Reviews of Recent Books

Period: October - December 2018

Review Article 1

“Will tibet ever find her soul again? India tibet relations 1947-1962 part 2  

Claude Arpi

The title of the book contains prophetic words from the 1952 annual report of Maj Krishnatry, the Indian Trade Agent (ITA) at Gyantse, sent in 1953, when China was subjugating the Tibetan people and expanding their influence on the plateau and India had acquiesced that Tibet was not an independent nation.

        This is a brilliant book, extremely well researched with outstanding analysis of data and facts, simply articulated and easy to comprehend. It covers four years (1951-1954) of the overall period under research and analysis by the author of India Tibet Relations 1947-1962, and the role of China and India in the trajectory of the fate of the people of Tibet.  Multitudinous facts, data and details were unknown and hidden from the public for too long are now part of this excellent work. The author has done painstaking and commendable work in spite of some files, reports, correspondence and notings still undisclosed or unavailable.

        The book is enlightening and educative, illustrating the contrast in the approach of the two largest countries of Asia to real politic, one an expansionist power and the other seeking goodwill and a seat on the world stage with no power to impose its stature.

        Mao-Tse Tung moved the PLA to remote and inaccessible areas to enforce China’s strategic claim to outlying areas of Tibet and Xinjiang, including Aksai Chin of India. Whereas, Pandit Nehru firstly by accepting Tibet as part of China excluded a buffer state and secondly by maintaining the tribal identity of North East Frontier Agency(NEFA) brought about strategic unpreparedness. The dangers of communism were glossed over under the illusion that goodwill can bring peace and tranquility. With each event came indicators of things in store in the future. Closing of the Consulate at Kashgar and downgrading of the mission at Lhasa to Consulate, checking of Indian Trade Officers by People’s Liberation Army (PLA), ferreting out of two Indian nationals from the house of the mission chief at Lhasa, denial of access to areas visited by Indian Trade Agents traditionally in the past, unmistakably pointed to nefarious designs by China, these were missed under the friendship syndrome. The supply of rice to PLA through Indian ports and territory allowed faster and greater deployment of troops close to areas for Chinese strategic designs. Feeding your own potential adversary can only be called catastrophic at the least.

        The decision by the Governor of Assam to send officials to far flung areas of NEFA and eliminate the influence of Tibetan monasteries and tax collectors ensured NEFA was brought under the rule of Indian constitution, Maj Bob Kathing and many others being the pioneers in the assimilation. This coupled with the deployment of devoted officers to far flung areas integrated these areas with India, these unsung heroes sacrificing comfortable lifestyles to work for the country.

        The decision to cede Tibet to China because of anti-colonial mindset and abhorrence of imposition of unequal treaties by the British Empire brought the Chinese dragon to India’s borders. This approach deprived India of its locus standi on the McMahon Line and the previous treaty obligations of 1896, 1904, 1906, and 1914. China exploited these voids to deny India in Tibet it’s customary, historical and usage rights in vogue over the centuries.

        The village of  Minsar including Mount Kailash and Mansarovar were part of J&K state vide the treaty of 1684.This territory was gifted to China without a claim or discussion of Indian sovereignty. The extent of trade between West Tibet and India is another feature unknown to Indians as also the good work done by the ITA at Gartok, unfortunately all curtailed by the Chinese through the Panchsheel Treaty.

        India was seemingly aware of the construction of the Aksai Chin road by China in 1954, but for reasons unknown this information was kept under wraps or neglected on purpose. Probably the attitude ‘not a blade of grass grows there’ blinded Indian leadership to the value of the strategic roads which were being constructed to establish China’s military capability in Tibet. Declassified CIA reports reveal the Chinese plans and the frantic speed of work to develop communications from mainland China to Tibet.

        Ambassador Raghavan’s  assessment of 1953 at page 491(is a must read) and Sumul Sinha’s (chapter 18) earlier report of China’s intentions and future attitude did not find any serious evaluation at New Delhi. On the contrary, the latter was ridiculed and admonished for overstating the case. Both these reports reflect the current as well the past attitude of China to India. The Panchsheel Treaty signed on 29 April 1954 whilst being hailed as a case of good statesmanship left many pending issues unresolved including the boundary delineation, the details in this book clearly highlighting the major blunders that later brought India a humiliating defeat in 1962. The treaty also closed India’s access to many areas in Tibet straightaway, and totally a few years later. The negotiations leading to the treaty also kept the Tibetans out of the loop, either for starting negotiations or consultations on the final form.

