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At the Roof of the World [Earth II]

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:56 pm
by Freistaat-Ostafrika
Tibet, Modern Day

Founded in the 7th century by Songtsen Gampo, the ruler credited with the introduction of Buddhism into the region, Lhasa had acted as the capital city of the nation of Tibet throughout many of the following centuries. Not on the scale of other capital cities in Asia, Lhasa was home to just over three hundred thousand inhabitants and sat at an altitude of 11,995 feet above sea level. While not overly large, Lhasa was however brimming with history and religious significance as it was known as the home of Tibetan Buddhism. While the nation of Tibet was also home to Hindus and a variety of indigenous folk religions in addition to small pockets of Christians and Muslims, the nation was best known for the form of Buddhism which bore its name. Tibetan Buddhism featured four major schools, namely Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug, and it was this final (and newest) school which was dominant. The first Gelug monastery, Ganden, had been founded in 1409 by a Buddhist monk called Je Tsongkhapa who was renowned for both his scholarship and his virtue; the other two of the 'great three' Gelug monasteries, Drepung and Sera, had been founded by his disciples. Also known as the 'Yellow Hats' and the 'Way of Virtue', the Gelug school was originally a reformist movement which prided itself on emphasising logic and debate. In 1577 the Gelug school established an alliance with the neighbouring Great Yue Kingdom and this alliance proved to be a boon for the school as they received patronage from the Yue Emperor; violent strife between the schools of Tibetan Buddhism in the 17th century saw the Gelug emerge as the dominant sect with military assistance from the Yue. This resulted in Tibet eventually becoming a theocratic monarchy under the Gelug school in 1642 after the school and their Yue allies defeated the ruling Tsangpa Dynasty of Tibet. Ngawang Lozang Gyatso, the leader of the Gelug school, then moved the capital back to Lhasa as all of the 'great three' monasteries sat within twenty-five miles of the city. Lozang Gyatso then began the construction of Potala Palace in 1645 upon the site of an older palace as the site was positioned between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. Although the external structure only took three years to complete, the interior structure was far more elaborate and took forty-five years to complete. Since its construction Potala Palace had stood as a residence of the head of the Gelug school and ruler of Tibet, and it still performed that function into the modern day. The palace was an impressive sight to be sure and an exquisite example of Tibetan architecture. Standing thirteen storeys tall with over one thousand rooms, ten thousand shrines, and over two hundred thousand statues, the palace featured stone walls which averaged almost ten feet thick with copper poured into the foundations to help proof the palace against earthquakes. By no means the only impressive building in Tibet, Potala Palace was definitely the most impressive, and it served as the residence of the Dalai Lama, as the head of the Gelug school was called. Tibet had continued in what was known as a 'priest-patron relationship' with the Great Yue Kingdom where Tibet was protected in return for granting the Yue Emperors all manner of religious titles and blessings, but in 1859 the Great Yue Kingdom collapsed and the Nanfang Republic rose in its place; Tibet then took a step back from engaging with their neighbours as they were understandably uncertain about the intentions of the republican government. To Lhasa's relief the Nanfang Republic respected this stance and made it clear that they would only engage with Tibet if Tibet desired it.

Still nominally ruled by the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, modern Tibet was no longer the theocratic monarchy of old due to the strong bureaucracy which had developed since 1751 to handle the mundane day-to-day affairs of governance. This bureaucracy had undergone extensive reforms between 1914 and 1950 due to the influence of Tsarong Dzasa, a Commander General of Tibet who acquired substantial power in the pursuit of modernisation and economic progression. Tsarong was influenced in this endeavour by his travels to nearby nations such as the Nanfang Republic and the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, particularly noting the Ayutthayan military's role in forcing democracy upon an inept absolute monarch in 1910. Tsarong believed that a strong military could be a suitable guiding force for a nation on the road to modernisation, and that a modern Tibetan state would require a centralised military-based elite which could eliminate internal strife and remove unwarranted privileges from the likes of the aristocracy. By 1933 Tsarong was not only Commander-in-Chief of the Tibetan Army, he was also Head of the Tibetan Mint and Armoury. His ideas began to gain traction in Tibetan society and he began to organise regular military parades in the major cities of the nation, with pride of place going to the soldiers known as 'Gurkhas'. Tibet had gone to war with the Kingdom of Gorkha in 1788 and successfully conquered the mountain kingdom with the help of Tibet's then-allies in the Great Yue Kingdom, but the fearless prowess of the Gorkhali soldiers had so impressed their new overlords that they were recruited into the Tibetan Army; over time they became known as 'Gurkhas'. In due course, the Gurkhas became one of Tibet's best-known exports as foreign powers were permitted to recruit Gurkhas for their own militaries, and they assumed pride of place as the most elite fighters in the Tibetan Army. Tsarong found himself with a window of opportunity in 1933 when the 13th Dalai Lama died and a regency was declared while the search for his successor was undertaken. Parleying his gathered influence and military support, Tsarong ousted the appointed Regent and took the position for himself. This allowed him to appoint a new Prime Minister as well as removing any obstructive members of the Kashag, the governing council of the nation. With the governance of the nation consolidated under his supporters and the general populace behind him after a crackdown on bandit groups, Tsarong instituted wide-ranging reforms in Tibet. Serfdom was abolished, the monastic educational institutions were opened to laypeople, and education was opened up to females as well as males. Cooperation with neighbouring nations was improved and the nation's industrial base began to grow, albeit slowly.

Modern Tibet was best described as a 'lower-middle income economy' nation of just over thirty-two million people, still focused primarily on agriculture but with developing industries in tourism, mining, construction, handicrafts, and Tibetan medicine. While the 14th Dalai Lama resided in Potala Palace and retained his spiritual authority, temporal authority resided in the position which was still called 'Regent'. Now held by Tsarong's forty-three year old great-grandson Rangdol Shata Tsarong, the position of Regent granted the incumbent absolute authority over the political landscape of Tibet. The Regent had the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers of the Kashag while also enjoying complete authority over the Tibetan Army. In diplomatic matters Tibet had sought to maintain some level of neutrality by allowing Gurkhas to be recruited by any foreign power willing to construct a selection base in Tibet while paying for the privilege of recruiting such formidable warriors; payment could be provided in currency or investment, as the Regent was interested in expanding upon the considerable hydropower potential of the nation, an industry which had received some degree of development but required additional investment and expertise to complete. The relationship between Tibet and the Nanfang Republic was still one of polite neighbourly respect, but the rise of the Shenzhen Pact and the Republic's increasing influence throughout the world meant that this status quo was unlikely to last forever....


