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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

OPINION: An Old Chinese Proverb

June 29, 2008

Crisis is opportunity.... the Congress must risk unpopularity for a
cause ......
Prem Shankar Jha
Outlook Magazine (India)
July 7, 2008 Edition

There is an old and delightfully ironic aphorism: some people are
born great; others have greatness thrust upon them. Indian
politicians could provide living proof that the reverse is also true.
Not only are they born insignificant, not only are their concerns
insignificant, but they can be relied upon to make sure that
greatness is not thrust upon them even by accident. This became
undeniably clear when, after his long talk with Congress president
Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh delivered a virtual ultimatum to the
UPA on the Indo-US nuclear treaty last week. That finally forced its
smaller allies to declare where they stood.

To no one's surprise, like eight-year-olds at a kiddie birthday
party, they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. One by one,
Sharad Pawar of the NCP, Laloo Yadav of the RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan
of the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) declared their support for the
treaty but also said they did not want early elections. M.
Karunanidhi of the DMK went a step further and offered to show them
how to eat the cake and keep it too: all they had to do was attend a
meeting he was convening in Chennai.

Not one of this motley bunch has had the courage to declare that he
will support Dr Singh even if that means parting company with the
Left and facing an election. They will not do it because they are
busy baking yet another cake. Having all but destroyed the UPA, all
of them wish to stay on the good side of the Left.

But must the Congress simply stand like a punching bag and take the
blows it's receiving? Surely, it knows that doing nothing between now
and next April is not going to win it any more votes than it is
likely to receive today. Its partners are asking it to wait in order
to give inflation a chance to abate. But they have to be cretins not
to know that a decline in inflation does not mean a decline in
prices. These continue to rise, only more slowly. The hurt,
therefore, continues but the needle does not probe quite so deep.

Instead of waiting like sheep to be slaughtered, why does the
Congress party not take the offensive and do its duty to the nation?
After losing 12 state assembly elections, it has to know that the
anti-incumbency factor is working again this year, just like in 2003
and 2004. So what does it have to lose by launching a blitzkrieg of
initiatives in the months that remain? The BJP will, of course,
scream and the Left will find its third front project endangered and
look for excuses to withdraw its support. But why does the Congress
not trust the people to recognise that it is risking unpopularity for
their children's sake and bestow their trust upon it?

Once it sheds its torpor, there is no dearth of things the government
can do. The most important is simply to complete the two vitally
important initiatives that it now seems resigned to leaving
incomplete. In March 2007, we were nine-tenths of the way to a
framework agreement with Pakistan on Kashmir. The Pakistan foreign
minister's remark that he is coming to India for 'a grand
reconciliation' suggests that the new regime is keen to pick up the
reins that President Pervez Musharraf was forced to drop. This is no
longer a partisan issue in Islamabad. Pakistan desperately needs a
friendly neighbour behind it as it faces a NATO that is beefing up
its forces in Afghanistan in order to deepen its incursions into
Pakistan's tribal agencies. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and
every corps commander in Pakistan knows that the country cannot
become a party to these attacks without jeopardising its future.
There could hardly be a better time, therefore, to grasp the hand of
friendship that Pakistan's foreign minister seems keen on extending.

As for the Indo-US nuclear treaty, it must surely have crossed the
minds of our rulers that a serious move towards peace with Pakistan
will gain them many more Muslim (not to mention Hindu) votes than
they could possibly lose by acknowledging (in the words of the Hyde
Act) a 'congruence of objectives' with the US.

Such a congruence may not be a bad idea for other reasons. China's
openly hostile diatribe against India after the uprising in Lhasa
should have convinced even Prakash Karat that, let alone friendship,
even peace can no longer be taken for granted with our northern
neighbour. The brutal truth is that in the past three millennia,
imperial dynasties in China have known no other way to deal with
their minorities than to 'Sinify' them. Despite 60 years of effort
and the expenditure of close to a trillion dollars on the development
of 'Greater Tibet', Beijing has failed with the Tibetans and is
holding India responsible. It will only be a matter of time before it
concludes that it will never succeed in Sinifying Tibet, so long as
India keeps the Tibetan cultural identity alive by sheltering the
Dalai Lama. The conflict of interests is potentially a mortal one.
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