‘We Chinese Are Like Marwaris, We Value Business’

Alfred Lee, 50, a hotelier at Puri of Chinese origin, says Chinese people are businesspersons who don’t bother much about what’s happening on the international front. For him, Puri is the most beautiful place on the planet

We Chinese, are more like the Gujaratis or the Marwaris. We are attached to our roots and language but we also have a very sharp insight and ability to settle anywhere in the world if it makes business sense. Thus, you can find Chinese immigrants running businesses everywhere in the world.

I will refrain from commenting on the current relationship between India and China as this is a sensitive issue. All I can tell you is that I am a proud Indian with a Chinese origin; so is my extended family in other parts of the world. There is no place like Puri in the entire world to live. It is the most beautiful place on the planet. It is my home.

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During the British rule, people who lived in Hong Kong did business in India freely as there was no need of passports back then. Most of these Chinese nationals had business links with Kolkata via Hong Kong. The earliest Chinese settlers in India are those who came to Kolkata to do business and never returned. Many of my extended family members are in Canada doing the business but we chose to stay in India. 

Our family’s story is really beautiful. From Kolkata, my grandfather migrated to Puri and started a little eatery. He learnt the local language and mingled with the local people. We later shifted to a better place and now apart from running the most popular Chinese restaurant in Puri, we have a 32-room hotel. The Odiya people never treated us as outsiders as there was never a language barrier between us.

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All of my family, including the youngest one, speak very fluent Odiya. Our mother tongue is Cantonese, which we speak within the family but our second language is Odiya. We can also speak English and Hindi fluently which is required for our business. 

Every Chinese living in India or Hongkong or Singapore has two names – a Chinese name and a local name. The local name is easy to pronounce and helps us communicate better. So my local name is Alfred Lee, while my Chinese name is Lee Chung Hsing. This is how generations of Chinese people have worked – they aren’t much bothered about what’s going on the international front between India and China and other countries.

You can find Chinatown or Little China where a number of Chinese business people live in many of the large western cities like New York, Chicago, Toronto and others. This is the spirit of the people with Chinese origin. They are somewhat religious and do business very precisely. Our focus is on growing our business across the globe.

Help Sri Lankan Tamils: An Open Letter to Mr Modi

Dear Mr Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

I am writing this letter concerning Tamil people in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka, which has been the hereditary land of the Tamils for thousands of years, known as Tamil Eelam. Of course, I am writing this from France, as a diaspora Tamil. We, a group of the diaspora sacrifice two thirds of our time to achieve a prosperous future for the fellow Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka. Since the late 80s, many others and I have been constantly working to find a path, in which Eelam Tamils can live in peace with dignity. The Tamil language has existed in the world for thousands of years, long before many present day ruling languages and states.

It is well known that you understand Tamil history better than the Sinhala Buddhist leaders. We appreciate that in your last speech in the UN General Assembly, you quoted a favourite Tamil phrase penned by the poet Kaniyan Poongundranar: “Yaathum Uure Yaavarum Kaeleer / யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்’ ” (To us all towns are one, all men our kin). As you are well aware of the background and facts of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, here there is no need for me to mention anything about the origin of the Tamil language, and its history in the island of Sri Lanka.

We Tamils are close to India in many aspects – linguistically, culturally, religiously, socially, etc. When our scholars, poets, philosophers and others speak about our relationship with India, they describe that we Tamils in Sri Lanka have an umbilical cord relationship “தொப்புள் கொடி உறவு”.

In brief, then Taproban or Ceylon was colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. There is ample historical evidence that during the colonial period a Tamil Kingdom was in the island of Sri Lanka. The first colonial master, the Portuguese came to Sri Lanka in 1505, followed by the Dutch in 1658. Both colonial powers maintained the Tamil Kingdom as unique. When the British took over in 1795, they too maintained the Tamil Kingdom separately for thirty-eight (38) years. However, in the name of ‘administrative convenience’, they amalgamated the Tamil Kingdom in 1833 with the other two Sinhala Kingdoms. This was the beginning of our sad stories in the island.