13 July 2020 - 14:30hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

Once the summer residence of the Dalai Lama and located only about three kilometres from Potala Palace, Norbulingka Palace had been transferred to the Regency as part of the settlement which had seen Tibetan Buddhism separated from the governance of Tibet. With a total of 374 rooms and situated within a two-walled compound which covered some 3.6 square kilometres, the palace was more than suitable for the requirements of the Tibetan head of state, and the grounds were comprised of the beautiful Norbulingka Park. The park featured extensive flower gardens of chrysanthemums, hollyhocks, marigolds, petunias, and roses, in addition to a variety of fruit trees; although the fruits of the trees did not ripen in the climate of Lhasa, the trees themselves provided beauty as part of the park's flora. The park even contained a zoo that had been established to care for animals which had been presented to Dalai Lamas during their period of ownership. In the summer, usually around the middle of August, Norbulingka Park hosted the annual Yogurt Festival which involved a banquet of yogurt for monks who had spent the previous month in a retreat within their monasteries, in addition to attractions such as outdoor summer operas and theatricals. Among the various buildings which comprised Norbulingka, the so-called New Palace was the most important. Constructed by Tsarong Dzasa in the mid-1950s in order to stamp the Regent's authority on the site, the New Palace was a modern double-storey Tibetan-style building within its own complex, a complex which featured its own chapels, gardens, fountains, and pools. The New Palace had hosted four Regents since its construction was completed in 1956, with the fourth and incumbent Regent enjoying some extra prestige as he was the great-grandson of Tsarong Dzasa. Rangdol Shata Tsarong wore the Regent's uniform well, a charismatic individual with military experience and a keen intellect. Now into the fourth year of his rule, Regent Rangdol had observed the political machinations of other nations with detached interest as the affairs of other nations tended not to cause any major issues for Tibet.

The Nanfang Republic had the potential to be an exception to that, however. Nanjing still maintained their polite and respectful attitude towards Lhasa, with cross-border trade continuing well, but lately the Nanfang ambassador had seemed to be just a little more friendly than before. Regent Rangdol did not doubt that this was due to the Nanfang Republic's considerable and still-growing global influence as several nations around the world had joined the Republic as full members of the Shenzhen Pact, an international organisation ostensibly designed for mutual development and cooperation while in reality providing Nanjing with favoured access to natural resources as well as a developing market for their goods. The Regent was not overly surprised that the Nanfang Republic was now turning on the charm as they had already brought the Kingdom of Ayutthaya into the Pact; having secured their southern border, it made sense for Nanjing to turn their attention to their western borders. The Republic certainly had the economic muscle to direct substantial investment into Tibet but Regent Rangdol was not about to open the floodgates and simply accept Nanjing's overtures, as he had concerns regarding just how much influence the Nanfang Republic would expect in return. Essentially, as far as the Regent was concerned, Tibet required ironclad reassurances of non-interference in important aspects of Tibetan society if Nanjing wanted them to even consider a closer relationship. While it was certainly true that the Nanfang Republic possessed a population roughly thirty times the size of Tibet's population as well as a far larger military, Regent Rangdol believed that Nanjing would prefer to negotiate rather than destroying their hard-earned reputation by attacking a far smaller nation.

The Regent was wrenched out of his thoughtfulness as the intercom on his office desk buzzed, at which point he strode back into his office from his vantage point on the office balcony. He reached down and pressed the button to answer the call.

"Yes?"

"Apologies for disturbing you, Regent. It is time for your meeting with Ambassador Koh."

Speak of the devil, Regent Rangdol thought as he fought the temptation to roll his eyes. "Very well, show him in."

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:55 pm
by The Kingdom of Apilonia
Major Michael J. Kirk, RGR
Apilonian Gurkha Camp, Pokhara
Gorkha Province, Tibet
Monday 13th July 2020, 1500hrs Local Time




As far as Major Michael J. Kirk was concerned, he had the most important and prestigious post in the Apilonian Army. It might not be the most senior regiment in the Army, nor was it on the frontline, but as the Officer Commanding of the Gurkha Selection Team at the Apilonian Gurkha Camp in Pokhara, he had an awesome responsibility for overseeing the recruitment of the yearly intake of Gurkhas into the Apilonian Army. The Kingdom of Apilonia had a long history of recruiting Gurkha soldiers; having long ago seen their worth first-hand after a trade dispute had escalated into a military clash. Indeed, the Royal Gurkha Rifles had seen extensive service all over the Kingdom’s colonial empire, and had developed a hard-fought reputation as being the fiercest warriors and the politest soldier, resulting in the Gurkha soldier retaining a respected position within the Army. In addition to maintaining a proud tradition, the selection process remained as competitive as ever; with up to twenty-five thousand applicants applying each year, although the Apilonian Army has had to compete with rival armies it had the largest footprint on the ground, both from a recruitment perspective and a welfare perspective.

In the modern Apilonian Army, the Royal Gurkha Rifles was one of three elite light infantry regiments, the other two being the Air Assault Regiment and the Parachute Regiment and provided battalions for the 18th Gurkha Division, part of V Corps, the Army’s main contingency formation. Unlike the 16th Air Assault Division and the 17th Airborne Division, which were responsible for brigade-level airborne assaults, the Gurkha Division typically provided battalions for rapid-response duties all over the world, although a full brigade can be deployed with sufficient lead time (as one of the three brigades will be training and working-up whilst another is deployed operationally). Moreover, the Royal Gurkha Rifles were the Apilonian Army’s specialists in both jungle warfare and mountain warfare, as a result of the terrain of their homeland. In short, the Army made full use of both the wide range of capabilities provided by the Gurkhas and their fearsome reputation, and in an Army where inter-regimental rivalry was a time-honoured tradition everyone respected the Royal Gurkha Rifles. As it stood, one battalion was stationed in Malta, another in the Persian Gulf and a third had recently been deployed as the quick-reaction force in the former East African Republic.

