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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Hollowness of China’s Claims over Tibet

April 8, 2008

Mainstream
Monday 7 April 2008
by Nitish Sengupta

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s retort to the Chinese saying that the
Dalai Lama stands for non-violence must be considered as one right
reaction among so many reactions emanating from New Delhi regarding the
recent happenings in Tibet. There is indeed a need for overall
reappraisal of India’s traditional policy. One need not go into the
question of whether it was correct on the part of India to acquiesce in
China’s brutal occupation of Tibet in 1950, and even more brutal
suppression of the Tibetan uprising in 1959, leading to the Dalai Lama’s
flight to India. One has to note the reality that even after nearly
half-a-century of Chinese brainwashing or brainstorming of the Tibetans
who still live in Tibet, there is still strong support among them for
their spiritual-political leader, the Dalai Lama.

An objective reading of history will convince anyone about the
hollowness of China’s claim of sovereignty over Tibet. It is true that
on certain occasions in history China militarily occupied Tibet, but it
is equally true that there were occasions when the Tibetans, under the
Dalai Lama, claimed some kind of loose sovereignty over major portions
of China. One should also recall that, thanks to the Younghusband
mission of 1904 and the subsequent Shimla Agreement between China/Tibet
and the then Government of India, India recognised Tibet’s complete
autonomy and Indian garrisons were stationed at both Lhasa and Gyantse
in order to underpin Tibet’s autonomy from China. In our misplaced
idealism over the so-called “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai” philosophy, we not
only persuaded the Dalai Lama to accept the Chinese claim of sovereignty
when China attacked Tibet in 1950 but even withdrew Indian garrisons
from several points in Tibet. Not only that, in 1959, when there was an
uprising in Tibet, after a great deal of suppression by the Chinese, and
when the Dalai Lama, accompanied by some of his followers, had to flee
to India, we did not try to put some sense in the heads of our Chinese
friends and blindly supported whatever they did. In our excessive
idealism we sacrificed our national interest. If we had the prudence to
allow the Shimla Agreement to continue, there would have been no
military presence of China in Tibet. There would have been no 1962. It
is common knowledge that the border between Tibet and India was never
treated as a firm international border, and that Indians had the right
to freely move into Tibet and similarly Tibetans had their right to move
into India. Indian pilgrims could freely travel to Mount Kailash and
Lake Mansarovar without ever regarding those places as foreign
territory. It was the advent of China’s soldiers in the border areas
between Tibet and India which started creating a border problem as China
insisted on passports and visas from Indian pilgrims for travelling to
pilgrim centres in Tibet. At one stage the Chinese even claimed
Badrinath, not to speak of Tawang. It is true that some of the areas in
Arunachal Pradesh have a very close affinity with Tibet, but that was
the Tibet under the Dalai Lama. By no stretch of imagination can Beijing
claim sovereignty over those areas, thereby putting themselves in the
shoes of the Dalai Lama after they have replaced the Dalai Lama in Lhasa.

CHINA has never forgiven India for giving shelter to the Dalai Lama in
1959 and allowing him to carry on a Tibetan government-in-exile in
Dharamshala all these years. But the Chinese Communists do not
understand India’s susceptibility on this point, or the fact that many
people of Tibetan origin in India in areas like Ladakh and Arunachal
Pradesh regard the Dalai Lama as their spiritual head. The Dalai Lama
has all these years scrupulously avoided any activity that can be
regarded as a provocation by the Chinese. He has been treated as a
sincere man of peace by the whole world. It is very unfair on the part
of Beijing to accuse him of leading the present uprising in Tibet and
the surrounding provinces of China where Tibetans live in large numbers.
In that context it is in China’s interest to enter into talks with the
Dalai Lama to find out a lasting solution to the Tibetan issue. The
Dalai Lama himself had made considerable compromises when, some time
ago, he said that he is no longer interested in Tibetan independence but
only in autonomy so that Tibetans can live their own lives and not under
Chinese diktats. It is well known that Beijing settled a large number of
Han Chinese in Tibetan areas and that they are today on the point of
out-numbering the original Tibetans. This is a point which the whole
world must appreciate.

There is need for strong international pressure on the Chinese to enter
into discussions with the Dalai Lama so that he can return to Lhasa in
his lifetime and take charge of the spiritual and day-to-day matters of
Tibetans in their own homeland. That will be a proper resolution of 50
years of uncertainty and blatant suppression of the rights of Tibetans
by the Chinese. India should advise Beijing to talk to the Dalai Lama on
the issue of autonomy and arrange his return to the Potala Palace.
Otherwise younger Tibetans may well defy the Dalai Lama’s pacifist
influence and enter into a phase of armed insurrection. That will be
unfortunate for both China and India.

(Courtesy : The Asian Age)

Dr Nitish Sengupta, a former Member of Parliament and a former Secretary
to the Government of India, is the Chairman of the Board for
Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises.
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