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When the British gave independence in 1948, they handed over the governing power to the numerical majority, the Sinhala Buddhists – SB. They took this opportunity to start discriminating against us in all aspects of life in our hereditary land and in other parts. They started to colonise our regions with SBs – as part of their master plan. As a result, today we Tamils are compelled to live in slavery in our own land.

Being our good neighbour, you all are well aware of the failure of our thirty years of non-violent struggle, which the SBs responded to with extreme violence, eventually paving the way to an armed struggle.

Here I do not have to mention anything in detail about the crucial role played by India. The blood shed by the people of the North and East gave birth to the Indo-Lanka accord in 1987. Manipulations carried out with ulterior motives by Sri Lankan governments, created turmoil between the Tamils in Sri Lanka and India. Without realising the agenda of the SBs, there were mistakes made by both sides.  Eventually, the government of Sri Lanka won everything in their favour.

During the war, they sought the help of India; I mean Indian Congress party on a bogus promise that, as soon as they had ended the war, they would implement not only the 13th Amendment in full, but also the ‘13th plus’. During that time, the then government had a two-thirds majority in parliament. The President had executive powers too.

However, at the end of the war in May 2009, they broke the promises that they had given to India and the international community. Sadly, your predecessor or his political party could not put pressure on Sri Lanka! It is believed that Sri Lanka was blackmailing India about its involvement during the final stage of the war.

Today, we Tamils have nothing in the island – we are losing our people, our land, our culture and our religion to the aggressive SBs. Successive Sri Lankan governments proceed with the four pillars of their master plan – Sinhalaisation, Buddhisation, Colonisation and Militarisation in the North and East.

ALSO READ: India & Sri Lanka – Cleaning The Slate

Now, eleven years after having ended the war on false promises to India and the international community, they have done nothing to settle the ethnic conflict. All this time, our appeals to the Sri Lankan government have been ignored. To be frank, they are not concerned at all about settling our political grievances. The promises they gave your predecessors and yourself regarding the 13th Amendment have been intentionally ignored.

The Sri Lankan rulers swiftly brush truth and reality under the carpet. They whitewash successive governments and ignore the reasons why since independence in 1948, Tamils engaged in thirty years of non-violent struggle and then a further thirty years of armed struggle.

Presently, the way they convey the reasons for the ethnic conflict of more than seven decades in the island, gives an impression to the outside world that the people in the North and East are simply uneducated, jobless, suffering from poverty and other social problems. 

The truth is that, since independence in 1948, Sinhala dominated governments bought time and space in the name of negotiations. Now they blame the Tamil politicians, saying that since independence they have ‘taken a wrong path’!

The accords (Banda-Chelva and Dudley-Chelva pacts) signed between the Tamil politicians and Sinhala leaders were unilaterally abrogated by the Sinhala leaders. This is very good evidence to prove that Sinhala leaders took Tamil leaders and the people of the North and East for a ride.

The abrogation of pacts and ceasefire agreements, including the Indo-Lanka accord, are tactics of the Sri Lankan governments to achieve their four pillars. Their thinking is that, once the North and East has been successfully colonised with SBs, then the question of a political solution to the Tamils will not be raised by anyone.

They completely ignore the grievances and the history of the Tamils and now they bluntly tell us that, the ‘minority should not do anything that disturbs the majority or causes suspicion’.

We Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka are a ‘Nation’, not a minority as they depict to the outside world. They insist that we should forget the past and work on development. In other words, their agenda is that ‘development’ is the political solution to our long-standing political grievances – our history, our hereditary land, war crimes and all sorts of systematic violations that they have committed against us.

Sir, they are now talking with ulterior motives about neutrality in the region. This is again to buy time and space from India and the international community. However, the ‘gate was closed only after the horse had bolted’.

Whether one likes it or not, China has a permanent base already in Sri Lanka.  In 2017, China took over Hambantota port and 15,000 acres of land on a ninety-nine years lease, with the blessing of the present rulers. Gradually the island of Katchchaithivu in the North will also be given to China. Sri Lankan governments trust more in China and Pakistan than in India. There is historical evidence of this, over a long period. The SBs are annoyed that although Buddha was born in India, Buddhism has no place there. They also strongly believe that Tamil militancy was born and brought-up in India.

