长 久以来，侦探小说作家喜爱在书中把藏传佛教的上师幻想成间谍与特务的角色，周旋在惊险而诡谲的局势里。吉卜林（Rudyard Kipling）小说《基姆》（Kim）中的扎西喇嘛，本人虽非间谍，却糊里糊涂地被卷入了英俄“大博羿”的尔虞我诈之中。近年，两位英国国会议员在他们 的小说里面也描写了类似的人物：工党国会议员克里斯•穆林（Chris Mullin）的《藏历绕迥火猴年》（The Year of the Fire Monkey），描写美国中情局招募了一位名为阿里的年轻喇嘛，并且派他到西藏的中国共产党内工作，他的任务是在跟伟大的舵手见面的时候，图穷匕见地谋刺 他。（此情节当然太过异想天开，从印度回到中国的藏人是不可能在党内取得这样高的位置。）第二本类似的小说，是英国政治人物、曾担任（保守党）撒切尔夫人 演讲撰稿人的麦可•多布斯（Michael Dobbs）所写的《布鲁尔街的佛陀》（The Buddha of the Brewer Street），他的小说描写中国与英国的情报单位竞相在伦敦城里寻找达赖喇嘛的转世化身。在穆林所杜撰的情节中，坏蛋是中情局与西方国家；而多布斯的小 说里，坏人乃是中国，西藏喇嘛是受某国利用的不幸棋子。这些小说与现实无关，真正反映的，是作者本人的政治倾向。
当 全世界目不转睛地注意着“阿拉伯之春”以及“解放广场”（Tahrir Square）的新闻时，藏人却无奈地被卷入了印度警方搜查噶玛巴的住所，紧跟着印度媒体又竞相报导在他的办公室找到许多不同国家的钞票的戏剧化事件。藏 人在网路上表达他们的愤怒不平，并且为噶玛巴举行守夜活动，指控印度媒体夸张耸动，报导不实。藏人的种种行迳与其他信仰的追随者发现自己的领袖被媒体批评 时候的表现毫无二致。藏人的反射动作似乎是牵怒于报导坏消息的印度媒体，而不是面对噶玛巴罪名的严重性，也未正视此事所影射的涵义，也就是西藏人寄居在印 度的相关问题。
这一次，我们不能把印度警方采取的行动视为是地方官员消息来源有误，或者是因为他们贪赃枉法牵连无辜的结果。印度媒体以及 政论家所做的两大指控中，最严重的是西藏人搞情资，意图破坏印度政府，而最令他们坚信不移的指控，是西藏人涉嫌洗钱。这两项指控可能会带来严重的影响，远 远超过噶玛巴一人的问题。西藏流亡社区虽然住在印度已经五十多年，却不能了解他们在这里居住本身就具有高度敏感性，也不能领悟藏人对这些问题的看法跟印度 社会的角度大相迳庭。对印度而言，这些议题攸关国家安全以及金融交易的合法性。对于藏人来说，噶玛巴宝座属于哪一位喇嘛的争议，只不过是家门不幸，属宗教 事务而已。然而对印度政府来说，这个议题就像多吉凶天的争议一样，是一个攸关边界地区能否维持稳定的敏感议题，也就是说，这些为了宗教而起的宿怨与纷争， 他们都是用国家安全与稳定的放大镜来看的。宗教纠纷引起糟糕的结果，印度曾有过刻骨铭心的惨痛教训，而现在藏人难民之间又出现宗教的纷扰，更让他们感觉似 曾相识，认为实在是印度领土上无法消受的烦恼之源。
对噶玛巴的 指控并不只来自媒体，也来自资深有影响力的政论家。印度政府的前内阁副总理，如拉曼（B. Raman）写到他怀疑噶玛巴“之所以逃到印度，可能为的是执行中国情报单位的长期卧底任务，目的是影响达赖喇嘛圆寂后的西藏事务”。类似的说法，也由印 度政府的前国安副顾问里拉•波纳帕（Leela Ponappa）接受电视专访的时候提出。不管藏人信徒或支持者发出多少悲愤的不平之鸣，这些怀疑都不太可能因为藏人情绪性的表达就烟消云散。
印 度人居然会认为中国情报单位精心培植一个十几岁的青少年到印度去做秘密的情报工作，乍听之下实在是令人匪夷所思。虽然如此，印度官员的忧虑其实远超过噶玛 巴的个人身份：印度政府最高层以及其他有影响力的社会贤达所表达的，是对于西藏人住在印度领土的根本怀疑，以及西藏人对于印度国安所造成的长期负面作用。 这种怀疑围绕着一点：假如达赖喇嘛圆寂后，西藏人受到噶玛巴的影响，逐渐变成颠覆印度政府的特洛伊木马，不但放弃他们的政治奋斗，还转而投入中国的怀抱之 中；或者，他们可能会被中国所分化利用，并且用其他的方式来伤害印度的利益。印度人会有这样的看法，代表西藏政治运动在印度还有许多应该努力的地方，然而 对于实事求是的印度分析家来说，上述并非匪夷所思的情节──他们认为西藏人都是宗教领袖的盲目支持者，他们把喇嘛的判断与决定奉为真理，对于其中的是非对 错毫不质疑，特别是政治性的议题。西藏人最近这一次对于印度媒体报导噶玛巴事件的情绪化反应，更强化了西藏人就是耿耿忠心于他们的宗教领袖的印象。在外界 看起来，西藏人与其他允许宗教人物成为政治领袖的基本教义派也没有什么区别。
