Tag Archives: China

India should resurrect heroes of the Opium War

Dr G Shreekumar Menon

Delving deep into history unearths changing boundaries of nations, unheard of countries, empires and their conquerors. Boundaries of nations possess a fluidity of their own, often changing contours and dimensions for many reasons ranging from wars, natural disasters and international agreements. When any present- day nation, enthused by aggressive expansionist designs, cites ancient maps and trade routes, to justify brazen aggrandizement, then it becomes a grave threat to peace and harmony, everywhere. If instead of educating, History starts inspiring, then, Geography starts sketching and redrawing, causing irreparable havoc and damage.

Global memories are fresh of history inspired leaders like Hitler, Hirohito, Stalin, Mussolini, and many others who aspired to conquer continents but ended up inflicting misery and hardship on humanity.

The present Chinese dictator-premier Xi Jinping is another of those history inspired tyrants in the making. Having grandiose visions to “make China great again” and calling for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”, he has grand dreams of conquering many countries that lie beyond the borders of China. His designs on India, for the present, envisions annexing the stretch from Ladakh to Sikkim. Singapore’s modern day architect Lee Kuan Yew had with great perspicacity warned “Watch this man.” History has pumped in him an avariciousness that gives him an unbounded greed and robust determination to annex neighbouring countries and territories.

The continuing standoff on the Himalayas between Chinese and Indian armed forces is adequate proof of his intransigence and commitment to create a conflagration, to claim opaque borders and vast swathes of land, which he perceives, belonged in the remote past, to his ancestors. But we need to show him that there are many other chapters from the pages of History, that speak about the “century of humiliation” that his nation underwent, at the hands of Indian and British forces. Xi Jinping needs to inhale the chemistry of Indian Opium, pungent, having a distinctive ammonia like odour. Xi’s ancestors had smoked, drunk and inhaled Indian Opium, thereafter reeled and swooned into despair and agony. His amassed troops on the Himalayas maybe ignorant of the travails that Indian soldiers, traders, farmers, merchants and loaders had inflicted on the Chinese empire. Indians and their ‘plant of joy’ (opium) had humbled and crumbled the Qing Dynasty.

Time to open the scarred pages of history and read the events that unfurled from 1839 to 1949.

Biased writers of History, often make a claim that there was no nation known as India then but we all know there was this land called Bharat. ‘Bharatvarsha’ is the term used in the Holy Vedas, Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata to refer to the Indian subcontinent. The traders, merchants and soldiers who lived in this geographical space had in the recent past inflicted a crushing defeat on the Chinese empire, which rattles the Chinese to this day.

It was the East India Company which realised the potential of Opium to create an illicit market in China and enslave entire China. What resulted was the most unimaginable subjugation of an entire population in human history. A ‘foreign weed’ as the Chinese would call Opium with derision, spelt the doomsday for the Chinese empire. This was made possible by ordinary Indian traders who rose to become extraordinary businessmen. We hardly read about them in our distorted history books, our children are never taught about them, general knowledge books never refer to them, in civil service examinations, guides and study materials there is no reference whatsoever to them, Business schools have not heard of them, politicians are ignorant about them, economists never get to study about them. There are no memorials for them, India’s great success icons remain total strangers to Indians. India has to resurrect its great heroes and bring them to the limelight, their heroism, valour, and success need to be celebrated and glorified.

The biggest Indian Opium trader of those times was Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, a Parsi entrepreneur. His Opium trade with China resulted in a long trading partnership with the Canton based company Jardine Matheson & Co. Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy & Company, founded 200 years ago in September 1818, pioneered the Opium trade. He took as partners the Gujarati Jain Motichund Amichund, the Konkani Muslim Mohammed Ali Rogay and, later, the Goan Catholic Roger de Faria. A tribute to their connection exists even today in a portrait of Jeejeebhoy which hangs in Jardine Matheson & Co’s Hong Kong office. Jeejeebhoy’s services were first recognised by the British Empire in 1842 by the bestowal of a knighthood and in 1857 by the award of a Baronetcy. These were the very first distinctions of their kind conferred by Queen Victoria upon a subject living in India. The British wrecked China’s economy with the help of intrepid Indian merchants. The supreme naval power of Britain actively collaborated in the most massive Opium contraband smuggling rackets in history, and waged war against China on behalf of a group of Indian drug lords. Such things are beyond imagination now.

Another great name in the Opium trade is that of David Sassoon. He established the house of David Sassoon & Co., with branches at Calcutta, Shanghai, Canton, and Hong Kong; and his business, which included a monopoly of the opium-trade, extended as far as Yokohama, Nagasaki, and other cities in Japan.

