Q+A: Dalai Lama’s Mongolia Visit and China’s Reaction

Despite objections from China, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama had made a four day visit to Mongolia in November, 2016. Miffed China took some “countermeasures” and cancelled all investment talks, imposed additional tolls on Mongolian Cargo passing through Chinese Territory and blocked its border with Mongolia in protest. The standoff ended with Mongolia ceding to Chinese demands and declaring Dalai Lama as persona non grata for future.

Questions & Answers
How China reacts to Dalai Lama’s international visits?

Dalai Lama is viewed by China as a wolf in monk’s robes. Hence any visit of Dalai Lama, even if it is religious, to any country is seen by China as something which may hurt its sovereignty and cause instability over there. During the recent meeting of Dalai Lama with Barack Obama in United States, China issued stern warnings that  “US-China mutual trust and cooperation will be hurt” (as per Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang). It subsequently lodged a strong diplomatic protest. Similarly, meeting of Taiwan’s new president Tsai-Ing Wen and Dalai Lama raised concerns in China. Further, China had also placed pressure to dissuade EU from allowing Dalai Lama speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg France. Following the speech, the Chinese have threatened countermeasures to the EU.

Why Mongolia is unable to shake off the Chinese pressure?

Mongolia is landlocked between Russia and China. Following Russia’s economic decline and China’s economic rise have resulted in Mongolia being mostly dependent on China for its economic survival. This is shown by the rise in bilateral trade of USD 1.13 billion, a raise of 90% since 2006. At present, China is Mongolia’s biggest trade partner and source of investment.

Being landlocked, China has granted permission to use the Tianjin port for trade within the Asia-Pacific government. Geo- politically Chinese support is crucial for Mongolia’s membership in the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Why is Mongolia important to China?

China’s appetite for minerals has resulted in it investing in Mongolia’s mining industries. The Chinese also need Mongolian support in handling terrorist activities by the Uyghur communities in the Xinjiang province. The Xinjiang province also hosts the Tarim oilfields, the largest inland basin, i.e. a crucial component in China’s energy security.

What was India’s stand on Mongolia? How do you see India’s stance?

China decided to withhold talks on a 4.2 billion USD loan, which is key to reducing Mongolia’s 1 billion USD payments and upcoming debt repayments. Despite being a Buddhist country, the Mongolian government had to bow down to China’s economic pressure. The Mongolian Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil declared that Dalai Lama would not be invited to Mongolia ever again.  The Chinese are concerned that India will collude with Dalai Lama to promote separatist activities in Tibet. India had offered to help Mongolia economically following China’s pressure, but this proved futile as Mongolia had to bow down to pressure from the Chinese government.

Answer Writing Question for GS Mains

The recent standoff between Mongolia and China over hosting Dalai Lama in Ulan Bator has ended with Mongolia ceding to Chinese demands. However India in this scenario seems to have emerged as a weak player. Looking at it Comment as how India can practically project itself as an potential alternative to Chinese financial and military strength for third world countries of Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and South East Asia ? Source, Source