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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?"

Fifty years of Dalai Lama’s exile: Indian diplomacy's starkest failure

March 26, 2009

By Udayan Namboodiri
Organiser (India)
March 29, 2009 Edition

The masters in Beijing think that since the
Tibetan government in exile is anyway not
recognised by any country, subsequent Indian
governments would lose interest in continuing
with the showcasing of a wrong from another century.

India was subsequently in a position to repulse
further Chinese aggression. As for emulating the
other world powers, it is true that China is
often treated with kid gloves for its human
rights abuses. That is because of the huge
investments of the developed countries that are
tied up in China. However, that does not deter
them from conveying their displeasure with
China’s continued hostility to the Dalai Lama’s peace initiatives.

India lacks a position on Tibet at a juncture
when its freedom struggle has been injected with
new vigour. The new generation of expatriate
Tibetans have not lost their appetite for
struggle. This is something which both China and
India did not anticipate. There seemed to be
widespread consensus that the Tibetan people
would become slaves of the modern economy and
revel in the apparent prosperity that has come to
the Tibetan autonomous province. However, the
deep spirituality of Tibeto-Buddhism was something they had underestimated.

It is clear that the new generation of Tibetans
would like to go beyond ‘meaningful autonomy’,
which is what the Dalai Lama is willing to settle
for. The new generation is not willing to give
even de facto recognition to Chinese occupation.
Their frustration has been increased by the dead
end which the spiritual head has reached.

This month, peace-loving people all over the
world are observing the 50th anniversary of the
flight of the Dalai Lama to India. The bloody
backdrop to that historic and difficult journey
undertaken by the highest leader of the Tibetan
people, then 23, through mountains and jungles
will never be forgotten. But here in India, it is
sad to see the indifference to the commemoration
by a people who claim Mahatma Gandhi as their
nation’s father, the symbol of their national aspirations.

Their government, the United Progressive Alliance
regime led by Manmohan Singh and presided over by
Sonia Gandhi, has effectively squandered one of
the richest politico-spiritual legacies ever
known to mankind. In a world that is gradually
recognising the ascendancy of the moral force in
human conflict, India, which should have acted as
the custodian of ahimsa, kowtows to Communist
bandits who have subjugated the people of Tibet
for half a century through genocide and
population transfer. Nobody expects the
government of India to wage war on behalf of the
Tibetan people. All that New Delhi could do on
the occasion was to issue a statement reiterating
India’s solidarity with the just cause that the
Dalai Lama represents. This too was denied.

On March 10, the Dalai Lama addressed a huge
meeting of his followers at Dharmasala to mark
the anniversary of the uprising that ultimately
led to his flight to India. He said on the
occasion: “These 50 years have brought untold
sufferings to the land and people of Tibet.” He
accused the Communist regime of treating Tibetans
as “criminals who deserves to be killed”. The
1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s half-hour-long
speech rattled the world. He appealed to the
highest consciousness of mankind, saying the
unique civilisation of the Tibetan people are on
the brink of extinction. He reminded the world
community that marauding Communists have reduced Tibet into a ‘hell on earth’..

This speech was widely reported. From Sydney
Australia to Chicago, USA, many displayed it on
their front pages. However, the 50th anniversary
of an event that shook India so comprehensively
and even led to a war with lasting effects on
national security was barely noticed by the
national media. This reflects two broad
tendencies. First, with notable exceptions, the
Indian media is peopled by products of a value
system that holds might is right. Indian academia
is dominated by Left-leaning intellectuals, half
of whom are admirers or beneficiaries (or both)
of Stalin and the other half enslaved to
Nehruvian ideological shibboleths. Secondly,
successive Indian governments have neglected the
Tibetan cause so comprehensively that it is
doubtful if even a Nazi-type Holocaust carried
out by Beijing on the Tibetans would be objected
to. Here, I would not make an exception for even
the NDA regime. Under Atal Behari Vajpayee, India
pursued the same Nehruvian policy on Tibet whose
shameful manifestation we are seeing this month.
Another compromise of the core essence of our
nationhood is seen in the way we have outsourced
our China policy to merchants and industrial
fabricators of all hues in the post-1991 period.
Today, the biggest resistance to a Tibetan march
against atrocities would not come from Delhi
Police or one of the Indian Communist parties; it
would come from CII and FICCI.

This predominance of the economic component in
our diplomacy with China is justified as being in
the ‘national interest’ and even mirroring the
‘international trend’. Both are patently false.
Trade is a two-way phenomenon and guided by
interests on both sides. It is not as if Indian
businessmen would lose their markets in China if
New Delhi keeps the Tibet issue alive. India
could easily leverage its huge market and
investment gardens to secure Chinese compliance.
What , on the other hand, India is ending up
doing is encouraging through tacit silence the
genocide carried out by China. This has led to
the emasculation of the national will and has
compromised India’s long term security interests.
Not before George Fernandes in 1998 did an Indian
leader articulate the deepest insecurity felt by
India. “China is India’s no.1 enemy” is an
undisputed fact. China’s open support to Pakistan
as the latter carries on proxy war against India,
its encirclement of the Indian maritime regime
with naval bases and the strategic gaze that it
would enjoy through the Gwadar port on the Gulf
of Hormuz are dangers that cannot be overstated.