印度目前对于噶玛巴所采取的动作，也反映出印度对于中国的计 划愈来愈感到忧心，以及中印关系正在恶化。印度媒体一向勇于表达印度人对于被中国包围的恐惧，而印度东北部最近逮捕了多名中国籍人士，更强化了北京意图阴 谋颠覆印度国家的印象。而这个印象，又与印度数十年来在边界上饱受巴基斯坦密探在边界地区煽动社会动乱、阴谋制造纠纷的伎俩有关。因此印度官员假设中国也 会运用类似的黔驴故伎，却不察中国可能以更成熟的政治策略来达成同样的效果。
印度官员的观点有两个层面。第一个层面是关于藏传佛教领袖在 喜马拉雅山麓地区的影响力。政策研究中心的布拉马•切拉尼（Brahma Chellaney）教授注意到佛教噶举学派在这些敏感地区的影响力很大。印度的官员很早就知道印度的流亡西藏寺院大部份都是收容来自拉达克、史比提、锡 金、北印度的僧侣，特别是噶举与宁玛的寺院。印度当局担心的是社会稳定的问题，而这种议题对于任何政府而言都是自然应该忧心的问题。
然 而，印度官员认为边界地方的人会因为宗教信仰的关系，转而反对印度政府，这种看法委实是不了解藏人对于中国的反感是刻骨铭心的。另外，在喜马拉雅地区依止 藏传佛教上师的当地人，近来也愈亦感到浓厚的桑梓之情，与流亡藏人还是有所区别。在这些地区，对于上师的依止尊奉从来没有转化为政治上的偏好。这些地方的 人很清楚能够保障他们的国家是印度。更何况喜马拉雅地区的佛教徒人数属于少数──即使是在锡金，也是噶玛巴流亡主寺之所在地，当地的佛教徒算是少数人。这 些边界地区的所有佛教徒加起来，甚至不及印度一个中等城市的人口。佛教徒对于印度国防造成重大威胁的能力微乎极微。因此印度认为于西藏喇嘛可能会在这些边 地成为特洛伊木马的想法，显然是杞人忧天。
第二个恐惧──也就是一位高僧可能是中国派来的间谍，其任务在影响藏人，让他们投靠中国──意 谓着印度的高层官员对于中印之争中，西藏人的存在是否能有益于印度的战略利益相当感到怀疑。印度的国安部门认为西藏人效忠的是他们的上师，而不是西藏本 身，因此认为一个变节的噶玛巴很容易就可以让藏人转而背叛印度。当然，事实刚好相反，印度境内与全球性的西藏运动已经转变为一个大体上世俗的运动：它对中 国统治的反对已是根深蒂固，几乎没有任何一位喇嘛可以凭着一己之力就逆转这样的情形。流亡藏人支持达赖喇嘛，因为他代表着藏人的这种观点，并不是因为他是 一位宗教的领袖。
引起印度政论家另外一个怀疑的理由是噶玛巴似乎没有表达对中国政权的反对之意，而中国政府也一直节制并没有对他如对达赖 喇嘛那样猛烈攻击。然而所有的西藏上师们都是这样的：没有一位会经常性地发表与中国针锋相对的演讲，也并未在海外号召政治运动，因为这份工作一直都是达赖 喇嘛的工作，他数世纪以来不但是西藏的宗教领袖，还是政治领袖，这点与其他喇嘛不同。因此中共就把他当作主要的敌人与攻击目标，而对其他西藏高僧高抬贵 手，毕竟中共攻击他们的话，他们的信徒可能会因此群起反对中国，让中共得不偿失。无论如何，如果噶玛巴是中国政府派到印度卧底的人的话，中共应该要让他伪 装成一个善于煽动群众、经常为政治奔走号召的运动人士。如果中共真有利用一位德高望重的人长期卧底以便颠覆印度的阴谋，为什么要起用一位几乎没有能力影响 印度社会与其国安措施的人呢？要达成上述目标，中国不如跟印度境内好几个暴乱团体狼狈为奸，效果会更为立竿见影。
自从一九五九年以来，中 国在西藏最大的失策并不是导致各地抗议蜂起，而是噶玛巴的叛逃。他在公元两千年离开西藏，逃到印度，这对中国治藏政策造成最大打击。他的转世灵童身份不但 得到达赖喇嘛的认可，也得到中国政府的同意，对中国而言，他最好用的地方应该是留在西藏境内，当个爱国的喇嘛，说服西藏人听从中共中央的指令。一九九二 年，噶玛巴的灵童在住锡的楚布寺坐床的时候，就是中国统战部的一大宣传胜利。现在他不但已经逃走，而且西藏境内再也没有让藏人心悦诚服的高僧，所有的人都 用脚投票跑到印度去了。对中国来说，西藏的高僧喇嘛反而才是印度或者其他国家派来的间谍，因为绝大多数有威望的高僧都长期待在国外。这让人不禁想到美国总 统林登•约翰逊（Lyndon Johnson）直爽的粗话：“我宁可他待在帐篷内朝外洒尿，也不希望他从帐篷外向里洒尿。”噶玛巴待在西藏境内，绝对比他到国外去，对北京更有好处，因 为中国统治西藏数十年，从未赢得西藏人的心悦诚服，如果没有喇嘛的道德权威来帮忙，此事更是难如登天。噶玛巴当年是中共最大的资产，他们一定巴不得他继续 留在西藏，为他们的治藏政策背书，散播中国稳定又团结的讯息。
