Category Archives: India

“A New Map in Chinese Passports Stirs Anger Across the Region”

China’s quest to make all of her neighbors angry is starting to get make some serious progress (via Mark MacDonald):

China’s new passports — embossed with a map showing disputed territories as belonging solely to the mainland — are causing quite the diplomatic furor in Asia.

India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines have all objected to the new map, which puts a number of island chains and border areas under Beijing’s sovereignty.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that Beijing was “not targeting a specific country” with the revised passport map, noting that “China is willing to communicate with the relevant countries.”

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international affairs at Renmin University, said in The Financial Times that the new map could “demonstrate our national sovereignty but it could also make things more problematic and there is already more than enough trouble” over territorial disputes.

“We are not prepared to accept it,” said Salman Khurshid, the Indian foreign minister. “We, therefore, ensure that our flags of disagreement are put out immediately when something happens. We can do it in an agreeable way or you can do it in a disagreeable way.”

India, meanwhile, has come up with its own map, which it is stamping into the passports of Chinese citizens seeking Indian visas.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said that Vietnamese border officials — not wanting to appear to validate the new Chinese map — were refusing to stamp visas into the passports of Chinese visitors.

Instead, Vietnam was issuing visas on separate pieces of paper that are inserted into the passports.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sent a verbal note to China’s embassy in Manila saying that “the Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash line in the e-passport as such image covers an area clearly part of the Philippines’ territory and maritime domain.”

The Chinese passport map includes the popular Taiwanese tourist sites of Sun Moon Lake and Cingshui Cliffs. That did not sit well with President Ma Ying-jeou, who said in a statement that Beijing should not “unilaterally damage the status quo of the hard-fought stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said: “China has ignored the truth and sparked disputes by including pictures of our territory and landscape in its new Chinese passports. It should put aside disputes and face up to reality.”

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Filed under Chinese foreign policy, India, South China Sea, Taiwan, Vietnam

March 4th: TibetWatch

A few organizations are reporting either one or two self-immolations yesterday. RFA:

A Tibetan widow and a middle school girl set themselves on fire and died at the weekend in China’s Sichuan and Gansu provinces in self-immolation protests demanding freedom and an end to Chinese rule, according to sources on Sunday.

On Sunday, a 32-year-old widow and mother of three, identified as Rinchen, torched herself in front of the restive Kirti monastery in Sichuan’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture, succumbing to her burns on the spot, the sources said.

She set herself on fire right in front of a Chinese police surveillance station at the main gate of the Kirti monastery, which has been under siege by Chinese security forces and from where hundreds of monks have been taken into custody since early last year.

On Saturday, a girl from the Tibetan Middle School self-immolated at a vegetable market in Machu (in Chinese, Maqu) county in Gansu province’s Kaniho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan autonomous prefecture, an exile source said, quoting local contacts.

The Chinese vendors alerted the police who urged them to prevent her from leaving the market, the source said.

“The Chinese vendors at the Machu vegetable market threw stones at her burning body,” the source said, adding that the girl died at the scene.

“The Tibetans present in the market were agitated and this almost resulted in a major clash between the Tibetans and Chinese,” the source said.

I believe this is the first immolation to take place in Gansu, and I wonder if this might be what finally sets off unrest in Labrang. We’ll see how provincial authorities handle it.

High Peaks Pure Earth has a translation of a lengthy post by Woeser, which is dedicated to the Tibetan pilgrims who were put into detention after returning from India. Even by Chinese government standards this entire thing is extremely gauche:

When the initiation was concluded the faithful from inside Tibet dispersed and set out on the return journey to their homes there. They had worn themselves out just to get passports and their route had been plagued with hardship, until finally they obtained the nourishing nectar of the buddha dharma at the holy site. They had a brief moment of happiness, never imagining that there would be a later “settling of scores;” that this would set in motion an experience of mental and physical torment.

First, when they returned via Nepal, whether they arrived at one of several airports or at the border crossing point of Dram, they were all interrogated and searched by Chinese military and police. Buddhist ritual objects, such as scriptures, etc., that they were carrying with them as well as presents that they’d bought, such as Tibetan medicines, etc., were all indiscriminately confiscated.

It is understood that many of the faithful whose homes were in Amdo and Kham were taken as a group to Lhasa and sent together via the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to their individual regions. Afterwards each individual had to be vouched for by two cadres in their home areas. Only then could they return to their own families. In addition, the faithful from Amdo and Kham who have returned most recently from India and Nepal were placed under uniform supervision and sent to Shigatse to receive 7 days of “education.” Afterwards they were sent back home together.

