Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Silent Protest

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese rule. In March 1959 the people of Tibet finally revolted against the Chinese army following events which were termed as ‘Rape of Tibet’ by the Hindustan Times. The Chinese had invaded Tibet in 1950 to establish political and military control of the region. In 1959 it undertook to conquer the entire Tibetan territory. At that point of time Beijing then known as Peking had a feudal suzerainty over Tibet, but Tibet depended on India for most of its communication and trade links with the rest of the world. India never had any claim in Tibet apart from a historical right to trade with the region. Communist China annexed Tibet with military might and the rest of the world watched. There were protests by India but with no avail [1]. In 1959 following the failed uprising the Dalai Lama made a dramatic escape to India dressed in Chinese army uniform. The young spiritual leader of Tibet was given asylum in India and he formed a Tibetan government in exile. Ever since the failed revolt of 1959 Tibetans have been silently protesting against the occupation. 50 years have gone by and much has changed in the world. For almost 30 years now the Dalai Lama has changed his demand of full independence of Tibet to that of a ‘meaningful autonomy’. Essentially Tibetans want nothing but freedom to preserve their culture, environment and religion in Tibet.

Tibet has a highly developed culture. Buddhism spread to the rest of East Asia from Tibet and it has been a high learning center of Buddhism in the world. The people of the country are economically and politically poor because of the harsh climate, but spiritually it has always been rich. Communist china has subverted that freedom. There isn’t much political freedom in the regions which can be termed as heartland of China, expectation of such a freedom in Tibet is an illusion, under the current political system there. India’s position on the topic of Tibet is termed ‘overly cautious’ by the Dalai Lama.
Over the years the Dalai Lama has transformed from the Spiritual leader of Tibet to high moral leader of the world. His words should not be taken lightly by any government in New Delhi. The overly optimistic view that government of India had about its ability to keep friendly relations with China in the 50’s resulted in a surprise attack by China in 1962. The principles of Panchsheel were broken by China with this war. None of the principles have been followed by China ever since. The principles were:
(1) Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty;
(2) nonaggression; (3) noninterference in each other's internal affairs; (4) equality and mutual advantage; (5) peaceful coexistence and economic cooperation.

The overly cautious attitude that we have about not meddling in China’s affairs has enabled it to continue to subvert the people of Tibet and at the same time continue to hurt India in other matters of its security. China has maintained its claim on parts of India, continues to occupy parts of Kashmir, and continues to support Pakistan militarily.
There were recent revelations by an ex CIA officer about suspicion of China being responsible for the transfer of Nuclear know how to Pakistan, including that of China conducting the first nuclear bomb test on behalf of Pakistan within China.

While we compromise on the Tibetan cause in a hope to keep friendly relations with China, the Chinese have lost no opportunity in acting in ways counterproductive to India’s interests in the world. The recent Chinese protest against expansion of UNSC is a slap in the face. One can’t help but compare with how India went to all lengths to get the world to recognize China and award it a permanent membership in UNSC in the  1950s.

India need not ignite or fan the fire of protest in Tibet. But what India can do is allow the Tibetans forced to live in exile in India to be more vocal of their demand without being too worried about the Chinese response. By silencing their protests we are helping Beijing subvert the people of Tibet. We should facilitate a resolution of the Tibet issue. We should be taking up the cause of Tibetans in bilateral discussions with China and in international forums more openly. Their protests need not be silent any more. Their demands should be allowed to be more vocal. We believe in a multicultural, multi religious, multi ethnic democracy at home. We have created a system in our nation to give equal right to all citizens in India. We have an interest in the political freedom of people in all the neighbouring countries. That is directly related to our future security. A regime that subverts the freedom of its people is a threat to its neighbours too. A transformation in Tibet can bring a transformation in China as a whole that would be beneficial for the rest of Asia as well.


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