Xi Jinping Visits the Tibet Autonomous Region

Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) last week. The visit is significant for what it says about how the Chinese Party-State views its control over the Tibetan region.

It is noteworthy that Xi’s last visit to the TAR — one of the provinces carved out of the old Tibet — was in 2011, and so this is the first time he has visited since taking over as China’s top leader. The delay is particularly striking, given that Xi visited China’s other large and troubled ethnic minority province, Xinjiang, in April 2014.

Continue reading Xi Jinping Visits the Tibet Autonomous Region

Another Rajapaksa at the Helm in Sri Lanka: The China Factor

The victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential elections in Sri Lanka in November and the subsequent appointment of his older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister have created some concerns in India that the island nation might be returning to a more pro-China foreign policy.

It is important to look into these concerns more carefully.

One, it is not as if the Sri Lankans under former president Maithripala Sirisena, and successor to the older Rajapaksa, was able to pull his country completely out of the Chinese embrace. As is well-known it was during Sirisena’s tenure that the country had to sign over Hambantota to China in 2018 for a 99-year lease.[1] And other major Chinese investments such as the Colombo Port City and the Norochcholai power station continued unhindered. Continue reading Another Rajapaksa at the Helm in Sri Lanka: The China Factor

When Religion and Politics Mix: The Dalai Lama and India-China Relations

The Dalai Lama is slated to visit Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh from 5-7 April. The visit follows a public meeting with the President of India in December last year – the first of its kind in some 60 years[1] – and an address at a major Buddhist conference in the Indian state of Bihar in mid-March where he shared the stage with the minister for culture in the Indian central government.[2]

Beijing has expectedly protested loudly and vigorously, presaging a fresh round of tensions in the India-China relationship.

The Chinese have been trying to portray Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh itself, as the central issue in the India-China boundary dispute. In the process, they are trying to repudiate a significant clause of a landmark 2005 bilateral treaty, which stated clearly that ‘settled populations’ would not be disturbed in the process of resolution.[3] Tawang, with the largest Buddhist monastery in India and a population of some 11,000 at last count, is as settled as they come. This Chinese volte face – no doubt related to continued challenges to their legitimacy in Tibet – might be said to have been at least partially responsible for why the boundary negotiations have not moved forward for a while. Continue reading When Religion and Politics Mix: The Dalai Lama and India-China Relations

Interpreting Prime Minister Modi’s China Approach

Originally published as ‘Interpreting Modispeak on China’The Hindu (Chennai), 14 May 2015.

As Indian Prime Ministers and political leaders go, Narendra Modi is unique in possessing some significant experience of that country before attaining office. In fact, despite – or perhaps, because of – the differences in world views and how he has gone about understanding China, Modi is probably the first Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru, capable of shaping a uniquely different approach to China.

From Nehru to Modi Continue reading Interpreting Prime Minister Modi’s China Approach

Bhutan in a China Teacup

News of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao meeting with his Bhutanese counterpart Jigme Yoser Thinley, on the sidelines of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro last month, grabbed considerable attention in India. The Chinese state-owned Global Times announced that the Bhutanese leader had expressed willingness to establish diplomatic ties with China.

While the news was later denied by the Bhutanese, there are a number of issues that the incident raises about India’s relations with its smaller neighbours and specifically with Bhutan and China. Continue reading Bhutan in a China Teacup

Buddhism in India’s Soft Power Quiver

Originally published: Jabin T. Jacob, “A tale of two coalitions,” DNA (Mumbai), 8 December 2011.

The Special Representatives talks on the Sino-Indian boundary dispute slated for the end of November were called off after the Chinese objected to a Buddhist gathering in India that would have hosted the Dalai Lama. The incident has been viewed in different lights among New Delhi’s strategic community – as a diplomatic gaffe signifying lack of coordination within the government, as standing up to China by refusing to pressure the organizers of the Buddhist gathering, and as having meekly surrendered to China by cancelling plans to allow the Indian President and Prime Minister to address the gathering. Continue reading Buddhism in India’s Soft Power Quiver

Reimagining Tibet in Sino-Indian Relations

The Tibetan government-in-exile has a new political leader. Lobsang Sangay took over not only as the new Kalon Tripa or Prime Minister but also stepped into the Dalai Lama’s shoes as political leader of the Tibetan exile movement. This handover of power to a younger generation of Tibetan leaders – democratically elected by the Tibetan community in exile – is an important milestone in the Tibetan struggle and has significant implications for China. Continue reading Reimagining Tibet in Sino-Indian Relations