India - Tibet relations

Villager

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Think we needed a special thread to discuss Indo-Tibetan matters for we share complicated unique semi-independent relation with our Tibetan counterparts.
 

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'India has done the most for Tibetans', Prime Minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay tells WION


Lobsang Sangay, Tibet's Prime Minister in Exile, tells exclusively to WION, what role does Tibet want New Delhi to play in highlighting China's human rights abuses.

Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister in Exile of Tibet recently spoke to WION about China's abuses against Tibetans, and the larger role played by India in highlighting these abuses.
Sangay shed light on how India has helped Tibetans, saying that all the institutions that were destroyed in Tibet were rebuilt in India.

"We always accept that India has done the most for Tibetans because the largest number of Tibetans are here, all the monasteries and cultural institutions that were destroyed in Tibet were rebuilt here, and we have revived our civilisation here", he said.
But the PM in exile added how India can improve its strategy in dealing with the Tibetan crisis.

"India also in some ways gave away Tibet when it was occupied in 1950s, India could have done a bit more... For eg - The media calls it "Indo-China border". When the Chinese troops came to Galwan Valley and crossed the river, and violence ensued, the media, and the intellectuals complained -"Why are they crossing the border, why are they here". But the fact is when you said Tibet is part of China, the Chinese troops will say "Yes, I'm coming to my territory because you say so", Sangay asserted.

He also urged India to not lose the "larger picture". He said the following - "When you have already given up 2.5 million square kilometres of land - almost two-third of India's land size, when you argue about one mountaintop, it sounds so small... India should not lose the larger picture. Historically, it was always a border between Tibet and India".

Sangay also added how only 75 Indian soldiers had to man the border when Tibet was in-charge.
"When Tibet was independent, only 75 Indian soldiers were guarding the border. India also has to accept unless you solve the Tibet issue, peace and harmony between India and China is not likely", he added.

 

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India also has to accept unless you solve the Tibet issue, peace and harmony between India and China is not likely", he added.
It's not unlikely but impossible once they got full control of Tibetan land and lives. They will have gotten an upper hand against India, they already do quite a bit. India has gotta make smart maneuvers to get things back into its favor.

The issue of Tibetan independence has been complex because even though Tibetans have their own distinct identity, culture and practices and they have not recognised foreign authority over them; the location and their cultural practices has prevented them from becoming a truly independent entity keeping them as tributary state. Treated as independent by India in 1947 onwards, occupied by CCP in !950-51 with Tibet pleading to international community with no one willing to help. And seriously, the location they are placed on, they can declare themselves independent but they can't fight so no one is going to come to their help. India has strength but we fear casualities.
 

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'Tibet is occupied territory’, international conflict resolution expert calls for India to resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict

"Other countries look towards India for guidance on their Tibet policy. What India does have a significant effect on the world’s Tibet policies," said Dr. Michael Van Walt Van Praag


Dr. Michael Van Walt Van Praag, PM Modi with Xi Jinping

A book discussion event was organised through video conferencing on 10th February, to discuss the book ’Tibet Brief 20/20’ authored by eminent author Dr. Michael Van Walt Van Praag. Dr. Michael Van Walt is an international lawyer, a mediator and advisor in intrastate peace processes, and professor of international law and international relations.


Several distinguished persons from India and abroad participated in the book discussion, including Former RAW chief Mr. C.D. Sahay, Tibetan politician in exile and activist Gyari Dolma, former Ambassador Jyoti Pande, former diplomat Anil Trigunayat, Professor at Delhi University Dr. Abanti Bhattacharya, Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue, former Special Secretary with Government of India Krishan Verma, and Editor of The Sunday Guardian Joyeeta Basu. The event was moderated by Ms. Samiksha Roy, Research Associate at Usanas Foundation.


Talking about his book, Dr. Michael Van Walt said that contrary to what Beijing claims and what many people believe, Tibet was never part of the China. There are no legal bases on the occupation by PRC and it is solely on ‘self-serving basis’, he said. The author ascertained that Tibet is occupied territory and China doesn’t have sovereignty over it.


