Chinese Regime’s ‘Reincarnation Politics’ Is Linked to Border Clashes With India: Expert

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
October 12, 2021 Updated: October 13, 2021

NEW DELHI—Indian and Chinese soldiers have engaged in a minor altercation at Tawang in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, just weeks after a previous incident in which 100 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers intruded on Indian territory.

The Chinese regime says sovereignty over the area is disputed and has included it in its political maps as part of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The most recent face-off occurred earlier this month near Yangtse in Tawang, where the border isn’t demarcated. The situation was defused after a few hours, when local commanders on both sides talked and both sides withdrew, following established protocols and mechanisms.

The incident at Tawang came just a few weeks after 100 soldiers and 55 horses of the Chinese regime’s PLA crossed three miles into Indian territory, in the Barahoti region of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, and destroyed infrastructure, including a bridge, on Aug. 30.

Tawang, on the border with Bhutan and China, isn’t new to Chinese intrusion. A sinologist told The Epoch Times that Chinese interest in the Himalayan regions of India is linked to its wider sinicization campaign targeting Tibetan Buddhism and specifically to its “reincarnation politics” aimed at controlling the institutions of Tibetan Buddhism on the border, in locations that could be the birthplace of the next Dalai Lama.

Talks held between corps commanders on both sides on Oct. 10 also failed because the PLA refused to de-escalate overall and specifically refused military disengagement from the regions of Hot Springs, Depsang Plains, and Demchok in India’s Ladakh territory, near China’s northwestern border.

Epoch Times Photo
The red pointer shows Tawang on the border between India (Arunachal Pradesh), Bhutan, and China. (Google maps)

Why Tawang Is Important

Tawang is home to a 340-year-old Tawang monastery and the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (1680–1706). Frank Lehberger, a senior fellow with the India-based think tank Usanas Foundation, said that Tibetans today believe that if it remains free of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interference, this place could again be the birthplace of a future Dalai Lama. Therefore, the Chinese regime wants to control and even eradicate the monastery.

“A possible Chinese goal in such a possible ‘reincarnation war’ could be to destroy or capture this important monastery in Tawang, in order to prevent that a future Dalai Lama would be identified or educated in this holy place,” Lehberger wrote in a paper published on the Usanas website on July 15.

“The so-called geopolitics of reincarnation is indeed the main reason why the PRC has since 2008 gradually intensified its controversial claim to the town and the ancient monastery of Tawang.”

Tibet’s unique tradition that institutionalizes the reincarnation system of eminent spiritual masters or religious authorities is called tulku.

“Tulkus are mostly recognized at infant age and then educated and groomed in a monastic environment, in order to later play the role of religious custodians who are entrusted with upholding the uninterrupted lineages of specific Buddhist teachings,” Lehberger wrote.

Wherever the atheist Communist Party takes power, it targets cultural traditions and religions, aiming to destroy and supplant them with communist ideology.

Lehberger wrote, “It is no surprise that Stalin and his local allies in the Mongolian Communist Party were the first to prosecute, imprison, and kill many Mongolian Tulkus during the anti-Buddhist pogroms of the 1930s in the newly founded Mongolian People’s Republic.”

The Chinese regime’s State Administration of Religious Affairs and United Front Work Department have long-term plans for disrupting any future search and identification process of the next Dalai Lama, he said.

“In order to preempt such a Chinese move, H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has at one time prophecized that his ‘reincarnation will appear in a free country.’ This could mean that at a future point in time, a future Fifteenth Dalai Lama could very well be found within India’s ethnic Tibetan communities in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh in the Himalayas,” Lehberger said, noting that these Indian states are home to autochthonous Tibetan-speaking populations.

This conflict over reincarnation politics could eventually drive a border war with India, similar to the ongoing clashes in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Indian Army personnel light candles in memory of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the 1962 Indo-China war at the Tawang War Memorial in Arunachal Pradesh on Oct. 20, 2012. (Biju Boro/AFP via Getty Images)

Geopolitics Behind Sinicization

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as One Belt, One Road) is linked with leader Xi Jinping’s dream of the People’s Republic of China becoming the most powerful nation in the world by the middle of this century, when it will mark 100 years of communist rule. The initiative, which is a “geopolitical tool,” according to Lehberger, aims at linking China’s western hinterland—a region that’s home to a predominantly non-Han Chinese population—with Pakistan and other central Asian nations.

“Tibetans and other large non-Han ethnic groups have lived for centuries on the natural resource-rich mountains and deserts that overlook and flank the ancient trade routes now intertwined with the modern [BRI], linking China to Central Asia and the Indian Ocean,” Lehberger said.

Since 2015, Xi has begun looking at these ethnic groups as a kind of geopolitical security risk, he said.

Xi wants to resolve this risk by assimilating the various ethnic groups into the dominant Han-Chinese social and cultural mainstream, Lehberger said. Anybody who objects will face elimination or eviction by military force.

“This is indeed a form of genocide, reminiscent of Stalinist deportation policies in the Soviet Union of the 1930s and 1940s,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Flags decorate the Indian Buddhist Tawang Monastery in the northwestern corner of Arunachal Pradesh state in India on Nov. 6, 2009, during preparations for the Dalai Lama’s visit. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP via Getty Images)
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.