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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Why India's China policy needs a change of gears

November 25, 2008

India Today expert view on "Why India's China policy needs a change"
Saurabh Shukla
India Today
November 24, 2008 

New Delhi,  Nov 24 -- Dalai Lama's statement that India is
overcautious about Tibet issue, should wake up the foreign policy
establishment in South Block from its slumber.

It is a telling statement about the frustration setting in the
Tibetan leadership over India's stand on the Tibet issue.

Even though the Tibetan spiritual leader would want a proactive stand
from India on the Tibetan issue, South Block officials are quick to
distance themselves from the statement and maintain that India will
not want to get involved.

While at no point has the Dalai Lama been uncharitable to his hosts,
the fact remains that India has cheaply surrendered the leverage it
had with China on the Tibet issue, while China continues to dispute
Arunachal Pradesh as part of the Indian territory, India has
continued to provide it the certificate about Tibet Autonomous Region
being a part of China.

While the proponents of the current policy may argue that it would
not serve any objective to take on China.

But in diplomacy since most policies are guided by reciprocity it
would have served the Indian objectives better by keeping Beijing on
the tenterhooks by little posturing on the Tibet issue.

While New Delhi ensures that it keeps the Tibetans on a tight leash
in India, asking them not to step out of line, Beijing continues to
prick India through military help to Islamabad and by putting New
Delhi on its toes in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in the region.

By New Delhi's own internal reports there have been close to 200
intrusions by the Chinese People's Liberation Army into Indian
territory in the last one year, and token protests that India has
lodged with China have fallen on deaf ears.

Recently when the External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke
his mind about potential threat from China. At the first instinct the
officials in South Block were quick to deny the minister's remarks
and maintained that it was blown out of proportion.

The problem is not of India chickening out on the Tibet issue alone,
the root cause is the mindset in the ruling establishment which needs
to change urgently.

The problem is that the China policy is dictated by the old foggies
in South Block who still suffer from the vanquished mindset of the
war of 1962, when China defeated India.

So in the current context too when India handles its foreign policy
it carries the baggage of the past.

With China it does not act as a robust power of the 21st century, but
like a weak nation forever on a back foot.

India requires a change of gears on its China policy, while it should
continue to engage China, it has to stop being on a defensive each time.

It should cooperate with China wherever possible but should not shy
away from criticising when the need arises.

What is pivotal is not being apologetic about statements about China;
it should not shy away from the Tibet issue but should embrace it.
The bottom-line is about developing a spine in its China policy which
it currently lacks.
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