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<-Back to WTN Archives Tibetans in India ; Cumulative Agony
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Saturday, July 19, 2003

2. Tibetans in India ; Cumulative Agony

The Dayafter - Cover Story
July 16-31, 2003

One step forward or two steps back? There are diverse and mixed reactions to
the recent Joint Declaration of the prime ministers of India and China
regarding Tibet. To find out how Tibetans in India view the outcome of Atal
Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China, THE DAYAFTER detailed Correspondent
Yudhajit Shankar Das and Photographer Mangal Kumar to Dharamshala for our
Anniversary Issue's cover story. Their report:

It was after nearly a decade that an Indian prime minister was visiting
China. Some success had to be achieved, otherwise his detractors (and there
is no shortage of them) would have demanded his head as they have already
begun demanding on a much lesser issue like Ayodhya. So, take the easiest
way out. Agree to one of the long-standing thorns in Indo-Sino relations.
Accept that the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is a territory of China. And
presto-one thorn removed and one more feather added to the PM's cap.

This has led to mixed reactions in India. Not only Indians, but the Tibetans
too who have settled in India are divided into two groups-one welcomes India
's stand while the other denigrates it; and both have logical justifications
to prove their stand. Vajpayee has been furthering petty political benefit
of the country at the cost of Tibet. According to Professor Brahma
Chellaney, the PM's spin doctors wanted to show that his China visit was
path-breaking, and so, as a quid pro quo they equated a non-issue like
Sikkim with an international dispute like Tibet. Before Vajpayee's visit to
China, very few people knew that China does not recognise Sikkim as a part
of India. So it was highlighted that Vajpayee's statesmanship and persuasive
skills 'softened' China and made it accept Sikkim as an integral part of
India. In return, "India has bartered away Tibet, betrayed the trust of the
Tibetans and invited the dragon to come close.

Vajpayee confidently claimed that the Indian stand on Tibet had not changed.
But the joint declaration issued at Beijing had something else to say. It
specifically said that "We recognise the Tibetan Autonomous Region to be a
territory of People's Republic of China and reiterate that India would not
allow any anti-China political activities in India". Previously, all
statements from India on Tibet used to begin with "India reiterates that
Tibet is an autonomous region of China." Was it a change of heart among the
Chinese, a semantic play on words by both the governments or 'whistling in
the dark' by Vajpayee with his media men putting on all the spin they could

The initial blunder was committed by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954 when he failed
to read the Chinese correctly and opened up eight border passes for trading.
The agreement which was for eight years was a border trading agreement and
not a border alignment. The pass at Bara Hoti was captured and renamed Huji,
new maps with border delineations cutting into India were issued by the
Chinese government. When the Government of India protested, the Chinese
issued revised maps though they still retained physical hold over some of
the Indian territory. After the Aksai-Chin conflict, Chou-En-Lai said: "The
old Aksai-Chin maps are correct. The delineations are correct." Nehru tried
to atone for his China policy for the rest of his life. It is possible that
Nehru might have been under pressure because India was in a formative stage;
however, it is difficult to understand what are, or were, Vajpayee's

Lhasang Tsering, who was elected president of the Tibetan Youth Congress for
two consecutive terms (1986, 1989) but resigned in 1990, says: "Time is
running out fast for Tibet. If not saved, Tibet will die. But India will
have a cancerous wound stretching from Kashmir to Myanmar and it will always
bleed India. Indians should be more concerned with Tibet than the Tibetans
because India's security hinges for a large part on the sovereignty of

Until the Chinese aggression of Tibet in 1949, only 75 policemen used to
guard the Indo-Tibetan border but now India permanently deploys seven to
eight divisions of the army to guard the frontier. India is presently
spending one-third of its defence budget on safeguarding our border along

For centuries, India and China had never shared a border. It was only after
the Chinese aggression that China had become India's immediate neighbour.
Tibet used to be a perfect buffer between three great Asian
powers-------India, China and the erstwhile USSR. In 1949, Chairman Mao
declared: "Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and
NEFA are its fingers." Beijing also claims Arunachal Pradesh (formerly known
as NEFA) to be a part of China. According to the Indian PM's letter to the
Chinese PM on September 26, 1959, China was occupying 40,000 square miles of
Indian territory (Aksai Chin, the Pangong area and Demchok in Ladakh, the
Spiti area, Shipki Pass and the Nilang-Jadhang area in Himachal Pradesh,
Bara Hoti area in Uttaranchal, Khinzemane, Shatse, Longju and Migyitun in
Arunachal Pradesh). China has helped Pakistan to develop its nuclear
programme. It has also helped Pakistan upgrade its naval base at the Gadwar
port in the Arabian Sea as a consequence of which the Indian's Navy will be
vulnerable along the Western Coast.

