Tawang’s history affirms China’s sovereignty

By Jia Liang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/13 19:08:39

The Potala Palace in Tibet. Photos: IC

Arranged by India, the 14th Dalai Lama visited Tawang in South Tibet of China, called "Arunachal Pradesh" in India, from April 4 to 13. He had been to the region six times in the past. During his visits, Dalai repeatedly referred to the area in China as "Arunachal Pradesh." When will the Buddhist monk stop selling out China's territory for his personal gains?

Tawang is known as the pearl of South Tibet and is a holy land to Tibetans. According to Chinese administrative divisions, Tawang belongs to the Cona County, Lhoka, Tibet Autonomous Region. It's beyond all doubt that Tawang is an inseparable part of China.

As early as the 7th century, Tawang had been under the jurisdiction of a local government of the Tibetan Empire. In 1681, the 5th Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso ordered the construction of Tawang Monastery and since then, Tawang had been a political, religious, economic and cultural center of the Menyu area where the Tawang district is located and which was effectively administrated by the local Tibetan governments. The 6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso was born in Tawang and thereafter, the region has been considered as a sacred place by Tibetans.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the local government of Tibet strengthened the administrative system in the Menyu area, establishing administrative offices there and promulgating laws and regulations. Since mid-19th century, the authority of the local government of Tibet over the Menyu area had been further strengthened.

Between 1913 and 1914, the British government convened at a conference at Simla, in which the emissary of British India Henry McMahon coerced and lured Tibetan representative Xazha to sign an under-the-table deal behind the back of the Chinese delegate. The document they signed, known as the "Simla Accord," created the notorious "McMahon Line" which incorporated a large area including the Tawang district that had long been under the administration of China's Tibet. According to the deal, Tibet was to give 90,000 square kilometers of Chinese territory to British India.

On July 3, 1914, the then-Yuan Shikai administration instructed Chinese representative Chen Yifan not to sign the accord and declared, "The Chinese government will acknowledge none of the accord or similar documents signed by the UK and Tibet on this or any other day." Because Chen refused to sign the accord, the Simla Conference broke up. The "McMahon Line" was not legally binding. Both the Simla Accord and the line have never been accepted by the Chinese government.

After the Simla Conference, the local Tibetan government still had jurisdiction over the area south of the "McMahon Line." The line was not made public to the world, but was merely a "red line" on the map. It was forgotten until 1935 when the incident of F. Kingdon Ward took place. Ward, a British explorer-botanist crossed the traditional border between China and British India into Tibet and was arrested by Tibetan officials. The local Tibetan government lodged a complaint against the UK's political officer in Sikkim, who was visiting Lhasa at that time. The incident sparked the UK's attempt to revive the "McMahon Line." In November, the UK demanded the Tibetan government implement the Simla Accord, giving up the jurisdiction over the Tawang district. It met strong resistance from the Tibetan government, which adhered to its jurisdiction over Tawang and rejected the validity of the "McMahon Line."

In April 1938, a small British force led by Captain G. S. Lightfoot invaded Tawang. At the beginning of 1944, the British force established a military post near the Tawang Monastery. In July, troops were sent to stations in key areas of the Tawang district. Faced with the heightened aggression from the British Indian government, the Tibetan government and the local people, including monks, stood up in strong resistance. They also lodged a serious protest against the British Indian government, resolutely safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of South Tibet.

Since gaining independence in 1947, India has pursued expansionism. Influenced by the British, India sent troops to the north, beyond the traditional customary border between China and India. In February 1951, the Indian army occupied Tawang and expelled all the administrative staff dispatched by the local Tibetan government. In 1954, the Indian government set up the North East Frontier Agency there and modified the official map. And by 1960, the Indian army completely seized the Tibetan region south of the "McMahon Line."

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) once retook the town in the 1962 border war, but the Indian army reoccupied the area the next year. In 1972, the North East Frontier Agency became the Union Territory of "Arunachal Pradesh," which was officially upgraded to a state in February 1987 after a legislation was passed by the Parliament of India at the end of 1986. China reiterated many times that it does not recognize the "McMahon Line" and "Arunachal Pradesh."

Since The Agreement Between the Central Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Method for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, better known as The 17-Article Agreement, was signed in 1951 in Beijing, the Dalai Lama telegraphed the central government, pledging to assist the PLA in ramping up national defense, driving out imperialist forces and safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and has since abandoned his stance to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and launched a string of treasonous activities to promote "Tibet Independence."

During the border war in 1962, the Tibetan people actively joined the battles and assisted the PLA, making great contributions. But the Dalai Lama slandered that China invaded India and he gave 17.5 kilograms of gold to India as a financial endorsement for fighting against China. He even persuaded India to support "Tibetan independence," claiming he would reduce pressure and military expenditure on the country's northern border if it did so.

Prior to 1959, the Dalai Lama refused to recognize India's "sovereignty" over South Tibet of China including Tawang, but gradually changed his attitude later on.

In April 1986, he called South Tibet the state of "Arunachal Pradesh" in a memorandum he wrote to then Indian prime minister Rajiv Ratna Gandhi. In 1997, he donated to the renovation of the Tawang Monastery. In 2003, he expressed to Indian media that the state of "Arunachal Pradesh" was actually part of Tibet. In January 2007, he told an Indian television that in 1914, both the Tibetan government and India, which was under the British rule, recognized the "McMahon Line." In June 2008, The Times of India published an article entitled "Tawang is part of India: Dalai" and stated in its first paragraph, "for the first time, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has said that Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, a territory that's still claimed by China, is part of India."

From 2009 on, the Dalai Lama's rhetoric on the issue concerning South Tibet's "sovereignty" has become even more aggravating. In July 2016, he congratulated the newly elected chief minister of "Arunachal Pradesh," saying "I am confident that under your leadership Arunachal Pradesh will continue to make progress in prosperity and development, particularly by improving the lives of the poor and needy in your state."

The Dalai Lama and his supporters, who have been in exile in India for a long time, have obsequiously depended on New Delhi for their survival. Nevertheless, handing an area of some 90,000 square kilometers, including Tawang where the Sixth Dalai Lama was born, over to another country is outrageous. It is also noteworthy that the Tawang Monastery was built by the Fifth Dalai Lama.

On January 16, 2010, the 14th Dalai Lama said at the International Buddhist Conference in Gujarat, India, that "it is indisputable that I am a son of India… I see myself as a son of India and I am proud of that. I am a Tibetan in appearance because my parents are Tibetans, but spiritually I am Indian."

As of last month, he has labeled himself as "a son of India" at least 21 times. Therefore, as "a son of India," why is he qualified to talk about "representing the people of Tibet" and the religion, language, culture and human rights in Tibet?

It is suggested that the Dalai Lama not go further on selling out national sovereignty and territory. He should stop campaigning for the illegal and ineffective "McMahon Line" as it is a tremendous betrayal and harm the Chinese people, including more than 6 million Tibetans.

What's more, the Dalai Lama should not overestimate his influence on China-India relations. It has been proven in both history and status quo that no matter how the Dalai Lama acts as a pawn or a troublemaker, the fact that the "McMahon Line" and "Arunachal Pradesh" are illegitimate and ineffective cannot be disputed.

The Dalai Lama should refrain from promoting any illusion about "Tibetan independence." Now that Tibet is enjoying ethnic solidarity, social stability and the livelihood of people living there has improved under the leadership and the democratic reform of the central government. The Dalai Lama will only meet his Waterloo if he continues on this course.

The author is from the Center for Tibetan Studies of Sichuan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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