By Jayanth Jacob
Originally published in Hindustan Times, New Delhi, May 28, 2012
Dekyi Lingka, the former Indian Mission in Lhasa, Tibet
India has sprung a surprise on China by seeking to re-open its consulate in Lhasa, Tibet that was closed after the 1962 war between the two countries. India’s demand came after a Chinese request to open a third consulate in Chennai. Beijing has consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata and embassy in Delhi.
Although Nepal has a consulate in Lhasa, China of late has been more wary than ever about opening up Tibet because of a series of self-immolations, which Beijing claims were done at the behest of the Dalai Lama.
China’s initial reaction wasn’t so encouraging and it preferred a consulate somewhere else. But official sources said New Delhi would like to push for Lhasa.
India holds Tibet as an integral part of China. It maintains that the Dalai Lama is its “honoured guest” and follows a stated policy of not allowing Indian soil to be used for anti-China activities. China’s dislike for the Dalai Lama is well-known.
Beijing is New Delhi's largest trade partner in goods. Officials say a consulate in Tibet would only help bilateral trade and pilgrimage, such as the Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
The consulates that come under the Indian embassy in Beijing include Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Incidentally, Shivshankar Menon, India’s national security adviser and special envoy for India-China boundary talks, spent some of his childhood days in Tibet while his father was posted as India’s consul general in Lhasa in the 1950s.