Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Dalai Lama in the US: 5 Burning Questions | in conversation with Claude Arpi | News9 Plus Show

My interview with News9

Dalai Lama in the US: 5 Burning Questions | in conversation with Claude Arpi | News9 Plus Show
The US on June 12, 2024, passed the Resolve Tibet Act that urges Beijing to re-engage with Tibetan leaders for a peaceful resolution with China. The Act is awaiting President Joe Biden's signature. Will there be fresh tensions between the US and China over Tibet? Analysing the scenarios are News9 Plus Editor Sandeep Unnithan along with Claude Arpi, a Tibetologist. Watch this topical discussion and don’t forget to like, share and subscribe for more such geopolitical discussions.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Can US Pressure Xi on Tibet?

Programme on News9

As India continues to grapple with Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, a high-profile delegation of US lawmakers, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has met with the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala. This visit comes as the US House of Representatives has passed the Tibet Resolve Bill, which calls on Beijing to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders about the governance of Tibet.

In this video, we explore the potential implications of this development and whether India can leverage the "Tibet card" to offset the pressure it faces from China on the border. Joining us to discuss this are Claude Arpi, a renowned author and Tibetologist, and Dr. Rajan Kumar from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, along with our in-studio expert, Deepak Bhadana.

Tune in to this insightful discussion as we analyze the complex geopolitical dynamics at play and the potential opportunities for India to assert its position on the global stage.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

How China stokes unrest globally to contain West

My article Claude Arpi | How China stokes unrest globally to contain West appeared in The Asian Age and the Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

Examining China's expanding influence in Africa through infrastructure diplomacy, alleged connections with Hamas, and geopolitical maneuvers

At the end of an informal meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing earlier in May, the two leaders hugged each other, something rather unusual for Mr Xi (though he did it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well). US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby jokingly commented: “I’m not good at talking about personal human bodily affection one way or the other. I think I’ll leave it to these two gents to talk about why they thought it was good to hug one another.”
Whatever the US spokesman may say, the encounter was significant, as it heralded a still closer relationship between Russia and China. According to Reuters: “Russia, grappling with Western sanctions after its invasion of Ukraine, is increasingly reliant on its booming trade with China, which is challenging US supremacy in areas from quantum computing to espionage and hard military power…. The leaders signed a lengthy statement that sharpened their opposition to a US-led world order and pledged cooperation across fields ranging from space and nuclear technologies to finance and manufacturing.”
It is a fact that for Moscow, though the Chinese economy may be facing serious difficulties, Beijing is an ally of weight.

The Three Battles
At the same time, China is more and more asserting itself all over the planet. Long Kaifeng, a PLA commentator associated with the Kunlun Policy and Strategy Research Institute, a Communist Party of China think tank, recently wrote about “CPC’s 3-Battle Scheme” to erode America’s power prior to a clash in the Taiwan Strait; among other things, the author argues that the outcome of the “Three Battles” will see the US dollar becoming worthless.
Long explains: “On a global scale, three major battles are in Europe, the Middle East and Asia respectively. The Ukrainian war represents the European front; the Middle Eastern battle will be a conflict between Israel and Palestine, and the Asian theatre might be the second Korean war. After these battles, the US military and dollar dominance established post-Cold War will fall. The US dollar will depreciate, becoming worthless -- a trend seen as inevitable.”
The PLA scholar further notes: “Given the current situation, Russia seems poised to win in Ukraine. Reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran and unity in the Arab world are crucial to counter US-Israeli dominance. In East Asia, North Korea is ready, possessing nuclear capabilities and openly challenging US dominance.”

Beijing’s Assertiveness
In India’s neighbourhood, this translates, for example, in the Maldives falling for Beijing’s promises or in Nepal, a recrudescence of territorial claims in the Kalapani area, clearly influenced by Beijing.
Regarding Africa, China is, of course, deeply involved. In a research paper, Hema Narang from Delhi University believes that infrastructure diplomacy is the key to China’s influence in Africa.
The scholar gives an example: “China gifted Zimbabwe a new Parliament building in 2023. This gift is emblematic of China’s strategy of gifting large-scale projects worldwide, especially in Africa, to establish itself as a modernisation facilitator and gain international prestige. These projects, often grand structures such as government buildings and stadiums, transform the dynamics of donor-recipient relationships, augmenting China’s global reputation and subtly reinforcing material inequalities, while their architectural grandeur and visible labels such as ‘China Aid’ prominently emphasise China’s commitment to development and cooperation.”
She concludes: “In international societies, gifts work in a similar way, establishing prestige for the giver and reaffirming the receiver’s position.”
At the same time, everybody is not fooled by Beijing’s generosity: a “gift” does not always mean a free meal.

The Ukraine War
Another question often asked: Is China supporting Russia in the Ukraine war? There is no doubt that China is a vital partner for Russia, helping Moscow to soften the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States.
When asked if China was providing Russia with weapons, US secretary of state Antony Blinken told BBC: “What’s not happening is the provision of actual arms by China to Russia for use in Ukraine.” However, the US leader added: “About 70 per cent of the machine tools and 90 per cent of the microelectronics Russia imports come from China.”
Without Beijing, Moscow would certainly not have survived the Western sanctions so easily.

