China launches new route for Indian pilgrims to Tibet

China inaugurates new land route enabling Indian pilgrims to cross into Tibet which prompts decades old conflicts between China and India

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Chinese authorities on Monday opened a way for Indian pilgrims who were seeking to cross into the holiest sites of both Buddhism and Hinduism in Tibet which has long constituted the sources of discontent and distrust between Beijing and New Delhi since the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was proclaimed on Oct. 1, 1949.

The Chinese state media reported on Monday that the communist government constructed a road for Indian pilgrims to enable them to cross into Tibet easily as they were seeking to visit the holiest sites.

China’s official Xinhua agency said a group of Indian pilgrims had entered China via a Himalayan pass in mid-morning for the 12-day trip to Mount Kailash in Tibet.

As China and India were seeking to increase ties especially after the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last year, the parties agreed on a proposal that let Indian pilgrims cross into Tibet during the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to New Delhi.

The Xinhua said the move would "further promote religious exchanges between the two countries."

Few Indian pilgrims are said to have visited Mount Kailash so far despite the fact that the site was one of the holiest places for Buddhists, Hindus and Janists, the members of the most spread religions of Indo-China region.

In spite of its significance for the pilgrims belonging to those religions, the long-standing Tibet question has complicated to access to the site as China tightened border controls and visa issues for the residents of neighbouring India and Nepal.

Although the ties gradually soar in economy and trade, the Sino-Indian relations have long been shadowed by history of the Tibet question on which China’s communist rule has never been tolerable as a necessity of the CCP’s proposed “One China Policy.”

The failed attempt on independence by Tibetan people led-by Dalai-Lama in 1959 alarmed China and that the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet in the same year whereas the move sparked public outrage in India.

Upon the Chinese invasion, most of the Tibetan dissidents including Dalai Lama and his followers fled to Dharamsala in northern India, where they established an alternative Tibetan government.

Meanwhile the Tibetan uprising that started in the middle of 1950s as a reaction to the Chinese occupation continued until the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

China and India fought a brief but bloody war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas where the Tibetan separatists have been aiming to cross-border attack on Chinese targets.

Since then the border problem was also nurtured by the political and ethno-religious discontent in Tibet which the Beijing leadership regards as an inseparable part of the official “One China” policy.

Modi proposed a plan to resolve the border problems with China when he visited Beijing in May, a move was also warmly welcomed by China in order to get rid of the obstacles in front of an enhanced cooperation through which the parties have long been aiming to change international political order.

But Beijing still maintains a tight grip over Tibet as well as Xinjiang, where China’s ethno-religious minorities live side by side with Han people, but allegedly discriminated from the blessings of China’s official state servings.

uman rights groups, including the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long been accusing Beijing of not allowing religious freedom and ethnic liberties as well as basic human rights needs in the ethnic minority regions.

Both in Tibet and Xinjiang, the issue of human rights became emergent as the CCP governance jailed monks for supporting Dalai Lama in Tibet, and Xinjiang, where the Turkic Uyghur community has been banned to practice their Muslim tradition and beliefs, especially in the holy month of Ramadan.

TRTWorld and agencies