Monday, June 5, 2023

Tawang is an India-China battleground for Tibetan Buddhism – The Impartial Observer

The soldiers of India and China have clashed once again. CNN-News18 reported that 300 Chinese soldiers entered Indian territory at 3.00 am on 9 December. Within minutes, 100–150 Indian soldiers rushed in and chased them away. Thanks to an agreement not to use firearms, fighting included clubs, sticks and machetes. Six Indians were seriously injured. The numbers are much higher for the Chinese. Unlike the clash in June 2020, no one has died. Like the 2020 skirmish, Indian soldiers have given a crushing defeat to Chinese soldiers.

chinese newspaper Global Times claims that India’s growing nationalism and close US-India cooperation are responsible for the tension on the border. The joint US-India military exercise in the border state of Uttarakhand has ruffled feathers of China. Along with the construction of roads and strengthening of Indian posts in the border areas. In addition, Beijing sees New Delhi increasingly engaging with Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy. It sees the Quad as a potential anti-China alliance, comprising India, Japan, Australia and the US.

retired cia officer Glen CarleOne of the Fair Observer’s regular writers and commentators, is of the view that Chinese crimes are part of a long-term policy. Beijing insists on all international issues where they have differences unless they are met by the opposition. On Deutsche Welle, an Indian professor said that the purpose of Chinese aggression is to keep India distracted and gain leverage in the talks. Like many, he thinks Beijing is signaling to New Delhi that Washington is too far away. India must make peace with its more powerful northern neighbour, who is the top dog in Asia.

All of these explanations are correct but something else is going on.

Chinese Communism vs. Tibetan Buddhism

It is important to note that the Chinese carried out this operation at high altitude in the chilly morning hours. This required detailed planning and effective implementation. Its objective was to capture the strategic heights near Tawang, one of the holiest places in Tibetan Buddhism, in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang, situated between China-occupied Tibet and Bhutan, is the oldest and second largest monastery in Asia. The Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born in this area in March 1683. The current Dalai Lama is now 87 and the question of succession has arisen.

Tibetan activist and author Tenzin Tsundyu speaks to the Fair Observer

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Tibetans and the CCP are already at loggerheads over this question. The Dalai Lama has thought he may come back as a woman. Note that no Dalai Lama has emerged outside the traditional Tibetan homeland. Tawang is the only important center in this homeland that is outside Chinese control. For many Tibetans it is desirable that this tradition continue. As several lamas have told the authors, the next Dalai Lama may emerge from the Tawang region.

Beijing wants to avoid such a possibility. Controlling Tawang will help. Therefore, China claims the region along with other parts of Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet. In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finally won its civil war and took control of mainland China. Within a year, the CCP sent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. This imperial army of occupation came to the fore as the army of liberation.

In the early days, Beijing tried to avoid Tibetan unrest. Therefore, China signed the Seventeen Point Agreement with Tibet. It promised not to “change the existing political system in Tibet” and “the established position, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama”. China did not make these promises in good faith. Under Chairman Mao Zedong, the CCP began to shape an intensely spiritual and Buddhist Tibet into its vision of an atheistic communist utopia. For most Tibetans, this utopia was a nightmare. In 1959, he rose in rebellion. The PLA brutally crushed the rebellion and the Dalai Lama fled to India.

Just as the Pope is the spiritual leader of Catholics, the Dalai Lama is an equal figure for Tibetans. His presence in India angers China and as long as the Dalai Lama is alive, he will remain the focal point of Tibetan resistance against Chinese colonialism. After the Dalai Lama dies, Beijing aims to choose his successor. Control of the historic Tawang Monastery would eliminate a major center of future resistance.

China has been following this playbook for some time. In 1995, Beijing rejected the Panchen Lama, chosen by the Dalai Lama. Instead, the CCP appointed a Manchurian candidate in his place. Today, a puppet Panchen Lama signs hymn sheets from Beijing, warning Tibetans to stay away from separatist forces. The Beijing-appointed leader argues that Tibetan Buddhism must adapt to “socialism and Chinese conditions”. No wonder the CCP dreams of installing a puppet Dalai Lama who pledges loyalty to Beijing.

why tawang matters

Many Chinese nationalists regret the loss of Tawang. This area could very well have been a part of China. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India was devoted to the idea of ​​Sino-Indian unity. He wanted the two Asian giants to stand against Western imperialism. Against the wishes of his state Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Nehru accepted the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1950.

