What Is The Role Of Tibet In The Sino-Indian Border Dispute?

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Ashfaq Wani                                      Dispute
In 2017, prior to the recent clash between the Chinese and Indian armies in Ladakh, the armed forces of the two nuclear powers had come face to face in the Doklam area.

The dispute between China and India extends from Ladakh in the west to Doklam in the east, Nathula and the Tawang Valley in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. China has always been keeping an eye on the Tawang area of ​​Arunachal Pradesh and calling it a disputed area.

China considers Tawang to be part of Tibet and says that there are many cultural similarities between Tawang and Tibet. Tawang is also famous for its 400-year-old Buddhist monastery.

When the 14th Dalai Lama visited Tawang ‘s monastery, China opposed it.

Even when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Arunachal Pradesh in February this year, China formally protested against the visit.

Along with Tibet, China also claims Arunachal Pradesh and calls it South Tibet.

China took control of Tibet in 1951, while India claims that Arunachal Pradesh is part of India along the McMahon Line drawn during the British rule in 1938.

History of Tibet

This remote area in northeastern India is predominantly Buddhist dominated and is also called the “roof of the world”. Tibet is an independent part of China.

China says it has ruled the region for centuries, while many Tibetans remain loyal to their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

In the eyes of the Dalai Lama’s followers, he has the status of a “living god” while China considers him a separatist and a threat to the nation.

Tibet’s history has been tumultuous. At one time it existed as an independent state and at other times it was ruled by powerful rulers of Mongolia and China.

In 1950, China sent thousands of troops to occupy Tibet. Some areas of Tibet were turned into autonomous regions, and the rest were merged with the adjoining Chinese provinces.

But after a failed uprising against China in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama had to leave Tibet and seek refuge in India, where he formed a government-in-exile. Most Buddhist monasteries in Tibet were destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s.

When did the Sino-Tibetan conflict begin?

The reason for the dispute between China and Tibet is the legal status of Tibet. China says Tibet has been part of China since the mid-13th century. However, Tibetans say Tibet has been an independent country for centuries and that China has no right to it.

The Mongol king Kublai Khan extended his royal Yuan dynasty and empire not only to Tibet but also to China, Vietnam and Korea.

Then, in the 17th century, Tibet established relations with the Qing Dynasty of China. After a relationship of 260 years, the Qing army captured Tibet. But within three years it was expelled from Tibet, and in 1912 the Dalai Lama declared Tibet’s independence.

Then, in 1951, the Chinese army regained control of Tibet and signed an agreement with Tibet (Seventeen Point Agreement For The Peaceful Liberation of Tibet) to hand over Tibetan sovereignty to China.

The Dalai Lama moved to India and has been pushing for Tibetan sovereignty ever since.

Lhasa: A forbidden city

When China occupied Tibet in 1949, it was completely isolated from the outside world. Chinese troops deployed in Tibet. Interference was made in the political government due to which the Dalai Lama had to flee and take refuge in India.

Then an attempt was made to turn Tibetans into Chinese. Attempts were made to gradually change the Tibetan language, civilization, religion and traditions. No outsiders were allowed to enter Tibet and the capital, Lhasa. That is why it is also called the ‘Forbidden City’.

Foreigners were banned from entering Tibet in 1963, but in 1971 Tibet’s doors were opened to the world.

The role of the Dalai Lama

The history of China and the Dalai Lama is the history of China and Tibet.

In 1409, Je Tsongkhapa founded the Gelug School. The teachings of Buddhism were spread through this school. This place was between India and China which is known as Tibet. The most famous student of the same school was Gedun Drupa.

Gedun went on to become the first Dalai Lama. Buddhists consider the Dalai Lama to be very important. He is seen as a beacon of compassion and empathy, while his supporters see him as a leader.

The Dalai Lama is primarily seen as a religious guru. Lama means Guru. The lama instructs his people to follow the path of truth. He guides Buddhists all over the world.

There has been fighting between Buddhist and Tibetan leaders since the unification in the 1630s. There has been a power struggle between Manchu, Mongol and Oirat.

Finally, the Fifth Dalai Lama succeeded in uniting Tibet. At the same time, Tibet has emerged as a strong cultural entity.

The Thirteenth Dalai Lama declared Tibet’s independence in 1912. About 40 years later, China invaded Tibet. The Chinese attack came as the election of the 14th Dalai Lama was underway. Tibet was defeated in this war. A few years later, the Tibetan people revolted against the Chinese rulers and began demanding Tibetan independence.

The coup did not succeed. The Dalai Lama felt that he would be badly caught in the Chinese trap. At the same time, he turned to India. In 1959 a large number of Tibetan citizens arrived in India with the Dalai Lama.

China did not like the Dalai Lama being granted asylum in India. At that time, China was ruled by Mao Zedong. Tensions between the Dalai Lama and China’s communist government escalated. The Dalai Lama has garnered sympathy from around the world, but is still living in exile.

Is Tibet part of China?

Many important questions often come to mind about Sino-Tibetan relations. Like is Tibet part of China? What was Tibet like before China took control? What has changed since then?

Tibet’s ousted government says “there is no doubt that Tibet has been under the influence of various foreign powers in different periods of history.” The Mongols, the Gorkhas of Nepal, the Manchu dynasty of China, and the British rule over India have all played a role in Tibetan history. But in other parts of history, there is a Tibet that used force and influence over its neighbors, including China.

In today’s world, it is difficult to find a country that has not been under the influence or occupation of any foreign power in any period of history. Foreign influence or interference in the case of Tibet was short-lived.

When India considered Tibet a part of China?

In June 2003, India formally recognized that Tibet was part of China.

India had recognized Tibet as part of China for the first time since the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. At the time, it was seen as an important step in Sino-Indian relations.

After talks between Vajpayee and Jiang Zemin, China agreed to trade with India via Sikkim. The move was seen as a sign that China has also recognized Sikkim as part of India.

Indian officials at the time said that India had not recognized the status of the whole of Tibet, which is a large part of China. India has recognized only the part which is considered an autonomous region of Tibet.

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