当然，印度政府关心边界地方的稳定，此事本身无可厚非，而他们认为西藏流亡 社区内宗教纠纷迭起有损边界稳定的看法也是正确的。然而这些纷争并不是起源于外国的操弄，也不是印度的警方没办法克制的议题。这些纷争是西藏人自己所造 成，也是几个互不相让的喇嘛所造成的，并非中国的阴谋。更何况这些纠纷目前已有平息之势，各个派系各自回到自己的寺院以巩固取得的权力与资源，未来他们是 否有可能解决彼此的歧见，也只能留待以后才能知道。
至于藏人也应该反躬自省，了解到他们内部的纠纷对于外界也会有深远的影响，而且已经对 他们的政治目标造成了损害──如果西藏流亡社区还是继续拥抱宗教人物也是政治领袖的系统，那么无可避免地，宗教一定会冲击到他们的政治愿景以及理想。举例 来说，凶天派的西藏喇嘛已经把凶天教派的纠纷输出到蒙古去了，还强迫蒙古的佛教徒选边站。蒙古政府对于处理这个争议已经感到十分厌烦，并且努力与所有的藏 传佛教徒划清界线，保持距离。最近有一位高阶的蒙古官员告诉我：蒙古不需要藏人把宗教纠纷带到他们的国家。藏人就此失去了一个本来可以作为西藏盟友的国 家。
在现代，任何牵涉到大笔金钱的新闻都会变成耸动的故事：在一个 金融机构与信用卡充斥的世界里，我们往往把大笔现金与非法行为联想在一起。然而对藏人来说，他们往往对于寺院以及喇嘛住宅里面所累积的大笔现金其实应该向 信徒与公众交待其来龙去脉没有感觉，因为他们每天都看到虔诚的信徒在每一家寺院与佛殿里敬献现金，对他们来说这根本是稀松平常的事。假如印度警方搜查印度 教的庙宇的话，可能也会搜出信徒捐献的大量卢比。然而，政府机构检查任何大笔金钱的来源，澄清款项的收受与支出之来龙去脉，也属于合理的作为。说明这些款 项是信徒的捐献，不啻只是一种解释，并非没有从事不法洗钱工作的确凿铁证。而在印度境内寄人篱下的西藏人应该了解到，我们对于印度公众也是有责任的，不只 是对我们的社区负责就算了。
对于印度媒体来说，噶玛巴办公室里找到许多现金都是外国货币，真是雪上加霜，因为印度长期以来对于外国货币有 一种根深蒂固的怀疑。毫无疑问，假如今天是凶天教──通常被藏人认为是专门与达赖喇嘛作对的人──的喇嘛被查出持有大量的中国人民币，藏人将会是第一个出 来指控他就是中国间谍的人。我们也应该明白，今日印度的藏人倚赖外国的捐款，又因为越来越多藏人住在西方并把钱寄回印度，所以难民社区已经变成了全球汇兑 经济的一部份。另一方面，印度的藏人难民少有人成为印度公民，因此面临从外国转帐到印度的种种复杂规定，往往别无选择只能使用现金，无法利用银行。此事行 之有年，已经是公开的秘密，印度当局也非常清楚，其实印度的许多商业交易有时候也面临类似的困扰。达塔雷（Sunanda K. Datta-Ray）在《电邮报》中所指出的：
“没有人提到，信徒主动捐赠的款项，本来都存入噶玛巴的妙音佛母慈善信托 （Saraswati Charitable Trust）里面，然而这个帐户的存款金额超过十万美金，所以银行拒绝再收受信徒的捐款。他只好又再登记了噶玛噶千信托（Karma Garchen Trust），然而他申请遵照《外国献金法》的规定收受外国捐款的申请书，从2002年到今天都一直还卡在公务单位里面，尚未得到核准。噶玛巴的寺院别无 选择，只能收取信徒拿出来的现金捐款，并且努力确保寺院‘巨细靡遗地纪录’每一毛、每一分、每一元（虽然媒体因警方查获中国人民币而哗然，然而实际的金额 不到总数的百分之十）的捐款。即使贫穷藏人所捐的一元人民币也都有纪录。”
噶玛巴办公室对于拥有中国货币的解释相当合理：这些现金是西藏 或中国的信徒所捐赠的，因为对于信徒来说，捐款给喇嘛代表他们的虔诚。即使这些货币的数额很大，也不应该让我们感到惊讶，不但因为噶玛巴的信徒成千上万， 也因为西藏与中国的经济状况已经丕变，不可同日而语了。一九八○年代，西藏比印度穷上许多，因此信徒的捐款往往被流亡喇嘛与印度藏人送回西藏境内以重建被 毁坏的寺院。今日，这个平衡杆已经改变。西藏地区在某些方面得益于中国经济成长，因此今天的西藏的藏人比印度的藏人享受更高的生活水准，而且有多余的金钱 可以寄到印度的喇嘛与亲戚之处。因为境内对于宗教重重限制，他们不太能够把钱捐给西藏境内的喇嘛或用作为兴建寺院之用，因此他们把印度看成可以安全兴建佛 殿与寺院的替代性地点。然而中国与印度两国都对于西藏境内与境外这种联系抱持着怀疑的态度。而住在印度的喇嘛往往夹在中间，被两边指控为对方派来的卧底。