As such, it was perhaps hardly surprising that every Apilonian Officer who served with the Royal Gurkha Rifles had as much an investment in maintaining the standards and traditions as the Gurkhas themselves, and typically served their entire careers with the regiment.

Although it was former Gurkha soldiers that judged each of the Potential Recruits as they went through the process, an Apilonian Officer was present at every stage. This was largely to ensure that the entire process was free, fair and transparent in a country where money could buy you literally anything. This wasn’t to say that the Army believed that the Gurkha officers and NCOs would actually take money in return for a pass grade, as they were far too invested in the regiment and its traditions, but simply to underline the Apilonian Army’s reputation for fairness. Indeed, Major Kirk considered that his highest priority, above the actual conduct of the selection process which was handled by subordinates, principally because it was, ultimately, his responsibility. Although the entire Apilonian Forces Gorkha, the overall command of which the Gurkha Selection Team was the primary arm, was commanded by a full Colonel, who was also typically the Defence Attaché in Lhasa, it was Major Kirk who held primary responsibility.

However, Major Kirk found himself distracted from the Central Selection process that was beginning outside on the parade square and would result, in a few days’ time, in this year’s intake being chosen.

As per the latest intelligence reports, which despite being a recruitment command Apilonian Forces Gorkha was copied in on as a matter of course, the Royal Intelligence Service was reporting with a high degree of confidence that the Nanfang Republic was courting Tibet, and thereby the Gorkha Province (which was of more interest to the Kingdom, for obvious reasons), for membership in the Shenzhen Pact. The Kingdom had a love-hate relationship with Nanfang. Although the Kingdom had no reason to treat Nanfang itself with any degree of hostility, given generally mutually beneficial national security interests, particularly trade, the same could not be said for the rest of the Shenzhen Pact; individual member-states of which were a thorn in the side of the Kingdom’s interests in both the Persian Gulf and Africa, where the remnants of the Apilonian colonial empire could be found, or former colonies with whom the Kingdom’s interests remained closely linked.

Involvement by Nanfang in Tibet raised the very real prospect of cutting off the Kingdom’s supply of its fiercest soldiers. Whilst the Army would survive without the Gurkhas, they would be sorely missed to say the least. Of course, there wasn’t a great deal that Major Kirk or anyone in Apilonian Forces Gorkha could do about it, beyond keeping their ears to the ground and encouraging the Gurkha veterans who returned to the Province, rather than settling in the Kingdom, to make sure their government knew the value the community placed upon their links to Apilonia. Not that they would need much encouragement to do so; those Gurkhas that served in the Apilonian Army usually developed a strong loyalty and affinity for King and Country, even if they elected not to settle in the Kingdom (an option that was open to all Gurkha veterans, by Act of Parliament). It was a situation that had concerned everyone within the Royal Gurkha Rifles, who had a particularly keen eye for the potential threat to the Apilonian Gurkhas posed by Nanfang, for some time and the intelligence reports had surprised absolutely no one; it had been a foregone conclusion for most.

Indeed, it had been pressure from senior officers, and politicians with a background serving with the Royal Gurkha Rifles, that had encouraged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to put some thought into the diplomatic posture to take if that concern manifested itself into action on the part of Nanfang. As such, whilst the Kingdom would not stand in the way of Tibet joining the Shenzhen Pact, it would use every diplomatic tool at its disposal to ensure that it would continue to be allowed to recruit Gurkha soldiers for service, and to conduct the extensive recruitment activity that entailed all over the Province. It was not without reason that the Royal Intelligence Service station in Lhasa was keeping a very close eye on developments, which it was able to do fairly easily due to the ease at which people could be brought in this part of the world, to ensure that the Apilonian Ambassador could make Apilonia’s position very clear almost as soon as any decision was made that might provide detrimental to the Kingdom and it’s Army.

For Major Kirk and the rest of the Gurkha Selection Team, they had to put this to the back of their minds as their main concern was far more pressing; the selection of the latest intake took precedence over everything else, after all.

PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2020 2:30 pm
by Freistaat-Ostafrika
15 July 2020 - 14:00hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

The residence of every President of the Nanfang Republic since 1911 when the capital was moved from Guangzhou to Nanjing, the Palace of the Republic covered more than 90,000 square meters and was primarily comprised of three 'sections': the West Garden, the East Garden, and the Central Axis. The Central Axis featured several buildings including the official reception hall and a museum dedicated to past Nanfang Presidents, but the most important building in the complex was Zichao House, the six-storey home of incumbent Presidents. The Presidential Office was located in the southeast corner of the second floor and was comprised of three rooms, the middle room acting as the actual office. Decorated primarily in rich wooden paneling with a light yellow border separating the paneling from the white ceiling, the office was actually quite narrow. The furnishings of the Presidential Office were comprised of two comfortable gold-upholstered armchairs with a green-topped table between them, and the President's rather chunky writing desk which was accessorised with a rather simple desk chair; the desk was positioned sideways next to the office's window to allow for natural light and also to provide the President with a view of the gardens while they were working. Given the global importance of the Nanfang Republic, it might have seemed rather unusual for the President to have such an understated workspace, but there was particular historical significance involved as it had been the workplace of Chiang Kai-shek, widely regarded as one of the 'Fathers of the Republic' as a result of his contributions during his period of leadership, which had lasted from 1928 until 1975. So the office had been relatively unchanged from Chiang's time, with the only updates consisting of modern telecommunications equipment being installed.

