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
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