India’s passive foreign policy, based on coveting
Communist favour to offset perceived American
threat, is a Nehruvian legacy. The China theatre
of India’s foreign policy activity is a classic
example of this disastrous road. Since 1950, when
Jawaharlal Nehru rejected the international
community’s appeal to India to use its regional
clout against China’s invasion of Tibet, our
responses to China’s oft-repeated aggressive
stances have been like the proverbial mewing of a
kitten before a mongrel. A general sense of
inferiority dominates the collective Indian
psyche whenever the fact that China is sitting on
45,000 sq. km of Indian territory is brought up.
This is not founded on fact. The 1962 war was
lost by India because of the surprise element in
the Chinese aggression. Communist chicanery, from
without and within, caused India’s defeat.
However, India was subsequently in a position to
repulse further Chinese aggression. As for
emulating the other world powers, it is true that
China is often treated with kid gloves for its
human rights abuses. That is because of the huge
investments of the developed countries that are
tied up in China. However, that does not deter
them from conveying their displeasure with
China’s continued hostility to the Dalai Lama’s
peace initiatives. In 1996, US President Bill
Clinton famously urged China to begin a dialogue
with the Dalai Lama. Beijing had no choice but
concur. Till date, six rounds of talks have been
held – to no avail, but that’s another matter.

Early last year, the Olympic torch became the
focus of Tibetan demonstrators all over the
world. Wherever the torch traveled, expatriate
Tibetans staged peaceful demonstrations.
Intellectuals everywhere liked Beijing 2008 with
Berlin 1936 because just as Adolf Hitler was
purging Berlin of Jews in the run up to the 1936
games, so too was China murdering Tibetans for
daring to protest. Yet, the host countries, all
members of the Olympic movement, were duty bound
to protect the torch. But none went as overboard
as India did in blocking the Tibetan right to
express their democratic right to stage a
symbolic protest. After all, the Chinese
government was carrying out ethnic cleansing in
Tibet at the very time when it was showcasing its
achievements through the Olympic games. The
Manmohan Singh government, which was then
dependent on the Communist parties for survival
in government, turned New Delhi into a massive
fortress. Indian sovereignty was compromised when
Chinese security personnel were given the
permission to protect the Olympic torch. The
entire India Gate area was placed out of bounds for even Indians.

This kind of prostration was first seen in
Nehru’s response to the Chinese invasion of
October 1950. Communist China began staking the
claim for Tibet right from the beginning of its
career. The peaceable people of Tibet, who
shunned contact with the world, were attacked.
The Dalai Lama sent out appeals to the world
powers. Britain, which had guaranteed Tibet her
Independence in 1911, requested Nehru to honour
that commitment as Independent India was under
the terms of the transfer of power duty-bound to
honour British-India’s third party obligations.
Here, Nehru buckled. He adopted an over-cautious
policy, which only encouraged China’s ambitions.
The Indian Consul in Lhasa was threatened into
clamming up. Had he opened his mouth, the history
of the region would have changed. But the man
never revealed all that he saw and heard during
the first few years of the occupation. In March
1959, when the atrocities of the Chinese reached
its zenith, Nehru had the gall to say that the
legality of the Chinese takeover of 1950 was
never in question. Nehru’s betrayal was obviously
motivated by his Communist advisers and his
determination to turn India over into an ally of
the USSR. People all over the world were shocked
by Nehru’s cowardice and deception.

If we look at recent developments, it is clear
that India lacks a position on Tibet at a
juncture when its freedom struggle has been
injected with new vigour. The new generation of
expatriate Tibetans have not lost their appetite
for struggle. This is something which both China
and India did not anticipate. There seemed to be
widespread consensus that the Tibetan people
would be become slaves of the modern economy and
revel in the apparent prosperity that has come to
the Tibetan autonomous province. However, the
deep spirituality of Tibeto-Buddhism was
something they had underestimated. Whereas China
has reacted to this by stepping up its brutal
policies, India seems to have withdrawn into a
shell. The Communist regime from continuing with
a brutal policy. China is believed to be hedging
its bets on the fizzling out of the Tibetan
freedom movement after the Dalai Lama exits from
the scene. The masters in Beijing think that
since the Tibetan government in exile is anyway
not recognised by any country, subsequent Indian
governments would lose interest in continuing
with the showcasing of a wrong from another century.

But things are definitely not going China’s way.
The Dalai Lama’s hold over the community has only
grown over the years. In November 2008, leading
Tibetan exiles gathered in Dharmasala to discuss
with their spiritual head how to carry on their
struggle. This was followed by a special
three-day meeting in Delhi. It is clear that the
new generation of Tibetans would like to go
beyond ‘meaningful autonomy’, which is what the
Dalai Lama is willing to settle for. The new
generation is not willing to give even de facto
recognition to Chinese occupation. Their
frustration has been increased by the dead end
which the spiritual head has reached. Last year,
on a trip to Japan, the Dalai Lama said that he
was ‘exhausted’ after years of waiting and would
like the international community to take up the issue.

It is here that a crucial vacuum in India’s
foreign policy field becomes apparent. There is
absolutely no evidence of New Delhi coming to
grips with the delicate situation in Tibet. There
should be clear policy articulation based on three pillars:

1. India’s vision as a world power in the 21st century
2. India’s moral weight as the world’s largest democracy
3. The growing threat perception resulting from
Chinese push in the fast disintegrating Pakistan,
her rising influence in Sri Lanka, Burma and
Bangladesh and naval activity in the Indian Ocean.

Unfortunately, the Indian foreign policy
establishment has only the Nehruvian Sinophiles
for support in the drafting of a new policy. The
bureaucracy lacks an institutional memory and the
polity is too confused to act. It is not enough
to blame the UPA government for this malaise.
Unless a government is willing to overhaul the
China-Tibet paradigm as far as New Delhi is
concerned, the strategic blunder will continue unabated.

(The writer is a Senior Editor, The Pioneer)
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