The Jewish Encyclopaedia of 1905, states that Sassoon expanded his opium trade into China and Japan. He placed his eight sons in charge of the various major opium exchanges in China. Sassoon’s sons astutely expanded the Opium trade into Canton, China. It is estimated that during 1830 – 1831 Sassoon traded nearly 18,956 chests of opium earning millions of dollars. Part of the profits went to Queen Victoria and the British government. In the year 1836 the trade increased to over 30,000 chests and drug addiction in coastal cities of China became endemic and uncontrollable.

In 1839, the Manchu Emperor ordered that the Opium trade be halted. He ordered the Commissioner of Canton, Lin Tse-hsu, to lead a campaign against opium. Lin seized 2,000 chests of Sassoon’s Opium and threw it into the river. An outraged David Sassoon demanded that Great Britain retaliate militarily. Thus, the Opium Wars began with the British Army fighting as mercenaries of the Sassoon’s!

The First Opium War was fought from March 18, 1839 to August 29, 1842 and British historians glorified it as the First Anglo-Chinese War, though in reality it should have been called as First British-India Allied Forces versus China Opium War. There is no recognition for India and the contributions of Indian soldiers and traders. As a result of the war, Britain won trading rights, access to five treaty ports, and Hong Kong. The Chinese Army, high on opium addiction, was routed by the British Army, which comprised of several Indian Military regiments. British Commander, Major General Sir Hugh Gough led the battalions comprising of:

•1st company Madras Rifles,
•2nd Madras Native Infantry,
•6th Madras Native Infantry,
•14th Madras Native Infantry,
•The Bengal Army

The unit of the Madras Foot Artillery was awarded the honour title “Dragon”, as the Unit captured a Chinese Dragon Cannon.

The war culminated in 1842 with the signing of “The Treaty of Nanking”. This included special clauses inserted to guarantee the Sassoons the right to trade Opium in China absolutely unhindered. Britain launched the Opium Wars to give the Sassoons exclusive rights to drug an entire nation! David Sassoo and his sons came to be known as “The Rothschilds of The Far East” for their complete monopoly over the opium trade.

This great entrepreneur deserves a meritorious recognition for his dynamic handling and arm-twisting of both, China and Britain. No other entrepreneur of yesteryears or of modern times can emulate his feat, yet he remains unrecognised in India. No Business School, Management Institution, Civil Services Academy, eulogises or teaches his business acumen and strategy.

The Second British-India Allied Forces versus China Opium War enabled Britain to secure Southern Kowloon and other Western powers got extraterritorial rights and trade privileges.

China’s fabled Summer Palace Yuanmingyuan was completely destroyed by Indian forces. Four brigades of Indian Infantry:

•Sikh Regiment
•Madras Regiment
•Bombay Native Infantry
•The Ludhiana Rifles
took part in the sacking of the Summer Palace, Yuanmingyuan, – the imperial summer palace of the Qing Dynasty.

David Sassoon died in his country house in Pune in 1864. His business interests were inherited by his son Sir Albert Sassoon. Some of the prominent institutions built by David Sassoon and his family are:
•David Sassoon Library & reading room, Fort Mumbai
•Magen David Synagogue, Byculla, Mumbai
•Jacob Sassoon High School, Byculla, Mumbai
•E.E.E. Sassoon High School, Byculla, Mumbai
•David Sassoon Hospital, JJ Hospital
Premises, Byculla, Mumbai
•Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai
•Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue, Colaba, Mumbai
•Sassoon Dock, Colaba, Mumbai
•Elphinstone Technological School, Parel, Mumbai
• Contributed generously for constructing the Gateway of India
•The Bank of India, Fort (head office), Mumbai
•The David Sassoon Reformary and Deaf School, Matunga, Mumbai
•Sassoon Hospital, Pune
•Lady Rachel Sassoon Dispensary, Pune
•David Sassoon Vriddha Ashram, Pune

David Sassoon had made two great empires – British and Chinese to completely dance to his tunes. How many drug lords of today can claim such astounding power and influence?

Would it not be appropriate to name a missile and a military base after David Sassoon? Pakistan is naming their nuclear missiles as Babur, Ghaznavi, and other names of Islamic invaders, to psychologically intimidate India.

We need to take a leaf out of their book. If we name a missile as ‘Sassoon’ the enemy across the Himalayas would experience excruciating shame, explaining to their present and posterity how one Opium trader humiliated and crushed the mighty Chinese empire. It would be a constant reminder to China, about their bête noire, who once brought them to utter ruination. Incidentally, the Opium Wars are also known as the ‘Sassoon Opium Wars’! Can any of the present-day dons anywhere else in the world claim such a privilege?