Dr. Walt discussed India’s role in the matter, and placed three major policy recommendations for India on its Tibet policy. He said, Firstly, it is important for India to understand that not only Tibet but the entire Himalayan region is of utmost importance for Indian geopolitical interests and India should start working to secure its interests. The Indian Government has an obligation under international law to resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict. Delhi should send a message that the conflict has not been resolved and the world needs to pay attention to it, he recommended.


Secondly, India needs to actively counter the Chinese historical narrative, which is an integral part of China’s strategy on Tibet which is misleading the world. Not contesting this has made it significantly harder to challenge other narratives such as the one on the South China Sea. It would be of critical importance for India to bust the narrative and try to project the real narrative on Tibet

Thirdly, a major issue that leads to concerns is the non-recognition of the territory taken by the force by China. Late last year, the US Department of State referred to Tibet as an ‘occupied territory’, which was a significant move. India and the whole world should not succumb to China’s pressure. This would strengthen India’s position and help to resolve the conflict on the border.”

He further argued, “Let me make this clear – India has a special role to play when it comes to the Tibet issue. Other countries look towards India for guidance on their Tibet policy. What India does have a significant effect on the world’s Tibet policies.”

He said that only way to stop the bullying is by ending the compliance with the bully’s demands. “This has started and we can see that the world increasingly countering the Chinese aggression. The need now is to bring similar powers together in an alliance to counter China,” he added.

Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue called China their enemy, saying that they are destroying Tibet. He said that they are not giving up and will recreate a freedom movement in Tibet. Saying that he was born in Tibet and educated in India, Tenzin added he feels pain when India does not speak up for Tibet. “I want India to protect its borders from China,” he said. He also stated that one of the problems in fulfilling the commitment to the Tibetan independence movement is the ignorance amongst Indians on the Tibet issue. A lot of people in India have been believing in the slogan of ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’. No Indian textbooks talk about Tibet, he said.

Tenzin Tsundue also informed that he will start a path yatra from Dharamshala to Delhi on 12 February to make people aware of the Tibet issue.

Ambassdor Anil Trigunayat said that China has never respected the ‘One India’ policy, and therefore India should not be reciprocating the same.

Balochistan liberation activist Bilal Baloch also joined the event and argued that this is the time when India must change its policy of ‘non-interference’ towards the other countries. He said – “Dragon is a dragon; it will definitely bite you. He added that China is interfering in the internal issues of India, and even Pakistan is spreading religious extremism in India. Therefore, India also should revise its policies on Tibet and Balochistan.

 

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China's Tibet tactic: Less attention to Dalai Lama, show enthusiasm for Xi

In the latest attempt to tighten its grip in Tibet, China is forcing the Tibetans to pay less attention to their religion and show more enthusiasm for president Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to a report by The Economist.

Beijing has also intensified its efforts to eradicate the Dalai Lama from the religious lives of Tibetans to crush their identity.

The Chinese government occupied Tibet in 1950 and has ever since tried to control the region.

The Dalai Lama, whom China views as overseer of an "evil clique" that seeks to split Tibet from China, escaped to India in 1959 and the 10the Panchen Lama (Lobsang Trinley Lhundrup Choekyi Gyaltsen) stayed behind in Tibet. He spoke against Chinese rule many times and wrote a report chronicling Tibet's famines in the 1960s.

As per The Economist, the Tibetan religion like that of Muslim followers in Xinjiang is undergoing what the CCP term as "sinicisation".

In Tibetan and Xinjiang, the Chinese authorities have launched attacks on people's religion and cultural traditions.

While the Uyghurs have been moved to "re-education camps", the Tibetan farmers have been moved to modern housing in or near towns and cities. Moreover, the Tibetan language has been replaced with Mandarin similar to that in Xinjiang.

"Surveillance has been stepped up. Networks of informers relay information to the state; smartphones are tapped. Just as Uyghurs can no longer make pilgrimages to Mecca, it has become almost impossible for Tibetans to travel to India to attend religious teachings given by the Dalai Lama, as many did before Xi took power in 2012," The Economist said.

Unlike the Uyghurs, the Tibetans are allowed to use social media apps such as WeChat but with restrictions such as posting images of Dalai Lama can be an imprisonable offence.

