Tawang Is the India-China Battleground for Tibetan Buddhism

Indian and Chinese language troops have clashed once more. CNN-News18 reported that 300 Chinese language troopers crossed over into Indian territory at 3.00 am on December 9. Inside minutes, 100-150 Indian troops rushed over and repelled them. Because of an settlement to not use firearms, the combating concerned golf equipment, sticks and machetes. Six Indians have been grievously injured. The numbers are a lot greater for the Chinese language. Not like the conflict in June 2020, nobody has died. Just like the 2020 conflict, Indian troops have given Chinese language troopers a beating.

Chinese language newspaper International Instances claims that rising Indian nationalism and nearer US-India cooperation are chargeable for border tensions. A joint US-India army train within the border state of Uttarakhand has ruffled Chinese language feathers. So has the constructing of roads and strengthening of Indian positions in border areas. Moreover, Beijing sees New Delhi more and more aligning with Washington’s Indo-Pacific technique. It views the Quad, comprising India, Japan, Australia and the US, as an anti-China alliance.

Retired CIA officer Glenn Carle, considered one of Honest Observer’s common authors and commentators, takes the view that Chinese language transgressions are part of a long run coverage. Beijing pushes on all worldwide points the place they’ve variations till they meet opposition. On Deutsche Welle, an Indian professor opined that Chinese language transgression goals to maintain India distracted and achieve leverage in negotiations. Like many, he thinks that Beijing is signaling to New Delhi that Washington is way away. India ought to make peace with its extra highly effective northern neighbor, which is the highest canine in Asia.

All these explanations are true however there’s something extra happening.

Chinese language Communism v Tibetan Buddhism

It is very important be aware that the Chinese language carried out this operation within the wee hours of a cold winter morning at excessive altitude. This required detailed planning and efficient execution, and was clearly not an unintentional cross-border patrol, as some analysts have speculated. The purpose was to occupy strategic heights close to Tawang, one of the sacred locations in Tibetan Buddhism in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Nestled between China-occupied Tibet and Bhutan, Tawang is a district of about 2000 sq. kilometers (800 sq. miles) that can be dwelling to the oldest and second greatest monastery in Asia. Tawang is without doubt one of the only a few areas the place there are literally thousands of Tibetan households of their conventional homeland exterior China. The Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born on this space in March 1683. 

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The present Dalai Lama is now 87 and the query of succession looms. Already, the Tibetans and the CCP are clashing over this query. Word although that no Dalai Lama has emerged exterior the standard Tibetan homeland. Tawang is the one necessary middle of this homeland exterior Chinese language management. For a lot of Tibetans, it’s fascinating that this custom continues. As many lamas have talked about to the authors, the subsequent Dalai Lama may effectively emerge from the Tawang space. Beijing needs to keep away from such a chance. Management over Tawang would assist. Therefore, China claims this space together with different bits of Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet.

In 1949, the Chinese language Communist Get together (CCP) lastly triumphed in its civil warfare and took over Mainland China. Inside a 12 months, the CCP despatched the Individuals’s Liberation Military (PLA) into Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. This imperial military of occupation posed as a military of liberation and has nonetheless not left.

Within the early days, Beijing sought to keep away from Tibetan unrest. Due to this fact, China signed a Seventeen Level Settlement with Tibet. It promised to not “alter the present political system in Tibet” and “the established standing, features and powers of the Dalai Lama.” China didn’t make these guarantees in good religion. Beneath Chairman Mao Zedong, the CCP started shaping a deeply religious and Buddhist Tibet into its imaginative and prescient of an atheistic communist utopia. For many Tibetans, this utopia was a nightmare. In 1959, they rose up in revolt. The PLA brutally crushed the revolt and the Dalai Lama fled to India.

Simply because the Pope is the religious chief of the Catholics, the Dalai Lama is an analogous determine for the Tibetans. His presence in India angers China and, so long as the Dalai Lama lives, he stays a focus of Tibetan resistance to Chinese language colonization. As soon as the Dalai Lama dies, Beijing goals to choose his successor. Management over the historic Tawang monastery would snuff out a key middle of future resistance.

China has been following this playbook for some time. In 1995, Beijing rejected the Panchen Lama chosen by the Dalai Lama. As a substitute, the CCP appointed a Manchurian candidate in his place. At this time, a puppet Panchen Lama indicators from Beijing’s hymn sheet, warning Tibetans to steer clear of separatist forces. This Beijing-appointed chief argues that Tibetan Buddhism should adapt to “socialism and Chinese language circumstances.” No marvel, the CCP’s moist dream is to put in a puppet Dalai Lama who pledges fealty to Beijing.

Why Tawang Issues

Many Chinese language nationalists remorse the lack of Tawang. This space may very effectively have been part of China. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister  was wedded to the concept of India-China unity. He needed the 2 Asian giants to face as much as Western imperialism. In opposition to the needs of his statesmanly dwelling minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Nehru acquiesced to the 1950 Chinese language takeover of Tibet.