经 济问题是一个让印度战略家感到忧心的问题，因为边界这一侧的印度国内，跟喜马拉雅另外一头快速的经济发展与基础建设相比，还是属于穷困落后的地方。印度政 府已经渐渐不再把金钱从彼方流入此方，视为对方在进行间谍活动的症兆，而是愈来愈能体认到边界两边经济发展天渊之别，实对印度造成威胁。这就是为什么去年 新德里拨了一笔巨款，要发展阿鲁那恰尔邦的道路以及其他设施。对印度来说，信徒对喇嘛的现金捐款，比起印度应该尽速发展边界地区的基础建设的当务之急，应 该只是一件小事。
印度媒体所提起的问题，对于西藏人来说，应视为一个重大的教训。一方面，喇嘛与寺院的资金一定要详加记帐，并且维持透 明。印度的藏人显然是印度国内得到最多外国捐款的人，然而这些捐款的数目有多少、被用到什么地方，印度公众不得而知，甚至捐款的佛教徒也不清楚。藏人的定 居点与寺院常常位在印度的穷乡僻壤，而他们的财政往往造成地方经济的重大冲击。坎格拉（Kangra）和喜马偕尔邦的其他地方近年地价暴涨，就是藏人社区 得到外来资金挹注所造成的，而这种不平衡已经引起当地人的眼红，也形成藏人与当地人不公平的竞争。印度人怀疑藏人的资金来源，假如藏人的财务还是不透明的 话，这样的猜忌肯定不会烟消云散。然而假如没有印度法律明文保障，印度官僚没有意愿让藏人能够在印度的金融系统之中运作，那么财务的透明还是没有办法达成 的。
不论噶玛巴是中国派来印度当卧底的指控是多么疯狂，印度高层所表达的怀疑，应该是西藏人应该关切的问题，而且应该体认到这对于西藏人 住在印度具有重大的影响。印度内部目前正就它对中国的政策进行认真的辩论，对于那些认为应该与中国和解的人来说，藏人住在印度国内本身就是中印关系的最大 绊脚石；另一派则是对中国较不信任的一派，他们一度认为藏人有利于印度，现在渐渐开始怀疑藏人的可靠程度究竟如何。印度媒体对于噶玛巴的指控，已经让印度 大众认为藏人不利于印度的国家安全。印度语的网站Janokti描写噶玛巴是“aasteen ka saap”，这个词影射的是一条藏在暗处的蛇。这些议题，着实需要藏人冷静、彻底地加以处理，而不是表达自己感情受到伤害，并对印度的媒体口诛笔伐，须知 媒体的天职就是要询问难以回答、触犯忌讳的问题。没有人会喜欢接受众媒体巨细靡遗的检视，然而在一个民主的社会里，媒体的职责就是问问题，而不是逢迎信徒 的宗教感情。西藏人应该主动扛起向外界解释的重担，让大家不再怀疑他们的宗教纠纷以及资金往来并不会对印度的国安以及稳定造成威胁。
Portrait of A Lama As A Spy
By Tsering Shakya
The idea of a Tibetan lama as a spy or agent involved in high-level intrigue has long been a popular theme for thriller writers and novelists. The Teshoo Lama in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim was not himself portrayed as a spy, but unwittingly becomes a part of the skulduggery of the Great Game. In recent years, two British Members of Parliament have written novels with similar figures: in the Labour MP Chris Mullin’s The Year of the Fire Monkey, the CIA recruits a young Lama named Ari and dispatches him to Tibet to work in