The current President of the Nanfang Republic occupied Chiang's desk chair at the moment, going through various examples of bureaucratic documentation. Yang Mingshu was less than a month away from her fifty-eighth birthday and was in her fifteenth year as President, well into her third term in office with the next election scheduled for 2023. Due to the Nanfang Republic's electoral system, she was guaranteed a fourth six-year term but this did not mean that she was resting on her laurels. Hailing from Taiwan Province and with a background in national security, President Yang had received plaudits from across the Republic for her domestic economic policy which had seen the nation's economy continue to grow at a healthy annual rate, to the point where the Nanfang Yuan was now one of the world's most prominent reserve currencies. Her dream of the Nanfang Republic becoming a truly global power was also a reality due to the Shenzhen Pact, which featured 'full' members from across Africa and Asia but was also now receiving interest from European nations that viewed Pact affiliation or membership as desirable for their own reasons. Even though she had achieved a great deal during her tenure in office thus far, President Yang still had more that she wanted to achieve. One of these objectives ahead of her involved the establishment of a closer relationship between the Nanfang Republic and neighbouring Tibet, ideally a relationship that would see the mountainous nation become a member of the Shenzhen Pact. While on paper it would appear that there were nations around the world which would be far more beneficial to the Shenzhen Pact as members, as far as President Yang was concerned this was a matter of more than simple economics. The Nanfang Republic was the successor state to the Great Yue Kingdom and the Great Yue Kingdom had enjoyed a close relationship with Tibet; as the Nanfang Republic and modern Tibet were under completely different forms of governance to their equivalents during the 'priest-patron relationship', President Yang believed that a more modern take on the old relationship would be of great benefit to both nations. The Republic would gain an 'influenced nation' on their western border and undoubtedly establish themselves as a vital part of the Tibetan economy, even more so than their current role in the smaller nation's economy. Tibet would gain a benevolent and substantially larger 'neighbour-cousin' willing to invest heavily in Tibetan economic development and also willing to defend Tibet in the admittedly unlikely event of a foreign power moving against them. Unfortunately, Tibet seemed to be more independently minded than President Yang had hoped. She could understand why though, as the Himalayan state had managed to avoid major diplomatic entanglement for well over a century, thanks primarily to the Nanfang Republic's policy of respecting Tibetan wishes in that regard.

A knock on the door heralded the arrival of Huang Li, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who had requested a meeting with the President to discuss the latest reports from Lhasa. After being granted permission to enter the office, the typically bureaucratic head of the Republic's diplomatic efforts entered and took a seat in one of the gold-upholstered armchairs, patiently waiting for President Yang to set down her pen and join him. Yang crossed the short distance from her desk to the armchairs and settled in the vacant chair.

"So what news from Lhasa, Minister Huang?"

Huang opened the dossier which he had set down on his lap and handed her a summary report. "Madam President, it would appear that Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong has been rather open with Ambassador Koh. He appreciates our 'kind diplomacy' but Tibet enjoys 'kind diplomacy' with other nations as well. It is Koh's opinion that if we want to make serious headway with Tibet then we will have to demonstrate to them that we are serious. Warm platitudes are not going to be enough to open the Himalayas to us."

Yang mused on this for a moment. "I can't say that I'm surprised. The Regent is the great-grandson of the man who reformed Tibetan society, he likely feels a duty to his nation not just because of his position but also because of his bloodline. Whereas certain leaders among our happy Shenzhen Pact family hold the attitude that enriching their nation means enriching themselves, according to all reports Regent Rangdol is a completely different individual. An intriguing dichotomy really, Tibet's leader is a remarkably incorruptible strongman while the rest of the bureaucracy is apparently as corrupt as they come. Not that is of any help to us, bribing lesser bureaucrats in an attempt to influence Tibet would likely result in those bureaucrats being dismissed and the Regent adopting an extremely poor opinion of us. Basically we have to demonstrate to Regent Rangdol that a closer relationship with the Nanfang Republic and the Shenzhen Pact would be in Tibet's best interests.

"The simple fact is that a closer relationship would certainly be in their best interests. Investment would flow into Tibet like water and they would gain greater access to technical expertise. Not to mention the fact that there are currently three Shenzhen Pact members considering Gurkha recruitment for their militaries as a result of our own interest in Tibet."

"Three? I know that the United Arab Emirates and Singapura Raya are both looking to introduce new units to their militaries and Gurkha forces would be very welcome. The UAE is seeking units with a fierce reputation to go up against any potential Al-Shams insurgency while the Singapurans feel that Gurkhas would give their military more prestige and, as they describe it, 'oomph'. Who's the third nation?"

The President smiled slightly. "The third interested party is the Grande Império do Zaire. Their interest is primarily down to the Imperial House of Dourado wanting to expand their Guarda Imperial and they feel that Gurkhas would provide an additional intimidation factor. The UAE and Singapura Raya could both afford the costs of constructing selection bases in Tibet but Zaire are not so blessed. Príncipe Florêncio has therefore suggested that Zaire would come to some sort of additional accommodation for us if we established a selection base for them."

Huang tutted. "I really wish that Zaire would remember that diplomacy is supposed to be carried out between foreign ministries and career diplomats. It can be difficult keeping track of exactly how many foreign visits Príncipe Florêncio makes."

"Well there is something to be said for impromptu summit meetings, they can make quick breakthroughs." Yang chuckled at Huang's expression. "Not that I'm about to implement such a personal foreign policy....although perhaps in the case of Tibet, it is precisely what I need to do. No flash, no pomp, no media horde. Perhaps Regent Rangdol would be more amenable if he met with the leader of the Nanfang Republic as opposed to her representatives."

Minister Huang nodded slowly. "I see your point, Madam President. I'll instruct Ambassador Koh to inform the Regent of your desire to meet with him, hopefully we can sort out a time and place. In the meantime, with the greatest respect, I would ask that you remember to tell the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about any phone conversations that you have with Príncipe Florêncio. Please."

President Yang sighed slightly. "Very well, I promise to remember."

PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 10:35 am
by Freistaat-Ostafrika
20 July 2020 - 15:10hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong stood on the balcony which adjoined his office, taking in the ever-colourful view that he still enjoyed despite seeing it every day. From the balcony, he could view the well-tended flower gardens of Norbulingka Park and enjoy the aroma which was created by the blending of so many floral scents. In his own admittedly biased opinion, he resided in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. In the Regent's mind, it was always worth taking time to enjoy the surroundings of Norbulingka as they served as a pleasant and calming distraction from mundane administration and political considerations, and the past seven days had led him to take this time for himself as he considered the future of Tibet. Ambassador Koh of the Nanfang Republic had visited him with President Yang's offer of a personal meeting and the Regent had been intrigued by the fact that Yang apparently wanted a quiet meeting. No media opportunities, no grand ceremony, just two national leaders sitting down together to discuss matters of mutual importance. Regent Rangdol had honestly expected that the President of the Nanfang Republic would want her first-ever visit to Tibet to be showcased by numerous fawning media personnel and highlighted with various staged events for domestic consumption, so hearing that she desired the exact opposite was refreshing to him. Her schedule would see her visiting Europe for the next few days and so her visit to Lhasa had been arranged for the twenty-eighth of July; this would give her time to properly change focus from her European visit as well as giving the Regent plenty of time to consider what he wanted to discuss with her. He certainly had his suspicions regarding what she would want to discuss with him. Thankfully the visits of Ambassador Koh had come to a halt following the arrangement of President Yang's meeting with the Regent, so the Tibetan autocrat had more than enough personal time to plan out the type of relationship that he wanted to see between Tibet and the far larger Nanfang Republic to the east.

A closer relationship between the two Asian nations was not something that the Regent was necessarily opposed to, it was more a case of desiring ground rules to ensure that Tibet did not become a glorified possession of the Republic in a similar manner to the previous relationship between Tibet and the Great Yue Kingdom. While most would look at the two nations and regard Tibet as the obvious junior partner in any potential closer alignment, Regent Rangdol wanted a partnership built on mutual respect. An equal partnership, for all intents and purposes. He had clear ideas regarding what he would be willing to allow and what he would absolutely not allow under any circumstances, as well as areas where he could compromise and areas where no compromise would be possible. If the Nanfang Republic wanted to engage Tibet in a closer diplomatic and economic relationship then Nanjing would have to accept Lhasa's terms as this was not a case of Tibet willingly throwing themselves into the Republic's political orbit, this was a case of the Republic courting Tibet. Suffice to say that Tibet was not a nation of easy virtue and so any closer relationship would need to be earned rather than bought. The Regent was also keenly aware that a closer relationship between Lhasa and Nanjing would inevitably lead to other members of the Shenzhen Pact following the Nanfang Republic's lead in seeking their own closer relationship with the Himalayan state, and there were already rumours regarding three Pact members having an interest in Gurkha recruitment. The fact that they were simply rumours at this point in time suggested to Regent Rangdol that the nations in question were probably waiting to see how the Nanfang Republic fared with Tibet before making their own approaches, but if they were hoping for some sort of preferential treatment in the future then they would be sorely disappointed. Even if Tibet ended up as a full member of the Shenzhen Pact at some point in the future, all nations interested in Gurkha recruitment would be held to the same rules and regulations that were currently in place.

From what the Regent had read about the Shenzhen Pact, his hopes were perhaps not as unrealistic as some would have believed. Pact members had to give express permission for others to station military forces within their borders, an impressive show of respecting national sovereignty. Despite being the obvious guiding power of the international organisation, even the Nanfang Republic had to ask the permission of their allies in order to make use of their military facilities or deploy forces in their territory. He smiled to himself as a thought occurred to him. 'What if I issue forth a large list of protective conditions and she accepts them all without any argument?'

He took another moment to breathe deeply of the mountain air, relatively unpolluted by traffic emissions when compared to the capital cities of major powers around the world, then stepped back into his office to continue with his work.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:39 pm
by Freistaat-Ostafrika
28 July 2020 - 14:00hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

Although the meeting between Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong of Tibet and President Yang Mingshu of the Nanfang Republic was of both historical and political significance, it was not being treated as such. As promised by President Yang, she was not accompanied by any of her nation's media and she had in fact flown into Lhasa Gonggar Airport in one of the smaller business jets that formed part of the 'Presidential Airfleet' after it had been decided that using NP-One (Nanfang Presidential-One, a customised wide-body airliner) would be too grandiose, considering the relatively short travel time and the fact that the meeting itself was supposed to be quiet and understated. In a continuation of this spirit, the journey from the airport to Norbulingka Palace was conducted in a vehicle provided by the Tibetan regime, a black luxury sedan accompanied by a small escort of police outriders. The journey took just over an hour due to the airport's location and the route went through a more modern part of the Tibetan capital, although Potala Palace was clearly visible on the side of Ri Marpo ('Red Mountain') at the centre of the city. The immaculate Gurkha guards stationed at the main gate of Norbulingka Palace snapped to attention as the sedan passed through into the grounds of the Regent's residence, eventually drawing to a stop at the end of a paved pathway that led through the gardens to the palace itself. The rear passenger door was opened for President Yang by another of the attendant guards and she was politely greeted by a smartly-suited middle-aged man of Nepali ethnicity, who bowed to her before addressing her.

"Your Excellency. My name is Kanishka Pradhan and I have the honour of holding the position of Private Secretary to the Regent of Tibet. I officially welcome you to Tibet on behalf of Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong and I carry hopes that you have a most auspicious meeting with him." Pradhan extended his arm towards the palace and smiled. "Please, follow me. The Regent has requested that I show you some of the historical artifacts that are on permanent display within Norbulingka Palace, then I shall escort you to your appointment with him."

President Yang smiled at the unexpected occurrence. While she had been greeted in a most polite and respectful manner, it also appeared that Regent Rangdol was intent on making her wait before greeting her in person. She briefly mused to herself that it was just as well that there were no media present with her as this was not something that she would particularly want to have widely reported. However, the Tibetan administration were not the only ones who had prepared for this meeting. "Tashi delek." President Yang noted the beaming smile on Pradhan's face as she responded to him with a Tibetan expression of greeting and thanks, before continuing. "Thank you for your kind and warm welcome to your beautiful nation, Secretary Pradhan. I would be honoured to learn more about the history and culture of Tibet, please consider me to be your eager student in this matter."

