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At the Roof of the World [Earth II]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Freistaat-Ostafrika
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At the Roof of the World [Earth II]

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:56 pm

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."

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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:55 pm

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.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Freistaat-Ostafrika
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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Aug 01, 2020 2:30 pm

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."


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