As explained in a great piece on the Fair Observer about the India-China tensions, Nehru later realized that he had been betrayed by Mao. He kicked off the so-called “forward policy”, according to which Indian troops were to patrol further as the international border recognized by India. In 1962, the PLA inflicted a crushing defeat on India. Chinese troops captured Tawang and advanced as far south as Bomdila. Although they later withdrew, India lost valuable territory and invaluable prestige.

Han and Hindu nationalism come face to face

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The fact that Tawang was in Indian hands is a historical accident. Nehru was a socialist and so were his top officials. He valued an anti-Western alliance with China. Major Ralengnao “Bob” Khathing had no such Nehruvian delusions. He took matters into his own hands and marched towards Tawang with only two platoons. In 1951, the region, previously under the control of the independent Tibetan government, was now in Indian hands. It has remained Indian territory since then, except for a brief interval in 1962. Although the Chinese still claim Tawang.

The recent Chinese operation must have captured the heights from where Tawang is clearly visible. They would have gained supremacy of the area and made future moves to capture Tawang easier. From the captured heights, cannons could raze the monastery and the city. Furthermore, once the snow receded and the weather turned bad, the Chinese troops would move to their new bases. The Indian generals must have found it difficult to move large numbers of troops to recapture these positions.

Note that the Chinese have tried to capture these heights before. They tried in 2016 and most recently in October 2021. xiaokang (well) border guard village. One such village is near the site of the latest clash. intelligence officers tell officials that 600-700 xiaokang now exists along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is actually the India-China border. They are part of an aggressive defense policy that President Xi Jinping has implemented in almost all of China’s neighbors.

If the PLA captures Tawang, the CCP will control a historic Tibetan monastery. Your choice of Dalai Lama will be rubber-stamped by this respected institution.

Buddhist Dalai Lama vs Communist Emperor Xi

Tibet is run according to Mao’s dictum: “Political power emanates from the barrel of a gun.” Neighboring Arunachal Pradesh, which the CCP claims to be South Tibet, is a militant multi-party democracy. The chief minister of the state had won 41 out of 60 seats in the 2019 election. On 16 December, he blamed Nehru for appeasing China and thanked Patel for capturing Tawang. Such a statement about recent history is impossible across borders. Unsurprisingly, Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as an imperfect but viable democratic model for China-occupied Tibet. This has made the CCP nervous.

Sino-Indian conflict raises the specter of Tibetan independence

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This nervousness has been exacerbated by the recent protests. Only in October, the 20th Central Committee of the CCP crowned Xi as the de facto emperor. Despite his disastrous zero-Covid policy, Xi’s grip on power looked more secure than ever. The past few weeks have proved to be a long time for Chinese politics. Xi’s zero-covid policy has failed and he has quietly made a U-turn. According to NatureScientists worry that Xi’s sudden reversal could lead to a surge in infections and overwhelming hospitalizations.

Winter is peak influenza season. Additionally, many people will travel across China for the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, further increasing the viral spread. Now that Xi is omnipotent, all the blame will fall on him. The CCP worries that the protests could spread to Tibet, causing the party and Xi to face defeat.

The CCP is also concerned about the recent developments in India. Earlier this year, the Indian Prime Minister called the Dalai Lama to wish him on his birthday. China’s displeasure escalated when New Delhi released pictures of the Dalai Lama visiting “a remote Himalayan village in the disputed border area of ​​eastern Ladakh”. The fact that he was flown there by a military helicopter particularly incensed Beijing.

The Chinese have not forgotten that the previous Dalai Lama fled to Darjeeling when Qing troops marched into Lhasa. The Revolution of 1911 allowed the 13th Dalai Lama to return from exile and expel Chinese soldiers and officers from Lhasa in 1912. He declared complete self-rule and Tibet achieved de facto independence that lasted for nearly four decades. The CCP is fearful of Tibetans regaining independence. As long as the Dalai Lama lives in India, he fears that what happened in 1912 may happen again.

For the CCP, Tibet is a tributary of China and the Dalai Lama must bow to Emperor Xi. For Indians, Tibet is home to Kailash and Mansarovar, the abode of Lord Shiva. They respect Tibetans for preserving Buddhism and many of India’s most revered Tantric traditions. For Tibetans themselves, India is the land of the Buddha and is now the home of the Dalai Lama. They prefer democracy to autocracy, Buddhism to communism, and the Dalai Lama to Emperor Xi.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.

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