The two individuals began to proceed along the pathway, President Yang wearing a white pantsuit with her auburn hair worn up. Pradhan spoke as they walked, taking his time to detail the major events in the palace's over-three-hundred year history while interspersing his historical monologue with minor facts such as the varieties of flora within the gardens and the reasons for their presence. As the pair entered the palace building itself, Pradhan's monologue switched focus from the history of the Regent's residence to various events in Tibetan history that were commemorated in paintings and murals within Norbulingka Palace. Eventually, they reached a large portrait depicting Tsarong Dzasa, the individual who had created the modern Tibetan state. Pradhan gestured towards the portrait with a degree of reverence.

"A truly great visionary and the great-grandfather of our honourable Regent. Tsarong Dzasa saw the resistance to change that existed within the old theocratic monarchical system and set out to institute a new order in Tibet that would spearhead modernisation. He traveled to our neighbouring nations to see how they had achieved their modernising regimes and noted the role of a strong military in achieving the modern nation-state, taking inspiration from states such as the Nanfang Republic and the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. The Ayutthayan military's coup in 1910 had imposed democracy upon an inept monarch and that struck a chord with Tsarong. After building up support, he ousted an ineffective Regent who had been appointed after the death of the 13th Dalai Lama and began to implement his vision for a new Tibet.

"As a result of his ancestor's forward-thinking reforms, Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong presides over a strong and independent nation. Incompetent officials can be replaced without unnecessarily long procedures and our military is world-renowned. The Tibetan Gurkhas are known for their fearlessness and their prowess on the battlefield and as you are undoubtedly aware, their reputation is such that foreign powers seek to recruit them in order to enhance their own militaries."

"The keywords used by Secretary Pradhan being 'strong' and 'independent'." They turned to see Regent Rangdol approaching them, hands clasped behind his back, and dressed in the military-style uniform of his role. Upon reaching them, he clasped his hands together and nodded towards President Yang. "Tashi delek."

President Yang returned the gesture and the greeting. "Tashi delek. It is a pleasure to meet you in person, Regent."

"Indeed, this has the potential to be a most auspicious meeting for both of our nations and I am heartened to see that you maintained your promise to leave the media at home." He quickly looked towards his Private Secretary. "That will be all, Pradhan. I shall call for you if you are required." As Pradhan excused himself and left to undertake other duties, the Regent returned his attention to the Nanfang Republic's President. "I trust that you will not object to 'walking and talking'?"

"No objections at all."

The two national leaders began to walk through the rest of the palace, side-by-side, Regent Rangdol with his hands clasped behind his back while President Yang naturally gestured with her hands as she spoke. "Regent, I'm sure that you are aware of the diplomatic events of the last twelve months. There have been several conflicts between the world's great powers and far smaller adversaries. There has also been the establishment of a new international organisation-"

Regent Rangdol interjected. "Yes, your 'Shenzhen Pact'. As you say, I am aware of such diplomatic developments. The Nanfang Republic has gathered a lovely little collection of satellites into your orbit and I will admit that some of them have proud historical lineages. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya for example, Marshal Tangwongsan is a particularly formidable individual. Now I saw the news about your visit to Portugal and the fact that you have two European nations now expressing an interest in joining the Pact, a genuine diplomatic coup if it pans out for you. I think that it is only right to make sure that you are aware that Tibet does not share such an intense interest in joining your organisation. We also have no interest in a restoration of the 'priest-patron relationship' that existed between Tibet and the Great Yue Kingdom as modern Tibet has moved beyond rigid theocracy. The Nanfang Republic has been courting Tibet, not the other way around, so I would imagine that you are here to inform me of all the wonderful amenities available to Tibet if we should join your family."

President Yang cocked an eyebrow at the Regent's tone but still nodded agreeably. "I appreciate your frankness, Regent. You wish to know about the potential advantages that aligning with the Pact could bring to Tibet and so I shall inform you. Alignment with the Shenzhen Pact will result in increased economic investment from the Nanfang Republic but it is highly likely that there would also be investment from the likes of Singapura Raya and the United Arab Emirates. Such investment could be accompanied by technical assistance in any infrastructure projects that you may have in the planning. I understand that you have some interest in expanding Tibet's hydropower sector and that is certainly something that the Pact could assist with, in fact, we have recently enabled the Grande Império do Zaire to proceed with a major hydropower project with investment from the Nanfang Republic, the UAE, and Freistaat Ostafrika."

"While increased investment and technical assistance would indeed be advantageous to Tibet, I do not wish to see my nation overtaken or colonised by foreign corporations. My great-grandfather did not establish the modern Tibetan state so that it could become a playground for outside business interests. This nation will advance at its own pace and we shall achieve that by harnessing the potential of foreign investment and assistance, not being overwhelmed by it. Tibet's identity will not disappear under a tidal wave of major brands."

Having noted the Regent's attitude, President Yang decided to continue by emphasising the potential for Tibet to exert control over any involvement with the Pact. "If you have reservations about a full commitment to our organisation then you can certainly opt for observer membership. Full members of the Pact respect each other's internal laws and sovereignty but observer membership could give you more freedom to engage with friendly nations on your own terms. For example, an observer Tibet would not be required to enter our free trade area when it is established but you could still be involved in our proposed joint security apparatus. I believe that you would find the Shenzhen Pact membership to be receptive to your nation's concerns and be willing to do business with you on your terms if you adopt observer membership."

"So what is in it for you? Why is it important to the Nanfang Republic to have Tibet aligned with your organisation?"

"Well, having Tibet aligned with the Shenzhen Pact secures the Republic's western flank. I realise that it is highly unlikely that any force would be able to invade us through Tibet but having the Himalayas under a government that is aligned with our own would provide considerable strategic peace of mind. There is also a historical aspect to consider. Tibet was once aligned with the Great Yue Kingdom and the Nanfang Republic is the successor state to the Kingdom. There is something to be said for establishing an alignment with the twenty-first-century equivalents of old Tibet and the Yue."

The Regent stopped and regarded President Yang with a quizzical expression. "No mention of the Gurkhas?"