It is true that there have been some unfortunate memories among us. Nevertheless, every Tamil in Sri Lanka values the vital role of India regarding our political settlement. They believe that it is the responsibility of India to implement the 13th Amendment in full. The past, present and the future remind us that unity and solidarity among us is important for the betterment of both.

Those who speak about the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi should listen to what was said by Sri Lankan Navy sailor Wijemuni Rohana de Silva who attempted to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi on 30 July 1987. He openly says that he hit Rajiv Gandhi to kill him. The Navy commander who was part of this plot is closely working with the present government. In the recent past, he was attending the UN Human Rights Council – UN HRC in Geneva.

In the meantime, I would like to bring certain matters to your kind notice. These days, ex-Sri Lankan soldiers participate in the sessions of the UN HRC in Geneva. Their task is fully against India.

I do not wish to disclose everything in this letter but in brief – Sri Lankan governments always believe that they can easily manage with Indian negotiators and mediators. However, people like Mr G Parthasarathy and a few others wanted India to guarantee the safety, security, economic and social well-being of the Tamils in the Northern and Eastern provinces.  For this reason, Sri Lanka prevented them taking part in negotiations.

Sir, time is running out. We urge you and the government of India to take immediate initiatives to implement the 13th amendment that was agreed and accepted by India to meet the aspirations of the Tamils in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka. These are matters of concern for the people of India as well.

This is the only way to prevent the modern day Tamil slavery in the island of Sri Lanka.

Sir, the Indo-Lanka accord is an international agreement. It gave birth to the 13th amendment, which is still not fully implemented by Sri Lanka. Therefore, we strongly believe that, it is the responsibility of India to demand Sri Lanka to implement it without further delay.

In the recent past, I have written many articles in English and Tamil concerning India and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

S. V. KIRUPAharan

Befitting Reply Given To Those Who Eyed Our Land: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday paid homage to Army personnel killed in a clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan valley face-off and said that a befitting reply has been given to those coveting our territories in Ladakh.

“The world has seen India’s strength and commitment to peace. If India knows how to celebrate friendship, India also knows how to give a befitting reply when provoked. In Ladakh, a befitting reply has been given to those coveting our territories,” said Prime Minister Modi while addressing the nation through the 66th episode of his monthly programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

“India bows to our brave martyrs. They have always kept India safe. Their valour will always be remembered,” he added. This is the first address of the monthly programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ after the face-off in Ladakh.

Extending condolences to the kin of Galwan valley clash brave hearts, he said: “The inner sense of pride that families feel on the supreme sacrifice of their brave sons and their sentiment for the country, constitutes the true power and the might of the country.”

As many as 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in a violent face-off in the Galwan Valley after an attempt by the Chinese troops to unilaterally change the status quo during the de-escalation in eastern Ladakh. Indian intercepts have revealed that the Chinese side suffered 43 casualties including dead and seriously injured in the clash.


Rahul To Modi: When’ll You Speak On National Security?

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a veiled jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on Sunday, asking that when will there be a talk on national security and defence.

Congress leaders have been constantly targetting the Central government over ongoing India and China border dispute, which escalated with the Galwan valley clash, claiming lives of 20 Indian Army personnel.

“When will there be talk of nation’s defence and security?” read his tweet (roughly translated from Hindi).

Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly questioning the government over the stand-off with China.

On Friday, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should tell “the truth” as several accounts were saying that China has made incursions. He also referred to the violent face-off with Chinese troops on June 15-16 and asked, “who sent our brave soldiers without weapons and why?”

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage to Army personnel killed in a clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan valley face-off and said that a befitting reply has been given to those coveting our territories in Ladakh.

“The world has seen India’s strength and commitment to peace. If India knows how to celebrate friendship, India also knows how to give a befitting reply when provoked. In Ladakh, a befitting reply has been given to those coveting our territories,” said Prime Minister Modi during ‘Mann Ki Baat’. (ANI)

Rahul Gandhi Indulging In Shallow Politics, Says Shah

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of doing “ochhi rajniti” (shallow minded politics) and making remarks “liked by” China and Pakistan during border tensions with China and asserted that the government was prepared for a debate in Parliament in which “1962 se aaj tak do-do haath ho jayein” (let us discuss from 1962 war onwards till now, ready for robust debate).

