Saturday, August 28, 2010

Whimpering India, assertive China

While New Delhi has floundered for 63 years on Jammu & Kashmir, Beijing has deftly made Tibet an integral part of China

On August 11, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ostensibly to thank him for “the good care India has taken of him and his followers living in exile for the past 50 years”. The Dalai Lama’s meeting with Mr Singh followed Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s visit to Dharamsala last month where she met the Tibetan spiritual leader and his senior aides. What transpired at that meeting is not known, but we can presume it was a routine discussion between the senior-most official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and India’s guests who would rather describe themselves as members of the ‘Tibetan Government-in-Exile’ which is based in Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama’s representative in New Delhi, Kalon Tempa Tsering, says too much should not be read into who called on whom where and when: “What’s so unusual about the meeting? It is part of the Dalai Lama’s regular interaction with Indian leaders … He keeps meeting Indian leaders… He met Vice-President Hamid Ansari a year ago.”

Mr Ansari no doubt holds an exalted office; if the President’s job were to fall vacant due to unforeseeable circumstances before Ms Pratibha Patil’s tenure comes to an end, he would become the head of state, if only as a stop-gap measure. That apart, as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, he is not really important enough for the Government of the world’s second largest economy to get into a lather over his meeting with the “splittist” Dalai Lama. New Delhi’s pecking order is as well-known in the Gymkhana as in Washington, DC or Beijing: The Prime Minister matters, the Vice-President doesn’t.

So, it’s not surprising that China should have taken offence, and made it clear that it feels offended, when the Prime Minister agreed to meet the Dalai Lama. Beijing views this as granting legitimacy to the Dalai Lama’s claimed status as the undisputed leader of all Tibetans, whether living in exile or in their homeland, vested with both spiritual and temporal authority by “his people” of “his Tibet”. Beijing’s position is clear, unambiguous and asserted without any sense of either self-doubt or hint of apology: Tibet belongs to China, the people belong to both Tibet and China, and the Dalai Lama has no business to poke his nose into temporal affairs — for all practical purposes he is a persona non grata and the “splittist clique” he heads comprises anti-national elements.

We need not agree with that position. Indeed, history can be cited to contest China’s claim on Tibet. But if we are to take a moral position, if we are to contest China’s version of history, then we should have the courage and the wherewithal to stand by our conviction and be prepared to face the consequences. The Chinese have responded predictably by upping the ante on Jammu & Kashmir and denying a visa to Lt Gen BS Jaswal who heads the Northern Command. Whether the Chinese tit followed the Indian tat or it was the other way round is not quite clear because the visa is believed to have been denied in July while the Prime Minister met the Dalai Lama in August. But irrespective of the sequence, it is abundantly clear that Beijing has considerably lowered its threshold of tolerance and New Delhi has not exactly planned for a showdown.

To merely insist that “Jammu & Kashmir concerns our sovereignty and is as sensitive to us as Tibet is to them” is neither here nor there. That we are still reluctant to call a spade-a-spade, which China does without bothering about bruised egos — the Ministry of External Affairs spokesman said Lt Gen Jaswal could not visit China for a scheduled defence-related programme “due to certain reasons” although those reasons are no secret — is indicative of our inherent weakness. Diplomacy in the 21st century is not about maudlin sentiments and polite niceties; it’s about aggressively, unapologetically promoting, and securing, self-interest. China does that with great élan; we talk about “sensitivity to each other’s concerns”, a principle we tend to follow in the breach.