Yang gave her best diplomatic smile. "The Nanfang Republic certainly recognises the formidable reputation of the Gurkhas but we do not intend to begin recruiting them. Of course, we have no interest in preventing other nations, such as the Kingdom of Apilonia, from recruiting them if Tibet does indeed align with the Shenzhen Pact. I am not sure if you have been informed but there are three Pact members that do possess a distinct interest in recruiting Gurkhas for their armed forces, namely the United Arab Emirates, Singapura Raya, and the Grande Império do Zaire. The UAE and Singapura Raya both possess the economic muscle to pay for the construction of a selection facility in Gorkha Province and pay the necessary fees; Zaire is not so financially blessed but the Nanfang Republic is willing to assist them with the costs of the endeavour. We are friends, after all, and friends help each other out."

Regent Rangdol nodded slowly. "Interesting. There is certainly no rule or regulation against a nation helping another to cover the cost of Gurkha recruitment. It certainly sounds as though the Grande Império do Zaire has gained several benefits from joining the Shenzhen Pact, but what have they had to give up in return?"

"Not as much as you may have thought. As a full member, they will be joining the free trade area and the other subsidiary agencies of the Pact, but they have lost none of their internal sovereignty. The Shenzhen Pact has no interest in forcing regime change on our members. We provide a stable and secure organisation for nations of all persuasions, based on the premise of mutual respect and cooperation. To give you an example of how that might play out for Tibet if you should choose to join as either a full or observer member: the Nanfang Republic would freely sell you modern military equipment but we would not expect unfettered access to your territory, facilities, or airspace. We would ask your permission for access." President Yang noted the slight change in the Regent's demeanour as she mentioned the possibility of arms sales. Tibet was, after all, a state that viewed its military as a guiding force of progress so modern armaments may be a subject of interest for their national leader. Regent Rangdol gestured for the pair to continue walking before responding.

"What sort of 'modern military equipment' would we be talking about, Madam President?"

"Oh, well that very much depends on what you would be interested in acquiring, Regent." She suppressed a satisfied smile at the slightly more polite tone of the Regent as she had evidently managed to break through at least some of his nationalistic defensiveness. "Rest assured that we have an extensive armaments industry that could certainly provide your renowned military forces with whatever you desire."

"Most interesting. Would you care for some tea, Madam President?"

PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:04 pm
by Freistaat-Ostafrika
29 July 2020 - 10:00hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

President Yang's visit to Tibet had given Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong a great deal to consider in regard to his nation's potential future relationship with the Nanfang Republic and the wider membership of the Shenzhen Pact. Never one to rush any decisions of importance, the Regent had spent some time weighing up the possibilities that President Yang had brought to his attention but still had no intention of making a decision without further considerations. To this end, he had additional matters to discuss at the usual weekly meeting of the Kashag, the governing council of Tibet. The Kashag was comprised of seven 'Kalons' (ministers) who oversaw the day-to-day administration of the Tibetan state, all selected by the Regent for their competency in their respective fields....or equally as common an occurrence, selected for their loyalty. Due to the military-led nature of the Tibetan state, the Regent acted as Kalon of Defense in addition to being head of state and Supreme Commander, so the seven Kalons of the Kashag represented the civilian side of the administration. The seven Kalons were as follows: the Kalon for Education, the Kalon for Home, the Kalon for Information & International Relations, the Kalon for Religion & Culture, the Kalon for Security, the Kalon for Finance, and the Kalon for Health. One of the seven Kalons also held the position of Prime Minister, and in this particular incarnation of the Kashag, the Kalon for Security was also Prime Minister. Due to their primary function being that of bureaucratic managers rather than politicians, the Kalons were usually left to run their respective ministries without interference but if the Regent issued a directive then it was obeyed to the letter, even if that directive contradicted usual ministry operations. The Kashag meeting room in Norbulingka Palace was a simple room dominated by a long wooden table, which featured seven identical chairs running along one side and a more ornate chair on the opposite side, the idea being that all Kalons were equal in station before the Regent. The only nod to the Prime Minister's slightly higher position in the Kalon hierarchy was that they always took the centre seat of the seven, positioning them directly opposite the Regent during Kashag meetings. The Kashag meeting began as all Kashag meetings began. The Regent entered to find all seven Kalons standing behind their chairs, and once the Regent was seated the Kalons took their own seats and offered nods of respect towards the Tibetan head of state. Regent Rangdol offered a nod in return before beginning to speak, Secretary Pradhan being positioned at one end of the table to take minutes of the meeting.

"Yesterday I was visited by President Yang Mingshu of the Nanfang Republic. We discussed several subjects of importance but the subject that we discussed most was the future of the relationship between Tibet and our larger eastern neighbour. President Yang was respectful and understanding of our nation, and to her credit, she eschewed the usual media entourage that would normally accompany her on a foreign visit. Our discussions were constructive and in some cases rather fruitful, but they were preliminary discussions. She spoke at length regarding the potential benefits to Tibet of a closer relationship with the Nanfang Republic and the Shenzhen Pact, and she made an excellent case on behalf of her interests, but I wish to explore matters further before any binding decision is reached."

The Kalons all nodded their agreement at this statement. All male and dressed in the uniform of their respective ministries, the Kalons were not universally Tibetan but instead drawn from the various ethnicities that resided within the Himalayan nation. The Regent continued.

"Prime Minister Tshering, your thoughts?"

Prime Minister Norbu Tshering pursed his lips thoughtfully. A Bhutanese man of forty-three, his black hair was always worn short and no-one could ever say truthfully that they had seen him with facial hair.

"Regent, it is my opinion that closer alignment with Nanjing and their allies would bring both advantages and challenges from a security perspective. We would have the possibility of engaging in joint security operations and examining the methods of others, thus allowing us to learn lessons that could translate into more effective and more efficient practices within our own Security Ministry. The greatest challenge would be the potential greater influx of foreign citizens as a result of closer relations with other nations. We would need to liaise with other security agencies to ensure that no foreign criminals or terrorists attempt to cross into Tibet or establish operations here. However, I believe that the advantages would outweigh the challenges. Establishing closer relationships with foreign security agencies would allow us to see new methods of operation and potentially even give us access to new security technologies. That would allow us to maintain public order and public safety even more effectively than we currently do, and that is a clear positive outcome for our nation."