One of the most prominent British traders, engaged in Opium trafficking was a company named Jardine, Matheson & Co, which owned two ships, named, ‘Mangalore’ and ‘Carnatic’. Yes, the ship sported the name of the picturesque seaport town of Karnataka State, ‘Mangalore’. No other city in India enjoyed this distinction. But, most unfortunately not a single warship or submarine of the Indian Navy is sporting this name. On July 7th 1839, these two ships landed in Kowloon loaded with Opium. The Boatswain of the ship ‘Mangalore’ was one Thomas Tidder. A group of sailors consumed a local rice liquor known as samshu, and thereafter in a drunken brawl killed a local named Lin Weixi in the village ofTsim Sha Tsui. This event culminated in TheBattle of Kowloon (which was fought between British and Chinese ships off Kowloon, on 4th September 1839, and has been called “the first shot of the First Opium War”).

Indian Naval ships are participating in maritime exercises along with other nations in the South China Seas. If one Indian warship or submarine sports the name ‘Mangalore’, the Chinese would be rattled by bitter memories of the Opium Wars.

Another great name in the Opium trade is that of Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (R.D. Tata, 1856–1926) the Indian businessman who played a pivotal role in the growth of the Tata Group. Under the name Tata & Co, Ratanji was trading in Opium in China. Ratanji also played an important role in the completion of the Tata Steel Project in Jamshedpur. These great stalwarts shook the mighty Chinese empire using a simple plant! Should India not resurrect these great icons to inspire our youth and demoralise the Chinese? Let the youth learn that wars are not just won by armies alone, sometimes traders, farmers, and merchants can create amazing war stories. Opium Wars are not just success stories for Indian and British armies, but also for the humble Indian farmers, traders and merchants. It is indeed the ‘plant of joy’ for all Indians.

While on the topic of Opium Wars, the invasion of Lhasa, capital of Tibet, by Indian forces under the leadership of Colonel Francis Younghusband cannot be overlooked.

The British expedition to Tibet, also known as the ‘Younghusband Expedition’, began in December 1903 and lasted until September 1904. Tibet, then ruled by the Dalai Lama under the Ganden Phodrang government was a Himalayan state under the suzerainty of the Chinese Qing dynasty.

Younghusband’s force included the 8th Gurkhas, 40th Pathans, 23rd and 32nd Sikh Pioneers, 19th Punjab Infantry, Royal Fusiliers, as well as mountain artillery, and engineers. The force also included Brigadier- General James Macdonald, and Lt-Col Herbert Brander. The Convention of Lhasa was concluded by Younghusband, the Regent, Ganden Tri Rinpoche, and the Tsongdu (Tibetan National Assembly), on 7 September 1904 at the Potala Palace. After Younghusband and his Indian troops left Lhasa, Chinese influence soared, planting theseeds of the 1950 invasion.
Reviving memories of Younghusband by naming some upcoming new Himalayan highway, airfield, or military encampment, can build psychological pressure on the Chinese.

Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow at Asian Studies Center, in his scholarly essay “Winning Without Fighting: The Chinese Psychological Warfare Challenge” says “At the moment, the PLA is not only planning foroperations on the physical battlefield; it is also preparing to conduct “political warfare,” including what is termed the “three warfares”: public opinion warfare, legal warfare, and psychological warfare.

Psychological warfare is in some ways the most far-reaching of the “three warfares.” It involves the application of specialized information and media in accordance with a strategic goal and in support of political and military objectives. Such efforts are aimed at a variety of potential audiences and usually involve operational missions against an opponent’s psychology and cognitive capacities”.

India should also embark on a sustained psychological warfare by naming the many infrastructural projects coming up on the border areas after our great heroes of the Opium Wars, and the Tibet invasion.

India needs to resurrect its heroes of history, whose exploits have been kept under wraps and foreign invaders glorified in order to psychologically enslave millions of Indians.

The author Dr G Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Rtd) Ph. D (Narcotics), is

  • Former Director General National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics, and Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India
  • Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA.
  • Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA 
  • Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.
  • AOTS Scholar, Japan

Dr G Shreekumar Menon can be contacted at shreemenon48@gmail.com

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh dedicates to the Nation renovated Rezang La Memorial at Chushul in Ladakh

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  • Courage & sacrifice of troops who defended Rezang La & surrounding areas in 1962, will always inspire future generations
  • Memorial is a tribute to our valiant Armed Forces & a symbol of our preparedness to protect the country’s integrity.
  • We will give a befitting reply to anyone who threatens our sovereignty & integrity
  • Memorial to bolster the feeling of nationalism & encourage tourism
  • We are committed to the welfare of Armed Forces personnel & their families

Chusul, Ladakh: Raksha Mantri (Defence Ministe) Rajnath Singh dedicated to the Nation renovated Rezang La Memorial at a solemn ceremony at Chushul in Ladakh on 18 November 2021.

The Memorial was constructed in 1963 in the Chushul plains, at an altitude of over 15,000 feet, right at the India-China border to honour the troops of Charlie Company of 13 KUMAON Regiment that on 18 November 1962 had defended Rezang La and the surrounding areas located at over 16,500 feet on the Kailash Ranges in Eastern Ladakh.