In an interview with ANI, Home Minister Amit Shah said Rahul Gandhi should introspect that his hashtag of ‘Surender Modi’ is being encouraged by Pakistan and China.

He said that the government was fully capable of handling anti-India propaganda but it was painful when a former President of such a big political party indulges in shallow minded politics at a time of crisis.

“Yes we are fully capable of handling anti-India propaganda but it does pain when a former President of such a big political party does “ochi rajiniti (shallow minded politics) at a time of problems. It is a matter of self-introspection for him and Congress that his hashtag is being taken forward by Pakistan and China. It is not for me. It is a matter of concern for Congress that hashtag of their leader is being encouraged by Pakistan and China. You say what China and Pakistan like. And at this time of crisis,” added Amit Shah.

He was asked about a hashtag going viral last week about `Surender Modi’ remarks of Gandhi and it gaining traction in China and Pakistan.

Sidestepping a pointed question asked by ANI, if at present there were Chinese troops on Indian soil, Home Minister Amit Shah said that it was not the appropriate time to comment on the situation at the LAC and that “briefings were on going and if the need arose, he would answer.” The Minister added that he wished to limit the scope of this interview to Delhi’s battle with Covid, wherein measures taken by Centre and Delhi Government were highlighted to ease any “panic” that could have risen in the city due to rise in cases.

Amit Shah, however, responded to tweets made by Rahul Gandhi that were critical of the Government’s response to the situation at the LAC with China.

“Parliament honi hai, charcha karni hai to aaiye, karenge. 1962 se aaj tak do-do haath ho jayein. Koi nahi darta charcha se. Jab jawan sangharsh kar rahe hain, sarkar thos kadam utha rahi hai,uss waqt Pak aur China ko khushi ho aisi statements nahi deni chahiye.” (There will be parliament (session). If you want to discuss, we will. Let all be discussed from 1962 to today. No one is afraid of discussion. But when the soldiers of the country are making efforts, the government is taking solid steps after taking a stand. At that time, making statements that please Pakistan and China, this should not be done),” he said.

Asked about Congress accusing BJP of lack of democracy over its attack on the party on Emergency, Amit Shah asked if there has been any Congress president from outside Gandhi family after Indira Gandhi and asked what democracy does Congress talk of.

“Democracy is a very comprehensive word. Discipline and independence also have their value. Beyond all this, I want to say one thing. I want to ask you. After Advaniji, Rajnathji, Nitinji, Rajnathji again, I became (party president) and now Naddaji. Is there a member of the same family? After Indiraji, tell me a Congress President who is outside the Gandhi family. What democracy they talk about?” said Shah.

“I did not do any politics during COVID. You look at my tweets of the past 10 years. Every June 25, I give a statement. Emergency should be remembered by people as it attacked the roots of our democracy. People should never forget. No political worker, citizen should forget. There should be awareness about it. It is not about a party but about the attack that took place on country’s democracy. The language and form changes according to the context,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly targeting the government over the stand-off with China even as most other her opposition parties have backed the government’s stance in the face-off with China in Eastern Ladakh.

On Friday, Gandhi posted a video and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should tell “the truth” as several accounts were saying that China has made incursions in Eastern Ladakh.

In his tweets, Gandhi has accused Prime Minister of “publicly supporting” China’s claim, termed him as “Surender Modi” and alleged that “PM has surrendered Indian territory to Chinese aggression”.

Gandhi has also repeated his allegation that Indian soldiers were without weapons during the violent face-off with China on June 15-16 though External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had made it clear that all troops on border duty “always carry arms, especially when leaving post and those at Galwan on 15 June did so too.”

NCP leader and former Defence Minister Sharad Pawar has also differed with Gandhi on the matter. Pawar, an ally of the Congress in Maharashtra, said at the all-party meeting convened earlier this month by the Prime Minister that issues whether soldiers carried arms or not are decided by international agreements and “we need to respect such sensitive matters”.The all-party meeting was convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the situation in India-China border areas.

