Monday, November 1, 2010

Ladakh- Then & Now:... Phew comments

< Goods from Tibet. This picture was taken in October, 1975 on the NW bank of Pangong tso. Till then a yak caravan could come across from Tibet. This one had come from a place called Dambuguru, in Indian hands till October, 1962. Dambuguru is across the Ane la to the NE of Pangong tso.

Leh Bazaar Main Street in October, 1976>

Same Street in August, 2007- few poplars remain>

The two pictures immediately above are of the road that had just been opened till Khardung la in October, 1972. The third picture from below was taken in October, 1975. The others above it in August 2004 and June 2005. Change is inevitable, but not repellent and unnecessary congestion.

 The following two are of Leh's Main Bazar too- One was taken in October, 1976 and the other in August, 2007.

And this picture below, taken in 1984 during a trek from Kibber to Hanle via Tsomoriri and Lam tso, is the saddest of all. These strange formations are known as exploded stones. Its a natural phenomenon associated with volcanic activity. Now a road - turn west from the Kyun tso to Chumur road- passes through this place. Expectedly, not a single stone is left. Stolen>

Below is Fukche airstrip in October, 1972. It stopped functioning from 1973 to 2010 because of Chinese hypersensitivity. Now this air strip is being used by airplanes again and has stopped being a place for grazing yaks. The Chinese are not at all happy at this overdue assertion.

Chushul Airport-  This picture was taken in October, 1972- ten years after the airstrip had been gutted by Indian troops in the October, 1962 battle with Chinese troops here.  At the back is Spangur Gap, which is now under Chinese occupation. The blasted remains of the airstrip and buildings had still not been removed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Songs of the Snows silenced by the Wails of Women- Kashmir Diary in 3 parts (9th to the 13th of July, 2010)

Part I, which is all about Kashmir's famous beguiling charm.

There were many such fields of Iris on the way to and all around Gangbal, an exquisite lake at 11,800 ft, in the NE of blighted Kashmir Valley.

And I was bowled over by views like these:


and this too


I am hurling these sense impressions at you to show that Kashmir's fabled natural splendour is still intact

So here are a few more








Gangbal is about 22 kms from Naranag on the Wangat river, which emerges from Gangbal. It meets the Sind river near Kangan. Naranag is about a 90 minutes drive away from Srinagar. There are a couple of good hotels there. And if there is no curfew there is good food to be had. There ia an old and very impressive 10th C temple complex here.

During my trek (9th to the 12th of July, 2010) I saw many Gujars, Shepherds, Kashmiri and foreign trekkers going up to Gangbal. There was no one from the Indian plains except for me. A guide accompanying some Americans was surprised when I told him that I was from Delhi. He wished that there were more from the mainland visiting this Paradise on Earth, as the inscription in one of the Mughal pavillions in Shalimar Garden says. These pictures will show more than my words that Kashmir's hinterland is peaceful and that life goes on as it has always done for centuries. Except in the urban areas, where all kinds of mischievous stratagems are executed.
Shepherds take up their flocks in May and June and come back in September. There was one horrible instance of thougtlessness. A big forest fire that was caused by Gujars from Rajouri in September 2005. It destroyed thousands of hectares of handsome firs. All the villages helped in putting off the fire by raising huge mud walls, which were pummelled to the ground by the next season's heavy snow.

Gangbal is at the SE foot of Mt. Harmukh (16,872')- the 2nd highest mountain in Kashmir Valley. From this minnow of mountains most of the giants of the Karakorams were first seen. Harmukh ("The Face that can be seen from everywhere").

Capt. TG Montgomerie was lucky to first see the giants of the distant Karkoram from this peak in 1856. Month unknown. Harmukh has its head almost always in clouds from just a bit after sunrise till a short time before sunset. Montgomerie saw "two fine peaks very high above the general range" and markled them as K 1 and K 2. K1 later turned out to have a local name- Masherbrum. K2 is the second highest peak in the world. And still without a name. In 1857 from a lower summit (1600 ft) his friend G. Shelverton took the first observations of the Karakorams. Shelverton camped for a week on the lower cummit waiting for the weather to clear. In 1911 Kenneth Mason, former Superintendent of the Survey of India and author of the most definitive book on the Himlaaya and beyond revisited that station and "found his raised platform, 14ft square, still intact with his finely chiselled markstone firmly in position."

This peak, which does not look easy from this side, has been climbed many times. Its first recorded ascents were in 1899 by Dr. E. Neve and <r. GW Milai. These were followed by CG Bruce and AL Mumm in 1907. All the five sukmmits- Station, Western, Northern, Middle and Eastern have been climbed. In picture can be seen the Eastern and highest summit at the right and the Middle on to the left.

Before Gangbal is an another lake- Narbal. Its a smaller one and is at the S foot of Harmukh. The Wangat river flows out of Gangbal and thru Narbal to continue its breathtaking way towards the Sind.

And this spot is just one of the many in Kashmir that are worth visiting. Vishensar, Nichnai, Erin valley (from Bandipore),Tatkutti and so on.

