A country’s defence strategy is not made after an enemy attack – steps taken during war time (or signs signalling a war) are more of a tactical nature rather than strategic. Strategy is a long term and comprehensive approach which involves various elements like geopolitics, military strategies, international relations, territorial or base expansion, deemed enemy psychology etc. Since India is not a warmonger or expansionist by nature and history, we need to consider a more aggressive geopolitical strategy in order to protect our borders, considering the fact that we share boundaries with neighbours who are un-hesitant from hitting us below the belt.
While India was divided in 1947 and ceded further territories in the following decades, China was adding to its territories since the 19th century and is now geographically connected with Pakistan through the Karakoram Highway.
There is no doubt that Pakistan and China are allies and the former is in many ways a pawn in the latter’s far-sighted strategies. While India was divided in 1947 and ceded further territories in the following decades, China was adding to its territories since the 19th century and is now geographically connected with Pakistan through the Karakoram Highway. Although they created a behemoth and an unofficial super power through their often forced occupation strategies, China also created schisms among their ethnic communities through their autocratic political system.
Observers should note a stark contrast in the Chinese policy towards religion. On one end, the officially atheist Communist Party crushes religious institutions but on the other hand, they have thoroughly co-opted the Tibetan religious sphere as can be seen from their forced appointment of the 11th Panchen Lama (after kidnapping six year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima who was recognised as its actual 11th reincarnation) and their confused stance on Buddhism.
On one hand, they have destroyed Buddhist monasteries (the most recent being Larung Gar, a monastic establishment housing over 10,000 occupants, bulldozed in August 2016) and on the other hand, they are organising Kalachakra initiations through their version of the Panchen Lama.
The Kalachakra initiation is a Tantric Buddhist ritual for initiating willing devotees into a special type of worship; it has traditionally been conferred by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has organised this ritual in various parts of the world, attracting devotees in colossal numbers. It is interesting to note that every Kalachakra event is also attended by thousands of Chinese devotees of non-Tibetan stock. In 2016, China facilitated this event in their country through the 11th Panchen Lama for the first time and it’s obvious that this was done purely to counter the Dalai Lama and prevent Chinese people from coming into contact with him.
Bodh Gaya is the centre for around 500 million Buddhists from around the world, including 244 million from China itself. Developing this asset like how the Saudis have developed Mecca, will not only give India an edge over China but throughout the world.
India is the spiritual mother nation of most Asian countries (including China) and every such country (except China) admits this fact. The emotional epicentre of these countries lie in Bodh Gaya and a modern powerhouse is Dharamsala. Time and again, the Dalai Lama invokes Nalanda and the spiritual masters of India who sowed the seeds of Buddhism in Tibet and other countries. What’s interesting is that Guru Padmasambhava, regarded as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, was a student of Nalanda and hailed from Swat Valley, now in Pakistan, which falls under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. While Islamic fanatics do not want any other religion to thrive and the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues, China has been surgically removing all relics of independent Buddhism from their land – what a connection between the two!
Bodh Gaya is the centre for around 500 million Buddhists from around the world, including 244 million from China itself. Developing this asset like how the Saudis have developed Mecca, will not only give India an edge over China but throughout the world. With over 18 per cent of their population practicing Buddhism (and over 21 per cent practicing ‘folk religions’) according to CIA, there is a growing popularity of pure Tibetan practices even among ‘original’ Chinese people, i.e. the Hans.
There are reports of small Han communities practicing Tibetan Buddhism and following the Dalai Lama within closed doors. The father of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Xi Zhongxun, “was a dove in the party, championing the rights of Tibetans, Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. He also opposed the army crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen student protests and was alone in criticising the sacking of liberal party chief Hu Yaobang by the Old Guard in 1987”. (Reuters, Does China’s next leader have a soft spot for Tibet?, Sep 1, 2012). Although many thought that Xi Xinping would have a softer stand towards Tibet, he now categorically opposes the Dalai Lama’s so called ‘separatist’ stance. It should be noted that the CPC have a history of purging leaders with a soft corner for people’s rights, as was the case with former premier Zhou Ziyang who displayed such sentiments for the Tiananmen Square protesters.
Whereas they denounce the 14th Dalai Lama, China repeatedly states that they will appoint the 15th Dalai Lama of Tibet, after the great 14th passes on. We need to stop here and ask the question – if they denounce the Tibetans’ universal religious leader who has for centuries been regarded as a reincarnation of the same person, why would they want to appoint the next Dalai Lama themselves?
The next Dalai Lama (who needs to be a reincarnation of the current one as per tradition), has to be someone whose indication the current Dalai Lama gives and this is where India needs to play a strong role…
The answer is simple, but in two parts and both parts spring from China’s fear psyche, which is good for India:
- Firstly, they will control a puppet through whom they can wipe out the Tibetan movement and
- Secondly, deprive India of an asset who not only is the most popular religious and social leader of the world, but also (if India hasn’t realised) India’s most lethal weapon against China – a weapon that doesn’t fire shots or nuclear warheads, but exposes the true face of China time and again. In China’s ‘surround India’ strategy, the great 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet is a self goal.
The absence of a Tibetan Dalai Lama, truly identified by Tibetans, could cause the following issues:
- Rifts among the Tibetan community in exile that already have a number of sects within them
- The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is seen as a binding force between Buddhists from all sects and ethnicities (besides the fact that he is the only spiritual leader who blatantly propagates secularism and discourages people from converting). The absence of such a force will create spiritual divisions between many communities and countries
- The humble monk is a ‘mascot’ against Chinese human rights violations, and a united Tibetan community adds more force in such disclosures.
The next Dalai Lama (who needs to be a reincarnation of the current one as per tradition), has to be someone whose indication the current Dalai Lama gives and this is where India needs to play a strong role, as hosts of this larger than life figurehead. India should go out of the way, engage in positive talks with the 14th Dalai Lama, and declare that if His Holiness so wishes, then India will help in the search for the next Tibetan spiritual head.
China has continued to make intrusions into India even after Prime Minister Vajpayee’s hand of friendship, so India can easily change its stand on Tibet without any moral dilemma.
India should not forget that China has more to lose by severing business ties with India than vice-versa. Chinese exports to India are $58.4 billion while the opposite is $16.4 billion. Any country has to be barking mad to hurl nuclear bombs on its next door neighbour for reasons obvious to even an eight-year old – would anybody gas their neighbour’s garden? China will never back India in their United Nations ambitions and multi-lateral recognitions, because they would not want another superpower next door, hence such support from China should be discounted, just in case India thinks it can derive such support through their diplomatic efforts. So what does India have to fear by taking such a stand, which if developed will give them a much larger and deeper presence in Asia through the minds of the people and that too in a completely peaceful and far less expensive way, unless India too is more interested in profits from the international military business?
The good thing about mistakes is that they can be rectified and Prime Minister Vajpayee’s mistake of recognising Tibet as an integral part of China (around the same time when the Chinese were making incursions into Indian Territory) is also not beyond repair. After Mr. Vajpayee’s open acceptance, the Wall Street Journal had reported,” In Beijing, Mr. Vajpayee appeared less the leader of a nuclear-weapons state determined to engage China on equal terms and more like a tribute-payer to the Middle Kingdom. While effusive statements and concessions came from the Indian side, the Chinese gave no ground” (Brahma Chellaney, WSJ, July 28, 2003). China has continued to make intrusions into India even after Prime Minister Vajpayee’s hand of friendship, so India can easily change its stand on Tibet without any moral dilemma.