territorial claims were legitimate and sacrosanct, and that the Chinese were duplicitous and stabbed gullible India in the back. The reality could not be further from this. The first Survey of India Map in 1950 showed the boundary as undefined in Aksai Chin and as undemarcated in the north east. It was only in the summer of 1954 that Jawaharlal Nehru gave personal orders for all old maps to be withdrawn and destroyed and to remove qualifiers and show the McMahon Line in bold, as if that was the de jure boundary.

Nehru later claimed innocence, insisting that there was no boundary disagreement and that Chinese claims were surprising. Since 1959, India rejected all the diplomatic overtures of Zhou Enlai and said negotiations could only take place if China withdrew from Aksai Chin, though India would not offer anything in return. Since 1961, the Indian military followed a “forward policy” in the border regions that was not only provocative but based on the assumption that China would not retaliate.

A great unresolved mystery from the time is why the best Indian minds working in intelligence, military and diplomacy accepted this assumption without a murmur of protest. It can be explained by Nehru’s hubris in his own capacity as a statesperson, bureaucracies subservient to him, and the inability of the civilian and military elite to be independent-minded. Macho posturing was the order of the day. The Indianisation of the top brass in the military occurred only after independence in 1947, so they were inexperienced as leaders. Faced with an army that had its genesis in revolutionary wars, the Indian army, which had been servant to an imperial power, failed to perform its basic duty of protecting the country.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

05/09/2014

In Assam, villagers struggle to protect their land from the roaring Brahmaputra

Descending from the plateaus of Tibet and flowing through China, India and Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra is one of India’s mightiest rivers, its width running up to 10 kilometers at some places. On its 3,000-kilometer journey, the Brahmaputra provides a livelihood to thousands of communities living on its banks. They depend on it for food, water and farming. In 1950, however, the great earthquake in Assam altered the topography of the river valley and the people of Assam have since been struggling with intense droughts and floods.

Since the earthquake, Assam has witnessed severe cases of river erosion. According to official records, 36 villages, 10 schools, six tea gardens and hundreds of humans and animas have been washed away. The situation has been exacerbated by increasing deforestation and erratic climate changes.

In 2012, floods in Assam displaced over a million people and affected close to 4,500 villages. Today, these villagers from Tinsukia district in Upper Assam are struggling to protect their land and livelihoods from the eroding banks and the rising waters of the mighty Brahmaputra.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

24/07/2014

China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters

China plans to extend a railway line linking Tibet with the rest of the country to the borders of India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020 once an extension to a key site in Tibetan Buddhism opens, a state-run newspaper reported on Thursday.

Tibetan railway bridge

Tibetan railway bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China opened the railway to Tibet’s capital Lhasa in 2006, which passes spectacular icy peaks on the Tibetan highlands, touching altitudes as high as 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level, as part of government efforts to boost development.

Critics of the railway, including exiled Tibetans and rights groups, say it has spurred an influx of long-term migrants who threaten Tibetans’ cultural integrity, which rests on Buddhist beliefs and a traditional herding lifestyle.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said that an extention to Shigatse, the traditional seat of Tibetan Buddhism’s second-highest figure, the Panchen Lama, would formally open next month.

That link is scheduled for its own extension during the 2016-2020 period to two separate points, one on the border of Nepal and the other on the border with India and Bhutan, the newspaper cited Yang Yulin, deputy head of Tibet’s railways, as saying, without providing details.

China has long mooted this plan, but the difficulty and expense of building in such a rugged and remote region has slowed efforts.

Tibet is a highly sensitive region, not just because of continued Tibetan opposition to Chinese control, but because of its strategic position next to India, Nepal and Myanmar.

The Chinese announcement coincides with a drive by India, under its new prime minister Narendra Modi, to consolidate its influence with its smaller neighbors.

via China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters.

15/07/2014

One injured as explosion hits Xining airport car park in Qinghai | South China Morning Post

An explosion rocked the car park of Xining’s main airport today, state media reported. One person was injured by shrapnel, according to the authorities.

xining_blast-net.jpg

Police and bomb experts rushed to the scene within minutes of the blast and cordoned off the area around the busy Caojiapu (variably spelled as Caojiabao) airport.

One cleaner was hit when the object detonated in the lot just outside the terminal, the China West Airport Group said in a press statement at 4pm.

According to Chinanews.com, the staff was hit by a piece of glass and was sent to hospital.

Airport operations were not affected, the airport authority said. Cars in the parking lot were moved to other areas to clear the scene.

The Qinghai public security bureau and armed police are now conducting further investigation.

The explosives were concealed in a rubbish bin at the corner of the car park, according to the China Youth Daily.

A person surnamed Bao working for the public security bureau of Haidong prefecture near Xining told the South China Morning Post that the bureau’s command centre were not informed of the blast as yet, but that they would be sending staff to the scene.

“Airport police, anti-terror police, SWAT and paramilitary [officers] have cordoned off the site and are doing further investigation,” Bao said.

The Caojiapu airport is the busiest airport in the Tibet Plateau region. According to the airport’s figures, it handles four million trips a day.

Earlier in June, the airport held an emergency rescue drill – the largest held in the past 10 years – involving firefighters, medical emergency response teams as well as runway and airport maintenance teams.

Clearing explosives was part of the drill.

via One injured as explosion hits Xining airport car park in Qinghai | South China Morning Post.

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