Part II-

The Mess:


The next three photographs are shocking. It happens all over India all the time. True. What is astonishing is the fact that this happens every day in many places all over the frightened Valley with much more determination, organisation and heartlessness than it happens anywhere else in India. Such instances of petty and compulsive theft take discontent to nearly every doorstep in that blighted Valley.






This Indian para military soldier is whacking in broad daylight some vegetables that he does not need. For, he gets his meals at his mess. Yet, he must for this plunder is simply the habit of his ilk. These pictures were taken by me on the Foreshore Road that skirts the Dal after Bren-Nishat Basti towards the University. Without exaggeration I estimate that there may be at least a thousand such instances of petty extortion experienced daily. Yes, daily. Multiply it by years and you will understand why the people of Kashmir are fed up. I do not deliberately mention the thousands of innocents, who have been maimed, tortured or killed and shown as insurgents in order to show that the uniformed forces are doing their dastardly job well. The horror stories of Alpha Mess, which is now going to be a luxury hotel above the Dal are too well known.

This Indian soldier is certainly NOT a Pakistani insurgent. Yet, the Government repeatedly accuses Pakistan of stoking the fires of violence in this lovely Valley. With such help Pakistan has only to sit back and say thank you. With our soldiers behaving like occupying forces the Pakistanis don't have to exert too much to cause trouble.

Do not the Intelligence Agencies report the truth? Is there any one who does?

I have been visiting Kashmir nearly every year since 1968. Every time I have been to Kashmir since 1987 I have seen these petty instances of theft in full view of people. I have seen soldiers take picture postcards from a helpless vendor in Char Chinari. I have seen soldiers take money from Hotels in Gulmarg and Pahalgam. I have seen soldiers and their officers calling traders from Kupwara to the Forest Rest House there and taking money from each of them. In Shopian these soldiers used to demand crates of apples from trucks carrying them. Sometime back, when a driver refused to give them this illegal tithe, he was killed and the familiar excuse that he was an insurgent trotted out. Their conscience is so dead, and their officers so involved, and supervision so lax, that they just don't care who sees them. This widespread extortion ranging from small thefts like these to taking blood money (claiming rewards for killing innocents is just one way) is turning the Kashmiris against the Governments of India and Kashmir.

Remember that this period of trouble started after the stolen elections of 1987, which were 'won' by Dr. Farooq Abdullah. In a prophetic editorial -Whose will in Kashmir?- The Statesman of the 7th of April, 1987 concluded thus: "Those who may have been inclined to turn a blind eye to what happened during the Kashmir elections on the premise that national security and secularism were therby strengthened would do well to reflect on the old and unfashionable adage about ends and means." Brutal oppression started after that. A situation tailor made for Pakistan to take advantage of. And they continue to do so.

If our uniformed personnel were to behave in a disciplined way there would be more peace than there is now. And the dreaded AFSPA would not be needed. Pakistan undoubtedly takes advantage of these disturbances and stokes the flames higher, but if there was no wide spread revulsion against the armed forces such agitations would be few and far between. I have not seen as much hatred and loathing for the armed forces as I have seen in Kashmir and in the North East- the other area afflicted by this draconian law. That aweful AFSPA is applied to only two areas. Jammu and Kashmir and the North East, and it is not a coincidence that in both these areas the armed forces are detested, and the people want the AFSPA to be trashed.

Peace in these conditions is impossible in our time.

Part III-

It is sad but true.

The Government is not the only one to blame. The Delhi based media, with the exception of a couple of papers, is equally responsible for pedalling one sided jingoistic accounts of insurgency gone wild and painting pictures of doom, which are then parlayed as intelligence. When innocents are shot- at Harwan in April, in Batmaloo on the 10th of July when along with 3 young boys watching a cricket match during curfew a young girl in her kitchen too was killed, in the Machil encounter where they were taken on the promise of jobs and then heartlessly shot, etc etc to name only a few, can one blame the just fury of the people? The law does not help them, the Army officers repsonsible for the Machil outrage have still not been handed to the police. And for each such case that has surfaced, many many screams are stifled. And then to make matters worse funerals of the victims are also fired upon. Firing on funerals is an old habit of the armed forces. The worst so far according to my memory has been the 22nd of October, 1993 Bijbehara Chowk firing by the trigger happy BSF that killed 37 people.

Our gentle Prime Minister had spoken fervently a couple of years ago of winning over "hearts and minds" and reducing the soldiers there. Hearts and minds are turned against us and there are more troops now than ever before. At a Press Conference on the 23rd of May, 2002, the then Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee said "Your pain and anguish is mine too. It is shared by all the people of India. We are with you in your sorrow and we will be with you in your joy."

".... I have instructed the security forces to be more mindful of human rights and be sensitive to the liberties and self respect of ordinary people.." Thus spoke our Prime Minister on the 25th of May, 2006 at Srinagar. On the 7th of June, 2010 Shri Manmohan Singh said at Srinagar " ... there are a handful of people who do not want any political process for empowering people to succeed. This is the reason that attempts to disturb the lives of the people in the Valley still continue from the across the line of control. Whenever such incidents happen, they spread terror and cause disruption in the life of the people. Our security agencies are forced to act in the wake of such incidents. During the process sometimes innocent civilians have to suffer, but whenever such incidents happen it becomes necessary to act against them. ... .. On this issue the Government policy is to protect the human rights of the people even when dealing with terrorism. The security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been strictly instructed to respect the rights of the civilians..."

