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India: Between Tibet and China

Categories: South Asia, China, India, Freedom of Speech, International Relations, Politics, Protest, Refugees

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 [1] 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 [2]; 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 [3] 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 [4] 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.