Tuesday, November 9 2021

Dive In


I don’t read too much into Virat’s [Kohli] form. I don’t care who the player is. If you put even Don Bradman in the bubble, his average will come down. Eventually, the bubble will burst.

That was Ravi Shastri’s parting take as he exited his job as coach for the Indian cricket team—following India’s departure from the T20 World Cup. Shastri made no apologies for “one of the great teams in the history of the game”—but indicated that the players were “mentally and physically drained” by the packed schedule. FYI: India beat Namibia by nine wickets in its last cup fixture.

Big Story

China’s big/little moves in the North East

The TLDR: A Pentagon report recently revealed that Beijing has built a village on disputed territory near the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh. We explain why this village is just one piece of the bigger and more alarming picture—of a Chinese dragon breathing down our Northeastern neck.


Let’s start with the village

On the face of it, it doesn’t seem like much. The Pentagon report confirms the construction of a 100-home village on territory that is disputed by Tibet and India—which claims it as part of Arunachal Pradesh. But these “model villages” house both civilians and military forces—and are part of growing militarisation along the Northeastern border.


Point to note: Back in January, NDTV released satellite images showing another such village—located 4.5 km within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). It isn’t clear if this is the same village mentioned in the Pentagon report.


Part of a bigger pattern: The number of land and air incursions over the Arunachal border have increased—accompanied by a big buildup of military forces, the highest since the 1962 war with China. Add to this the inauguration of a high-speed train from Lhasa to the border—and a strategic tunnel—all of which have halved the time it takes to move troops to the Indian border.


A village today, a state tomorrow?

The McMahon Line: The border between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet was set by the British in 1914—soon after the latter declared its independence from China. But ever since China took over Tibet, Beijing refuses to accept any border agreement signed by Lhasa—and this has included seizing Aksai Chin which India considers as part of Ladakh.


Call it ‘South Tibet’: Initially, China only claimed Tawang—a part of Arunachal Pradesh which was once administered by Lhasa. But for the past two decades, it has staked its claim over the entirety of the state—which it refers to as “South Tibet.” And recent versions of government-issued maps mark it as Chinese territory. Here’s what Arunachal’s border looks like—with Tibet up north and Myanmar to the east:


A history of incursions: Here’s a quick timeline of how fraught the border has been:


  • Since the 1962 war, there have been two serious confrontations between India and China on this border. One, in 1975 when four soldiers of the Assam Rifles were killed by a patrolling party of the PLA deep inside Tawang. 
  • Another was in 1986, when an Indian patrol found permanent Chinese structures in Tawang—including a helipad. 
  • In recent years, the Chinese have opened a new front on the Myanmar side—where they have been constructing roads and deploying troops.
  • BJP MLA Tapir Gao claimed last year that Chinese troops are regularly patrolling parts of the state—and earlier this year, he insisted that they have been constructing villages for decades.
  • The reality is that Beijing has been incrementally taking bits of territory all along the border—especially sparsely populated parts that are hard to monitor. And no one knows exactly how much has been seized.


The ‘salami slicing’ strategy: That’s what experts call China’s strategy—which consists of shaving off tiny bits of territory to slowly build a powerful military advantage. But none of these actions are in themselves sufficient reason to go to war. So building that 100-house village may not seem like much—but it is part of a far bigger play


  • One: “They change the status of an area which was previously uninhabited to inhabited. with people either from Tibet or mainland China. So they change the demography in a disputed area.”
  • Two: The “village-building spree coupled with a major buildup of new military installations… is a difficult strategy to counter as it does not involve armed aggression. What it is doing is using villagers and herders at the vanguard and they are backed by regular army troops.”


The other Chinese dagger: Chumbi Valley

Headlines that matter

Indian children are starving

In response to an RTI inquiry, the government revealed that over 3.3 million (33 lakh) children in India are malnourished—and over half of them are severely malnourished. What’s truly grim: There has been a 91% increase in the number of severely malnourished kids between November 2020 and October, 2021. Also read: Our recent explainer on India’s ranking on the Global Hunger Index. (NDTV)

Saudi Arabia embraces movies

Saudi Arabia plans to invest $64 billion to build its entertainment industry—and is doing its best to woo big Hollywood productions to lure them into shooting their films in the country. Why this is significant: Until a few years ago, all forms of entertainment including concerts and film screenings were banned as “un-Islamic.”  Bloomberg News has more on the hurdles this Saudi makeover may face.

An amazing story of a teen rescue

A 16-year-old was abducted by a male acquaintance—and her parents declared her missing. She managed to rescue herself by flashing a special hand gesture—which she learned on TikTok—at a motorist on the highway. It signals domestic violence, and you can see how it works here.


The police said: “Now that … the story’s been put out, we think that people will use this … universally as a distress signal. And … that’s great.” Washington Post and CNN have more details.


One thing to see

The foreign minister of Tuvalu—a South Pacific island nation in danger from rising sea levels—gave his speech at the COP26 summit like this. Think he may be trying to make a point. (The Hindu)



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • A lovely reminder from Karwan-e-Mohabbat that affection, respect and friendship still endures


A list of intriguing things

  • The world’s first robot artist
  • A pizzeria in Paris is run entirely by a robot
  • A working version of Fisher-Price’s red ‘Chatter Telephone’ pull toy
  • A gigantic potato the size of a small dog

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