Hello everyone, the last month-and-a-half has been a little hectic at work, and there’s a sort of backlog of things I wanted to talk about, so I didn’t want to write a really long newsletter, which is why I removed some stuff that I’ll put into another newsletter that will come out sometime this month (I swear it will).
There is a lot of stuff that people never claim from the airlines. Where do you think it goes? To the aptly named Unclaimed Baggage (UB) company in Scottsboro, Alabama, apparently. UB has an exclusive contract with several airlines to take all of the unclaimed baggage they are left with and do whatever they want with it.
It’s a pretty professional operation, having been in service since 1970. One imagines that the company is mostly saddled with bags filled with clothes (which they dry-clean and re-sell or donate to the needy), but they find a lot of weird stuff too. Right now, they have on sale radiation-proof boxer briefs (size M, US$15.99) and a scuba diving computer, among other things. In case you’re looking for a bargain, you know where to go.
India banned 59 chinese apps. TikTok, CamScanner, and WeChat are among those that are not allowed in India. This ban was a result of the fighting that happened on the India-China border sometime in mid-June (more details in the next segment).
Because of the widespread popularity of Chinese phones and apps in India, this order is supposed to impact 1 in 3 mobile phone users in India, as the link mentioned above says. Because of growing anger in India against China, this move by the government has been accepted by most people as a necessary step, although funny TikTok videos made by Indians that were all the rage on the internet won’t be seen anymore.
Talking about TikTok, here’s a fascinating Reddit comment by a guy who reverse-engineered the TikTok app. And here’s another Twitter user trying out iOS 14, who says that TikTok is grabbing the contents of his clipboard every 1-3 seconds. WTF? I’d like to thank god and my sense of procrastination for having never installed TikTok.
Let’s talk about what’s happened over the past couple of months at the India-China border, between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army (Peoples’ Liberation Army - PLA).
India and China are separated by a line called the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region. Notice how that line isn’t called the “border”. This is because the two nations went to war in 1962 over a disagreement on where the border actually lay; China won the war and the two sides decided to call whatever line they were actually separated by the LAC. For over 40 years now, there’s been a sort of “understanding” that the LAC is the effective border, but even the LAC is perceived differently by the two sides. This graphic, made by Twitter user Mihir Shah should give you a good idea of the sort of mess we’re dealing with here with regard to the border situation.
Sometime in April 2020, Chinese soldiers patrolling the border came in a little too deep inside the Indian side (it was later learnt that this was pre-planned). When confronted by Indian soldiers, they refused to leave, and there was pushing and shoving and punching between troops of both sides (there is another “understanding” that guns will not be fired at the LAC - an agreement was signed between the two countries in 1996 about it). Having just gone through all that, you can imagine that tensions were high.
As a result of the skirmishes, senior officers of the two countries met on 6 June, and agreed to disengage. It was pointed out to China that they had built some structures/tents on the Indian side of the LAC, which China accepted and agreed to demolish. The area with these structures came under the responsibility of Colonel B Santosh Babu, the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 16th Battalion, Bihar Regiment (16 BIHAR). So it was his responsibility to check and confirm that the tents had indeed been demolished by the Chinese. There were other units in the area too - 3rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment (3 PUNJAB), and two artillery regiments - 3rd Medium Regiment and 81st Field Regiment.
Sometime later, on 15 June, it was brought to Col Babu’s notice that a new tent had been set up at the spot of the demolished tent. He set out to investigate along with a party of around 30-40 men from 16 BIHAR and 81st Field Regiment. They saw the tent, argued with the Chinese soldiers, and the argument developed into a fight, which ended with the demolition of the tent. The Chinese soldiers were rounded up by Col Babu, and deposited on the Chinese side of the LAC. But the Indians had walked into an ambush. In the darkness, Chinese soldiers lay in wait for them, and more fighting happened. The Indians called in reinforcements from 16 BIHAR, 3 PUNJAB, 3rd Medium and 81st Field regiments. In the darkness, Col Babu was hit by a stone flung by the Chinese, and died. This angered the Indians, who fought back even harder. It has been reported that the Chinese troops were armed with sticks studded with nails and barbed wire, to get around the restriction on guns imposed by the 1996 agreement.
By the time the fight ended, 16 dead bodies were handed back to the Chinese, which included the body of a Chinese commanding officer as well. 20 Indian soldiers lay dead, including Col Babu. 10 Indian soldiers were captured by the Chinese, and an unconfirmed number of Chinese troops were captured by the Indians. After a couple of days of talks, both sides released their captives, and began to dig in on either side of the LAC. To date, the Chinese have not released the exact number of men killed or injured, although a couple of website posts here and there point to some discontentment in China about the fact that the funerals for their dead were kept private, while in India thousands turned up to mourn each of the dead.
As per reports, India has moved 3 divisions (roughly 30,000 men) into that area, along with planes and tanks. One imagines a similar quantity of men and equipment on the other side of the border. Both sides are now talking to each other, but for now, this is the “new normal” for the India-China border. For the gain of a few square kilometres of area, China has gained the distrust of 1.2 billion Indians.
Questions remain to be answered for the Indian side, though. Why did India have no inkling of what was about to happen? Why did we “trust” the Chinese in the first place to stick to their side of the border? If China can think of moving against India so brazenly, it is only because no costs have been imposed on it by India. Does India have the ability to impose costs on China in the first place? If it does, then why did China move against India? Why has the Indian military run off on a weapon-buying spree all of a sudden, when previous Army chiefs said that we were prepared to fight a war on two fronts? And who is to be held accountable for letting China enter Indian territory?
So there you are. I do not doubt the commitment of the Indian military here. But these are quite glaring questions that arise, and they must be answered at the earliest, so that this doesn’t happen again.
Sorry for writing out such a long one. The next one’s going to be shorter. Take care and have a great week ahead!