the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party, where he is tasked to secure a meeting with the Great Helmsman himself and assassinate him (it was of course fantastical to envisage any Tibetan returning from India ever rising to such heights in the Chinese system). The second novel by a British politician wasThe Buddha of Brewer Street, by Michael Dobbs, a former speech writer for Mrs Thatcher, in which the Chinese intelligence services and the British compete in scouring the streets of London to find the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. In Mullins’ yarn, the baddies are the CIA and the West, while in Dobbs’ novel the villains are the Chinese and the Tibetan lama is the hapless tool of a foreign power: the stories reflect the authors’ political leanings.
And so it is with recent accusations levelled against the Karmapa, one of the most senior and important figures in Tibetan Buddhism, in the Indian media: these too could have come from the pages of a cheap spy novel, were it not for the seriousness of the charges and the high rank of those who are encouraging such suspicions.
While the world is riveted by the news of an early Arab Spring and the drama of Tahrir Square, Tibetans are caught up in the drama of the Indian police raid on the residence of the Karmapa and the subsequent media frenzy about the recovery of foreign currency from various countries in his office. The Tibetans expressed their outrage on the internet and held vigils in support of their religious leader, accusing the Indian media of sensationalising the story, much like any religious followers who find their leaders criticized by the media. The initial response seems to have been to blame the messenger rather than address the seriousness of the charges against the Karmapa and, by implication, against all the Tibetans in India.
