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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?"

Why India should rake up the Tibet issue

October 28, 2009

If China keeps harping on Arunachal Pradesh and
J&K, India must also rake up the issue of Tibet, writes Vivek Gumaste.
October 16, 2009

If China keeps harping on Arunachal Pradesh and
J&K, India must also rake up the issue of Tibet, writes Vivek Gumaste.

Breaking free from its hallmark pusillanimity,
and changing course from a tepidly reactive
trajectory, the Indian government has finally
shown some fortitude in its diplomatic
interaction with China by sternly warning China
to desist from proceeding with projects in
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir [ Images ], namely the
upgrade of the Karakoram highway that links
Pakistan and China and the Neelam-Jhelum
hydroelectric project. Both projects were
announced by President Hu during the ongoing
visit to China by the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

In a pugnacious and sharp riposte to the recent
uncalled for Chinese objection to Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, an
MEA spokesman on October 14 stridently demanded
that China refrain from 'activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan.'

This paradigm shift in its India's attitude must
not be a one-time affair or an exercise in
isolation but must spark the initiation of a new
robust policy that places India in firm control
of its destiny as opposed to being a respondent to a Chinese driven agenda.

China's diplomatic strategy vis-a-vis India
stands out for its Machiavellian craft. Central
to this duplicitous diplomatic offensive are two
distinct nuances aimed at placing India on the
defensive and leaving it in a state of inactive
consternation. First, China seeks to deluge India
on multiple fronts: Tawang, Aksai Chin, Sikkim
and J&K, lately. Second, to add to India's
anxiety, each issue is deliberately never
resolved to completion but left open ended to be
exploited to its advantage whenever suitable.
Unfortunately India has failed to unravel China's
surreptitious tactics and consequently been
unable to formulate a cogent response.

Traditionally, China's dispute with India has
focused on Tawang and Aksai Chin. However China
has recently added another dimension to this
altercation by bringing J&K into play. According
to reports, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi had
been issuing visas on a separate sheet of paper
to Indian citizens born and residing in Jammu &
Kashmir as it does with Indian citizens from
Arunachal Pradesh. This seemingly harmless
practice has serious international implications
for it presents J&K as a disputed territory which
is not an integral part of India.

China's stand on J&K has waxed and waned
according to the vagaries of the geo-political
environment. After pursuing a relatively soft
stance on J&K for the last few years that avoided
a direct confrontation with India, the Chinese
have now resorted to questioning the validity of
J&K's status presumably as an accessory pressure
tactic in its attempt to garner maximum advantage
on the Arunachal issue. This fluctuating attitude
is another wily facet of the Chinese game plan.

Even the democratic accession of Sikkim to India
has been skillfully exploited to its advantage by
China. China has never fully accepted Sikkim's
status in the Indian Union. In 2003, when China
did agree to open trade routes between Sikkim and
Tibet, India naively assumed that this action
carried with it an implicit recognition of Sikkim
as a part of India. No sooner than the ink was
dry on this agreement, China interjected to state
that the 'Sikkim issue cannot be resolved
overnight' as it was 'an enduring issue left over
from history'. This effectively indicated to
India that as far as China was concerned, the
matter was not closed and could be resurrected at
any time; another instance of a problem left in suspended animation.

In contrast India's diplomatic kitty is bereft of
any armament that is likely to discomfort China.
The one issue that India could have exploited to
the hilt, Tibet was gifted away without eliciting
any advantage. During Prime Minister A B
Vajpayee's visit to China in 2003, India
reiterated its acceptance of the Tibet Autonomous
Region as a part of the People's Republic of
China in concert with its prior 1954 declaration.
There were no caveats, no qualifications. It was surrender, carte blanche.

India's expectation of a favourable treatment in
lieu of its magnanimous behavior is a
misconception that will never pan out. India
needs to rusticate its policy of appeasement.
Appeasement rarely produces results. In fact it
emboldens ones foes to push further and further
extracting more and more concessions.

India must signal its change in strategy by
reversing at least partially its unconditional
recognition of Tibet; a monumental decision akin
to a diplomatic earthquake that India maybe
hesitant to entertain but one that targets
China's Achilles Heel, fair and square. An
outright rejection of China's claim to Tibet is
not warranted but a statement couched in enough
ambiguity to cause China some discomfiture should
suffice; in effect playing by the same rules that
China adheres to. Such a move is likely to
produce results by placing China on the
defensive. All along it has been India that has
been at the receiving end reacting to an agenda
scripted by China. This could turn the tables.
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