By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 27: Noted historian and Tibetologist Claude Arpi has said that Tibet issue can be an effective factor for the Indian government to counter Chinese expansionist policies in the Himalayan border. In an op-ed published in the Deccan Herald on Wednesday, the author discussed the importance of the Himalayan border which has traditionally “shared countless cultural, spiritual, strategic and economic similarities” with India.
“The need of the hour is to revitalise the Himalayas and link it with the welfare of Tibetan refugees and the promotion of their unique culture. It is the only way to balance China’s propaganda efforts in the border areas,” the expert said.
Tibet watcher Arpi argued that Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or the novel silk roads are crucial attempts from the administration to stop the kinship between Tibet and the Himalayas. “All the borders have been closed for almost 60 years now, with the exception of three land ports opened for petty trade at Nathu-la, Shipki-la and Lipulekh-la; far from the flourishing business that took place over many centuries,” he said.
Arpi urged the Indian government to form a coherent policy for Tibetan refugees and the population residing in the border areas, “The age-old ties between the Land of Snows and India’s Himalayas has remained alive but now it needs to be revitalized by the government.” He cited the recent clashes in Ladakh that peaked in June as a reason for the Indian administration to form a policy that includes both Tibet and the Himalayan belt.
In what he proposed as a “Himalayan and Tibetan Affairs’ Policy”, the historian suggested that India should fight against any form of imperialism and defend the rights of weaker people. Arpi also recommended coordination to achieve the aim of a common policy for all stakeholders including external affairs, defence, home, education, culture, and security agencies. Citing the Indian government’s directive in 2018 that said that no Indian officials should meet the Dalai Lama, he said that any fear of negative Chinese reaction should be stymied.
He further proposed a need to form a Department of Himalayan and Tibetan Affairs (DHTA) under the Prime Minister’s office to implement the holistic policy decided by the government. The prime agenda of the new office, Arpi suggested, is to take measures to stop the migration of local population and Tibetans to the big cities, work on ties between the defence forces and local population, promote trans-border pilgrimages and promote Buddhism on a large scale.
Claude Arpi is a French-born author, journalist, historian and Tibetologist. He is the director of the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture at Auroville. The Dalai Lama inaugurated the Pavilion with Claude Arpi in attendance in 2009.