The sprawling, mountainous country of Tibet was annexed by China in the 1950s, eliminating a historical buffer with India. Today, the region remains at the heart of Sino-Indian problems, including territorial disputes, border tensions and water feuds. Beijing lays claim to adjacent Indian territories on the basis of alleged Tibetan ecclesial or tutelary links, rather than an ethnic Chinese connection.
So when Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled in mid-September to India -- home to Tibet's government in exile -- Tibet loomed large. The trip began with the visitor toasting Modi's birthday. But, underlining the deep divide regarding Tibet, the visit was overshadowed by a Chinese military incursion across the traditional Indo-Tibetan border. It was as if the incursion -- the biggest in terms of troop numbers in many years and the trigger for a military standoff in the Ladakh region -- was Xi's birthday gift for Modi.