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Home / World / Secret Tibetan military forces raise the stakes in the Indo-Chinese conflict

Secret Tibetan military forces raise the stakes in the Indo-Chinese conflict



Indian troops pay tribute to their fallen comrade, Tibetan special forces soldier Niimi Tenzin in Leza on September 7.

Photographer: Mohd Arhaan Archer / AFP via Getty Images

At a funeral last week in the mountains of northern India, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi̵

7;s top aides paid tribute to a Tibetan soldier killed on the front lines of deadly clashes with China.

Surrounded by troops waving flags of both India and Tibet, Ram Madhav laid a wreath in front of the coffin during a ceremony honoring the deceased man with full military honors. In a remote tweet, Modi Bharatiya Janata, the national secretary general of the ruling party, said he hoped the soldier’s death would lead to peace on the “Indo-Tibetan border”.

The rare recognition of a secret Indian military unit with Tibetan soldiers has in itself threatened to escalate a border dispute that has killed dozens of people since May and led to economic ties between the world’s most populous countries. Even more significant was the suggestion that India was questioning China’s sovereignty over Tibet, a red line for Beijing, which sees separatism as a cause also worth fighting in places from Xinjiang to Hong Kong to Taiwan.

“The Indians are sending a message – a very strong message that they probably haven’t sent in decades,” said Robbie Barnett, who headed Columbia University’s Modern Tibetan Studies Program until 2018 and has written about the region since the 1980s. “Attracting exiled Tibetans and using exiled Tibetan icons, images and flags is extremely important for China’s interpretation.”

Voltage high

Although the foreign ministers of India and China agreed on the need to contain during a meeting in Moscow last week, tensions along the border remain higher than at any time since the resumption of hostilities. Both sides continue to build up in the disputed area, which is key to controlling vital Himalayan mountain passes, with warning shots fired this month along the Line of Actual Control for the first time in four decades.

In the past few weeks, China has moved fighters and heavy bombers to India’s borders from Central Theater, Beijing’s strategic reserve, which was not done even when both sides went to war in 1962 without being identified by media rules. The Chinese Ministry of Defense did not answer facsimile questions.

Although none of the countries has an incentive to go to war, the growing intensity and stability of friction may force them to come together, according to Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last week, the group “Eurasia” raised the probability that border skirmishes can lead to a more lasting military conflict is up to 15%.

“An intentional or unintentional incident at a local outbreak can now actually lead to a wider conflict that no government wants,” said Narang, who has written a book on strategies to contain regional nuclear powers.

The Dalai Lama

Tibet, a territory about the size of South Africa that stretches across the Himalayas, has been controversial in India’s relations with China since the Dalai Lama fled to the South Asian state after a failed uprising in 1959. He formed a government -in exile in the town of Dharamshala in northern India, which caused discontent in Beijing. Only India recognized Tibet as part of China in 2003.




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