India had said earlier this week that deployment of a large number of troops by China and changes in behaviour along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has also been aggravated by unjustified and untenable claims and a continuation of the current situation would only vitiate the atmosphere for the development of bilateral relationship. (ANI)

US Secretary Of State In India

US Backs ASEAN Stand On South China Sea Row

The United States has welcomed the statement by members of the ASEAN countries that South China Sea disputes should be resolved in line with the international law, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Saturday (local time).

“The United States welcomes ASEAN Leaders’ insistence that South China Sea disputes be resolved in line with international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea). China cannot be allowed to treat the SCS as its maritime empire. We will have more to say on this topic soon,” Pompeo tweeted.

After the 36th ASEAN summit on Friday, a joint statement was issued by the members of the bloc expressing concerns over the current situation in the South China Sea.

The ASEAN leaders stressed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and over-flight above the South China Sea, as well as upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, in the South China Sea, working actively towards the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, and the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

They also laid emphasis on the “importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation.”

“Pursue the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, while enhancing mutual trust and confidence,” the statement said.

Several islands and territories in the South China Sea are claimed by Beijing, but other countries including Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei also have their territorial claim in the hotly contested region.

Earlier, Pompeo tweeted on June 2 that the US has sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General to protest China’s “unlawful South China Sea maritime claims”. (ANI)

Army Chief Apprises Defence Minister Of Ladakh Situation

Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Friday met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and briefed him about the ground situation in the Ladakh sector.

The Army Chief was on a two-day visit to Eastern Ladakh where he visited forward areas near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and reviewed the operational preparedness in the sector.

In the ongoing dispute along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh sector, China has moved back some of its troops and vehicles to depth areas in Galwan Valley following the meeting with the Indian side on June 22, sources said.

“On June 22, the Chinese side had given assurance that they will move back troops from front to the depth areas. In this regard, some troops and vehicles were moved back by them in the Galwan area,” a source told ANI.

The step was taken by both sides as they wanted to avoid a repeat of June 15 violent face-off as the troops were in close vicinity.

The June 22 meeting between Indian Army’s 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and his Chinese counterpart took place at Moldo after which there was a consensus for mutual disengagement.

The commander-level talks were held after a violent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15.

India lost 20 of its soldiers in the violent face-off and 10 Indian soldiers were also held captive and later released. After the clash, Indian intercepts had revealed that the Chinese side suffered 43 casualties including dead and seriously injured.

India has said that the situation could have been avoided if the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side.

India said on Thursday that deployment of a large number of troops by China and changes in behaviour along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has also been aggravated by unjustified and untenable claims and a continuation of the current situation would only vitiate the atmosphere for the development of the relationship. (ANI)

India Sees Sharpest Rise In Covid Cases; Tally Above 4.9L

With the highest single-day spike of 17,296 COVID-19 cases reported in the last 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 count reached 4,90,401 on Friday, said the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

The country also saw 407 deaths in the last 24 hours, which pushed the death toll to 15,301.

The total number of cases includes 1,89,463 active cases, 2,85,637cured/discharged/migrated cases, as per the MoHFW.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the total number of samples tested up to June 25 is 77,76,228; the number of samples tested on 25 June is 2,15,446.

Maharashtra remains the worst-affected state in the country with 1,47,741 cases. The active cases in the state are 63,357. The number of people cured or discharged stands at 77,453 while the death toll is at 6,931.

Delhi has so far reported 73,780 cases. The active cases in the national capital stood at 26,586. While the cured and discharged numbers stood at 44,765. The death toll in the city is 2,429.

Tamil Nadu has so far reported 70,977. With active cases at 30,067 and the number of cured or discharged at 39,999, while the death toll stood at 911. (ANI)

Tension On Border With China Not Over Yet: Experts

China’s and India’s border dispute in Ladakh shockingly spilled over into savage hand-to-hand combat better befitting a Middle Ages scene on 15 June. Yet that bloody confrontation is best viewed within the context of wider Sino-Indian dynamics and in light of aggressive Chinese behaviour in other parts of the world.

Chinese troops wielded steel stakes laced with nails, and clubs wrapped in barbed wire, while rocks were also flung during the hours-long bitter engagement. Many died after falling down steep cliffs and succumbing to freezing water in the river below. It was the deadliest clash on the Sino-Indian border since 1967, more than 50 years ago.