The defence equilibrium will get off balance with the completion of the
first phase of the Chinese railway project from Gormo to Lhasa in 2007. This
will allow the Chinese to move troops and heavy armament to the Indian
frontier at short notice. The motive for the railway line became clear with
the statement issued by Chinese President Jiang Zemin to the New York Times
on August 2001: "It is a political decision, and we will make this project
succeed at all costs, even if there is a commercial loss." The railway
project will make it possible for Beijing to convert Tibet into a permanent
defence base from which it can launch any kind of offensive against India,
Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. China is ruthlessly felling trees in Tibet which
is creating an imbalance in the ecosystem. The unrestricted exploitation of
minerals and the forest is causing floods in various Indian States like
Assam and Orissa. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) stated that
the floods in Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh in 2000 were caused due
to the release of excess water accumulated in man-made and natural
reservoirs by China.

China has waged a market war against India targeting mainly the electronics
and toy segments. Goods are smuggled (even though official import is
allowed) through Tibet and Nepal. Chinese confectionery, electronic goods
and toys are sold at rates cheaper than Indian products

The Tibetan medical system (gSowa rgipa) is one of the world's oldest
medical traditions. Tibetan medicine is a combination of science, art and
philosophy to provide a holistic approach to health care. It is a science
because the approach and principles are enumerated in a systematic and
logical framework based on understanding the human body in relation to the
environment. It is an art because the diagnostic techniques are based on
creativity, insight, subtlety and compassion of the medical practitioner.
And it is philosophic because it is based on the key Buddhist principles of
altruism, karma and ethics. Tibetan astrology ('byung rtsis) plays an
important role in the preparation of Tibetan medicine. Kong Ju, the fifth
wife of the great Tibetan king, Songsten Gampo, who was an expert exponent
of Chinese classical astrology, laid the edifice of 'byung rtsis. Tibetan
doctors have to have a thorough knowledge of Tibetan astrology also. His
Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama set up the Men-Tsee-Khang (an organisation for
the preservation and development of Tibetan medicine) in Dharamshala in 1961
in his efforts to preserve the Tibetan culture in exile. There are about 42
centres of Tibetan medicine all over India. Tibetan medicine is popular
nowadays and the Tibetan doctors at Dharamshala claim to have made advances
in the fields of AIDS and cancer.

Tibet was known in Sanskrit as Buta and the language is referred to as Butia
in Sanskrit texts. The mythological origin of the Tibetans is drawn to a
simian father, an incarnation of the compassionate Avalokitesvara (Chenresi)
and a mountain ogress. The population of Tibet is Mongoloid. Historically it
has been established that the Tibetans are autochthonous and original
inhabitants of the area. The Tibetan classical age starts from the seventh
century when King Songsten Gampo ascended the throne. He was a great
conqueror, an able administrator and a reformer of great renown. He sent his
minister, Thon-mi Sam-bota, along with 16 men to India to learn Sanskrit.
Only Sam-bota returned to Tibet and with his knowledge of the Gupta Brahmi
script designed one for the Tibetan language. Trisong Detsen, the king of
Tibet in the eighth century, deputed his minister to request the Indian
savant, Shantarakshita, to come to Tibet to teach Buddhism. Santarakshita
also trained several meritorious Tibetans to become the first Tibetan
Buddhist monks.

The king's troops under the command of four generals defeated the Chinese
who later entered into a peace treaty with the Tibetans. The term 'Dalai'
was conferred upon the Lama Sonam Gyatso by the Tumet Mongol ruler, and thus
the great Dalai tradition came into being. After the death of Sonam Gyatso,
Gedun Dupa was recognised as the first Dalai Lama.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Interview with Tibetan Prime Minister-in-Exile Sandhong Rinpoche
  2. Tibetans in India ; Cumulative Agony

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