Mr Xi, what have you gained in Ladakh?
Comrade Xi Jinping
General Secretary, Communist Party of China’s Central Committee
President, People’s Republic of China,
Chairman, Central Military Commission (CMC)
Dear Chairman Xi,
You may think it is presumptuous on my part to send a letter to you, the President of one of the two most powerful nations of the world, but being born in the country which invented Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and living in the one that believes in ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (‘The Truth will prevail’), it emboldened me to send you this letter.
I hope you will not misinterpret my audacity.
I was not sure how to address you, but here in India we see you first as the CMC Chairman, particularly since your Western Theater Command generals started an unnecessary confrontation with the Indian Army in Ladakh last year.
What has China gained from it? I don’t know.
What can the PLA gain in the future? Probably nothing.
In India, it has been taken very badly as it coincided with the chaos of the pandemic due to the COVID-19 which is said to have originated in Wuhan.
Till January 2020, ‘Wuhan’ was synonymous of ‘hope’: India and China could live together as partners in the changing world. It is why Prime Minister Modi invited you in Mamalapuram, to proceed on the sacred path of peace. It is no more the case today, after your generals forced India’s armed forces to spend a winter (and now a spring and a summer) in the previously paradisiacal and serene Himalayan mountains.
I am sure you realize that you lost a friend in the process.
A Community of Shared Future for Mankind
Mr Chairman, though I regularly read your speeches and follow your visits across your country, I must admit that I don’t always understand the actions of your Party.
Take your speech on the occasion of the New Year 2021.
Xinhua reproduced your article ‘Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind’ which had first appeared in the Qiushi Journal (the flagship magazine of the CPC’s Central Committee).
In it, you mention that “mankind is in an era of major development as well as profound transformation and change, and is also in an era of numerous challenges and increasing risks.”
Nobody can disagree with this.
When asked how to respond to this, you proposed “to build a community with a shared future for humanity and achieve shared and win-win development.” This is good.
You even added that “actions hold the key to building such a community, while adding that “the international community should promote partnership, security, growth, inter-civilization exchanges and the building of a sound ecosystem.”
On this, everyone will agree with you in India; several thousand years ago, a rishi spoke of Vasudhaiva Kuṭumbakam (‘the world is one family’).
The Upanishad says:
One is a relative, the other stranger,
say the small minded.
For those who live magnanimously
the entire world constitutes but a family.
What I don’t understand is that if we share the same values, why did your generals try to grab a few square kilometers of Indian territory in Ladakh? What was the point that they were trying to make? Had they grasped the essence of your speeches?
And what happened to the hard work that you and the Indian Prime Minister put into the Wuhan and Mamallipuram meets?
Are you aware that the Ladakh episode has created a huge setback for the bilateral relations and that the Indian public will not forget soon?
About the Environment: the Irresistible Law
I wanted also to mention the all-important issue of environment.
On April 30, 2021, you presided over a meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee.
You had the occasion to speak of the construction of an ecological civilization; it is said to be a prominent objective for the Communist Party; you insisted on “comprehensively strengthening the construction of ecological civilization, and integrating the management of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes, grasses and sand, and carried out a series of fundamental and pioneering activities.”
You further observed: “Ecological environmental protection and economic development are dialectically unified and mutually reinforcing. The construction of ecological civilization and the promotion of green and low-carbon circular development can not only meet the people’s growing demand for a beautiful ecological environment, but also promote the realization of higher quality, more efficiency, and more Fair, more sustainable, and safer development, and a civilized development path featuring production development, affluent life, and good ecology.”
The Chinese media emphasized your role in this: “General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important exposition on the construction of ecological civilization, with a lofty purpose, rich connotation, and profound thinking, is for us to deeply understand the significance of the construction of ecological civilization, fully and accurately implement the new development concept, and correctly handle the relationship between economic development and ecological environmental protection.”
