A Chinese scholar, who advises Beijing on Tibet, said on Thursday that Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh was "a part of China" and that the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Tawang would "hurt" relations between India and China.
China was also likely to choose a successor to the 14th Dalai Lama from within China, said Lian Xiangmin, Director of Institute of Contemporary Tibetan Studies at the China Tibetology Research Centre (CTRC), an influential official think-tank that advises the government on its Tibet policy.
In a rare interaction with journalists along with other CTRC scholars on Thursday, Lian asserted China's claims on Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, citing its historical links with Tibet, and said the Dalai Lama's visit would hurt relations.
China's Foreign Ministry said this month it had raised the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Tawang, likely 'to be from April 5-7, with India through official diplomatic channels and expressed "grave concerns". Under the boundary dispute in the eastern sector, China claims 90,000 sq km in Arunachal Pradesh and has expressed particularly strong claims on Tawang in the border talks since 1985.
Lian on Thursday reiterated China's claims on Tawang. "One of the three major temples of Tibet is Zhaibang (Drepung monastery near Lhasa), and Tawang was a subsidiary of Drepung and in history, Tawang's monks went to Drepung to study sutras. Tawang under Drepung also made contributions to the local government. So Tawang is part of Tibet and Tibet is part of China, so Tawang is part of China. So this is not much of a question."
Although Tawang may have had historical links with Lhasa, the real source of contention is whether or not Tibet was then a part of China as Beijing claims, or whether that only began with the People's Liberation Army's occupation of Tibet in 1951.
HITS OUT AT INDIA ON TAWANG VISIT
Lian also hit out at the Indian government, saying the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit, as his 2009 Tawang trip did, would "undermine" relations. "In recent years, the Indian government has given support or made arrangements for the Dalai Lama to visit the Tawang region, so it seems to us as something not so friendly", he said.
"During his [last] visit to Tawang, the Dalai Lama said Tawang is a part of India. That is not true and not according to facts. It undermines the friendly relations between China and India. We do not want to see such things happening time and again. This time around the Indian government again arranged the visit, it will only hurt friendly relations between the two countries. We know about the boundary question. We shouldn't touch sensitive areas. Such a visit by the Dalai Lama touches a sensitive issue and undoubtedly negatively affects China-India relations."
Lian also said China would likely determine its own successor to the 14th Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama, who is now 81, has said that his successor could come from “a free” region, such as from the Tibetancommunity in India, and recently even suggested he may be the last of the more than 600-year-old Tibetan Buddhist institution.
“While the succession needs to be decided or implemented according to historical conventions and religious rituals, my hope as an academic is that his successor should be found in his home in China,” saidLian. “In China, there are 6 million Tibetan people. Apart from religious followers who are Tibetan there are also people of other ethnic groups who follow Tibetan Buddhism. I believe they hope to see the successor to the 14th Dalai Lama produced in their neighbourhood in China. So far, there are have been 14 Dalai Lamas produced in China".
On the stalled talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's representatives who resigned citing China's hardening stand, Lian said Beijing would not negotiate with any representatives from the Tibetan "government-in-exile" in Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama has since relinquished his political roles, with the responsibility being taken up by elected Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay. "The so-called government-in-exile is an illegal authority and not qualified to havedialogue with the central government,” said Lian, suggesting talks were not likely to resume unless the Dalai Lama appointed new representatives.
DALAI LAMA'S RETURN TO CHINA
Lian said the "possibility exists always for the Dalai Lama to come back to China" but added that he needed to fulfill Chinese demands, starting with affirming China's views on the historical status of Tibet, which is a point of contention.
The Dalai Lama has said on numerous occasions that he does not seek Tibetan independence, recognises Tibet today as a part of China and that he wants "genuine autonomy" for all Tibetans in China, which he says they are being denied by Beijing.
The Dalai Lama has also said he wants to ensure genuine autonomy for not only the 3 million Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) but also for the three million other Tibetans in Tibetan-inhabited areas of neighbouring Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan provinces.
This is another sticking point in the stalled talks. Lian said in China's view, this meant that the current system did not grant autonomy to Tibetans and that this was a demand to "establish an autonomous political entity [in five provinces] on 2.5 million square kilometre which is one-fourth of China's territory".