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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

China spied on Dalai Lama in Tawang

THE TRIBUNE


In the ongoing game of one-upmanship being played between India and China, it now turns out that China had again intruded the Indian airspace. It sent an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — also popularly called a drone - on a spying mission over Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh while the Dalai Lama was there for a religious visit in the first week of November.

Indian intelligence agencies immediately reported the sighting of a Chinese UAV, near Bumla, a few km north of the historic Buddhist Monastery at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Sources said, “A UAV entered the Indian airspace on November 9 from the Sela Pass and was headed (south) towards Bumla/ Tawang.” The time of sighting was around 6 pm.

The Dalai Lama started his week-long visit to the monastery on November 8.

The Sela pass, where the UAV was sighted, is the point where Indian and Chinese troops hold border meetings. It is lowest point in that valley in the lofty Himalayas. Both sides have permanent border patrols and observation posts there and every activity is watched.

A UAV is between 14 to 20 feet long. It is normally fitted with high-resolution cameras, thermal imagers and even “listening devises”. This one would also be carrying all this, otherwise why would China send it across, sources said. It could have been used to know how big were the crowds at the monastery or even intercept some communication over mobile or satellite phones. India could have brought it down, however, this would have caused an international furore amidst the Dalai Lama’s visit.

The spying mission of the UAV is the second major violation of the Indian airspace by China after an intrusion by its choppers over Ladakh in June. Earlier this month, Defence Minister AK Antony had informed Parliament that there had been 11 violations of Indian space between December last year and September this year. This included three violations by China and six by Pakistan. The recent one during the Dalai Lama’s visit was not mentioned as the question in Parliament related to the period ending September 30, 2009.

Just days before the Dalai Lama started his visit in November, China blamed New Delhi for trying to provoke Beijing by orchestrating the Tibetan spiritual leader “controversial visit” to Arunachal Pradesh. India has rubbished the allegation, but had advised the Indian armed forces not to provide any “logistical” help.

The field formations of the Army and the IAF were advised not to be seen facilitating the visit in any manner.

The visit of the spiritual leader to the Tawang monastery was important as it had been linked with Lhasa. Till the early 50s - or before the Chinese took over Tibet - the chief Lama of Tawang was appointed by the Drepung monastery in Lhasa.

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