And Lhasa: any Tibetans who attended the initiation encountered even bigger troubles. Of these, the overwhelming majority was elderly: retired cadres as well as urban residents and farmers from the outskirts of the city. And there were also middle-aged and young people. First they were summoned by their local neighbourhood committees or work units jointly with the relevant police station. Every person was interrogated by staff people from the neighbourhood committees or work units together with Public Security Bureau police. The important questions included: Whom did you see at the Kalacakra Inititation? What did the Dalai Lama, Samdhong Rinpoche and the newly-elected Kalon Tripa say exactly? Which people from here did you run into at the inititation? How much money did you give in offerings for the inititation, to the Dalai Lama and other Rinpoches? Etc., etc.

She continues on to describe everything China is doing to the pilgrims. Peter Ford from CSM on the acute difficulty of being a journalist in China:

The obvious way for a foreign reporter to find out what is really happening in Xinjiang or Sichuan would be to go there and talk to people. But that is not as easy as it sounds.

We are allowed to go to Xinjiang, but when I reported from there I found very few Uighurs brave enough to risk the punishment they feared if they were found to have talked to me. Never, in 30 years of reporting from five continents, have I found it so difficult to be a journalist. And after my return to Beijing, I discovered that plainclothes policemen had secretly followed me every step of my weeklong trip.

The government allows journalists to go to Sichuan, too, but police have set up roadblocks around the region where unrest is reportedly greatest, and turned back all the foreign reporters they have found.

A few correspondents have sneaked through the roadblocks, hidden under blankets or otherwise concealed (a shout out to Jon Watts of the Guardian, Tom Lasseter of McClatchy, and Gillian Wong of the AP, who have recently managed to get into closed areas), but they were unable to stay long or to talk to many people. They had to bear in mind that if they were caught, the people with whom they were caught talking would get into unknown amounts of trouble with the authorities.

Finally, a piece from Hindustan Times about Tibetan refugees in India:

Videos and photographs of the burning monks and nuns have circulated worldwide despite local authorities nipping the Internet and telephone network. Foreign journalists are barred from visiting the restive regions to verify what’s going on. The monks are coming to India, home to 100,000 exiled Tibetans, and disclosing their versions. Phuntsok mapped his journey from Kham to Lhasa to the border-town Dum to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu to Delhi to Dharmashala after surviving knuckle-crushing beatings and electric shocks for one month and seven days in a Chinese prison last summer. He was 17. The monk shouting slogans by his side was 15. Their crime: holding a placard scrawled with slogans for the long life and return of the Dalai Lama.

“The police and military came soon after my friend and I raised slogans,” he said. “I knew I’d be put behind bars. But I did it because being Tibetan, I felt like I had contributed something for Tibet.”

Since the Lhasa riots of 2008, which Beijing blamed on the Dalai Lama’s office, the China-Nepal border is so tightly secured that less than 1,000 Tibetans per year are coming to Dharamshala, compared to thrice as many before 2008.

Tibetans caught on the Nepal border are known to be sent to jails in Lhasa and transported back to their hometowns. An 18-year-old was the last monk to arrive from the Kirti monastery town in southern Sichuan — the locked down centre of the standoff between Buddhist monks and the Chinese military — to Kirti monastery in Dharamshala.

Wrapped up to his chin in maroon robes, he cited anxiety about the family he left behind and declines to reveal his real name. His fake name is Doung Tug, and within a year he has lost a half-brother and a classmate to self-immolations for the Tibetan cause. “I came to India to enjoy freedom, he said.

Talking about his half brother Rigzin Dorje, 19, Tug said, “His plan was to raise his own family and live the nomad’s life,” Tug said. Last month, he stood outside a school and burnt himself. As the boy ended his narrative of the Chinese military and plainclothes police inside monasteries and forced ‘patriotic re-education’ lessons to denounce the Dalai Lama, an older monk spoke up.

“Many more Tibetans, not just from Kirti monastery, but from all over Tibet,” said Kanyag Tsering, a monk in contact with his counterparts in China’s Kirti, “want to come to India.”

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Filed under ethnic conflict, India, protests, refugees, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“Congregationalism”

Elliot Sperling is far and away one of the most informed voices on Tibet, and his recent article on the Buddhist convention in India and China’s resulting fury is well worth a read:

The Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC) that convened in New Delhi from November 27-30 made a bit of news when China reacted harshly to the Dalai Lama’s role in the gathering. Throughout several weeks of buildup to the event (which was designed to bring together Buddhists from all over the world and culminate in the establishment of a new international Buddhist organization) there was no secret that the Dalai Lama was to be the featured guest and that high-ranking Indian figures—Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s name was mentioned—would likely also attend.

