Tibet ‘govt-in-exile’ takes advantage of border standoff

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/11 0:08:40

Sovereignty over Tibet non-negotiable: China

India should properly manage "Tibet independence" forces on its soil, and avoid using them as a bargaining chip with China, Chinese experts said.

Taking advantage of the military standoff between China and India over Indian troops' trespass across the border to China, the head of the Tibetan "government in exile," Lobsang Sangay, hoisted a "Tibetan flag," a symbol of "Tibet independence" beside Pangong Lake, which sits astride India and China.

India has previously discouraged such "political activities" by Tibetan separatists, said Indian news website The Wire. However, this time, the Indian government has not commented on it.

"Chinese and Indian military forces control the two sides of Pangong Lake, and residents are rarely seen in the area, so Sangay's behavior is likely to have the Indian government's permission or blessings," Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Sonam Norbu Dagpo, "spokesperson" of the self-styled "Central Tibetan Administration" (CTA), had earlier confirmed the hoisting of the flag to The Wire on Sunday. "This is the first visit by the CTA president to Ladakh and, therefore, the first time that he has offered prayers, hoisted the prayer flag and hoisted the 'national flag' by himself at the lake," he said.

"This activity made by a 'Tibet independence' group in India might worsen the situation and further damage Sino-Indian relations. It might also affect the Chinese government's future solution for the 'Tibet independence' problem," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

The Chinese government is seeking opportunities to solve the problem of "Tibet independence" in the future, which will be an opportunity for Tibetans in exile to rebuild relations with the government. But the "Tibet independence" group makes such a move attract attention in the midst of the Sino-Indian stand-off in the border area, which will damage its image, Hu said.

"The CTA spokesperson" stressed that this was Sangay's first visit, and that other leaders of the community who headed earlier avatars of the CTA had visited Pangong Lake. "But at that time, there was no media coverage," he said.

However, on Sunday night, "CTA information secretary Dhardon Sharling" reached out to The Wire to insist Sangay had not hoisted the flag.

"The connection between the 'Tibet independence' group and Indian government is not a secret. In the past, the Indian government restrained the 'Tibet independence' activity within its territory to some extent. So we hope India will not ease its restraints on 'Tibet independence' groups and not use 'Tibet independence' as a bargaining chip to China to further worsen the situation," said Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations.

Border frictions or even conflicts may be politically manageable. However, the sovereignty over Tibet is not something negotiable, and China has made it very clear. So, India should not push China to a point where a peaceful solution becomes impossible, because this will seriously damage India and regional stability, Chu said.

Additionally, the "Tibet independence" group might also want to use the Indian government and the current tensions to strengthen its influence and create trouble, Hu said.

"The Indian government should not let the 'Tibet independence' group worsen the situation and further damage bilateral ties with China," Chu said.

Withdraw first

China continues to search for a peaceful solution, but it stressed that the withdrawal of the Indian soldiers who trespassed is the precondition for dialogue. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang reaffirmed this point during a press conference on Monday.

When asked if China would stop the road construction in the region once India withdraws its forces from Doklam, he said China's road construction in Doklam is legal and inside Chinese territory, and India's claim of "national security" as an excuse to trespass into China has violated international law.

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