Photo credit: Sara Aridi
A few weeks ago, the Indian government announced that it would increase the armed forces surveilling its Tibetan border by approximately 25% by the end of 2015.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police is in charge of guarding the frontier with China, and was created in 1962 after a war opposing the two countries.
This new Indian deployment of armed forces comes only a few weeks before Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is expected to visit the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Regarding the controversial territory of Tibet, India and China remain friendly, but cautious.
Grégoire Molle and Adélie Pontay report from New Delhi.
The Northern border of India has been quiet for decades now. There hasn’t been a single shot fired at that border since the war opposing China and India in 1962. But the Border Police still patrols the Himalayas.
A couple of weeks ago, the Indian government announced that it would add nine more battalions to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces. That represents at least 10,000 new recruits and an increase by 25% from the current number of men deployed in the area. Vivek Pandey is the spokesperson for the Border-Police in New Delhi. Pandey says that the Border police needs reinforcement, mostly because the area that the soldiers have to surveil is tough.
PANDEY: The area where we are deployed is mountainous, and every time there are raining, to meet with that we need to concentrate on the areas where we have to go to long distance for keeping vigilance alone.
China is the second trade partner of India, but security concerns remain between the two powers. Tarun Vijay, a member of the Indian Parliament from the majority party, the BJP, said in an interview that keeping a close eye on the border with China is necessary. We trust, but verify, he said.
Beyond the border, Tibet has been occupied by China since 1959.
It’s a major point of contention in Indo-Chinese relations because India has sheltered the Tibetan government in exile, including his spiritual leader the Dalai-Lama, for the last 56 years.
In New Delhi, the Tibetan community has found refuge in a small neighborhood called Majnu Ka-Tila. It appears at the end of a long and wide road in a cloud of thick grey smoke. – Buddhist Monks dressed in red and saffron robes stand out among the Indian crowd.
Here, the community has recreated the equivalent of a Tibetan village at the heart of New Delhi, with typical architecture and Buddhist temples filled with incense and candles where the monks pray, sing and play the traditional horns.
[Ambi Sound – Buddhist music – Fade under narration]
Tenzin Lekshay is the media coordinator for the Dalai Lama. He says that India is suspicious of the military power of its northern neighbor.
LEKSHAY:On the Indian side, you have still these muddy roads. So strategically, you have to think, in case there is a war, in case there is a tension, are we ready? No, we are not ready. But China, they are ready, they have all these metal roads. There are so many battalions in China and within one command, those battalions can reach Tibet within 48 hours. But for India, they cannot.
He says that a free Tibet could be a real cultural bridge between India and China.
LEKSHAY: Philosophically we are rich, but politically we are weak.
A few weeks ago, Indian Prime Minister Modi visited a contested region along the border, southern Tibet, which China claims as its own. Tensions have since then been contained, said China’s foreign minister Wang Yi.
Grégoire Molle and Adélie Pontay, Columbia Radio News.