The decision to renovate the Memorial was taken by Shri Rajnath Singh when he had visited Leh in June 2021. In a major upgradation exercise, the renovation of the Memorial commenced in mid-July and the complex was ready within three months for inauguration on the 59th anniversary of the battle.

The Raksha Mantri paid homage to the gallant Indian soldiers who fought the Battle of Rezang La and laid wreath at the Memorial. In his address, he said, the courage and sacrifice of the Charlie Company will always inspire future generations, describing the Rezang La memorial as an epitome of the passion, determination and fearless spirit of the bravehearts of the country.

“The renovation of the memorial is not only a tribute to our valiant Armed Forces, but also a symbol of the fact that we are fully prepared to protect the integrity of the nation. This monument symbolises the Government’s stand of giving a befitting reply to anyone who threatens our sovereignty and integrity,” said Shri Rajnath Singh.

The Raksha Mantri also lauded the Indian soldiers, who continue to carry forward the valour & patriotism of the fallen heroes and protect the country fearlessly. Reaffirming the Government’s commitment of the welfare of the Armed Forces personnel and their families, he assured them of all possible support to fulfill their needs.

Shri Rajnath Singh appreciated that the renovation of the memorial was carried out on the lines of a national-level memorial without compromising with the original structure and sentiments attached to it. He said, the renovated memorial will attract people from within the country & abroad; bolster the feeling of nationalism and encourage tourism. He congratulated all those who worked tirelessly in harsh conditions for the renovation of the monument.

It was a saga of unparalleled bravery as Major Shaitan Singh and 113 soldiers had made the supreme sacrifice, fighting one of the world’s rarest ‘last man, last bullet’ battles. Major Shaitan Singh was bestowed with the Nation’s highest gallantry award, the Param Veer Chakra, posthumously. The entire project of Rezang La Memorial was spearheaded by the troops of Chushul Brigade, the very same formation under which the Armed Forces had defended the entire Ladakh sector in 1962.

The renovated complex includes a double-storied museum, a mini-theatre to screen a special documentary on the battle, a large helipad and various other tourist amenities. The Rezang La Memorial, located very close to the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, is set to become a major tourist attraction in the coming years.

Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh Shri RK Mathur, Member of Parliament from Ladakh Shri Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen CP Mohanty, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command Lieutenant General YK Joshi and other military officials were present on the inauguration of renovated Rezang La Memorial. Those associated with 13 KUMAON, including Brigadier RV Jatar (Retd) who had participated in the battle as a Captain; Major Shaitan Singh’s son Shri Narpat Singh Bhati & the family of the then Commanding Officer of 13 KUMAON, Lt Col HS Dhingra and other veterans also attended the event and were felicitated.

India needs to prepare a blueprint for Tibetan Independence

Dr G Shreekumar Menon

Tibetans have always been good warriors, in the 1950s-60s, the Khampa freedom fighters gave a nightmare to Chinese generals for years. There are now persistent reports that the PLA has started recruiting “exclusive military formations of ethnic Tibetans”. India should not restrict itself to just a single regiment of Tibetans. We need to raise a full-fledged army of young Tibetan men and women, who need to be trained to be the first flank of aggression against the Chinese. Similarly, Tibetans need to be trained to become pilots and handle the latest flying machines. We also need to train them to become Intelligence operatives, in policing and most important, groom the brightest in political administration and to
become bureaucrats.

Khampa warrior

A 1,200-year-old Tibetan Buddhist prophecy of ’The Shambhala Warrior’ predicts ‘that there will come a time when all life on Earth will be in danger. During that time great barbarian forces will have arisen which have unfathomable destructive power. New and unforeseen technologies will appear during this time, with the potential to lay waste the world’.

When we see the world around us, it becomes apparent that many nations have developed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), which can be nuclear, biological, radiological, and chemical. The destructive power accumulated in the form of nuclear weapons is sufficient to destroy all forms of life many times over.

The current Corona virus afflicting all countries is cited as an example of biological warfare, caused deliberately or accidentally. Speculations are rife that China has a role in propagating the virus, but concrete proof is lacking. Another fast-developing segment is the global hypersonic and directed-energy weapons (DEW’s) or what is also referred to as ‘New Concept Weapons’.

The Chinese also refer to such high technology weapons as ‘Assassin’s Mace’, which was a club used by a Chinese folklore hero named Shashoujian, who overwhelmed enemies by attacking in unexpected ways. Other destructive weapons in the offing are hand-held laser weapons and microwave weapons. One Chinese academic, namely Jin Canrong, the Deputy Dean of the School of International Relations of the Renmin University of China, made a startling claim in a TV program telecasted on November 11, saying that Chinese PLA soldiers had used directed energy weapons (laser weapons) against Indian soldiers during the skirmishes at the Ladakh border in 2020.  He had claimed that Chinese soldiers turned two key hilltops at the border into a “microwave oven”, forcing Indian troops to retreat. However, India has denied reports that Chinese forces at the LAC used microwave weapons against Indian troops in eastern Ladakh. With such formidable weapons on the anvil, the Shambala Prophecy is gaining in credibility, but will a Free Tibet ever become a reality? Do the Tibetans ever stand a chance against Chinese diabolical weapons and massive army manpower?

