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Tibet: a victim of India-China conflict

posted Mar 26, 2016, 7:10 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Mar 26, 2016, 7:11 AM ]
By Tenzin Lhadon

 In light of the recent news on one of the write-ups in Hindi journal "Congress Darshan" blamed Nehru for the state of affairs in Kashmir, China and Tibet and how Nehru ignored Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s advice against trusting China with heart and soul. The remark that led to the sacking of its editorial content in-charge and editor Sanjay Nirupam’s apologetic note has brought forth old and unpleasant memory. The incident that was reported hold great significance and interest for it not only reopened old wounds which makes India-China relations vulnerable but more importantly it brought the issue of Tibet out with open. Although extensive discussions and number of scholarly articles were written on India-China relations, there is still a lack of strong voices for the political reality and misfortune handed down on Tibet and the Tibetan people.

 Tibet in India-China debacle

The debate and discussion on the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s handling of Tibet issue at the time when India-China relations were at its nascent stage is still widely argued and contested. It is contested on various hypothetical grounds but equally reasonable questions were raised on matter related to the issue of Tibet and how Nehru managed the situation taking into consideration that its relation with the emerging powerful Communist China takes precedence. Following which shows that a thorough study and an extensive analysis on Nehru’s approach and position over Tibet before and after its annexation by the PLA display a differing attitude. However, the major question or debate lies in how Tibet was then regarded and played between the two Asian giant  in a modern nation-state context. How Tibet became the victim of geopolitical game and why is it still being disfavoured and blamed for the frail and uncertainty of the India-China relations are some questions this article analyses.

Historical incidents and memories do have a significant effect and far-reaching outcomes in terms of defining and managing a relation based on mutual trust and cooperation. India-China relation in such terms can be called a relation that suffers from the past memory of 1962 war stretching it to the present unending border dispute and border region. Despite the encouraging growth in their economic partnership, the overall India-China relations is viewed rather fragile with major political and security issues lurking at the top. The weak India-China relationship is because it is one based on trust deficit with old memory of humiliation and deception from China or political instigation from India as the Chinese strongly believed (China's Decision for War with India in 1962 by John W. Garver). The relationship contains an old bruise but the wound is still fresh.

Apparently, three major interpretations of Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies on China prevail:       of which a) one section being empathetic, b) the second section being contemptuous of Nehru and c) the third exuding pity rather than contempt of Nehru’s attitude towards Chinese as Ramachandra Guha wrote in his article titled “The Dalai Lama's War”. Likewise there continues to exist two major perspectives on the role of Tibet issue in India-China relations at present. There are large sections of people, intellectuals and politicians who strongly support the cause of Tibetan freedom movement whether discreetly or openly while there are other sections of the masses and scholars that believe Tibet issue plays an irritant factor in the advancement of India-China relations and future progress. However, a third perspective from Tibetans in the India-China conflict and debate has been underrepresented and less talked about despite the issue of Tibet being at the core issue of India-China relations.

A Tibetan perspective

The issue of Tibet has developed to be one of the most distinct and powerful roles in the course of the modern history of Asia. Tibet was not only the victim of geopolitical game and Nehru’s miscalculation but it ironically also happened to be the perfect vengeance against Communist China. The 1962 war left India traumatized and humiliated was triumphantly able to leave profound scars in the Chinese psyche by accepting the Dalai Lama to India and rushing to his defence that enraged the Chinese and still provokes them. Secondly, Tibet serves as a battleground for India and China in their political bargaining and a space to exhibit historical animosity. Thirdly, whether the issue of Tibet is an irritant or not, and whether or not ‘Tibet card’ is used discreetly against China, the issue of Tibet assumes an important part in the historical discourse and political reality of Asia which remains to be a fact that is much discredit for and underestimated. In fact, Claude Arpi mentioned how John Garver argued that the 'Tibet' factor is the main reasons for Mao’s decision in waging war with India.

Finally Tibet certainly takes a significant and special role in the eventual prospects of India’s relation with China. Whether Tibet issue is sidelined, if not dismissed or treated with negligible role, Tibet remains to be of special concern and great relevance with strong historical bearings and possibility for India and China. As rightly pointed out by Srikanth Kondapalli who has once again reminded that Tibet is inherently linked to the Indo-China border dispute and unless the Tibet issue is resolved in favour of China, the border issue will not be resolved. Hence, treating Tibet issue with pettiness and annoyance will never make the situation better for both India and China nor will it going to solve the situation without considering Tibet taking a significant part in India-China relations. Infact, Tibet issue could turn out a potential means of assistance in bridging gap between India and China. Till now the issue of Tibet has been seen as divergence of views and a source of conflict between the two, however, India’s substantial role in bridging gap between Chinese representative and Tibetan exiles delegate in their dialogue will extend enormous message of potential peace and coexistence between India and China and for Asia as a whole. Since India, China and Tibet are inextricably linked to each other, prioritising India’s role in bridging gap between China and Tibet could eventually led to peaceful coexistence between India and China for real.

Whether we call it Nehru’s miscalculation or China’s deceitful aggression or even British imperial interest and strategic hypocrisy that left the Tibet issue unresolved and deemed a victim of real politik is a matter that needs much more attention and credit. India and China should cease victimising Tibet in their conflict and treat it as source of potential solution for the two. The whole debacle of India-China relation makes me end with the note that India-China conflict starts with Tibet and that it should end with resolving the issue of Tibet.

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