India: Between Tibet and China

Over the past few day the focus of the international community is on Tibet and Chinese Government's handling of the uprising, but over in India there has been quite a bit of debate over China's actions in Tibet and the role of Tibet in India-China relationship. What should India's stand be on the issue of Tibet? The Tibetan Government in Exile headed by the Dalai Lama is in “Little Lhasa” or Dharamsala in India. The Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to India in 1959 and has continued to live there since then. Additionally, there is a sizable population of Tibetans who have continued to live in India since the 1950s.

Raman's Strategic Analysis draws our attention to the role of the Tibetan Youth Congress in the current uprising and writes:

It has made the Tibetan people in Tibet and Sichuan rid themselves their fear complex and assert their rights in their homeland. ‘Tibet for the Tibetans” is its policy…It (Tibetan Youth Congress) differs from His Holiness’ policy of genuine autonomy and calls for total independence. It is not against the Beijing Olympics.

A quick survey of Indian blogs shows that quite a few of them have questioned India's stand on Tibet and wonder if India needs to take a stronger position vis-a-vis China. Acorn; draws our attention to Tibetan leader Tenzin Tsundue's attempt to lead a peaceful march from India to Tibet and writes:

The only reason for this was to save the Chinese government from the embarrassment of having to deal with the situation (most likely, having to turn them back).

Sudharshans argues in his blog that India needs to take a stronger position. He writes:

Come on, India. We need to support the Tibetans in their quest for freedom. The easiest thing India can do is make a statement by boycotting the Olympics…I do not understand why we are trying to tango with China. Are we worried because our kids cannot play with cheap toxic toys? I would not be surprised if the Govt. is pissing in the pants that the politburo would withdraw its support to the center for acting against their comrades in China.

Brahma Chellaney, a security analyst has a pretty incisive article about Tibet and its role in the India-China relationship and points out that India cannot afford to overlook what happens to Tibet because it has strategic long-term implications for India. Chellaney argues that the time has come for the Indian government to evaluate its policy.He points out:

They cannot grasp the simple fact that between appeasement and confrontation lie a hundred different options. A false choice — pay obeisance to Beijing or brace up for confrontation — has been used to block any legitimate debate on policy options.

Chellaney outlines three things that India needs to do with reference to Tibet one of them being that India should stop referring to Tibet as part of China. He quite correctly points out a major change in the tone of the relationship during the recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China. He writes:

Last January, Manmohan Singh became the first PM to return from Beijing without making any unwarranted reference to Tibet to please his hosts. The ‘T’ word is conspicuously missing from the joint communiqué — a key point the media failed to catch.


  • Tenzin

    I think India Govt should remember 1962 silence War and it’s aftermath like,need of spending huge sum of money for border security and i think Govt is not spending that much money to develop rural villages.No one has heard of any relation or conflict between china and India before 1949(a year Chinese communist start occupying Tibet) its only because of important barriers rule played by Independent Tibet.

  • Tenzin

    I think India Govt should remember 1962 silence War and it’s aftermath like,need of spending huge sum of money for border security and i think Govt is not spending that much money to develop rural villages.No one has heard of any relation or conflict between China and India before 1949(a year communist Chinese start occupying Tibet) its only because of important barriers role played by Independent Tibet.

  • Michael

    I think the Chinese should send a delegate to the US to discuss freeing Hawaii.

    China has more of a right to Tibet than the US does to Hawaii.

  • Tan

    @ Michael:

    Surely everyone knows that China should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as you compare them to the much, much worse American imperialists. Surely.

  • Jay

    Indian government cannot say much about the current problem in Tibet because they have their own problem. Please read the article “India wakes to a Tibetan headache” that should still be available in Asia Time Online ( If Indian government asked China to do this and that, that would have opened the door for Indian minorities to ask for the same deal. Yes, national interest always comes first.

  • India should join U.S as a strategic ally outside NATO, and deploy anti missile defence in Eastern states like Manipur, Arunachal pradesh, infact open a new U.S defence command in Arunachal pradesh on the same pattern as in Germany and U.K, to take care of China threat.
    Aregional alliance with Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, Japan, Soth Korea to encircle China and try to isolate them internationally.

  • ur chinese friend

    Yikes. Is the poster Tenzin the same as the “Tibetan Leader” Tenzin Tsundue?

    If you think about it, it’s easy to understand why Sino-India relationship has gotten a lot better lately. Nevermind the economic ties which would benefit both nations, US-Pakistan relationship is way too hot for India to handle alone. If both China and the US ally with Pakistan then the balance of power will shift away from India. Since both a nuclear nations, for the sake of Indian national security it makes less and less sense for the Indian government to overly protect the Tibetan refugees. China can fend off Pakistan if the region becomes unstable, can the Tibetan exiles do that for India? This is probably why India and China perform joint military exercises last year, and the fact that Indian police arrested many Tibetan protesters to please China.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chinese government actually hope more Tibetans refugees will protest in India. The more Tibetan refugees in India try to force India’s hand, the big headache it becomes for the Indian government, and the harder the Indian government will crack down on them.

  • ur chinese friend

    BBC reported that Tibetan exiles who rented a house in West Bengal in what looks like bomb making session ended up blowing themselves up instead.

    If the Indian police is able to verify that these are indeed Tibetan exiles then there is little doubt that there is a radical militant movement brewing within the Free Tibet Movement. I doubt the Western media will ever label them “terrorists” though.

  • Avinash

    It is a pity that the chinese commies are oppressing peace loving buddhists of Tibet. India sees china as an important trading partner. But India needs to understand the strategic importance of Tibet and should not ignore it. Building roads and railways in Tibet until the border of India, Pakistan and Afganistan should give enough indications of the lurking danger.

  • Hu Jai

    The railway built between Qinghai and Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is the highest in the world. It has opened the country up to rapid economic development and the inward investment by Chinese businesses. Reports coming out of the country suggest that, as might be expected, economic development is benefiting the migrant Han Chinese rather than the indigenous Tibetans. Chinese is spoken more than Tibetan and only those Tibetans willing and able to communicate in Chinese can receive any more than the most menial jobs. Then there is the spread of the ubiquitous karaoke bars and gambling joints in the backstreets of Lhasa and along the highways. These corrode the soul and spirituality.

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