"You make an excellent point, Prime Minister." Regent Rangdol was unsurprised to hear Tshering speak in such a manner, as he had served within the Security Ministry for many years and therefore prided himself on ensuring public order. He now turned his attention to the Kalon for Finance, a fifty-year-old Nepali man named Ganesh Khatiwada. "Kalon for Finance?"

Khatiwada smoothed down his thin black mustache. "Regent, it is my opinion that Tibet would greatly benefit from such a closer alignment. The Nanfang Republic alone would worth a great deal in terms of closer economic ties, provided of course that they are willing to abide by our rules and regulations. If Nanfang corporations expect no special treatment and are willing to work with the Finance Ministry then our national coffers would find such a relationship to be extremely healthy. I read the summary of your discussions with President Yang and it appears to me that she is the sort of person who would ensure that her nation's businessmen respect our rules."

"You're quite correct in that assessment, Kalon Khatiwada. President Yang made it abundantly clear that the Nanfang Republic and the Shenzhen Pact would not force any changes upon us or attempt to bypass any of our laws, so we would be able to harness the potential of a tidal wave of Nanfang corporate investment instead of being swept away by it."

Khatiwada nodded and smiled. "As you say, Regent."

Rangdol gestured towards the Kalon for Health, a thin Tibetan of forty-nine named Sonam Dhondup. "Kalon for Health?"

"Regent, it is my opinion that our national health system could gain substantial benefits from a closer relationship with the Nanfang Republic and its allies. It could open up greater opportunities for Tibetan citizens to learn medicine at foreign universities as well as potentially making it easier for us to attract experienced medical personnel from other nations. That would increase our pool of doctors, nurses, surgeons, all with the very latest in medical training. We would also potentially gain greater access to the most modern medical equipment, not just from the Nanfang Republic but also from European nations if that speech given in Lisbon is anything to go by. In short, it is an opportunity that we should make the most of."

The Regent smirked slightly. "I never thought of you as being interested in foreign affairs, Kalon Dhondup. You are correct though, President Yang's visit to Lisbon does seem to have opened the door to European nations aligning with the Shenzhen Pact. Speaking of foreign affairs, Kalon for Information & International Relations? What is your perspective?"

The amiable-seeming Sushil Bhandari tapped his ballpoint pen on the table a few times before responding. "Regent, it is my opinion that from an international relations perspective, closer alignment does indeed open a lot of doors for us that are currently either closed or only slightly ajar. Closer alignment would increase Tibet's international profile and potentially bring us opportunities to gain prestige. Depending on how closely we align with Nanjing and the Shenzhen Pact, we could find ourselves with a say in the actions of a significant international organisation. From an information perspective, however, closer alignment could bring issues. We can currently manage tourists and other foreign visitors with ease, but a greater influx of foreigners could lead to interactions with the general populace that could prove potentially troublesome. We would potentially require an increased security presence in order to prevent the dissemination of ideas and ideologies that run counter to the Tibetan state."

Regent Rangdol nodded agreeably as the fifty-year-old Nepali man finished. "You're quite correct to express concerns, Kalon Bhandari. The Nanfang Republic harbours no interest in 'regime change' and the Shenzhen Pact is accepting of all manner of governmental systems. As you say though, tourists and other foreign visitors may attempt to spread ideas that are the antithesis of our military state. We would indeed require an increased security presence as a result, although I would suggest that we could counter the spread of anti-state ideas through a concerted effort from the Security Ministry, the Home Ministry, and the Education Ministry. Our state has endured for decades thanks to the wisdom of my great-grandfather's reforms and it is through our vigilance that it shall continue to endure. It is quite likely that Nanjing and their allies would assist us in this endeavour as they would have no desire to see a friendly government overthrown, it is something that we can discuss with the Nanfang Republic at the appropriate time. Kalon for Religion & Culture, what do you have to say on these matters?"

A fifty-five-year-old Tibetan, Wangdue Dhargyal adjusted his glasses before addressing the national leader. "Regent, it is my opinion that closer alignment will greatly increase awareness of our religion and culture around the globe. This would benefit us in terms of increased tourism which does, of course, bring both advantages and concerns as previously stated, but it could also benefit us in terms of influence. Increased awareness in other nations could result in a desire to know more, and that could lead to us being able to open cultural and religious outreach centres in other nations. We would have our embassies and consulates operating official diplomacy but we could conduct 'unofficial diplomacy' by educating citizens of foreign nations about our culture and our faith. We would likely attract converts through this effort and they could be utilised as an example to our people that our beliefs and practices can take hold in other nations. Provided that the spiritual authorities do not oppose this, of course."

"A very interesting concept, Kalon Dhargyal. Perhaps it would be better implemented by utilising embassies and consulates as 'home bases' for such activities at first, as establishing independent outreach centres could prove to be extremely expensive. I do like the idea though, it is one that we shall investigate. Kalon Dorji, do you agree that it would be prudent for the Religion & Culture Ministry to work alongside the Education Ministry in such endeavours?"

Pema Dorji nodded. "Yes Regent, it is indeed an endeavour that the Education Ministry could provide substantial contributions to." The forty-eight-year-old Bhutanese paused for a moment. "While I have the floor, as it were, I have nothing more to add to the discussions as the Education Ministry would not truly benefit or suffer whether we adopt closer alignment or not."

"Very well. That just leaves you, Kalon for Home. Anything more to add that has not already been mentioned?"

Gadrang Nyima shook his head as the fifty-two-year-old Tibetan could not think of anything specific to the Home Ministry to say. "Regent, other Kalons have covered any concerns that I have regarding increased foreign visitation and of course the Home Ministry will work alongside the Security Ministry and the Education Ministry wherever necessary to ensure the endurance of the Tibetan state. If it is decided that we are to pursue closer alignment then I shall ensure that the Home Ministry does everything possible to assist in the endeavour."

Regent Rangdol cast his gaze from Kalon to Kalon until finally clasping his hands together on the table. "This has been an informative and productive discussion indeed. So, on to the regular matters of governance."