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<-Back to WTN Archives Vajpayee kowtows to China
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

1. Vajpayee kowtows to China

The Japan Times
Wednesday, July 09, 2003

NEW DELHI - Seeking to placate longtime rival China, India has subtly
shifted its stand on Tibet in a way to clearly recognize the Chinese
annexation of "the roof of the world," delighting Beijing but raising
questions about New Delhi's diplomatic game-plan and spurring concern among
Tibetan exiles.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made one-sided bargains in
Beijing recently to showcase as a success a visit that would probably be his
last major foreign tour before he gets absorbed in state and national
elections at home. The Chinese leadership ably exploited Vajpayee's desire
for a successful visit to extract concessions that present India as willing
to accept a secondary role in a China-dominated Asia.

In Beijing, Vajpayee appeared less like the leader of a nuclear-armed India
determined to engage China on equal terms and more like a tribute-payer to
the fabled Middle Kingdom. While all the effusive statements and concessions
came from the Indian side, the Chinese gave no ground and spoke in measured
terms on Sino-Indian relations, clearly dominating the outcome.

Vajpayee's trip would be remembered for his kowtow on Tibet, a large
historical buffer between the Indian and Chinese civilizations that the
Chinese Communists annexed in 1950 soon after coming to power in Beijing.
Vajpayee has tried unsuccessfully to douse the controversy on his kowtow by
acting as his own spin master.

The spin cannot conceal that this is the first time ever that India has used
the legal term, "recognize" -- in a joint document signed by government
heads of the two countries -- to flatly accept the Chinese-named Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR) as "part of the territory of the People's Republic
of China."

Insecure about its hold, and unsure of the validity of its claim, on a
territory that was mostly independent in history, China sees India as the
key to Tibet, whose traditional cultural and trade links were southward.

By handing Beijing the formulation it wanted on Tibet, India has opened
itself to more pressure on that issue, especially because it is home to the
Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The Indian recognition continues a pattern of self-damaging Indian betrayal
of Tibet that began under Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who gave up the
extra-territorial rights India had inherited in Tibet from the British and
signed a trade agreement with Beijing in 1954 acknowledging the "Tibet
region of China." The 1954 accord, however, expired in 1962, the year China
invaded India. All subsequent Indian governments, seeking to correct Nehru's
original mistake, had maintained that Tibet was an autonomous region within
China, rather than a part of China.
Vajpayee, however, has now recognized as part of China the area officially
known as TAR, the plateau where much less than half of all ethnic Tibetans
live. Also, by narrowing Tibet to just TAR, he has implicitly conceded the
forcible incorporation of Tibet's large outer territories into the Chinese
provinces of Qinghai, Sichaun, Gansu and Yunnan.

China has rejoiced over its twofold success in extracting a new formulation
that it calls New Delhi's "first explicit acceptance" of its absorption of
Tibet and in making Vajpayee agree to open trade with Tibet from an Indian
state -- Sikkim -- where Beijing does not recognize India's legal presence.

And just as India deluded itself by interpreting the mention of border-trade
posts in the 1954 agreement as de facto Chinese recognition of the
Indo-Tibetan frontier, it rushed to similarly advertise the reference to two
border-trade points in the newest accord as implicit Chinese recognition of
Sikkim's present status -- a claim Beijing immediately denied to the
embarrassment of Vajpayee.

Bartering concrete concessions for fond hopes, Vajpayee gifted away New
Delhi's remaining leverage, without persuading China to halt its
cartographic aggression in showing three Indian states outside India. He
even agreed to a new border-talks mechanism that allows China to further
stonewall on its commitment to present maps showing its version of the line
of control. India and China are the only countries that are not separated
even by an agreed line of control on maps, let alone on the ground.

India's readiness to sweep core issues under the rug was also brought out,
with officials on both sides admitting that Vajpayee did not raise with his
hosts either China's nuclear and missile transfers to Pakistan nor the new
flank it has opened against India via naval and listening posts in Myanmar.
Vajpayee has not explained how India and China can move, in his words, from
"divisive rivalry" to "healthy competition" if the two nations discuss only
principles of cooperation and not the problems that divide them.

Why negotiate from a position of weakness and further undermine one's
bargaining capacity? India should be buying time. Another decade of strong
economic reforms and growing cooperation with the United States could give
India the necessary leverage and self-confidence to deal with China. Given
the unsustainable contradiction between China's communist autocracy and
market capitalism, time is on India's side.
Brahma Chellaney is professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy
Research in New Delhi.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Vajpayee kowtows to China
  2. First rail link to Tibet must be safe: China
  3. China NetTV Holdings Inc.: Acquisition of Honglu a Company with Mining Properties in China
  4. Mountain bikers off to the rodeo
  5. Galaxy of Asian Gods Is Sighted in Chicago

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