Thursday, October 1, 2009

Digging our head deeper in the sand

Source: Indian Express

Tuesday , Apr 07, 2009 at 1533 hrs

- Tibet’s cause is just;

- Tibetans have given no cause for offence;

- China has already reduced Tibetans to a minority, even in Lhasa. It is systematically obliterating the Tibetan culture and the identity of the Tibetan people;

- It has not succeeded as yet, but nor has it loosened its vice;

- People across the world feel intensely about this injustice and oppression, but governments are silent.

India’s policy towards Tibet has to be assessed on the touchstone: how does it address the danger that these facts pose for India?

The policy has moved from viewing the government of Tibet as the government of an independent country; to viewing Tibet as an autonomous country or region under the overall “suzerainty” of China; to viewing Tibet as an autonomous region under the “sovereignty” of China; to viewing Tibet as a region that is an integral part of China and one in which China can do as it pleases — what happens to Tibet and Tibetans being an internal affair of China; to not merely viewing Tibet as such, but to accepting what the Chinese say is “Tibet”(as is well known, China has hacked off half the area of Tibet that encompasses half the population of Tibetans and submerged it in Han provinces).

From the time of Pandit Nehru, India’s policy has been to shut its eyes to what is happening in Tibet. In particular, what the Chinese are doing to the culture and people of Tibet; and to the military buildup. This was evident in the way in which, under Pandit Nehru’s firm hand, the Indian government shut its eyes to the roads and other infrastructure being built in Tibet.

Indeed, the “policy” was carried further. The view was taken, and enforced, that we should not only not ourselves raise, we should oppose efforts by others to raise in fora like the United Nations, what was being done to Tibetans. This, Panditji laid down, is what would be in the best interests of the Tibetans themselves!

Along with this shutting of eyes to Chinese buildup is a turning away from the fact that India’s security is inextricably intertwined with the existence and survival of Tibet as a buffer state and to the survival and strengthening of Tibetan culture and religion. One reason of this, of course, is that it is the representative of the government of Tibet who signed the Simla Agreement and not the representative of the government of China — though, it must be remembered, that the objection of the Chinese representative was not to the border between Tibet and India but to the border between Tibet and China. The second reason is that unless there is an area of peace between China and India, an area in which there is no great Chinese military presence, our northern borders are directly exposed. The ecology of India is just as closely interlinked with what happens across the Tibetan plateau. The deforestation of eastern Tibet that has already taken place; mining and other activities that China is pursuing with vigour across Tibet; the diversion of Tibetan waters to the north by China engineering works for which have already begun — all these are bound to affect the entire plain of north and east India, as, indeed, they are bound to affect the countries all along the Mekong.

And this shutting of eyes is typical: we shut our eyes to the Talibanisation of Pakistan; to the Talibanisation of Bangladesh; to the ingress of Bangladeshis into the Northeast; to the consequences for us of China encircling India — Myanmar as a colony, a military pact with Bangladesh, a fully militarised and nuclearised Tibet, a willing and dependent instrument in Pakistan.

In the case of China and Tibet, as the years have gone by, we have shut our eyes tighter and tighter. In the last few years, in particular up to 2007, the Chinese attitude towards Tibet has hardened; the buildup of infrastructure in Tibet — an infrastructure that can be used for military purposes as much as for anything else — has become more intense; and the incursions and other hostile acts towards India have become much more frequent, and much broader in range. To take just two examples, recall how China has striven to prevent closer relations between ASEAN and India and how it has striven to snuff out any chance that there might have been of India, along with countries like Japan, joining the Security Council.

It was only when, during the build-up to the Olympic Games, China felt it necessary to show a benign face to the world, that these hostile acts were tempered. But, the Olympics over, China has resumed its oppression in Tibet just as it has resumed its hard stance towards India in general and on the border issue in particular.

In India, on the other hand, we continue to shut our eyes to both — what the Chinese are doing in Tibet and to what they are doing towards India.

The net result is that the Chinese, having already swallowed Tibet, are now making systematic inroads onto the southern slopes of the Himalayas. The pace at which they are extending their presence and influence in Nepal since the Maoist government took over are to be seen to be believed — and yet to this also India continues to shut its eyes. Nor should any of it surprise us. After all, a China that is spreading its influence in Latin America, Central Asia, Africa is not going to overlook these countries along its southern rim. Had not Mao declared, “Tibet is the palm of China, the Himalayan kingdoms are its fingers”?

(To be concluded)

The writer is a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha

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