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Tawang is the India-China battlefield of Tibetan Buddhism

Indian and Chinese troops clash again. CNN-News18 reported that at 3 am on December 9, 300 Chinese soldiers crossed the border into Indian territory. Within minutes, 100-150 Indian troops rushed to drive them back. Due to an agreement not to use guns, the fighting involved clubs, clubs and machetes. Six Indians were seriously injured. The Chinese figures are much higher. Unlike the clashes in June 2020, no one was killed. Just like the conflict in 2020, the Indian army beat up the Chinese soldiers.

Chinese newspaper Global Times Claims rising Indian nationalism and closer U.S.-India cooperation are reasons for border tensions. A joint US-India military exercise on the Uttarakhand border has angered China. The same goes for road building and strengthening Indian positions along the border. Moreover, Beijing sees New Delhi as increasingly aligned with Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy. It sees the group of four, consisting of India, Japan, Australia and the United States, as an anti-China alliance.

retired cia officer glen carr, one of the regular writers and commentators for The Fair Observer, sees China’s violations as part of a long-term policy. Beijing pushes on all international issues on which they disagree until they meet opposition. On Deutsche Welle, an Indian professor believes that China’s cross-border behavior is aimed at distracting India and gaining leverage in negotiations. Like many, he sees Beijing as a signal to New Delhi that Washington is far away. India should make peace with its more powerful northern neighbor, which is the biggest in Asia.

All of these explanations are correct, but there is more going on.

Chinese Communism v. Tibetan Buddhism

It is worth noting that the Chinese conducted this operation at a high altitude in the early hours of a cold winter day. This required detailed planning and effective execution, and it was clearly not an accidental cross-border patrol as some analysts speculated. The goal is to capture strategic high ground near Tawang, one of the holiest sites for Tibetan Buddhism in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Located between Chinese-occupied Tibet and Bhutan, Tawang is an area of ​​about 2,000 square kilometers (800 square miles) and home to Asia’s oldest and second-largest monastery. Tawang is one of the few areas outside of China that has thousands of Tibetan families in their traditional homeland. Tsangyang Gyatso, the sixth Dalai Lama, was born in this area in March 1683.

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The current Dalai Lama is 87 years old, and the question of succession is looming. Tibetans and China have clashed over the issue. Note that no Dalai Lama is present outside the traditional Tibetan homeland. Tawang is the only major center of the motherland not under Chinese control. For many Tibetans, the hope is that the tradition will continue. As many lamas have mentioned to the author, the next Dalai Lama is likely to be from the Tawang area. Beijing wants to avoid that possibility. Controlling Dawan would help. As such, China claims this area, along with the rest of Arunachal Pradesh, as part of southern Tibet.

In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party finally won the civil war and took over mainland China. Within a year, the CCP sent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. This imperial occupation army pretended to be the People’s Liberation Army and has not left yet.

Early on, Beijing tried to avoid unrest in Tibet. Therefore, China signed a seventeen-point agreement with Tibet. It promises not to “change the existing political system in Tibet” and “the established status and authority of the Dalai Lama”. China has not made these promises in good faith. Under Chairman Mao Zedong, the CCP set out to mold a deeply spiritual and Buddhist Tibet into a vision of an atheist communist utopia. For most Tibetans, this utopia is a nightmare. In 1959, they rebelled. The PLA brutally crushed the rebellion, and the Dalai Lama fled to India.

Just as the Pope is a spiritual leader for Catholics, the Dalai Lama is a similar figure for Tibetans. His presence in India has angered China, and as long as the Dalai Lama has lived, he has been the focus of Tibet’s resistance to Chinese colonialism. Once the Dalai Lama dies, Beijing aims to choose his successor. Taking control of the historic Tawang Temple would kill a key future center of the resistance movement.

China has been following this playbook for some time. In 1995, Beijing rejected the Dalai Lama’s choice for the Panchen Lama. Instead, the CCP appointed a Manchurian candidate to replace him. Today, the puppet Panchen Lama signed an anthem in Beijing warning Tibetans to stay away from separatist forces. The Beijing-appointed leader believes that Tibetan Buddhism must be adapted to “socialist and Chinese conditions”. No wonder the CCP dreams of installing a puppet Dalai Lama who will swear allegiance to Beijing.

