China, Dalai Lama and Tawang

The 82-year old Buddhist monk could anoint his successor from Tawang, the second most important seat of Tibetan Buddhism after Lhasa and China fears this could lead to another prolonged opposition to Chinese rule

If China can control the future reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, it would have tighter control over Tibetans and that is why it is so jittery with the visit of Dalai Lama to Tawang. It is not the first time though that China has opposed the spiritual leader visiting Tawang. This is his fifth visit to Tawang since he fled China and came over to India in 1959, but this visit gains great importance as Dalai Lama is growing old and there is every possibility that he may anoint his successor from Tawang.

Even a slight mention of Tawang by the Dalai Lama unsettles China as it is the Dalai Lama who appoints the TawangGompa chief, the head of monastery while Beijing appoints the heads of Tibet monasteries. Any development in Tawang has China standing up and taking notice for it considers Tibet as the core and Tawang its periphery.

Tawang has great significance among Buddhists as the 6th Dalai Lama’s birthplace. China considers Arunachal Pradesh as a part of South Tibet and a disputed territory. Tawang is 47 km south of McMahon Line which separates India from Tibet and it is at the Tawang monastery that the Dalai Lama stayed after he escaped from China in 1959.

Beijing insists that India cede Tawang to China in any border settlement. Right from the 50s till early 80s, China was content with the territorial status quo in Arunachal Pradesh on the basis of the McMahon Line but now it has changed its stance.

China has been vocal in its concerns of Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh but it leaves no chance in blocking India’s bid into the Nuclear Supplier Group and has no qualms in going ahead with the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, running through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).

India by allowing Dalai Lama to travel to Arunachal Pradesh has issued a strong signal to China and the Union Minister for Home KirenRijiju who hails from Arunachal Pradesh stating that China should not interfere in India’s internal affairs. Arunachal Pradesh has been the main area of concern and taken centre stage in Sino-Indian relations since 1962 war when China made inroads into 45 km inside Arunachal Pradesh but finally vacated to avoid international condemnation. However, they occupied 30,000 square kilometres in Aksai Chin area which they refuse to let go.

At the international stage, China makes every possible move to thwart India as in the case of United Nations ban on Pakistan-based terror mastermind MasoodAzhar on technical grounds but when it comes to Tawang, China gets uneasy probably it reminds itself of its misadventures in Tibet by crushing the mass uprising.

China needs to understand that Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir are to India what Tibet and Taiwan are for China.