One UK-based expert described it as “an outbreak of lethal violence of unprecedented magnitude since 1967, but it’s been without shots fired.” Antoine Levesques, Research Fellow for South Asia at the UK-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), spoke to ANI in-depth about the fracas, noting, “The evidence emerging, including on the Indian side, suggests that a degree of preparation by the Chinese played a catalyst role in the tragic events.”

Certainly, in the week from June 9-16, China moved some 200 vehicles into the Galwan area. “Its troops may have prepared the buildup of a coercive position, but with the ongoing contest of narratives between Beijing and New Delhi, it’s either too early or may just be impossible for both public accounts to coincide on the detailed chain of events that led to the bloodshed and questions of causality, let alone responsibility,” Levesques explained.

Yet he sees indications of “a degree of coherence between [China’s] strategic approach to the border and the wider string of tensions on the border … On the other hand, there’s still an element of friction and uncertainty inherent to that particular theatre. Seen from the political capital of New Delhi or Beijing, misunderstandings, miscalculations take place, and there’s a degree, I think, to which the incidents of last Monday show that things can get out of control faster than perhaps both governments expect to be the case.”

Adrian Zenz, a German anthropologist well known for exposing China’s imprisonment of more than a million Uighur Muslims, concurred. He tweeted, “If you look at the litany of excuses and all the downplaying, I am starting to wonder whether that PLA attack on the Indians went further and was bloodier than what Beijing had approved or imagined.”

London-based Levesques continued: “It’s a cautionary tale about how both sides may need more or new provisions within the existing border management regime, to manage miscalculation and friction beyond the latest agreement in 2013 and possible small updates to it since” Furthermore, multiple tensions at different points of the contentious border are bleeding into each other, which may “require new ways of organizing and conceiving of the utility of military-to-military resolution”.

There are numerous speculations about why China has chosen this particular juncture to instigate these tensions at several locations in Ladakh. Levesques believes the tensions are “due to multiple factors on both sides,” although it is difficult to assess China’s. Nonetheless, he pointed out, “The timing is conducive to thinking that China, like other countries, is exploiting opportunities from relative weaknesses of some of its adversaries in the COVID crisis.” For instance, India is now past 90 days into its lockdown.

China appointed Lieutenant General Xu Qiling as the new ground forces commander for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Western Theater Command, according to a June 5 announcement. Previously he had been the Eastern Theater Command ground commander since December 2018. This would thus seem to represent a kind of horizontal promotion for him, although he is seen as a rising PLA star, and he has now served in all five theater commands.

Could Xu’s transfer to the Western Theater Command be connected to current tensions in Ladakh? Levesques admitted, “It can’t be ruled out.” However, given the PLA’s command hierarchy, he added that “overall it sounds unlikely this factor over-determined China’s actions.”

Henry Boyd, research fellow for Defence and Military Analysis at IISS, told ANI the PLA unit in the Galwan Valley area is the 363rd Border Defense Regiment (unit designator 69316). It is headquartered at Kongka Pass near the Indian post at Gogra/Hot Springs. The unit probably has some 500-600 personnel, but additional forces drawn from parent border defence regiment operational reserves would also have been deployed to the area.

Boyd and colleague Meia Nouwens believe it likely that additional combat forces, in the guise of the PLA’s 6th Mechanized Division, have been deployed as reinforcements. It is headquartered far away on the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, but the division represents the Southern Xinjiang Military District’s main operational reserve.

They claimed “companies of main battle tanks and batteries of towed artillery had been deployed at existing Chinese positions north and east of Gogra” by the end of May. Such equipment is consistent with the 6th Mechanized Division’s known assets, as well as with three other divisions in the Xinjiang Military District (4th Motorized Division, 8th Motorized Division and 11th Motorized Division).

Some reports suggest 12 towed howitzers are present in the Hot Springs area, while some Indian media claim Type 88 tanks are also present. However, most satellite imagery viewed by ANI is of insufficient resolution to identify armoured vehicle types.

Perhaps 5,000 additional troops have been diverted to the area in support of regular border regiments. Interestingly, Indian reports suggest that those Chinese troops involved in the brawl on 15 June had replaced the usual border troops. The introduction of fresh troops, who had no affinity or relationship to the Indian side, may have been a deliberate PLA ploy to foster greater aggression.