While the Dalai Lama was actually present for the gathering only on its final day, when he attended an interfaith function at Gandhi Smriti in the morning and delivered the gathering’s valedictory address before hundreds of participants at its final session in the afternoon, his presence hovered over the meeting from the very start. Over the course of the four days on which the GBC was held, several sangharaja, along with Buddhist sangha members from a multitude of countries and a variety of Buddhist traditions, were often unstinting in extolling the Dalai Lama. The unavoidable impression was that he now stands as the most visible living symbol of Buddhism in the world today. His spiritual preeminence was cited time and again over the course of the GBC, and not only by followers of Tibetan Buddhism. Many of those who follow the numerous other Buddhist traditions represented at the meeting acknowledged the Dalai Lama’s overarching spiritual position with language that, in one instance, described him as a lineage holder for all Buddhist schools.

The acclaim accorded the Dalai Lama by Buddhists from around the world added a certain significance to the meeting that China may find difficult to ignore and which makes its objections to the Dalai Lama’s participation in the GBC more complex than the sort of objections it visits on governments that choose to receive the Dalai Lama in an official manner. Indeed, its objections to the Dalai Lama’s presence are fundamentally different: after all, the Dalai Lama does reside in India. That aside, however, given persistent Chinese anxieties over the possibility of being surrounded by hostile powers intent on restraining “the peaceful rise of China,” it is hard to avoid the likelihood that a gathering of Buddhists from neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, etc., all acknowledging—regardless of sect or school—the Dalai Lama’s leading spiritual position among them, will be seen as a provocation or even a threat aimed at Buddhists (and not just Tibetan Buddhists) within China.

But the necessity of countering the display of veneration accorded the Dalai Lama also reveals how China has, in a sense, created its own conundrum. What counterweight does China have to the Dalai Lama? Well, there is one person, someone who has essentially been groomed for the role. But using him opens up a can of worms that one can hardly imagine China would like to see opened, for this person is none other than the Chinese Panchen Lama, so-called because he was chosen under coercion and foisted upon Tibetan Buddhists in opposition to the child recognized by the Dalai Lama as the incarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. The problem for China is that their Panchen Lama is not accepted—to say the least—by the large majority of Tibetans who do indeed consider him China’s (not Tibet’s) Panchen Lama. The irony of an officially atheistic state discovering and certifying incarnate lamas has been noted many times but the absurdity of the situation has not lessened. And a state bureaucracy that did not pay heed to popular rejection of a Panchen Lama that it foisted on Tibet over 16 years ago is, in a word, stuck. The situation is so abnormal that the Panchen Lama is not allowed to reside in Tibet, both to keep him tethered to the government and to avoid the unpleasantness that his presence among his ostensible followers might set off.

But now that the very moment has arrived in which China needs just such a figure, his problematic nature is obvious: the Chinese Panchen Lama, someone who was supposed to be the answer to a problem, is a problem in and of himself, residing in Beijing in a state of alienation from the general Tibetan populace. Put bluntly, he is a walking announcement of the lack of religious freedom in Tibet, a living and breathing advertisement for religious repression in the PRC.

Clearly, if the Chinese Panchen Lama is unusable in the situation created by the convening of the GBC and the establishment of an International Buddhist Federation it is more than a minor embarrassment for a China. He has been groomed for just such a task. But simply bringing up his name will bring to mind the Panchen Lama chosen by the Dalai Lama and held incommunicado since 1995. Indeed, from the time China forced its choice for Panchen Lama on an unaccepting Tibetan population it has been boxing itself in, tying the perception of its policy on religion to a rejected figure. It is a problem that China has wholly created for itself.

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“India puts off border talks with China over Beijing’s Dalai Lama remarks”

It’s hard to figure out what India will do next regarding the Tibet issue- a few months ago there was the Karmapa fiscal investigation, which seemed to confirm theories that at least some of India’s intelligence services still think of him as a possible Chinese spy. Now this (via Phayul), which is a pretty high-level defense of the Dalai Lama if true:

A major Indian news channel is reporting that India has indefinitely put off an important border talk with China after Beijing demanded New Delhi scrap a Buddhist conference where Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak.

NDTV has quoted sources as saying that China raised objections to the Dalai Lama’s address at the Buddhist conference being held in the capital next week – the same time when India and China were scheduled to hold talks.

“The Chinese side want the event to be scrapped,” NDTV said.

India and China were to hold their 15th round of Special Representative-level talks on the long-pending boundary problem on Monday and Tuesday next week.