Ten years. Two Prime Ministers and nine visits later the pain is still there. Atrocities have increased and so have the troops. Apparently even the P M's directions are ignored.

I had been studying the cycle of ruthlessness in the North East and in Kashmir. I have noticed that whenever peace is returning an incident is created that raises mayhem and increases gunsmoke. More troops come in. And then more. Official ruthlessness provokes retaliation in which more innocents suffer.

On the 5th of July, when curfew was briefly lifted, a Kashmiri Sikh friend of mine was stuck (he was in an Innova) in a line of 15-20 cars. Some young boys came out suddenly and hammered only his car to pulp mercifully allowing him to get out. The other cars had Kashmiri Muslims and were not touched. Another innocent suffers for no other reason except that he is seen as a representative of the oppressive forces. How long will the assault on the innocents carry on?

This blood soaked cycle will continue unless firm and yet tolerant, imaginative and kind leadership emerges. Above all the intelligence system has to be revamped so that the truth is not hidden from the civilian policy makers. I have not till now mentioned the AFSPA, which is a refuge of scoundrels. There are enough laws to take care of insurgency here, but the armed forces want a license to kill. This umbrella has to be removed.

Is it too much to hope?

More people are being killed- not all because of the security forces- (on Sunday the 1st of August, 2010 eight were killed, some agitators died in an explosion in a police station at Khru that they had burnt) and it is now impossible to have a daily account of the dead.

I have a comparison to make though. In other parts of India when buses or trains are burnt and crowds go on a destructive rampage the operative word is restraint, but here it is shoot to kill. Without restraint.

Romesh Bhattacharji

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Audit the auditors!

India has an ages old institution called Audit and Accounts. They are supposed to be the guardians of fiscal propriety over all the Government spending in India. They act as if all funds for Government use will be misused and are in the habit of cutting down ruthlessly many financial proposals. They can not visualise the needs of development.

Had India listened to their objections it owuld be still in the 50s stage of development. That is not all they are negative about. After a project is over or deaprtment's have collected revenue or spent allocations on administration they attack with knives and magnifying glasses. They are essential for good governance, but not the way they are allowed to delay and pospone and question technical plans way beyond their competency.

In today's Indian Express of the 21st of June, 2010, is a report how the kitchen equipment bill for the Commonwealth games inceased by Rs. 13 Crores (or approx $ 3 mln) most probably because of their objections.

A tender for hiring the Kitchen equipment was released on the 27th of June, 2008. 25 bids were received and the contract allotterd to a group of firms formed by Delaware North of Australia, Taj Stats of India and PKL of London. On the 3rd of February, 2010 (!!!!!) this contract was cancelled as earnest money of about Rs. 3 million was not deposited.

Now the whole process has to restart and they will have to buy this expensive equipment. Result: Cost increase by Rs. 13 Crores (from the earlier Rs. 20 crores for hiring equipment to Rs. 33 crores for buiyng equipment). Too high a price to pay for sluggisheness. Protest government interests by all means, but not so inefficiently!

There is more to their recklessness. They pretend that they are doing their duty when they are vilified for being too particular. But this is only in some cases. Where expenses are in billions or millions they are quite lax.

For instance see the picture below:

It shows people from a civilian truck going with jerry cans to have them filled up from an Army truck in Ladakh, just above Deskit in Nubra. For decades large scale pilferage from Defence stores in the forward areas has been conducted with impunity. Every year teams of auditors scour the records and physically visit army bases but never ever find out anything more than minor faults. About five or so years ago the J & K police seized about 45 empty oil tankers going into an army base in Ladakh. They were supposedly delivering POL. That is when the scandal broke out in the open, but though some army officers and soldiers were penalised none of the army of auditors were. Had these worthies been doing their jobs this pilferage would not have become so brazen. Even now pilfered army stores like tin food and sleeping bags etc are available in shops thoroughout Ladakh. It is an unintended public service for which the army is thanked repeatedly and profusely, but their can be other prinsipled ways of being similarly generous. This way the ring leaders and the racketeers profit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Famous Indian beauty spots have added opium to attract more! Illegal opium cultivation in Kullu and Kashmir

For some years now there has been a new flower in Kashmir that has bloomed unseen only by officials. Its that same old troublesome opium poppy flower.

There have been sporadic eradications, but this half heartedness has emboldened more opium flowers to blossom in the Valley known for its lethal guns and non lethal flowers.

The two pictures below are of fields in Anantnag district of Kashmir.

This is an introduction to the rampant increase of opium poppy cultivation in the adjacent state of Himachal Pradesh. I want to show that what is happening in HP is not an isolated occurrence. It is part of a bigger and organised plan to keep the about 2.5 million opium addicts in India happy and their families unhappy.

"Ex-British MP's son dies of "drug overdose""

was the heading of a report in the Indian Express of the 15th of June, 2010.