"It seems these policies are aimed at creating future Tibetans who will not know about the Dalai Lama as having any role in Tibetan Buddhism except as an enemy," Robbie Barnett, a scholar of Tibetan culture, was quoted as saying by The Economist.

 

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Writing more of India into Tibetology


The subject is no longer only about countering the other beyond the mountain — China


Let’s situate the study of Tibet outside the narrow silo of Sino-Indian relations and within the Himalaya. It might teach us much that we don’t know about India.

As students of Tibet and the Himalaya, we welcome the Indian Army’s recent proposal for its officers to study Tibetology. A media report on January 28 said that officers would study “Tibetan history, culture, and language on both sides of the Line of Actual Control” in order to “counter Chinese influence and propaganda”.

The Indian Army is right to emphasise the importance of building expertise on Tibet to understand the history and contemporary challenges in India’s relationship with China. Indeed, India-China relations cannot be approached through a strictly bilateral prism that excludes Tibet and the Himalaya.

Equally, Tibetology cannot be confined within the bounds of state interests and territorial conflicts on either side of the Tibetan plateau. It encompasses the multi- and inter-disciplinary study of the broader Tibetan cultural region, and is most productively situated with and within the Himalaya.

According to the Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (2003), the region includes not just U-Tsang (present-day Tibet Autonomous Region), Amdo, and Kham, but large areas in the Himalaya, including parts of Nepal and Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, and Tawang. We believe that approaching the region through these trans-Himalayan connections, as opposed to nation-state silos, can teach us not just about Sino-Indian relations but also about large parts of India.

Colonial provenance

As with other parts of the colonised world, the production and codification of knowledge about Tibet served European imperial interests. Britain recognised the importance of Sikkim and Bhutan in securing its interests in Tibet, and its Political Officer in Sikkim cultivated close relations with aristocratic families in the region. Simultaneously, from Warren Hastings in the 1770s to Francis Younghusband in 1903-04, an army of cartographers, mountaineers, missionaries, linguists, and botanists worked to produce definitive knowledge about Tibet for British India.

On the one hand, works of fiction such as James Hilton’s Lost Horizon (1933) painted a mythical image of Tibet as Shangri-la — a utopian society untouched by modernity; the repository of a putative true Buddhism. On the other, imperial realpolitik wrestled with demarcating the territorial boundaries of British India and its protectorates, most notably through the McMahon Line (1914). These approaches shaped initial academic engagements with Tibet — trends which persist to this day.

Free India, Tibetan studies

Independent India recognised the economic and cultural ties that traversed the Himalayas and the role of Buddhism as the connecting tissue. This informed the institution-building efforts of the government in the 1950s. Dedicated to Tibetan and Buddhist studies, the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies were established in Leh and Sarnath, Varanasi, respectively, as was the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology in the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim, which was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958. The Institutes in Sarnath and Gangtok are on the Indian Army’s list of places where officers can study Tibetology.

These efforts notwithstanding, studies on Tibet by Indian academics have largely mirrored India’s geopolitical anxieties, which were exacerbated after the Sino-Indian war in 1962. Some exceptions such as Girija Saklani and T.C. Palakshappa aside, the majority of Indian scholarship on Tibet has continued to focus on the role of Tibet in the bilateral relationship between India and China, or on Buddhism.

By understanding Tibet as a buffer zone in India-China relations, the former often leads to an ahistorical narrative of India and Tibet as “natural allies”, eschewing the history of complex political engagements between successive administrations in Lhasa and India over issues ranging from frontiers to customary rights of grazing and trade. It does not account for the centrality of Tibet in India’s relationship with Bhutan and Sikkim (before 1975).

Similarly, with respect to Buddhism, the guru-chela narrative of India as the birthplace of Buddhism and Tibet as the recipient of this knowledge dominates, as does the idea of Buddhism as a derivative of Hinduism. This often excludes a view of Tibetan Buddhism as a living and evolving entity that thrives in large parts of the Himalayan region. It also ends up equating Tibet with a reified Tibetan Buddhism devoid of sectarian complexity, and erasing Tibet’s non-Buddhist religions.

