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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Book Review The Negotiations That Never Were appeared

October 18, 2010

Prof. M.V. Kamath
The Free Press Journal
October 11, 2010

The book under review is an interesting narrative
on how the Dalai Lama tried to retrieve, from
powerful Chinese invaders of Tibet, at least
genuine autonomy in place of lost sovereignty of
his people. His negotiations with Beijing began
in 1973. In November 2008 the Dalai Lama, was
forced to say that he has given up on China: "It
is difficult to talk to those who don't believe
in truth. I have clearly mentioned that I still
have faith in the Chinese people, but my faith in
the Chinese government is thinning". ( pp. 265)

To understand weakening of Tibetan cause as China
began to increase its economic and military
power, we need to understand Indian contribution
to that weakening of Tibetan cause. Chinese
invasion of Tibet was sold by Zhou Enlai to
Pandit Nehru as liberation and not a neo-colonial
action! Nehru thus, came to recognize Tibet as an
autonomous region of China. All the subsequent
Congress PMs maintained Tibet as an autonomous
region of China and reassured China that the
Dalai Lama will not be allowed to carry on political activities on Indian soil.

Indian concessions to China on Tibet have only
weakened the cause of Dalai Lama, who had
initiated talks— indirect and direct, with
Beijing. First contacts took place in April 1973.

Kundeling Woeser Gyaltsen, a minister in the
Dalai Lama's Cabinet passed through Hong Kong on
his way to India. A Scottish missionary, George
Patterson introduced Kundeling to Chinese
language newspaper editor, Lee Tsung- ying. But
nothing came out of the meeting. According to
Patrick Moynihan, then US ambassador in India,
Americans too were “prepared to intercede with
China on behalf of Tibetans refugees.” ( p. 34)

But beginning from the 1970s until the break up
of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was a period of
pentagonal balance of power globally, with US-
China- Pakistan trying to balance the combination
of the Soviet Union and India particularly in
South Asia. Hence, the US was not inclined to
upset their developing relations with China while
India was not able to use its cordial relations
with the Russians to pressurize China on Tibet.
On the other hand, India according to the author,
when the Dalai Lama visited Western Europe,

Indian Government under the pressure of Beijing,
asked the countries visited, to treat it as
‘personal' and not ‘official' ( p. 39).

Once Deng Xiaoping emerged as paramount leader in
China in 1978 with the backing of moderate
faction in the Communist Party, there were new hopes of

a dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing. There
was a meeting between Deng and the Dalai Lama's
brother Gyalo Thondup. Deng had blamed Gang of
Four for a difficult situation in Tibet. The
dialogue was set in motion when Deng told Gyalo
that 'The door is opened for negotiations as long
we don't speak about independence.

Everything else is negotiable ( p. 57).
But subsequently several rounds of talks were
held with level of talks from China downgraded.
Yet there were signs of change in Chinese policy on Tibet.

Deng appointed a working group under Party
General Secretary, Hu Yaobang. He had admitted
that Tibetan lives under China had not improved;
he reiterated the promise to allow Tibetans
"fully exercise of nationality autonomy in the
region…" Thondup, Dalai Lama's brother visited
again in 1981 held talks with Hu Yaobang; Tibetan
delegates explained to Chinese leaders that
Tibetans are different from Chinese in respect of
culture, language and pursuit of religion etc.
Yet in every round of talks, it has been the same
story that the extreme conservative elements have
won the round in China preventing any concessions
to Tibetans. Saner voices have impressed upon
Chinese leaders that if those who think that
after the demise of Dalai Lama things might
improve, live in fool's paradise. Yet China
refuses to face the promises made by the past
leaders like Deng: Everything except independence is open to negotiations!

* Prof P M Kamath was formerly Professor of Politics, Mumbai University
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