        The last chapter details the floods of 16/17 July 1954, which washed away the Gyantse Trade Post and the escort located there, these were never built again, the omen of events to follow, foretelling the portentous future.

        The role of Ambassador Pannikar, PM Nehru and T N Kaul comes under scrutiny that led to the wrong decisions which later would humiliate India in 1962, and continue with the problems today.

        The book details the telling naivety of India’s diplomats and the Prime Minister to comprehend Chinese intentions and negotiation skills. The most startling revelation is the (open secret) absence of intelligence capability in Tibet and China, and the will to create it by India.

        Indian political leadership, Indian strategic analysts, diplomats, international relations experts and military officers will benefit immensely by devoting time to read the book. It would help to understand the past mistakes, follies of mindsets or rigidity of thoughts or prejudices, China and its approach to strategic issues, the value of patience and details in negotiations, and the significance of historical records.

Lieutenant General Balraj Singh Nagal (Retd)

Will tibet ever find her soul again? India tibet relations 1947-1962 vol 2by Claude Arpi, New Delhi : Vij Books, 2018, 569p, Price Rs. 1550/-, ISBN 9788193759189. 

Journal of the United Service Institution of India, Vol. CXLVIII, No. 614, October-December 2018.



Review Article 2

The Life of Maulana Jamaluddin Abdul Wahab of Farangi Mahall, 1919-2012 

Francis Robinson

Francis Robinson is known for his contribution to Islamic studies. This voluminous book is as much about the life as also about the times of Jamal Mian. Robinson’s easy, rambling style of writing is pleasant but extremely verbose as he goes into unnecessary details. Robinson’s narrative that post 1947, in UP, Muslims, especially those in important posts were discriminated against en masse and persecuted is unsubstantiated by evidence. Robinson opines that Jamal Mian’s father Abdul Bari claimed ancestry from Abu Ansari – Prophet’s companion. The Author’s view is that these Muslims felt power to be their birthright- even if Jamal Mian’s ancestors were Ulama or Sufis more than soldiers or administrators. Jamal Mian’s ancestors were bestowed Farangi Mahall at Lucknow by Aurangzeb, that became a leading seat of Islamic learning in South Asia. The duration of maulvimaulana, and allama courses was five, three and two years respectively. Jamal Mian completed all courses as a teenager! Jinnah, even allowed this ambitious and precocious teenager to speak about the injustice meted out to Arabs in Palestine and the need for restructuring the Muslim League! Fully indoctrinated into politics, Jamal Mian helped Muslim League fight elections and pre-1947 won a seat for himself in UP Legislative Assembly elections. A multifaceted personality Jamal Mian was a voracious reader. A noted Islamic scholar; he championed the cause of Muslim League, Islamic brotherhood the world over and the formation of Pakistan. A respected clergy, he delivered khutba by leading eid-ul fitr prayers as well as participated in qawwalion various occasions. A devout Muslim, he was regular on pilgrimages and created a circle of muhajirs in Pakistan. As an entrepreneur he successfully managed business in East Pakistan and later in Pakistan after creation of Bangla Desh, freewheeling between the three nations. Jamal Mian did not hide his anti-India sentiment. Of his own volition he became a Pakistani citizen in 1957 while his wife followed suit in 1963.  An astute diplomat, Jamal Mian cultivated the likes of Jinnah, Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan, Nehru and Rafi Ahmad Kidwai. This ensured safety for his family as also his property after partition.  Although he lived and died in Pakistan, most of his children are settled in the UK. This is an interesting book about a unique individual who faced many odds including a bi-polar illness but was successful in overcoming them.

Major General Ashok Joshi, VSM (Retd)

The Life of Maulana Jamaluddin Abdul Wahab of Farangi Mahall, 1919-2012. Francis Robinson. (Karachi, OUP, 429pp, 2017, ISBN 978-0-19-940568-8)

Journal of the United Service Institution of India, Vol. CXLVIII, No. 614, October-December 2018.

Short Reviews of Recent Books

China in the Indian Ocean: One Ocean, Many StrategiesBy Cdr MH Rajesh (Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2018), pp. 347, Price Rs. 1495, ISBN 978-93-86618-36-8.

This book by Commander MH Rajesh provides an account of China’s strategy and increasing footprints in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Spread over ten chapters, it is the result of his research at the United Service Institution of India.