Yet Levesques reminded ANI of the true purpose. “This is not geared towards a showdown and warfighting. This appears primarily intended for tactical deterrence and coercion below the threshold of actual use.”

Yet the explosion of violence has serious implications for Sino-Indian relations and the border in general. Levesques highlighted three implications. “One is that the border and its management regime, which both countries have built patiently and vowed to abide by, really cannot be air-gapped from the cooperative elements of the relationship between the world’s two largest emerging markets. So if something goes seriously wrong on at the border, it’s very difficult to make sure it doesn’t contaminate the rest of the relationship. It’s not a new lesson, but I think it’s been brought to the fore with a lot of force this time.

Indeed, he speculated that the border management regime is “at risk of being made out of date, because it is rests on the idea that single incidents can be addressed through talks because their cause is a local problem well short of bloodshed, only related to 23 so-called ‘areas of differing perceptions’ on the LAC, which can be over 25 kilometres deep”.

“Second, it’s harder to insulate the border developments and attribution of Chinese behaviour on that border from the wider territorial contests taking place elsewhere in Asia and also involving China.” Indeed, some analysts see similarities to what China is doing in the South China Sea. Levesques said for a long time “it was assumed the border had its own dynamic, grammar and rules of engagement, and those were largely immune to the wider change in Asia. People now arguing this are in a small minority in India, and an even smaller one other than in China.”

The third implication: “Both sides’ political control of border tensions is now lessened because the reading of any incidents there is no longer just set in that narrow, bilateral, theater-specific context. Instead, it is being read in the context of a very wide Indo-Pacific geostrategic chessboard stretching from California to East Africa. This may bring opportunities for diplomatic trade-offs but it is going to make standoffs, including the one we’re currently still witnessing, more difficult to read as geographically discrete events and to solve as such. And it will be more difficult to read intent in any of those on either side, because suddenly it’s tempting to read this solely through a crude Indo-Pacific prism: one in which India is a global geopolitical swing state and on-shore Asian balancer which China would have risked irking into siding structurally with the US and many of its partners. The correct future reading of border events will likely be somewhere in the middle, but likely not exclusively on either end of that spectrum only.”

It is known that 20 Indian soldiers died, but it is difficult to assess the number of deaths on the Chinese side. Beijing steadfastly refuses to delineate casualty numbers, although they definitely did occur. Hu Xijin, the hawkish editor of the Global Times, wrote patronizingly, “Based on what I know, Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash … Chinese side didn’t release number of PLA casualties in clash with Indian soldiers. My understanding is the Chinese side doesn’t want people of the two countries to compare the casualties number so to avoid stoking public mood. This is goodwill from Beijing.”

In actual fact, it is normal Chinese practice never to release official PLA casualties, at least not until decades later. M. Taylor Fravel, professor of political science and Director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed out, “I can think of no armed conflict involving China where it has released casualty figures publicly at the time of the conflict. Usually, they are published years or decades later. Casualties from 1962 war only published in 1994 internal history.”

With Indian media claiming anywhere from 35-43 Chinese casualties, including the commanding officer, Hu posted on social media platform Sino Weibo, “Finally, I want to say to netizens again, please trust our government and the PLA’s ability to deal with border issues. Don’t listen to any rumors about the number of casualties from abroad.”

ANI has not observed any credible figures for PLA casualties on Chinese social media. However, informed government sources in India have confirmed to India a total of 43 PLA casualties (dead or injured) and increased helicopter evacuations witnessed in the Chinese side of the LAC post the bloody clash of June 15. Those in the know would be too fearful to release such sensitive information. Interestingly, Chinese media have deliberately been downplaying news of border tensions. On the day following the clash, the People’s Daily and PLA Daily did not mention it at all, whereas the Global Times Chinese edition relegated it to p.16.

Nonetheless, the border conflict trended quickly on Weibo on 17 June. It was the fifth-top topic that day, with more than 1.34 billion posts using the hashtag “China-India conflict”.

Comments from Chinese officials have been sporadic. Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili, the spokesperson for the PLA’s Western Theater Command, blamed India on 16 June for the melee. Zhao Lijian, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, has given the longest official response yet. China is also wheeling out proxies such as academics, all invariably blaming India.

