Tibet in the middle of a great game

Lobsang Wangyal

Lobsang Wangyal

By Lobsang Wangyal

ON THE WEB, 3 June 2020

In the midst of the ongoing India-China military standoff at the border, Tibet has become more relevant to India. China has mobilised military and machinery to Galwan Valley on the Tibet/India border after India started to build infrastructure there, enraging China. India says the Chinese army is making incursions into Indian territory.

Airtime covering the Coronavirus pandemic has lessened as focus has shifted to the border conflict. During a TV programme, P Stobdan from Ladakh, who is a former diplomat and “security expert”, unexpectedly blamed the Dalai Lama for keeping silent about the conflict.

Stobdan’s use of vulgar language and contradictory statements casts doubt on his credentials as a “geopolitical expert” — he rather seemed to be spreading smear and misinformation. An apology has since been offered, albeit halfheartedly, seen more as asserting himself as an “expert” than having any feeling of sincerity.

His coarse language, insensitive tone, and baseless remarks have earned him significant backlash even within his own community, with Ladakhis from both Buddhist and Muslim faiths condemning him, and demanding that he tender an apology to the Dalai Lama. On Monday the whole of Ladakh was under a shutdown to protest against Stobdan’s remarks, clearly demonstrating their love and devotion to the Dalai Lama.

Stobdan says that the land China has intruded upon belonged to Tibet, but then wants the Dalai Lama to say that land belongs to India, and even said that the Dalai Lama’s silence was as good as being complicit with the Chinese government.

Irrespective of the vulgarity and the confusing remarks, the heart of the matter is that Stobdan now wants the Dalai Lama to say that all the disputed lands claimed by China along the Himalayan region are part of India. But India regards Tibet as a part of China, and is now back in the game of “Tibet cards”.

Stobdan’s act was clearly a desperate blackmail tactic attempting to corner the Dalai Lama to speak. The Dalai Lama may well be a guest, but that doesn’t mean he should be used to say something that’s beyond his power and authority. Firstly, he has abdicated all political powers to an elected leader to make political comments about things such as boundary issues, and second, what else could he say apart from what’s historically established as the boundary demarcations in various treaties.

Tibet lost its sovereignty after the Chinese occupation of the country in 1959. Since then China became India’s new neighbour, overtaxing India in terms of peace-keeping and military burden. Despite India’s stand on Tibet as being a part of China, and survival mode approach, exiled Tibetans have stood with India, with even its small army unit, which is an open secret force called Establishment No 22 under the Indian military, having fought several winning wars for India.

The Tibetan slogan: “Tibet’s independence, security of India”, has fallen on deaf ears for the last 70 years, and considered irrelevant. Keeping the centre of the exile Tibetans at arm’s length in McLeod Ganj near Dharamshala in northern India, New Delhi has kept the Tibetans in a survival mode, only occasionally giving a pat on the back for their meritorious deeds such as fighting winning wars or keeping quiet even when India declares Tibet to be part of China when making deals with China.

Stobdan now feels that it befits India to play the Tibet card again, and wants the Dalai Lama or the exile Tibetan administration to say that the Chinese soldiers are entering deep into Ladakh illegally, and that those territories belong to India. Thanks to Stobdan the neglected exile Tibetan administration got suddenly put into the limelight, and gained some relevance as the elected leader of the Tibetans Lobsang Sangay is interviewed by national TV channels. It is obvious that he will be speaking out of compulsion, and the best possible thing Sangay could do is repeat what history says, as he cannot change history.

On another front, China wants the Dalai Lama to say Taiwan is a part of China. What has the Dalai Lama got to do with that and how is he relevant in this matter? Likewise, what authority will he have, or, how would it be proper for him to say anything, when Tibet is already a part of China? If India wants the Dalai Lama to say anything about the disputed lands China has invaded, shouldn’t India first rectify its stand on Tibet to make it legitimate for him to say so?

About the author

Lobsang Wangyal lives in McLeod Ganj, India, and edits the Tibet Sun website.

More articles by Lobsang Wangyal on Tibet Sun.

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