The deceased Adam Coombs was just 19 years old when he died of excess of opium. His friend Ross Taylor, also 19 years old, reported "Me and Adams went for a late night stroll in the valley where we took opium. Around 3 pm the next day I woke up and found Adam sleeping. I tried to wake him up and found that his body was cold."

A sad incident. A young promising life nipped in the bud. A tree that could have grown to full height cut down by the greed of drug traffickers, and the indifference of the authoritites.

Adam Coombs was the son of Derek Coombs, a former Conservative MP from Birmingham Yardley, and perhaps that is why this untimely and unfortunate death was reported at length in news papers in India.

There is an even gloomier conclusion to this story. There have been many unexplained but similar deaths that have been given a quiet burial all over the spectacular mountain district of Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India, but they have been unsung and unreported. All this while the menace of illicit opium cultivation has stealthily kept increasing. How many more lives will have to be lost to avarice and rapaciousness of the hoods before the enfrcement officers wake up? Or will they never wake up ? and let these deaths continue?

All the concerned narcs authorities, State and Central, are aware of it. But they act as if in fits- off & seldom on. During this year's opium lancing season the Director General of the Narcotics Control Bureau had visited some parts of Kullu that had opium cultivation. There was some eradication in places. Not enough obviously otherwise poor young Adams would still have been alive.

Opium poppy is a flower that can be seen from far away. It can't stay hid, and yet the fields are not detected in time.

- A field in Sainj Valley of Kullu-

- The Pradhan and his Deputy (Village Council Head) of Bithu Kanda, Sainj, Kullu -

- Another field with the same story-

- This Sainj field had sprinkler irrigation!-

- Many colours but the same produce-

- This cautious farmer has grown wheat next to his opium field-

This then is my grouse.....
Here, in these exquisite surroundings, a beautiful but deadly flower blossoms in April and early May. The opium is extracted strictly for tainted profit. These people had never before cultivated opium. This dangerous agricultural habit has grown over the past 15 years or so. And it seems that it will continue to grow. People from this district, and from other parts of Himachal Pradesh and adjacent states of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir too, collect opium from here.
Earlier foreigners used to head here for cannabis and hashish, now they also get opium in addition. Cannabis is still a major agricultural product (Malana Queen is famous ), and its hashish with a THC content of 10-25% is wanted the word over. Had there been a Cannabis Cup this variety would beat even the Moroccan one, as it easily does the Afghan one (3-10% THC).
But, I was writing of opium. If this fiendish agricultural activity is not squashed in an another decade or even earlier there will be heroin from here and then gangs and gang wars. Too much a price to pay for official sloppiness. . . .
........ and don't forget there is Kashmir too that has extensive opium cultivation. Kashmir- battered and bruised from both the insurgents and the soldiers- still manages to cultivate opium in full view of both. Unless both sides are blind. Kashmir is where I started this blog from and that is how I end.
In both these states easy riders are making easy money from illicit opium cultivation. These illicit cultivators are beyond the scope of any decriminalisation. Beyond redemption.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Of some las on the Indo-China Border- + the idiocy of Inner Line Permits

{A lonely India Check Post and China at the back- Shipki la in Himachal Pradesh}

{Shipki La on the Himachal Pradesh-Tibet Border}


Of the foolishness of the Inner Line, how it has retarded development and favours China's propaganda that our territory is theirs , &


Kibithoo (NE of India) to Karakorum (NW of India)

Of people & land routes to China from India

Six decades ago all these routes that I have mentioned below were open for people on either side of the border to trade, go for pilgrimage, take their flocks to graze, and visit relatives. Today, officially there are only three trading routes open. Nathu La (Sikkim), Garbayang-Lipu Lekh (Uttaranchal) and Shipki La (Himachal Pradesh). All the other wonderful paths and passes are closed shut. So the authorities would like to believe. But they are not.

{Guan Liang at Tezu Police Station, Lohit, Arunachal Pradesh}

On the 23rd of May, 2010 a Chinese, Guan Liang, was detained while blundering around Digaru Ferry Ghat (bewteen Tezu and Chowkham), in Lohit District (Arunachal Pradesh, NE of India). He had travelled about 280 kms after crossing the Indo-China border at Kahao. He had been fed by friendly people all along the way. What is surprising is that not one of the many Army and para military and State police camps that he must have passed had apprehended him. His Chinese American English accent was a sure give way, and yet not till he was literally pushed into the surprised arms of our officials by a Mishmi youth Bisip Billai did any Government Agency (and there are many) knew of his daring trek . Sad commentary on the capability of our forces who are supposed to have the eyes of the hawk and the owl.
Right across the country to the North West, in Ladakh's SE, is Dumchulle, close to the right bank of the Indus is a big Chinese market. It is there only for Indians to come and buy in bulk. They would give goods on credit and take the money only after they were sold. To get to Dumchulle, which is Indian territory in Chinese hands, one has to travel about 80 kms inside the Inner Line. There are many posts there, and yet this brazen trade goes on and on.
Just goes to show how vigilant and effective our forces are, and how pointless the whole colonial concept of the Inner Line is. The Inner Line was first introduced in 1888 by the British in the North East Frontier Agency to prevent North India traders from the Assam plains to enter into what is now Arunachal Pradesh. These traders have entered any how and have collared most of the business and contracts in that state. The genuine visitors, with nothing but friendship in their hearts, and wanderlust in their eyes, have to go through a cumbersome process of filling forms, pasting pictures to get permission to visit these magnificent border lands for a few days.