Asked why China has been so quiet on the topic, Levesques referred to China’s traditional public diplomacy to India which “emphasizes cooperation, face-saving and minimizes disagreement”. He added, “For China, India matters more and more, both as an opportunity and challenge, but China still has often more pressing or important foreign policy priorities to attend to, not least US-China matters.”

Furthermore, he pointed out that saying less publicly means you can pass on messages in a less ambiguous manner through diplomats, experts, private networks and other means.

Who, then, has benefitted from the current tensions so far? Levesques assessed, “I think any tactical military advantages China may have sought are much less significant than any gains it may have made strategically. The reason for that is that patrolling new swathes of territory – there are reports of 60km2 of territory essentially being captured by the Chinese side in the last month or so – is really only critical militarily if there’s ever a much wider conventional conflict, which neither side otherwise wants as nuclear-armed states. Otherwise, such moves are expressions of political-military resolve with domestic political implications, as well as foreign strategic ones.”

Thus, the South Asia specialist believes this is all part of a political contest. “This is chiefly a political-strategic contest; much less a military one. India and China are aware of the national power differential between them in the latter’s favour.”

Regardless, if China continues occupying the territory seized, there are on-the-ground advantages. Nathan Ruser of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute commented, “Strategically, the PLA’s advances into the Galwan River Valley provide a superior vantage point for observing a supply route used by the Indian Army to reach its northernmost base, and the world’s most elevated airfield, Daulat Beg Oldie. From ridgeline positions, PLA forces would be able to monitor all traffic on the recently completed Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road…”

At Pangong Lake, China has inserted troops between Fingers 4 and 8. Ruser observed: “Significant positions have been constructed between Fingers 4 and 5, including around 500 structures, fortified trenches and a new boatshed over 20 kilometres farther forward than previously … The scale and provocative nature of these new Chinese outposts are hard to overstate: 53 different forward positions have been built, including 19 that sit exactly on the ridgeline separating Indian and Chinese patrols.”

The seriousness of 15 June’s fatal encounter cannot be understated, but it all matches typical patterns of Chinese behaviour, which some call salami slicing.

Levesques commented, “The Chinese patrolling on its side of the Line of Actual Control [LAC] has been assertive for many years. The Chinese military has been building its infrastructure to high standards, and we can expect that to continue, with India mirroring this What is perhaps new in this instance is that China may no longer just be pushing its patrolling to its own understanding of where the LAC is, up to its claim line. India has rejected what it sees to be China’s new claim over the entirety of the Galwan Valley. It is the novelty of that claim, since the war, which worries India.”

China and India are rightfully proud that their troops have not fired a single bullet at each other across the LAC in more than four decades. Yet this confrontation is a diplomatic game-changer for their relationship.

Levesques believes, “It’s hard to see how diplomatic practice as we’ve seen since autumn 2017, at the very least, can continue.” Therefore, a third Xi-Modi informal summit is unforeseeable in the short-to-medium term, and the two special representatives Ajit Doval and Wang Yi will have to play even greater roles.

The IISS expert concluded, “What started in May is not over. It’s going to continue and we shouldn’t see this yet as a closed incident … The 2017 stand-off lasted officially 72 days; that was without any loss of life. The more clement weeks of the year in the Himalayas continue.

“But while both sides emphasize keeping a robust resolute defence stance at and beyond their border, they signal keenness to avoid military escalation on the border, if not elsewhere too. Whole-of-government diplomacy, involving both diplomats and soldiers, is playing an important role in this regard. But diplomacy is not yet able to resolve the current tensions, let alone the wider border dispute.” (ANI)

Diesel Prices Cross Rs 80-Mark In Delhi

As fuel prices were raised for the 20th day in a row on Friday, petrol and diesel prices crossed Rs 80-mark in the national capital.

Following the fresh surge, Diesel is now priced at Rs 80.19 per litre, higher by Rs 0.17 and petrol will cost Rs 80.13 per litre, an increase by Rs 0.21.

Rates differ from state to state depending on the incidence of value-added tax (VAT).

Prices of fuel are increasing as state-run oil-marketing companies (OMCs) are reviving their market margins. (ANI)