India in turn has reportedly called the Chinese demand “outrageous”.

“New Delhi decided not to cave in and has put off the boundary talks,” NDTV said in its report.

This is the first time that talks have been put off between the two sides in this manner.

The four-day Global Buddhist Congregation is scheduled to be held from November 27 to 30 coinciding with the 2600th year of the Enlightenment of Buddha .

According to the organisers, religious, spiritual and world leaders, as well as 800 scholars, delegates and observers from 32 countries will be attending the Congregation.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa are scheduled to attend the Congregation.

Nice to see someone standing up to Chinese demands and verbal abuse for once.

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“Vietnam, India Stand Firm on China Row”

Via WSJ, news that India and Vietnam are still holding out against Chinese threats on the South China Sea:

China is embroiled in territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. India’s ONGC, a state-owned oil and gas company, is planning to begin exploration next year at a block in waters claimed by both China and Vietnam.

Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang, who is meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Wednesday, is using one of his first trips abroad to rebuff China’s suggestions that ONGC’s plans amounted to a violation of Chinese sovereignty.

China has been involved in a number of angry exchanges and incidents at sea this year with Vietnam and the Philippines. Vice foreign ministers from China and Vietnam agreed during a meeting in Beijing to settle their disputes through “negotiations and friendly consultations,” the official Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday.

Still, Hanoi sees India as a strategic counterweight to China and both countries have been beefing up defense ties under a 2009 agreement.

In July, Indian officials say an Indian navy ship visiting Vietnam as part of this pact received a radio message warning that it was entering Chinese waters. China has dismissed India’s version of events as “groundless.”

For New Delhi, the growing ties offer potential access to stocks of energy in the South China Sea and are a way to project its growing strategic role in East Asia.

Both nations are hoping to boost trade in the coming years. Mr. Sang told PTI that he believed trade between the two countries could rise to $7 billion in 2015 up from $2.7 billion today.

I wonder if there are any efforts underway to get the other parties to the South China Sea conflict to join them.

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“The India-Vietnam Axis”

WSJ, on the growing friendship between India and Vietnam:

India is the latest country to get drawn into the South China Sea dispute. Earlier this month, Beijing told New Delhi that its permission was needed for India’s state-owned oil and gas firm to explore for energy in two Vietnamese blocks in those waters. This follows reports of a Chinese vessel confronting an Indian Navy frigate off Vietnam in late July.

Vietnam quickly cited the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks in question. Hanoi has been sparring with Beijing over the South China Sea in the past year, so such a response was expected.

What’s new is New Delhi not taking Chinese aggression in that region sitting down. It immediately decided to support Hanoi’s claims.

Hanoi fought a brief war with Beijing in 1979 and has grown wary of the Middle Kingdom’s increasing economic and military weight. That’s why in some quarters of New Delhi, Vietnam is already seen as a counterweight in the same way Pakistan has been for China.

That’s not to say good India-Vietnam relations wouldn’t exist otherwise. Vietnamese have traditionally held Indians in high regard because of the latter’s support for Vietnamese independence from France and their opposition to U.S. involvement in the country. And New Delhi formulated a “Look East” policy as early as 1991, to capitalize on East Asia’s economic growth. But the rise of China has given this relationship a powerful strategic—not to mention urgent—dimension.

New Delhi’s abiding interest in Vietnam, though, is in the defense realm. It wants to build relations with states like Vietnam that can act as pressure points against China. With this in mind, it has been helping Hanoi beef up its naval and air capabilities.

Given that Vietnam and India use similar Russian and erstwhile Soviet defense platforms, New Delhi could easily offer defense technologies to Hanoi. Talks are ongoing for India to sell the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, an Indo-Russian joint venture. Such arms could allow Vietnam to project regional power and improve deterrence against China.

The two nations also have stakes in ensuring sea-lane security, as well as shared concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Hence, India is helping Vietnam to build capacity for repair and maintenance of its defense platforms. At the same time, the armed forces of the two states have started cooperation in areas like IT and English-language training of Vietnamese Army personnel. The two are also sharing their experiences in mountainous and jungle warfare.

Naval cooperation, however, remains the focus. Here, Vietnam has given India the right to use its port of Nha Trang in the south; the Indian Navy has already made a port call. It is not entirely clear what the final arrangement would look like, but the symbolism of this is not lost on China.

This is the way to counter Chinese aggression in the region. If they could convince the other nations involved in the South China Sea flap to work with them, even a dominant China would have to pull back.

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Filed under India, South China Sea, Vietnam