Compounding the problem is the critical observation by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Edward Younghusband, British army officer and explorer who wrote to his father; “As I have always said, the Tibetans are nothing but sheep.” 

Further, dampening the Tibetan prospects of freedom is the candid statement by American President, in the context of American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, that “Afghan leaders have to come
together,” Biden told reporters at the White House, saying the Afghan troops outnumber the Taliban and must want to fight. “They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation” (Reuters August 11 th 2021).

The same logic will apply for Tibetans also. But the Tibetans have no leader to lead a freedom struggle nor any blueprint for gaining independence. While the vast majority of Tibetans eke out their living selling trinkets and wool in different countries, other small groups of Tibetans, supported by Hollywood stars in America, carry banners proclaiming “Free Tibet”protesting against visiting Chinese dignitaries.

Freedom can never be won so easily. As former U.S. President Ronald Reagan had put it “A small nation, faced with the denial of its sovereignty – indeed of its very existence –reminded us that the price of freedom is high but never so costly as the loss of freedom.”

On October 8 2021, Chinese soldiers attempted an incursion along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh, near Yangtse in the Tawang sector. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of Southern Tibet, and has designs to invade that area.

On August 3 2021, nearly 100 PLA soldiers with 55 horses intruded over 5 km into Uttarakhand’s Barahoti District, crossing Tun Jun La Pass, stayed in the area for over three hours, damaging some infrastructure, including a bridge.

During his visit to Ladakh, in October 2021, the Indian Army Chief, disclosed that Chinese Army had deployed its troops in considerable numbers all across Eastern Ladakh and Northern Front right up to the Eastern Command.

While India has also deployed its troops in adequate numbers, there is also a need to galvanize the Tibetans into action, for it is their homeland that needs to be liberated from Chinese clutches. American President Joe Biden’s advise to the Afghans that “They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation”, holds equally good for the Tibetans. Their war for independence cannot be outsourced to India, they have to revolt and overthrow the Chinese from their lands.

The Shambala warrior’s war cry ‘Ki ki So So’ is a way to rouse the head and shoulders, a method to rouse a sense of uplifted dignity. It is a battle cry against aggression, and conquering aggression. It is a warrior’s cry that celebrates victory over war, victory over aggression, and victory over obstacles. The onerous responsibility of fighting for freedom should rest with the famed Tibetan Khampa warriors.

Khampas, the legendary and fierce warriors of Tibet, are the inhabitants of Kham a rugged mountainous area comprising of Hengduan mountains and several river valleys in Tibet. This region is referred to in Tibetan history as “Chushi Gangdruk” which means the land of six mountains and four rivers. In early 1957, a centralised armed resistance was organised under the leadership of Gompo Tashi Andrugtsang, and named ‘Chushi Gangdruk’ which in mid-1958, was transformed into an all-Tibet force, and named National Volunteer Defence Army (NVDA).

However, the Khampa warriors are known more popularly as ‘Chushi Gangdruk’. They are also referred to as ‘Buddha Warriors’ and were entrusted with the task of protecting His Holiness Dalai Lama even at the cost of their lives. Like many other martial races in different parts of the world, the Khampa warriors were expected to dedicate their life to defending their land till their last blood drop.

When the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950, the Khampa warriors had put up stiff resistance against the Chinese forces by resorting to guerrilla warfare tactics. Impressed, the CIA took up the responsibility to back the Khampa warriors with arms, funding and training them in guerrilla warfare from the late 1950s until 1969. The initial set of warriors were flown to the US and were trained in Camp Hale in Colorado, and in the Pacific Island of Saipan. Later, the training shifted to a region called Mustang, which was a remote Himalayan area bordering Tibet but geographically located in Nepal.

Hence the initial batches of trained Khampas were also known as “Mustang Warriors”. Though they tasted initial success, Chinese pressure on Nepal resulted in the complete wiping out of the Khampas. Till early 1969 the CIA supported the Khampas but thereafter support was suddenly withdrawn, for some inexplicable reason, presumably it no longer served American interests. The Nepalese also played spoilsport by massacring thousands of Khampa warriors.

In the aftermath to the disastrous Indo-China conflict in 1962, there was a consensus among Indian politicians and Army professionals for the need to raise a force of Tibetans to attack the Chinese Army from within Tibet. An initiative set rolling under the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon and Lt. Gen B.N. Kaul.

