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  • Tibet and India's Security: Himalayan Region, Refugees and Sino-Indian Relations

    Tibet and India's Security: Himalayan Region, Refugees and Sino-Indian Relations
    Publisher: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)
    ISBN 81-86019-99-5
    Price: ₹. 375/- Purchase Download E-copy

    Executive Summary

    Task Force report led by PK Gautam( co-authors Jagannath Panda and Zakir Hussain) on Tibet and India’s Security : Himalayan Region, Refugees and Sino Indian Relations is an important contribution to religion and International Relations (IR). Two factors make Tibet important for India in today’s context: (a) the religious and cultural factors; (b) ecological factors. Report supports this with evidence. It argues that Tibet with Tibetan Buddhists provides better security than a Hanised Tibet. Key message is Tibetan refugees do not pose a security threat to India, however more transparent data base and cooperation with exiles on common religious issues is desired.

    Short Answers to Research Questions
    The report gives short answers to eight research questions:

    1. What is the influence of Tibetan Buddhism on the Indian Himalayan belt?

      The influence overlaps with Buddhism as practised by Indians in the Himalayan belt with Vajrayana as practised in Tibet. Both overlap and are inclusive. The political influence is not overwhelming.

    2. What is the status of the Tibetan refugees, their religious status and political affiliations in India?
      The status is well respected and is a demonstration of India’s enduring soft power.

    3. What would be the scenario after the Dalai Lama passes away?
      India will have to facilitate assumption of leadership role by the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile(TGIE)- now termed Central Tibetan Administration(CTA) . The Task Force strongly subscribes to this position and fears risk of division of Tibetans over the Fifteenth Dalai Lama, which in any case will have a Chinese version like the Panchen Lama.

    4. What influence do Tibetan refugees wield in the Indian socio-political environment?

    5. How do Tibetan refugees factor in Sino-Indian relations?
      Historically, refugees from Tibet were central to Sino-Indian relations. Now economy and trade may appear to be overtaking it as the first concern, but in soft power terms, India giving shelter to them is inherent to our strategic culture based on soft power.

    6. How much influence do the monastic organisations, including the Dalai Lama’s institution, have on the Sino-Indian border and Tawang question?
      In Arunachal Pradesh, Indian (Tawang) as also important monasteries reconstructed by exiles (like Bomdila) are under Indian monks. Ladakh presents a mixed picture. More information needs to be collected on the authority and practise of appointment of heads of monasteries by organs of the state having resources and mandate to collect it. Indians have great trust in the Dalai Lama, which may not endure for his successor. For this, a dialogue with the TGIE needs to be initiated.

    7. Are Tibetan refugees a threat to Indian security?
      No. Concerns of Tibetan nationalism leading to violence by the TYC are exaggerated.

    Policy Suggestions

    Building up on extant literature on polices of retention of Tibet card and creating Tibet cell, some main suggestions are :

    • Exile monasteries are in any case Tibetan establishment. Greater engagement and dialogue on these issues of monasteries with Tibetans in exile by the Indian government is now desirable. As regards Karmapa, there is unlikely to be adverse impact on Indians. Of course we need to win him over.
    • Tibet question can be a bridge of moderation in Sino India relations. Asian Buddhist (Mongolia, Bhutan etc) look to India as fount of Buddhism. This is an diplomatic asset. Tibetan studies need to be encouraged with innovation.
    • A survey of all establishments and religious establishments needs to be done for fact finding by incorporating the exiles for data for better informed policies.
    • It may be premature to think of giving Indian citizenship to the Tibetans at present. More dialogue with TGIE needs to be initiated as they themselves are against granting citizenship. Though signing of the convention on refugees is not under the preview of this work, there is a good case for having a refugee policy preferably after a national debate.
    • Procedures for Registration Certificate(RC) and Identity Certificate (IC) needs to be streamlined in a professional manner. There is need for sophisticated counterintelligence.
    • Tibetan language must be reintroduced as a subject at the National Defence Academy (NDA). Diplomats and officials dealing with China and Tibet may also be given adequate language training in Tibetan.
    • India should not allow China to assume the leadership role of Buddhism. Through the Look East policy and upcoming Nalanda University, India will take its rightful place in the Buddhist world. High calibre and motivated professionals need to be appointed in the university. Network with all institutes of leaning needs to be done. India must be seen by other countries as a centre of Buddhism by active participation in its study and festivals. Finance , resources and jobs must be created for this to happen.
    • Government must begin comprehensive dialogue with the TGIE now on various contingencies. Facilitation of democracy and, if need be, de-institutionalization of the Dalai Lama and related orders may be one option. At the same time the Dalai Lama could be an instrument of negotiations. To that end, the old practice of the Dalai Lama meeting with the Prime Minster in transit through Delhi must be revived.
    • The Ministry of External Affairs could bring out an issues brief to prepare diplomats and others to counter any Chinese claims. India’s case on Tawang must be forcefully articulated. Special capsules may need to be conducted for military officers and other personnel who interact with Chinese counterparts in Border Personnel Meeting (BPM). Not much of scholarly work seems to exist on oral history and changing attitudes of people before and after the 1962 war. It may be a worthwhile idea to have more number of research scholars including locals to carry out focused research by living in the region and recording oral history.
    • No Indian statement has ever mentioned that Tibet is an “inalienable” part of China. India has only accepted that it is an autonomous part of China. It is important that policymakers revive this aspect.
    • The concept of soft power of Buddhism as obtained in India and in the Himalayan belt also needs to incorporate in the training curriculum of administrators, diplomats and military officers. There may be even a department of soft power studies using our spiritual diplomacy. To have an underlying soft power message, this project could well be called “Padmasambhav” or “Atisa”.
    • Non-Mongoloid Indians must be educated and trained to get over prejudices against Mongoloid people. This issue concerns how we treat look-alike people from the North East, Tibetans, Nepali hill folks and Bhutanese.
    • A case for a consulate in say Kailash Mansarovar region (Lhasa, if there is no suitable city nearby) may be considered if reclaiming Minsar is not possible initially.
    • More study is needed on Tibet. While this work has touched upon Tibetology or Tibet Studies, the infrastructure and ecology, demographics are important drivers of the future security scene. A comprehensive study needs to be undertaken on Tibet in the future.


    CHAPTER- 1: Introduction

    CHAPTER- 2: Buddhism in the Himalayan Belt

    CHAPTER- 3: Why Refugees and Status of the Tibetan Refugees in India, Bhutan and Nepal

    CHAPTER- 4: Post-Dalai Lama Contingencies

    CHAPTER- 5: Influence Wielded by the Tibetan Refugees in Indian Socio-political Environment

    CHAPTER- 5A: Survey of Refugee Establishments: Dharamsala and Dehradun in 2009

    CHAPTER- 5B: Visits to Tibetan Establishments and Events

    CHAPTER- 6: The Chinese Approach to the Tibetan Question

    CHAPTER- 7: Influence of the Monastic Organisations including the Dalai Lama's Institution on the Sino-Indian Border Question and Tawang

    CHAPTER- 8: Tibetan Refugees and India's Security

    CHAPTER- 9: Policy Suggestions and Conclusion

    Epilogue and Post Script


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