Indian army officers learn about Tibet in new course aimed at ‘better understanding’


The course comes in response to clashes between India and China along their shared border in Ladakh.

Indian army officers learn about Tibet in new course aimed at ‘better understanding’

Guru Tulku Rinpoche, abbot of the Bomtila monastery in India’s Arunachal Pradesh, presents a class certificate to an Indian army officer in a July 17, 2022 photo.

Indian army officers are learning about Tibet in a new program aimed at promoting a better understanding of the formerly independent Himalayan country, now a part of China, in response to deadly clashes along their high-altitude border in 2020, sources say.

The initiative was launched with a 42-day course taught at the Central Institute of Himalayan and Cultural Studies in Arunachal Pradesh, a northeastern Indian state bordering Tibet, and attended by army officers deployed to the geographically sensitive region, India’s Defence Ministry announced this week.

The course ending on Sunday included lessons in the Tibetan language, classes on Tibetan Buddhism and literature, and visits to local monasteries in the culturally Tibetan area, now claimed by China as part of its own territory, the Ministry said, adding that similar courses are planned for the future.

Speaking to RFA on July 17, French-born journalist and Tibet expert Claude Arpi praised the Indian government program, saying it should now be extended to other government departments because of ongoing tensions along contested parts of the border between China and India.

“This initiative by the Indian government would also be good for the Indian Administrative Services in Ladakh, Sikkim and the Uttarakhand border area, and for other governing Indian officers,” Arpi said following his participation as an instructor in the month-long teaching course.

Also speaking to RFA, Jayadeva Ranade — former member of the Cabinet Secretariat of the Indian government and now president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy — noted that plans for the teaching program were begun following deadly border clashes in June 2020 between Chinese and Indian troops in the northeastern Indian territory of Ladakh.

“Also, having a comprehensive knowledge of Tibet’s history and traditions will be beneficial for everyone,” Ranade added.

Dalai Lama visits Ladakh

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, now living in exile in India, is currently visiting Ladakh in his first trip away from his residence in Dharamsala since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago.

After a few days’ rest in the region, the Dalai Lama will teach on July 28, 29 and 30 at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground near Choglamsar at the request of the Ladakh Buddhist Association and the Ladakh Gonpa Association, sources say.

Banned by Chinese authorities in Tibet, celebrations of the Dalai Lama’s July 6 birthday have been held by large gatherings in Ladakh in recent years, according to sources in the region.

Concerns have been raised over the advancing age of the now 87-year-old spiritual leader, with Beijing claiming the right to name a successor after he dies, and the Dalai Lama himself—the 14th in his line—saying he will be reborn outside of areas controlled by China.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force more than 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers later fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following a failed 1959 national uprising against China’s rule.

Tibetans living in Tibet frequently complain of discrimination and human rights abuses by Chinese authorities and policies they say are aimed at eradicating their national and cultural identity.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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