By Chris Devonshire-Ellis China?s Real India Position: Dismantle Dharamsala | 2point6billion.com - Foreign Direct Investment in Asia The recent spat between China and India over border issues in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, which resulted in urgently convened meetings taking place between the two nations has wakened the real issue between the two countries: the Dalai Lama. China’s incursions into territory in Arunachal Pradesh in particular are not really aimed in my opinion at a serious claim on the state, but more to do with the immediate future of the Dalai Lama, and his claims for Tibet. Following the movement of China into Tibet in the late 1950’s, the Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala in northern India, where he now runs his government-in-exile on Indian soil. China and India already fought a border war directly linked to the Tibet issue in 1962. Recently, China has been feeling that India has not been putting serious thought on its handling of the Tibet issue. The Chinese foreign office expressly called for India “to ban activities aimed at splitting Chinese territory” just a year ago. That call was in response to the Dalai Lama calling together his government in Dharamsala to chart a new course of action following the breakdown of the eighth round of talks on Tibetan autonomy in Beijing earlier that year. India’s problem is that by giving the Dalai Lama sanctuary, they have also allowed him to operate a shadow Tibetan government in exile. China meanwhile has not fully been able to assimilate Tibet into China, and partially sees the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala as one of the reasons why. Indeed, the Tibetan government, in the past decade, has stepped up its efforts through the internet via You Tube and Twitter among others so that an almost a ‘virtual Tibet’ has emerged. With Dharamsala hosting a number of organizations less disposed to the Dalai Lama’s peaceful solution, Dharamsala is becoming more antagonistic towards China, not less. As the Dalai Lama ages, power is slowly filtering out of his hands and more towards a younger group of exiled Tibetans with fewer inhibitions about resorting to violence against the Chinese. This helped, Beijing believes, fuel some of the fires that erupted in March last year when riots in Tibet ended in numerous deaths and civilian casualties. Tibet, Beijing believes, is evolving into a ‘virtual country’ with a ‘virtual government’ based in Dharamsala. Consequently, China wants it dismantled and shut down. Zheng Ruixiang, a senior fellow at the Chinese Institute of International Studies was reported to have said as much in November 2006, in comments to the Times of India when he advised that China “wants India to dissolve the Dalai Lamas Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala. The Tibetan problem is a major obstacle in the normalization of relations between China and India.” Historically, the issue over Tibet is highly complex. The Dalai Lama as a reincarnated institution was actually created in the 16th century in meetings held between one of the early Tibetan Kings and the then Khan of Mongolia, at the time the dominant regional power. Essentially, the Mongolians wanted “divine” recognition to support their rule, and the mystical Dalai Lama was created (the first one was actually the third, they cleverly posthumously recognized two predecessors) to do just that. The Mongolian Empire wanted to demonstrate its legitimacy by being seen to have received blessings from a “divine” figure. The creation of the Dalai Lama allowed them to achieve just that. The Tibetans in return, received military protection from the Mongols to protect their borders from other warlords in eastern China and northern India. As Mongolia waned and China rose during the Ming and Qing dynasties, this giving of divine blessings passed to the Chinese Emperor, who obtained this and regional religious legitimacy from the Dalai Lama. Tibet was in the business of selling religion, and Tibetan Buddhism became so complex and arcane with all its many gods that only high lamas (based of course in Tibet) could understand it. They occasionally went on tours, feted wherever they went for their holy, largely impenetrable wisdom. Tibet provided religious legitimacy, and in return received military protection. This all worked splendidly well until Mao Zedong famously said that religion was poison and declared China an atheist country. Tibet didn’t have anything to sell anymore, while the Chinese didn’t require any religious legitimizing of their regime, either. There were no gods, and there was no need to continue to require the presence of a Dalai Lama. China, which for centuries under the previous arrangement had managed Tibet’s border security, simply marched in and imposed a new form of governance. Recently, the breakdown of dialogue between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Beijing over greater autonomy have collapsed leading to the possibility of greater militancy in Dharamsala. However, in negotiating with Beijing over the giving of greater autonomy to Tibet, has the Dalai Lama simply been asking for too much? The demands for autonomy require China to grant this not just to Tibet, but also to the areas of greater Tibet which have been assimilated into modern China. These include all of Qinghai Province, the southern part of Gansu, western Sichuan and the northern part of Yunnan. Now although at different times in history these areas have indeed been considered part of Tibet, it has never occurred simultaneously. Local warlords moved the borders on regular occasions over the centuries as their power waxed and waned. Additionally, the Dalai Lama has requested eleven administrative areas to be returned to Tibetan governance, including language, religion, culture, education, right of domicile, the environment, use of natural resources, economic development, trade and public health. China balks at that list as being too much. It involves the splitting up of four provinces, the creation of a second political system within China, and the imposition of a system the opposite to China’s socialist model. In China, power flows down to the people from the state. In Tibet, the position would be reversed. Beijing not unreasonably from a governing viewpoint, regards this as subversive. The impasse this continues. However, as the Dalai Lama ages – he is now 74 – China is concerned about the government-in-exile’s leadership and the potential rise of a militant, more aggressive Tibetan movement for independence that is capable of creating trouble in Tibet and beyond. The March 2008 riots were a case in point, unrest occurred in several towns also in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai. China cannot therefore understand why the Indian government profess friendship, yet permits the Dalai Lama and its government-in-exile to make proposals that are subversive towards China from Indian soil. In developing border tensions over lesser credible claims over Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese are sending strong signals about what is really expects from India. It doesn’t include a continuation of a Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala. Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the founding partner of Dezan Shira & Associates and lived in China for 21 years. He is now based in Mumbai. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Is it reasonable for China to expect that India will forcibly dismantle the Dalai Lama's government in exile? Will the Indian people accept such action against a peaceful Buddhist leader? And if this is indeed what they want, why don't they just come out and say it? Or is it because they know that such a demand would be outrageous in a democratic country?