At a funeral last week in the mountains of North India, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top aides honored a Tibetan soldier killed on the frontline of deadly skirmishes with China.
Surrounded by soldiers waving flags from both India and Tibet, Ram Madhav placed a wreath before the coffin during a ceremony that paid full military honors to the deceased. The national general secretary of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party now said in a tweet that he hoped the death of the soldier would lead to peace on the “Indo-Tibet border”.
The rare recognition of a secret Indian military unit with Tibetan troops has threatened to escalate a border dispute that has killed dozens of people since May and strengthens economic ties between the world’s most populous countries . More importantly, India had questioned China’s sovereignty over Tibet – a red line for Beijing, which sees separatism as a cause, also worth fighting for Taiwan from Xinjiang to Hong Kong. is.
Robbie Barnett led Columbia University’s Modern Tibetan Studies Program until 2018 and has written about the region since the 1980s, “Indians have sent a message – a very strong message, which they probably haven’t sent for decades . ” “The participation of exiled Tibetans and the use of exiled Tibetan icons, pictures and flags is extremely important for its interpretation.”
While the Foreign Ministers of India and China agreed on the need for restraint during a meeting in Moscow last week, tensions at the border are higher than at any point after hostilities resume. The two sides continue to attack forces in the disputed region, crucial for controlling the important Himalayan mountain passes, firing along the Line of Actual Control for the first time in more than four decades in this month.
Over the past few weeks, China moved fighter jets and heavy bombers from the Central Theater Command, Beijing’s strategic reserve to the Indian border, which, according to Indian defense officials, was not carried out even when the two sides went to war in 1962, The person who asked to speak with the media could not be identified because of the rules. China’s Ministry of Defense did not answer fax questions.
According to Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, neither country has an incentive to go to war, but the increased intensity and persistence of friction can cause them to stumble into one. Eurasia Group picked up last week The possibility that border skirmishes could result in a more sustained military conflict up to 15%.
Narang said, “An advertisement or unintentional incident at a local flash point can now foster a truly widespread conflict that neither government wants,” adding that he wrote a book about the strategy of regional nuclear powers is.
Tibet, an area the size of South Africa that stretches across the Himalayas, has been a point of contention in India’s relations with China since the Dalai Lama fled to the South Asian nation after a failed uprising in 1959. To the displeasure of the exile Beijing, in the north-Indian city of Dharamshala. India only In 2003, Tibet was recognized as part of China.
India first identified the military unit of Tibet Refugees as a Special Frontier Force, according to Jaydev Ranade, a member of the advisory board of the National Security Council after the 1962 Indo-China War. Akin to US Special Forces, each member is trained as a para-commando and runs the undercover in collaboration with the Indian Army.
“The recognition is a clear message to China that your countrymen are fighting with us,” said Ranade, head of the Center of China Analysis and Strategy, a New Delhi research group. “I don’t remember this force being accepted as such.”
Indian Defense officials, who did not identify, said the Special Frontier Force participated in a night raid last month to occupy the strategic high ground and remain on the front line.
Nevertheless, both India and China want to reduce the importance of Tibetan troops.
Indian Army spokesman Colonel Aman Anand refused to answer questions about the unit, but said that the army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility while protecting national integrity and sovereignty at all costs. The Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request seeking a comment.
China has rejected reports of Tibetans, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday asking reporters about India’s issue.
“China’s position is clear,” he said. “We strongly oppose any country facilitating ‘Tibetan independence’ forces’ through separatist activities.”
While the government has avoided instigating the situation, China’s state-owned media has released footage from last week of live-fire military exercises in Tibet with tanks, fighter jets and even drones that have long Can bring food to soldiers during early winter. soon.
The coffin of Nyima Tenzin, the Tibetan soldier who died, was draped with flags of India and Tibet. Madhav, who was a BJP official, understood the importance: He wrote a book in 2014 about the conflict called “Rough Neighbors: India and China 50 Years After the War”. Madhav did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why he deleted his tweet.
Even though the Indian government has not officially accepted the public funeral of the Tibetan Army, Tenzin, and Madhav’s presence, according to Gonpo Dhundup, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, support for the unit with the Tibetan exiled community, a body is. More than 30,000 members and fighting for the freedom of the region.
“I strongly Feel That young generation will join the SFF in large numbers, ”Dharmapala said by calling from McLeodganj outside Dharamshala. “Acknowledgment, no matter how brief, has sent a message that our contribution will be recognized.”
– with help by Kolam Murphy, and Jing Li
(Updates with new image after 11th paragraph)