Thus, was born the Special Frontier Force (SFF) under Major General S.S. Uban. Director, Intelligence Bureau B.N. Mullick, and the then Odisha Chief Minister Biju Patnaik also played key roles in setting up the Special Frontier Forces.

After the 1962 Sino-Indian border war, Ratuk Ngawang commanded the Tibetan secret regiment, known as the Special Frontier Forces, SSF, or Establishment 22, based near Dehra Dun in Uttar Pradesh.

In the recent confrontation in eastern Ladakh in 2020, it was the Tibetan troops serving with the Indian Army who successfully fought against the Chinese.

The question of Tibetans’ recruitment in the PLA has become acute for the Central Military Commission (CMC-China) after Nyima Tenzin, a Tibetan officer, sacrificed his life during an Indian Army operation to take control of the Kailash range on the southern bank of Pangong Tso (lake) in Ladakh on August 29, 2020. On the night of August 29-30, Tibetan commandos managed to capture from the Chinese a string of strategic high-altitude areas on the Kailash range. It was a resounding victory for India. It was only then that many nations around the world discovered the existence of the Special Frontier Force (SFF) Tibetan troops, also known as Establishment 22 or Vikas Regiment.

Tibetans have always been good warriors, in the 1950s-60s, the Khampa freedom fighters gave a nightmare to Chinese generals for years. There are now persistent reports that the PLA has started recruiting “exclusive military formations of ethnic Tibetans”. India should not restrict itself to just a single regiment of Tibetans. We need to raise a full-fledged army of young Tibetan men and women, who need to be trained to be the first flank of aggression against the Chinese. Similarly, Tibetans need to be trained to become pilots and handle the latest flying machines. We also need to train them to become Intelligence operatives, in policing and most important, groom the brightest in political administration and to become bureaucrats. The Tibetans wandering in India, selling rugs and carpets will not be able to secure independence by just dreaming. They need an action plan, and India needs to prepare a blueprint for Tibetan independence.

Dr G Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Rtd) Ph. D (Narcotics), is Former Director General National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics, & Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India,
Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA.
Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA. 
Fellow, Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.
AOTS Scholar, Japan

Chinese managed Hambantota Port of Sri Lanka: Emerging new threat for India

Dr G Shreekumar Menon

Hambantota Port

The recent acquisition of the Hambantota port by China, opens up a new flank to pressurise India. Southern India faces the prospects of a Chinese attack, in any future Indo-China conflict. If Himalayas, representing the head of India, where the Chinese have been continually doing hair-cutting, Hambantota will be the place from where they will henceforth perform regular foot-massage.  Nothing could be more discomforting, if we consider the military and strategic assets located in Southern part of India. 

The strategically located Hambantota International Port has been handed over to China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port) on a 99-year lease by the Sri Lankan government with a payment of US$1.12 billion as the island nation couldn’t pay back the funding capital debt to China.

China’s String of Pearls

Hambantota is close to the Asian and European international shipping routes, Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca. These sea routes through Hambantota are used by about 36,000 ships, including 4,500 oil tankers. The port saves about three days of sailing time and fuel.

The strategic value of this port for the Chinese is immense. Hitherto the Indo-China conflicts have been focussed on the Indo-Tibetan-China border, which is about 3440 Kms long, having mountainous terrain, rivers, lakes and snow-caps which keep shifting periodically adding to the opacity of the international border. Bhutan and Nepal also face border issues with China but are in no position to challenge the Chinese effrontery. The recent acquisition of the Hambantota port by China, opens up a new flank to pressurise India. Southern India faces the prospects of a Chinese attack, in any future Indo-China conflict. If Himalayas, representing the head of India, where the Chinese have been continually doing hair-cutting, Hambantota will be the place from where they will henceforth perform regular foot-massage.  Nothing could be more discomforting, if we consider the military and strategic assets located in Southern part of India. 

The scope of this article is being focussed only on Tamilnadu and Kerala, as these are going to be the new frontline States to confront the next wave of Chinese interference. Hambantota port is just 290 miles or about 450 kilometres, from India’s southern tip – Kanyakumari.

 Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) which is the largest nuclear power station in India, is situated in Koodankulam in the Tirunelveli district of the state of Tamil Nadu. The distance from Hambantota would be within just 500 kilometres.

INS Kattabomman the premier communication establishment, of the Indian Navy is located at South Vijayanarayanam, near Tirunelveli. The 3000-acre base enclosed in a 22 km perimeter wall hosts the VLF transmitting grid, which is the only one of its kind in the country. The distance from Hambantota would be again within the 500 kilometres range.

In addition to the above Tamilnadu hosts other Naval establishments at Chennai, Uchipuli, and Arakkonam.

Thanjavur Air Force Station of the Indian Air Force is located in Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, and is home to No. 222 squadron of the IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft. In addition, there is the Tambaram Air Force Station at Chennai.

