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Clash of Buddhism and Communism in Tibet-III

May 12, 2008

It's a window of opportunity for India
By Dr Kunal Ghosh
Organizer (India)
May 18, 2008 Issue

Most of the leaders of the 1980s and 1990s including Deng Xiaoping
were of the opinion that the Cultural Revolution had been a
monumental mistake. Since then Buddhism had been reviving gradually
all over China. The older generation of die-hard communists were no
more. With "socialist market economy" and general opening up, the
society had entered a more liberal phase. Iconoclasm inherited from
the Abrahamic faiths of Europe was wearing off. Uniting of the two
halves of the Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the Ramoche and its
reinstallation marked the beginning of a new age. For the first time
in 50 years prime minister Li Peng, visiting India in 2001, spoke of
Hyuen Tsang and Fahien, two Buddhist monk travelers famous for their
accounts of medieval India. Li Peng's visit and statements promised a
long term change in China's attitude towards Buddhism and India. That
promise has been belied. At best it was a very transient thaw. With
the ascendance of president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao, China
has taken much tougher repressive measures against the Falun Gong
Buddhist sect in mainland China and Lama-Buddhism in Tibet. China's
foreign policy has become more hostile towards India and her claim
for Arunachal Pradesh more strident. Military incursions and
skirmishes along our North Eastern border have become more frequent.

China's internal developments determine her foreign policy to a great
extent. Her behaviour towards India in the last 50 years can be best
understood if we take Communism there to have descended from the
Abrahamic faiths of Europe. It displays a sense of insecurity and
rivalry vis-à-vis Buddhism. Its institutional structure resembles
older Abrahamic faiths. It is Godless religion that has resulted in a
prophet-like status for a few leaders such as Marx, Lenin and Mao
Zadong. The preserved dead bodies of the last two were entombed and
worshipped in the same fashion as Christian and Muslim saints after
death. But Communism's longevity as a faith is brief. As in Eastern
Europe, Communism as a totalitarian faith has started to crumble in
China. China's Cultural Revolution is a manifestation of Communism's
civilization-destroying property, similar to Christianity's and also
Islam's. This is what I firmly believe in, although I am aware of
other interpretations put forward by western scholars. Those traits
of Communism that led to the Cultural Revolution have not
disappeared. They had remained subdued for nearly 20 years starting
from the early 1980s, and seem to be re-asserting themselves.

The recent disturbances in Tibet have opened a new window of
opportunity for Indian policy. India should shift away from the
position that Tibet is an integral part of China. This 50-year-old
stand is a Nehruvian blunder and has not brought us any benefit. We
should remember that in spite of this stand China has made Pakistan
nuclear-armed and been following a policy of systematic encirclement
by opening naval bases in Myanmar. Now Maoists have become a dominant
force in the government of Nepal and they have started leaning
towards China. India should make a more nuanced declaration around
what is given below,

"Traditionally the Chinese emperor had only suzerainty over Tibet. In
recent times the government in Beijing has converted that suzerainty
into sovereignty. India supports return to suzerainty, end of
sovereignty, and consistent with that, a far greater autonomy for
Tibet, as being demanded by the Dalai Lama."

If the present United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the
center is reluctant to do so, at least the present Opposition in
parliament should signal a change of stance. The UPA government seems
to think that by appeasing China it can get China to support India's
claim for a permanent seat in UN Security council. With all the force
at my command I like to say that would never happen, no matter how
much China is pleased. It is time to give up a fruitless
chicken-hearted policy toward China.


(The writer is Professor in Aerospace Engineering Department, I.I.T. Kanpur)
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