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  • Critical Assessment of China's Vulnerabilities in Tibet

    Critical Assessment of China's Vulnerabilities in Tibet

    The paper looks at the critical vulnerabilities of China in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Ever since China captured and annexed Tibet in 1950, it has been unable to integrate the Tibetan people with the mainland. The author looks at these criticalities from an Indian viewpoint and draws some key assessments for China watchers in India with regard to policy on Tibet.

    Transformation of Tibet Issue from Hope to Despair: What Next?

    Despite nearly a hundred persons having immolated themselves over the last few years, these events have passed by without much notice, let alone reaction.

    February 12, 2013

    Jaya Pradeep asked: How should India deal between the official “one-China” stance and the unofficial recognition to Tibet? What factors should be considered?

    Jagannath P. Panda replies: India’s “one-China stance” and “unofficial recognition of Tibet” are two different issues. In my opinion, they should not at all be linked together. The “one-China” stance is a political and diplomatic issue, used generally in the context of China’s “Taiwan” problem. But in the context of rising complexity in the Sino-Indian relations over the boundary and the Tibet issue, the “one-China” stance could be an ideal handle for building pressure on China if India decides to take a bold step in order to counter the Chinese stance in the bordering regions over various issues. In fact, India’s official recognition of Tibet as an “integral part of China” should seriously be revisited, considering that China has not taken a clear and public political stance about Jammu and Kashmir being an “integral part of India”.

    In my view, India must bring China around to take a clear and decisive public stance on three issues: Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Though China has taken an open stance once in a while in recognising Sikkim as a part of India, there is no guarantee that China will not revisit its stance on Sikkim in future. Beijing’s recent posture over Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh has also been problematic. If China does not take an open and public stance on these three issues vital for India in consonance with India’s unambiguously stated positions, then India must seriously revise its Tibet policy, and de-recognise Tibet as an “integral” part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This also becomes more relevant when bordering issues like water dispute, Chinese construction work in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and the problem in handling the Tibetan refugees effectively have emerged as new additions to the existing border complexity between the two countries.

    I believe that India should consider two immediate factors. First, building diplomatic pressure on China to take a clear public stance on issues vital to India and its territorial integrity; second, a clear message should be conveyed to China that it needs to appreciate India’s democratic values with regard to the Tibetan refugees and the Dalai Lama. Under no circumstances should India henceforth take a public stance recognising Tibet as an “integral part of China”, unless China clarifies its position publicly and clearly on Arunachal Pradesh at least. This is important when there is a leadership transition taking place in China in 2012-13. Besides, it is high time that India seriously utilised the presence, services and the human resource of the 100,000 odd Tibetan refugees who have been living within its territory for decades.

    The Turnaround in China’s Tibet Policy: Will Tourism Boost Benefit Tibetans?

    The gestation period of 3-5 years to implement this tourism project gives China sufficient time to complete several projects linked to Tibet that improve connectivity, trade and commerce.

    July 17, 2012

    Tibet and India's Security: Himalayan Region, Refugees and Sino-Indian Relations

    Tibet and India's Security: Himalayan Region, Refugees and Sino-Indian Relations
    • Publisher: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)

    Task Force report is an important contribution to religion and International Relations (IR). Two factors make Tibet important for India in today’s context: (a) the religious and cultural factors; (b) ecological factors. Report supports this with evidence. It argues that Tibet with Tibetan Buddhists provides better security than a Hanised Tibet. Key message is Tibetan refugees do not pose a security threat to India, however more transparent data base and cooperation with exiles on common religious issues is desired.

    • ISBN 81-86019-99-5,
    • Price: ₹. 375/-
    • E-copy available

    Mangesh Sawant asked: Was it not a strategic mistake on India's part to recognise Tibet as an integral part of China?

    Prashant Kumar Singh replies: Any answer to this query will always depend on individual reading and perception of the history.

    If one is convinced that the presence of the Dalai Lama has done more harm than good to India, and that India could have bought long-lasting friendship and friction-free relationship with China by unequivocally endorsing Chinese claims over Tibet which in turn would have forestalled the emergence of Sino-Pak axis, one can conclude that it was a strategic mistake on the part of India not to have immediately recognised Tibet as an integral part of China.

    However, if one reasons that the friction-free relationship between these two Asian giants is Utopian thinking and a strategic context is bound to be there in their relationship, with Tibet being just one dimension; and that maintaining Tibet as a buffer, though condemned as an imperial legacy, was a prudent strategy to follow, then one would argue that India did not play its Tibet card well in the 1950s.

    That India pursued an imperial strategy in Tibet in the 1950s has been basically a Chinese insinuation. The criticism that not recognising Tibet as an integral part of China was a strategic mistake on the part of India is academic acceptance of this Chinese position only. However, the strategy of creating buffers moves beyond ideological contexts. The USSR pursued this strategy vis-à-vis the West, and the USSR and the PRC even vis-à-vis each other. And also, China did treat Tibet as a strategic backyard (or buffer) for the core Han China against the countries lying west of Tibet. Otherwise, China's medieval claims on Tibet are irrelevant in the modern times. Therefore, if at all India was pursuing a policy of retaining and maintaining a buffer in Tibet, this policy was not non-kosher for China. China was also doing exactly the same in Tibet. In the final outcome, what made a difference was who played this policy more deftly.