In this case, the action taken by the police cannot be viewed as the work of ill-informed local officials or of a shady business deal gone wrong. Of the two central accusations made in the media and by Indian commentators, the most serious is that the Tibetans are engaged in espionage against the government of India (GOI) and the most tenacious is that they are involved in money-laundering. These accusations have serious implications that go beyond the issue of the Karmapa. Even after living in India for over 50 years, the Tibetan diaspora community fails to understand and appreciate the sensitivity of its presence to
India, where these matters are seen very differently from how they are perceived within the Tibetan community. For India, the issues concern the security of the nation and the legality of financial transactions. For Tibetans, the feud over rival claimants to the Karmapa’s title seems like a religious matter internal to the refugees, but like the Shugden issue it represents for India an issue of stability in a sensitive border region: for the GOI and Indian commentators these feuds are seen not as matters of faith but through the lens of security and stability. India knows from painful experience the consequences of religious feuds, and the continuance of these conflicts among the Tibetan refugees is an unwelcome intrusion on Indian soil
The Agent of Influence Conspiracy
The charges against the Karmapa have not just come from the media, but from senior and influential commentators as well. B. Raman, a former Cabinet Sectary of the GOI, wrote of his suspicion that the Karmapa's “escape to India was probably under a long-term Chinese intelligence operation to use him to influence events relating to Tibet after the death of the Dalai Lama”. Similar concerns were raised in a TV interview by Leela Ponappa, the former deputy National Security Adviser to the GOI. No amount of emotional denial by Tibetan devotees and supporters is going to dissipate these doubts.
The assumption that a teenage boy was groomed by Chinese intelligence operatives to go to India as a covert agent seems utterly fantastical. However, the concerns of the officials go much beyond the identity of the Karmapa: what is being expressed at the highest levels of the GOI and among other influential figures in India is an underlying doubt about the role of Tibetans in India and their liability to India’s long-term security. This doubt coheres around the fear that after the death of the Dalai Lama, under the influence of the Karmapa, the Tibetans could become a Trojan horse, abandon their political struggle and run into the open arms of China; or, that they will be fragmented and in some other way be used against Indian interests. This assumption does not speak well of the Tibetan political movement but for hard-nosed India analysts it is not a farfetched scenario – they view Tibetans as blind followers of religious leaders who will not question their Lama’s ruling on what is right or wrong, including in political affairs. The emotional response by Tibetans to the latest Indian media coverage confirms their piety and faith in their religious leaders, and they, as a result, for outsiders, seem no different from any other religious fundamentalists who allow religious leaders to obtain political influence.
The current moves against the Karmapa also reflect growing anxiety in India about China’s plans and a worsening in the Sino-Indian relationship. The Indian media has been at the forefront of voicing fears of Chinese encirclement and the recent arrest of Chinese nationals in India’s Northeast has further exacerbated the perception of intrigue by Beijing against India. This perception has been shaped by decades of dealings with Pakistan, where Indian security officials have experienced the use of agent provocateurs to sow social unrest and discord within India’s borders. Officials assume China operates in similarly old-fashioned ways, not aware of much more developed forms of political strategy.
There are two aspects to the assumptions found amongst Indian officials. One concerns the influence of Tibetan Buddhist leaders among their followers in the foothills of the Himalayas. Brahma Chellaney, professor at the Centre of Policy Research, noted the influence of the Kagyu schools of Buddhism in these sensitive regions. Indian officials have long known that the Tibetan exile monasteries in India are mostly populated by monks from Ladakh, Spiti, Sikkim and Northeast India, and this is particularly true of Kagyu and Nyingma monasteries. The Indian authorities are concerned about social stability and such an issue is legitimate for any government.
However, the assumption that this influence could induce people in the border regions to turn against India because of their religion fails to appreciate the deeply-felt Tibetan opposition to China. In addition, among the peoples in the Himalayas who follow Tibetan Buddhist lamas, there is a growing resurgence of local identity and increasing differentiation from the Tibetan diaspora. In all these areas, devotion to Lamas has never translated into politics. The people in the regions know too well where their interests lie: with India. And the Buddhist populations of the Himalayas constitute a tiny minority – even in Sikkim, where the Karmapa’s main monastery in exile is located, the Buddhist population is a minority. The entire Buddhist population of the border regions does not even make up the size of a mid-sized urban area in India. The ability of the Buddhist population to pose a major threat to India’s security is at best negligible. The festering perception in India that Tibetan Lamas could be a Trojan horse among the peoples in the border regions is thus clearly a misplaced apprehension.
The second fear – that one of the senior most lamas could be a Chinese agent and woo the Tibetans into siding with China – implies that senior Indian officials have serious doubts about the effectiveness of the Tibetans as a strategic asset for India in its dealings with China. The Indian security establishment sees Tibetans as loyal to their Lama rather than to the idea of Tibet itself, and so assumes that the influence of a turncoat Karmapa could turn the Tibetans easily against them. But in fact the Tibetan political movement in India and worldwide has matured towards a largely secular movement: its opposition to China’s rule is deep-rooted and it is unlikely that any Lama could counter that. The community supports the Dalai Lama because he represents that view, not just because he is a religious leader.
