Delhi and Beijing talking again as people die in Tibet
Sino-Indian talks resume in the Indian capital. The Himalayan border and oil exploration in the South China Sea are on the table, but the Tibet issue remains central. In Tibet, another monk dies from self-immolation, whilst Chinese jails are full of monks tortured by the regime’s henchmen. Beijing is trying its best to delegitimise Buddhist leaders; now it is the turn of the Karmapa Lama.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Tibetan question, Himalayan borders, relations with the United States and disputes in the South China Sea are the topics on the agenda as the two Asian giants try to open a new venue for dialogue at their fourth round on defence and security issues. In the meantime, people continue to die in Tibet in protest against Chinese repression.
Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, heads China’s delegation. Indian Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma leads the Indian delegation. The previous talks were held last year in Beijing. This year’s meeting was set for November but were postponed because of a Buddhist conference in New Delhi where the Dalai Lama was supposed to speak. Beijing demanded that India scrap the conference but New Delhi chose instead to postpone the talks.
Many hot issues are on table. "The border dispute and India's political stance of supporting the Dalai Lama are still the key obstacles in Sino-Indian ties," said Sun Shihai, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “But fortunately, both Beijing and New Delhi are keen on strengthening mutual trust, even though they realise that they are also competitors in economic and security issues."
India and China, which together comprise more than a third of the world's population, had a brief border war in a remote Himalayan region in 1962.
For China, India's involvement in South China Sea oil exploration has complicated the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, which Beijing claims for itself. In October, India's state-run explorer, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, said it would start explorations in the South China Sea.
However, Tibet remains the most contentious political issue. Since he was forced into exile, India has given sanctuary to the Dalai Lama and his government, which is based in Dharamsala, a town that has essentially become a Tibetan enclave in Indian territory where the Buddhist leader can carry out his mission.
Beijing has always strongly opposed New Delhi’s decision, telling India that it is offering refuge to a secessionist, and a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Buddhist monks in Tibet and ethnic Tibetan districts in China have been protesting against such accusations. Since March, 13 monks have set themselves on fire to demand religious freedom and cultural autonomy for their nation. The latest one is Tenzin Phuntsok, who died on Tuesday, five days after he set himself on fire.
In the meantime, China continues to detain religious who refuse to tow the line. Thapkay Gyatso has been in prison for 15 years and appears to be dying after he was tortured.
Beijing’s way to address the problem has been to try to delegitimise Buddhist religious leaders. On the Dalai Lama it cannot do much because even Mao Zedong had acknowledge his status, but in 1996 Chinese authorities abducted the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s second highest religious leader, and replaced him with their puppet. Now Kamrapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s third most important lead, is in for a similar treatment as China tries to frame him on corruption charges. In this matter, India appears to be helping.
After 11 months of investigations, Indian authorities have in fact charged Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the young 17th Karmapa Lama who heads the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. He and nine other people were charged by in Himachal Pradesh, where Dharamsala is located, in connection with alleged violations of India’s currency laws and illegal land transactions. A local court will soon examine the evidence submitted by police and decide whether the Karmapa and his followers should be tried on the charges.
“We have not received any formal charges, and the Karmapa's Office has cooperated fully with the authorities,” a source close to the Karmapa Lama told AsiaNews. “The Karmapa Lama does not manage his Office’s finances. He doesn’t even know if we have money or not. It is only an attempt to delegitimise him, but we won’t be hoodwinked.”