    Furthermore, the semantics apart, India has never challenged Chinese authority over Tibet. In fact, India did a rare favour to China by surrendering its extra-territorial rights on Tibet which it had inherited from the British. Moreover, the Tibet problem is between Tibetans and China, not between India and China. India has not done anything to aggravate this problem in the last 50 years. But unfortunately, China’s insecurity vis-à-vis Tibet is often transmitted on to its relations with India.

    The Maoist China was a revolutionary state having strong ideological motivations. It aligned with the USSR and declared hostility towards the US in ideological fervour, discarding American overtures between the 1949 Communist takeover of China and the Korean War. Even before 1949, America had actually stayed away from becoming a party against the communists in the Chinese Civil War. China made the North Korea attack the South Korea because of ideology. Finally, it broke from the alliance with the Soviet Union in its ideological quest for the leadership of the socialist world. In fact, the Maoist China entered into many confrontations with external powers and many a times descended into domestic chaos because of ideology. In this light, asserting that Tibet was the only reason behind the Sino-Indian confrontation is probably incorrect. China's desire to assert superiority of its political system over democratic India and to project itself as the only leader of Asia were probably far more responsible reasons behind Chinese aggression on India in 1962, though India had its own share of strategic and diplomatic mistakes. Therefore, the suggestion that even more unequivocal support to China on Tibet issue would have made a genuine difference to the Sino-Indian relations does not carry much conviction.

    However, a valid criticism of India's Tibet policy in the 1950s is that it became a hotchpotch of idealism and realism. Neither idealism nor realism got a full play in this policy. The diagnosis about Chinese presence in Tibet was quite realist but the prescriptions followed were somewhat idealist, which could not withstand the heat of the events as they unfolded in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

    Tibetan Self Immolation: A Cry in the Wilderness?

    Millions all over the world who saw the self immolation of Jamphel Yeshi could not but have failed to be moved at the gruesome sight and at the plight of the hapless Tibetans.

    April 04, 2012

    The New Year Saga: China Dampens Tibetan’s Celebration

    The Chinese New Year celebrations formally began on Monday, January 23. China has become 4710 years old as per its lunar calendar. This year will be known as the Year of the Dragon, which symbolises strength and prosperity. The New Year celebration is one of the longest and the principal festive season for the Chinese: the official holiday itself extends over a week or two. Tibet and Tibetans, however, have to wait a little longer for their New Year celebrations.

    January 24, 2012

    Anil asked: Why India does not support democratic movements in China, Tibet, Pakistan, etc? Isn’t it in India’s long-term interest?

    S. Kalyanaraman replies: India's establishment as a liberal democracy was the third great moment in the history of liberalism, the first two being the American and French Revolutions. There is no doubt that India favours democracy taking root among its neighbours as well as the spread of democracy throughout the world. However, India does not believe in imposing democracy on any country at the point of a bayonet. Instead, it prefers to serve as an example that other countries can emulate for their own benefit. India's past experience in promoting greater democracy within the sub-continent clearly demonstrates the limits of what can be achieved. India helped in the liberation of Bangladesh and its establishment as a democratic state; but democracy there was soon overthrown. Indeed, the latest attempt at a coup in Bangladesh partly stems from forces that do not favour better or closer India-Bangladesh relations. Similarly, through the 1980s, India attempted to convince Sri Lanka of the imperative of evolving a federal democratic polity (as opposed to Sri Lanka's preference for a unitary polity) that would address the grievances of its minority Tamils in particular, but failed to move Colombo. Even today, Sri Lanka refuses to see the merits of the Indian democratic model and is seeking to evolve a 'Sri Lankan' model in the wake of its 'victory' over the LTTE.

    The limits of what India can achieve in this regard are even starker when it comes to countries that are adversaries or rivals. Overtly promoting democracy and democratic movements especially in countries that are adversaries or rivals is not a prudent policy for two main reasons. Firstly, the very fact of extending such support will delegitimise or help to delegitimise these movements because of perceived support from the Indian adversary/rival; thus, detracting from the long-term goal of enabling these countries to become democracies. Secondly, a policy of overtly promoting democratic movements in countries that are adversaries or rivals will simply add another point of conflict to an already troubled relationship and further vitiate bilateral relations, something that needs to be avoided especially when India's principal focus continues to be on internal socio-political-economic development.

    Infrastructure Development and Chinese War Waging Capabilities in Tibet

    China has created world class infrastructure on the Tibetan plateau in terms of highways, rail links, airports, logistic installations and oil pipelines which have civilian as well as military usage, allowing China to settle its Han majority population into these sparsely populated areas, project power in Central and South Asia, and make sustained efforts to integrate these alien areas. These unprecedented infrastructure developments have significantly multiplied the war waging capabilities of China, including against India.

    July 2011