Another reason for suspicion among Indian commentators has been the Karmapa’s supposed lack of vocal opposition to the Chinese regime and the reluctance of the Chinese government to lambaste him as they have done repeatedly with the Dalai Lama. But this is true of all senior Tibetan Lamas: none of them make frequent anti-Chinese speeches or lead political campaigns abroad, since this has always been a task delegated to the Dalai Lama, who for centuries has had a formal political role as well as a religious one, unlike the other lamas. Inevitably, the Chinese attack him primarily as their main enemy, rather than other Tibetan lamas, whose followers would turn against them if needlessly attacked. In any case it seems likely that if the Karmapa were a planted agent, the Chinese would have encouraged him to camouflage himself as a firebrand activist. And if they had a long-term plot to undermine India through an agent of influence, why would they use a Tibetan whose ability to affect Indian society and its security concerns is almost non-existent? China would do far better in establishing alliances with a host of other insurgent groups in India.
Since 1959, the single most important failure for China in Tibet has not been the protests but the defection of the Karmapa. His flight to India in 2000 was a major setback for China’s policy in Tibet. Endorsed by the Dalai Lama as well as by the Chinese state, he would have been far better used for their purposes as a means of subduing the Tibetans inside Tibet. When the boy was installed in Tsurphu monastery, the traditional abode of the Karmapas, in 1992, it was a major propaganda coup for China’s United Front Department. Now that he has fled, not a single senior Tibetan Lama remains under their control – all have voted with their feet to come to India. For China, Tibetan Lamas are seen typically as agents of India and other foreign powers, since the vast majority of the famous ones reside abroad. One is reminded of the farmyard bluntness of the Lyndon Johnson, who is supposed to have said: “I'd rather have him inside the tent, pissing out, than outside, pissing in”: the Karmapa was infinitely more valuable to Beijing inside China than outside, because the Chinese have never succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people and cannot do so without the moral authority of the Lamas. The Karmapa was the greatest asset the Chinese had, and they would have dearly loved for him to have stayed in Tibet and to have endorsed their rule and their message of stability and unity.
Of course, it is right for the government of India to be concerned about stability in the border regions, and they are also right that the ongoing religious feuds within the Tibetan community have not helped. But these disputes are not an issue of international manipulation or something that the Indian security services cannot contain. They are conflicts created by Tibetans and by competing lamas, not designed by China. Those conflicts are now subsiding, with the respective factions burrowing themselves into their holes to consolidate such power and resources as they have been able to gain, and only history will show how these groups will reconcile their differences.
As for the Tibetans, they need to recognise that their internal feuds have implications beyond their own community and have served them badly in their political struggle – if they continue to have a system which integrates religious figures within political leadership, then religion will inevitably impact on their political aspirations and ideals. For example, Tibetan lamas from the Shugden group have already exported the feud over that issue to Mongolia and forced Mongolian Buddhists to take sides. The government of Mongolia is now wearied of this feud and maintains a distance from all the Tibetan Buddhists. As a senior Mongolian official told me recently: Mongolia does not want Tibetan religious conflicts exported to its country, and the Tibetans have now lost a potentially sympathetic nation as an ally.
Any story involving huge sum of money makes for a sensation: in a world of banks and credit cards, we associate cash with criminality. But among Tibetans, there is no sense of public accountability for the vast sums often accumulated by monasteries and their lamas, because they witness cash being donated every day by faithful followers in almost every monastery and temple. There is nothing mysterious or unexpected about it to any Tibetan, and probably if the Indian police were to raid any mandir, they would also find large bundles of rupees given by devotees. Equally, it is a legitimate concern of government agencies to check the source of any large sum of money and to ascertain how that money is accounted for and used. Just saying it is a donation is an explanation but not a defence, and the Tibetans, enjoying hospitality on Indian soil, have to be cognisant that we are accountable to the Indian public, not just to our community.