Realising the foolishness of such controls the bureaucracy is timidly withdraing the Inner Line back- a few kms at a time. This blindness is well coordinated along the entire length of the mountainous border with China. At least in Ladakh and in Himachal Pradesh practical sense is now entering the bureaucrats' files in leaps and bounds. From last year border areas like Batalik, Shyok and Turtuk are now open for tourists, but they still have to get an Inner Line permit.
It took the bureaucracy six decades to realise that good roads to the border have to be built as soon as possible. All these years were wasted in worrying that if there were good roads the Chinese would find it easier to use them to invade India. Nothing could be more damming about our lack of confidence than this silly argument, which had till now prevented development in all the border areas.

Anyway, wisdom even if it dawns late, is very welcome. The Chinese had built roads along our borders more than 50 years ago!

Till about 50 years ago the routes mentioned below were the better known ones for traditional trade to Tibet. They have the most varied, gorgeous, awesome, magnificent and inspiring scenery on this earth. Yet they are closed to Indians. Of these routes only three are open officially, but several more unofficially;

1- The border crossing points from NE to NW are :


2- Dibrugarh-Tezu-Walong- Kibithoo (at 1371 m - it is the lowest crossing point into Tibet from India)-Kahao- along the Lohit river which enters India here. In Tibet is Rima, a large town, just 40 kms or so away from the border. It is at the confluence of Zayul chu and Rong To chu, which comes in from Kangri Karpo chu to its NW.  The famous Rima Gap where within 100 kms the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtse flow is not far from here. This is one of the shortest motorable{Tinsukia to Tezu = 137 kms; Tezu to Hayuliyang=103 kms; Hayuliyang to Walong=103 kms; Walong – Kibithoo= 30 kms; Kibithoo-Kahao=1.6 kms} routes to the Tibetan border from the Indian plains. Reviving of this trade will immensely improve the economy of this area. Till 1950 a Tibetan Trade Agent used to be based at Sadiya and till 1952 in Tezu. An Indian Trade Agent used to be in Rima.

{ Kibithoo in the left foreground and Kahao below the hill in the  front. This Rima thumb of China is south of the watershed which pierced by three las- Oti la (5023m), Ata Kang la (4878 m) & Cheti la (4338 m) , but has been traditionally with the Chinese. Till about 70 years ago it used to be a penal settlement for Tibetans. Thic could be the road North Easterners are looking for to reach out to China. }>
3- Dibrugarh-Ledo-Pangsau Pass (937 m)-Mytkina (Burma)- Kunming (Yunan, China). The WW II Ledo road to Kunming already has a solid foundation. It requires clearing of trees growing on it and resurfacing and it will be ready within a couple of years. Both Kunming and Calcutta are about 1700 kms by road from Ledo.
{Though not an Indo-China pass, it leads to the Ledo Road to Kunming in China for the opening of which a rather ignorant bleat erupts periodically. This one way road was used only once during WW II and then never again. It will take billions to repair till Mytkina. The Lohit Valley Road to Rima is a much better and cheaper alternative. Also, it is an all weather road.   }

4- Dibrugarh-Roing-Anini-Mipi- Yongop La or Zeklu La- (all around 3000 m) to Shuden Gompa (4175 m) ; (To the Idu Mishmis here Tibet is known as the place where the rivers are silent)
5- North Lakhimpur-Along-(or directly from Assam via Passighat too) –Yingkiong-Tuting (590 m)-Gelling (1829 m)-Tung la or Shouka la (3800 m) or Lamb la- Kemteng-Gya Dzong (2775 m)(Shimong Adis who inhabit this region are Lhobas in Tibet. In the village of Mankhota (1120 m) on the Yangsang chu near the border live some Khamba families from Tibet )
6- North Lakhimpur-Along-Mechuka (1890 m): means place of mediciane water that rises from the snows - up the Yagyap chu- Nepar la or Nyug La(4700 m)-Migyitun-Kyim Dzong (There’s a Kaying-Tato-Mechuka motor road now); (Pachakshiri Membas who inhabit this region are known as Moinbas in Tibet)
7- North Lakhimpur-Dapporijo-Nacho- Taksing (2400 m)-Limeking-Lhontse Dzong (This was one of the routes through which till about 40 years earlier amongst other goods Tibetan ornaments esp. brass carved bells known locally as majes used to be got- now its textiles on rare occasions)
8- Tezpur-Bomdila- Tawang-Bum la (4332 m)-Tsona Dzong (this is very close to Bhutan and Chinese goods in large quantities are being brought in through adjacent Mele La in Bhutan. Lhasa is about 600 kms away.)
9- The heights and names of the passes at S. Nos 4,5, & 6 may not be correct as they have been got from local sources, understanding whom requires a phonetically experienced ear.