Since the Government of India has chosen to compare Jammu & Kashmir with Tibet — a needless comparison really because accession and annexation aren’t one and the same — it would be in order to elaborate upon the comparison. What New Delhi has failed to achieve in 63 years, Beijing has achieved in 50 years. Jammu & Kashmir, more so the Valley, remains a running sore for India, threatening to turn septic every now and then, a cesspit teeming with avaricious politicians and corrupt officials where hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees in ‘development aid’ have disappeared over the decades with little or nothing to show by way of either development or securing India’s strategic interests. In sharp contrast, as I witnessed during my visit to Lhasa earlier this month, Beijing has converted Tibet truly into an integral part of China. The Chinese Central Government has spent more than 100 billion yuan on just developing Tibet’s infrastructure over the past five decades and every yuan has been well spent. It’s not just roads and houses and hospitals and schools, or for that matter the Beijing-Lhasa rail link which is an engineering marvel, but the assertion of Chinese sovereignty over the Tibetan Autonomous Region which is at once impressive and instructive, especially for us in India.

Sixty-three years after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession, we are still debating the constitutional status of Jammu & Kashmir. A succession of Prime Ministers, despairing at Kashmiri separatism, have offered ‘autonomy’ ranging from “anything short of azadi” to “azadi short of separation”. Article 370 stands as a psychological and legal barrier between India and a State the Government of India claims to integral to India. China dealt with the issue of autonomy for Tibet by restricting it to protecting Tibetan culture (for instance, polyandry is allowed but not encouraged; the one-child norm is relaxed but there are incentives for those who shun the relaxation; lamas are left alone but monasteries are guarded by the PLA) and allowing participation in what we call the political process “under the leadership of the Central Government”.

Most important of all, China does not restrict Chinese from settling in China’s Tibet, unlike India restricting Indians from settling in India’s Jammu & Kashmir. No, the Hans have not flooded Tibet, as is often alleged by the “splittist clique”, but they are free to seek jobs, set up businesses, acquire and develop property, and invest in Tibet’s economy, adding to the region’s prosperity. While New Delhi has squandered time and opportunity talking about ‘Kashmiriyat’ and ‘Insaniyat’ and other such bunkum, Beijing has firmly established its supremacy over Tibet: Every signboard in Lhasa is in Tibetan, but superscribed in Mandarin. Every address ends with China. And nobody shouts — alright, make that nobody dares shout — “Go China, go back!”

[This appeared as my Sunday column, Coffee Break, in The Pioneer on August 29, 2010.)


!!! said...

Ok.. I bet that was the last time Chinese govt gave u a visa :)

Anonymous said...

I liked your article and agree with your views, but one difference is Kashmir has scores of Muslims and Tibet has only Buddhists.

R K MISHRA said...

Clarity precedes success. China was abundantly and sure-footedly determined about its strategy, tactics, ways, means and end result. They backed themselves with their inherent strength of economic and political clout and successfully reduced Dalai Lama into an non-existent nobody from a person wielding considerable support and goodwill of promoters of democracy and global peace.
This article emphasises in clear terms that ambiguity and equivocal approach ultimately ruins one decidedly and eternally. India was procrastinating and its decision-makers were engaged in shared loot of the national resources. When will we find such leaders whose vision and action will guide our country to stay and stand erect and their legacy will propel Indians to a prosperous and self-actualising path?

sunaath said...

An eye-opener article. But Sing & Co. have shut tight their eyes.

seadog4227 said...

Your post comes just as news breaks out regarding numerous underground tunnels, underground nuclear bases, 7,000-11,000 PLA troops are stationed in POK and Pakistani troops are debarred from this area. The buildup is awesome. Furthermore, Farook Abdullah's emotional outburst about "JNK being an integral part of India" is definitely due to some "realspeak" with him.Our intelligence is poor, we are dependent and almost subservient to US views, we do not understand our own troop strengths and capacities, our planning and execution is woefully inadequate.We have no leadership or vision.

Unknown said...

Kanchan da,
It was not like one Han man went about bedding all the Han women and of China became Han.

Chinese are trying to Han-ize the Tibetans. They are doing that because this is the only way that they ever learnt.
This very same logic goes for the Islamic populations.
This strategy has its benefits, but this strategy requires the dumbing down of whole populations of ones own citizens.

Indians cannot do the same in Kashmir because there just is no way 40000 years of ANI learning and 60000 years of ASI learning can be undone, at least without producing a chimerical Hindu Han.