A Himalayan home
Most tragically, in defining Tibetology so narrowly, we miss an opportunity to understand contemporary India. The postcolonial Indian state was not forged in the centres of Delhi and Calcutta alone. Nor were its mountains and plains integrated into a single nation-state uniformly. The Himalaya is not just an insurmountable “natural barrier” — a sentry as we sing in sare jahaan se achcha — that separates India from its neighbours. It is home to interconnected yet diverse ecologies, societies, and polities that criss-cross many contemporary borders.

What is more, there is no location more advantageous for studying Tibet and the Himalaya. Indian institutions — both national and state archives, as well as private collections in libraries — house the richest materials for this work. India hosts the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the Central Tibetan Administration, Tibetan refugee settlements and a plethora of Tibetan institutes. Linguistic and field expertise abound, as do opportunities for learning the language for the uninitiated.

Foregrounding the interconnections among Tibet and the Himalayan regions and their relationship with the Indian centre offers valuable perspectives into processes of state-making and the politics of nation-building. As recent environmental, social, and geopolitical crises show, these continue to remain live concerns.
Thus, in broadening the mandate for Tibetology, we write more of India into the story. It is no longer only about countering the other beyond the mountain.

Swati Chawla is a historian of the Himalaya and an assistant professor at O.P. Jindal Global University. Madhura Balasubramaniam is an independent researcher studying Tibetan rehabilitation in India.

 

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Army eyes Tibetology to checkmate China

NEW DELHI: As India undertakes a rebalance of military forces and fire power to the northern borders with China amid the continuing troop confrontation in eastern Ladakh, the Army has a new target on its radar screen: Tibetology.

The Army is now fine-tuning a proposal for its officers to study Tibetan history, culture and language on “both sides” of the Line of Actual Control and the international boundary as part of the measures being discussed to “counter the propaganda and spread of influence by China”, say sources.

The Tibetology proposal was first initiated in the Army commanders’ conference in October, and is now being “further analysed” by the Shimla-based Army Training Command (ARTRAC) on the directions of General M M Naravane.

ARTRAC has identified seven institutes that offer postgraduate courses in Tibetology where Army officers can go on “study leave”. It has also been recommended that officers can also be sent to these institutes for “small capsules” on Tibetology.

They are Department of Buddhist Studies (Delhi University), Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies (Varanasi), Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Bihar), Visva Bharati (West Bengal), Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education (Bengaluru), Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (Gangtok) and Central Institute of Himalayan Culture Studies (Dahung, Arunachal Pradesh).

Army officers are generally well-versed with Pakistan. But a similar expertise on China and the Chinese psyche is lacking
. Officers who really understand China are very few in number. Tibetology fares even worse. These deficiencies need to be plugged -
An Army officer
The Army needs to assiduously build expertise on both China and Tibet in terms of “linguistic, cultural and behaviour patterns”. This will require “language and sector specialisations”, with selected officers being posted for longer tenures along the LAC instead of the western front with Pakistan. “Just a two-year course in Mandarin will not make an officer a China expert,” he added.

India, of course, has largely refrained from playing the so-called “Tibet card”, which constitutes a major red-line for China, over the years. Some experts even contend New Delhi “lost” the leverage in 1954 itself when it inked the trade agreement with Beijing, which recognised the “Tibet region” as part of China.

A signal, however, was recently sent by the public acknowledgement of the role played by the Special Frontier Force, a covert special unit that recruits from the Tibetan community exiled in India, during the military manoeuvre to occupy heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso-Kailash range area in end-August. “Either way, if you want to use Tibet as an issue in India-China relations, then expertise in Tibetology will be critical,” said an expert

 

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We will one day take His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to Tibet: Tenzin Tsundue

Dharamshala, India – “This is a new beginning for Tibet. I request every one to take whatever steps possible in their own capacity. Make this commitment, that we will one day take His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to Tibet,” Tenzin Tsundue passionately remarked before finally starting his journey of 500 miles to Delhi, India

On the auspicious occasion of Losar, Tibetan activist and freedom fighter Tenzin Tsundue left for the National Capital of New Delhi, on foot. A brave journey of 500 miles, named ‘Walk a Mile for Tibet’, began on February 12, 2021, and will end in Delhi on March 10, 2021, the day commemorated as the Tibetan National Uprising Day. The objective of this one-man march is to raise awareness and educate the Indian masses about the Tibetan issue and how crucial it resolves to restore peace to the Indo-Tibetan border between India and China.