        After introduction, the book dwells on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the second chapter and explains its positing as a ‘grand strategy’ that seeks to fulfill the ‘China Dream’. The third chapter narrates the evolution of modern Chinese maritime military strategy through a novel format of “Four roles and Three-and-a-half fleets”. The fourth chapter labeled as “Strategy of Securing Sea Lanes” provides a brief background of disputes in the South China Sea and explains the award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in October 2015. The fifth chapter provides an overview of the IOR with regard to flow of energy and trade, and the security scenario. There is an evaluation of the existing regional structures and their contribution to security. The author also provides the elements of the framework within which the formation of a future structure can be envisaged. The sixth chapter “Strategy of Nexus to Alliance” provides a detailed look at the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its strategic implications. The next chapter labeled as “Strategy of Maritime Nodes and Networks” provides details of Chinese activities in Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh with regard to political influence, investments and arms deals. This chapter also provides an overview of the commercial maritime network being built by China with regard to port ownership, shipping operations and shipbuilding. The eighth chapter, “Strategy of Access”, lists the Chinese activities in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. A major portion of this chapter is devoted to Myanmar. The ninth chapter, “Strategy of Resources” covers China’s quest for resources in the IOR and covers activities in West Asia, Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles and Australia. A major portion of this chapter is devoted to China’s options for transporting oil and gas, and the related economics. In the end, the author provides the conclusions of his study.

        This book is an admirable attempt to connect the dots and provide discernible patterns to China’s activities in the IOR. Starting with a broad-brush concept of BRI as a ‘grand strategy’ and the evolution of Chinese maritime strategy, the book goes on to provide granular details of Chinese presence across the region. Written in an easy style, it straddles multiple disciplines of history, economics, energy, politics and military strategy to present its case. It is adequately illustrated with maps and has rich data in tabulated and pictorial form. Elaborate end notes, appendices and bibliography are provided to supplement the text. Overall, it is an excellent book for understanding China’s activities in the IOR.

Commander S Sarangi

Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons Giving the devil more than his due? Inderjit Panjrath (New Delhi, Vij Books India Pvt Ltd, 139pp, Rs 795/-, ISBN: 978-93-86457-60-8)

This is a well researched assessment about the possible impact of Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW) in our future confrontations. Ever since 1980 when the two nations became nuclear weapon (NW) states the politico-military dynamics underwent a change. Buoyed with its newfound NW status but without any sagacity, Pakistan went in for TNW terming it as a game changer and hoping to offset its asymmetrical disadvantage vis-a-vis India. Colonel Panjrath attempts to answer the question by logically analysing and presenting a comprehensive analysis ab initio as it were. The Author begins by discussing the relevance of NW and the drivers of Indo-Pak conflict. One of the key elements in Pakistan’s strategic culture mentioned by the Author is its false notion of ‘pride in Muslim sovereignty’. Reasons for the immense restraint shown by India in dealing with a recalcitrant neighbour have been well brought out. Subsequently, the Author carries out a reality check on nuclear deterrence and efficacy of TNW per se. Pakistan’s Hatf-9 (NASR) has a range of 60 km. The air launched/ submarine launched systems are mentioned albeit briefly. Though the Author highlights the technical difficulties of miniaturizing Plutonium based warhead, the bottom line is that Pakistan has tested all its sub-systems successfully. The sparse availability of Plutonium in Pakistan as well as the dilemma for policy makers for balancing its usage between strategic NW and TNW remains. The Author has discussed the damage template in some detail and he opines that 436 TNW will be required to halt the thrust of an armoured division. The dilemma for Pakistan would be when to employ TNWs in case of a minor, medium level or a major penetration by Indian Battle Groups! In Chapter 4, five scenarios of confrontation, although somewhat unnecessarily dramatic in detail are discussed. Subsequently, the Author expands on India’s response that can range from a massive strike, a graduated one or non-nuclear. Finally, in Chapter 5, the Author presents various options available to India to achieve peace and stability in
the region which in the present context is more of a mirage.
Colonel Panjrath has examined the core issues surrounding Pakistan’s TNW in depth and his rationale for conclusions are logical. The study is recommended for use in our schools of instruction with advantage.

Major General Ashok Joshi, VSM (Retd)


United Service Institution (USI) of India and Amity University Collaboration

United Service Institution (USI) of India and Amity University Collaboration in Defense Studies and Strategy- 27 Aug 2018 A glittering MoU signing ceremony was held at the Amity University on 27 Aug …


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