The Hamas War
More important perhaps is China’s hand behind the Hamas attack on Israel. A newspaper article says: “The evidence of the PRC green-signalling Hamas’ attack on Israel goes beyond the circumstantial.”
Quoting Guermantes Lailari, a retired US Air Force foreign area officer specialising in counter-terrorism, who recently visited New Delhi, the article says: “Massive quantities of Chinese arms, ammunition, military grade communication and other intelligence gathering equipment were found in Hamas warehouses in Gaza during the raids conducted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), in the aftermath of the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel by the Palestinian terrorist group. At least two tunnel engineers from China’s People’s Liberation Army were captured by the IDF, suggesting that extensive Chinese help was given to Hamas to construct the huge network of tunnels under Gaza City. Apart from this, the PLA has been giving military training to Hamas.”
The informant added that the head of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, who masterminded the attack on Israel, lived in the China for years, and maintains deep contacts with the PLA.

One More Battle
One more front (or “battle”) seems to be in the French enclave of New Caledonia, which witnessed an insurgency from of the local population. While President Emmanuel Macron struggles to restore some order, a question is recurrently asked: Who is behind the unrest?
Paris has put the blame for the violence on extremist independence groups, supported from outside; Gérald Darmanin, the interior and Overseas France minister, asserted that Azerbaijan has some responsibility for the unrest: “It’s not a fantasy, it’s a reality”, he said. The Azerbaijan flag was repeatedly seen in the hands of rioters.
The next question is logically: “Who is behind Azerbaijan?”
Has Russia opened up a second front in its proxy war against France?
Though Azerbaijan has described the allegations “insulting”, and said: “We deny any link between the leaders of the Caledonian freedom struggle and Azerbaijan”, one could also put the question differently.

Who benefits most from the current mess in New Caledonia?
No doubt China is trying hard to make its presence felt in the chain of Pacific islands and an independent Caledonia would be a great boon for Beijing, while President Macron has never been in such a weak position, particularly after the recent European Parliament elections.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

With China willing to discuss 'Dalai Lama’s future', Tibetan fate hangs in balance

When Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat
My article With China willing to discuss 'Dalai Lama’s future', Tibetan fate hangs in balance appeared in Firstpost

Beijing has not called Dalai Lama a ‘separatist’ leader; instead, it has shown interest in discussing his ‘personal future’
With China willing to discuss 'Dalai Lama’s future', Tibetan fate hangs in balance

On May 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a public meeting in Mandi to support Bollywood actress and BJP candidate Kangana Ranaut. In the course of his speech, he mentioned Tibet, something he rarely does. According to a press release from the PMO, Modi asserted: “The Congress government was so timid that it was afraid to even mention the name of Dalai Lama Ji. I frequently engage in discussions with Dalai Lama Ji. He is a stalwart of our rich heritage. India is the land of Buddha, and the Modi government has been actively promoting this heritage.”
The ‘frequent discussions’ are not in the public domain; we only know that from time to time, a phone call is made from Delhi to Dharamsala on the Dalai Lama’s birthday.
This statement, however, raises the issue of Tibet, which seems to have been dormant for years.
The political head of Tibet’s government-in-exile, Penpa Tsering, recently visited the United States and Canada. Everywhere, the Sikyong conveyed the urgent situation in Tibet “highlighting China’s efforts to eradicate Tibet’s distinct culture and identity and assimilate the Tibetan people”.
During an encounter with the Tibetan Diaspora, Penpa Tsering noted that the priorities and policies of his government were to enhance the stability and efficiency of departments within the Central Tibetan Administration and implement the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way policy.
He admitted that he was in contact with Beijing; according to Firstpost, the Sikyong stated: “We have had back-channel engagement since last year. But we have no immediate expectations from it. It has to be a long-term one.” Penpa Tsering, however, insisted that the talks were “very informal”.
PTI quoted him, saying, “I have my interlocutor who deals with people in Beijing. Then there are other elements also trying to reach out to us.”
Beijing was quick to retort: “[We] will talk only with the representatives of the Dalai Lama and not the officials of the Tibetan government-in-exile.”
The positive side was that Beijing did not call the Dalai Lama a separatist and instead said it was ready to discuss his “personal future”.
This has been Beijing’s position for the past four decades: the discussions can only be about the Dalai Lama’s future.

The Future
This, however, raises the issue of the future of Tibet and the Tibetan people.
In the early 1980s, the Dalai Lama envisaged a Middle Path approach, probably based on the “One Country, Two Systems” slogan coined by Deng Xiaoping at the end of the 1970s.
The Tibetan leader elaborated his vision for the future in two documents, a Five-Point Peace Plan in 1987 in Washington, DC, and his Strasbourg Proposal in 1988.
The first of the five points was “transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace”, a concept certainly appealing for India; another point was “respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms”.
The ‘Zone of Peace’ would soon be dropped, and the riots in Lhasa in 1989 and the subsequent imposition of martial law demonstrated the limits of the second.
In his Strasbourg Proposal, the Dalai Lama spoke of “the whole of Tibet known as Cholka-Sum (U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo) should become a self-governing democratic political entity founded on law by agreement of the people for the common good and the protection of themselves and their environment, in association with the People’s Republic of China”.
This was before the events of Tiananmen Square; before June 1989, there were probably chances that China could join the concert of democratic nations and be a normal state.
Ten rounds of negotiations took place between the Dalai Lama’s representatives (the CTA’s representatives have always been banned in Beijing) between 2002 and 2010. This led nowhere.

