Xi Tibet visit International

Xi Jinping visits Tibet border region, first by Chinese leader in years

Chinese President Xi Jinping.File.   | Photo Credit: AP

China’s President Xi Jinping this week became the first Chinese leader in many years to visit Tibet as well as its southeastern border region with India, as he inspected a newly opened and strategically important railway line.

The official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday Mr. Xi arrived in Tibet on Wednesday, July 21, 2021,  on a three-day visit, landing at the airport in Nyingchi, which is located less than 20 km from the border with India's Arunachal Pradesh. The Xinhua report said Mr. Xi drove to the Nyang river bridge to inspect the Yarlung Zangbo river, or Brahmaputra river - the Nyang is its second largest tributary. He also visited Nyingchi town and its railway station to inspect the newly built Sichuan-Tibet railway.

This is Mr. Xi’s first visit to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) since taking over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2012. He had visited in 2011 when he was Vice President.  That visit was to mark the 60th anniversary of what the Communist Party calls “the peaceful liberation of Tibet”, and this week’s trip was timed to mark the 70th anniversary.

The Seventeen Point Agreement was signed on May 23, 1951. China refers to the agreement as heralding what it calls “the peaceful liberation of Tibet”. The agreement has been rejected by the Dalai Lama, who has said the Communist Party had both forced it on Tibet and subsequently violated its commitments, leading him to eventually flee to India in exile in 1959.

From Nyingchi, Mr. Xi travelled to Lhasa, where he visited the Potala Palace - the traditional home of the Dalai Lamas - and Drepung monastery. He called on monks there “to support the leadership of the Communist Party of China” and “maintain the unity of the motherland”. He said the Communist Party would “actively guide the development of Tibetan Buddhism”, part of a broader effort to promote what the Party calls the “Sinicisation" of Tibetan Buddhism with an emphasis on patriotism and ensuring Beijing’s authority on the appointment of lamas and key religious figures.

Mr. Xi on Friday, July 23, 2021, the last day of the trip, met with soldiers of the Tibet Military Command of the People’s Liberation Army, state media reported, calling on them to “implement the Party’s military ideology in the new era” and to “comprehensively strengthen training and preparation work”.

Developing connectivity to border areas was a particular focus of the visit, evident in the visit to Nyingchi, which assumed particular significance coming a month after China started operating the first bullet train line in Tibet, linking Lhasa to Nyingchi near the border with Arunachal Pradesh.

The China State Railway Group said the 435-km line, on which construction began in 2014, has a designed speed of 160 kilometres per hour and would connect the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region to the border city of Nyingchi with a travel time of three and a half hours.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail is one among several major infrastructure projects recently completed in Tibet’s southern and southeastern counties near the Arunachal border. Last month, China completed construction of a strategically significant highway through the Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Zangbo river, the “second significant passageway” to Medog county that borders Arunachal.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail is one section of the Sichuan-Tibet railway line connecting the two provincial capitals, a strategic project described by the Chinese leader as “a major step in safeguarding national unity and a significant move in promoting economic and social development of the western region.” This will be the second railway line connecting Tibet to the hinterland, following the already open Qinghai-Tibet rail.

The first section of the new line, from Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, to Yaan, was finished in December 2018, while work on the 1,011 km Yaan-Nyingchi line will compete the entire railway line by 2030. Zhu Weiqun, a senior Party official formerly in charge of Tibet policy, was quoted as saying by state media the railway will help "transport advanced equipment and technologies from the rest of China to Tibet and bring local products out”. "If a scenario of a crisis happens at the border,” he said, "the railway can act as a 'fast track' for the delivery of strategic materials.”

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 1:37:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/xi-jinping-visits-tibet-border-region-first-by-chinese-leader-in-years/article35481755.ece

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