Now all leadership that has worked has worked by not trying to reinvent the wheel. In such a scenario can Tibet ever be equal-equal to Kashmir.

Opposition to Article 370 should have been a rallying cry (not just a timid manifesto clause) in the years before 1989. Today even if Article 370 and other special statues are removed, what do you expect. Non-Muslim India will just starting flooding the valley.

IMO the solution to Kashmir insurgency and non-politics lies inside Pakistan. And Pakistan lies inside America. If you know what I mean.

To some extent Indian establishment has realised this and is hopefully doing its bit in this regard.

IMHO the thing to guard against is the I.K.Gujral like suicidal moves (reducing RAW footprint inside Pakistan). Indian strategy is a lot more risky compared to the Chinese strategy, since it relies on Indian Muslims not playing the Ummah card. But if successful it is going to produce much more jucier fruits. Because the opponent will be thoroughly discredited and Indian Muslims will stop acting as foreigners.

Arun said...

If President Obama wants to fix the federal deficit and create jobs, perhaps he should spend less, get serious about better utilizing and developing American energy resources and quit appeasing China.

பூவண்ணன் said...

amusing to read the comments that removal of article 370 will solve the problem and indians from other parts can go and settle.kindly see the plight of kashmiri pandits who can buy land and actually held a lot of land to know the futility of removing article 370
there is no article 370 in tamilnadu. why cant the hindiwalllahs go and make them a minority and remove the antihindi mindset which prevents hindi from being the only national language and will be studied by all
there is no article 370 in telengana. why do the telengana people agitate since independence inspite of andhrawallahs being rich and buying so much property in telengana
i have a jat friend army officer who has only daughters and one is married to a nonjat.he wants to sell his land in his native village and there r no takers except the localites who want to buy it for non jat(even non jakhars can dare enter and do cultivation there).the govt has made equal property rights for women too. u can count with hands the number of rajput/jat/yadav families in north which had given them to their daughters.
can any dalit go and buy land and build a house in a place where the jats/rajputs/brahmins/yadavs are living even though there is no article 370. there r lakhs of dalit soldiers and on retirement why cant the govt try to allot the vacant land in the localities where brahmins/rajputs/jats stay like the suggestions to settle exservicemen in cant be so foolish and say removal of article 370 and following china will solve all problems

:) said...

The Dragon & Cow
India has made strategic & foolish mistakes regarding China.It is b,coz of a bunch of idiots managing our foreign affairs.Also, they could not get out of Nehru's romance with the idealism & socialism. But, idealism doesn't work in international relation. First India should claim the whole of Tibet, considering the historical, religious & economic relation with it.By accepting China's claim over Tibet, we have brought a greedy & hungry dragon at our doorstep.Tibet would have worked as a buffer between two. Even after the 1962 humiliation India could not get out of idealism & romanced with Non-alignment. At that time India could have used the anti-communist agenda of the developed nations & worked towards containment & eventual destruction of China. But India still didn't accepted UNSC permanent seat in favor of China. The history will only laugh & not forgive us for this blunder.
Now we are suffering with Stockholm's syndrome.We accept & believe what China says for us.If Pakistan sneezes we fire, but if China fires we kneel down. The day is not far when our demoralized Army will surrender to the dragon.

Unknown said...


Man you are seriously sick.
First you take a high horse with India-Tibet relations then you want to use it as a buffer.
Then you wish India was more proactive then you give up on Indian Forces.

You need some rest before you give up else you can start using your brain again.

Re. "The day is not far when our demoralized Army will surrender to the dragon."

Not if I get my way before that.

Manoj Agarwal said...


It's not the question of what is done or what is not done. It's the question of what can be done.

It's alright that social ills exist as you mentioned in your post but it doesn't mean that you start giving them legality as well as they exist. And with advent of economic activities, lot of Hindiwallas have indeed settled in southeren heartland..