The march kicked off on McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh, Shri Ajit Nehria, the President of the India Tibet Friendship Society (ITFS) and Gonpo Dhondup, the President of Tibetan Youth Congress present at the occasion, as well as around a hundred people gathered there to send off the Tibetan activist. “Tibet’s freedom, India’s security, a phrase we have often heard, but never understood until now,” said the President of the ITFS. He maintained in his short speech that Tibet’s freedom is crucial to India’s integrity and security from the continued Chinese aggressions all across the border.


Talking about his initiative, Tenzin Tsundue also addressed the gathering and spoke passionately from his heart. “I was born in India and therefore consider myself as an Indian as well as a Tibetan. Therefore, I have a double duty to ensure that China receives a fitting reply for all its wrongdoings”, said Tsundue, maintaining that Indians are not fully aware of the causes behind many of China’s aggression, and that is due to a lack of knowledge about the Tibetan Issue. He aims to raise as much awareness as he possibly can in the next month, and reach Delhi on the occasion of the National Tibet Uprising Day, the day when tens of thousands of Tibetans took to the streets in rebellion against Chinese oppression in 1959. “This is a new beginning for Tibet. I request every one to take whatever steps possible in their own capacity. Make this commitment, that we will one day take His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to Tibet,” Tsundue passionately remarked before finally starting his journey of 500 miles to Delhi.


‘Walk A Mile For Tibet’ is an initiative taken by Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan activist of international renown. In this initiative, Tsundue will walk almost 500 miles from McLeod Ganj to New Delhi, crossing cities like Mohali, Chandigarh, Ambala, Karnal, and Sonipat en route. The main objective of this initiative is to raise awareness and educate the Indian people about the Tibetan Issue, how its resolution is the only solution to India’s struggles with China and why India must repeal its ‘One China Act’ and recognise Tibet as a separate nation.


5 Reasons why India must repeal its One-China Policy


1. As a matter of principle, it is wrong for any country to undermine the sovereign status of another country, especially when happens to be an occupied country. Accepting One-China policy is the endorsement and recognition of the illegal Chinese occupation of countries like Tibet, East Turkestan, Manchuria, Southern Mongolia, and Taiwan. India and Indians have suffered so much under British occupation. Morally, India and Indians should never endorse or recognise the illegal occupation of any other country in this world.


2. China continues to stake claim over Indian territories in Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim. It often raises the Kashmir issue in the UN to needle India. It has always sided with and supported Pakistan in international fora. Since China has never endorsed a One-India Policy, why should India continue to adhere to its One-China policy?


3. In 1947, when India became independent, Tibet was also an independent country. The Chinese invasion of Tibet began in 1950. In 1954, India started to recognise Tibet as part of China. This was a colossal geopolitical mistake. When Tibet was independent, it served as a buffer zone between India and China. Now, with China as its neighbour, India is constantly exposed to the onslaughts of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Incidents like Doklam and Galwan have become regular events. Repealing One-China policy is in the interest of India's geopolitical security as it negates the very existence of a Sino-Indian border and supports the restoration of the erstwhile Indo-Tibet border which was always free of tension and conflict because Tibet has always been a friend, ally and well-wisher of India, unlike China.


4. Due to China’s aggressive posture towards India and its active support of Pakistan, a huge chunk of India’s annual budget is spent on its military (approx. $55 billion in 2021). If India is free of this menace on its border, it can dedicate all these funds and its full attention to national development.


5. China is India’s number one and most powerful enemy. It is actively destabilising India through its overt border attacks and covert financial and material support for Pakistan. It is trying to encircle India through its String of Pearls and Belt and Road initiatives. If India wants to checkmate China, it too should use its Brahmastra or its checkmate move to stall China's aggressive advances - reject One-China policy and recognise Tibet’s independence

 

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