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'China worries Dalai Lama's reincarnation will be in Arunachal'

By P Rajendran
November 06, 2009 12:56 IST
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P Rajendran speaks to the leading authority on China's border issues to find out why Beijing is so angry about the Tibetan leader's visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

China expert M Taylor Fravel believes the issue of the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, in the long-term, will probably not worsen relations between the two countries.

"I think it will probably be overblown. Obviously, China is going to protest. I don't think it will have a long-term effect, but in the short term it will become a point of friction between China and India," Professor Fravel, who is widely considered to be the leading authority on China's border issues, told

Asked if he felt the Dalai Lama would be advised to tone down political rhetoric, Professor Fravel replied: "I suspect he doesn't even need to be told by the Indian government."

"I think he will characterise his trip as being one of a religious nature," Professor Fravel said. "The Chinese government will not see it that way, but that's how he will characterise it."

He says the Indian government has not allowed foreign journalists to cover the visit to reduce any fallout.

"I think the Indian government is doing it to de-politicise the visit as much as possible," Professor Fravel said. "The Indian government has a long track record of trying to limit the political nature of Tibet-related activities in India -- allow large gatherings or demonstrations on Tibetan issues."

"I think the Chinese government will see it as follows:

"As an Indian effort to symbolically affirm control over Arunachal Pradesh."

"Second, they will see the Dalai Lama's visit as a way for him to internationalise the dispute with India. Wherever he goes, he will have an international audience."

"A third perspective (is that the visit is) perhaps legitimating India's claim to the area and questioning China's claim."

But China has more a serious cause for worry, Professor Fravel believes.

He points out that there is an important Tibetan monastery in Tawang.

"It is possible that a future Dalai Lama could be reincarnated there. That could create a huge problem for China," Professor Fravel says, citing precedent for a Dalai Lama, the sixth, Tsangyang Gyatso, who was born in the Tawang area.

"In the long run, what worries China is that the reincarnation will occur in an area that China does not control -- which, most likely, will be in this one very small part of Arunachal Pradesh, which does have a historical link with Tibet."

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