Hong Kong : That China would be extremely upset over India allowing Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, to visit the North East Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, was a given. China has, after all, been claiming most of the state as its own territory, identified as South Tibet.
Even though no Chinese live in Arunachal Pradesh, and India is unlikely to cede any ground on the disputed border between the two Asian giants, the claims persist. The most eye-catching is the Chinese stand over Tawang, a monastery town which was also the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama. Beijing insists that India must, at the very least, give up Tawang as a step to move towards resolving the border issue.
It was, therefore, not unexpected that Chinese officials, and the officially-driven media, would raise a chorus of disbelief over India's 'moves' - notwithstanding that as a spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is free to visit any part of India. And not just him, even the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, recognized by the Dalai Lama and China, visited Tawang in November 2016.
The strangest part is how China has felt it fit to use its technological resources to try and scuttle the Dalai Lama's visit. Knowledgeable European experts who have seen satellite imagery in areas of Tibet close to the border with India, reveal that at least two batteries of rockets have been noticed deployed in recent days. Interestingly, though, these are not military rockets that some Indian strategic affairs experts keep talking about.
On the contrary, those are rockets used for cloud seeding! The Chinese have, over the years, perfected the technique of creating artificial rain, and used this to good effect to ensure that there was no weather-related disturbance during the August 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The technology has often been used ahead of, and during, high-profile multinational gatherings, to give the impression of much better weather conditions than actually exist.
Called 'artificial rain' in layman's terms, the technology enables China to fire rockets loaded with chemicals into clouds, resulting in rain over an identified area. Images of the region have also shown at least a dozen empty shell cases near the rocket batteries. What experts have surmised is that, knowing that the only easy way to Tawang is by helicopter from the plains of the Assam province of India, China used cloud seeding to bring unseasonal heavy downpours in and around Tawang, on the eve of the Dalai Lama's visit. As a result, the Dalai Lama's plans were disrupted and the only alternative was for the 82-year old monk to come uphill in stages, on ill-maintained roads, in treacherous weather.
Beijing had gambled that this would be unviable for the Dalai Lama. But, yet again, he showed why he has consistently outwitted five generations of Chinese leaders. Despite objections from his entourage and India's paranoid security officials, the determined old 'demon' (a Chinese epithet for the Dalai Lama), insisted that come what may, he would go up to Tawang.
So the machinations of China in using all means at its disposal did not bring in the desired results. A less determined adversary than the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, would have given up. But this monk, when asked if the road journey had been difficult, just raised his arms, flexed his muscles, and said, "Very strong, 82-year old", and laughed his full-throated, infectious laugh. However, someone in Beijing's leadership compound might not be feeling as upbeat.