China, a Great Power
Things have changed since then; China has become the second most important economic player in the world, while the situation within the Middle Kingdom has grimly deteriorated since 2012, at least in terms of individual liberty.
Today, after the recent events in Hong Kong and the military threats against the ‘renegade island’ (Taiwan), ‘One Country, Two Systems’ cannot be envisioned anymore. This makes the situation in Tibet (and in Xinjiang, the other Chinese colony) more precarious than ever.

In February, a Chinese writer living in exile, Yuan Hongbing, revealed that China planned to use the Kuomintang’s (KMT’s) influence in Taiwan’s legislature to boost its United Front strategy. Yuan said that the information came from a “princeling” (son of a Chinese revolutionary leader) whom Xi Jinping does not dare to challenge. According to Chinascope, a US website carrying information on the Mainland, “the CCP is not just using military intimidation to destabilise Taiwan; it is also using propaganda, the deployment of agents, and the expansion of the KMT’s legislative power to override the Taiwanese administration.”
Last week, Chinese military spokesperson senior Colonel Wu Qian told a press conference that China’s reunification is an irreversible trend in history and that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is ready to take resolute actions to counter any “Taiwan independence”.
Soon after Lai Ching-te took charge as Taiwan’s president on May 20, the Chinese military warned Taiwan that “independence” would mean “war” and Beijing would thwart any foreign interference in support of “separatist activities” in the democratic-ruled island.
The recent military drills that followed were more to ‘scare the chicken’ than a rehearsal, as an ‘influence’ takeover will certainly be less costly and risky for Beijing. Yuan added that “the CCP’s Taiwan policy has shifted from coercion and enticement to psychological warfare, aiming to demoralise Taiwanese.”

Deterioration in Hong Kong
Around the same time, the BBC reported that a court in Hong Kong “found 14 pro-democracy activists guilty of subversion in the largest use yet of a China-imposed National Security Law. They included former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong, journalist-turned-campaigner Gwyneth Ho, and ordinary Hong Kongers who joined the mass protests of 2019, such as nurse Winnie Yu”.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee took Beijing’s side and declared that his government will do its “utmost to prevent, suppress, and impose punishment” for any activities “endangering national security”.

Situation in Tibet
In Tibet, the situation is also rapidly deteriorating. A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted, “Since 2016, the Chinese government has dramatically accelerated the relocation of rural villagers and herders in Tibet. The government says that these relocations—often to areas hundreds of kilometres away—are voluntary.” The Chinese rationale was to “improve people’s livelihoods and protect the ecological environment”.
Using over 1,000 official Chinese media articles between 2016 and 2023, as well as government publications and academic field studies, HRW said that China’s own media reports showed that participation in “whole-village relocation” programmes in Tibet is in fact compulsory. “In one case, 200 households out of 262 in the village did not initially want to relocate to a new location, which was nearly 1,000 kilometres away. In another village scheduled for relocation, all the residents except for a Chinese Communist Party activist initially disagreed with the plan to move the village,” said the report.
HRW could not find a single case where a village scheduled for relocation was able to avoid being moved.
What is left of the ‘genuine autonomy’ the Dalai Lama was dreaming of in the 1980s? Probably not much today.

Another Report

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet reported in May that the Buddhist Association of China (BAC), a non-political organisation, “is becoming a key instrument in the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy to assimilate and transform Tibetan Buddhism, particularly in relation to the search for and recognition of reincarnate lamas”.
When it speaks of the ‘sinification of Buddhism’, Beijing is obviously thinking of the succession of the Dalai Lama.
Since President Xi Jinping’s announcement of his intent to sinify all the religions in China, the BAC has been “mandated as the tool to implement campaigns that will contribute to its fruition, particularly in connection with Tibetan Buddhism”.
Founded in 1953, the BAC’s charter was amended in 2020 to include “Sinification of Buddhism in China”, one of its objectives in order to “support the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system, study and implement Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and adhere to the direction of the Sinification of Buddhism in China”.
During the recent Two Sessions held in Beijing in March 2024, Wang Huning, the Party’s chief ideologue, mentioned that the BAC “carried out 10 research and inspections in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Tibet-related counties in Sichuan Province on promoting the sinification of Tibetan Buddhism”.
In the present circumstances, hopes for a better tomorrow are presently limited.

One can only hope that when the Indian prime minister calls the Dalai Lama on July 6 to wish him on his 89th birthday, the Tibetan leader will be able to convince PM Modi that the fates of Tibet and India are intimately linked, in particular as far as the boundary between them is concerned.