10- Gangtok-Nathu la (4420 m)- Chumbi valley-Paro Dzong-Gyantse-Lhasa (3607 m). The closest port for Lhasa is Kolkatta which is about 1400 kms away. That is why the Chinese are keen on opening up the Nathu la route. Shanghai is more than 4000 kms away. Yangon about 2500 kms.


11- Pithoragarh-Tawaghat-Garbyang (villages on this route that were dying have revived and old houses are looking sturdy once again. Some old customs of serais in homes have started again) -Lipu Lekh (5453 m) (This is one of the two official trade routes open now. The Customs station is at Garbyang 30 kms before Lipu Lekh)- Taklakot (where now there is an Indian and Nepali market)-Darchen

{Approaching Lipu Lekh from the Indian side}>

12- Munsiari-Milam (a large village of attractive houses with patiently and tastefully carved doors and windows that was inhabited till 1982 is now abandoned and a lot of history is over)-Unta Dhura-Topidunga (4500 m) (till this point foreigners are being allowed in for treks)-Kungribingri La (5357 m)- Gyanima mandi- Tirthapuri (which is on the River Satluj)-Gartok (on the Lhasa-Sinkiang highway & on the River Garlung, which is a tributary of the Indus))

{Path going down from Unta Dhura towards Milam }>

13- Joshimath-Bara Hoti Plains-Niti Pass (5060 m)-Tralung-Tirthapuri Gompa;

14- Joshimath-Badrinath-Mana pass (5608 m)-Tsaparang-or Totling Gompa-(to Gartok also)-or Tralung

15- Uttarkashi-Harsil-Jadh Ganga valley- Tsangchok la (or Thag la) -Tsaparang-Gartok

{ From a ridge on the Indo-China border to the south of Thaga la- looking into Tibet}>

16- Sangla-Chitkul-Yamrang La (5487 m)- {or Uttarkashi-Harsil-Lamkhaga La-Yamrang la}- Tsaparang. From colonial times till 1950 duty used to be levied on goods crossing the border. This had forced people to use little known & dangerous routes like this one, which passed through a valley nick named Chor Gad.
17- Kalpa-Moirang-Khimokul la (4331 m)- Tsaparang
18- Shimla-Kalpa-Pooh-Shipk la (4000 m) (on the Hindustan – Tibet road and for centuries was one of the 4 most prominent trade routes along the entire border. It is open again. This is the 2nd route which has a Customs station and is right on the pass)-Shipki vlg.- Kuukh (earlier

{Looking from Shipki La in India into Tibet- Drongmar Ridge's base can be seen girdling the Satluj at the left of this picture}

{This picture was taken from the fence marking India's end.  Above is the real Shipki la that used to be crossed for centuries without hindrance by traders, pilgrims and explorers. Every inch of the track till Tsaparang, Gartok and Shigatse has been described in detail. And also photographed. Yet our babus have decreed this area is out of bounds for our own people, as if we are traitors, and certainly no photographs- for then the Chinese will know of our land. As if the Chinese do not have long lenses!} 
parts of Spiti and of Western Tibet till Tsaparang-Tolingmath were part of one kingdom known as Kuukh)-Karkuncham (Hqrs of Chumurti distt.)-Nortok [where there’s a 18th C stone marking a trade treaty between the kings of Rampur Bushair (where the Lavi fair, attended by traders from Tibet, Central Asia and our plains used to be held every November) and of Kuukh]- or Tsaparang or Gartok;
19- Kalpa-Pooh-Sumdoh-Kaurik-Gargunsa on the river Garlung & thence SSE for 30 kms to Gartok or 20 kms NNW to Tashigong where the river Indus meets the Garlung, and which is 35 kms by motorable road from Demchok in Ladakh.

20- Leh-Nyoma (4207 m)-Dumchulle (4412 m)-Rudok on the south bank of Nyak Tso, which is a kind of continuation of Ladakh’s Pangong Tso,
{This is a picture of Dumchule. It was Indian territory till October 1962. Now its under Chinese occupation. They have built a huge solid structure in which about 80 shops function. All these shops are meant for Ladakhi Changpas who roam this part of the Indus Valley with their pashm goats.
    I can understand the reluctance of babus to allow Indians to visit this area. Its an awful reminder of what we lost in 1962. And Indians, even after 50 years ought not to know how badly led they were at that time.         Forget Aksai Chin. Get these areas on our side of the watershed back!}

20 (a)-
A Ladakhi Changpa shepherd crossing the frozen Indus near Dumchule after shopping at the Mall there. This is perhaps the only place across the almost 4000 kms long border where there is 'official' trade, without officialdom checking any one. Its official as people walk across to Dumchulle and buy whatever they want to and bring them in back packs or horse back under the watchful eyes of not too very distant ITBP posts -Hena and Tygar Male-. The ITBP posts do not interfere much with this activity which according to very rough estimates could be around Rs. 100 crores from here alone. }

21- Leh-Nyoma-Demchog (4322 m)-Tashigong and along the Indus to the east to Thok Yalung gold fields (16330’),
 {This is Demchog. Chinese side. Also occupied after October, 1962. That big structure has been there for more than a decade. It could easily be used offensively! Yet we have not objected.