Sulur Air Force Station located at Sulur near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, is India’s second largest air base after Hindon AFS. It is the air-base which is responsible for protection of India’s sea area. The second squadron of the indigenous Tejas Mk-1 fighter aircraft has been operationalised at Sulur.

The Wellington Cantonment at Nilgiris is home to The Madras Regimental Centre and The Defence Services Staff College.  

There are four Ordnance factories in Tamilnadu, including the famous Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), at Avadi, Chennai.

The prestigious Officers Training Academy (OTA) of the Indian Army that train officers for the Short Service Commission is located at Chennai.

India’s first Defence Corridor is fast taking shape in the   cities – Salem, Hosur and Trichy, all part of the planned defence corridor linking Chennai and Bengaluru – companies currently engaged in making textiles, automobile parts and engineering goods are diversifying into defence manufacturing.

Madras Atomic Power Station

Madras Atomic Power Station located at Kalpakkam about 80 kilometres south of Chennai, is a comprehensive nuclear power production, fuel reprocessing, and waste treatment facility that includes plutonium fuel fabrication for fast breeder reactors.

Kerala’s capital city Thiruvananthapuram is just 528 kilometres from Hambantota. India’s premier space establishment ISRO and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) are located here as also the Southern Air Command of the Indian Air Force. The IAF’s 17th Forward Base Support Unit (FBSU) oversees the Indian Ocean from the Straits of Malacca to that of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest sea routes. It also houses a maritime strike squadron- a fleet of Brahmos equipped Sukhoi- 30 MKI.

The 91st Infantry Brigade is based at Thiruvananthapuram. The country’s first amphibious brigade took shape here.

The Brahmos Aerospace, at Thiruvananthapuram manufactures certain critical parts of the Brahmos missiles.

Up north at Kochi is the Southern Naval Command INS Venduruthy. INS Garuda the Naval air station is also based here. Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) is the largest shipbuilding and maintenance facility in India. Currently it is building the 45,000 tonne aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

The Naval Armament Depot (NAD) is based at Alwaye near Kochi.

Kochi is 689 kilometres away from Hambantota.

Further north, Kannur is home to Defence Security Corps, which is responsible for providing security cover to the defence installations of the three services. It is the sixth largest corps of the Army.

Kerala has four functional international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Calicut and Kannur.

Just on the northern border of Kerala, Mangalore and Udupi in Karnataka State is where the underground strategic crude oil storages are located.

The naval base INS Dweeprakshak is located at Kavaratti island in the Lakshadweep archipelago. 

The above two Southern States of India – Tamilnadu and Kerala, will be within short striking range from Hambantota, if China decides to locate offensive weaponry in the port. All defence and strategic assets located in these two States will be under constant Chinese surveillance, and any conflagration up North will henceforth have repercussions deep down South.

That Sri Lanka would sell Hambantota Port to the Chinese would never have occurred to our defence planners and strategists. This move by China to buy up assets of countries that have fallen into its debt trap opens a new dimension in international relations. This scenario is going to get replicated in different parts of the globe. What would America do if the Chinese went on an asset buying spree in impoverished Latin American countries?

How have things gravitated to this extent of China buying up assets of other countries? We have heard of Gulf countries buying up entertainment companies, iconic hotels and supermarket chains in the West, China also is doing this. But, buying up strategic ports and other installations will dramatically change the power equation. Next it will be airports or even defence establishments. Poor countries caught in China’s debt trap have no option. This is the same strategy that East India Company adopted to annexe kingdoms in India.  

The new master strategist is Chinese premier Xi Jinping, and he is not far away from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, nestling at the feet of Bharat Mata.

How do we counter this new threat? XI Jinping is no ordinary leader, he has a dream in his eyes, a design in his mind, a lethal gameplan up his sleeve and most important, unfettered by any political constraints. Contrast this with India’s democracy fitted with multiple retro rockets – belligerent and non-cooperative Opposition, antiquated justice delivery system, under-performing bureaucracy, a plethora of NGO’s working constantly against the government, negative and biased media, and an assortment of Rights groups whose avowed policy is to belittle the nation. How then to tackle a powerful adversary like Xi Jinping? A military solution is simply ruled out. How do we avert a catastrophe, yet eliminate the Chinese threat?

Xi Jinping and his comrades, constantly rummage through Chinese history for inspiration and motivation to keep their country surging ahead. More than 5000 years of the country’s history is preserved assiduously and taught to instil pride in the Chinese people. A galaxy of heroes is constantly remembered, prominent being General Yue Fei, Mulan a woman warrior, brilliant General Han Xin, Lady Mu Guiying, Sun Tzu, Admiral Zheng He, and Mao Zedong, amongst others. Contrast this with India’s history which glorifies invaders, foreigners, while relegating local heroes. How many Indian war heroes do our school and college texts even mention? But the crisis facing us now is how do we tackle an adversary surcharged with stories of past valour and glory and itching to repeat them? 