For the press, the fact that much of the currency in the Karmapa’s office was in foreign denominations only added to the long-held suspicion in India regarding foreign money and currencies. No doubt, Tibetans would likewise be the first to accuse a lama from the Shugden cult – usually seen as being opposed to the Dalai Lama – of being a Chinese agent if he were found with bundles of Chinese currency. It should be remembered that the Tibetans in India today are dependent on foreign donations and increasingly on Tibetans living in the West, and our refugee community has become a part of the global remittance economy. But Tibetan refugees in India can rarely become Indian citizens and so face complex regulations regarding fund transfers from abroad, and often have no choice but to resort to cash dealings rather than bank deposits. This has been an open secret and the Indian authorities are fully aware of this, as is the case with many business deals in India. As Sunanda K. Datta-Ray points out in theTelegraph:
No one mentions the Karmapa’s Saraswati Charitable Trust into which all unsolicited cash donations would have been paid if permission to do so had not been withdrawn after the first $100,000. He then registered the Karma Garchen Trust but the application to receive foreign donations under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act has been pending since 2002. Forced to retain donations as they come, the monastery ensures that every penny, cent or yuan (under 10 per cent of the total despite the hullabaloo over Chinese currency) is “diligently recorded”. Even one-yuan notes from humble Tibetans without access to any other currency are recorded
The explanation given for the Chinese currency by the Karmapa’s office is plausible: this cash came as donations from followers from Tibet or China, for whom the offering of donations to a lama is an expression of their devotion. The quantities involved should not surprise us either, not just because the Karmapa has tens of thousands of followers, but because the economy in Tibet and China has changed drastically. In the 1980s, Tibet was far poorer than India and donations flowed exile lamas and Tibetans in India into Tibet for the reconstruction of monasteries there. Today, this balance has changed. The Tibetan region has been benefited in some ways from China’s economic growth and today, the people in Tibet enjoy a much higher standard of living than their counterparts in India, and have disposable wealth to send to lamas and to relatives living in India. They can rarely donate to lamas or build monasteries inside Tibet because of heavy restrictions on religion there, and so see India as an alternative base for their temples and monasteries. Both China and India look to these ties with suspicion. The lamas in India are caught in the middle, accused by both sides as agents of the other.
The economic question is one that worries Indian strategists, for the Indian side of the border remains poor and neglected relative to the rapid economic and infrastructural development on the other side of the Himalayas. But rather than seeing the flow of money as an index of espionage, Indian leaders increasingly recognise that disparity in economic development on either side of the border poses a great danger to India. That is why last year vast sums were allocated by New Delhi for development of roads and other facilities in Arunachal Pradesh and other northern border areas. For India's security, cash donations to lamas in India are insignificant compared to India’s all-important task of speeding up infrastructural development and growth in the border regions.
The questions raised in the Indian press have serious implications for the Tibetans. On one level, the Lamas and monasteries must be accountable and maintain transparency over their funding. It is clear that the Tibetans in India are among the largest recipients of foreign donations, yet there is very little accountability to the larger public in India, or indeed to their own followers. The Tibetan settlements and monasteries are often located in poorer parts of India and their finances have a large impact on the local economy. The huge increase in land prices in Kangra and other parts of Himachal are driven by the flow of money into the Tibetan community, an imbalance that has created resentment and unfair competition for some of the local community. Without transparency, lingering doubts will remain about the sources of Tibetan funding and donations. However, such transparency cannot be maintained without clear-cut legal protection and the bureaucratic will to enable Tibetans to operate within India’s financial systems.
However ludicrous the claim that the Karmapa is a Chinese agent may be, the doubts expressed at the highest levels of Indian society are a matter of concern with serious repercussions for the Tibetan community in India. India is engaged in a hard debate regarding its policy towards China, and those who argue for rapprochement with China view the presence of the Tibetans as an obstacle and those who are suspicious of China, and once saw the Tibetans as an asset, are now beginning to doubt their reliability. The media accusations against the Karmapa have galvanised the public perception in India that the Tibetans are a liability to India’s security. The Hindi-language website Janokti described the Karmapa as “aasteen ka saap”, a phrase invoking a hidden snake. These are issues that Tibetans must address calmly and in depth rather than speaking of hurt feelings and attacking the Indian media whose job is to ask hard, unthinkable questions. Nobody likes being in the media spotlight, but in a democratic society the duty of the press is to raise questions and not to pander to religious sentiment. The onus is on the Tibetans to demonstrate beyond doubt that their religious feuds and financial activities do not pose a threat to India's security and stability.
Tsering Shakya is professor of Tibetan History at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia and the author of the Dragon in the Land of Snows