Why Dawang is important

Many Chinese nationalists regret the loss of Tawang. This area is most likely part of China. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, upheld the idea of ​​India-China unity. He wanted the two Asian giants to stand up against Western imperialism. Nehru acquiesced in China’s 1950 takeover of Tibet, against the wishes of his statesmanlike interior minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

As explained in Fair Observer’s tome on India-China tensions, Nehru later realized he had been duped by Mao. He launched the so-called “forward policy”, under which Indian troops take up positions in territory both India and China claim. In 1962, the People’s Liberation Army dealt a devastating blow to India. Chinese troops took over Tawang and advanced south to Bandira. Although they withdrew later, India lost valuable territory and priceless prestige.

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It is a historical accident that Tawang fell into the hands of the Indians. Nehru was a socialist and so were his top officials. They value the anti-Western alliance with China. Major Ralengnao “Bob” Kathing had no such Nehru-like delusions. He did it himself and marched towards Tawang with only two platoons. In 1951, the area, once under the control of the independent Tibetan government, now fell to India. Except for a brief interlude in 1962, it has been Indian territory since then. Despite this, the Chinese still claim Tawang.

China’s recent actions would have captured the heights at which the town of Dawang and the monastery are clearly visible. They would have ensured regional dominance and made it easier to capture Tawang in the future. Cannon fired from the occupied heights would have destroyed monasteries and towns. Also, once the snow fell and the weather turned inclement, the Chinese troops would dig into their new positions. Indian generals would find it difficult to mobilize large numbers of troops to recapture these positions.

Note that the Chinese have tried to capture these heights before. They tried it in 2016 and most recently in October 2021.Chinese have placed veterans in well-off (Well-off) Frontier Village. One such village is near the nearest point of conflict.Intelligence officials told officials there were 600-700 such well-off The camp is now located along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto India-China border. They form part of President Xi Jinping’s aggressive defense policy towards almost all of China’s neighbours.

If the PLA takes Tawang, the CCP will take control of a historic Tibetan monastery. Its choice of a Dalai Lama will be rubber-stamped by the revered institution.

Buddhist Dalai Lama v Communist Emperor Xi

Tibet is governed according to Mao Zedong’s motto: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Neighboring Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims is southern Tibet, is a raucous multiparty democracy. The state’s chief minister won 41 of the 60 seats in the 2019 election. On December 16, he accused Nehru of appeasing China and thanked Patel for taking over Tawang. Such statements about recent history are impossible to cross national borders. Not surprisingly, Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as an imperfect but workable democratic model for Chinese-occupied Tibet. This makes the CCP very nervous.

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That tension has been heightened by the recent protests. In October alone, the CCP’s 20th Central Committee declared Xi Jinping the de facto emperor. Despite his disastrous zero-COVID policy, Xi’s grip on power appears more secure than ever. The past few weeks have proven to be quite a long time for Chinese politics. Xi’s zero-COVID policy has fallen apart and he has quietly turned around.according to naturescientists worry that Xi’s sudden reversal could lead to rising infection rates and overwhelmed hospitals.

Winter is the flu season. In addition, many people will travel across China during the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, further increasing the spread of the virus. Now Xi is omnipotent and all the responsibility falls on him. The CCP fears that the protests will even spread to Tibet, embarrassing the party and Xi Jinping.

China is also concerned about recent developments in India. Earlier this year, India’s prime minister called the Dalai Lama to wish him a happy birthday. China’s anger was further intensified when New Delhi released photos of the Dalai Lama’s visit to “a remote Himalayan village in a disputed border region in eastern Ladakh”. The fact that he was flown there by a military helicopter particularly angered Beijing.

The Chinese have not forgotten that the previous Dalai Lama fled to Darjeeling when the Qing army marched into Lhasa. The 1911 revolution gave the 13th Dalai Lama the opportunity to return from exile, and in 1912 Chinese troops and officials were expelled from Lhasa. He declared full autonomy, and Tibet achieved de facto independence for nearly four decades. The CCP fears that the Tibetans will regain their independence. As long as the Dalai Lama lives in India, they fear a repeat of what happened in 1912.

For the CCP, Tibet is a vassal state of China, and the Dalai Lama should kowtow to Emperor Xi. For Hindus, Tibet is the home of Mount Kinabalu and Mansarovar, the abode of Lord Shiva. They respect Tibetans for protecting Buddhism and many of India’s most revered tantric traditions. For the Tibetans themselves, India is the land of the Buddha and now the Dalai Lama. They prefer democracy to autocracy, Buddhism to communism, and the Dalai Lama to Xi Jinping.

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

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