On another occasion you ‘profoundly’ stated: “Humans and nature are the community of life, and humans must respect, conform to, and protect nature. Heaven and earth live side by side, and everything is one …When mankind makes rational use of nature and protects nature in a friendly manner, nature’s rewards are often generous; when mankind develops disorderly and rudely plunders nature, nature’s punishment must be ruthless. Human damage to nature will ultimately hurt mankind. This is an irresistible law.”
Hundreds of millions on this planet agree with this.
It is why I can’t understand the announcement in The Global Times in December 2020 that your government was planning to build a cascade of mega hydropower plants (HPP) on the Yarlung Tsangpo: “The head of Power Construction Corp of China (POWERCHINA) suggested the planned hydropower station – which is expected to have three times as much generating capacity as the world-leading Three Gorges power station – aims to maintain water resources and domestic security.”
The information was confirmed by the administration of Metok County (of Nyingchi City); the project would be built north of the Indian border; a series of nine hydropower plants in cascade, which will threaten the life of India’s entire North-East region.
This would create unbelievable havoc not only in Pemakoe, the sacred Tibetan realm in the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo, but also downstream in Arunachal Pradesh (that you call ‘Southern Tibet’), Assam and Bangladesh. You are certainly aware that it is the most seismic area of the planet.
What will you achieve by going ahead with such a project?
You will certainly earn bad will from your neighbours while creating more anger, distrust, without speaking of the risk of a confrontation with India.
The Tibetan Issue
Mr Chairman, I am sure that you remember what your father, the respected Xi Zhongxun, wrote in The People’s Daily on February 20, 1989 after the untimely death of the revered Tenth Panchen Lama.
Your father condoled the death of the Tibetan leader: “Buddhist Master Panchen Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen died suddenly due to a heart ailment. The Chinese Communist Party has lost a loyal friend, and I have lost a colleague and intimate friend of 40 years standing.”
In the Panchen Lama’s obituary, your father noted “Over the past 40 years, the Panchen Lama and I established a deep friendship. Prior to his trip to Tibet to dedicate a statue at Tashilunpo Monastery, he took time to bid farewell to me and presented me with a khata (ceremonial silk scarf). It was his long-established habit to bid farewell to me when he left on trips, and to have a heart-to-heart talk with me when he returned. I knew him well. He was very enthusiastic, easily excited, and when he was working he could barely control his emotions. I advised him that because there was a severe lack of oxygen in this season in Tibet, he must be careful of his health, not get short-tempered, and that he should balance work and rest. He told me that he would die happy once his project was completed. I told him that Buddha didn’t want him to go yet, nor did Marx want him to go.”
That was the last time your father met the Tenth Panchen Lama.
In his long obituary, after mentioning the difficulties that both (him and the Panchen Lama) went through during the Cultural Revolution, your father wrote: “After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Communist Party Congress in 1978, the Panchen Lama and I reunited. When old friends meet, all kinds of feelings well up. When the Panchen Lama saw me, he said uneasily: Because of my ‘70,000-Character Petition’ I got you in trouble, I’m very sorry for that. I answered: No one got anyone in trouble. We all got physically tempered, endured challenges and increased our experience. The Communist Party understands you.”
At that time, we all hoped for a new China under reformist leaders like your father. Unfortunately, it has not yet happened, especially for Tibetans and the Uyghurs.
Your father had concluded: “I grieve the sudden death of the Panchen Lama, I hope that he is reincarnated. We must complete …make new contributions to a united, prosperous and civilized socialist new Tibet, and to the common prosperity of all ethnic groups.”
Today, the opposite is happening. It is difficult to understand why.
You must be realizing that the Tibetan question has been sullying the image of People’s Republic for 70 years now. Why can’t you find a durable solution agreeable to all, it would be a win-win outcome.
The Dalai Lama is a sincere leader. Do you think that you can find a better interlocutor to bring about a radical change in the relations between Hans and Tibetans? I don’t think so.
I could, of course, mention several other issues, but it is better to leave at that today.
Mr Chairman, I feel that China has lost (or is losing) a golden opportunity to play a respectable place in the world, and this despite your vision of a shared future for humankind.
(This was first published Rediff.com on the occasion of Xi’s 68th birthday that coincided with the first anniversary of the Galwan incident)