There is a new ‘great game’ being played in the Buddhist Himalayas between India, China and Tibet, which makes for a crucial third player. Together, they are leveraging their influence with the Buddhist communities to create strategic dominance, with varying degrees of success.
China’s ‘Buddhist diplomacy’ has focused on Nepal and Bhutan, and the Indian Himalayan regions of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, which have sizeable Buddhist populations and are vulnerable to this influence. The crisis in Doklam brought into focus what will be one of the most difficult issues to unfold in the Himalayas in future: India’s insufficient ability to deal with China only through the prism of military power.
If Xi Jinping, who is known to be working towards a resolution of the Tibet question, succeeds, and the Dalai Lama does indeed return to Tibet, how will it impact Indian interests in the Buddhist Himalayas? If the Tibet issue remains unresolved, how will India and China deal with and leverage the sectarian strife that is likely to intensify in a post-Dalai Lama world?
The Great Game in the Buddhist Himalayas includes several unknown insights into the India-China, India-Tibet and China-Tibet relationships. It reads like a geopolitical thriller, taking the reader through the intricacies of reincarnation politics, competing spheres of sacred influence, and monastic and sectarian allegiances that will keep the Himalayas on edge for years to come.