Xi Jinping Chinese President has toured Tibet. There is nothing outstanding about heads of state visiting areas under sovereign control. Tibet is different. The last such visit was as far back as 1990; the long pause was possibly in deference to the concerns prompted across the border in India. It was also an understanding of the total Chinese security control over the Tibetans, though winning their hearts has proved tricky. That may be the reason why Xi’s visit was kept under covers and revealed only after it was over. Moreover, touring Tibet’s cultural and spiritual capital of Lhasa, what would have raised eyebrows in Raisina Hills was his trip to Nyingchi, bordering Arunachal Pradesh.
The two-armed forces are reportedly in the hostility mode in Ladakh, also called the western sector. Does the Nyingchi visit, located near China’s super-dam project on the Brahmaputra, signal China opening the eastern front as well? The answer is not apparent, but the visit follows Xi’s ‘heads bashed against the bloody great wall of steel’ speech barely three weeks ago. What is noteworthy is that Xi’s delegation included Zhang Youxia, Vice-Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, and visuals showed Xi addressing a rapturous assembly of PLA officers. Is it Xi’s typical belligerence or a measured response to India’s presence in the Quad?
Xi may even be preparing for questioning by the elders at the Communist Party’s summer-end retreat at Beidaihe by visiting Tibet. For, it was just over a year ago that Xi had called for further ‘Sinicization’ of Tibet. The visit may signal China’s bid to shift the focus away from Taiwan to Tibet, which is assuming greater importance. Yet, India can hardly afford to overlook the security aspect. The visit happened aamongst the largest-ever military placement in the Himalayas. India-China ties have tumbled to a level where any Chinese clarification will appear not be credible to India. India has no choice but to be ready for any outcome.