China’s border villages and Tibet’s historical links with India: Perspectives, concerns, and cultural resilience

Tibet , china and India dynamics
Penpa Tsering Speaking at CCAS Conference (Photo: News Intervention)

In a recent conference titled “China’s Tibet Policy Under Xi Jinping,” organized by the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy (CCAS), experts discussed China’s aggressive strategy along the borders with India. It was revealed that China is constructing approximately 400 villages near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and is also building similar villages in the no man’s land at the Bhutanese border. These Chinese border villages, which combine civilian and military personnel, are seen as posing both security and cultural threats to India.

Jayadeva Ranade, President of CCAS, highlighted the concern that India’s border regions are gradually thinning out, providing an opportunity for China to encroach upon Indian territories in the future. Additionally, Tsewang Dorji, a Research Fellow with the Tibet Policy Institute (TPI), explained that these border villages serve as China’s “eyes and ears” as the Chinese border forces regularly interact with the local residents. Notably, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been indoctrinating the villagers by stating that their predecessors guided the Chinese army during the 1962 war with India, emphasizing the importance of continued cooperation.

Chinese vision of unified nation, culture and language

One of the notable speakers at the conference was Penpa Tsering, President of the Central Tibetan Administration, who shed light on the potential impact of a peaceful resolution to the Tibetan issue on global politics. Tsering expressed concerns about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision of establishing a unified nation, culture, and language, potentially at the expense of other nationalities within China. He stressed that Tibetans have a deep-rooted historical and cultural connection with India, going back over 2,200 years.

Tsering elaborated on the historical ties between Tibet and India, highlighting that Tibet is an extension of Indian culture rather than Chinese culture. He emphasized the profound influence of Indian thought and teachings, particularly Buddhism, on Tibetan society. According to Tsering, Tibetans have been shaped by Indian philosophy, including principles of peace, non-violence, and compassion, which are also espoused by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Furthermore, Tsering underscored China’s ongoing efforts to sever the cultural and historical links between India and Tibet. Despite these attempts, the connection between Tibetans and India remains strong, with Tibetans considering India as their holy land. Tsering reiterated Tibet’s historical independence, pointing out that Tibet existed as a sovereign state alongside empires such as the Ming, Qing, and Manchu during various periods throughout history.

Addressing the environmental implications, Tsering emphasized the significant impact of China’s infrastructure development in Tibet. The construction of airports, roads, and railways not only brings more people into Tibet but also accelerates the retreat of glaciers, affecting downstream water flow. As Tibet serves as the water tower of Asia, the consequences of such developments extend to countries like Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and several Southeast Asian nations, potentially leading to future water and food security challenges.

China using AI for Tibetan surveillance

Tsering also highlighted China’s extensive use of artificial intelligence for surveillance in Tibet, creating an Orwellian system of control. Under this system, individuals and their families can be targeted based on the actions of a single visitor. Tsering urged the international community to recognize the strategic, environmental, cultural, and historical significance of Tibet. He emphasized that dealing with China solely through sanctions is insufficient, and instead, the world must stand up for the principles of freedom. Tsering proposed that a non-violent and middle-path approach could pave the way for resolving the Chinese-Tibetan conflict.

As tensions between China and India persist along their shared border, the concerns raised in the conference shed light on the potential ramifications for both regional security and cultural heritage. Recognizing the historical links and preserving the unique identity of Tibet is crucial for maintaining peace and fostering understanding in the region.

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