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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?"

The Dalai Lama question

November 13, 2009

Claude Arpi
The New Indian Express
November 6, 2009

As the Dalai Lama arrives for a state visit in
Arunachal Pradesh, a question goes around certain
circles in Delhi: Is the Dalai Lama a burden for
India? Several Indian ‘political thinkers’ are of
the opinion that the Dalai Lama (along with more
than one lakh of his followers) has become a
liability for the nation. Some have suggested
that the India should not have allowed the Dalai
Lama to visit Tawang. The Tibetan religious
leader, they argued, is the last stumbling block
for a renewed friendship between India and China
and ultimately a China-India dominance of the world.

Nothing can be more wrong. Some Chinese leaders
have also thought that the Dalai Lama is a burden
for India. Twenty years after the Dalai Lama took
refuge in India in 1959, Deng Xiaoping initiated
a dialogue with the Tibetan leader. The Tibetans
are still grateful for this gesture though some
recently released US documents tend to prove that
Deng was not a great lover of the Dalai Lama.

In December 1975, the US President Gerald Ford
visited China and met Deng Xiaoping, then
vice-premier of the state council (Cabinet). Deng
brought some ‘small issues’ to Ford’s attention.
One was the fact that the Dalai Lama had opened
‘a small office’ in New York. Ford immediately
went on the defensive: “Let me assure you, Mr
Vice Premier that we oppose and do not support
any governmental action as far as Tibet is concerned”.

Though Ford reiterated that the opening of a
Tibetan office was a private initiative Deng
insisted: "Things might be easier if you refused
them visas.” Kissinger intervened and cut short
the conversation by a joke: “When they become
communists, then we have a legal basis to refuse
them visas.” They all had a good laugh since
communists were still being harried by the US administration.

A stubborn Deng however continued: "After (the
Dalai Lama) went back to Tibet (after a visit to
Beijing in 1955), he staged a rebellion and left,
fled the country (in March 1959). At that time
actually it was possible for us to have stopped
his leaving the country. It was entirely within
our capacity to stop him from leaving. But
Chairman Mao said it is better to let him go.”
The Chinese delegates laughed loudly.

As the talk ended, Ford told Deng: "I may just
add that we do not approve of the actions that
the Indians are taking as far as Tibet is
concerned”, the Chinese leader retorted: “We do
not pay much attention to that because it is of
no use. And to put it in more explicit terms, the
Dalai Lama is now a burden on India”. The Chinese again burst out laughing.

Ford joked: "I do not think you want to relieve
India of any extra burdens that it has." Deng
replied: "We do not want to. Let them carry it
for 100 years! We will think about it after that.
The Dalai Lama must be in his thirties, at the
most 40. He was very young at that time. He might
still live another 60 years, to 100. So let India
carry that burden for another 60 years at least.”

At the end, Deng said: "So, no matter what the
Dalai Lama can boast about himself, he cannot
affect the prospects of Tibet." Ford retorted:
“He should stay in India”. Deng concluded saying:
“Yes, and we wish him a long life and a long stay there.” Laughter again.

Indian ‘experts’ are of course foolish to toe the
Chinese line and disregard the Tibetan leader;
they seem to have no inkling of the past
relations between India and China and the way the
Chinese have for decades said certain things
publicly and acted otherwise. While the past (and
present) leadership in China see their relations
with India from the point of view of their own
interest, many in India see them with the
ultimate objective ‘not to hurt China’.

Omkar Goswami, in The Chindia Chimera published
in The Business World rightly analysed: "It seems
to me that there are two-and-a-half types of
people who say that we should always try to
accommodate China. The first are the
uncompromising peaceniks. …The second bunch of
Hindi-Chini bhai bhai fellows are what I call the
‘Chindia chaps’. Typically, these are Indians who
have been to Beijing and Shanghai "often as
guests of Chinese institutions or international
bodies organising conferences in China. …The
remaining half is business (people). … the
pro-China groups in India are barking up the
wrong tree. They don’t, and won’t, understand
that China doesn’t give a fig about India."

One could add a less ‘glorious’ category, people
who are just scared of the Chinese noise level.
Many in India can’t stand the barking volume of
Beijing’s spokespersons; they prefer to give in
and get peace. Unfortunately the peace is
temporary. Once the bully gets his piece of flesh, he generally wants more.

The fruits of Delhi’s courageous decision to have
allowed the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal, were
not long to come. In an editorial, The Wall
Street Journal quoted India’s stand to the Obama
administration: “India shows the world how to
stand firm with China. As Barack Obama prepares
for his trip to Beijing next month, he’d be wise
to cast an eye toward New Delhi, where Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh is showing the rest of
the world how to deal with Beijing when it gets into a bullying mood”.

Even if our ‘experts’ believe the only way to
calm China down is to give in, it is clear that
appeasing Beijing can solve no problem. And where would one stop giving in?

Long ago, historian R C Majumdar clearly assessed
the Chinese way of behaving: "There is one aspect
of Chinese culture that is little known outside
the circle of professional historians. It is the
aggressive imperialism that characterised the
politics of China throughout the course of her
history... Thanks to the systematic recording of
historical facts by Chinese themselves ...we
(historians) are in position to follow the
imperial and aggressive policy of China from the
third century BC to the present day, a period of
more than twenty-two hundred years... It is
characteristic of China that if a region once
acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a
short period, she should regard it as a part of
her empire for ever and would automatically
revive her claim over it even after a thousand
years whenever there was a chance of enforcing it.”

At the end of the day India will earn more
respect from Beijing than Obama’s administration.
Though I still can’t figure out how Obama was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, to stand up to the
bully is ultimately the best thing for world
peace. India has shown the way by remaining firm
on the Dalai Lama’s visit and has clarified that
not only is the Tibetan leader not a burden, but
he is a Guest of Honour. India is ready to ‘carry
the burden’, as Deng said, for many more years.
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