But the Chinese do even if we put up a tin shed or repair a canal on the nearby Charding chu. And guess what we do? We agree and stop all activity.  They have the temerity to protest and we have the timidity to succumb. Incidentally that building the Chinese hope would eventually be a trade market for the two countries.)

21 (a)-  { And this obviously temporary nissan hut is one of several for our troops at Demchog. The mountains in the foreground are now with the Chinese. They are to the east of Zara la, not in the picture.  }

22- Leh-Nyoma-Tiggar-Kyun la (or via Hanle too)-Chumar on the Pare chu river which flows into Tibet from here (this leads to an extremely isolated & backward corner of Tibet for which getting supplies from India will be most convenient.)

23- Leh-Nyoma- Tcahaga- (& also via Chang la-Chushul to)- Tchaga la (5060 m)- Rudok.

24- Leh- Khardung la-Nubra-Saser La-Daulat Beg Oldi-Karakorum (5724 m) - Kashgar and Yarkand in Sinkiang, which are now being supplied with a lot of their essentials through Mintaka pass on the Karakorum highway from Gilgit in Pakistan. It is also the shortest way to a sea port for this part of China. The only possible advantage that a route through India’s Karakorum pass could have would be its round the year accessibility)

25- Its in Ladakh that the affects of Chinese economic offensive can be brazenly seen. At the Moti Market Chinese goods are sold in about 50 shops. In the Changthang where the Changpa shepherds tending their pashmina flock close to the border use Chinese jackets, jeans, cutlery, confectionery, torches and thermos flasks and meat in winter.

26(a)-  Another often used pass till a decade ago was this Imis la. It is the small saddle below the outcrop at 10 O'clock. It joins an old trade route from Gartok to Shipki village in Tibet.  In the foreground is the ITBP Post of Zarsar- about 50 kms south of Hanle.

25(b)- Chulung la at the head of Koyul lungpa. Close by are Dulung and Charding las. This photograph was take from below Photi la. >

Age old routes but Indians are not allowed to visit these areas unless they have an Inner Line Permit, to get which one has to undergo questions and suspicions as if we are would be traitors.. The Chinese have good roads to their side of the pass, and even foreigners are allowed. These roads are clearly visible on Google Earth!

25 (c):
{Umlung above the Indus on the left. The road to Demchog all the way from Leh hugs the left bank of the Indus below the yardangs (wind abrasion formed structures in deserts).  AND across the Indus is now Chinese occupied Ladakh. They have, since October 1962, occupied more than 20 kms to the south of the Zara la and till this point on the right bank of the Indus. That it is indubitably Indian territory is proved by an ancient 17th C fort made by the Ladakhi King Sengge Namgyal the ruins of which still stand on a hill a bit to the right of the picture. This was also an old trade route. It is possible to drive all the way to Lhasa from here, but politically it is impossible-} >

25 (d)-
 {Pangong tso at Lukung. Above it, a bit below 12 O'clock, is Ane la, which is the border between India and China. The Line of Actual Control from the right ridge meets the International Border here. }

25 (e)-
{At the back is Spangur Gap. Hiding behind the first ridge toi the right is the picturesque lake of Soangur. Till October 1962 all this and half the lake was India's. Now its Chinese Occupied Ladakh! An old trade route to Rudok from Leh used to pass this way. No more.} 

Related Information:

26- Chinese have a Singkiang - Lhasa Higway running north of and quite close to very nearly the entire Himalaya from east of Sikkim westwards. They want supply routes to some points along this route from India.
27- There were Trade Agents till 1952 in Tezu in Lohit District of east Arunachal & Rima in Tibet’s Pemyangtse or Pemako district.
28- The following 29 goods can be "exported freely" to China as border barter trade: 1- Agricultural implements; 2- Blankets; 3- Copper Products; 4- Clothes; 5- Textiles; 6- Cycles; 7- Coffee; 8- Tea; 9- Barley; 10- Rice; 11- Flour; 12- Dry Fruit; 13- Dry & fresh vegetables; 14- Vegetable oil; 15- Gur and Misri; 16- Tobacco; 17- Snuff; 18- Cigarettes; 19- Canned food; 20- Agro Chemical; 21- Local herbs; 22- Dyes; 23- Spices; 24- Watches; 25- Shoes; 26- Kerosene oil; 27- Stationery; 28- Utensils; & 29- Wheat (Ua & buck). This is according to India's Export Trade Control Public Notice No. 5(PN)/92-97 issued on 20th of July, 1992.

INFORMALLY there are now many more goods to trade with than could have been dreamt of by the drafters of this notification. E.g. coarse wool, pashm wool, tiger eye & other precious and semi precious stones, gold pellets, daggers, boots, hats, blankets, quilts, jeans, jackets, fur caps, felt hats, inverters, electronic equipment, cycles, foot wear, confectionery, crockery, thermos flasks, raw meat (during winter in Ladakh), saddles, yaks, and horses come into India and liquor esp. rum, medicines (large quantity of Indian medicines go through Kyrghystan and Kazakhstan to Sinkiang), woollen carpets, petrol and diesel, car parts, tool kits, solar panels, shawls, bicycles & sometimes even cement go from India.