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As defined in a magnum opus on Honest Observer about India-China tensions, Nehru later realized that he had been duped by Mao. He kicked off the so-called “ahead coverage” as per which Indian troops took positions in territory that each India and China claimed as their very own. In 1962, the PLA dealt India a devastating defeat. Chinese language troops took over Tawang and superior as far south as Bomdila. Though they later withdrew, India misplaced beneficial territory and invaluable status.


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The truth that Tawang was in Indian arms is a historic accident. Nehru was a socialist and so have been his prime officers. They valued an anti-Western alliance with China. Main Ralengnao “Bob” Khathing didn’t have such Nehruvian delusions. He took issues in his personal arms and marched to Tawang with merely two platoons. In 1951, this space, previously beneath the management of the unbiased Tibetan authorities, was now in Indian arms. Apart from a quick interlude in 1962, it has remained Indian territory since. The Chinese language nonetheless lay declare to Tawang although.

The latest Chinese language operation would have captured heights from the place each the city and monastery in Tawang are clearly seen. They’d have secured space domination and made a future transfer to seize Tawang simpler. Artillery from the captured heights may have pummeled the monastery and the city. Additionally, as soon as snow would have set in and climate turned inclement, Chinese language troops would have dug into their new positions. Indian generals would have discovered it exhausting to maneuver massive numbers of troops to recapture these positions.

Word that the Chinese language have tried to seize these heights earlier than. They tried in 2016 and, extra not too long ago, in October 2021. The Chinese language have settled veterans in xiaokang (well-off) border protection villages. One such village is within the neighborhood of the purpose of the most recent conflict. Intelligence officers inform officers that 600-700 such xiaokang encampments now exist alongside the Line of Precise Management (LAC), the de facto India-China border. They kind a part of the aggressive protection coverage that President Xi Jinping has unleashed on practically all of China’s neighbors.

If the PLA acquired maintain of Tawang, the CCP would management a historic Tibetan monastery. Its selection of the Dalai Lama can be rubber stamped by this venerable establishment.

Buddhist Dalai Lama v Communist Emperor Xi

Tibet is run per Mao’s dictum: “Political energy grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Neighboring Arunachal Pradesh, which the CCP claims as South Tibet, is a rambunctious multiparty democracy. The state’s chief minister received 41 out of 60 seats within the 2019 elections. On December 16, he blamed Nehru for appeasing China and thanked Patel for taking on Tawang. Such an announcement about latest historical past is unimaginable throughout the border. Unsurprisingly, Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as an imperfect however viable democratic mannequin for China-occupied Tibet. This makes the CCP nervous.

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This nervousness has worsened due to latest protests. Solely in October, the twentieth Central Committee of the CCP topped Xi as de facto emperor. Regardless of his disastrous zero-COVID coverage, Xi’s vice-like grip on energy appeared safer than ever. The previous few weeks have turned out to be a slightly very long time in Chinese language politics. Xi’s zero-COVID coverage has fallen aside and he has quietly made a U-turn. As per Nature, scientists fear Xi’s abrupt reversal may result in an increase in infections and overwhelm hospitals. 

Winter is peak influenza season. Additionally, many individuals might be touring throughout China for the Lunar New 12 months and spring competition, additional rising viral unfold. Now that Xi is all-powerful, all blame would fall on him. The CCP is anxious that protests may even unfold to Tibet, making the get together and Xi lose face.

The CCP can be fearful about latest developments in India. Earlier this 12 months, the Indian prime minister referred to as the Dalai Lama to want him a contented birthday. Chinese language irritation additional elevated when New Delhi launched photographs of the Dalai Lama visiting “a distant Himalayan village within the disputed border area of japanese Ladakh.” The truth that he had been flown there by a army helicopter significantly aggravated Beijing.

The Chinese language haven’t forgotten that the earlier Dalai Lama fled to Darjeeling when Qing troops marched into Lhasa. The 1911 revolution gave the thirteenth Dalai Lama the chance to return from exile, and expel Chinese language troops and officers from Lhasa in 1912. He declared full self-rule and Tibet achieved de facto independence that lasted practically 4 many years. The CCP is petrified of Tibetans reaching independence once more. So long as the Dalai Lama lives in India, they worry that what occurred in 1912 may recur.

For the CCP, Tibet is a tributary of China and the Dalai Lama ought to kowtow to Emperor Xi. For Indians, Tibet is dwelling to Kailash and Mansarovar, the abode of Lord Shiva. They respect Tibetans for preserving Buddhism and lots of of India’s most revered tantric traditions. For Tibetans themselves, India is the land of the Buddha and now dwelling to the Dalai Lama. They like democracy to autocracy, Buddhism to communism and the Dalai Lama to Emperor Xi.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.