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China spies may be in border monasteries

Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the security agencies to carry out a “security audit” in Buddhist monasteries located on India’s borders with Nepal and Bhutan.

ABHINANDAN MISHRA  NEW DELHI | 4th May 2013

hinese espionage modules may have penetrated the Buddhist monasteries located on India's borders with Nepal and Bhutan, fears the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has asked the security agencies to carry out a "security audit" of these establishments.

MHA officials, based on inputs from Sashastra Seema Bal say that a number of new monasteries have come up in the border areas in the last couple of years. "There are very strong inputs that Chinese agents disguised as Buddhist monks are entering India to carry out espionage activities. Their objective is not just to keep a tab on the Dalai Lama but also indulge in various activities that are against India's security interests," said an MHA official.

Officials added that a few months ago a team of security officials was sent to Nepal to seek cooperation on the matter but the response that it got from Nepali officials was "discouraging". "Even the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has expressed concerns that some of the monasteries might have been infiltrated by espionage modules," the official said. The response to an email query sent to the CTA office was still awaited when the story went to press.

"Last year, we discovered a spy module, where some people, by pretending to be Buddhist monks, applied to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu seeking permission to visit India. However, the cover was discovered on time and their application was rejected," said the officer. He further stated that sometimes it was difficult to find out who the real monk was and who was not. "It takes a lot of time and efforts. And often, the detection does not happen".

Commenting on the development, Kate Saunders, the Communications Director for the International Campaign for Tibet said that Chinese officials working with Nepal police was a likely scenario: "Chinese government security agents work openly with Nepali police on the coordination of policing related to the Tibetan community. This significantly raises the pressure on Nepali police and increases the likelihood of arrest, detention and police maltreatment of Tibetans."

According to her, Nepal and China's 2010 information-sharing agreement has been followed by unprecedented levels of surveillance of the Tibetan community by both Nepalese and Chinese state agents, which facilitates arrests and threats.

Indian officials say Nepal's Maoists are traditionally close to China, as a activities that may not be in India's interests have increased manifold. "Mandarin learning centres have come up near the India-Nepal border. Investigations have revealed that these schools are being funded by China. The influence of China on Indian border in increasing in many ways," said an official who was earlier handling the China desk at the Ministry of External Affairs.

 
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