Amid the border standoff between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Doklam area, reports in the media suggested that the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, unfurled the Tibetan national flag on the banks of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh on 5 July.
Sangay was in Ladakh on the invitation of the Ladakhi community to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama on 6 July.
The lake, which borders Tibet, lies between India and China, with the Line of Actual Control (LAC) passing through it.
This is the first visit by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) president to Ladakh and, therefore, the first time that he offered prayers, hoisted the prayer flag and hoisted the national flag by himself at the lake.Sonam Norbu Dagpo, spokesperson of CTA told The Wire on 7 July
In The Wire report, that has now been updated, Dagpo had said that since the the lake is “half in India and half in Tibet”, hoisting of the national flag had “political and personal significance” for Sangay.
India Tries to Gain an Upper Hand
This move could not have been made without the knowledge of the Indian government.Dr Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a senior fellow at the ORF had told The Quint
Keeping the border standoff in mind, it appears India has tried to gain an upper hand with this move by using the Tibet bargain chip, the senior fellow at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) had added.
She had added that by not admitting Hafiz Saeed as terrorist and using its veto to stop India from joining as a permanent member of the NSG, China had continued being hostile. India has had enough and this move can be seen as a strong response from New Delhi, Rajagopalan said.
Speaking to The Quint, Editor of Stratpost, Saurabh Joshi, said:
Tibetan Government-in-Exile and a generally appreciative and committed Tibetan refugee population is the single most important weapon that India has against China. It’s (Tibetan Government-in-Exile) presence at Pangong Tso could be perceived as ‘upping the ante’, but the weapon had to be displayed in proper context. This is India’s way of saying we haven’t done anything, yet, but we can.Saurabh Joshi, Editor, Stratpost
Tibet Taking Advantage of Indo-China Standoff
A former Indian diplomat with experience in dealing with Indo-China border issues was more cautionary with his observations. "India is at its weakest spot with the border standoff with China and the Kashmir issue and Tibetans might have taken advantage of the situation," he said.
Terming it to be “betrayal” by the Dalai Lama, he said, “Dalai Lama had certain terms and conditions for staying in India. They could have hoisted a religious flag for his birthday but why hoist a political flag?”
"China has two ways to react to it – it might react harshly or it might be happy that Tibet it taking Indian territory, something that works in their favour," he added.
Talking to people at the event, Sangay said, “Physically, I may be standing just a few metres from Tibet today. However, in terms of political freedom and views, I am still far away from the situation inside Tibet.”
The release added that Sangay poured “blessed grains” received from the Dalai Lama into the lake in the hope that “these grains will reach Tibet and bless Tibetans inside Tibet as well”.
Monks of Namgyal monastery and the settlement officer of Sonamling Tibetan settlement in Ladakh were among the people who attended the prayers.
CTA Denies Flag Was Hoisted
However, an official statement from the CTA on 9 July refuted that Sangay hoisted the national flag. Instead, the statement said that the flag was not hoisted by Sangay but belonged to a Tibetan settled by the Pangong lake.
According to a statement accessed by The Quint, the flag has been present at the spot since 10 December 1989.
President Dr Sangay happened to walk past the house and upon seeing the flag, paid respect. There is no mention of the hoisting of the National Flag in the CTA news reports.
The official statement clarified that Sangay hoisted the Buddhist prayer flag not the Tibetan National flag.
Sangay hoisted the Buddhist prayer flag as seen this in video below and took part in an elaborate ritual led by monks and then thrust some sacred grains blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama into the lake. This is a spiritual event holding symbolic significance and bears no political overtures.
In the past few days, a stand-off on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighbouring giants. The countries share a 3,500-km frontier, large parts of which are disputed.
While China has been claiming that India violated a 1890 treaty when Indian soldiers entered Chinese territory, India and Bhutan have both said that China had changed the status-quo by building a road in the Doklam area.
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