Let us also draw inspiration and motivation from our ancestors, who handled crisis situations very deftly and with unparalleled ingenuity.

Wind back all the way to 327 BC, when the unbeaten young conqueror, Alexander the Great, began his conquest of India. At the border of the then Bharat Varsha, his philosophical encounter with a learned, naked Brahmin Saint known as Dandamis (possibly Greek rendering of Dandi-Swami), took place at Takshila. The philosophical discourse that took place between them is recorded by the Greeks as the famous Alexander-Dandamis colloquy. The Saint changed the entire perspective of the Warrior, and he retreated back to Greece. As prophesied by Saint Dandamis, Alexander died enroute to Greece, at the age of 33. How a single naked sage, just by engaging in a philosophical dialogue with a dreaded conqueror, changed the course of History, it can happen only in India. But, unfortunately, our doctored History books for students skip this landmark incident.

The First Opium War (1839-42) witnessed the clash of British-Indian forces against the Qing Dynasty of China represented by Emperor Daoguang. On the British side was the shrewd businessman William Jardine, and Lord Palmerston Foreign Secretary of Great Britain. They identified the Opium Poppy Plant to become the bete noire of China. Subsequently, the Second Opium War (1856-1860) was fought between China versus Britain-France-India combine. The Opium Poppy Plant caused the ruination of China, which to this day refers to the period as ‘Century of Humiliation’. Our doctored History lessons do not mention the role of 1 Company Madras Rifles, 2nd Madras Native Infantry, 6th Madras Native Infantry, 14th Madras Native Infantry and the Bengal Army which fought in the First Opium War, and the Sikh Regiment, Madras Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry, and the Ludhiana Rifles that fought the Second Opium War.  The Opium Poppy plant of India decimated the Chinese Qing dynasty, and gifted them their unforgettable ‘Century of Humiliation’. But, our doctored History text books for students will never mention this. 

The great Chola King, Rajendra Chola had a formidable naval fleet of around one thousand ships, and was in full control of Indian and Sri Lankan coastlines. It was the largest navy in Asia. All ships passing through the Indian Ocean had to pay taxes to the Chola Empire. His empire held full sway over Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and up to Cambodia. His successor Surya Varma II built the Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu Temple in the world. How does India honour this great Naval Chieftain? There is not a single Indian warship named after him, not a single naval base named after him. We have such a great paucity for names that the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard has to be again named INS Vikrant. Contrast this with China who has built memorials for the great Chinese Admiral Zheng He, who commanded a flotilla of 317 ships and around 28,000 men, and used Calicut port in Kerala as a base. India is yet to understand the importance of inspiring coming generations, and celebrating its heroes.

Mahatma Gandhi, who took on the might of the British Empire with his unique non-cooperation movement, is often not interpreted properly. Gandhi realised that any armed uprising against the mighty British Empire. would never yield the desired results. He was inwardly conscious of the fact that Indians were slaves under a plethora of foreigners for centuries. Arabs, Turks, Persians, Mongols, Afghans, Central Asians, French, Portuguese, Dutch, and the British, had ruled brutally and destroyed all self-confidence and dignity in Indians. Slavery had come to be accepted as something inevitable for a pacifist people. To lead the slaves into an armed uprising would have been totally disastrous. Gandhi knew that if he ever attempted to lead an armed rebellion, he like many of his predecessors and contemporaries, would have to go to the Cellular jail in Andamans to face the gallows. It was a masterstroke of his to realise that what the slaves desired most was cessation from backbreaking toil and wretched labour. He exhorted to the slaves to cease all work, coined unique terms like ‘Hartal’, ‘Satyagraha’, and for the benefit of the Britishers told them that it meant ‘Non-cooperation’.  The Tuticorin Cigar addict Winston Churchill who was confronting the military might of the Germans and Japanese, had no idea what this “half-naked Fakir” was up to. The slaves simply loved the idea of just not working and the Empire where the sun never set, meekly accepted that the game was over. The British were defenceless and powerless before a simple phrase that Mahatma Gandhi borrowed from the Adi Parva of Mahabharata: ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’.

Xi Jinping

Premier Xi Jinping should be reminded that for his distant ancestors India was TIANZHU, meaning Heaven. How dare President Xi Jinping challenge Heaven? Heaven retaliates in a hundred thousand unknown ways, Mr. Xi Jinping.

Dr G Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Rtd) Ph. D (Narcotics),
Former Director General National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics, & Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India; Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA; Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA; 
Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A. AOTS Scholar, Japan

Edit Note:

China has this Belt and Road initiative which funds at next to nothing interest rate, and if the borrower defaults on payments, China has a right to lease the assets. China has similar arrangements with Fiji and is negotiating with Papua New Guinea as well. Unless other international countries match this, rest of the world is in trouble. China has said it is just doing what English and Europeans did