In Ladakh the Chinese indirectly finance dumping of their goods by giving long term interest free credit. They demand payment only after the goods have been sold by their Indian customers. For Indian goods they pay in Rupees immediately on delivery.

The goods that are now in demand are no longer traditional, and demand for traditional goods like wool is now on a commercial scale. No longer for local use by cross border communities. The routes and methods of carrying these goods is however still largely traditional. Earlier needs were few and localized thus salt e.g. used to be a very important item to be brought in. Now as can be seen from the list above preferences have outstripped basic needs.

Despite our bureaucracy’s whimsical reluctance to acknowledge it Chinese goods are being brought in large quantities all along the border, and that State controls and monitors it closely.

29- It’s not only for Lhasa that the Chinese could be interested in opening up trade routes with India. They want traditional trade routes connecting each part of Tibet that has filial and old trade links with India to be resumed. This way they can ensure cheaper supplies. Providing these from mainland China takes time and is expensive. Even with the opening of the Sikang – Lhasa rail link Indian goods will still be required in South Tibet.

30- Across the border areas of Sikkim & Arunachal there are more populated areas in Tibet than across the border in the NW and yet very little trade activity.

31- According to an old treaty people living on either side of the Indo-China border are allowed to go fairly deep into each other’s territory. Tho’ hardly any Chinese come this way to our side, many Indians used to go far inside Tibet at least across Shipki La (7 days march inside) till 2002. From 2005 they were not allowed to go beyond Shipki village which is 1.5 kms inside Tibet. The reason was that people from these villages have become smart. They want to have their horses hired to take these goods further into Tibet. This had affected the volume of barter trade too and villages further away in Tibet had been protesting against the high handedness of the villagers from Shipki. This is what makes border life an exciting one. Never a dull moment. The pity is that very few get to live it , experience it, or report it.

32-  Chumar-  The village is on a gompa hill. Inside the gompa is a preserved body of a lama. Instead of being put inside a chorten its in a glass cage. Across a tributary of the Pare chu and above the former's right bank, around a small hill, is the ITBP post that occasionally causes heart burns for the Chinese. For many years the Pare chu was not bridged as the Indians were reluctant to offend the too sensitive Chinese even though the latter were putting up structures every where along the LAC elsewhere. Chumar borders a part of Tibet that is cut off from the rest of Tibet by the 6000 mtrs high Drongmar Ridge, which forces the Pare chu to divert again to India (H.P.) where it joins the Spiti river at Shugar. The Zanskar Range Gya peaks (highest is 6,833 m or 22,420 ft) that loom above Chumar are near the trijunction of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Guge of Tibet. The 1500 sq. kms or so of Guge is the thumb like projection into Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh. It has about five or six or seven sparsely populated villages near about the Pare chu lake, and before the river bends into India.   This 3 sq. kms. lake is in the only other somewhat flattish Plain in this unusually difficult, tortured and fissured mountainous area of Western Tibet. The lake has a large island that is increasing in size because of silting. There are more PLA camps than villages in this part of Tibetan Guge. .

Till about a decade or so ago these few Chinese villages used to get a lot of their supplies from Chumar. Pehaps that is why the Chinese are so aggressive here.

The disputed area of Chumar includes a Plain about 1.5 kms long and half a kilometre wide split in a N - S direction by the Pare chu. This Plain is hemmed in by mountains- few rolling, mostly precipitous rocky crags on all sides. After the Plain the Pare chu enters into a deep gorge. The long established International Border cuts in an E - W direction the jumble of mountains about 3 kms to the south of this Plain.  The Chinese want the whole Plain till its North. They, I think, love to tease out conflicts where there were none. The present ITBP post is probably about 11 kms away from the International Border. Chumar is dominated by the trident of  Gya peaks  to its west across  Pare chu. The Pare chu picks up waters from three (two are from the E) other tributaries and then wends a westward way around a spur, which is entirely in India, and then flows south into Tibet after at least 7-8 kms.  This portion of Tibet is one of China's most isolated areas.  But, judging by the number of incursions by the Chinese and the number of troops that make each of them it is obvious that a good road has been made by the Chinese for some distance over the Drongmar Ridge.

                                Chumar- Under Gya (6833 m) where HP, Ladakh and Tibet meet. It is at the point where the Pare chu turns right. The post is away from the right bank on the other side of hill under the shade of a cloud. The village is to the left and not in the picture. The border is behind the first hill in the foreground after the Pare chu flats beyond the ITBP post. The Pare chu weaves around the hill in the foreground and then passing another small plain darts into Tibet. At this point the Chinese have disputed the border alignment. They want the whole Plain.

   The attractive road to Chumar.

   Gya (6833 m), a twister, Tegazung Plain and a Kyang. Before Chumar. 

Had Indians been allowed to visit Inner Line areas without having to pierce a paper curtain there would be no conjectures about  where the LAC and IB are and even journalists would be better informed. This is a colonial hangover (130 years or so old) that is best removed.